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 Belgium
 medieval
 Beers
                                          T
Beer in Belgium varies from the popular               here are approximately 125 breweries in the country,
pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish                 ranging from international giants to microbreweries;
red. Evidence of brewing in Belgium                   in Europe only Germany, France and the United
dates from the middle Ages.                           Kingdom are home to more breweries. Belgian
                                          breweries produce about 800 standard beers. When special
                                          one-off beers are included, the total number of Belgian beers is
                                          approximately 8700. Belgians on an average drink 93 litres of
                                          beer a year.
                                              Beer has been made in Belgium since the middle Ages. It
                                          is believed today that beer was brewed at some monasteries
                                          during this period; however, no written proof exists. The
                                          Trappist monasteries that now brew beer in Belgium were
                                          occupied in the late 18th century primarily by monks fleeing
                                          the French Revolution. However, the first Trappist brewery in
                                          Belgium (Westmalle) did not start operation until 10 December
                                          1836, almost 50 years after the Revolution. That beer was
                                          exclusively for the monks and is described as “dark and sweet.”
                                          The first recorded sale of beer (a brown beer) was on 1 June
                                          1861.
                                          Outlets in Belgium
                                              Belgium contains thousands of cafés that offer a wide
                                          selection of beers, ranging from perhaps 10 (including bottles)
                                          in a neighbourhood café, to over 1000 in a specialist beer
                                          café. Among the most famous are “Beer Circus,” “L’atelier,”
                                          “Chez Moeder Lambic,” and “Delirium Café” in Brussels; “de
                                          Kulminator” and “Oud Arsenaal” in Antwerp, “De Garre” and
                                          “’t Brugs Beertje” in Bruges, “Het Botteltje” in Ostend,”Het
                                          Hemelrijk” in Hasselt, “Het waterhuis aan de bierkant”, “De
                                          Dulle Griet” and “Trappistenhuis” in Ghent and “De Blauwe
                                          Kater” in Leuven. Although many major brands of beer are
                                          available at most supermarkets, beverage centers located
                                          throughout the country generally offer a far wider selection,
                                          albeit at somewhat higher prices.
                                          Draught and bottled beer
                                             The vast majority of Belgian beers are sold only in bottles.



                                                                                  46   AMBROSIA • September 09
Draught beers tend mostly to be pale lagers, wheat beers,
regional favourites such as Kriek in Brussels or De Koninck in
Antwerp; and the occasional one-off. Customers who purchase a
bottled beer (often called a “special” beer) can expect the beers
to be served ceremoniously, often with a free snack.
     These days, Belgian beers are sold in brown (or sometimes
dark green) tinted glass bottles (to avoid negative effects of light
on the beverage) and sealed with a cork, a metal crown cap, or
sometimes both. Some beers are bottle conditioned, in which
they are reseeded with yeast so that an additional fermentation
may take place. Different bottle sizes exist: 25 cl, 33 cl, 37.5
cl, 75 cl and multiples of 75. The 37. 5 cl size is usually for
lambics. Other beers are generally bottled in 25 or 33 cl format
(depending on brands). The bigger bottles (75 cl) are sold almost
in every food shop but the choice is often not wide. Bottles
larger than 75 cl are named following the terminology used for
champagne and are limited in quantity. In Belgian cafés, when
someone orders a demi (English: “half”), he receives a 50 cl
(half litre) glass (with beer from the tap, or from 2 bottles of 25
cl) whereas in France, demi means a 25 cl glass.
