February is the cruelest month
Although I’ve tried to live as contrarily as possible to the adage ‘all good things must come to
an end,’ life has felt like a booze-fuelled endurance race since pre-Christmas. I’ll add ‘even by
industry standards,’ so that others in the industry will sigh sympathetically. Alas, though it pains
me to write it, I’m braced for an unwelcome visit from that horrible bore, Temperance. If there
is any mercy in this universe, he’ll never move in for good, but for February, he’s a temporary
Alas, indeed. Knowing that tonight’s column will provide me only a brief sip at the fermentable
oasis, it got me thinking about ‘desert island beers.’ I’m asked hypotheticals like “if you could
only drink one beer for the rest of your life, etc…” with surprising regularity. The questions are
all overtly loaded, and usually draw me into a long rant laced with disclaimers. But if I’m not in
the mood to elaborate on the complicated nature of the ‘one beer forever’ question — which is
often — I’ll just answer with: Tripel Karmeliet.
Brewed by Bosteels in northern Belgium since 1996, the recipe was salvaged from the records
of a nearby Carmelite convent and dates back to 1697 (so claims their marketing). The label
discloses the fact that it is brewed with three grains: barley, wheat, and oats. It pours a hazy,
straw-coloured off-clarity, appropriate for its bottle-conditioning and wheat content, with a
perfect white head so dense that it audibly bursts and subsides. Aromas of lemon zest, bready
malt, and mildly spicy yeast esters. Flavours: wow. Light, lifted citrus character permeates,
as high carbonation bristles on the tongue. The finish is a mild bitterness that gives way to
impressions of cardamom and coriander, and just the slightest hint of its 8.4% alcohol content.
All segments of the tongue are attended to expertly. Sweetness, bitterness, texture — every
characteristic in harmony. Smooth and intriguing. Powerful and sensitive. It is the strong, silent
type. And also just happens to be painfully beautiful.
I have never been anything less than overjoyed by this beer. It still feels like a warm, comforting
place to me, one that I am loathe to leave. But I’ll sleep well tonight, knowing that I can return
here as soon as that smug buzzkill Temperance goes back to living with his Grandmother. God
words by Daniel Murphy
Daniel Murphy writes freelance poetry and prose on urinal walls and independent magazines. He supports his chronic brewing habit through functioning alcoholism. You can sample his beer (and the occasional salacious limerick) at Canoe Brewpub, where he has been Brewmaster for the past three years.
originally published in analogue magazine’s March 2014 issue