Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's All About the Belgians (their beer, at least)


Happy Belgian Independence Day*!

 Yeah, I didn't know either. But July 21, 1831 was the day that King Leopold was crowned as the first king of the new country of Belgium. Before that, they were part of the Netherlands. Evidently that wasn't working out for them.

 This might be a more exciting "faux-liday" for me than Cinco de Mayo. While I do like tequila (in fact, it's one of the few hard liquors I truly enjoy drinking), I love, love, love my Belgian beers. What a better reason the celebrate them!

 The photo is of the three most recent Belgian beers I've had the immense pleasure of drinking recently. Okay, one of them is a Belgian-style beer, but it was really good, so I'm including it.

 Gulden Draak (center, taken last year at Stubbies & Steins) might be my favorite beer ever--except that it's over 10 percent ABV and thus I don't drink it often. But it's so delicious! Caveats: it's not for "hop heads," nor for those that don't like boozy beer. This is a sweet, complex, strong dark ale. Very smooth, caramel taste. This is a beer to be savored, really enjoyed. I like starting out with one of these, or having one after dinner. According to its website, the Brewery Van Steenberge is the "only operational brewery left in the Meetjesland." In northwestern Belgium, part of the Flemish region, where they speak Dutch. Strangely, "meetjes" is Dutch for "old women." So this is the land of old women? Old women that like good beer, obviously!

 On the left (the one most recently drunk of the three), is a Gulden Carolus Cuvée Van Der Keizer Rood (Red). A birthday present I held onto for a couple months, it's a Belgian strong pale ale, although I didn't find it excessively hoppy (I think American-style IPAs are throwing off my impression of what the rest of the world considers to be a pale ale). Still very strong (10% ABV) and spicy, but not nearly as sweet or unctious as the Gulden Draak. I really enjoyed it. I definitely could taste the spiciness. The Brouwerij Het Anker is also in the Flemish region of Belgium, in a city called Mechelen.

 The faux Belgian on the right is Ovila Dubbel, from Sierra Nevada brewery. The Ovila project is three beers (the Dubbel, a saison, and a "quad," ) that Sierra Nevada is brewing with monks in California. A portion of the proceeds from sale of these beers goes to the monks' attempt to rebuild a 12th century Spanish medieval Santa Maria de Ovila chapter house in Vina, California. William Randolph Hearst purchased and dismantled the crumbling ruins of the old monastery in Spain and had them shipped to California in 1931, planning to use them to build a house, but later gave them to the state. A Dubbel is malty Belgian-style beer, originally brewed by Trappist monks. It was lighter than I thought it would be, but I'm not sure how many Dubbels I've actually tried. Very smooth, very drinkable.

 A "quad," by the way, is a Quadrupel, another Trappist Belgian ale. Related to the Dubbel ("double") and the Tripel (duh), the name comes from the levels of malt used in the brewing process. In this case, they use four times more malt than they would in a Trappist "simple." The Ovila Quad is scheduled to come out in November of this year.

 (*On a non-beer, but very Belgian note, read here why comparing Belgium to Iraq "isn't far off the mark." Turns out, not too many Belgians celebrate Belgian Independence Day, sadly.)


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Kelly Warren said...

I dare say since the last time I visited this has become a beer blog! Cheers! I learn something new every day. I'm not Belgian but I'll drink a beer for them. Hope you are well!

Jen said...

I actually post the beer stuff to my other blog on Posterous, but it autoblogs them here as well (and Tweets it for me, too!). My goal was to blog about non-beer stuff here and have the Posterous version be only beer, but that's all I've been blogging about lately! :) I am very well--hope you are too, Kelly!