Serving and glassware
    Virtually every Belgian beer has a branded glass. Beyond the
basic shape of the glass (wide-mouth goblet, curvaceous tulip
glass, tall pilsners, etc), each glass is imprinted with a logo or
name. The brewery usually selects a glass form to accentuate
certain qualities of their beer. A goblet, for example, lets the       Trappist beers are beers brewed in a Trappist
drinker’s nose inhale the beer’s aroma at the same time the            monastery. For a beer to qualify for Trappist
mouth is drinking in the liquid. A tulip glass, for example, is very   certification, the brewery must be in or near
good for foam retention.                                               a monastery, the monks must play a role in
International distribution                                             its production and policies and the profits
    Some draught beer brands produced by InBev — Stella                from the sale must be used to support the
Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe — are available in several                monastery and/or social programmes outside
European countries. Aside from these, mostly bottled beer is
exported across Europe. Cafés exclusively or primarily offering
Belgian beers exist beyond Belgium in Australia, Canada,                    Abbey beers (Bières d’Abbaye or Abdijbier) are brewed by
France, the United Kingdom and the United States, amongst              commercial brewers, and license their name from abbeys, some
others. In North America, a growing number of draught Belgian          defunct, some still operating. The most internationally well-
beer brands are becoming available, often at “Belgian Bars”.           known brand of Abbey beer is InBev’s Leffe. Others include
Among these brands are Brasserie Brunehaut, Karmeliet, Kwak,           Grimbergen, Tripel Karmeliet, Maredsous, St. Bernardus, Saint-
Maredsous, Mont Saint-Aubert. Palm, Rodenbach and St.                  Feuillien, Floreffe, and Val-Dieu.
Feuillien.                                                                  Abbey beers mainly came into being following World War
Trappist beers                                                         II when Trappist beers experienced a new popularity. The Abbey
     Trappist beers are beers brewed in a Trappist monastery. For      beers were developed to take advantage of the public’s interest
a beer to qualify for Trappist certification, the brewery must be in   in the Trappist beers. This is why the single key component of an
or near a monastery, the monks must play a role in its production      Abbey beer is its name: there is always the name of a monastery
and policies and the profits from the sale must be used to support     (either real or fictitious). Like the Trappist beers, Abbey beers
the monastery and/or social programmes outside. Only seven             do not connote a single beer style, but rather a marketing term;
monasteries currently meet these qualifications, six of which          however, since the purpose of Abbey beers is to imitate the
are in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. The current Trappist        Trappists, most of their beers are in the familiar dubbel or tripel
producers are Achel, Chimay, Koningshoeven (the Netherlands),          styles.
Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Trappist beer
is a controlled term of origin: it tells where the beers come          Belgian beer types
from; it is not the name of a beer style. Beyond saying they are       Speciale Belge
mostly ales; the beers produced by the Trappist have very little           Beers similar to the traditional Pale Ales of England. A
in common.                                                             notable example is the 5% abv De Koninck brand, with its
Abbey beers                                                            distinctive spherical glasses (called ‘bollekes’). It is popular in




                                                                                                                  47   AMBROSIA • September 09
its native city of Antwerp. Another is Palm Speciale. Some, such
as Vieux Temps, were based on British styles to please troops
stationed in Belgium during World War.                               A few Belgian
Blonde or Golden Ale                                                 beers are pale and
    Duvel is the archetypal Belgian blonde ale, and one of the       assertively hopped,
most popular bottled beers in the country as well as being well-     like an India Pale
known internationally. Its name means “Devil” and some other         Ale. De Ranke’s “XX
blonde beers follow the theme -- Satan, Lucifer, Brigand, Piraat     Bitter” has a British-
and so on. The style is popular with Wallonian brewers, the
                                                                     style name. Poperings
slightly hazy Moinette being the best-known example. Delirium
Tremens can be considered a spiced version.
                                                                     Hommelbier is
Dubbel                                                               another example,
    Dubbel has a characteristic brown colour. It is one of the       hailing from Belgium’s
classic Abbey/Trappist types, having been developed in the 19th      hop-growing district
century at the Trappist monastery in Westmalle. Today, some
commercial brewers using abbey names call their strong brown
beers “Dubbel”. Typically, a dubbel is between 6 and 8% abv.
In addition to the dubbels made by most Trappist breweries,
examples include Sint Bernardus Pater, Maredsous 8 and Witkap
Dubbel. Dubbels are characteristically bottle conditioned.
Enkel                                                               Hop-accentuated beers
    This beer is the basic recipe for what was traditionally a           A few Belgian beers are pale and assertively hopped, like
range of three beers of increasing alcohol content. Unlike the      an India Pale Ale. De Ranke’s “XX Bitter” has a British-style
words “dubbel” and “tripel”, it is currently not in use by either   name. Poperings Hommelbier is another example, hailing from
Trappists or abbey breweries as the name of a beer.                 Belgium’s hop-growing district.
