Belgian and Continental Style Ales
Don’t tell me anything. I can’t keep a secret. If I’ve got something good, I’ve got to share it. It’s never intentional; it just slips out in a normal, unconscious stream. This is a problem and it always bites me where the sun doesn’t shine. I’ll find a new beer and share it with friends and suddenly I can’t find it on the shelves. Stumble on a good pub and tell my mates, the next time I stop by there is a line around the block and the bouncer has an attitude. I try to look at this situation in a positive light: after all, sharing is good, right? Maybe; but I do believe I’m going to make a pact with myself to start keeping my big mouth shut. However, before I do that, I just need to share a few more juicy bits with you, my friends…
Every other month, the Beverage Testing Institute holds the World Beer Championships and I’m fortunate enough to be involved. This time around we sampled Continental European Ale Styles, and Maibocks, as they are in season.
Let’s start with the Abbey Dubbel category. Goose Island’s Pere Jacques (93 points) and Anderson Valley’s Brother David Double (90 points) reminded us that brewers here in the United States are doing a phenomenal job replicating traditional Belgian ale styles. Try these beers with some grilled lamb chops or fire up some steak kabobs. The rich malt profile of these brews will complement the flavors of the fire and the richness of the meat. A reduction sauce made from either brew would also make a great addition to this meal plan.
The Abbey Triples were excellent as well. Brother David’s Triple from Anderson Valley (91 points) and Issaquah Brewhouse Menage A Frog Tripel (90 points) stood out amongst the entries and would pair nicely with some fried calamari. Just give a little zip of lemon juice over the fried tentacles and let the subtle sweetness of the beer gently wash away the tasty fried bits. Not into seafood? Prosciutto and some herbed cheese will also work as a great appetizer for your guests.
In the Belgian Blonde Ale category, two old friends stopped by and a new guest made an appearance. Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde (96 points) was truly decadent and a brew that would certainly be welcome at the apocalypse. Abbaye de Leffe Blonde (91 points) was also outstanding. The newcomer, Jopen, supplied their Hoppenbier (89 points)—unique for the style. Hints of wild yeast and wonderfully complex layers of flavor proved this to be a great food beer. Try the first two brews with some cheese for a snack: I like goat cheddar. Or for something more sustaining, a fried clam Po-Boy with some citrus aioli is truly a great way to spend your lunch money. The Jopen Hoppenbier would be a great aperitif to get your beer savvy guests talking; then bring out the ceviche appetizer before the main event.
The Belgian Specialty Ale category showed some exciting brews you should definitely try. Unibroue’s Anniversary 17 (93 points) would be perfect for the end of a patio grilling session paired with dried fruit, nuts and a slab of creamy French cheese such as Petit-Suisse. Drizzle this plate with some honey and prepare for decadence. Goose Island introduced us to a new one they’re producing called Juliet (89 points). A wonderfully tart and refreshing beer with hints of the barrel would also be another way to intrigue your guests and break the ice as an aperitif. This beer was recently served at a beer dinner I attended and was paired with rabbit loin. Nothing short of sublime!
Kölsch style beers are great for the summer months. I think of them as the quintessential lawn mower beer. Clean, refreshing and moderate in alcohol, they make for great summertime ale refreshment. Our judges tasted Goose Island’s Summertime Kölsch (90 points) and the Brew Brothers Corano Extra Kölsch (85 points). Try these two beers with a salad. I prefer a Cobb salad with plenty of hard boiled eggs, but a simple green salad with, say, a citrus or shallot vinaigrette would also work just fine.
Lastly the Maibocks. Not as roasted or dark as their big brothers, the maibock style is a great beer to enjoy late spring/early summer. The alcohol is still there and the biscuit sweet maltiness is a wonderful component to combine with a meal. I like to pair them with grill-roasted pork and some mashed sweet potatoes laced with roasted garlic. Privatbrauerei Plank Laabar Bavarian Heller Dopplebock (91 points) or Bastone Brewery Maibock (86 points) would both work nicely with this suggested pairing. Just watch your consumption. In my circle of friends, maibocks are often referred to as “mind-blocks,” since the alcohol in these beers can easily sneak up on you, considering how easily drinkable they are.
One last secret I’ve got to share. When mapping out the beer events you plan on attending for the year, be sure to include the All About Beer World Beer Fest held in Raleigh, NC every April [and Durham in the fall]. Truly a great opportunity to enjoy some excellent beers amongst some excellent company! Thanks again to the AAB crew. Those are my beans and sure enough they’ve been spilt. I’ll keep my mouth shut for now, or at least until the next issue. Cheers!