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Classic Beer of the Month March 2015: Het Anker Gouden Carolus Classic

Het Anker Gouden Carolus Classic, 8.5%

Het Anker is one of the longest established breweries in Belgium.

Gouden CarolusWith origins dating back to the fifteenth century, or even earlier, it retains a soft spot in the hearts of many beer drinkers who have appreciated the way the business has adapted to modern times.

The nineteenth-century brewhouse was refurbished in the 1990s, a hotel has been added so you can stay at the brewery, and the range of beers has been extended in a sensible fashion. The Van Breedam family may have been in charge since 1872 but they are not resting on their laurels.

One of the developments has seen the company make more of its best-known beer. Gouden Carolus is a long-established, potent ale that takes its name from a coin minted during the sixteenth-century reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was brought up in Het Anker's home city of Mechelen.

The brewery has sought to capitalise on the good name of the beer by introducing what is known in awful marketing speak as 'brand extensions'.

Hence we now have a Gouden Carolus Ambrio (an amber ale), Gouden Carolus Tripel and the unfiltered, hoppy Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor, as well as Christmas and Easter specials, all of which are well thought of, if less revered than the original beer, which has now been renamed Gouden Carolus Classic.

Powerful and Sweet

This is a powerful, ruby-red beer, packed with sweet malts that bring notes of chocolate and raisin to marry with estery tropical fruit and floral notes. Hints of almond and banana are also in evidence. Belgian Challenger hops play their part by adding a crisp, balancing bitterness, while alcohol contributes a spicy warmth.

This being a Belgian beer, it won't surprise you to learn that the ABV is 8.5% but, as in all the best Belgian beers, however, alcohol is merely a part of the picture. The strength is there because this beer needs it: it's not there just to grab headlines.

For smoothness, three weeks of lagering at the brewery follows primary fermentation but, disappointingly, the beer no longer conditions in the bottle, which explains why I detected a hint of oxidation. Also, how well it matures over time is now not easy to say.

Nevertheless, this remains a complex beer that many would argue deserves its new but totally appropriate name of Classic.

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