THE EDITOR’S DESK :: “Is this Heaven?” “No, it’s Holland.”

by Harvey Gold on May 18, 2012

Well it’s not Iowa, that’s for sure.

Arriving in Edam, The Netherlands, we stayed and played at Pension de Harmonie, a lovely B&B, with a terrific chef, John, on the nights dinner is offered, and a great bar run by Siem Kees Slegt, a guitarist in his own right,  playing in an R&B band, his own gig at another venue overlapping ours that night. So his son, Siem (Jr.?) was on hand the evening we played.

Of course, toward the end of each of the two nights we were in residence, I had my single malts, aiming for labels I hadn’t tried yet. Looking for more than the small bar fare in the States, i.e., the young Glenfiddich and The Glenlivits, I first tried a Glen Grant, a huge Speyside distiller owned by Chivas. It was a fine, smooth Highland. I moved on, though, to an Islay, always more to my taste. I had, and then stayed with, Finnlagen, a well-kept secret, and an important one for Single Malt drinkers. There is no Finnlagen distillery. The owner buys from others and bottles it under the Finnlagen name. I can’t speak to the age or level, but most of what he bottles comes from Laphroiag and Lagavulin. So reviewing what I got from this bottle at the bar is useless, as from batch to batch, it can, and will, change markedly…but it was mighty tasty. So the news is, as I’ve learned, you can get Finnlagen for somewhere as cheap as the low $30s—a revelation for good drinking Islays, ESPECIALLY if they’re coming from either of the “L” distillers above!

But this was a beer heaven! Two taps, eight beers. Please comment at will, if familiar, as I did not session them all. Here to play and then party, I had a few—all delicious—settling first on the La Chooufe Ardens, a blonde that was mild, yeasty, and fruity. I then landed on Ter Dolen Tripel, and stayed with it for the duration, often sipping my friend’s Witte Parel, a Belgian White that was also delicious. Ter Dolen is my first 8.1% session beer. A Tripel that does NOT throw out big flavor notes. There was apple and spice, but mild spice, and very refreshing. For this high an ABV—I almost want to say allegedly high ABV—it was smooth and incredibly drinkable. Perhaps not what people often look for in such a pedigree, but still, one that provides a great service in it’s own right.

My friend, not much of a drinker at all, was constantly speaking to the fact that he was drinking far more than usual. As I told him, we aren’t going to Belgium on this trip, so this and perhaps at some point in Amsterdam, is where our opportunities lie. He took advantage. For my part, a relative unwashed when it comes to Belgians, this was a great immersion. I suspect class will be in session again before long. That said, our stay at the Hôtel Harmonie was the best recovery from jet lag and start to a tour, I could imagine.

L-to-R, Grimbergen  Dubbel Double, Budels Witte ParelTer Dolen TripelDeKoninck Special BegeBudels Pilsener2011 Cuvée du Chateau KasteelLa Trappe Puur (organic unfiltered trappist)La Chouffe Ardens Blonde Bier.

I know there is a very special 11% offering in the form of the Cuvée. I tried some of my new friend, Vic’s. It was big, beautiful, delicious, but I had just a taste, so won’t pretend to offer any notes beyond the fact that my eyes rolled back into my head…in a good way, of course.

Now we’re in Amsterdam, and I loved my fresh Herring with diced onions. But after the last two days in Edam, riding backwards all the way to Amsterdam, and seeing too many Heineken and Amstel signs, no beer today. See you soon.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Judy Michel May 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Grimbergen Dubbel Double, Budels Witte Parel, Ter Dolen Tripel, DeKoninck Special Bege, Budels Pilsener, 2011 Cuvée du Chateau Kasteel, La Trappe Puur (organic unfiltered trappist), La Chouffe Ardens Blonde Bier….WOW! God Bless You, Gazudheit, etc…what names I could not pronounce all I could think of was a big sneeze!
I must start getting out in the world more…ALL the BEER I am missing out on!
Thanks for the highlights of the Beer on your tour so far…I wil have to check further into this!

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