Monday, November 8, 2010

Crafty Belgian Marketing: La Chouffe Strong Pale Ale

Beer: La Chouffe
Brewery: Brasserie d'Achouffe (Achouffe, Belgium)
Type: Belgian Strong Pale Ale / Tripel
ABV: 8%

Normally, if the LCBO comes out with a new Belgian ale, I pick it up without even blinking and rarely need any additional convincing.  Then of course there are beers like La Chouffe, beers that absolutely demand to be purchased.   Why, do you ask? 


I mean...awww....what cute little guy.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: gnomes are good people.  Especially this little fellow, with his little red hat and his handful of harvested herbs and vegetables.    If you think this label is cute, check out the brewery's website, and you'll discover new levels of GIF adorableness.   You can even buy little red gnome hats!   I must make a trek there someday, if not for their pro-gnome agenda, at the very least for the lovely scenery of the adjacent Ardennes forest. 

The adorable gnome character isn't just a sneaky marketing scheme to tug at the heartstrings of beer bloggers such as myself; it's a verbal play with the name of the brewery.   Achouffe is a small town in Wallonia, which is the southern French-speaking half of Belgium, and is part of the forests of the Ardennes.  "Achouffe" in Walloonspeak sounds a great deal like "la chouffe", Walloonspeak for 'gnome', which meant that the marketing department of the brewery didn't have to think for very long.  Which is probably a good thing.   The brewery was founded in 1982 by Chris Bauweraerts, and the delightful gnome motif (as well as the beer) was a huge hit with consumers in the glutted Belgian beer market.   Although Brasserie d'Achouffe was taken over by brewing giant Duvel-Moortgat in 2006, the new owners have wisely left the 'chouffe' line alone, exporting it first to the Netherlands, then other global beer markets.  Just in time for the Christmas season, the LCBO brought in some big bottles of this delightful stuff for our drinking pleasure.  The LCBO Christmas gift set release is a difficult time for me; with so many wonderful, wonderful beer and glassware combo sets, many of which featuring brews I've never encountered before, it's very difficult to all of them.   This one seemed like a good first choice; it didn't come with a glass, so Michelle can rest assured I'm not inundating our house with beer glasses, and if people want to buy more of them for me for Christmas, I'll welcome them gladly.

To beer!

As is often the case with Belgian ales, this one was poured into my trusty Duvel goblet.   (I'm not alone in my preference for this glass; a recent BA forum asked what our favorite glassware was, and Duvel's unique chalice was the overwhelming response).  La Chouffe pours a deep golden, with hints of orange when held out of the light.  Mildly opaque.  Left a magnificent two-inch foamy head, which receded into a nice half-inch patchy froth.  Sheets of lacing with every sip.  An extra-big bottle meant for extra sampling, which made for an enjoyable evening.

Nose is apple, pear, honey, peach, floral hops, pale Belgian malt, yeast.

This brew is making for an excellent evening sipper.  Almost too sweet, but it's too damned tasty for me to care.  Honey, apple, pear, candied fruit, floral notes, coriander and spice are the big players here.  Finishes dry, with a nice floral hop touch. Long finish.    This brew reminds me a great deal of Unibroue's La Fin du Monde, it's just a great deal sweeter and fruitier than it's Quebec counterpart.   I suspect gnomes are the reason behind this.

Medium bodied, with a champagne-like mouthfeel after the first pour but as I work my way through the 750ml bottle, this wanes quite a bit.  

A tasty Belgian strong ale, a great sipper for a quiet night in.  Tripels have a tendency to be either very sweet and candy-like, or very dry and peppery.  La Chouffe definitely leans towards the former; Duvel and Fin du Monde the latter.   My palate still leans towards the former, but I'm finding I'm preferring my Belgian ales drier and more robust as I go along, so for now, La Chouffe falls well within my threshold.   In either case, this was an enjoyable brew, and I will certainly be back for another before the season is done.   (Grade: A)

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