The Best Strong Beer in the Low Countries

Beer is a magical drink. Beer is magical not only in its expensive forms, but also in its cheapest juices. If it's morning and you drink right after brushing your teeth, the taste doesn't really matter as much. However, when lunch comes around and you pop open that bag of chips, a fine beer is preferred. 

In earlier articles of this beer series, I generally concentrated on cheap beer, reviewing only one beer priced above 1 euro a liter -- Gulpener Gladiator. Gulpener Gladiator is generally worth about 2 euros a liter and packs 10% alcohol; it's the boxed wine of beer. However, the taste of Gulpener Gladiator is closer to light brandy than it is to actual beer. In fact, all of the beers that I tried with an alcohol content above 10% left behind a taste of liquor that distracted from the hop. 

After trying Gulpener Gladiator, I had high hopes for Grolsh Kanon at 11.6%, but it too left my throat feeling like I had done a shot of soju. It's hard for me to describe, but real beer to me is beer that doesn't leave your throat burning as if you downed liquor. After trying a few more strong beers, I started giving up; I was beginning to feel that any beer stronger than 10% would lack that carbohydrate taste and kick that makes it a much more relaxing and filling drink. A good beer to me is supposed to deliver energy and a mental boost in a more gradual manner than liquor. Liquor generally kicks me up and drains me of energy, leading to an eventual crash -- a crash from which recovery is slower. 

When I visited my friend in Rotterdam for New Year's, I was at first skeptical of the 11% strong beer he was peddling. The beer was called Kasteel and came from the Castle Brewery van Honsebrouck in Belgium. After one single sip, I knew I had finally found a strong beer that could handle its own in terms of taste when compared to a 5 percenter. 

As soon as I finished the first bottle, I knew I had found a perfect beer for dieting -- since it's twice as strong, I have to drink half as much to experience the same effects, or so I thought. I couldn't have been more wrong. 

Perhaps there's something about drinking a beer as strong as wine in the same manner you would drink a typical beer: it packs a much greater wallop. This past Monday after work, my girlfriend surprised me with three Kasteels. I was excited because I thought that not only was I going to drink fancy, but that I would be more wired than usual when I started tapping ass. Sadly, the three Kasteels knocked me out and I had to settle for a quickie when I came to in the morning.

At 4.50 euros a liter, Kasteel is a better choice than any cheap wine. I drank everything imaginable during my two last Oktoberfests in Munich, but I think that Kasteel can give even many strong German beers a run for their proverbial marks.