In the past, I have been less than complimentary about Abbey ales from Belgium here at The Brew Club. Abbey Ales, you might recall, are brewed by regular brewers but called Abbey beers to piggy back on the cachet of Europe’s six Trappist breweries.
However, when I stumbled across a boxed set of Maredsous Ales, the 6 (Blond), 8 (Bruin) and 10 (Tripel) together with a brewery ‘chalice’ glass I found it difficult to resist. Particularly if you happen to recall (as I did) that Maredsous is the ‘Abbey’ brand of the Duvel Moortgat brewery.
I only gave Duvel 3 stars when I reviewed it back in 2008, but I did describe it as “a classic of its type”. In retrospect, maybe I was a little harsh and it perhaps merits 3½ stars.
For the record, the Maredsous Abbey itself is Benedictine, founded in 1872 and Moortgat were given licence to brew in the Abbey’s name back in 1963. And frankly, other than the word ‘Benedictine’ embossed on the stem of the chalice, that’s about as far as the connection goes.
It’s perhaps worth noting that while Trappist breweries such as Rochefort use an older Belgian system of measuring alcohol content, Maredsous and other Abbey brews simply list the alcohol content, so while Maredsous 6, 8 & 10 are 6%, 8% and 10% ABV respectively, real Trappist brews would be 7.5%, 9.2% and 11.3% respectively.
And with alcohol content like that, it’s wise to exercise caution but, at great personal risk, I tried all three in a single evening for comparison.
Maredsous ‘6’ Blond – 6% ABV
This pours pale and slightly cloudy, with a full, cream coloured head. The head is slow to dissipate and there is some serious lacing down the glass.
The nose is bready, but slightly sour. Not unpleasant but nothing to write home (or here) about.
The beer itself is medium bodied, the flavour follows the nose, it’s sour rather than bitter, but refreshing. It certainly hides its potency well, I would not have suspected that this is a strong as it is.
I’ll give this 2½ stars – it’s okay but not something I’d turn to in the future. Rating:
Maredsous ‘8’ Brune – 8% ABV
As the name would suggest, this is altogether darker, a cloudy, colour – sort of coppery-brass, with a pale, caramel head. The head disperses quickly, but leaves a healthy lacing.
The nose builds on that of the Blond, there’s still an underlying bready/sour scent, but then some serious hints of dried fruit – raisins, dark cherries, plums and so on.
The flavour is more satisfying than the Blond, with rich fruit cake to the fore, those raisins and dark cherries showing up again. I was hoping for hints of treacle or chocolate but they were missing, but also missing was that threatening flavour of cane sugar – widely used to beef up the potency of Belgian Ales
I’d give this 3 stars, again it’s good but not great. Rating:
Maredsous ‘10’ Tripel – 10% ABV
The colour of this brew comes somewhere between the colours of the ‘6’ and the ‘8’ – it’s a proper copper colour with a crisp white head that leaves a rewarding lacing.
There’s not a lot of nose, but there’s a just discernable hint of honey and spice, these are the scents you would be looking for on an Abbey tripel, but this is way too subtle for me.
The flavour, while still on the subtle side, is rich and warming, there are hints of over-ripe apples, and maybe a touch of cinnamon.
3½ Stars – the best of the Maredsous brews, in my opinion.
These were three interesting and surprisingly well balanced beers.
There was no sign of the cane sugar potency that I have come to expect from Begian Ales, particularly Abbey Ales, but at the same time I feel the flavours were less rewarding than the equivalent Leffe offerings.
So, an interesting experiment, I think I would turn to Leffe brews over Maredsous in future, but on the up-side I do have another cool chalice glass in my beer glass collection!
Bob the Brit