We think we’ve discovered the best bar in Brum. Stocked with a huge range of beer, manned by wonderful staff bar and with a proper ‘old man’ decor (even bar billiards) the Post Office Vaults ticks all our boxes for the perfect watering hole. We spent a very pleasant evening trying Belgian beers and here are our thoughts on what we drank.
Intrigued by the history of St Bernardus, the brewery that once brewed Westvleteren under license( and possible still uses their original yeast and recipe) we ordered Sint Bernardus Abt 12 (10.5%) and Sint Bernardus Tripel (8%). Served in the right glasses (always a good sign) Gabs sipped at his 12 and Jess quaffed (in a ladylike manner) her tripel. Both beers were surprisingly malty, which worked better in the Abt 12 than the Tripel. Although a pleasant beer, the Tripel was a little sweet for our tastes. The Abt 12 was slightly too chilled and thus improved when it warmed up; the trick is to ask for one from the cellar rather than the fridge. It was a good beer, however having hoped that this would be a cut-price Westvleteren 12 (which was way out of our budget) we found it didn’t have the range of interesting yeast flavours that would make it comparable to a dark Westvleteren or Rochefort.
Our next bold move was to sample La Trappe Quadrupel (10%) and La Trappe Tripel (8%), Westmalle Dubbel (7%) and Westmalle Tripel (9.5%) side by side. Both La Trappes were new beers to us and an interesting discovery, they are the only Dutch Trappist beers and as such we were keen to try them. One of the noticeable things about the La Trappe Quad was the beautiful deep amber colour. On drinking it we discovered it was a buttery, fruity and a sneakily smooth beer that concealed its strength well. Dangerously easy to drink. The La Trappe Tripel was the colour of golden syrup and had a slightly bland aroma but taste wise it ticked the right boxes for a tripel. It was refreshing, with a delightful burst of hops in the after-taste.The Westmalle Tripel is the beer that we tend to judge other tripels against and with good reason. Westmalle is credited with inventing the ‘Tripel style’, a strong pale ale, in 1934 and the recipe has supposedly not changed since 1956. The hops created a tangy bitter flavour that develops throughout the mouthful, with hints of grapefruit that sparkle on the tongue. Despite its strength it slides down easily and quenches the thirst. We got chatting to the rather awesome barman (Matt Dinsmore – another reason this bar is so ace) and he was full of praise for this beer too. The Westmalle Dubbel was incredibly dark, and had an interesting slightly roasted flavour although it had a light body for a beer of its colour. It is not as fruity or spicy as some of the other dark trappists, however this can work in its favour and make it easier to drink.
This is where we stopped the tasting. Or rather, this is where we should have stopped but the combination of the good beer already flowing through our veins and the excitement of finding such an exciting bar in Birmingham meant that our good sense left us. After getting carried away like children in a sweetshop, we decided to order a Chimay White (8%) and an Orval (6.2%).The Chimay White was the most bitter tripel we tried, with strong hoppy hints and very flavourful, we wondered if it could be the best of all the Chimays. Jury’s out as we didn’t try the red or blue that evening (we’ll have to try this for a later blog). The Orval had an amazingly floral, fragrant and fresh taste. It is one of Gabriel’s favourite beers and is a different style to the rest of the evening’s samples.
All in all, we tried some wonderful beer, in a wonderful bar and had a wonderful time.