Pannepot * 4

Hello readers, I’m in Sweden again, and courtesy of London Beer Blog Number One Fan Rickard (you may have seen him around the comments field) I had a proper De Struise tasting, comparing different versions of their (arguably) flagship Belgian Quad Pannepot (“Pannepot” is a kind of ship, I’m reliably informed – and it’s also right there on the label). For those of you not in the know, this is the Belgian Quad to end all Belgian Quads (though style designations are tricky – De Struise themselves just call Pannepot an ‘Old Ale’) – the paradigmatic example of the style that knocks those Chimays and Westvleterens out of the water, if you believe the hype. So what’s the score here?

The score is that overall, this is a typical – prototypical, even – Belgian Quad, so there are great similarities between the versions. They all pour a dark brown (not black!) with no head and plenty of sediment in the bottle, and there are those familiar caramel/candy/molasses notes both on the nose and on the tongue. Not many IBUs here, but it’s a different style and complex in a different way. Also, the Pannepot is spiced so it also tastes and feels a lot like a Christmas beer – even though the spice in general is more subtle than your average winter warmer – with some variations, as we shall see (taste?).

The basic Pannepot comes in vintages and ages in the bottle. Thus one would expect them to develop with age, but while tasting I was also reminded that beer is a perishable good. The Pannepot 2009 was excellent, the spices come on fresh and upfront, with gingerbread dominating, then candy, yeast, molasses, a tiny bit of chocolate, and a mouthful of fruit candy at the end. It was at this point Rickard (see image) taught me the Quad-drinking tradition of saving the sediment in the bottle and then drinking it separately at the end, in two or three mouthfuls – I was suspicious, but those cloudy end gulps really were a taste explosion! I highly recommend it.

London Beer Blog Fan Rickard

The Pannepot 2010, surprisingly, tasted more “mature” than the 2009: less yeast and a much more vinous aftertaste. The alcohol warmth felt bigger, even though the ABV (10.0) was the same, and it had an almost oaky aftertaste. The spices were more subdued, leading me to believe that it’s the spice character that grows with age but that the other elements (vinousness, warmth) are more intense when aged less.

Things really heated up with the Pannepot Reserva 2009 – an oak-aged version of the regular Pannepot. It was in many ways the big brother of the Pannepot 2010: more vinous, more oak (strong vanilla notes and some nice dry wood at the end) and a big warm booze hug. The spice was there but overall more balanced and present in hints rather than in full force.

A typical glass of Pannepot

And then finally, the Pannepot Grand Reserva 2005 – oak aged for two years – really was the climax of the evening. This baby hit me with the oak stick something fierce: vanilla and wood, vanilla and wood, vanilla and wood, cloaked in a wonderful and subtle tannic acidity. Again, the spice was very well balanced and I found it difficult to pick out individual spices – ‘spicy’ in general actually describes it pretty well. The oak works nicely with the caramel/fudge flavours, adding a layer of enticing depth to an already complex beer. The Grand Reserva, in summary, was so good I had to have two bottles of it – thanks Rickard!

All in all, Pannepot is a very different offering from the only previous De Struise offering I’ve had, the extreme Imp Stout Black Albert (with its characteristic flavour of roast vegetables) – but they’re immediately earned a place among my favourite breweries! Highly recommended, if you can get your hands on it – it’s rarely seen in England, and De Struise recently closed their online mail order system to the general public.

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Posted on February 18, 2012, in Review and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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