For fun, I’m going to include a review of a beer I’m enjoying this weekend, called Witches’ Brew. This is a collaborative review with my husband, Matt, because I’m not nearly as experienced a beer-drinker as he is.
It’s a bottle-conditioned triple ale, sold in 750 mL bottles, and is a whopping 9.3% alcohol by volume. For reference, that means that its alcohol content is similar to some white wines; it’s a good deal higher in alcohol than the standard commercial beers in the US. Made in Belgium, it is typical of Belgian blonde ales, and is very comparable to Chimay. The major difference is that since Witches’ Brew is bottle-conditioned, meaning it has live yeast that is active in the bottle, it has a lot of head. Let me just say that again for emphasis: if you pour this ale straight down the middle of the glass, you might as well resign yourself to drinking straight foam, or plan on coming back an hour later. It has a lot of head. Maybe even too much, if such a thing can exist. On the other paw, the activity that gives the lacework such stiffness also contributes to the soft body which is so pleasant.
The taste is clean with a soft body and a lot of malt. There’s a slightly fruity character to the overtones, maybe a hint of pear, but nothing too distinct (to my uneducated palate). It comes across best when served at just below room-temperature; this isn’t a beer to drink ice-cold. Although I liked it, Matt thinks this beer is, to his taste, “insufficiently dessicated” thanks to the ton of malt and very gentle mouth feel. There’s a little bit of hop in the finish, but not too much. What’s really spellbinding (I’m sorry for the pun, but I had to.) about this beer is the way it changes character depending on its accompaniment. Like other Belgian ales, it’s a great after-dinner beer, going well with cheese and fruit. When combined with a taste of cheddar, the flavor of Witches’ Brew comes across as a splendid blonde ale, lively and just sharp enough to contrast without being too bitter, and still maintaining enough body to make it interesting. The acid of something like citrus or grapes produces a paradoxical effect, where the beer slides across the tongue with cloud-like softness, cleansing the palate with a pleasant hint of bitter.
As I said, my beer-drinking experience is limited, although I can confirm that this is definitely reminiscent of Chimay or Maredsous, especially as a perfect beer-and-cheese combination. The variability of Witches’ Brew is quite astonishing and very pleasant. Depending on how it’s served, it can be many things to many people. The adaptability makes this beer a good choice to keep on hand for a wide variety of situations and drinkers. For someone interested in a sweeter beer that’s not a lambic or kriek, this is a great introduction; for someone who wants a dessert accompaniment that has some interest of its own without the alcohol content of port or brandy, this works too.
Available at World Market; $9.95 for a 750 ml corked bottle. Trademarked phrase: “It’ll put a spell on you.” ™ We agree!