Gulden Draak
A Long Journey

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Q. What connects the first European king to go on a crusade, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and a well known Belgian beer?

A. The golden dragon of Ghent.

As the story goes it was once on the prow of Sirgurd Magnusson’s (the King of Norway in the early 11th. Century) ship which took him to the Holy Land. On his return he stopped off in Constantinople, where for some reason he decided to take the land route back across Europe; he gave his ships and a good deal of his booty treasures to the Byzantine Emperor in exchange for horses.

Many of his soldiers stayed behind and took up service in the Emperor’s elite bodyguard; the golden dragon was to be put on the Hagia Sophia. I can’t find any record of the latter but one thing is for sure: the dragon continued its journey about a hundred years later when the first emperor of the Latin Empire of Constantinople , the Flemish Baldwin IX sent it back to Flanders.

Here it came to adorn the St Donation cathedral in Brugge before being taken as war booty by the counts of Ghent in 1382. And there the journey ended; today thousands of tourists stare up at the dragon on the Belfry in Ghent and then renew the acquaintence with the dragon on the impressive bottle of Gulden Draak beer from the Van Steenberge brewery in Ertvelde (15 Km. North of Ghent).

Back in December I reviewed the 9000 quad version brought out to celebrate the 25th. anniversary of the original Gulden Draak beer. I found that a touch too sweet and felt it could have had a bit more bitterness. Maybe the highly acclaimed dark tripel (another name for a strong dark ale) original will suit my taste a little better.

Dark red brown with a good light beige head. The aroma lets you know what’s to come; this beer is about alcohol (10.5% vol.) upfront. The peppery alcohol aroma comes straight at you together with yeast and sweet malt. The taste starts with a bubblegum and vanilla sweetness follwed by a grape twang and herbal elements. Balance this perfectly with sweet malt and caramel toffee and the huge peperry alcohol and you have a great beer.

The sweetness never takes over, allowing a dry biscuity feel to come through together with phenolic tastes. The beer finshes slightly sweet and herbal, retaining an alcohol warmness right to the end. Better than the equally strong 9000. Give it a try.

Happy beer drinking!