More Vintage Ales

Extreme cellaring alert! My friend Alan (of Neill & Ross Brewery) is a Belgian beer nut and has amassed a sizable collection of aged beers, including some no longer brewed. This weekend we cracked open a number of them. Here are some thoughts:

First up were a couple of 1970s rarieties from Bass, the 1977 Jubilee Strong Ale & Bass Princess ale 1978
Both of these were well past their prime, with oxidation, wet cardboard, sod all carbonation and just not generally very nice. The Princess Ale did have an interesting touch of red fruit and toothpaste to differentiate from the former, but both drain pours unfortunately.

La Choulette Biere Des Sans Culottes 1990 is a dark biere de garde and not one I was too keen on either.

Straffe Hendrik 1990 was well past it and was a straight drain pour.

The Chimay Premier was also past its prime. I preferred the fresh version (which is so far one of the only doubles I've actively enjoyed).

So far, not so good but the better beers were to come in the form of a Felix Kriek from 1972 and Belle Vue Selection Lambic 1989. The kriek had held up fantastically and paired well with Stilton as suggested in the Vinken and Van Tricht book. A nose and taste reminiscent of rodenbach with cherries still lingering in the background. A surprising amount of condition for its age too. This beer is still produced today albeit in a much diminished form.

The Belle Vue lambic, today well known for being overly-sweetened was also a good beer. Obviously it started off sour and fairly dry, so there wasn't much more it could do to develop. Very dry, funky nose and lots of citric acid, just how I like them.

 Another interesting comparison was fresh Rodenbach to a bottle ~50 years old. Undisputably the same beer, the older bottle had lost some of the vinegar tartness and become more rounded. This worked well with mimolette, another win for the cheese and beer guide.

Another highlight for me was the 1960s Rochefort 10. Just as good as the fresh stuff and fantastic with Fourme d'Ambert.
A Westmalle Tripel of similar age was also sampled, but having neglected to make notes I don't recall how it had held up! A 2011 Westvletern 12 did nothing to shine, reinforcing the view that this beer is very over-hyped due to its rarity.

The big surprise of the evening for all of us was that Weston's Cider from 1985 tastes pretty much indistinguishable from fresh stuff. This makes sense as the wild yeast used to ferment it already succeeded in outcompeting any other wee beasties in 1985, so not much scope for infection and all the sugar had fermented out in any case.

A mixed batch then, as you would perhaps expect but a fun evening nonetheless.Thanks Alan and Olly for supplying most of the bottles.


  1. Jealous. Have you been to Kulminator in Antwerp?

    1. nope, not even been to Antwerp before! Plan to get back to Belgium next year for a weeks holiday, part touristy part beery.

      I did make it one of my resolutions to do more Belgian stuff this year, hmm I wonder how my other resolutions are going...

  2. I was tempted to make the bus journey (from Belfast) to DrinkStore when they had the Westvleteren 12 in stock! Didn't get around to it. I was really impressed with the bottle of Westvleteren 8 I had a few years ago - it's still in my top ten.

  3. I am of the same opinion of Wesvleteren 8, a superb beer and now Westvleteren 12 is everywhere but no 8 to be seen over here.

    1. Am yet to try it, that'll be one for next year I expect

  4. Will try and remember to bring you a bottle in a few weeks. Remind me the night before.