When I found out yesterday that Alken-Maes had purchased the Belgian brewery Keersmaeker in 2000 I thought it a perfect time to crack open a bottle of their signature Mort Subite. I picked up some in Belgium before I hopped the Eurostar back home last summer. Now I’m well aware that you can easily buy in the UK, but when you are trying to get shot of the last of your Euros, 85 cents seems a fair price for this famed Belgian beer.
A lot of people will be able to tell you that Mort Subite is a lambic beer but I’ve got a blog to write so it’s time to pull back the curtain and delve a little deeper. Back in 1910 Theophile Voseen ran a little cafe called La Cour Royale. It was a popular haunt of employees working at the National Bank of Belgium. Now we all know bankers like to gamble and it would seem they’ve been doing it for years. Many of the bank’s staff enjoyed spending their time playing a dice game called 421. Before returning to the office, many would play a quick last game, or Mort Subite as it was known, which translates as Sudden Death.
The name quickly became associated with the cafe so when Theophile moved to new establishment in 1928 he took the name with him, calling the new bar A la Mort Subite. When he began brewing his own beers, the name was also given to them. Very little has changed in the bar. The same photos hang on the walls as they did back in 1928. Everything has a yellowish hue from years and years of tobacco smoke clinging to the walls.
Mort Subite is a gueuze beer, sour and satisfying. They are delicious, traditional Belgian beers that sadly pass many British drinkers by. They are missing out I tell you. Unfiltered gueuze is a balanced mixture of old and young lambics, fermented after bottling for at least a year. Mort Subite, however, is a filtered gueuze, the result of a careful dilution process. Now I’m usually a sucker for this style, so how does this one stack up?
The aroma is eau naturale. Herbal and grassy but sadly there is only a light waft of the classic Belgian farmyard musk. There’s a big hit of sweet citrus but the lack of funk is akin to the band Parliament without George Clinton.
The taste is both sweet and sour, with Belgian spice aplenty. It has a big toffee malt flavour that I wasn’t expecting. But it’s a bit syrupy, with sweetness playing the Darren McCord* character in this flavour shoot-out. As a result, it’s a touch sickly and artificial, which is a real shame. With its great back story this should be a blockbuster, as opposed to the saccharine sweet, straight to video beer that it is. Disappointing.
*Darren McCord is the Van Damme character in the truly awful 1995 Ice Hockey action movie Sudden Death. See what I did there? But really, it’s shockingly shit.