Craft Beer of the Week

Papago Oude Zuipers: A Belgium-Brewed Local

Beer: Oude Zuipers Brewery: Papago Brewing Co. Style: Tripel ABV: 11 percent

"Daar zun meer oude zuipers dan oude dokters."

Translation: There are more old drunks than old doctors. It's an old Flemish phrase you're likely to find hanging on a sign or printed on a stained glass window in bars and breweries throughout Flanders, Belgium. Travel to the city of Ertvelde, in East Flanders, and you'll find another iteration of Oude Zuipers -- one that has an Arizona connection.

Ron Kloth, owner of Papago Brewing Co. in south Scottsdale, is a frequent traveler to this part of Belgium, and in fact once led tours of the country's breweries for beer-interested tourists. These expeditions always included a stop at Brouwerij Van Steenberge, where well-known ales like Piraat, Augustijn Blonde and Gulden Draak are made. Through these visits, Kloth and Van Steenberge's owner Jef Versele built a friendship -- and, as we know, friendship is best sustained through mutual inebriation. So there the two were, drinking awesome Belgian beers in Gent, when Kloth proposed an idea.

See also: Bring Pilsner Urquell to Papago

"I saw that he was contract brewing a number of beers such as Witches Brew, Celis White and Urthel," Kloth says. "I said to him, 'Why don't you make a beer for me?' He asked me what I wanted; I told him something strong with light color. He suggested tweaking the Gulden Draak recipe, taking out the caramel malts and adding some more base malt. I agreed and the recipe was done."

That's how beer is born, boys and girls. A few months later, Oude Zuipers (old drunks, in translation) arrived in kegs and large-format bottles which were sold throughout Arizona and, according to Kloth, in Southern California and Chicago. It wasn't until about a year ago, however, that smaller 12-ounce versions of the brew started appearing, making polishing off a bottle of the 11-percent ABV tripel by yourself a much less daunting prospect.

Get yourself one of the bottles -- or find the beer on draft at Papago, where it appears occasionally -- and pour it into a tulip. In the proper glassware, Oude Zuipers shines a translucent cranberry-orange. A fluffy whitish yellow head about half a finger thick grips the walls with all its might, resulting in some nice sheeting. The aroma is somewhat muted, but what's there is nice and sweetly floral, with notes of honey, coriander, a little cinnamon, lavender and Fuji apples.

The flavor is much more vibrant. Bright green and golden apples blend with pear juice, plum, white grape and a spicy supporting cast of cardamom, saffron and lilac. Buzzy alcohol warms the throat after a very sweet finish.

Oude Zuipers is a sweet, boozy Belgian tripel that, according to Kloth, will age gracefully for five years at least. You can find bottles at better beer stores throughout the Valley -- or in New Mexico and Texas, where they were approved for sale this year.

Go get it, you old drunks.

Zach Fowle is a BJCP-recognized beer judge and a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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