Andelot and the - "-ique" Belgians

No doubt you have seen their iconic labels at the grocery store--primary colors, with a single word in gothic script: Angelique, Euphorique, Diabolique and Mystique. For those of us who are admirers of Belgians, this was a mystery: a newly-distributed old classic, a new producer, or something else? Someone brought a bottle of Mystique to a party once, and it did nothing to solve the mystery. What's an "ABT style Belgian ale?" people kept asking me (that's all it says, by way of description, on the label). To this I offered a helpless shrug as my credibility dwindled. It was a tasty beer, though, and I filed it in my mind to learn more.

Last night, for Valentine's, Sally and I shared Euphorique, with the more clearly descriptive "Abbey style golden ale." (It wasn't but more on that in a moment.) It was also tasty, and finally I have decided to crack the mystery. Here's what I've learned.

Andelot - Belgian Macro?
The brewery listed on the label is Andelot, but this is a slight misdirection. It's the De Proef Brewery (ProefBrouwerij), which makes a number of brands (their own, Beersel, Vlaamische Leeuw, Vicaris, and tons of other, unidentifiable labels). In this way, the brewery reminds me of Rogue--not so hot on impulse control. Andelot is apparently like "St. James Gate"--a specific reference to the facility rather than the company.
Angelique and Diabolique originate from the East Flanders village of Lochcristi, Belgium. Famed brewing engineer and professor, Dirk Naudts, brews this set of stylish ales at his Andelot Proefbrouwerij “Proof Brewery.” Dirk founded the brewery in 1996 after gaining experience as Brewmaster at the Roman Brewery in Oudenaarde, Belgium and most recently at the prestigious St. Lieven brewing program in Gent, Belgium.
The line of beers is designed to appeal to a more mass market, though I think "mass" here is a relative term. The importer, SB Northwest (from which the above quote comes), is trying to build a market around beers of this genre--familiar, but mass market. They are also behind the De Boomgaard "fruit beers," which are produced by Liefmans. They are less-sour imitations of lambics made, I am fairly sure, unspontaneously. Finally, you'll have seen their domestic offerings around Portland--FireStation5, Elk Rock, Metolius, and Fiddler's Green. (The first three are brewed by Pyramid/MacTarnahan's, and the latter by Saranac in New York.)

Here's Ron Seid, the President of SB Northwest: "Much like in the premium wine industry, consumers are wanting premium quality Belgium beer at a good value price point. We have responded to this increased consumer demand by over-delivering on quality for value in this segment."

The "-ique" Beers
But who cares if they're contract brewed for an American market, right? The proof's in the bottle (pun somewhat intended). It was some time ago that I tried Mystique, and I took no notes, so the most I can say is that I liked it. I recall being surprised that such a big beer (8.5%) could be so smooth. Now I see why it was.

The Euphorique was also a crowd-pleaser. It is a cloudy golden with a silky white head and a rousing effervescence (bubbles cascading up like bicarbonate). Brewed in the methode champenoise style, so perhaps this is expected. The aroma and palate were soft, sweet, and gentle. It didn't have the complexity or character of an abbey--instead, it seemed equal parts Belgian strong (like Duvel) and a German Weisse. You begin to notice quite strong phenols, with notes of smokiness and bubblegum. Despite the pronounced sweetness, it finishes drily and tartly. (I'd probably rate it a solid B).

The real issue isn't that it's not a respectable Belgian--it is. It's that it's seven bucks a bottle, which other Belgians also sell for. Confronted with an array of more complex, interesting examples of the country's amazing range, I don't know why I would be motivated to grab a bottle of slightly subdued brew. In fact, I'd much prefer something from Unibroue or Ommegang--they are slightly less expensive than their Belgian counterparts, thanks to proximity, but delightfully richer.