Beers of Belgium CC – 24th September

I have taken a trip to the dark side (Walloonia!!) when in the West Country recently.

Whilst my family were loafing around the Home Bargains in Bude I found some Belgian beer for 75p a pop.

I wasn’t convinced it would be up to much but as a barbeque accompaniment it was ok.

Anyone else tried Belgica before? Some of the review apps love it and some hate it, but I quite liked it.

Some Belgica Beer

23/7/2020 – Beers of Belgium CC update

There is always lots going on behind the scenes here at Beers of Belgium CC and I am looking forward to getting the jersey on and getting out there promoting this page of the Fendrien website.

This will hopefully coincide with the return of bike racing and we will be able to recreate that moment when a beer is sipped in front of the TV after a strenuous training ride where you have pretended to be Greg Van Avermaet.

So keep an eye out for the kit delivery and our team jersey out there on the roads.

Guest beer list – Bob Mc Stuff

Following on from DrHeadgear’s post – all of those beers are excellent of course, but here are some more which are definitely worth trying:
I’ve suggested the first two because they are particularly famous and can be said to epitomise their respective styles. The others are just my favourites!

Saison
Saison Dupont – 6.5%
From the French speaking part of Belgium, Brasserie Dupont makes the acclaimed Saison Dupont which is generally considered to be the archetype for the style. A Saison is a northern French and Belgian farmhouse ale that has a characteristic farmyard aroma (sometimes described as “funk” or a “funky” aroma)
Saisons are quite popular with craft breweries in the UK and US, so they are commonly found in bottle shops and beer bars – it makes sense to try the “OG Saison” so that you can appreciate where these beers are coming from. It’s very common for saisons to be combined with fruit, for example Arbor brewery in Bristol makes a clementine saison which they also contract brew for M&S, so it is quite readily available. Kernel in London also make a Biere De Saison Apricot, and they are available in most good bottle shops. Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! (literally, “good Lord!”) from Montreal also make some really top quality saisons which stick in my memory.

Trappist
Orval – 6.2%
Orval is a Trappist brewery but one with a difference: their signature beer is fermented with Brettanomyces. Most ales are fermented solely with Saccharomyces Cerevisae (and lagers with Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis), although there are a huge number of sub-strains and types under that heading, created by hundreds of years of breeding and brewing all over the world. However, there are other types of yeast! Brettanomyces bruxellensis is often considered an off flavour, especially in wine, and once it gets into a brewery it can be hard to eradicate. It’s often found on the skin of fruit, along with other wild yeasts, so it is a common flavour in natural wine (which is massively trendy right now!).
Brett, as it’s often known by brewers and beer fans, results in a very highly attenuated beer as the yeast is able to digest much more complex carbohydrates than its cousin. This means that the beer tends to be drier and with a relatively higher alcohol content compared to a comparable source beer fermented solely with traditional ale yeast. In terms of flavour, it’s a bit like Saison yeast on steroids: lots of farmhouse, horsey, barnyard funk and with a distinctive bite of bitterness which differs from that of the hops. It has a slight edge of sourness and is often present in sour beers, although it’s not strictly a sour yeast (sour beer are usually created either by a process known as kettle souring or by infection with lactobacillus, a type of bacteria).
Be warned: brett can continue chewing through the residual carbs even after bottling, so brett beers can be extremely lively when opened, with a long lasting, growing, light and frothy head. It is a good idea to chill them right down before opening (cold water absorbs more CO2 which will make the beer calmer). It’s also a good idea not to open them over soft furnishings, especially if they have been in the bottle for a long time.

Kriek
3 Fonteinen Oude Krieke – 6%
Since DrHeadgear went for the Cantillon, I will choose the 3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek! For me, 3 Fonteinen make slightly more innovative beer, although the Kriek is obviously very traditional. I’ve attended a meet the brewer event with their head brewer and they make some really interesting beers. The standard version is relatively readily available and not too expensive (and delicious), but if you can get hold of it (and have deep pockets), the Schaarbeekse Kriek is really excellent. Most Krieks these days are made with sour cherries imported from Turkey, but the Schaarbeekse is made with the traditional wild cherries from around Brussels, which are very hard to buy today and this makes it very expensive. This is a really fantastic Kriek with loads of dark cherry and candied cherry flavour, and great funk from the wild yeasts (Kriek is fermented entirely with wild yeast). It’s a massively well reviewed beer and if you try it, ideally after sampling a few other Krieks, you’ll see why.

Oud Bruin/Flanders Red
Duchesse de Bourgogne – 6.2%
I’m going to nominate the Duchesse de Bourgogne for this. I know the Rodenbach is a good choice, but for me the Duchesse is my pick. Possibly for nostalgia purposes. They’re both almost identically reviewed on Untappd, and my review is the same for both too. Again, either this or the Rodenbach are pretty easily available at bottle shops, and they are pretty much the definition beers for the style, so they make a great reference beer if you are just thinking about other Belgian styles. Another one which is harder to come by (in the UK) but better reviewed is the Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge by Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste.
There are lots of other good Flanders Reds available, although they’re less common than saisons. Burning Sky in Sussex make a good one (called simply, Flanders Red).

