Double X rated; a beer for adults? Quite probably; my first adolescent experiences with beer belonged to those that were sweetish and looked a bit like cola. The liking for a strong bitter taste comes with time and, dare I say it, a lot of practice! Needless to say, I like bitter beer and was looking forward to this Belgian bitter ale.
The history is short for the de Ranke brewery, but not so unusual; a brewing course in Ghent, much experimenting with beer and the final plunge into the commercial world of brewing through contract brewing at an established brewery, success, own small brewery, more beers …………..
The story this time belongs to Nino Bacelle, until 1996, when he teamed up with Guido Devos and they opened their own small brewery. From 1994 until 1996 Bacelle’s tripel style beer Guldenberg was produced at the Deca brewery. The two beer entrepreneurs still brew this together with five more beers, one of which they proclaim to be the bitterest beer in Belgium: XX bitter. A beer that certainly put the young brewery on the Belgian beer map.
XX bitter has a pale gold colour and a big billowy head. The aroma is spicy yeast, floral herbal elements from the hops and a fruity background. The taste, as you would expect, is bitter but not coarse due to a good balance between the Halletrtau and Brewers Gold hops. The bitterness would put a lot of (non beer) people off but persevere and a lemony tang comes through followed by apples and pears.
The pale malt struggles to show itself, which is a pity as it could have pushed a good belgian ale into the realms of great. (That would still be a good step behind Orval!) The alcohol at 6% vol. is about right and the overall feel is dry. The beer finishes as it started; bitter.
Try it when you can.