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Tempt Yourself with The Temptress

A new seasonal from Medicine Hat’s Hell’s Basement is creating quite a stir, for the backstory, the label and the beer.With that combination how could I not write about it?

The beer, The Temptress (de verleidster),is the product of a chance meeting between Hell’s Basement brewer, Mike Gripp, and Rich Pool, the brewer from Puik Bieren, a small microbrewery in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. The Dutch brewer was in Medicine Hat with his military unit doing NATO exercises at nearby Suffield. He and some of his colleagues found the Hell’s Basement tap room and quickly became regulars. The two brewers got to talking, realized they both liked bit, assertive beer.

Not long after they decided they should do a collaboration, started working on a recipe together and brewed it up together. Since returning home Pool has done up the same recipe at their brewery. They brewed a big red rye IPA with a noted alcohol strength (8%).

The Dutch version has become something of a celebrity beer. The Canadian ambassador to The Netherlands heard about the collaboration and became intrigued.  He requested some cases of the beer to be served at an embassy event after remembrance ceremonies and subsequently invited Pool to an embassy soiree. A little bit of Canadian-Dutch cooperation reaches the embassy. The beer has also proven very popular at beer shows around Holland.

Here at home the beer has taken some heat for the label design (which I have chosen to not post here). It is a of a sexy female devil reclining in a short dress and unbuttoned top. These kinds of labels have become controversial in North America as growing numbers of commentators (myself included) have criticized the use of sexualized imagery of women to sell beer. This label would certain fit that description.

There is some context behind the decision, I must note. All of Puik Bieren’s labels feature 1950’s pin-up style drawings of sexy women. Hell’s Basement went with a similarly themed design in the spirit of collaboration, even though they knew it might challenge the sensibilities of their local market.

I also note that Europe seems to have a different perspective on sex and beer. European labels often have a sexy, sexualized tone to them and (as far as I know) don’t seem as controversial. I don’t say that to justify anyone’s decisions, but feel the need to offer up that context when contemplating the Temptress label.

And then there is the beer. It pours deep mahogany brown, almost opaque, with ruby highlights. It builds a thick tan head with loose bubbles. I pick up a slight haze. The aroma starts with rich toffee and light caramel malt sweetness, picks up some pine hops, adds a bit of dark fruit, and finishes with a wisp of spiciness.

The front of the flavour has a bready, caramel sweetness with a slight dark rum character and some raisin. The middle sharpens notably with an earthy spiciness, some pepper and grain stalk background. In the back end a piney, resinous hop flavour picks up along with some soft alcohol notes, showing the beer’s strength. The finish is full, with burnt caramel, pine hops and an  underlying spiciness. The bitterness is present but balanced.

This beer is about enticing with flavour, which makes the name (if not the associated label) perfectly appropriate. It tempts you with its triad of big malt, big hops and enough rye spiciness to add a touch of zestiness. I note you know you are drinking a big, assertive beer.


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