Flemish Red                                                         Lambic beers (including Gueuze and Fruit Lambics)
    Typified by Rodenbach, the eponymous brand that                      Lambic is a wheat beer brewed in the Pajottenland region of
started this type over a century ago, this beer’s distinguishing    Belgium (southwest of Brussels) by spontaneous fermentation.
features from a technical viewpoint are specially roasted malt,     Most modern beers are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of
fermentation by a mixture of several ‘ordinary’ top-fermenting      brewer’s yeasts, Lambic’s fermentation, however, is produced by
yeasts and a lactobacillus culture (the same type of bacteria       exposure to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to
yoghurt is made with) and maturation in oak. The result is a        the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. The beer then undergoes
mildly strong ‘drinking’ beer with a deep reddish-brown colour      a long aging period ranging from three to six months (considered
and a distinctly acidic, sour yet fruity and mouthy taste.          “young”) to two or three years for mature. It is this unusual process
                                                                    which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery,
                                                                    with a slightly sour aftertaste. Lambic can be broken into three
                                                                    subclasses: Gueuze, Kriek and Framboise, and Faro.
                                                                         The first of these, gueuze, blends both old and young
                                                                    mixtures to stimulate a second fermentation. Many are laid down
                                                                    like fine wines to age for several more years. In its most natural
                                                                    form, Lambic is a draught beer which is rarely bottled and thus
                                                                    only available in its area of production and a few cafes in and
                                                                    around Brussels. Major brands include Mort Subite, Belle-Vue,
                                                                    Cantillon and Saint-Louis. Some more mainstream brewers like
                                                                    Mort Subite and Saint-Louis do not subscribe to the orthodox
                                                                    rules of lambic production, adding extra sugars to sweeten their
                                                                    beers. Gueuze, also known informally as Brussels Champagne,
                                                                    is a sparkling beer produced by combining a young Lambic with
                                                                    more mature vintages. Exponents of this style are Girardin, Oud
                                                                    Beersel, 3 Fonteinen, Cantillon and Boon. Fruit beers are made
                                                                    by adding fruit or fruit concentrate to Lambic beer. The most
                                                                    common type is Kriek (made with cherries). Other fruits used
                                                                    are raspberry (Framboos), peach and blackcurrant. Kriek and
                                                                    Framboos blend the fruit to trigger the second fermentation. The
                                                                    last of the Lambic brews, Faro, adds sugar or caramel to prompt
                                                                    the fermentation.




                                                                                                               48   AMBROSIA • September 09
Oud bruin or Flemish sour brown ale                                  Belgian beers in India
Pils or pale lager
   This style makes up the bulk of beer production and               Belgian beers are just making
consumption in Belgium as in other European countries.               space in the Indian beer market
Belgian Pilsners are not particularly distinctive or renowned by     through companies like Cerana.
connoisseurs, although some brands are internationally known.        With headquarter in New Delhi; the
Saison                                                               company has been in stealth mode
    Bottle-conditioned farmhouse pale ales, brewed mainly in         for the last six months. Though it
the French-speaking region of Wallonia. The saison or seasonal       focuses on specialty “Craft Beers”
beers are somewhat low in alcohol (by Belgian standards) and         from around the World, the portfolio
are characterised by a light to medium body. The lighter and         includes some exclusive import and
often fruitier taste makes them ideal for the warmer season.         distribution rights in India for about
Scotch ales                                                          more than 50 Beers, the largest of          Ankur Jain
    These sweet, heavy-bodied brown ales represent a style           its kind in perhaps all of Asia (and
which originated in the British Isles. The Caledonian theme is       certainly in India). It also cover
usually heavily emphasised with tartan and thistles appearing on     major beer styles and beer regions including award winning brews
labels. Examples include Gordon’s, Scotch de Silly and Achouffe      from Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Around 18 of
McChouffe.                                                           those brands are already being launched in Oct-Nov 2008 in Delhi,
Stout                                                                Bangalore and Mumbai.
