Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Beer Review: Zwaanendael

In celebration of Lewes Delaware's 375th anniversary (the first town in the first stateTM), Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has brewed Zwaanend'ale. This is a limited release beer available primarily in Delaware. DFH describes it as "old Dutch-style Rye Bokbier brewed with honey." I'd describe it as a slightly sweeter version of their belgian-style beer, Raison D'etre. It's wonderful! It has everything Brewgal looks for in a long-drinking beer: slightly sweet, malty, medium golden red in color, low on the hops. We consumed one bottle while on vacation and brought one home for later.

It's Wednesday, and Brewguy and I were out for a swifty. Swifty? It's a term for a quick drink. What were YOU thinking? Imagine my delight when I discovered the Gaithersburg DFH had the Zwaanend'ale on tap! I had previously only seen it in large 750ml bottles in Delaware. Yet there it was, top of the list on the draft brew board. When we inquired, the bartender said they had been sent 15 kegs. Brewguy and I exchanged puzzled glances. This was supposed to be a beer that was only available in Delaware, and then only in bottles. Where had the kegs come from? Had DFH decided to send out the last of the run to the franchise DFH?

It started off well. The color of the beer in the glass was the same golden red, slightly lighter than the Raison. Then the taste. The taste was way off. In contrast to the wonderful beer of my memory, the tap version at DFH had a distinct sour upfront taste, almost as though someone had poured lemon on top. This is a characteristic sign of bacterial infection. Brewguy noticed it as well. We soldiered on, hoping this was just a passing phase. Ugh. The sour taste continued, more pronounced as the beer warmed to room temperature. This is the first beer in a long while I have been unable to finish due to flavor. The bartender deserves kudos for offering us another beer as a replacement and not charging us for the Zwaanend'ale. Well done, sir!

The question is, why? DFH is usually pretty good with quality control. Had the kegs been mishandled in shipment? It has been very hot in DC these last few weeks. Had the beer turned in the barrel prior to kegging? Surely there would have been sampling prior to kegging. More sinister is the possibility that DFH knew the beer was substandard and chose, instead of bottling, to send it to their franchise in Gaithersburg.

My suggestion to DFH: get a bottle and taste the Zwaanend'ale then taste those kegs before you put them on!

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