Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Belgian Beer Tasting

There was a time not long ago when I hated Belgian sour beers. Hated them with a passion. My favorite phrase when referring to something I felt disdain for was 'it stinks like a Belgian ale'.

But, as the years roll by for me as a homebrewer and now as a homebrew instructor, I recognized how important beer is in my life and I made a decision to subdued my narrow opinions with the idea of expanding my knowledge and appreciation for all of the styles of beer.

Now it's an adventure for me, an adventure into the discovery of my fear of the unusual and how closed minded I can be regarding unfamiliar flavors. Looking back over my history of beer drinking, I didn't spend too much time pondering the taste of the beer I drank. For the most part, if it was cold and refreshing with a mild and pleasant taste, I was satisfied. Having gone through my high school years in Golden, Colorado, my preference naturally was for Coors. Some years later it was Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon, and I stuck with what I knew, which was light lagers. It's strange to think that I didn't even consider looking beyond this style of beer for something different. I can only attribute this behaviour to my need for the comfort of the familiar and also that the cultural attitude towards beer was quite different than it is today. At that time, buying Michelob was thinking outside the box.

It wasn't until I was in my late thirties that I considered a beer as flavorful as Sierra Nevada and frankly, I can't remember why I even tried it. I don't think I was so much trapped in the mundane as I was comforted by the familiar but this often showed up with a pretentious disregard for anything new that bordered on arrogance. Nobody was going to convince me that there were better beers to be had. These knee jerk  reactions prevented me from exploring the many great beers to be had at the time.

The reason I'm dredging up these old memories and the epiphanies that I garnered along the way is because I attended a Belgian Beer tasting this last Sunday in Boulder Creek. Fellow Zymurgeek Larry, freshly back from a beer tour and vacation in Belgium had the fortitude and forethought to collect and ship to the states a massive quantitiy of Belgian ales. We benefited from his effort and generosity by getting to taste a variety of some of the booty. We gathered at Larry's house and got comfortable to spend the day sampling beers from six breweries that included a total of eleven different beers. Talk about pace yourself. My eyes grew to the size of saucers as I looked over a selection of the beers that we planned to taste. This is an awesome collection of Belgian spontaneously fermented beers that most are difficult if not impossible to find in the U.S.

Here is a list of the beer that we drank.
Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Oude Kriek and Doesjel Oude Lambik

Hanssens Oude Gueuze, Oude Kriek and Oudbeitje

Cantillon's Lou Pepe Kriek and Lou Pepe Framboise

Oud Beersel
Oud Kriek

Lindeman’s Cuvee Renee Kriek

Girardin's Kriek, Oud Beersel and Oude Kriek

We also tasted the club 'barrel' project which is a fine caliber of it's own. Very tasty and with a nice balance of funk and fruit.

 As we sampled the beers we also enjoyed I nice spread of snacks including assorted cold sausages, an assortment of homemade cheese, bread, raw veggies and a lambic cheese made from Cantillon gueuze.

For the most part I was partial to the straight gueuze, the beers with berries cast a heavy flavor profile and tend to overshadow the more subtle barnyard type flavors that interest me in this style.  I want to thank Larry here for making this event happen and having the forethought to consider his fellow homebrewers while on vacation. Your generosity is most appreciated.

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