When the brilliance of these two Belgian-inspired breweries collides, you might well expect the results to be astounding. I certainly did.
And then I tasted the beers, and I felt…let down.
There is more on that to come, but first let’s get some of the details out of the way. New Belgium is a leading Colorado brewery, now famously building an eastern US facility in North Carolina. (Where there was recently a suspicious fire, I’m told. Thankfully, no one was hurt and an investigation is proceeding.) Dieu du Ciel is likely the best known Quebec brewery after Unibroue, an honour very well deserved.
The beer is, obviously, in the tripel style, with 9% alcohol by volume. It is flavoured with hibiscus flowers – a favourite Dieu du Ciel ingredient, as per their Roseé d’Hibiscus – and feijoa, a fruit sometimes known as a pineapple guava, native to South America but perhaps most commercially cultivated in New Zealand. Where they found sufficient quantities to brew with in Colorado I do not know.
Now, back to the beer. My first few tastes left me wanting, as I noted above, but that was just the first few. I got the hibiscus, on the nose and in the body, and certainly noted something fruity and somewhat guava-esque, an assessment I made before I looked up “feijoa.” But other than being rather tangy and slightly acidic, there wasn’t a lot else to pull me in. I was, frankly, disappointed.
And then I kept sipping.
The more I tasted this beer, the more I found myself drawn to it – and not because of the effect of the alcohol! It warmed a bit and more distinctly floral notes began to emerge, not just hibiscus, but tropical flowers and key lime. I began to taste past the tang and fruit in the body and found an almost minty herbal quality, plus overripe peach and some spicy hop, particularly in the second half. There arose an almost tobacco-y dried leaf note on the finish.
In the end, I still wasn’t entranced by this beer, but it emerged as something much better than my first three or five sips would have led me to believe. A reminder, I’d suggest, that the old and purportedly Czech axiom, “A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure,” is actually advice well heeded.