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TIP OF THE DAY: Belgian Beer Tasting

How about a Belgian beer tasting for Father’s Day?

Until the American craft beer revolution, which began in the 1970s and blossomed in the 1990s toward the current wealth of craft breweries, Belgium was the [pretty small] country that produced the broadest range of beers.

For a social gathering, you can offer tastes of the different styles and pair them with appropriate nibbles. Of course, you can choose any country or style of beer, but this recommendation honors the great Belgian beer tradition.

Where to start?

There are styles of beer produced in Belgium; American craft brewers are making some of them. Some closely follow the Belgian style; others are more creative interpretations.

Here’s a selection to put together for a tasting, recommended by Flavor And The Menu, a magazine and website for chefs who want to know what’s trending:

  • Abbey or Trappist ales, so-called because they were originally created by monks, include dubbels, tripels and quadrupels. Dubbels, between 6% and 8A% ABV*, are reddish brown with moderate bitterness, robust body and a palate that’s fruity and malty. Tripels, 8% to 10% ABV, are usually deep golden yellow and creamy on the palate, with apple, banana, citrus, floral and pear notes, slightly sweet but with a dry finish.
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    Gueuze_Fond_belgium.beertourism-230

    Gueuze, a style of lambic beer, can be an eye opener. Photo courtesy Belgium.BeerTourism.com.

    Quadrupels are more intense versions of dubbels, with an ABV range of 9% to almost 14%—the latter as much alcohol as a glass of wine!
    Food Pairing: Spicy sausage with whole-grain mustard, beef or lamb stew, Stilton or similar blue cheese, peppered gingerbread cookies (get these pepparkakor from Ikea or make this recipe).

  • Flanders sour ales are intense in color (red or brown) with balsamic, berry and plum notes. The style has intense acidity, produced by using cultured yeasts in the primary fermentation and aged in barrels with bacteria and wild yeasts.
  • Food Pairing: Grilled red meat or braises, Chinese food (think sweet-or-sour with the sour beer) and triple crème cheeses.

  • Lambics are an interesting category for sophisticated beer lovers. Gueuze lambics are perhaps the most challenging to drink—including challenging to pronounce (try HYOO-zeh). A blend of young and old lambics, they are dry and complex, with flavor descriptors such as barnyardy, briny and cheesy. Fruited lambics are quite different, with fruit and sweetener added during production. They are typically very sweet and low in alcohol—good “dessert beers.” Cherry lambics, known as kriek, are the most common, but raspberry, peach and other fruits are also popular.
    Food Pairing: Mussels in white wine, crab or washed-rind cheeses for gueuze lambics; mains or desserts that match with the fruit (duck with cherries or cherry pie with kriek, for example); asparagus quiche or frittata; fennel and apple salad.
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    Sign us up for a dark Abbey ale! Photo courtesy Leffe.
     
  • Saisons, or farmhouse ales, were traditionally brewed late in the year by farmers for drinking the following summer. Generally highly carbonated and very dry, they feature citrusy aromatics, peppery and floral notes, and a lively hoppiness. Saisons are available in amber, dark or light styles.
  • Food Pairing: Rustic foods, like bouillabaisse, roast chicken, bloomy-rind cheeses and rustic bread.

  • Whitbiers are light and citrusy wheat beer that have become very popular in the U.S. Good summer beers!
  • Food Pairing: Light salads and seafood.

    Start shopping to collect the beers for the tasting. If you don’t already know your area’s best source for craft beers, ask around.
     
    *By comparison, Budweiser and Molson are 5% ABV; Heinecken is 5.4% ABV, Corona is 4.5% ABV.

     
      




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