Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Beery News from Brussels.

So I'm tempted to bore you with long descriptions of our meals in Languedoc, where pretty much all we did was eat. My lasting memories of that brief trip will be the sight and scent of a steaming bowl of cassoulet, with one or to duck legs poking out of it, next to a glass of red wine. Maybe it's possible to get tired of cassoulet. I never found that threshold.

But I'll save it. Instead I have a few news items. Odd thing for a blog to have, I know.

The Good Daughter: As brewer Ronald Mengerink of Dochter van de Korenaar told us in a recent post, they have a new beer coming out next week. The Embrasse at 9% abv will be the strongest Dochter offering so far, following the refreshing Noblesse (5.5%) and smoky Bravoure (6.5%). The official launch is December 12. Those who attend the upcoming Christmas Beer Festival in Essen will have the chance to try it.

I'm curious about the beer and why they went for a strong one. Many of you abroad will not realize this, but there is a lot of strong, shitty beer in Belgium. The importers generally pick out the good stuff for you. Often the strong ones are too sweet (for me). In this case Ronald's aim, he says, is a malty beer with a cleaner yeast profile than other Belgians. All malt, no adjuncts. His past beers show a willingness to add hops, dimension and character. I'm optimistic.

By the way, I've been mistranslating that brewery's name in my own mind for a while now. Like a stupid tourist I assumed it meant the "Doctor from Korenaar" and was too lazy too look it up. In fact, it means "daughter of the corn ear." It's a reference to a quote from Ghent-born Charles V, who preferred beer – the "daughter of the corn ear" – to wine, the "blood of the grape bunch." And if I've still got it wrong, somebody please let me know.

American Invasion: The Delirium Café here in Brussels has revamped its newsletter, and it looks pretty slick. My sincere thanks to Stephen D'Arcy for passing it on via e-mail, since I keep forgetting to subscribe myself. But none of that is news. The news is that Delirium plans to add five new taps in the upstairs Taphouse, bringing the total to 30. OK, that's still not news either. What interests me is that all five taps are apparently designated for American beers.

American beer geeks may read that and think, "So what?" But you've got to understand the local context. Non-Belgian beer is still nearly impossible to get in Belgium. (Everyone here is a Belgian beer lover, even if they only drink commercial pils. An old fella will point at a can of Jupiler when he tells you that Belgian beer is the best in the world.) This is a market that takes its own stuff for granted. Interesting beers and ideas from the outside can only be a good thing – even if it only leads to Belgian brewers to rejecting overhopped beers, for example, and doing what they do best.

But surely I'm making too much out of it. It's only a few taps at one café, right? Well, no. Moeder Lambic also makes occasional rumblings about adding an American beer or two, perhaps at its downtown location expected to open next year. That place will have a lot of taps too. You heard it here first.

If foreign craft beer is going to get a foothold in Belgium, that is how it will happen. Then, maybe much later, Sierra Nevada at Delhaize. But let's not hold our breath.

Hopduvel is back: It allegedly reopens sometime around December 15, per a post on the Babblebelt. No other details yet. Interestingly, my old post on its closure gets a lot of hits. Let's hope it comes back better than ever.


  1. I have to admit I giggled a little bit insanely when I read "Interesting beers and ideas from the outside can only be a good thing" written from a Belgian context :) Living next door to you I know what you mean, but knowing how creative Belgian brewers seem to be I'm completely jealous!

    I was thrilled to find a bar selling Rochefort here in Muenster last weekend! :D

  2. Adeptus, just out of curiosity, how much do you pay for a Rochefort or for a similar foreign beer in a bar in Münster?

  3. Oh, there are loads of creative Belgian brewers. Creativity and expressive yeast are their strengths. Unfortunately, those strengths do not always translate to tasty, drinkable beer.

    Less boring than Germany, I guess.

    But Belgium and Germany are similar in that the everyday drinkers are just sure that their country makes the best beer. Even if they've never tried anyone else's.

  4. Peter, I didn't check the price on the Rochefort (it wasn't listed in the menu, otherwise I would have got one!) but I got a bottle of Black Sheep Riggwelter (5.7%) in the same bar and it cost me €5.60. I'd probably pay €5 for it in a bar in Dublin, or maybe around the same price, but in German terms it was steep. In another bar I got a Newcastle Brown Ale and a Belhaven Stout and it was 3.60 for a half litre on draught. I'll post about the prices once I find out. Actually, I was told yesterday there's a stall in the Christmas market selling foreign beers. Haven't had a chance to check yet.

    Joe, yeah, it's all relative really, isn't it? I have to admit I'm enjoying trying as many German beers as I can because it has reset my palate to appreciate more subtle flavours. Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it :)

    I must check out the train schedule to Essen...

  5. Yo, you don't need an excuse to enjoy German beers! In fact I'll be enjoying them all of next week... and unfortunately I'll miss Essen this year. We'll be on our way back from Austria.

  6. Oh, I'm looking forward to your reports from Germania :D Where will you be visiting?

  7. Stuttgart area to see friends, then a few days in Munich, then a couple days in the Alps on the Austrian side. Maybe a ski day if we're lucky with weather.