Beer Street & Gin Lane
A rosy hued gin from the next county and a Belgian beer with a history
Belgium has introduced the world to an interesting array of beer styles which have gone on to influence many a brewer in the UK, USA and across the globe – Wit, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadruple, Saisons, Geuzes, Flanders Red and Flanders Brown to name a few. De Halve Maan Brewery, established in 1856, is a family run brewery and happens to be the only one in Bruges, quite something in a country with over 180 commercial breweries.
The brewery was set up by Henri Maes who, along with his uncle, started to brew sour beers, until Henri’s death in 1867. After four generations, it was Veronique Maes the daughter of Henri IV who jumped on board in the 1980s and put the brewery on the map. Between them, they started with specialist beer Strafe Henderik, brewed for the inauguration of saint Arnoldous, the patron saint of brewers in Bruges. Veronique’s son Xavier Vanneste, decided in 2005 that the brewery needed to be upgraded and modernised. So it was rebuilt and a new beer Zot blond was launched.
At 6% abv (alcohol by volume), it’s undoubtedly the biggest selling Belgian beer we stock at Arcade Tavern. It’s a great introduction for those who wish to embark on a journey into trying Belgian beers. Brewed with four different malts and two hop varieties, the beer has a unique taste and a delightful creamy white head that sticks to the high stemmed glass. On the nose the beer has esters and yeasty notes with banana and pear. Citrus follows into the whole aroma and flavour, with the addition of bread, then an added spicy edge. It’s spritzy, then a smooth mouthfeel, with a crisp bitterness to end.
De Halve Maan Brewery is divided into two families, Straffe Henderick which brews two beers, a blond tripel and a brown quadruple, both of high alcohol content. The other family is Zot which brew the blond and then the darker Zot Dubbel. We have stocked all these beers and the Zot blond is part of the core range we have at the tavern.
We do not have to go too far in search of gin, certainly not in the last three to four years
‘Citrus follows into the whole aroma and flavour, with the addition of bread, then an added spicy edge’
as the drinks industry is booming in this particular field. There seems to be a new distillery knocking on our door each week. We have gained quite a presence, mainly due to the hard work of Ross Keough, our MD, and Lizzie Allen, our general manager. The Arcade Tavern has been a launch pad for many distilleries, as we’re fortunate to have our inhouse expert, The Gin Lord, running tasting sessions at least once a month.
This month I am pleased to make you aware of a lovely gin from just over the border in Cambridgeshire. Pinkster has been on the menu at the Arcade for around two years and is part of our core range. It was first created in 2013 by Stephen Marsh, who was working as a finance director. Stephen has a love of wine and was very interested in making fruit liquors. But he developed a yeast allergy which prevented him from drinking wine, so he started to experiment with making gin at home and discovered a wonderful recipe using fresh raspberries.
Backed by a private equity firm, the recipe was contracted out to Thames Distillers. In 2014 they moved production to G&J, which also produces Ophir and Bloom gin under the guidance of master distiller Joanne Moore. The gin is made using five botanicals, although we are only made aware of three – juniper, black peppercorn and raspberries. They are steeped in a triple distilled spirit to give the gin its smooth yet dry mouthfeel. The raspberries are further infused in the gin after distillation, which is how it gets its stunning pink hue. On the nose, the gin is more geared towards juniper than raspberries, with hints of black pepper. To taste, it has a sweet profile similar to a raspberry coulis, with an underlying flavour of juniper and coriander. .
The gin has gained attention as far away as Australia, but fortunately you only need travel to the centre of Ipswich to find it served in one of our beautiful Spanish style stemmed glasses, with Fever-Tree tonic water over ice, garnished with a fresh raspberry and a sprig of mint. Cheers.
Zot blond beer