Brouwerij De Ranke Complexité
The bilingual heading here reflects both the origins of this beer and the slightly split personality of the brewery itself.
All their beers have a touch of class. The dry Saison de Dottignies (5.5%) is a classic of the style, Noir de Dottigines (9%) is a hoppy Belgian porter while Père Noël (7%) combines festive strength with restrained but balancing bitterness.
There's also an entertaining line of accomplished sour beers, all of which only appear in 75cl bottles (which is very Wallonian). Cuvée De Ranke (7%) is a blend of a stock blond ale with lambic, while Kriek de Ranke (7%) is similar with cherries. In recent years the brewery has released Vielle Provision, which, or so I was told, is the neat version of the stock ale that goes to make Cuvée. They've dabbled in lambic production too, with the release of Mirakel (5.5%) a gueuze-like blend of two Payottenland lambics and their own Spierelambiek, named after a small river running near the brewery. Another recent release has been Wijnberg (5.8%), their take on a Flemish Oud Bruin.
So far, so Belgian. However....
As the Good Beer Guide Belgium will tell you, De Ranke pioneered the use of hops in Belgian brewing - that is to say, they were the first to produce beers with a notable hop profile. They did, and do, this using locally grown hops, and using only whole hop cones. Early stand-outs, which are still with us today, were the elegant XX Bitter (6%) and the herbal hop-tangy tripel-esque Guldenberg (8.5% but doesn't really show it). Over the years this side of things has been extended to include the sessionable (not a Kölsch) Simplex (4.5%), the softer and fuller XXX Bitter (6%) and the annual Hop Harvest (6%) using freshly harvested green hops.
Like many of the De Ranke specials, this only came in 75cl bottles but good news! The beer has now been taken into the permanent range as Amer Amer - and is available not only in 33cl bottle but also 20l kegs so this is one I'll certainly be looking out for on tap when I'm next in Belgium.