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  • Writer's pictureThe Belgian

Gulden Draak: powerful, strong, and bold.

Gulden Draak, a name that resonates with both history and excellence within the beer industry. The Classic version is a Belgian dark tripel ale that has captivated the taste buds of beer enthusiasts around the globe. Let's take a moment to delve into the rich history of Gulden Draak, exploring its origins, evolution, and the variety of iterations it has spawned in the modern era.

The story of Gulden Draak beer begins in the medieval city of Ghent, Belgium. The beer's name, which translates to "Golden Dragon" in English, finds its inspiration from the golden dragon atop the Belfry of Ghent. This dragon, a symbol of power and vigilance, has guarded the city since the 14th century and represents the strength and boldness of the beer itself. Brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, a brewery with a lineage that dates back to 1784, Gulden Draak is a testament to the enduring legacy of Belgian brewing traditions.

Brouwerij Van Steenberge, situated in the village of Ertvelde, East Flanders, has been a bastion of brewing excellence for over six generations. The brewery has navigated through the tides of time, adapting and evolving while steadfastly adhering to the age-old techniques and recipes that define Belgian brewing. It was in this context of rich brewing heritage that Gulden Draak Classic was conceived, a beer that embodies the complexity, depth, and artistry of Belgian brewing craft.

Gulden Draak is renowned for its unique brewing process and distinctive flavour profile. The beer is a dark tripel, a category that denotes a strong pale ale. However, Gulden Draak defies the traditional pale colour of tripels with its deep, dark reddish-brown hue. This colour is achieved through the use of caramel malt, which imparts not only color but also a rich, sweet maltiness to the beer. The brewing process also involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle, a method that enhances the beer's complexity, carbonation, and shelf-life. This meticulous process results in a beer that boasts a potent alcohol content, typically around 10.5%, and a flavour profile that is both rich and nuanced, with notes of caramel, chocolate, and a hint of spice.

Over the years, the success of the original Gulden Draak has led to the creation of several modern iterations, each offering a unique twist on the classic formula. Among these is the Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple, an ambitious variation that features a more complex malt bill and a higher alcohol content. This iteration is characterised by its deep amber colour and a richer, fruitier flavour profile, with hints of ripe banana, pear, and a subtle spiciness.

Another notable variant is the Gulden Draak Brewmaster, a tribute to the brewery's heritage and craftsmanship. This iteration is aged in whiskey barrels, which imparts a distinct oakiness and vanilla notes to the beer, adding layers of complexity to its already rich flavour profile.

The Gulden Draak Imperial Stout is a darker, more robust version that melds the traditional characteristics of a Belgian strong dark ale with the rich, roasted flavours typical of a stout. This beer showcases a perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness, featuring notes of dark chocolate, coffee, and a touch of liquorice.

In the realm of innovation, Gulden Draak has also ventured into the world of barrel aging with its limited edition series. These special releases are aged in various types of barrels, such as bourbon, rum, or wine barrels, each imparting unique flavours and aromas to the beer. These editions are highly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs alike, offering a unique tasting experience that bridges the world of beer and spirits.

Gulden Draak stands as a towering figure in the landscape of Belgian beers, a symbol of brewing excellence that has transcended centuries. From its historical roots in the medieval city of Ghent to the diverse range of modern iterations it has inspired, Gulden Draak continues to captivate and enchant with its rich flavours, complex character, and the spirit of innovation. As a beacon of quality and craftsmanship, Gulden Draak not only celebrates the rich heritage of Belgian brewing but also pushes the boundaries, exploring new horizons in the art of beer making.

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