    Belgian stouts subdivide into sweet and dry versions, with             Few of the major brands from his portfolio are Wheat Beers
considerable variation in strength. Examples include Callewaerts     (Schneider- Bavaria/Munich, Germany – Called the Champagne of
and Ellezelloise Hercules. The sweeter versions resemble the         Wheat beers, the oldest wheat brewery in the world and credited
almost-defunct British style “Milk stout”, while the stronger        with inventing the wheat beer style), (Aventinus – Dark Wheat Beer,
ones are sometimes described as Imperial stouts.                     Trappist Ales – Traditionally Brewed by Monks ), (Biere de Chimay
Table beer                                                           (official importer and distributor for India) Chimay Red, Chimay
     Table beer is a low-alcohol (typically not over 1.5%) brew      Triple, Chimay Blue, Trappist Rochefort (the rarest and most prized
sold in large bottles to be enjoyed with meals. The last decade      of the Trappists) Rochefort No 6, Rochefort No 8 and Rochefort
it has gradually lost popularity due to the growing consumption      No 10 (11.3% alcohol by volume!). Trappist La Trappe – the only
of soft drinks and bottled water. It comes in blonde or brown        Trappist Brewery outside of Belgium, La Trappe Dubel (‘Double”),
versions. Table beer used to be served in school refectories until   La Trappe Tripel (“Tripel”) and La Trappe Quadrupel (“Quadruple”).
the 1970s; in the early 21st century, several organisations made     Farmhouse Ales – Dupont, Saison Dupont – Called the “Best Beer
proposals to reinstate this custom as the table beer is considered   in the World” by Men’s World Magazine. Moinette- First Certified
healthier than soft drinks.                                          ORGANIC Beer to be launched in India.
Tripel                                                                     Few other brands introduced in the Indian market are Jenlain
    Traditionally, this was the strongest (in alcohol) of a range    - Jenlain Amber, Jenlain Blonde and the First French Beers to be
of Trappist beers. Although the version developed by Westmalle       launched in India. Kerkom - Bink Blonde and Winterkoninkse –
in 1934 was blond, colour can range to near-black (Westvleteren      Specialty “Winter” beer – with taste of aniseed. Noveau Beers are
and Rochefort, for example). After the Second World War, when        brewed by iconoclastic brewers and defy traditional categorizations.
abbey beer was developed, the traditional Trappist types were              De Ranke beers include Guldenberg, XX Bitter and Kriek De
copied. Much more recently, “tripel” has been adopted as a beer      Ranke – a champagne like “Cherry” beer – made with real cherries,
name by a number of breweries both inside and outside Belgium.       the fruit beers that Belgium is so famous for.
White
    This type of beer, commonly called witbier in Dutch, biėre
Blanche in French and Wheat beer in English, originated in the       very successful and famous.Some notable current examples are
Flemish part of Belgium in the middle Ages. Traditionally, it is     Celis White, Blanche de Namur and Watou’s Wit. Their alcohol
made with a mixture of wheat and barley. Before hops became          strength is about 5-6 per cent ABV, and these beers can be quite
widely available in Europe, beers were flavoured with a mixture      refreshing, especially during the warm summer months. The
of herbs called gruit. In the later years of the middle Ages, hops   herb mixture traditionally includes coriander and orange peel,
were added to the gruit. That mixture continues today in most        among other herbs. White beers also have moderate light grain
Belgian/Dutch white beers. The production of this type of beer       sweetness from the wheat used.
in Belgium had nearly ended by the late 1950s. In the town of        Winter or Christmas beers
Hoegaarden, the last witbier brewery, Tomsin, closed its doors           Many breweries produce special beers during December.
in 1955. However, ten years later, a young farmer, by the name       Most contain more alcohol than the brewery’s other types of
of Pierre Celis, in the same village decided to try reviving the     beer and may also contain spicing. An annual beer festival in
beer. In 1966, Celis began brewing a wit beer in his farm house.     Essen, Belgium focuses on this type of beer with over 150 beers
Ultimately, his beer took the name of the village and became         available for tasting in 2008.




                                                                                                                 49   AMBROSIA • September 09

				
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