INGELMUNSTER - Espresso, cappuccino, ristretto… We have become familiar with the rich and varied Italian coffee culture. We order a coffee to warm us up, to give us a boost or to finish off a meal.
When we can we head towards our favourite coffee bar, where the barista paints a heart shape onto the froth or, even better, the intertwined initials of our names.
These lovely hot beverages are all well and good, but how do they relate to the world of beer?
The answer is found in the new Barista Chocolate Quad beer by Kasteel from Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck.
The idea for this beer first took root in 2012.
After several visits to the US, Xavier Van Honsebrouck came up with the idea of a beer that would combine the aromas and tastes of chocolate with those of coffee.
This culminated in the creation of the Kasteel Winter, recently re-baptised as Barista Chocolate Quad.
The dominant flavour of this beer is one of roast and burnt malts, beautifully complemented by chocolate, pale-ale and pils malts, coffee and cocoa powder.
The beer oozes with the fragrances of caramel, toffee and chocolate. “It took us a long time to find the ideal formula,” brewer Hans Mehuys reveals. “We managed it in the end."
"Much of that is thanks to the classic Kasteel yeast that accounts for the fruity aromas.
As to the hops, we selected a Belgian Kent Golden in combination with a Safir.”
The Barista Chocolate Quad is a beautiful addition to a Van Honsebrouck range of rather dry, dark beers that also include the Cuvée du Chateau.
From the first taste you will be surprised to discover aromas and tastes you would normally associate with coffee or chocolate, given extra presence by the notable presence of warming alcohol.
Barista Chocolate Quad packs a hefty punch. This is a strong, dark, quadruple-type beer with touches of chocolate. “We saw it as a challenge to use the malt to the full,” says the brewer. “These days, the focus is on hops, even more so with the advent of exotic aroma hops."
"With all this going on, we feel that the importance of malt has been relegated somewhat. Nevertheless we are convinced that malt offers plenty of potential. We are now considering the use of ancient barley varieties.”
The Barista Chocolate Quad is a genuine degustation beer and is a perfect way to finish off a meal.
This strong, dark brew stands up well in the face of a hearty meat dish, a steak or a casserole for example.
Its sweet impressions come from the residual sugars of a beer that does not re-ferment in the bottle. “Strong, dark degustation beers such as these do not benefit from re-fermentation,”
Hans Mehuys continues. “When blonde beers re-ferment in the bottle, they can be stored for longer."
"Dark beers of this type have already reached their optimum flavour and can be stored for quite some time.”
I wonder if I will be able to write my name on the creamy head of froth that forms on top of this dark beer. One thing is certain: this one is not going to burn my lips.
“Us Belgians are known for our beer and our chocolate,” Xavier Van Honsebrouck says with a smile. “Why not merge these two gastronomic icons to create a new beer?” The brewer saw this as a beautiful challenge - reconciling the worlds of hot and cold beverages.
“We are keen on trying out new ideas all the time,” Xavier continues. “As a brewer, I love to experiment and discover new flavours."
"But you have to have an open mind. The majority of beer drinkers will try to pigeonhole the beer, to stick a label on it and assign it to a tried and trusted beer style."
"If the beer does not fit with their preconceptions, they find it hard to place it."
"We’d rather think out of the box: will these new aromas and flavours add to our range?"
"Whether this new beer fits into an existing beer style is only a secondary consideration."
"At the end of the day, the beer drinker has to be convinced by the contents of the glass. We are happy to say that most beer drinkers, even those who initially hesitated, were won over by Barista once they had tasted it.”
Xavier is quite rightly proud of this new addition to the Van Honsebrouck beer range.
Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck
Facebook: Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck