Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Blonde Ale


Style: Belgian Ale
ABV: 6.7%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
My second stop during the annual International Beer Month, co-sponsored this year by Subaru of Boise and the Greater Des Moines Society of Exotic Dancers, is a trip to a Belgian brewery. But, unlike last year, this isn’t an exclusive Trappist brewery. Rather, it’s Grimbergen Blonde Ale from Brouwerij Alken-Maes, a modern day brewery with a little history behind it.

While not Trappist, there is a connection with Belgian monasteries. Although brewed at a modern brewery, the roots of Grimbergen beer can be traced to 1128, when Norbertine monks did in fact brew on the site of the newly constructed Grimbergen Abbey. Brewing continued off and on at the site, which was destroyed more than once by war due to their location in the Flemish region that was a hotspot for simmering medieval tensions between France and England. The French Revolution was the final death knell of brewing at Grimbergen Abbey, but the ancient beers created by the Grimbergen monks were revived in the 20th century, when the monks teamed with nearby Maes to once again produce Grimbergen ales. Maes produces about six beers under the Grimbergen line, the most notable of which are Dubbel and Blonde Ale, both traditional Belgian abbey ales.

My curiosity in Grimbergen was peaked due to the fact that most bars and retailers in America with a decent selection of “true” imports (read: anything NOT Corona, Heineken, Beck’s, Foster’s, etc.) often feature Grimbergen Blonde and/or Dubbel. While not a cheap option (six packs typically retail for at least $11), there’s no shortage of interest in Grimbergen. A friend in Milwaukee who has good taste in beer is a huge fan of Grimbergen Blonde, and she was the one that convinced me to try it the first time. While I wasn’t as blown away by the brew as she was, it was clear that Blonde was a good, solid import that does deserve some respect.

Grimbergen Blonde pours well, with a frothy white head about a finger deep that slowly dissipates, leaving a pillowy head throughout and some sticky residue at the sides. A lively ale, there’s a constant bubbly dance from the bottom of my snifter throughout the session, making Blonde a lovely, golden brown ale that is very characteristic of what I’d expect any authentic Belgian ale to look like.

Aromas pleasantly bite the nostrils with heavy doses of Belgian yeast, pale malt, zesty fruits, and spice. Clove, coriander, and black pepper dominate the bite, with hints of light citrus (grapefruit and orange with a touch of lemon) and grassy malt. While not unique, it’s a great Belgian aroma.

The initial flavor is very similar to the aroma: noticeable spice of coriander and clove, with enough black pepper to make the novice drinker let out a sneeze. Tart fruits come through next, quickly tempering the spice, with green apple dominating, followed by some lighter fruity tones of grapefruit and other citrus. In the background there are slight notes of pale malt and Belgian yeast, but ultimately Grimbergen Blonde is a juggling act between its spicy overtones and its secondary sweetness and earthiness.

Overall, Grimbergen Blonde is a solid, respectable attempt at a classic Belgian ale. While it will never be heavy in my beer drinking rotation, it’s worth the occasional sample and a pleasant light, spicy option from my standard choices, which tend to be big, dark, and/or hoppy. Grimbergen is worth a sample for anyone who likes Belgian ales, though the novice drinker or those who don’t like some zest should stay away from this one. I was teetering between a three and four mug rating, but ultimately I’m going with a four due to the fact that while Blonde won’t blow you away, it’s solid in every single area. Another great brew from a country with no shortage of them.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on February 28, 2011.
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