A Quick Background for This Post:

2008 was a scary year for the Mrs. and I.  For four months, I was unemployed.  With my wife being a stay at home mom, four kids, and a mortgage, unemployment is hardly an option.  To make matters worse, I had been working as the director of a small non-profit organization where my meager paycheck was often late in coming or missed entirely resulting in a very thin savings.  The disaster was compounded by the fact that non-profits can opt out of unemployment insurance, as did my employer, so I was plumb out of any income.

One of the first things to go in the budget was beer.  For a beer geek, this is a tough sacrifice, but family comes first!  When I did land a job, it took a long time to catch up on bills, pay of credit cards, and ease moderate beer consumption back in to the budget.  Even in 2009 I still found/find myself trying to be as economical as possible.

So going to Dark Lord Day in April with Mike was not just a rite of passage, but a treat.  While my wife, Sandra, and I stayed with Mike and Andrea, I happened to mention that I had recently been dying to try Gulden Draak.  It seemed that no other beer sites (besides the big rating sites) wrote about the stuff and I found this intriguing.  Still, at the time, $15 was more than I could shell out for a bottle of beer.  Mike, being the good friend that he is, surprised me with a bottle while in Indiana.  While I wanted to pop the cork on the bottle right then and there, I decided to save the bottle for when my pregnant wife (who was sad that she couldn’t enjoy Dark Lord!) could drink it with me.  Well, my wife had our son, Ivan, and now can drink her favorite beverage again.  And the Gulden Draak is gone.

The Pour:

Gulden Draak is not golden; however, it is beautiful!  For a trippel it posseses a darker than normal hue.  The brown liquid is relatively clear, brimming with effervescent carbonation.  The billowy and creamy head lingers for a long time before leaving its delicate lacing calling card on the inside of the class.  The head never completely goes away, even till the last sip.

The Aroma:

This is a complex beer.  I am sure that I will miss a few of the sublte characteristics of the aroma.  Like many other Belgians, there is a clove/spicy quality…but unlike other Belgians, it is not the dominant quality.  There is a very herbal and raw/grassy nature to this beer.  I could have sworn I picked up on hints of sweet basil and lemon grass.  There is a slightly acidic quality that reminds me of apples.  Mineral qualities and hints of oxidization mix with the rich caramel notes making for a puzzling beer.

The Taste:

The flavor was quite like the aroma: very earthy, yet refined.  The sweet thin carbonated body released sweet caramel maltiness that had hints of grapes and apples.  Unlike many Belgians, I thought the yeast strain did NOT yield banana like flavors, but there was a mildly pleasant clove flavor.  There was a woody and hay like flavor, that when paired with the caramel and toffee like malts yielded a mineral maple syrup flavor.  The beer goes down exceedingly smooth, masking the high (10.5%) alcohol content until the beer warms up at the end, at which point the awesome flavors still are more prominent.

Overall Thoughts:

This is a world class beer.  If you haven’t tried it, you must, even if you shy away from Belgian beers, as many folks I know do.  Perhaps the months of waiting made it taste better…unlike some, I believe that ambiance can quite impact a drinking experience.  Would this beer still taste awesome if I were a wealthy tycoon with a lofty beer cellar filled with bottle upon bottle of Gulden Draak?  Yes.  But perhaps quite not as good as it did a few nights ago.

Nate’s Rating:

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★¾ 

Among other Belgian Strong Ales/Trippels: ★★★★¾