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Gulden Fraug

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Jill Jaracz one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer read it ›
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery
Akron, OH

Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 10.5%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Although I have found one Midwest-brewed, Belgian-style beer worthy of its European peers—Dragonmead’s Final Absolution—I’m still on the lookout for another take on this tough-to-master style.

Which is why when I spied a bomber of little known brewery Hoppin’ Frog’s Gulden Fraug Belgian Ale sitting on the shelf at the beer store, I jumped at the chance to try it. (See, that’s my pun for this review: jump, you know, like a frog. I suppose it would have been better if I’d gone with “hopped to it” or made some allusion to lily pads but I guess I’m just lazy. Lazier I should say.)

Hoppin’ Frog is located in Akron, Ohio, and their relatively small lineup consists entirely of specialty brews—no pale ales or pilsners to appeal to beer philistines—and apparently they only distribute their beer in kegs and 22-ounce bottles. And, of course, one of these offerings is the aforementioned Gulden Fraug. Strange name. I wonder what it means.

So, to get to the beer, it makes its entrance with almost no head, even with a pretty rough pour into a tulip glass that just begs for a good head. It’s on the dark side for a Belgian that goes by the moniker “gulden” (I looked it up, it means “golden” in French): a dark orange closer to brown than gold. I was expecting the typical waft of Belgian spiciness on that first sniff, but instead I’m greeted with strong, biscuit-like malt and fusel alcohols. With a deep whiff I can detect a bit of that spice I’m looking for, but it’s definitely on the periphery.

I take the first sip and—whoa! Alcholic hotness right out front. Sure, this beer packs a 10.5 percent ABV, but I’ve had Belgians as strong as 12 percent that mask out the alcohol almost completely. No way it should be out in the front of the sip like that. That alcohol, along with a load of caramel-like malt and a medium body make this more like an old ale than a Belgian. A bit of acidity (or maybe hops, it’s hard to tell) takes all that maltiness down a notch for a smoother, crisper middle, but the finish is all cloying malt and alcohol. And as things warm up, the fusel character comes out even further.

Gulden Fraug is WAY too thick and sweet to try passing itself off as a Belgian-style golden ale. All that malt and alcohol buries any of the spiciness and subtleness a good Belgian brew should have. I was disappointed my first encounter with a Hoppin’ Fraug was such a dud, but I would like to try their other brews when I come across them again. They’ve got some interesting looking stuff. The Gulden Fraug just isn’t one of them.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on March 31, 2008.
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