Beer in Belgium is similar to pizza in New York City, hot dogs in Chicago, or cheesesteaks in Philadelphia: unless you’re a stuck up, arrogant douchebag, overflowing with bullshit, you’ll be extremely satisfied with any of the popular selections. The wonderful thing that sets Belgium apart from the other aforementioned cities and their signature cuisines is: Belgian brews can be chartered across the ocean and placed on the shelf of your local spirit shop, and still be wonderful to drink. If you tried having a Philly cheesesteak so much as couriered across state lines you would end up with the culinary equivalent of a rancid heap of cat vomit stuffed into a wet sponge. Belgian beer for the win!
The name “Gulden Draak 9000” sounded to me like a Sith lord from a Star Wars spin-off novel, but I was fairly certain it was not, so I looked it up. In the Belgian city of Ghent, in the Flemish region, there is a famous belfry (a “belfry” is a bell tower attached to another building). On top of the belfry is a statue of a golden dragon (gulden draak). And “9000” is the postal code of Ghent. World cultures lesson complete.
Gulden Draak 9000 is the (slightly) bigger brother to the Gulden Draak tripel, which is also an excellent Belgian beer by the same brewery. By “bigger” I mean a tad stronger (10.7% ABV to Gulden Draak’s 10.5%). Like the vast majority of Belgian ales, Gulden Draak has a very phenolic (medicinal) flavor with sweet fruit and spice profiles, practically a complete lack of bitterness, and the distinguishable taste of alcohol all wrapped up in an extremely intense flavor. The liquid is a dense, honey brown color with a dark orange tint. The head is very bubbly, foamy, fizzy, and off-white in color. With such a rich color and a lively head, I was disappointed that the aroma was so weak, illustrating phenol, clove, and sweet bread. The upfront taste hits hard with black cherries, Hawaiian sweet bread, and warming phenol. It follows up with apples, grapes, ripe bananas, oats, grains, cloves, and finishes with a malty, toffee, vanilla lollipop flavor and a subtle bitterness. The phenol flavor works up its erection again for round two when the aftertaste kicks in, partnering up with rice and additional malt.
The texture is average with a good amount of CO2 and a light, slightly creamy feel in the blowhole. The lacing is a fairly strong, glassy syrup which carries an army of small foam troopers that slowly march steadily down the glass.
There are awesome Belgian beers, and there are less awesome Belgian beers. That sums it up. This one is in the “awesome” category, although I do not like it quite as much as my two favorite Belgians to date: St. Bernardus “Abt 12” and Brasserie de Rochefort “Trappistes Rochefort 10”. Like most Belgians, the flavor of Gulden Draak 9000 carries a wallop of intense profiles as well as a high ABV which warms the guts and provides a sweet, relaxing buzz. The fact that small sips can provide such an acute flavor experience makes me want to grace Belgium with my presence and fornicate with its women. That is how much respect I have for Belgium as a beer staple of the world.
Brouwerij Van Steenberge “Gulden Draak 9000”