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June 20, 2012 - Shannon

I’ll admit it. I’ve got a problem, and let me tell you, the local beer store surely capitalizes on it.  If I see any beer with a rating of 90 or above, and it’s in my price range, I want to buy it.  Chances are, I probably DO buy it.  The problem, of course, is that I’m not particularly discerning as to WHO has to rate it so highly. It can be Beer Advocate, Rate Beer, or the guy stocking the shelves at Walmart, I’m a sucker for a recommendation and a good score.  I am convinced that my beer store has figured this out because they have begun to line the aisles with excellent beer, even conveniently touting its rating above the price.


So, when I saw this beautiful bottle of Gulden Draak, a Belgian rated consistently at a 98 (BeerAdvocate.com) and 99 (Ratebeer.com)… sorry, the Walmart guy didn’t weigh in on this one, I had to pick one up.  The clincher was not the Belgian style, or the reasonable price, but the theme.  It’s true, I love history. Reenacting.  Period costumes, music, culture.  FINE- I’ll just come out and say it.  I do Renaissance Faires. Proof?  You want proof?



That was me as the wine Mistress, Maria Valenzano, at the New Jersey Renaissance Faire in early June 2012.  ”Wine,” you say?  ”But you’re our beer mistress,” you say?  Worry not friends, I go both ways.


And now back to the matter at hand, this massive bottle of viking awesome: Gulden Draak.  Made with a yeast strain that is centuries old, this Belgian tripel pours a much darker, warm brown than I expected.  The first thing I noticed was the sweet smell, very caramel and fresh vanilla.  Weighing in at 10.5%ABV, it smells dessert-y and refreshing, but it looks like a beast.  Very viking appropriate, I suppose, and served in my beautiful viking chalice, made by glass blower Jason Klein, also of the New Jersey Renaissance Faire.  I have friends that do it all.


The head is light brown, creamy, and lingers long after it’s poured.  Holding my glass up to the light, I can see through the dark amber body, and I’ll admit to almost thinking barley wine thoughts.  The carbonation moves upwards along the outside of the glass, not from the center.  I’m not sure if that’s a result of the beer, the glass, or a combination of the two.  No more anticipation, time to taste!


Interestingly enough, that strong sweet scent disappears when I put my nose in the glass.  Instead, I get a bitter, hopsy aroma that complements the rich, warm flavor.  This one is hard to wrap my brain around.  It is undoubtedly Belgian, the flavor profile and balance make that clear.  The beer is powerful and dynamic without being an overpowering stout or smoked porter.  These thick caramel notes are offset by a fair amount of carbonation and even a hint of bitter lavender.  The beer coats my tongue, but isn’t syrupy, my biggest turn off about typically dessert-y beers.  The tip of my tongue gets the bright carbonation, the middle of my mouth the sweet warmth, and the back of my throat a bitter grapefruit pith.


If you’re looking to pair this beer, be bold!  Think masculine, viking thoughts: hearty meats, rich sauces, decadent desserts, or your favorite cigar.  With such a powerful ABV, it’s a nightcap brew.  Embrace it, and taste the history.



Channeling My Inner Viking – Gulden Draak Ale

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