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Des de Moor
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Accredited Beer Sommelier
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Des de Moor

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From the cellar: Hoegaarden Spéciale

Hoegaarden Spéciale

Spéciale

ABV: 6.5%
Origin: Hoegaarden, Vlaams-Brabant, Flanders
Website: hoegaarden.com
First published: 8 January 2001

Another review from the  written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit. Hoegaarden Spéciale is still occasionally obtainable as a winter special, but you won’t read much about it or the other older-established brand extensions on the official website these days, just the Radler and various fruited versions.

This seasonal variation on a theme is the most recent addition to the range built around the famous spiced wheat beer from Brabant. Intended as a winter alternative, it’s still a bottle-conditioned wheat beer but it has more barley malt in proportion to unmalted wheat than its world-famous stablemate, and some of this is crystal malt, giving the result less wheat character and more of the sturdy body of a conventional ale.

It’s brewed to a slightly higher gravity, and the spicing seems much more restrained but whether this is because there are less spices or because the extra maltiness obscures them, I couldn’t say for certain. The hops, on the other hand, are more forward. The overall effect is of a considerably more conventional beer, dryer, maltier and with much more subtle hints of wheaty spiciness.

It’s not a bad beer, but in context it’s difficult to see the point of it: the other beers in the Hoegaarden range, even the easygoing Hougaerdse Das, are at least as characterful as the flagship beer – some of them arguably more so, given the growing blandness of Hoegaarden Wit under the stewardship of Interbrew. This beer, on the other hand, is easily the least characterful of the lot. It’s going to disappoint Hoegaarden fans expecting more of the same, and for those coming to the style for the first time it’ll just muddy the waters, especially given the similarity in labelling.

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