Published October 22, 2009 by Mike Tessier in Booze
Recently, gnomes have been bullied and the media is not helping. The little guys are tired of getting oranges juiced on their heads in Travelocity ads, they’re fed up with getting kicked and injured on Clint Eastwood’s lawn in Gran Torino and don’t get them started on all the gnome kidnappings that have happened since that French movie, Amelie. Tired of the abuse, gnomes are bulking up to protect themselves and the brewing gnomes of Achouffe are at the forefront of this “bigger is better” revolution. By Belgian standards, it is brewing the biggest of big beers — its Houblon Chouffe IPA Triple, a monster ale that will make even the meekest of gnomes want to fight back.
A big beer brewed by little guys shouldn’t seem odd; after all, most bodybuilders suffer little-guy syndrome and want to get bigger. Achouffe’s Houblon is no different — it is a gnome in the throes of a steroid rage. It has three large pec-building sets of hops added during the brewing process, including two of the biggest American hops known for their big pine and citrus qualities: Amarillo and Tomahawk (perfect for an angry gnome). This brew also includes Saaz, a hop commonly used in lagers, which makes for a dynamic hop profile that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Watch out though, it is dangerously drinkable at nine per cent. With a dense billowy head this ale is thicker than the thickest of body-bulking protein shakes and the head will last through the longest gnome pumping iron sessions.
Many Belgian breweries sell more beer outside Belgium than at home and this beer style was requested by Achouffe’s American importer. Having met the former owners (who are not gnomes), and knowing their love of India Pale Ales, there likely wasn’t much persuasion required for them to brew this beer. The Houblon is a blend of two brewing styles, the Belgian Triple and the India Pale Ale. Not surprisingly, since this beer was introduced to the American market some four years ago, many hop-crazy North American breweries have imitated it. This style of beer was introduced to Alberta just this year, but rumour is more Triple IPAs are to follow. I have tried several other examples of this groundbreaking style and I believe the Houblon remains the benchmark by which all the others are judged.
Recently, Belgian brewing giant Moortgat, famous for its classic golden ale Duvel (also in the Alberta market), purchased Achouffe. Moortgat’s marketing department is already making some misguided steps and is pasteurizing the small bottles of La Chouffe, the brewery’s golden ale and the McChouffe, its Scottish inspired brown ale. In some brewers’ opinions, pasteurization makes beer more stable for shipping and gives it a longer shelf life, but in my opinion it is destructive to the beer and strips it of flavour. My suggestion is to buy the big unpasteurized bottles or, as I like to think of them, big bottles brewed by little guys.