What are your favorite combinations of food with Rodenbach?
Because Rodenbach is close to white wine, it goes well with seafood and fish but also with white meats: chicken and turkey and pork. Steak is better in combination with Grand Cru, which is a much heavier beer.
What other beers do you enjoy drinking?
I’ve been drinking Rodenbach since I was 12. I was in a youth organization and was two days on the road. It was so warm, and we were so thirsty. I went inside a pub, and I asked the pub owner “We are so thirsty, can we have some water?” She said, “Boys, I’ll give you something that takes the thirst away,” and she gives us Rodenbach in little glasses, and also a bit of water. I took a taste and thought, this is refreshing; my thirst is gone.
Now I am 47, so I’ve been drinking Rodenbach for 35 years. That’s why people have to take it up during their adolescent phase or before, when they want the sweet-sour taste. After that phase, they want the sweet-bitter taste, so it is very important to Rodenbach, and it is the reason why Rodenbach is a student beer.
That’s also the reason why girls and women like Rodenbach more than boys and men, because of the macho culture. You see it very much at festivals: the bitterer it is, the more they like it. That isn’t normal. After two hours, you have only bitterness in your mouth.
In the past, brewers used to have a lot of hops in beer because there was no metal for pasteurization, and for conserving beer. The only way of conserving beer was using hops, and that gives you a lot of bitterness. And if the beer was infected, you had a sour, bitter beer, and sourness and bitterness do not go together. It’s a taste that people don’t want.
So sweet-sour goes together and bitter-sweet goes together, but you have to be careful of sour and bitterness. That’s the reason we use hops in our beer, but under the taste threshold. So you know there is something there, but you don’t know what it is.
Now, they have the methods to conserve the beer by pasteurization, so it isn’t necessary to have so much hops in it. So the great brewers, they have brought the taste level of bitterness lower.
Stella Artois was the best-selling pils beer in Belgium in the sixties and the beginning of the seventies. In the seventies, Jupiler was the best-selling pils beer. Now they have the greatest brand in Belgium, with lower bitterness, and the others have followed.
What is also important to know is that bitterness is more appreciated by northern people. The northern people, also the Germans, appreciate more bitterness than the French people. The more south you go in Europe, the more they like sour-sweet. The more north you go, the more they like bitter-sweet.
I wonder why?
Because of their origin. You see the same thing here in America, because America has mixed culture: people from northern Europe, southern Europe, the Italians, etc.
I think we have to go back 500-600 years ago, the climate was much warmer than it was now in the north and in Denmark—I think we have to go 1,000 years ago. The hops came from northern Europe, from Denmark and Sweden to our areas, German and Belgium in the 1000 and 1100. So it must be in their genes to like much more bitterness than sweet.
When you care about food, it’s important to know why the French people use more sugar in their yogurt than the Dutch people. And they use more sugar for the French-speaking part of Belgium than the Dutch -speaking part of Belgium, so that is not new. You have to think why they have done it. There is always a reason.
To have the spirit to make it better every time, that’s the good spirit. I see the same spirit here with the [American] microbrewers, not just making beer like something from another brewery, but doing the experiments to do it better every time. They have the possibility here to experiment with so many things: with aging, with different kinds of hops, with dry-hopping—it’s amazing.
In Belgium, there is a very dominant beer and everyone wants mainstream, mainstream, mainstream.
Well, things aren’t so different here in the States.
But most of the special beers you can find more easily here than in our region. Therefore, it s very interesting to come over and see how you’re doing it