Greetings beer drinkers. My name is Seven, and when I’m not sipping premium brews I’m blogging about it. Today I get to talk about one of my all-time faves: Kwak.
I first discovered Kwak while dining at the famous G’s German restaurant in Silom. His fridge is always packed with unique, fantastic beers from Belgium and Germany, and Kwak caught my eye purely randomly one Sunday afternoon. I pointed at it, and then went back to my seat. Imagine my surprise when it arrived at the table in a contraption that at first glance looked like something straight out of Frankenstein’s laboratory. My first thought was, the beer better be good if it’s going to outshine the over-the-top glassware. And to my happy surprise, it didn’t disappoint.
Pawel Kwak was a beer maker and innkeeper on the outskirts of Brussels in the 1700s. As the legend goes, he created a specially shaped glass for the coachmen working for the postal service who passed through on their route. They were forbidden from leaving their mail and horses to enjoy a beer in the inn, so Mr. Kwak brought the beer to them. The glass was formed to fit perfectly into the notch where he kept his whip. This way the driver could sit in his coach and have a beer without spilling a single drop. They say necessity is the mother of invention. It’s also the cousin of genius beer-vention.
Is this the sexiest beer glass in the world?
Today, when you order a Kwak it comes in the same glass, stuck into a wooden stand with a horsewhip notch carved into it as a wonderful callback to days long-gone, when men were men and beer was the best part of one’s day. And in 2019, if you have a Kwak, it’ll very likely be the best part of your day.
In all my years of beer indulgence, Kwak stands alone as the most unique and enigmatic brew. I’ve literally tasted nothing else like it. But the flavor is only one of three distinct aspects of this wonderful drink. The first is, of course, the glass. Like a cross between chemistry gear and a king’s goblet, it’s impossible to drink Kwak as though it was just another beer. (By the way, if your friend orders one and lifts it to his lips by grasping the wooden holder, gently help him set it down and then give him a hard smack. The correct way to drink it is to remove the glass from the whip notch, like those rugged coachmen of yore.)
Then there’s the beer itself. It fills out the glass with a rich, golden amber and an aggressive, thick head, resembling something like a dessert. And that’s fitting, because the first flavor note is sweetness. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no additional sugar. Nevertheless, each sip hits your palate with a 3-part sequence of flavors: first sweet, then malty, then bitter. The initial taste is fruit-forward like a fine wine, with hints of plum and apricot, giving way to toasty malt, and finishing finally with a dry, slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s a sensation in three acts. Take a sip—sweet, malty, bitter. Repeat. Perhaps the sweetness on the front end is a trick of the nose, which gives off notes of caramel and banana. Maybe it’s magic. Whatever the reason, this beer wants you to put it in your belly. In fact, one other ingenious aspect of the glass shape is that the long neck and wide lip forces one to sip rather than gulp. It’s as if the glass is saying, “Yes, yes, the beer is delicious. But take it easy, friend. Relax. Enjoy.” And this is good advice, because the third aspect of this amazing concoction is its powers of intoxication.
At 8.4% this beer is not for the faint-hearted.
Although the label says 8.4%, for some reason Kwak hits me harder than other beers of the same caliber. Could this again be attributed to the shape of the glass? I don’t know. All I know is, after reaching the bottom of one, my legs are less dependable and my usually unfunny friends have become miraculously wittier. Also, my senses turn markedly rosier and I find that my day has inexplicably taken a turn for the better. And I suppose that’s the point. Mr. Kwak must’ve had this in mind when he formulated his lusty, lustrous beverage. When those weary coachmen rode up, hides chapped and lips dusty, that golden ale was just what the doctor ordered. I imagine those brave mail carriers as they bounced along the dirt road toward Kwak’s inn, anticipating the cool, refreshing quench of the beer to come, counting off the distance “Two more kilometers to go….one more kilometer to go…”
Thankfully, I merely have to walk three blocks.
The bad news is, Kwak can be hard to find when dining out in Bangkok. The good news is, Belgian Beverage Asia has it stocked in the warehouse, and when you order it, they’ll include a signature glass and whip notch holder so you can sit on your couch and pretend to be a Belgian coachman sans horses. You can also slide your hand inside your shirt and puff out your chest, because you’ve now got something in common with Napoleon Bonaparte. Rumor has it Kwak was his favorite beer.
Until next time, keep your glass full, your beer frosty, and here’s to drinking only the best of the best. Cheers