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Al-Iksir Belgian Strong Pale Ale


GennaroE
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Tried an Al-Iksir ($12) "Belgian Strong Pale Ale( Primary Fermentation w/ Whiskey Yeasts)" from Birrificio Le Baladin on draft at Birch & Barley the other night and thought it was awesome. Anybody else tried it? Would you say it's representative of Belgian strong pale ales? I haven't tried many that fall into that category.

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I think this was the same Baladin that I had at Rustico on Sunday (although they had it down as “Elixir”). I really enjoyed the beer. It had some very interesting flavours that were hard to pin down (I wasn't aware of the scotch yeast connetcion).

As far as the style goes, until a couple of years ago a “Belgian pale” would most likely mean a golden ale or tripel (as a rule dubbels are dark triples are pale) such as Duvel or Westmalle. These are pale like a pilsner - much paler than an American pale (which itself had roots in the English “India Pale Ale” style). Over the past couple of years though a Hybrid has emerged where Belgians have incorporated the hops popular in US Pale Ales (Amarillo and other non native hops in much larger quantities than traditional in a Belgian ale) – with an eye to enhancing marketability in the USA. The first widely available version was by Chouffe – their “Houblon IPA Triple ” and there have been many, many similar versions since (of varying quality) as every other brewer jumped on the bandwagon (or the shark depending on your perspective).

I would say that this is probably being marketed as one of these latter beers (it is quite hoppy) but it is much better than most and has much more going for it. It isn’t simply a hopped up, more amber Belgian ale. Baladin beers are excellent. I was lucky enough to visit the wonderful little brewpub in the lovely picturesque village of Piozzo back in 2003. It was a good break from the tartufi and Barolo hunting that engaged us for the rest of the trip. The brewer (Theo) had me try several of his experimental beers as well as his wide range of (mostly Belgian inspired) staples. He is an eccentric but talented brewer who has some very adventurous recipes that usually work surprisingly well (much like Thomme Arthur of Pizza Port or Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head).Try the Nora, Isaac or the Super Baladin – they do sometimes show up at Wholefoods etc.

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