The Antithesis of Everything Alex Likes: “Chouffe Houblon,” or, A Pleasant Surprise

13 Jan

There are certain immutable truths in life.  Here are two.

(1) My roommate Alex does not like Belgian beers.
(2) My roommate Alex does not like hops.

Of course, as with any immutable truth there are gray areas. However, as far as beer and Alex are concerned, these two truths might as well be the laws of the universe.

While we were drinking at Mission Wines over my winter break, I remarked to one of the associates how much I liked IPAs–for instance, I loved the Craftsman Brewing Company‘s IPA that Mission Wines had on tap.  I then complained about Sam Adams’s Imperial Pilsner, which I had had a year or so previously and loved but which seemed incredibly out of whack for this most recent iteration (crazy hops married with a syrupy texture is not a good idea in my book).

The associate looked at me dead in the eye and said, “Wait one minute.”  He left the bar, went to the back to some shelf, and brought back a 750-mL bottle of this:

houblon-chouffe

The “Chouffe Houblon” Dobbelen IPA Tripel from Brasserie d’Achouffe in–where else–Belgium.

The associate was obviously very passionate about this beer.  He said how it was a unique beer because not only was it a tripel but an IPA tripel, which is nearly unheard of in Belgian beers.  He rolled it on the counter and held it up to the light for us to see the fine lees like the dust of a late summer day against the dying sun.  I had to have it.  I paid $10.99 for it, packed it up in my check-in bag, and brought it out all the way to DC.

Alex and I drank it yesterday as a nightcap.  It definitely worked.

It has an ABV of 9.0%, which is pretty strong but I suppose standard for tripels.  When I poured it into our wineglasses aromas of lychee and honey issued forth.  There was a nice, very substantial head, and the color was like pale amber or, again, honey.

The first sip was a sock in the face with a fist enrobed by a velvet, perfumed glove.  The entry was light and actually creamy, very full and rich.  I noticed that the impression I got from drinking the beer changed depending on how I drank it: it was smoother and creamier if I let it slide down easily, and a bit harsher and flatter if I tried to gulp.  I guess the difference was the different receptors on the different areas of the tongue or something.

The taste reminded me tangerine, again that persistence of honey; oatmeal maybe, and a finish of ginseng.  The taste got more bitter, naturally, as we neared the bottom of the bottle, and the last half-cups were gloriously hazy.  By this point, too, we were pretty buzzed.

My verdict?  A wonderful, unique beer: interesting as hell and very satisfying for such a complex beer.  I would have it with food, though, as it gets bitter near the end.  Mediterranean food and roast chicken would probably be good bets.

Alex liked it, too, though he swore against hops and Belgian beers.  Perhaps the confluence of both won him over.  Regardless of the reason, this is proof that there is an exception to every rule.

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One Response to “The Antithesis of Everything Alex Likes: “Chouffe Houblon,” or, A Pleasant Surprise”

  1. Shea January 16, 2009 at 1:41 am #

    Sounds interesting. And $11 isn’t too bad for essentially a bottle of light wine. If you liked that I recommend checking out Schneiderweiss’s Hoppfenweiss. It is a blend of IPA and Weiss beer – and very good. Brooklyn makes a sister beer of the same name – also good, but more on the IPA side than the German version.

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