Maredsous 8: Brewing perfection
I love Duvel. It's the beer I'd have every day and in almost any situation. But, the fabulous Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat cranks out a few other beers that deserve much more than a mention. The best among the rest is Maredsous 8, which only happens to be about the best Belgian Dubbel you'll ever find.
Unfortunately, that's the only problem with the Maredsous. Even though Duvel has suddenly sprung up just about everywhere, for which I am eternally grateful to the kind and generous Beer Gods, all of the Maredsous' can be difficult to locate. There is also a Maredsous 6 and a 10—the numbers equate to the alcohol levels—but the 8 is the best.
Though it comes in a similar squat bottle, this beer is nothing like a Duvel. The Maredsous 8 is a top fermented ale that undergoes another fermentation in the bottle. Poured into a wine glass, the reddish brown beer is topped with a tan head that will easily hold on longer than it'll take you to finish the glass. The aroma is a little sweet, mainly consisting of plums.
All well and good, but the best is yet to come.
The beer is almost magical in its complexity. There's so much going on, and yet it all comes together so well. It starts off nice and crisp right up front where the fruits -- again, mainly plum -- come to the fore. There are plenty of flavors to explore, though. Figs, chocolate, coffee, caramel.... Then, just as you'd expect it to edge a little too far off to the sweet side, along comes a nice spicy clove bite enhanced even further by the alcohol that dries it up and lends a bit of warmth. Some hops add just a hint of bitterness, then it all ends in a smoky swirl. Complex perfection. So good, you just want to sit there and admire it alone, without any food getting in the way.
If you must eat, though, start with a cheese plate, have a burger, then finish with a chocolate dessert. This beer will see you through all those courses just fine. Actually, it may be a good idea to eat while drinking this beer. They go down very nicely, and that 8% alcohol sneaks up quicker than expected. The mouthfeel is light and crisp, and despite the medium body, these beers seem like they can be happily downed all day. Happily maybe, but definitely not safely.
Maredsous 8 is a beer that gives the great St. Bernardus Dubbel a run for its money -- maybe even slightly bettering it. Dubbels are not the ice cold, thirst quenching beers many fixate upon, and there are going to be many situations where they just aren't quite appropriate. These are meant to be served about cellar temperature to allow the flavor to come out to its full extent. They are sipping beers. You just aren't going to be able to knock them back all night. With the Maredsous, you'll want to try, though. Having a beer like this makes you realize how difficult it must be to brew a truly great beer. There are many craft brewers striving for this kind of perfection, but rarely come close. I still adore the Duvel, a completely different style that is much more versatile, though less complex. But the Maredsous 8 proves that that spectacular display of brewing perfection wasn't a fluke. These guys have brewing down cold.