Saturday, 20 March 2010

De Molen Hell & Damnation

Hello blog. Been a while.

I've gone on the record recently as saying that De Molen is one of my current, favourite breweries in the whole wide world. It was soon after making this important announcement, that I decided that I'd break into my small De Molen stash, as I'd been drooling with anticipation about the pair of Hel & Verdoemenis sitting on a shelf down in the cellar.

According to the stats on the label, Hel & Verdoemenis (Hell & Damnation) is a pretty robust beer, weighing in at about 11.2% ABV and 99IBUs, so plenty to look forward to. It poured completely flat, with a thick, oily look to it. It certainly delivered on the aroma, with a huge warming suggestion of vanilla, sweet coffee, pipe tobacco and new leather. The flavour delivers definite fruity, sherry notes, melted dark chocolate mixed with caramel, slightly smoky elements and a roasted edge that seemingly increased with every sip. The finish was really quite sweet, and at a final gravity of 1.031, it has every right to be, but it has the effect of completely masking the supposed 99 IBUs. I like this, but I was somehow expecting more. I think if it had a bit of carbonation it would cut the sweetness and open the beer up a bit, as the flatness reinforced the sweetness, and to be honest, near the end it started feeling a bit one-dimensional.

At least I'd reset my expectations for the Eiken Hel & Verdoemenis (Oaked Hell and Damnation), though given the different brewing ad bottling dates, I was more hopeful. In the end, it was much the same experience, but with a definite added woody dimension. The flavour is certainly more tannic, with an added strong vanilla component and a slightly sharper edge that cut it where the missing carbonation could have. This made it feel a little lighter on the tongue than it's less -woody sister, and it's also a little more spicy in the finish, alongside a yeasty, bready character which, together, was like a final absolution.

I can't deny that I was a bit disappointed with this pair. I don't know if they are supposed to be so flat, but for me, it left them sitting sweet and heavy on the palate, which eventually became overbearing. I still love what the brewery does though, and I'll keep trying what I can of Menno's creations.

Of course, the above comments don't change my general opinion, as it would take a completely disastrous beer to detract from the likes of their Tsarina Esra Reserva, Kopi Loewak and Rasputin.


Anonymous said...

Hmm... I so agree with your descriptions of the beer. But not the let down!

But I then have been drinking Hel & Verdoememis next to Heaven & Hell. Heaven & Hell does have (a bit) more carbonation, it makes it a bit more bitterness and zing in the mouth (despite the slightly EBU - like you could taste the difference!). After first taste it's not as impressive as teh Hel & Verdoemenis, but after time an impressive brew (different hoping from Hel & Verdoemenis mind).

But in full reflection, both have a serious long taste. I might just head toward the Hel & Verdoemenis as best, even without the bite, the lingering taste is incredible.

Maybe I'll drink the last couple of bottles in a years time and have a different opinion.

Pivní Filosof said...

By your description, I get the impression that this is a beer that can get better with some ageing. Or at least I hope so, because I bought myself a bottle the other day that will gather dust in my "cellar" until my 40th BD next year...

Barry M said...

Anon, yeah, it's definitely full of rich flavours, and each one started wonderfully, but I felt it just got stickier, and stickier, and in the end that detracted from the whole experience, and left me a wishing for something else. If it was a smaller measure I'd had, I'd probably have had a different opinion, as it might not have gotten to that fed-up-with-sugary-stickiness stage :)

Max, they'll certainly keep, and probably age very well, but I suspect the sweetness won't diminish. These were brewed in April and January, 2009, respectively. I'd like to try another batch, just to see did I get some sort of duds that didn't carbonate properly.

Kelly Ryan said...

Had the pleasure of a weekend with Menno from De Molen and his beers instantly made his brewery a top three. Can absolutely recommend his new Hop and Stout, a massively hopped, intensely smooth number and along with the wonders of Blood, Sweat and Tears, one of the finer and more complex beers I have tasted. One of the many reasons the Pre-ZBF rocked!!!

Barry M said...

I really gotta get along to those gigs...

Blood, Sweat and Tears is one I've been wanting to try, and I'll definitely keep an eye out for Hop and Stout, thanks for the tip! I think a visit to Amsterdam has to be arranged so I can stock up.