After reviewing the delicate Flanders red ale of Bourgogne de Flandres for The Brew Club and the disappointing Triple Moines, I turned my attention to something more robust. The white-painted bottle of Gulden Draak (Golden Dragon) had been staring at me from my beer shelf for some months, and the snow was lying outside on the ground.
“Time for something warming.” I thought to myself, and what could be more warming than a dragon?
Some background… Gulden Draak takes its name from a figure that tops the belfry in the Palace Saint Gavon in the Belgian city of Ghent.
Legend has it that the statue was given to the Emperor of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) by the Norwegian King Sigrid Magnusson during a crusade in 1111 AD and the Dragon installed atop the cupola of the cupola of the Aya Sophia mosque.
A hundred years later, during another crusade, the Emperor of Constantinople was Baldwin IX – who was Flemish (Belgian). He liked the statue so much he brought it home to Belgium, and after a few adventures between the townspeople of Ghent and Bruges – not least the battle of Beverhout in 1382 – the Dragon has remained atop the bell-tower in Ghent for six hundred years.
There’s another rather charming legend about the dragon here.
The beer itself is brewed by the Brewery Van Steenberge, founded in Ertvelde (about 5 miles north of Ghent) in 1784.
The brewery also brews “Augustijn” Abbey ales, and has recently entered into an agreement to produce a new Abbey Ale “St Stefanus” for distribution by SAB Miller. I did read a rumour somewhere that they were even trying for classification as a new Trappist ale.
As I said earlier, it’s cold outside, time for something warming.
Gulden Draak describes itself as a “dark brown Triple Ale”, and it pours a rich burnished copper colour, with a caramel coloured head that, sadly, vanishes faster than a politician’s promises.
The nose is rich, you get the alcohol kick that tells you you’re engaging with something potent and Belgian, but behind that alcohol there are cherries, plums and a hint of star anise or liquorice.
The flavour is rich and warming, it reminded me a bit of a sherry, or a rich mead I once enjoyed while working in Poland. It’s medium bodied, the cherries and plums are still in there, along with the alcohol – 10.3% of it!
I’ve written in the past that I tend to be sceptical when it comes to super strength Belgian Beers, like the Triple Moines they often seem to be brewed for the tourist market just for the sake if the strength, but this, like the Delirium beers that Scott enjoys, hides its strength.
It’s deceptive, but a large 750ml bottle on a snowy January night really hits the spot.
Incidentally, the brewery suggests using Gulden Draak in coffee, as you would whiskey in Irish Coffee… darn it, the bottle’s finished!
Bob the Brit