Saturday, December 19, 2009

Belgian Beer - simply the best!

Note: A slight change in scenery. This post is from my recent trip to Belgium.

I admit, before my trip to Belgium I only had a passing knowledge about Belgian beers. Mainly the brands I see at the liquor store - Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, that's about it. (For some reason i actually assumed Stella was a British import). However, after a week going around the country drinking at different pubs with my friends Luc and Carl, highlighted by our visit to St. Sixtus abbey in Westvleteren, I have seen the light.

Beer is to Belgium as wine is to France. Beer drinking culture pervades this tiny country of 10.6 million people, with 150 breweries producing about 800 different types of specialty beer ranging from the world-renowned Trappist (brewed by monks inside monasteries), lambic (“wild” beers produced by spontaneous fermentation), and kriek (lambic beer mixed with cherries, a “ladies” beer), to mention a few.

In short, Belgians appreciate variety and high quality stuff, and despite the relatively high alcohol contents of their beers they rarely drink to excess nor get drunk.

One of the highlights of my week-long trip in Belgium was sampling a wide variety of their home brews with my friends Luc and Carl, both of them beer connoisseurs whose houses are equipped with beer cellars. Their precious bottles reside there awaiting to be popped open on some unknown date for a special occasion.

Thanks to these two beer masters who served as drinking buddies and teachers, my beer adventures were loads of fun (as you shall see), and my crash course in Belgian Beer 101 ensures that I will never order a Bud Light again. Ever. Nor a Heineken ("80% Marketing, 20% Beer", sniffs Carl).

Follow our adventures in this beer slide show that I created. Note that each beer comes in its own distinctive glass with its own logo. Serving a Westmalle in a Chimay glass is guaranteed to incur the wrath of Belgian beer fans. Drinking from the bottle (as we do here) is an even bigger no-no. No plastic cups, por favor.

Pictured: Kwak beer served in its distinctive tall round bottomed glass, held in place by a wooden stand. Read a fantastic anecdote about this drinking adventure here.

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