Belgium. A small country in Europe, often overlooked, famous for chocolate, crazy bicycle racing in the spring (google Tour of Flanders) waffles and among other things, beer. This country of only 11 million people does a few things well, like being a political powerhouse — housing the European Union and NATO — while contributing cultural significance in the way of music, food and drink. Maybe most notably, is their historic traditions of designing, innovating and perfecting the beers and beer styles that we all know and love today. This country has been practising the art and craft of brewing since around the 11th century. Let’s take a walk together and explore a few styles and specific beers for which we can collectively thank the Belgians.
How about the flemish red, lambic, saison or amber ale … does that do anything for you? Each of these beers are ubicados within the nomenclature of beer drinkers throughout the world and each of these styles can be attributed somehow to the Belgians. I will now provide you with a quick rundown of a couple of these styles and a local option to pick up this week.
The amber ale — most often a starteeer it is, good for people who are new to the craft beer world or have a sensitive palate. You car bn typically count on this beer style to be easy drinking due to the balance of hop interest with a good firm backbone of red (sweetish) malts. An amber ale is not going to be a kick to the palate, in that it should be moderate to low alcohol and never excessively bitter. A great choice locally is Bozone Amber Ale. It is found in cans in most grocery stores and is in nearly every bar. This beer put the Bozeman Brewery on the map, and pretty much pays their bills due to its universally enjoyable profile.
The saison — one of my favorite offerings. This style has historically been a summer beer brewed by Belgian farmers. A typical saison will be light in color, often hazy moderate to low AVB and will nearly always have an aromatic added. A beer that I have had before and am looking forward to again is the Grand Saison from Grand Teton Brewery. It is a traditional and beautiful offering for the upcoming summer months. Pick this up starting in June.
And finally the lambic — this is a style that should have an entire article written on it. The lambic in simple terms is a beer that is fermented by spontaneous fermentation, by that I mean natural yeast that floats around in the air will find its way into open fermentation tanks where they will consume the available sugars. This style of beer is not seen all that often due to the enormous risk and commitment inherent to the lambic. Because it is spontaneously fermented and has a turnaround time from recipe to finished product of over 18 months, this beer is a difficult business model. Many breweries are not interested in or able to partake in this undertaking due to the enormous barriers. When you run across a micro brewery that has taken on the challenge of a lambic, aka sour ale, jump on it. The style is completely unique and will leave you wondering what you just consumed. Most people react by saying, “This doesn’t even taste like beer.” Lambics are literally sour and can be secondarily fermented with fruit to give it an infusion of fruit flavor. This is often the final step in a beer drinkers development, the quest to find good sour ales is a year-to-year experience that will never leave you bored. Try the Oud Bruin that is tackled by Grand Teton Brewery on a yearly basis. If you see it on the shelves, buy it.
We owe a lot to the Belgians, the styles and craftsmanship that came from the monasteries in that region have stood the test of time. Breweries in the US are constantly paying homage to this unique and wonderful heritage.
Ill leave you with a couple of more recommendations, head on over to 406 Brewery right now and partake of their current Belgium inspired offering. It is complex and refreshing with undertones of banana and coriander. You may just find yourself heading down a path of beer geek-ery, and trust me, we need more beer geeks.