Belgium is a country synonymous with beer. The history of this fermented malt beverage is deeply intertwined with the nation. Belgium has long been a melting pot of cultures, due to its war-ridden history. Though control of the land has changed with time, the people have held steadfast to their ancient brewing traditions. Belgian brewers are a proud and individualistic bunch, preferring the unique to the usual. Although the beers don’t change, they retain their unique level of quality and flavor. Imitators often achieve little success.
Belgian beers take most their character from yeast. Strains that have been exchanged by hand over centuries give Belgian beers a certain ‘terroir’ from fermentation. Bottle-conditioning (re-fermentation in the bottle) also plays a role, giving fantastic aromatics, beautiful foam and a crisp, tingly effervescence. Individuality in these beers comes with the frequent use of oats, wheat, spelt, noble hops, candi sugar and spices! Belgian brewing methods and tradition have greatly influenced modern craft brewing in the United States and beyond.
This Thursday, Belgians will celebrate their independence from the United Netherlands. The Belgian Revolution came to a victorious end on July 21, 1831, closing an era of conflict and securing Belgium’s independence. Breweries that were pillaged and burned during the Belgian and French Revolutions now had a chance to reopen. This time period laid a foundation for many of our favorite Belgian beers today. Celebrate Belgium’s beer and independence with us this week!
Stop by the tasting bar this Friday, July 22nd from 4-6:30pm and try some of our favorite Belgian beers from Duvel, La Chouffe and Liefmans:
The Moortgat brewery farm was founded in 1871 by Jan-Leonard Moortgat and his wife. Moortgat’s beer was soon winning the favor of the Belgian populace. In 1900, Jan-Leonard’s sons Albert and Victor joined the operation to take over brewing and delivery. During WWI the family became impressed by the English ales that became newly available. They decided to create a type of ale based on the flavors they fell in love with. In 1918, Albert Moortgat attained a precious strain of Scottish yeast, the same used to this very day! When the recipe was perfected, the beer was called ‘Victory Ale’. But this wasn’t to be its final name. In 1923, a famed shoemaker tried the beer and exclaimed “This is a real Duvel (Devil)”. The rest is history. Duvel Ale is both refined and distinct. An aromatic hop nose leads to a silky smooth fruitiness and subtle bitterness on the finish. Its tightly-bubbled effervescence is quite refreshing.
A tale that begins in the 1970s, two Belgian brothers-in-law decided to create their own brewery and beer. Embarking on the “Chouffe story”, they pooled their money and set up shop in the Belgian Ardennes. The first batch of La Chouffe was produced in late 1982. As the Achouffe dwarves yearned for exploration, the brewery began to supply its neighbor nations. Chouffe beers are sold throughout the world. Brasserie d’Achouffe is now part of the Duvel Moortgat family and has three year-round offerings. La Chouffe blond beer is fruity and floral, with spicy coriander and a touch of hoppiness. Houblon Chouffe is an India Pale Ale with the pleasant fruitiness of Belgian yeast. The Mc Chouffe brown beer has a dark-fruit bouquet masking a hint of bitterness. All three are re-fermented in both bottle and barrel.
This brewery has been on the banks of the River Schelde in Oudenaarde since 1679, possibly longer. Its namesake is taken from its founder Jacobus Liefmans. The brewery focuses on mixed fermentations, producing beers with a puckering acidity. The Goudenband, aka ‘Golden band’, is a sour brown ale that is blended from matured (soured) beer and young beer to start the re-fermentation. This beer ages, like a fine wine, for ten years or more! Expect notes of caramel, apple, rhubarb, nuts and raisins. Cuvée Brut is a mixed-fermentation brown beer that gains a fresh, fruity acidity from aging on black cherries. Expect notes of red fruit, marzipan, sherry, raisins and a fine acidity.
I’d say it’s time for some beer and waffles!