For those of us willing to put down the hyperlocal, hazy IPA for a moment, a world of classic continental beers still exists all around us, waiting to be discovered and rediscovered. Belgium of course, is home to some of these amazing beers, which showcase nuanced uses of malt, yeast, and yes, hops. One brewery renowned for brewing three such beers is Brouwerij Bosteels in Buggenhout, Belgium.
Bosteels was founded in 1791, and owned and operated by the same family until 2016 when they were bought out by you guessed it: ABinbev. Nevertheless, without going into the pros and cons of the purchase, the beer itself is still remarkable. Duly noted in previous columns, Tripel Karmeliet, DeuS, and Pauwel Kwak are all standouts, but this time of year I really appreciate what a Kwak brings to the glass.
According to Bosteels, Kwak was a brewer and owner of the ‘De Hoorn’ Inn in Dendermonde where mail coaches would stop every day. Because of the coachmen’s inability to leave their horses to quench their thirst along with the passengers, Kwak supposedly invented a glass that could be hung on the coach safely. Myth or not, the beer and the glass were launched by Bosteels in the 1980s to an acclaim that easily solidified the liquid’s legend.
Pauwel Kwak is a filtered Belgian Pale Ale (or Amber depending on who you talk to) with a dense, creamy head. Should you ever encounter it in bottle or draft, don’t hesitate to take the plunge as your palate will thank you upon first contact. The nose is mellow fruit, malt, slight coriander and hop spiciness followed by banana, pineapple and mango in the background. The delicate layers of spice, hints of licorice and caramelized banana followed by balanced hop bitterness can be so encompassing that only the warm alcohol finish lets you know that this is an 8.4 percent ABV beer. So, take your time with this one.
It isn’t often that you see Kwak on draft these days as so many American establishments seem to have forgotten where all of the great beer traditions originally came from (and where many still come from). Kwak is one of those beers that reminds the experienced beer drinker of such historical truths, as well as the impressive effects that beer’s other two ingredients (malt and yeast) can have when guided by experts ... and poured from tap to glass in a vessel like no other.
This week’s recommendation: Bosteel’s Pauwel Kwak, a Belgian Amber/Pale with notes of tropical fruit, and spice. 8.4 percent ABV. Buggenhout, Belgium.
— Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and The Beer Hub in South Utica, New York.