Kasteel Round-up

  Posted on November 18th, 2009

The History
Kasteel is a brand by the Belgian Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck. Van Honsebrouck also brews a few other labels - including Bacchus and St. Louis - but Kasteel is the most popular and most available in the US. Kasteel is named for the Castle [Kasteel] van Ingelmunster, which is owned by the brewery and featured on the label.
Unfortunately, not a lot of detail about the van Honsebrouck’s exists. The brewery dates back to sometime around the turn of the 20th century, and it is still in the family’s possession. Beyond that, there isn’t much aside from a Dutch Wikipedia Article and the company’s horribly outdated website.
So let’s let the beers speak for themselves.
Tonight I’ll be trying three styles: Tripel, Donker, and Rouge. Blonde is also brewed, but I’ve never been able to find it.

Tripel
Kasteel Tripel is, obviously, a Belgian Tripel. The term comes from the amount of malt used in the brewing process - around three times the amount used in a “simple” brew. Generally light in color and body yet high in alcohol and with a bold flavor. Sweetness and complexity are common, and usually a result of a combination of yeast, spices, and / or Belgian candi sugar.


Kasteel Orange might be a better name

Tripel pours a pale orange with a hue and effervescence reminiscent of ginger ale. Big champagne bubbles foam and fizzle, leaving practically zero head, even after a vigorous pour. Although it doesn’t stick, plenty bubbles continue to rise from the bottom and pop.
Aroma is bready citrus. Lemon peel, plus a little apple.
Initial taste is a peppery spice, followed quickly by a fruity sweetness. More apple, some white grape, and a hint of fresh cherries. There’s the characteristic candi sugar taste, but it’s much lighter and fruity than a typical Belgian tripel. Warming alcohol in the aftertaste, a slight hint at Tripel’s well-hidden 11%ABV. Almost no bitterness to speak of.
This beer has the texture of fine champagne. Bright bubbles sting the tongue. It’s light, more sharp than smooth, yet pleasant.

8/10

Donker
Donker - meaning dark - is a Belgian Strong Dark (Kasteel appears to be very straightforward with their names). I’ve reviewed a couple belgian darks in the past (Trois Pistoles and Gulden Draak), so I won’t go too into the details of the style.


Photo credit: This Japanese website
No photo credit: the dead batteries in my camera

Pours a deep reddish caramel. Both the beer and the head resemble Coca-cola (okay, last soda analogy). The head has a bit more retention than the Tripel, but still fades fast to a thin ring with some floating foam clusters.
Smells of dark fruits - raisin, date, and cherry.
Taste is ultra sweet. A lot of brown sugar, some dried plum, and caramel. Again, hops are barely there. Alcohol presence is there - Donker is also 11% - but mostly well hidden.
A mixture of molasses and soy takes over as the beer warms, along with the tiniest hint of iodine bitterness.
Donker has the flavor profile and feel of a tawny port more than a dark beer. Perhaps a well-aged quad. The mouthfeel is big and thick. A tad syrupy, although that is mostly offset by some smooth - probably natural - carbonation. Once the carbonation subsides, the port-wine quality takes over and the beer is almost too sweet.
This is definitely a slow sipper. Complex, but not in the best way, and not very drinkable. Donker might be good as a 4oz. pour (again, port) but the whole 11.2 ounce bottle is hard to put down without some heavy nursing.

6.75/10

Rouge
Kasteel Rouge - also sometimes known as Kriek - is a blend of brown ale aged for at least six months with sour cherries. It’s not a lambic or a kriek, even though the flavor might suggest it, because it is not fermented with wild yeast. The closest category into which Rouge fits is probably a Fruit Beer. But I digress…

Living up to its name, Rouge pours a near-opaque blood red, with about a finger of pale-pinkish foam. Once again the carbonation is big and champagne-like. The best retention of the three, but bubbles still recede fairly quickly.
Aroma is overwhelmingly of fresh cherries.
Similarly, the taste is all cherry. Sweet at first, then a bit sour towards the end. A brief glimmer of dark malt - the one hint that this is a brown ale at heart - but cherry and candi sugar are the singular stars. Rouge is slightly less alcoholic than Tripel or Donker at 8%ABV, and it’s undetectable save for a slight warmth way down in my throat.
Body is not too heavy. Full, but not syrupy. The long-lasting natural carbonation helps liven it up. Rouge is highly swishable, moderately drinkable.
Rouge has a great complexity for having only one featured ingredient. Yes, it’s all cherry, but many facets of the cherry - sugar, sour, tart - are allowed to shine. This is definitely the most balanced and most enjoyable of the three Kasteels.

9/10


fin.