27th Jan, 16: The below review is for the soft launch of Belgian beers at TJ’s brew works which happens on the 1st of Feb. Attended by some of the brethren from blogger community and some well-known faces of marketing and PR industry, the tasting session was hosted by Ashwini of TJ’s for us. A super cool evening with some of the best buddies you can ask for, amazing starters, selected hand crafted beers for the Belgian festival up ahead and an amazing host who walked us through the brewery and the birth stories of the 3 little babies that they are soon going to introduce to Puneites can sum up the evening for you.
The TJ’s have been known for hosting 4 beer festivals every year – Belgian, American, Irish, and Oktoberfest. This year is no different and they are starting it as soon as Feb 1st. For the Belgian festival, or for that matter any of the special occasions what TJ’s folks typically do is they keep three beers on the bigger taps, two of which have to be new crafts brewed especially for the occasion. The third one is also available on request but is not promoted full scale. The two winner recipes which makes to the finals are tapped besides a third which is usually the hot seller from amongst the regular ones that are available at TJ’s. We were invited particularly to assist with picking out on the final two from amongst the top 3.
With the new three additions the total no of beers for Feb goes to 9 which obviously has their usual’s in the form of Premium, Devil’s dark, Zen Weiss, Blonde Brew, Pale gale ale and the Mystery Brew. Hey, quick cheat for my readers here, the Mystery just got more mysterious….so put on your detective hats and take those magnifying glasses for a taste….err test. Do ask for a taster at least of the mystery the next time you are at TJ’s.
Ok now before all those beer pros go all gung ho on me, the beers are a customized version of these beers and might not be what you could expect if you have had these earlier primarily because of the water being used or the yeast or the fermentation technique that actually made them so give credit to the hard work put in by the brewers Aditya and Sanket and do try those out.
So the top 3 contenders are: Saison, Lambic Ale and a Dubbel in that order of increasing ABV (Alcohol by volume). So let’s start with the mildest of the lot – Saison.
The new kid on the block boasts on its smooth finish along with just a mild hint of spices although there are quite a few those actually made it inside the fermentation tank. This variant is a blend of Oats, barley, wheat, Cinnamon, cloves, pepper and the game changer – cornflakes. The ABV remains low at around 4 to 4.5 %.
Lambic Ale the next stronger of the lot at an ABV of around 4.5 to 5% and known for its spontaneous fermentation technique with use of wild yeast and bacteria, comes in a very specially customized way with the use of Honey. The beer also sports large grained unrefined Dermera sugar (supplied by Aditya); a specially made variant just for the Belgian beauty much like the Maniesh Malhotra’s shop stopper design for a ramp walk. Lambic known for its sour after taste often has dry, vinous and cider flavor. The sour taste with TJ’s variant is very evident and the sweetness of honey has been reduced just to about the strong sweet aroma that you can feel. The carbonation levels are pretty low and as such this variant is sure to be adored by public at large.
Dubbel (Do-bell) the strongest of the lot at around 7 – 7.6 % (typically 7.15 %) ABV uses roasted and toasted malt in addition to roasted wheat. A strong undertone of coffee and bitterness this was the most appreciated of the 3 finalists. The dark amber/ copper colored dubbel is usually known for rich maltiness and lite fruit flavors or aroma but this particular variant was unlike that. The aroma was very minimal but the beer was expressive with its carbonation levels and an almost full body. The ABV range usually has a large spread from about 6 to 9 % but this one largely stays around 7.1 or 7.2 as confirmed by the brewer.
We had an amazing time gulping the beer in tasters, mugs (350 ml) and monster mugs (1 Liter) one after the other and cracking up over some of the cheesiest starters and jokes.
The verdict from me would absolutely be: Dubbel followed by Lambic and then Saison. The management will final the two winners and put it on main taps by tomorrow and to know which beauty takes the crown, you are cordially invited to the beer fest at TJ’s.
We were also served some starters to accompany the beers being served. They included 2 veg and 2 non veg starters viz: Belgian Cheese Croquettes (herbed, crispy, cheese filled croquettes), Belgian Spinach and Cheese (spinach and cheese served on crisp toasts), Shrimp Croquettes with Citrus Salad (mashed potato, shrimp, and crumb fried croquettes) and Mini Sweet and Spicy Chicken Satay. The starters have always been a hit at TJ’s and that day was no different. The Belgian cheese croquettes were amazing and beat the shrimp’s ones hands down. I missed my beloved Jalapeno cheese poppers though that night….But soon I’ll be back to try those with the winner of the Belgian fest.
After a while we had the privilege of a tour around the brewery and meet Mr. TJ Venkateswaran along with a narrative of how these beauties were crafted and what the festival beholds up ahead. But in order to find that out you will have to visit the place and try these kids for yourselves.
So overall an amazing night with fellow foodies, freshest of the beers straight from the tanks, some yummy mashed potato and cheese based croquettes to fill up and a lovely host would sum it up. See you at the Aussies open……