Friday, April 18, 2008

Belgian Brewers are Famous Liars.

So, Sunday is Open Brewing Day in Belgium. Twenty-eight breweries will open their doors to you and other rabble.

It's not exactly a representative cross-section of Belgian beer-makers. They are mostly medium- to large-sized breweries, and mostly Flemish. Of course there are exceptions to both. Have a look at the list and see what grabs your fancy. Here are three that are on my radar:

3 Fonteinen: Lambicmeister Armand Debelder has been busy putting together a new lambic-tasting café that will be attached to the brewery and shop. At this café, amateurs and connoisseurs will be able to sample his usual beers plus a range of special (and possibly expensive) editions. Some have been waiting in his cellar for years just for the opportunity to slide across my palate, I'm sure of it. His plan was to have the café ready to open, at least temporarily for Sunday. There is some suspense (in my mind, anyway) about whether it will be ready. Even if it's not, I recommend a full-on meal in brother Guido's restaurant. Wash it down with a pitcher of kriekenlambic. I promise you won't regret it.

Dubuisson: As the Belgian Beer Board reported over on its forum, the brewery known for the mighty Bush barley wine should have something special available. The Christmas version of Bush as been aging for seven months in a French burgundy barrel. Apparently there will be several barrels more using the Bush amber. This is a strong and sweet but complex brew in its original form, and it will be very interesting to see what the wood does to it. I'm a drinker, not a brewer, so I don't really see how it can go wrong. So it's worth a visit to Pipaix on Sunday to find out.

Légendes: Two of the better Hainaut craft breweries, Géants and Ellezelloise, recently merged to become Brasserie des Légendes. The union marries witches to giants, but by all appearances we are still talking about two separate breweries with a shared name. The Géants part of the brewing goes on in Irchonwelz and Sunday gives you a chance to see a working brewery inside a rehabbed old castle. In the past the brewery has been open only on summer Sunday afternoons, but last summer I believe they were closed for renovation. The other brewery, in Ellezelles, makes a few of my favorite beers with its Saison 2000, Saisis blanche and Hercule Stout. That's not on the list for Sunday, but in fact the Ellezelloise tasting room is open to the public most days of the week.

Regarding the headline: I kid. But when visiting any brewery you're advised to be polite and proclaim your love for all its beers. Nod your head, smile, and accept any sort of nonsense the brewers tell you. Just take it all with a healthy grain of salt.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, But I Like Them Too.

The clouds part, the sun peeks out. Temperatures rise, a little. Flowers bloom and moods lift. Most importantly: beer cravings undergo a seismic shift. Out with the winter warmers, the sippers, the savorers. In with the quaffers and refreshers. The mouth waters for witbiers, saisons and lambics. And ales go from brown to blonde, sweet to hoppy.

Today I went with a bud to the Abbey of Sint-Sixtus to rescue him some Westvleteren 12. Holy grail of beers, and all that. But I was happy to find the blonde for sale in the cafe's shop. This is in the heart of West Flanders hop country, and this is one of Belgium's hoppier blondes. It offers some yeasty citrus notes and no bullshit spicing. It's even thirst-quenching at 5.8% alcohol, though its rarity makes sessionability dubious.

It's sort of like this: Every guy in town wants to date her two big sisters. But I've got my eye on the little wallflower.