‘t Hofbrouwerijke - Imperial Hofblues Stout
- ABV: 8.0%
- Serving Temperature: 50-59° F
- Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Tulip
‘t Hofbrouwerijke’s Imperial Hofblues Stout is being offered exclusively through The Rare Beer Club. We previously featured their standard Hofblues Stout a little over three years ago, which, even at a modest 5.5% ABV, stood out for its generous roasted malts and milk chocolate notes. At the time, our tasting panel noted that the regular Hofblues Stout “has the nose of a much bigger, 8+% ABV imperial stout.” Somewhere along the way, that imagined 8% version became a reality.
Imperial Hofblues retains much of the charm of its lighter-bodied precedent, with a resilient, fine-bubbled foam and CO2, the latter nicely cutting through much of the weightiness of this beer’s dark specialty malts. While quite dark, for sure, there’s a light reddish-brown hue here as well courtesy of significant caramalt additions, which also help with head retention while providing some caramel notes and unfermentable dextrins to amp up the heft. There’s rich, sweet caramel in the aroma, while bitterness appears via darker chocolate, roast, spicy hops, and a modest peppery note from the Belgian yeast. Relative to stouts using a neutral yeast strain, Belgian-style stouts (generally speaking) often prove more immediately palatable, with bottle-conditioned bubbles and a balancing phenolic bitterness that offers pepper and clove.
As suggested by the nose, there’s some nice nuance here beyond the intricate layering of dark malts, including pepper, vanilla, toffee, and a very light, bready softness. Like the best Belgian offerings (dialed in over time with a careful understanding of their house yeasts) this strikes an affable balance between fuller-bodied richness and drinkability. Those darker malts just roll out over the tongue: the smoothness of milk chocolate and the bitterness of darker varieties, plus the textured sweetness of cocoa and caramelized sugars. Vigorous carbonation and firmed-up spicy bitterness serve to replenish the tongue, to a degree that additional sips are helpful to remind us of the ones that preceded them. Some would call this non-cloying result “food friendly.” We tend to just think of it as a core element of world-class beer.
As this is allowed to warm up, the yeast contributions become a bit more overt, providing pepper, vanilla, and even a hint of clove toward the finish. Those middle malt notes, in turn, also come out a little more clearly from behind the chocolate and roasted qualities, and one will likely see a similar shift from cellaring bottles of Imperial Hofblues. There’s no oxidation right now, and this is in excellent shape for aging. Try amplifying the middle notes alongside a caramel dessert (whether salted ice cream or an apple torte) or counterpointing this beer with a simple vanilla custard. Crème brûlée, combining both, might do magical things here.
Very little of t’ Hofbrouwerijke’s production gets sold outside of the brewery itself, and even the aforementioned (and previously featured) regular Hofblues Stout sees only about 50 cases make it out into distribution each year. This is the first release of the 8% version, and we’re excited to be able make this small batch available exclusively to our members.
It was over 25 years ago when Jef Goetelen brewed his very first beer. He was so disappointed with the result, he poured it down the drain. He did do some follow up research to understand why his first beer was not the success he had hoped for. But after figuring it out, he took a break from brewing—a break that lasted 15 years. In other words, he didn’t quit his day job.
In 2001 his passion for brewing was rekindled when his job got him back in touch with his original set of brewing buddies. The group decided to enroll in the Ceria-Coovi Brewing School in Brussels, where Jef hoped to get over his bad beer trauma of 15 years before. Sure enough, his next brew, brewed in the style of a Tripel, was right on the money. That successful batch led to countless additional batches, where Jef honed his craft and developed into a rather accomplished homebrewer while a member of the nearest Brewer’s Guild he could find. Located in Mol, Belgium, it was an hour’s drive from his home in Beerzel, but his involvement in the guild gave him access to their brewing facility and the opportunity to learn as he experimented with numerous recipes and various beer styles.
Eventually the commute wore on him, and the idea of setting up a brewery near his home began to seem like a viable alternative to the drive. So, this once gun shy brewer made the decision to build his own brewery—quite a transition! Ultimately he found what he calls “a perfect spot” near his home, and ‘t Hofbrouwerijke was born. In the end, the brewery ended up being slightly larger scale and more professional than what he had first envisioned, but it’s allowed him to brew his own beers and have enough to share with the world. Plus, he’s created the opportunity for folks in his former position who are interested in brewing to use his facility to brew on a larger scale than your typical 5-gallon homebrew set up. Despite having a professional brewery, Jef considers brewing just a hobby that got a bit out of hand. He still has fun with it, and brews some great beers using traditional methods.
If you’d like more information about the brewery, visit their website at www.thofbrouwerijke.be.
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