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What’s in a Brew : In Praise of the Belgian

beer at the lake

We are rather enthusiastic imbibers of craft brews in this family. Steve and I are constantly on the lookout for new — and bonus points if it’s daring! — beers to try. Luckily, we have a crafter of our own in the family. On long holidays, my brother-in-law likes to ‘stir the pot’ with a new brew or two, adventuring out with seasonal flavors when inspiration strikes. In fact, my first memory of him doing so was at Steve and my engagement party, where he helped entertain many of the guests by explaining the chemistry behind the process. Way out of my league — I will just drink to that! 😉

I am still quite the amateur but enjoying discovering and learning more about the craft as the days go by. If anything is indicative of how my enjoyment of such things has changed over the years, the fact that I requested the Yard House for my birthday dinner the other night should be a good indication. Steve and I both chose a porter with coconut notes from Maui Brewing Co. to go with our meal. I am rather picky about my darks (not a fan of too much carbonation) but this one was a winner.

Boddingtons - Yard House

Top on our list most days are the Belgians. {And, no, it’s not because of the alcohol content — usually hovering around 7-9 percent — although that doesn’t hurt anything. ;)} In recent years, the monasteries have been making a comeback in the brewing business, returning to their roots, including a handful in the United States. {Like this one at Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon.} Beer-making has a long history in the monastic tradition, dating back to the 6th century. St. Benedict included it in his Rule as one of the means by which his monks earned their livelihood and offered hospitality. The monks also drank the beer they brewed, but, typically, a version with about a 2 percent alcohol content. These methods at the monasteries are making a comeback with the new Brew Evangelization.

 

You’ve probably heard the terms Dubbel, Tripel, etc. thrown around when referring to Belgians. It used to be that this referred to how many times they were fermented — so a Dubbel: x2, a Tripel: x3 and so on. The weakest one was the one reserved by the monks for their own consumption. They would sell the ones with the stronger flavor {and, subsequently, higher alcohol content} for a decent sum. Nowadays, the terms have more to do with marketing. The “doubles” are usually the darker ones with alcohol in the 6-8 percent range with the “triples” hovering around 8 percent and above, and are lighter in color. The stronger the beer, the higher the value. The price of the Belgians today runs in the $8-$20 range depending on its potency. {And sometimes more.} They certainly are a treat, though. The flavor is strong and has a fantastic finish.

summertime brew

Trappists are often associated with the Belgian as they have kept the style alive the longest. In fact, after a legal battle over the name recently, there are only ten who are allowed to mark their brews with the Trappist stamp, including one in the United States. Most are in Belgium. Chimay, one of those located in Belgium, is a favorite of ours. The Chimay Grande Reserve is one of those must-try, Belgian treats. It is a dark one, but oh-so-smooth and caramel-y.

Another favorite we recently stumbled upon was the Tripel Karmeliet at one of our favorite local hotspots, the Little Belgium Beer Bar and Deli, in our hometown. {They always have a great selection on tap (and numerous ones by the bottle). They also make a mean reuben.} Brewed in Belgium by Carmelites, it is made with wheat, oats and barley from the original 17th century recipe.

kwak

A really fun one to drink is the Pauwel Kwak. Served on tap, you will receive it in the original holder used by monks on horseback, which made it easier to drink while riding.

A Canadian brewery by the name of Unibroue serves up one of my all-time favorites, La Fin Du Monde. {It appears that members of Beer Advocate feel the same way.} Sorry, Miller High Life but this is the true “champagne of beers.” Like most Belgians, it comes in a large bottle so there is more than enough to go around. I have not tried any others from this brewery but I would like to get my hands on a few others.

Our favored California brewery, North Coast Brewing Co., makes a fantastic Belgian called Pranqster. It is of the golden variety. If you favor a darker brew, Brother Thelonious, is your match.

So many to try, so little time.

What are some of your favorite Belgian brews?

5 Thoughts on “What’s in a Brew : In Praise of the Belgian

  1. Love this post! I need to check these beers out! We’re also big craft brew fans. If you ever get down south, San Diego has tons of amazing craft/micro breweries. Our favorites are Alesmith and Mike Hess Brewery. There’s nothing quite like getting beer straight from the brewery’s tap :).

    • California has such a great collection of craft breweries! We have a local one called Knee Deep. They have great IPAs. I will definitely add your recommendations to the list when we make a trip down to SD! So true that beers from the tap are the best. 🙂

  2. The brew-master you mentioned in the beginning of your post has always been my favorite 😉 I just had Chimay for the first time when some friends brought it over and man was it amazing! I also need to find some of those glasses for drinking horseback…I’m sure they will come in handy

  3. I still can’t drink beer – it’s one of the leftover nausea-inducing smells from pregnancy #2 and pregnancy #3. But my husband loves pretty much every Belgian beer he’s ever tried. I think Duval is his favorite.

  4. Damien on January 29, 2015 at 2:06 pm said:

    Sierra Nevada’s Ovila series is amazing! They get all their plums from the monks of New Clairveaux. Also Boulevard Brewery’s Double Wit is my absolute favorite!

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