Brouwerij De Ranke - Père Noël
- ABV: 7%
- Serving Temperature: 46–54° F
- Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Chalice, or Pinot Glass
As indicated in the brewer description, Père Noël sees very light distribution in the U.S., and only once a year at that. Less than 250 cases manage to make the long swim from Europe (as we imagine it) and much of this year’s allocation has been set aside for our RBC members. It isn’t easy for us to call any beer “one of our favorite De Ranke beers,” given the competitive nature of our love for things like Guldenberg and XX Bitter. Yet Père Noël still distinguishes itself even within this crowd—a rare seasonal release both inspired and masterfully executed.
Pours like this kind of make you wonder if Belgian brewers have some sort of trick up their sleeves—or perhaps many. The pour’s gorgeous. A deep, hazy orange nectar sits underneath massively conjured foam: easily an inch thick, textured and tiny-bubbled, and with excellent retention that keeps the head around for quite some time. Even after much of the foam goes back to liquid form, the lacing is quite resilient, sitting thick and fluffy around the perimeter. It’s the kind of beer you want to pour and point to. “That’s what it’s supposed to look like.”
The aromatics show from the onset that it’s the yeast character and herbaceous hop qualities that are going to lead this beer, with any added spices integrating themselves seamlessly just beside those core components. The layering effect in the aroma is great, with more spacious and subtle clove, vanilla, and almond comprising the initial space: the doughy, bready, yeast-forward atmosphere this beer moves through. More concentrated (closer to the core), are all of the generous tree fruits and decisive pepper: two crucial aspects in Belgian brewing. Then the punchline, smack in the center: abundant notes of bright ripe pear and soft citrus acidity.
Similar scenes play out in the flavor, though coalescing in a different fashion. An assertively bitter onset of herbal and floral hop character leads, with plenty of pepper and clove via the Belgian yeast strain. It essentially puts its strongest foot forward, and none of those sweeter components—vanilla, dough, a produce aisle of fruit, subtle caramel, herbaceous honey and so forth—ever manage to negate that emphasis upon dry, bitter, beautifully fermented beer.
The spice additions, whatever they might include, remain very tightly integrated into the core structure of this beer, with no sort of offputting chalkiness or roughed-up edges. Again, that yeast character already contributes a ton of pepper and clove-like spice, and additional notes reminded us of grains of paradise and other also-peppery, non-distracting additions. There’s no astringency present either, almost like those subtle spices just quietly fill in any space left.
When it comes to cellaring, there probably aren’t any bad options. This is drinking just great as is, and those spices are almost certainly going to be present most clearly early on. But each Père Noël bottle also has a best-before date of five years after bottling—which suggests that there might be no rush. Definitely enjoy a bottle young. Then check out how this develops.
The De Ranke brewery was founded by two good friends, Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos. Their story is a classic in Belgium, where the very best craft brewing usually begins as a passionately pursued hobby, not an occupation. For Nino and Guido, brewing is literally a weekend obsession. For a few hours on Friday and Saturday, every week, they make small batches of what many consider the best specialty beers of Belgium.
The beers are robust and flavorful, and famous for their massive hoppiness, which comes from the best Hallertau and Brewer’s Gold varieties.–Père Noël label notes
Beers from Belgium are certainly not a rarity these days—in fact, Belgians have been helping shape better beer venues for decades now, to the delight of better beer drinkers. In so doing, these beers have converted some who previously preferred wine, or simply didn’t think they enjoyed beer at all. They’ve also inspired domestic brewers to explore the immense range of beers that Belgium offers. There are simply so many world-class beers produced in this part of the world that beer from Belgium isn’t inherently scarce. But there are rarities—especially when it comes to those from tiny breweries that export very little (if any) of their beer to the U.S. One such example comes to us from Brouwerij de Ranke out of West Flanders.
Their production quantity is quite limited, and you’d be hard pressed to find the beer we’ve picked for one of this month’s featured selections. Only about 250 cases of Père Noël make it stateside each year—and a significant portion of this year’s production has been allocated for our lucky Rare Beer Club members. Some of our long-time members may remember the Guldenberg (a strong Belgian blonde ale) and the darker Noir de Dottignies from De Ranke, both of which sufficiently knocked our socks off in the past to warrant inclusion in the club. The heavier hopping of this brewery certainly tends to appeal to U.S. beer lovers, and we’ve received some exceptional feedback on these beers in the past. Père Noël? Equally delicious.
After 11 years of brewing at the Deca Brewery, Brouwerij De Ranke built its own brewery in Dottignies in 2005, about 12 miles south. Not bad for a weekend hobby—building a brewery represents no small feat, and the story of dedication and quality is told in every bottle of beer they put out. So… Pour yourself a glass of this month’s featured beer, and get acquainted.
For more information on Brouwerij De Ranke, check out their website at www.deranke.be.
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