THOUGH DE STRUISE BREWERS have hardly been around long enough for their venerable beers to reach maturity (only a slight exaggeration), ‘the sturdy brewers’ have become some of Belgium’s most celebrated for their stable of strong, limited edition ales. Foremost among these is a redoubtable quadrupel called Pannepot. Or Pannepøt. Or Pannepeut, Pannepot Reserva, or Pannepot Grand Reserva, depending on the bottle/year/variation/celestial alignment. Whatever its name and whichever its form, the Panne-family of quads is among the world’s elite. Below are notes from two Pannepot Reserva tastings—once fresh on tap, once from a bottle four years aged. The 10% Reserva is aged in French oak barrels, reportedly for more than a year (details are a little hazy).
Round I – On Tap
A QUAD OF EMINENT QUALITY. Deep ruby pour with a dark tan head like a porter, not very large but still more than expected from a beer in this style. The heavy bouquet leads with dark fruit more tart than sweet—black cherries instead of raspberries—before settling onto a bed of brown sugar and medium roasted malt. This tart and sweet interplay carries on to the substantial body: slightly toasted malt matched against figs, more cherry, etc., but carefully avoiding any sugary grit and dry enough to be quite quaffable. Some of the roasted vanilla edges of some porters as well towards the end, but countered by the recognizably Belgian yeasts. Barrel-aged smoothness and just enough carbonation only disguise its 10% for a while; by the end of a glass a little slickness develops on the roof of the mouth to add a further, welcome warmth.
Served: On tap (Local Option, Chicago)
AFTER SEVERAL YEARS in the bottle the Pannepot Reserva has aged into an earthier and more ruminative companion. Unavoidably more oxidized, the tartness and fruit prominent in its fresh form shift aside, allowing the thick malt, oak, smoky vanilla, and a little more of its nutty spices to play a larger role. Hops in either variation are an afterthought. With its carbonation diminished as well (another two years might see it flat), the body also feels more substantial—plenty of yeast sediment to munch on here—and is bready without being too dense, nearly like a Belgian waffle. Some fruit flavors like raisin finally push forward towards the finish, which is decidedly less dry as the tap version. Triumphant.
Served: 33 cl bottled 2009 (Bottle Lot 29|08|FF)