Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale: Danger ahead
Belgian beers are as boring as the country that produces them. They all seem to fall in the same narrow range of very good to great. I am doing my best to sample, re-sample and re-sample again, as many different varieties from there that I can lay my hands on, but it has been very difficult to find a sub-par beer in the lot. It might be nice to slag off on one occasionally, but there's almost no opportunity. I already knew the chances were almost nil that the four pack of Corsendonk Pale Ale I picked up would fall below the usual Belgian standard of fabulous. I've never met an authentic Belgian tripel I didn't like, and the Corsendonk proved no exception. Disappointingly, it's just another routinely great beer from the greatest beer brewing nation on the planet. Well, maybe this one's only very good.
Even though the actual Corsendonk Abbey closed in 1784, the ad slogan has been 'gift of the Gods'. These must be the mischievous gods that are responsible for this ale. Danger lurks. It contains a fairly hefty 7.5% alcohol, but it is so well hidden that this is a prime beer for trouble. So easy drinking, smooth and soft, this is one of those you want to drink all night -- but better not.
There are great chunks of yeast floating around in the golden-orange beer. That's almost always a good first sign. The head is large and fizzy, but not to the Duvel levels. Just foamy enough without being over the top. Hops dominate. There is some malt in the aroma, but it is mostly grassy with a spritz of lemon. So fresh and clean, you could use it as air freshener.
The initial taste holds to those flavors. A little sharpness from the hops explodes right out front. The grass and the touch of lemon are right behind. Once it warms a bit, more of the malt comes out. There are many varieties of fruits without it being a fruity beer. Apples, pears, apricots and maybe bananas all slip into the mix with some coriander to spice it up a hair, but the overall sense is still a sharp, crisp ale. Drinking this, it becomes obvious what Hoegaarden was shooting for. Corsendonk Pale Ale is Hoegaarden on steroids.
As such, Corsendonk is refreshing and appropriate for warmer weather, but it has enough backbone to work in the winter when it's time for a break from all the thick and heavy beers. It's versatile enough to go with most meals, but it's probably best with a cheese plate. I say that, but know that the stereotypical cheese plate eater probably wouldn't want a beer with this much muscle packed underneath. Any saucy Italian food would probably be a decent pairing, as well.
Corsendonk Pale Ale isn't the best Belgian beer, but the competition for that is ridiculously strong. For me, tripels are the perfect style of beer. I'll happily drink them anytime, and I rarely run across a poor one. There are a wide enough range of them for almost any beer drinker to find a fit. This pale ale falls somewhere in the middle of the style. It has some complexity but not enough to inspire one to expound on it all night. It has heft, but remains soft and light. It has some fruit, but is more substantial than a white beer. It is easy to drink, but has plenty of alcohol. Be careful, the gods have made this for when they need a laugh.