Brouwerij Malheur - Malheur Brut Cuvée Royale

Brouwerij Malheur - Malheur Brut Cuvée Royale

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Brouwerij Malheur - Malheur Brut Cuvée Royale

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When women tell me they "don’t like beer", I always ask them which brew led them to this conclusion. "All beer," they tend to respond. I look shocked.

"You have tried them all, and don’t like any of them?!" By my estimate, the world has about 5,000 breweries, making perhaps 25,000 beers.

How long did it take you to taste every one? What were the characteristics that made them all unacceptable, from Abbey Ales to Zwickelbiers, from Achel to Zywiec?

There is not much fun to be had with closed minds, male or female. In half a century of relationships, I have only once found myself on a date with a woman who did not like beer. We went our to dinner. It was a terrible mistake. We disagreed about everything. I found her vacuous, a racist and a Philistine.

By the time the waiter came to take our order, I was already wondering how I could cope with a whole evening in her company. I considered going to the John and never returning, and I suspected she was having similar thoughts, but common courtesy demanded that we share our suffering. After all, we had a great deal in common: the company of a person we could not stand. I ate with the speed of a vacuum cleaner, and so did she. In the cab home, I kept my hands to myself with the resolve of a shop-window dummy. At her door, I just about managed to shake hands as she offered an icy valediction about the lack of invitation to coffee.

If a woman does not like beer, does the rest follow? Surely not, but I would no longer take such a risk. In the unlikely event that I were given the eye by a woman with the looks of Marilyn Monroe, the intellect of Susan Sontag and the eloquence of Maya Angelou, I would find a way of establishing her tastes in drink before committing myself to more than 15 minutes in her company.

This should reassure my squeeze of the past 25 years, but it does not. I suppose I should be grateful that she imagines me to be dangerously attractive to other women.

Yes, I have movie-star looks. When the actor Michael Caine deliberately became seriously overweight in order to look dissipated, for his role in "Educating Rita", he was a convincing wreck. He looked like me.

"Yes, but he still got Julie Walters," observes my lady friend, hereafter known as Freckles.

In her view, the world’s greatest drinks are Breakfast Tea, Guinness Stout, Chiswick Bitter and Ardbeg Islay Single Malt. Despite her fine example, there are still women who don’t like beer, or require it to be toned down.

In Belgium, of course, that is a matter of degree. The great revivalist brewer Manu De Landtsheer tells me that some women find his Malheur Brut Reserve too big and masculine. It is for them that he has now created Malheur Royale.

You may recall that we have had the Brut Reserve as a past selection. It is a beer of 11 per cent alcohol by volume, brewed from French barley in the form of a Pilsner-style malt; hopped with Saaz; top fermented with an abbey yeast; and bottle-conditioned with a Champagne culture. The yeast sediment is then removed by remuage and disgorgement, as in the maturation of Champagne.

The Brut Reserve has a starting gravity of 20 degrees Plato; a color of 10 EBC; and a bitterness of 24-27. I have in the past described it as being the aromas of peach stones and roses; a firm body; and flavours of vanilla, apricot, orange and lemon curd; and a crisp, dry finish.

Malheur Royale is brewed from the same ingredients, but with a lower starting gravity of 17 Plato; a color of 8.0 EBC; and bitterness of 22-24. It also has a subtly different mashing program, intended to reduce slightly the malty fullness of body and grainy dryness and to impart an edge to the crisp acidity; and the boil in the brew-kettle is fractionally shorter, to reduce caramelisation.

The Brut Reserve’s firm body offers a toasty sensation; the texture of the Royale is more like Melba toast. The malty fullness of the Brut Reserve is rich and creamy; the Royale suggests a sorbet. The vanilla and citrus flavors of the Brut Reserve seem to have morphed into ginger and melon. The Royale finishes fruitier, sweeter and softer.

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