Jim Dykstra's picture

The Prestige of Kwak

Pauwel Kwak by Bosteels Brewery

 

The Glass Factor

Is a Kwak without the legendary koetsiersglas (coachman’s glass) a Kwak at all? Yes and no. The beer succeeds as a standalone entity, glass or not. But I would argue that to truly experience Kwak, it should be drunk from its specialty glass. It’s somewhat of a transcendent experience.

You may feel a bit intimidated when the wooden contraption is placed in front of you. I found myself wondering exactly how I was supposed to drink from it, and worrying I’d drop the glass, spill it, or somehow find a way to desecrate this sacred family heirloom. Upon further research, I was not alone in my confusion, as there are numerous how-to articles and videos online, created with various levels of authority.

It’s tempting to want to remove the glass from its holster, but if you do, beware that the bulb on the bottom will not sit straight on its own. If you let go, it’s game over. Similarly, if you were to carelessly hold the wooden handle at the wrong angle, the glass may tip out. Therefore, you must carefully lift the entire apparatus and tilt it lovingly towards your lips. If you don’t care about looking refined, use your non-dominant hand to steady the glass, as I did. If you’re confident, just grip it and rip it like a true coachman and return it to its holster post-sip.

I noted less than 10 rings of lacing on my coachman’s glass – and I believe that the shape of the glass itself contributes to rapid quaffing of Kwak. Its seductive contours offer familiar, defined benchmarks in the journey to the bottom of the glass – each cascading the elixir into your gullet at a different velocity and wafting the bouquet upward in a concentrated vector.

Each sip requires foresight and planning, which takes a bit of time, allowing the flavor to slowly evolve as the beer warms and bubbles away. For these reasons, I feel there’s no drinking experience quite the same.


side view of kwak in its koetsiersglas with wooden holster

As enticing as it is bewildering, Kwak's preferred serving method is within the bulb-shaped koetsiersglas (or coachman's glass), which also employs a wooden holster. Be wary though, as the bottom-heavy glassware will slip out of its divot if tipped over too heartily.


Marketing Mastery

In a veritable ocean of ale, finding a way to stand out is paramount. With Kwak, Bosteels achieves singularity in many ways. How many other articles of glassware can you think of that force you to slow down and appreciate the contents? Do any others look so unique, with the local lore to boot? The koetsiersglas is a conversation piece and a drinking statement, all blown into one tall and lanky piece of glass.

The glass has even spawned an apocryphal tale or two. Some claim that the “Kwak” moniker is an onomatopoeia, referring to sound made when you’ve reached the stem above the rounded bottom portion of the glass. When drinking at this stage, air will bubble into the bulb in a manner that produces a rapid, audible “quack.” Hence the name.

Whether or not this phenomenon is intentional or merely a happy accident, it adds to the special charm that Bosteels is able to imbue within each of its brands.

Branding is another area in which the Bosteels family has shone brightly, always insisting on keeping its brands separate, rather than packaging Kwak, Tripel Karmeliet and DeuS as “Bosteels’ beers.”

Bosteels allows each beer to take on a life of its own, without overtly taking credit for them. The logic is that these individual, standalone brands boast more charm and clout than a “Made in Belgium” angle. If you love it, let it go and have a life of its own.

Kwak’s brewers do indeed love their beers, and they let them go all around the world by way of export. Roughly 55 percent of the brewery’s production is exported, and much of that comes to the U.S. Recent numbers had barrelage over 120,000 bbl, a number that has increased significantly from 2013's barrelage of 85,000 barrels due to both internal growth and investment, and continuous sales growth within Belgium and surrounding countries.

Where and How to Enjoy

Whether you drive a coach, a taxi or an Uber, seek this beer out and pair it with a creamy, powerful cheese or rich game dish such as smoked ham or beef stew. If you’re feeling authentic, try it with pigeon and pickles – a Belgian delicacy. Kwak’s sweetness contrasts beautifully with bitter foods and complements most others. You can find Kwak on-tap or bottled in specialty beer bars and cafes around the world.


kwak label and koetsiersglas
Brouwerij Bosteels is able to imbue charm within each of its brands, though Kwak makes it easy.

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Comments

carlosbronson1's picture
I have really enjoyed this review!
Danherwig's picture
A seminal Belgian bier. The glass makes the experience!

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Comments

carlosbronson1's picture
I have really enjoyed this review!
Danherwig's picture
A seminal Belgian bier. The glass makes the experience!

Pages

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