What initially sounds like a proto-Cool Jazz band or underground resistance movement – although there are parallels to be found in both – is in fact a personality-filled half dozen Belgian-inspired releases from Artisan. There’s a fair bit to cover in this September sextet, however if this scribe can offer any overarching advice, it’s that pacing is key.
Approaching these in ascending ABV order, Rhuby the Rogue riffs on the previous St Ruby Belgian amber ale in what is set to become an ongoing Belgian amber series. Keen-eyed orthographers will no doubt be triggered by this variant’s bonus H, a nod to the rhubarb addition which joins raspberries in a highly aromatic affair. The base beer’s subtle prune and raisin mingle with the rouge adjuncts, closing out with a refreshing light tartness: an amuse bouche for what’s to come.
Next we arrive at the Artisan Abbey – cue echoing hymnal chanting. Sticky Date Dubbel, a Belgian dark ale with dates and vanilla, leads the Abbey-style releases with greater restraint and dryness than may be expected. While the adjuncts add interest, it’s part of a holistic approach, one featuring a yeast-driven clove note through the moderate body.
Playfully referencing monastic ABV protocols, Sticky Date Dubbel warms the noggin at 6.66 percent, with the theme seeing Abbey B. come in at 7.77 percent ABV, although each escalation serves as a warning, not a predictor of style.
This Belgian strong blonde ale also sports a 2023 vintage release, which is designed to be an indicator of ageing potential offered by some of the Artisan range; look for the gold-rimmed can labels and dated vintage seals. In the chalice, classic Belgian esters lead to a sweet / dry interplay that dances with banana bread notes and light spice. Abbey B.’s liquid rhythm mirrors the refracted light through stunning yellow gold clarity.
Gnome 2023 steps briefly out of the abbey for a jaunt to Ardennes on the French border, a region covered in forests, and mischievous beanie- and beard-adorned elves, should you be lucky to spot one. To be fair, there’s probably a few in the ancient forests surrounding Artisan’s hometown of Denmark. Fuller bodied than its orderly siblings, Gnome 23 layers sweet malt with spice, bubble gum and banana, its 8 percent ABV at ease with the overall cheekiness.
Back at the abbey, the doors close to leave two revered styles: the Belgian tripel and quad. For a monastic style, Diabla pours at odds with its humble origins. This is regal, luminous and assured, with familiar Belgian white pepper spice and veiled banana, and the ratcheting booze convention mentioned earlier whispering angelically through the dry finish.
Which just leaves Quad 2023: the abbey’s dark fruit oeuvre. It’s an expression rich in raisin, prune, lightly salted toffee, dried fruit and vinous notes. Big volume Trappist tropes this ain’t; instead, Artisan’s consistently award-winning secular offering welcomes realness and ageing potential. Now it’s time to put the robe on and have a little nap.
Published September 4, 2023 2023-09-04 00:00:00