In chatting with Garden Path’s Ron Extract about this month’s featured The Garden Paths Led to Flowered, he mentioned XX Bitter from Belgium’s Brouwerij De Ranke as being a point of inspiration for it. If you haven’t yet crossed paths with XX Bitter, it’s more bitter and expressive in its show of herbaceous, grassy hops than one would expect from a 6% blonde. And it’s also basically the perfect sort of beer for repeated pints: layered, not numbingly bitter, crisp with depth.
It was a bit easier to get hold of fresh XX Bitter and the similarly poised Taras Boulba (from Brasserie de La Senne) back when living in DC, as the fresh import options are a bit patchier these days in California. Our tasting crew in DC sought out these beers and any adjacent kin: Orval, De La Senne’s Zinnebir, Thiriez Extra (from France), Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Biere… In basic terms: potent hops, but more traditionally noble/herbal/floral—plus supportive yeast.
Hoppy Belgian blonde… Belgian pale ale/IPA… Buncha overlapping terms for this general space. The club has previously highlighted De Ranke’s XXX Bitter, an amped-up version of XX Bitter with 50% more hops. Up here in Sonoma County, some of the closer alternatives are session options like Redemption or, with a more neutral yeast, Aud Blond from Russian River—but still not quite that hop density + yeast combo of something like XX Bitter. Have a dry, bitter, Belgian-inclined beer you’re digging? Chime in on Twitter via @rarebeerclub.