Lambic
Abrighost (Bokke) – 6%
Number 5 was very hard to choose. Belgian beer is dominated by traditional names who have been making beer for hundreds of years, so I wanted to choose a more modern brewery. Bokke – formerly known as Bokkeryder – are the most hipster and hyped lambic blender in the world, possibly even brewery. When I went to Copenhagen Beer Celebration in 2017 there were queues around the venue just to get a taste of their beer. They only started in 2013 but in that time they’ve managed to become extremely popular in sour beer circles.
Unfortunately none of the beers I have had from them are still in production, they tend to make everything only once. The Abrighost is a blend of the Fantôme saison (hence “ghost” in the name), blended with two of their own lambics and aged on two varieties of apricots. Which is perfect since Fantôme, founded 1988, are also very on trend and very good and were my other choice for modern-but-hyped-but-good Belgian brewery… (I have had the Fantôme saison multiple times – and it is actually possible to buy beers from Fantôme in the UK). Your best chance of getting anything from Bokke is at a beer festival or in Belgium close to where it is made (Leuven has 2 bars carrying their beer). There are no bars carrying Bokke in the UK, sadly!

I thought this would provide some flavour of some of the weirder stuff that is around if you look, and because Dr Headgear covered all the most obvious bases! You will be able to pick up some beers by Fantôme if you look for them, specialist bottle shops will carry them (for example, Beermoth in Manchester are my personal favourite – they are one of the few UK distributors for limited release 3 Fonteinen beers too). In my opinion it is always worth trying any unusual or less common beer from any brewery like this if you find them on sale, but it is worth developing a good taste for the “reference” beers described above and in the previous post because then you can get a feel for the inspiration behind the beers, where the brewer is coming from, and what the basics of the style are.

Beers of Belgium CC

Roman brewery Tour 2018

https://www.roman.be/en/oldest-family-brewery-belgium

On a rare child free weekend in the short period between the road season and ‘cross starting, the Wife and I took a drive from Lincolnshire to the heart of Oudenaarde for a weekend of walking the hellingen and some food and beer testing.

We stayed at the beautiful Beans and Dreams coffee house doing all of the touristy stuff like eating steak and frites in the town square and working our way through some of the beers in the tiny little bar near the Ronde Van Vlanderen museum.

The first full day saw us take the steep little road out of town towards the Roman Brewery.

We had been booked on a tour which ironically saw us joined by one of the cycling clubs of Antwerp who wanted to ask me loads of questions about whether Chris Froome was asthmatic or not…

The tour guide took us to one side to explain politely that the tour was predominantly going to be in Dutch/Flemish but that he would try and keep us up to speed. He seemed impressed that a British couple were so keen to take the tour.

The buildings themselves were really old and impressive. You see this brewery regularly on TV footage of all the big classics in this part of the world and the giant stills were so well polished and the barrels stacked so neatly that you knew this was a class operation.

After the tour there was a tasting which I thought would be a couple of small glasses to try but this was 15 minute free bar… My wife handed me the car keys before trying a couple of tripels and a nice ruby.

Thankfully the pricing of the shop was such that we could fill the boot of the car (using Antwerp cycling club officials as extra pairs of hands) before heading back into town.

One of us grumpily and the other one groggily.

I will let you decide who was who.

What I will say is that everyone who is a lover of Belgian beers should make the time to take a tour. People are so proud of what they produce and so passionate about it. That comes across in everything they do and say.

The theatre in the presentation of the drinks, even in a free tasting show care for the drinks, it was magical.

Once this is over and we are free to move again, who’s up for a trip?

Missing my favourite bar in Brugge

21 Draughts, still talked about to this day.

A nondescript ferry from Hull to Zebrugge on a December Saturday evening in 2014 probably isn’t the start point for too many Belgian beer related tales. However this one starts on the vessel locals affectionately call “The Party Boat” offering super cheap weekend trips abroad to Amsterdam and Brugge.

It was £35 return including cabin and coach transfer and isn’t much more expensive now. The cabins are best described as snug. My Brother in Law who is a submariner uttered the words “Bloody hell, its tight in here” when we went in to claim our bunks.

I had a pre determined reason to go to Brugge that weekend. It was partially Christmas shopping and partially recce for my trip to the Ronde Cyclo for the following spring. What followed was something quite special!

We left the ferry and took the coach into Brugge before meeting up with a friend of mine (another cycling nut) from Amsterdam. The train and coach station converged so it was easy to meet up before sauntering across the cobbles into town.

I know that people criticise Brugge for being commercialised and more expensive than other towns in Flanders but there is a magic and ambience to the place that I think is unique.

After getting a breakfast we looked for somewhere to quench the sort of thirst only a night bobbing about in the North Sea can give you. 21 Draughts was the destination we found.

The service and expertise were amazing and it was there I took my first sips of delights such as Brugge Trippel and Bornhem, drinks that remain on my list to this day.

As opposed to getting out and sightseeing for the day, we didn’t leave until we needed to catch the last shuttle to the boat back to Hull, only pausing for a cone of frites and mayo… naturally.

When I went back for the RVV cyclo the bar was still there and the wife enjoyed one too many before driving to Oudenaarde to meet me the next day after the sportive. However the next time we went back to the town the bar was closed and gone.

21 Draughts is still loved and talked about in our family and much missed. A lovely spot just back from the square and reasonably stocked and priced.

It’s trips and experiences like these that make my love for Flanders and its ale so strong, and despite my favourite bar no longer being there, I hope one day to take the foam off one in the the town.