Gouden Carolus is one of those beers I remember drinking in the Porterhouse, Dublin, with great pleasure, back in the early days of my voyage of beer discovery. While on a trip to Brussels a few months ago, I picked up a couple of bottles for old times sake, including a new member of the family, the hopsinjoor.
Of course, I had to start with the Gouden Carolus Classic. Pouring a warm-looking, ruby-tinged brown with a tight beige head, my memory was getting a refresher course, reinforced with that sherry-like aroma on top of a darkly malty, spicy backdrop. On first sip there's a blast of dried fruits, sticky caramel, vanilla, pepper and chocloate wrapping up in a solidly zesty cherry/sherry finish. It has a smooth, almost creamy mouthfeel, yet a dryness to the finish. But, I got a slight hint of plasticy resin to the finish that I didn;t really like. And then I began to find it too sweet, reminding me of a malzbier (the German non-alcoholic malt drink that even my son will drink) with added cherry and spices. Cherry cola even! Still, at 8.5% and with those chewy, fruity flavours going on, it still makes a nice winter warmer. Clearly my tastes have changed more than I thought in the intervening years, which I can accept. But I was a little saddened that I no longer really enjoy what used to be one of my favourite indulgences.
I thought I could perhaps find comfort in Charles' younger, blond sister, the Gouden Carolus hopsinjoor. A slightly hazy, honey-gold with a huge pillowy white head, it wafts off aromas reminiscent of lemon meringue, almonds and cough syrup. I was expecting some sort of Belgian interpretation of a hop bomb, but this is really nicely balanced. Feeling more like a wit beer with it's citrus stylings, and hints of banana and bubblegum, but cut with assertive, yet smooth, hop flavours. They feel like noble hops, showing lemon, lime, floral and spicy qualities. The finish delivers vanilla and a gentle bitterness. This is a really nice beer.
Glad to find my tongue must work ok, as I just read the hops are Golding, Spalt, Hallertau and Saaz. I'd call them noble (I'll let the Goldings pass as they are delicious)