Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lock Up the Spice Cabinet, Throw Away the Key.

When I visit breweries for fun it's usually the little guys. My thinking has been that life is too short to visit a bunch of places that don't interest me. An upshot of this: I'm still easily impressed by massive lagering tanks and gymnasium-sized bottling systems. It was in that mindset that I thoroughly enjoyed a tour of Du Bocq this week. (And big thanks to Randy for organizing that for us.)

Du Bocq's beers generally run spicier and sweeter than I like, but the brewery obviously has its fans. Most interesting factoid: Each of Du Bocq's beers – from Saison Regal to Gauloise to Triple Moine and more – is brewed with four spices, according to our guide. All four – coriander, ginger, orange peel and anise – go into ALL of Du Bocq's beers, she said. I asked for clarification because I thought that must be a mistake. It seems the presence of those four spices never varies, although the amounts vary depending on the beer. We can guess that the Gauloise Brune, for example, may have very little orange peel while the Blanche de Namur has very little anise, for example.

(I get annoyed when American homebrewing books offer up Belgian style-recipes loaded with unnecessary spices. It's as if they think a Belgian recipe isn't Belgian until you've emptied the spice cabinet. Where they get these silly ideas?)

An exception to Bocq's four-spices rule would be the beers made on contract for other firms. Theoretically and officially those are made according to the original recipes. But if you've ever had Bocq's sweetish, soupy-spicy version of St Feuillien Blonde, you've really got to wonder...

Anyway, the highlight was the prolonged, post-tour tasting in the brewery's courtyard. We were lucky to get a warm sunny day. It was still beer and a damned enjoyable morning. And afterward I think I appreciate the little guys just a little bit more.

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