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Belgian Beer

January 7, 2008 | By More

monksgamma.jpgYes indeed friends, the Belgians are coming. However for this particular invasion we should embrace them. Unleash them into our country. Let them take refuge … in our bellies! With over 500 beers native to Belgium alone, Belgium beers offer such a varied palate of colours, aromas, flavours, presentations and styles that they rival any other beer producing country. They are more complex than the grandest of wine, and are more like wine then some wines (like Rodenbach Grad Cru with it’s cherry sourness, oak notes and delicate balance).

Belgian brewers thrive in this diversity by maintaining brewing traditions that are specific to province, region or town, and have been for centuries. Belgian beers are typically top-fermenting ales that are bottle conditioned, and contain yeast sediment (desired and undesired, regulated by careful pouring). Some have blends of many types of yeast, or even blends of young and old ale. And some are created using spontaneous, natural fermentation.

The uniqueness of this diverse regional yeast is what imparts much of the Belgian flavour and aromas. They are unlike any other in the world. Beer styles run the gamut, but here are some main ones:

(Oud Bruin) Flemish Old Browns: are light to medium-bodied, deep copper to brown in colour. Extremely varied, characterized by a slight vinegar/lactic sourness and spiciness to smooth and sweet. A fruity-estery character, with little to no hop flavor or aroma. Oaklike or woody characters.

Red Beers: are typically light-bodied brews with reddish-brown colours. They are infamous for their distinct sharp, fruity, sour and tart flavours which are created by special yeast strains. Very complex beers, they are produced under the age old tradition of long-term cask aging in oak, and the blending of young and old beers.

Wit (White) Beers: brewed using unmalted and/or malted wheat and malted barley and can be spiced with coriander and orange peel. These very pale beers are typically cloudy. The style is further characterized by the use of “noble-type” hops to achieve a low to medium bitterness and hop flavor. This dry beer has low to medium body, notable fruity-ester content.

Saisons: A sturdy beer that was brewed in the winter to be consumed in the summer. Close to being an endangered style, though there has been a revival in the US.

Lambics: With their tartness and complexities, they are a level above beer. Brewed with barley and wheat with a spontaneous fermentation these beers have to endure months or years of aging. Gueze: A blending of young and old Lambics, then aged 2-3 years after bottling.

[Beer Advocate]

Category: Food

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