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Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
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"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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From the cellar: Van Eecke Het Kapittel Pater and Prior

Van Eecke Kapittel Pater

Kapittel Pater

ABV: 6% and 9%
Origin: Watou, West-Vlaanderen, Flanders
Websitewww.leroybreweries.be
First published: 12 and19 February 2001

Two more reviews from the written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left them uncorrected — so please read them in that historical spirit.

The Van Eecke brewery in Watou is still around, though after many years of close family links with brewery, also known as Het Sas, in nearby Boezinge, early in 2017 it formally became part of the same group under the name Breweries. The facilities in Boezinge are bigger and better-equipped so some former Van Eecke brands are partly or wholly brewed there, including the famous Poperings Hommelbier mentioned below. But I suspect the abbey beer range is still being made at Watou. The beers are now labelled simply as Kapittel, without the definite article ‘Het’.

The group sources hops locally and the beers now carry the ‘Belgsiche Hop’ kitemark indicating at least 50% of the hops used are Belgian-grown. I still think it’s quite likely that the hops include Goldings, though the variety is also grown locally so may not be from Kent. But when I say ‘hoppy’, note that standards on this have changed a little since 2001! Note also that these beers, though in the generic abbey style, are not one of the officially accredited Erkend Belgische Abdijbieren as they’re not associated with any particular religious institution, despite the appreciative monks depicted on the packaging.

Van Eecke, in Watou, is one of a cluster of small breweries around Poperinge, in the heart of West Flanders hop country, a connection commemorated in this brewery’s best-known product, the blond and marvellously hoppy Poperings Hommelbier. Pater, in contrast, is an abbey double, a style not normally noted for its hoppiness, but hops make their presence felt all the same.

The beer is a burgundy brown, with a big chocolate, red wine and varnish aroma and a nice thick head. It’s softish in the mouth, well-conditioned (in the bottle) with some sparkle on the tongue, a winey, juicy malt palate and a hoppy edge to the taste right from the start. Some sweetness develops, but recedes again in a complex finish with distinct hoppy dryness and earthy notes that suggest Kent Goldings, only a channel-crossing from home.

The hop character distinguishes what is otherwise a competent, if a little rough-edged, beer that could be a little better-integrated, but certainly has something to say for itself in a fairly crowded market.

Prior doesn’t fit into the conventional categories of double and triple. Like Pater it’s uncharacteristically hoppy for the style, and goes one further, being a dry and notably strong dark ale. It’s burgundy-coloured, with a smooth and long-lasting head, and a rich aroma with hops to the fore, backed by plenty of dark figginess. The condition is very lively and the palate mainly malty with some fruit and chocolate, quickly developing a pronounced dry bitterness with a touch of peach: there is something in the rich malt/fruit character that reminds me of the blue-capped 8% ale from the nearby Westvleteren Trappist monastery.

The finish is very, very drying, with plenty of bitter chocolate and hops and a quinine-like touch developing. It’s a surprise to find such a strong and dark beer that tastes so dry and austere.

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