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Beer: Belgian brewed La Chouffe not just for 'little people'

La Chouffe Blond has a typically Belgian candy-like aroma, with a delicate hint of grassy hops.
Paul McConville

NOT that he's short of a bob or two, but Elton John stumbled upon a nice little money-spinner when he decided to re-make a Shakespearean classic with garden ornaments and his own back catalogue.

Gnomeo and Juliet was a popular animated movie, stripped of the more brutal tones of the Shakespeare and beefed up with some Elton John favourites. The fact that a follow-up of sorts called Sherlock Gnomes achieved a modicum of success suggests there is some sort of fascination with gnomes.

Now, I'm not a fan of the porcelain people myself, but when I snapped up a couple of bottles of La Chouffe recently, I quickly realised that the Belgian beermakers who produced them had a soft spot for gnomes too.

They have the little guy splashed all over the bottles of their beer: depending on the style of beer, the Chouffe gnome is depicted accordingly. For example, McChouffe, a dark Scottish ale, has the gnome on the label in a tartan hat and playing a pair of bagpipes – but more on that later.

The Chouffe beers are brewed in the Brasserie d'Achouffe in the Wallonia village of the same name. The first one I tried was La Chouffe Blond, which features our gnome friend on a unicycle.

The beer is, of course, blond in colour, with a slightly cloudy look at a fluffy, white head. It has a typically Belgian candy-like aroma, with a delicate hint of grassy hops. The beer is high on carbonation, which pushes the flavours around the mouth. There's a fruity, almost bubble gum like sweetness to it, with a hint of spice and notes of herb like coriander.

This full-bodied blond clocks in at eight per cent, so tread carefully, especially when there's gnomes about. I've always been a fan of Belgian brown ales – or bruin as they're called – but McChouffe combines this style with the Scottish 'wee heavy' and the result is a luscious beer, which pours a mahogany colour and has a whole host of flavours competing for a place on the palate.

You've got those nice toffee and caramel flavours you expect from a dark ale, but there's also a bit of spice in their too, a hint of fruitiness and even a little liquorice coming through too. This is also an eight per center and with plenty going on, it's a bit of a sipper.

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