Hobbybrouwerij Het Nest - KlevereTien
Serving Temperature:50–57° F
Suggested Glassware:Chalice, Tulip
Het Nest’s KlevereTien seemed to be a really special find the moment we first sampled it. If one ever worries about the state of beer, a reliable solution to that tends to be a return to the classics: exceptionally deep and nimble quads like Rochefort 10, St. Bernardus 12, or the oft-elusive Westvleteren 12 tend to do the trick. We’re in highly capable hands, beers like these suggest. Het Nest’s entry into this category had us thinking back to those beers, that sense of precision and clarity they offered, while offering a quiet flourish of anise that fits in perfectly.
KlevereTien (aka, Ten of Clubs) pours a deep, honeyed, dark-brown color with an appealing fine-bubbled foam atop it, almost the color of brown sugar. The lacing forms quite thickly, a mesh of tan pinpoints, and this has a nice glossy, almost oily appearance that corresponds to smooth texture throughout. There’s a touch of added viscosity here as well. The aroma’s rich and caramelized, offering generous notes of toffee, brown sugar, candied fruit, and cola. The sweetness stays in constant check, such that, while this is certainly malt forward, the ferment keeps the sugar reasonably restrained. (We’re of the opinion that dry beers can be even more generous than a sweeter counterpart, as the lack of cloying sugar better allows the maltiness to be properly enjoyed.) That caramelization, as with most quads, serves as the central focus, but additional notes of peppery cloves and light mineral bitterness come through in the nose as well. Rich dried fruits and a red fruitiness appear more prominently as the beer warms up.
On the palate, Het Nest’s KlevereTien has that hefty lightness the best Belgian examples do. It’s a mouth-filling beer, in terms of intricacy of flavor, but a miniscule-bubbled carbonation, precise recipe formulation, and well-handed ferment give this a drink-me-immediately quality that’s difficult to ignore. (You might not be inclined to share, is a different way of putting it.) With that careful framework in place, each of the constituent ingredients presents their piece of the KlevereTien picture. Hops are quiet here (quads are hardly hoppy beers), but there’s a mineral, herbal, bittering edge along the periphery, adding texture plus a lightly juicy hop jolt. The yeast plays second fiddle: adding supporting notes of clove, pepper, cotton candy, and a variety of red fruits. Those specialty malts (and kettle caramelization) take center stage here, offering a rich upper-mid-palate maltiness that, while avoiding chocolate and deeper roasted qualities (char, coffee, cocoa, etc.), hits most of the darker malt notes aside from that: leather and fruit leather, dried fruits and dark fruits, hard caramel with just hinted oxidation, toffee, cola, and a cotton-candy note in conjunction with the yeasty bits. And then there’s the anise.
Throughout this beer, the anise addition plays out beautifully. It adds a welcome touch in the nose: a black-licorice firmness that goes well alongside the darker caramel qualities. There’s a very precise usage of it overall, as one can somewhat easily lose track of it amidst the myriad other malty overlays to choose from. But it’s also there to focus on, expanding the usual feel of quadrupels in a complementary direction, adding a nice bite to accompany the bitter hops.
Our bottles disappeared quickly, let’s just say. But this beer could do quite well in a cool dark cellar for a few years, so you needn’t be in any rush. Just keep an eye on the oxidation as the age builds, as this is already nicely balanced fresh. Janet Fletcher’s tome Cheese & Beer posits promising matches for quadrupels in the form of aged goudas, alpine cheeses (like Gruyère), and nutty Shropshire Blue. Or try it with roast pork dishes or a creamy, caramelized dessert.
Het Nest has perhaps a rather different origin story than most breweries. But perhaps not, as (on another level) it was ultimately born due to friends getting together and drinking beer. In the case of Het Nest, more than ten years ago this took the form of a beer-tasting group that met on a biweekly basis, sampling the best of Belgian beer and socializing. Eventually things, as they do, led to formal brewing classes. Which, as they also do, led to Hobbybrouwerij Het Nest (“Home Brewery the Cradle”) heading into the world of professional brewing in 2007.
We were blown away by this month’s selection—the creation of eight friends, all born in the Belgian municipality of Turnhout. The city also serves as home to the world’s largest playing card manufacturer, as well as a playing card museum. They’ve been producing playing cards there since 1826—which, when you think about it, go along pretty perfectly with beer.
The Het Nest folks seem to agree entirely, with names like Dead Man’s Hand, SchuppenAas (“Ace of Spades”), and this month’s selection, KlevereTien (“Ten of Clubs”). Their brewery sees limited distribution in the U.S., with just a hundred cases making it stateside in 2012.
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