As I mercilessly toil the vineyard of alcoholism, I am exposed to various kinds of firewater (as the Native American Indians used to call it), but rarely do I find a beverage that instantly occupies the top of my favourites list.
Craft Beer must surely be the most refined alcoholic beverage to have ever graced my palate. I am used to fine whiskies, a range of quality wines (only red wine, as white wine is a false economy), so I would like to think that I have the sort of refined taste that can distinguish the extraordinary from the extra ordinary. I’ve also bought and consumed every local and exotic beer on the shelves in Singapore, of which there is a near endless variety, because Singapore is a playground for the affluent.
But the day I tried a Craft Beer, in pure ignorance at that, I knew I had discovered something special. My first kiss of Craft Beer was a La Trappe Dubbel, an innocuous looking bottle that came with no pretenses on the label. I picked it because it was sold as a gift pack that came with a free La Trappe glass … and it was marked down 40%. This is one bargain I am forever glad I tried, as it introduced my senses to the alcoholic’s etheraal fields of Elysium.
The aroma that marched forth as I pulled the top off this beauty stopped my advances to conquer it as I do any cheap beer. The complex fragrance demanded of me to appreciate it, much like a classy Asian women entering a bar and smelling of white plum perfume. Instantly, no matter how debauched one be or what level of drunkenness one hath reached, the gentleman is called forth from underneath its crude garb.
The taste was distilled and ripened perfection, bottled with meticulous care, and presented at its finest. I doubt I have the adjectival range to contrive a sentence in the English language that truly could covey to the reader just how exquisite the experience of drinking your first Craft Beer is.
Now that I have touched on the art, it is time to look at the science and religion behind Craft Beer.
The interesting thing about La Trappe beer, in particular, is that its bottle fermented using an otherwise extinct strain of yeast that can only be found in one type of building on the planet: The Trappiste Monasteries.
(Yes, that is correct; a structure devoted to religious servitude and faith can produce something as sinful as the tainted brew … but with a holy level of refinement!)
La Trappe produces several Craft Beers, and each of the ones I’ve tried became an instant favourite. What I find so remarkable is the extraordinary range of flavours and aromas of each type. Truly, each beer in the La Trappe range has its own distinct identity, and one could never mistake one for the other, even after a serious session of overindulgence, where most brews all start tasting the same.
There are primarily five varieties of La Trappe Craft Beer in commercial circulation:
The Single – Light in colour (made with white sugar), with fresh, fruity aromas. The Single blends the line between beer and ale, and at 8% alcohol by vol, this is the one to have when you want to have a few and not suffer the negative effects of overindulgence.
The Dubbel – Dark in colour (made with brown sugar) and a medium-bodied beer in flavour, taste, and alcohol content. This beer is bold enough to keep your palette entertained even if you disrespect the beer and consume it alongside greasy fast food.
The Tripple – Light in colour (made with white sugar) and the beefier version of the Single. This is about as brawny as a white beer gets and is very drinkable. The beer for all occasions, as I call it—so this is the one I most often drain bottles and bottles of. The Tripple has no pretense of ale; it is a man’s beer, despite being of the pale variety, which usually is milder, fruitier, and devoid of that bitterness and sourness that strong beers tend to have.
The Quadruple - Dark in colour (made with brown sugar) and bursting forth with deep, rich, and mature aromas. It also has the highest % of alcohol per vol (12%). This one is my personal favourite, and luckily, it is sold in pint-sized bottles at select retailers. But beware! The brown sugar, heavy flavours, and high alcohol content means that the Quadruple will produce a hurricane-force hangover if you exceed your limits with it.
La Trappe White – My favourite type of beer, overall, is white beer, and La Trappe produces my all-time favourite witbier or weissebier (as it is called in Europe). White beer has a very flat, yeasty taste and tends to give you a slightly bloated feeling if you drink more than one litre. But this stuff goes down like water and has absolutely no aftertaste. La Trappe’s rendition of this legendary European beer caused me to instantly convert from my former savour Hoegarden (a Belgian wheat beer, itself a product of meticulous artisanship). Sadly, I’ve only found one retailer that regularly stocks La Trappe White, so I don’t have this one nearly as often as the others, but when I do, I make up for lost time.
I’ve literally emptied crates of Craft Beer, and not just those from La Trappe, so I know exactly which one to drink when I want a particular flavour or effect. These babies are heftily priced though, weight in at R80-R120 per 330ml bottle (ja, BLIKSEM!!! Indeed), and on a regular weekday night (with no stress egging me on) I can sink six of these beers. They are so good that I don’t even care to dispense with currency or consider how much more of whatever other type of booze I could have procured instead. But, I drink my Craft Beers slowly, because the joy of artisan beer (any, not just La Trappe) is in having it linger in your mouth for the longest time possible (something whisky drinkers will appreciate).
One time, I ran out of La Trappe sooner than I had expected, so I decided to round off my usual protracted session of ‘flooding the combustion chambers,’ with a pint of Guinness Draught—already orders of magnitude better than any hops-based lager beer you will get in a pub or pull of the shelves at the corner bottle store. What a horrible experience! My mug of Guinness absolutely tasted like a pale of piss! Had I not poured the draught myself—thereby verifying its authenticity—I would not have believed it was Guinness in my glass. That is the chasmic divide between good beer and Craft Beer!
So it seems that a life of diligence, self-sacrifice, prayer, and servitude translates beautifully into the Craft Beers that the Trappiste monks have brewed and polished to perfection over the last several centuries. Who could have thought that religious fervor could produce something that Babylon itself would have approved of.
I dare say, a fitting theme for any bottle of La Trappe beer would be a halo hovering above the bottle cap, and a pair of angel wings fixed to the base of the bottle. There should be a ministerial HAAAUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHMMMMMMMM sound playing whenever the eyes meet the shelf that holds these bottles of holy beverage (which I swear the angels in heaven themselves must enjoy), and a light as bright as the sun at noon should pierce forth from behind the bottles lined up like the souls of children in a heavenly choir.
As I sit here bashing these keys to relate the divine nature of this beer (while enjoying one), I almost get a sense of being but an errant human hand through which the divine is trying to write. And I am all too glad to be a prophet of He who sits on the crate of Craft Beer.
Just like the call of faith, this is one beverage that you have to personally experience in order to appreciate what it is about. But unlike religious faith, this is one divine experience that convinces with proof! So feel free to compare Craft Beers—particularly those originating from the Monasteries of Europe—with any beer from anywhere in the world, you will find that Craft Beer has no equal! This is the one true beer, and all the rest are frauds.
Once you convert to the religion of Craft Beer, the bottled spirit fills your being, and you, henceforth, are destined for the only heaven worth spending eternity in: the one where emptying crates of booze is the only form of worship allowed. But be aware, just like all religions, it will forcefully take its tithe from your pocket—so try not to become a fanatic if you convert to the religion of Craft Beer.
Though I’ve covered only one brand of Craft Beer, I regularly enjoy more than half a dozen varieties, and will take the time to detail each in future articles.
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