De Struise at Cask Pub & Kitchen
It was sunny, horses were running on the telly and a Belgian brewery by the name of De Struise Brouwers had shipped a good portion of their best brews westwards to Pimlico, London, UK. More accurately, to Cask Pub and Kitchen. It was Saturday and it was a good day to be drinking.
The sun had lured me out of my flat and I found myself walking around Hyde Park. It’s a great place to welcome spring. I noticed people around me doing something they hadn’t done since opening their Christmas presents – they were smiling. A general sense of optimism was in the air. I crossed the park and found an unspecific pub. I got myself a half of Random Ale by Generic Brewery just in time to watch my horse not win the Grand National. I lost 16 pounds. I hate you Seabass. I’d imagined winning and be happy spending lots of money at the De Struise takeover at Cask in a wild and debauched celebration frenzy. Instead I had to enjoy the brews like a normal (and slightly poorer) restrained adult.
I’d never tried De Struise before, but a quick look at RateBeer made me very excited about getting some of their brews in me. They’ve got 12 beers with a perfect 100. Compared to some of the big famous Belgian breweries that date back to the Middle Ages De Struise is still just a fetus. They’ve been brewing since 2001 and according to Wikipedia their name means ostrich, which supposedly means ‘tough’ in Flemish. That explains their heavy usage of the oversized pre-historic looking fowl on their labels.
Cask was so busy it was almost running low on oxygen. The sun had made people thirsty and eager to hang out in a pub. There were beer fans scrutinising the beer list, a few confused toffs out walking their Barbour and boyfriends pointing at their snifters while explaining the beauty of the brew they were drinking to disinterested girlfriends. Post Grand National glue factory jokes kept floating through the air. There was also a large quantity of yanks present. I wrestled my way to the bar to get my turn at the tap. I dove in at the deep end with the 2008 Rio Reserva – an opus to the beauty of oak and bourbon. It was boozy, sweet and very heavy in the bourbon department, but it worked beautifully. Put up against the other Big, Buff & Beautiful Brew on offer, the Westoek XXXX Quadrupel, the Rio was just a tad more amazing. The XXXX was also sweet and boozy with a nice deep dark fruit flavour, but the Rio had a whole vanilla orchestra playing in the background, which made it brain-meltingly delicious.
Next I went for the other Xs. The Westoek X and the Westoek XX. While their names might lack innovation, the flavour sure doesn’t. It took a little bit of time for my taste buds to adjust. I’ve been inhaling the super hoppy stuff recently and these Belgian beers have less of a hop hit and more subtle flavours. The X was light, golden and refreshing – a hint of summer lawn and a bit of spice, just a tingle. It tastes extra delicious when had in direct sunlight. The XX was all over a darker experience. It had a borderline metallic twang with a basement made out of cocoa. Again, a very enjoyable tipple. The last one I had on tap was the Pannepot – a brew based on an early 1900s ale enjoyed by Belgian sailors. It was similar to the XX, but without the metal and with a big (slightly evil) underground lair of flavour. It hinted at dank cellars full of caramel and dried fruits, but with a very appropriate level of bitterness and yeastiness. Those Belgian sailors were some lucky bastards. One of my beer goals is now to get my greedy hands on a bottle of aged Pannepot.
Since the pub was filling up to the bursting point I opted for grabbing a couple of bottles and fleeing the scene. I got a bottle of Ignis et Flamma, their version of Dutch brewery De Molen’s Vuur & Vlam – a famous dutch take on an IPA, and a bottle of Motuecha, a belgian ale given the famous dry-hop treatment. This time I was expecting the hop hit I’m used to from other brewers, but again it was much more subdued. The Motuecha was crisp but lacked character, at least compared to the other brews. The Ignis et Flamma on the other hand was full of personality. Very refreshing and fruity, with a whisper of fruit salad from the careful dry-hopping.
The whole thing was a very Belgian experience. It reminded me of the infancy of my love for beer – sunny days at the Dove on Broadway Market, pouring bottles of Orval and Westmalle into my eager mouth. An innocent time before I knew about the power of hops or Imperial IPAs. I’m glad to add this Belgian Flavour Authority to my list of go-to breweries.