In September the World beer award winners were announced; lots of unknown (for me) beers from all over the world but a few familiar Belgian names cropped up. Worldwide winner of the the Belgian Style Strong Pale ale category, yes you guessed it, was the strongest of the Leffe beers; Rituel 9. Leffe? World’s best? I hear you say. I thought the same so I thought a closer look at the World Beer Awards would not go amiss, after all the brewers like to publicise their successes in the hope that we’ll buy more of their beers.
The World Beer Awards started modestly in 2007; this year over a thousand beers from 30 countries were judged first nationally and then through four rounds. A look at the progress of our Leffe Rituel towards the lofty status of World’s Best Belgian Style Strong Pale Ale might help to understand the elaborate crowning process.
First step; the brewery enters the beer for one of the eight categories:- Dark; Flavoured; Lager; Pale; Sour; Speciality; Stout/Porter and Wheat.
The Pale Ale category has no less than 19 styles including four Belgian styles; Ale; Blonde; Tripel and Strong.
The Leffe Rituel was entered for the Belgian Style Strong Pale Ale. It won the group and went on to win the next two rounds as best in Europe and best in the world within its category style. It then came up against the other world style winners in the Pale Ale category. The Leffe run of success came to an end here but the winner went on to measure itself against the other seven world category winners and won through to be crowned ‘World’s Best Beer.’
And most of us thought that Westvleteren 12 or Rochefort 12 deserved that title; well, everything is relative, that is, dependant upon the competition.
The Rituel beat, amongst others, its sibling, Radieuse, Gouden Carolus van de Keizer Rood and Gouden Carolus Tripel. I reviewed the Radieuse a few weeks ago and was surprised how good it was and Gouden Carolus beers are always worth drinking so I was definitely interested to try the Rituel.
In the glass, a deep golden colour, filtered clear as with all Leffe beers. The aroma is sweet and malty. The sweetness is right up front in taste coming across like Golden Syrup before the malt starts to establish itself. Fruit was in there somewhere but seemed to be having problems to establish itself other than giving a hint of banana and perhaps peach. Some spice from the yeast and alcohol (9% vol,) together with a light bitterness rounded off the picture. Not a bad beer, drinks very smoothly and doesn’t leave an unduly oversweet aftertaste as the alcohol starts to assert itself.
The more complex Radieuse was a real pleasure to drink; the Rituel, however, fits in with my image of Leffe; smooth and easily drinkable but nothing great. What surprises me most is that it should have won through against the two Gouden Carolus beers.
Buying a beer on the basis of such an award is perhaps not the best selection process. I would suggest first looking at the ratings on Rate Beer or Beer Advocate before making your selection and then award your own World Class accolades.
Happy beer drinking!