Watts River Belgian Beers 1 to 4

Belgian Style Ales
6.5% & 7.0% & 8.7% & 11.0%

The percentage of beer drinkers in Australia with a passion for traditional Belgian beers will be tiny – far smaller than such wondrous beasts deserve. And, as I made my way through this intriguing foursome from Watts River, I wondered whether that percentage has grown much during the rise of craft beer over the past couple of decades or if it remains as niche as it ever was.

Either way, in releasing a foursome that rises from blonde to quadrupel at the same time – in old school stubbies, no less – the Healesville crew really are homing in on that niche. So, without further ado, in the words of Stuart Hall: "Here come the Belgians!"

Keeping things simple, they've called the smallest beer, the blonde, 1. At 6.5 percent ABV, it represents a pretty boozy starting point, but comes across more delicately than most beers at that weight. There's a light spongecake-esque malty sweetness, plus aromas that are floral with a hint of dusty barnyard funk, soft, faintly peppery spices to taste and the merest hint of citrus. All in all, it's rather like a softly spiced slice of cake in pale liquid form.

The dubbel – AKA 2 – pours a rusty colour with a genuinely tan head. It's not explosively aromatic, leaving its dark, dried, spiced fruits and cola-caramel charms to unfurl more as it coats your palate. There are hints of choc-banana esters, a little darker cacao lurking in its midst too, and a touch of fruity-figgy pucker right at the end.

When you reach 3, the tripel, there's a noticeable step up in aromatic potency: it's pointedly, sweetly spicy, with both dried citrus and citrus rind decorating an almost oily pale golden base. Again, it has that floral / barnyard perfume floating around, maybe with a touch of clove, while the finish is in keeping with those first wafts: sweetly spicy.

Which brings us to the final chapter, the quadrupel named, you guessed it, 4. It fills your goblet with the sort of splendid pour suited to such an elder statesman / grandparent of the beer world. There are few styles bigger in terms of booze yet quads have a habit (no pun intended) of wearing it lightly, here wrapping the 11 percent ABV in layers of treacle and molasses, figs and flat cola. 4 is undeniably on the sweeter side – at times it reminds me of a toffee-banana reduction or banoffee pie – and is dense enough it threatens to stain your glassware, yet there's a carbonation-meets-tang prickliness that does its best to carve a path through the heft.

The mahogany hue feels like advice: telling you to enjoy it sat around a wooden table as your after-dinner chat heads into DNM or rabbit hole territory.

James Smith

Published May 5, 2023

Watts River Brewing

7 Hunter Road
VIC 3777

(03) 5962 1409
Open Hours

Thursday: 11am to 5pm
Fri & Sat: 11am to 9pm Sun & Mon: 11am to 5pm

AIBA 2024 dinner B2 BONUS

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Watts River Brett Pale Ale
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