B is for Beer. Belgian Beer.

Nate / March 27, 2012, 2pm

Brothers and sisters! I have returned from the motherland of fermented grain beverages and lived to tell the tale. Barely. Or is that barley? In any case, Belgium, that mysterious land that some believe is secretly populated by gnomes, brings you good tidings…and serious weight gain.  Let’s take a gander at some well know beers and not so well known cheeses. It’s beer time you turkeys!

Beer is completely engrained in the social and gastronomic culture of Belgium, so it’s no wonder that they are best know for their beers and possess breweries that continually rank as the world’s finest. From Lambic to Farmhouse Saisons to Trappist Ales, the Belgians have the craft and science of brewing down.  We’re going to take a variety from their spectrum and do a little old world/new world pairing exercise to keep your palate excited and your belly happy.

We’ll start off with a little background on a bright, wild style called Lambic. Now, Lambic is a beer that is produced by spontaneous fermentation through the exposure of grain to wild bacteria and yeasts, creating a wonderfully sour and complex beverage.  But wait…there’s more! Lambic is the base for a few different beers, and right about now we’re gonna pop open one of its offspring- Geuze. Say it with me- geeeew-zah. Fun, right?  Geuze is a blend of young and old Lambic, which is then aged for a period of time chosen by the blender to produce a bigger, spicier, and bolder beer.  Sometimes it’s dryer, sometimes it’s more bitter. The beauty of Geuze comes with the blending and maturation of the fluid by the brewer. Today’s sample comes to us from Tilquin.  Let’s see what’s behind door number 1:

This Gueze pours frothy but not overly so.  Yeast is all over the nose and the flavor is quite round, sour without being too sour with hints of apricot. This bottle is on the younger side- not a lot of residual sediment in the container and a really soft feel on the pallet.  Sometimes I want a Geuze that will strip the paint off the hood of your car, but this one? Refresca! With this Geuze, something slightly tart with mellow acidity is in order.  The St. Maure we get from our friends at Gros Chene in Belgium are just this when they first come in.  The soft, creamy texture will sit on your tongue and mingle with the sourness from the Geuze wonderfully.

beer

Yep, that’s dinner. Medic!

Side note: I hope you enjoyed the lack of English on those first two links as much as I did.

Next, let’s look down the street from the cheese shop to our pals at Brooklyn Brewery and their Saison style Sorachi Ace. If there was ever a beer made for balls hot New York summer other than cheap canned brews (what? everything has a time and place, especially a 12 pack of Rolling Rock) it’s Saison.  Bright, yeasty, crisp, and refreshing, Saisons are, simply, the shit, and the Sorachi Ace is one of the best examples of American Craft brewing’s take on a traditional style.  Enough jibber-jabber, just pour the damn beer!

Yes! Yes! A frothy egg white head gives off dusty yeast and grass notes as the foam settles. Peach pits, lemon peel, and hay are having a party and they want to be inside you. The Japanese Sorachi Ace Hop is all over this beer. I mean, it’s called Sorachi Ace fer cryin’ out loud. It makes me want to roam the hillsides of Japan and eat hops, maybe find some of those cute little bathing monkeys to share a beer or four with. A guy can dream, can’t he?

They, too, know the power of Sorachi Ace.

Another goat is in order for this one.  I like Sofia from Capriole Farm.  The tartness, texture, and tinge of soapiness bring a perfect lightness to the table with this brew.

Two down. How many ya got in ya? Strap in folks. Up next is a beautiful little beer I like to call Rodenbach Grand Cru. Mostly because it’s called Rodenbach Grand Cru. If you ever get a chance to visit Belgium, you have to go to the seaside, get a heaping pile of shrimp croquettes and a big glass of Rodenbach. I don’t ask much of you babies, so please, just do me this one favor.  You’ll thank me for it.  Rodenbach is a Flemmish Red Ale, aged on wood to create a round sourness that immediately takes your mind to balsamic vinegar. Sweet, sour, and full, it’s a classic in the world of beer.  Rodenbach is a nice match with Abbaye de Tamie, a raw cow’s cheese produced by the monks of Tamie Abbey in the French Alps. Its creamy, woodsy, and slightly bitter character rounds out the sweetness of our good friend Rodenbach. Booya!

Maybe I shaved with this knife afterwards…maybe….

Ok, ok…we’re all feeling pretty good now, so let’s finish it off with a bang. A Quadruppel bang! St. Bernardus Abt 12 is an Abbey style beer, meaning it isn’t brewed by monks at an abbey, but is inspired by them. In fact, this beer is believed (read: is) the same recipe as the coveted Westvleteren 12- the lone Trappist brewer that does not export to the US. Anywhoo, St. Bernie Abt 12 is large, malt heavy beer, with aromas of bready grain, a molasses sweetness and a boozy, brown sugary, Madeira sucker punch on the ol’ tongue.  A round, slightly bittersweet finish is all you can ask for.  All that’s needed to round out the friar’s table is a buttery cheese with bright bitterness, like Achelse Blue, sometimes known as Grevenbroecker. A masterpiece in cheese making, this raw cow’s milk marbled blue hailing from the remote areas of Belgium near the Dutch border absolutely sings with this beer…sings, I tells ya!

And then we prayed the rosary… jk.

And on this day, I give thee pairings. Now go forth, make some waffles, some mussels and frites, trap a gnome, and sing the praises of the beautiful, friendly people of Belgium with every sip and every bite.  Until next time friends, don’t forget about your good friend beer.

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