Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Favorite Belgians

To be clear, I'm not talking about Dr. Evil or René Magritte here - rather, I'm referring to a couple of my favorite Belgian ales. Belgian beer comes in a variety of styles, including golden ales, white beers (witbier, e.g. Hoegaarden), Trappist ales, and Abbey ales (e.g. Leffe), among others. While there are a lot of these worth talking about, I've picked a couple of my favorites, Chimay Triple (white) and Duvel as the subject of this post.

Chimay produces a number of Trappist ales, brewed in the Scourmont Abbey. Their Triple, (known as Cinq Cents in the 750 mL bottle) with the white label has always been my favorite. The Chimay website speaks of two fermentations (as compared with Duvel's three, below, but the actual process appears similar) - a top fermentation followed by bottle conditioning. According to the site:

The yeast is a primary constituent. It is this that makes the story of Chimay beer. In fact, the yeast was selected by Father Theodore in 1948. His work was to isolate the yeast cells and cultivate them, make some "micro-brews" and then, of course, to evaluate the flavour and brewing qualities. When he had isolated the best strain, Father Theodore propagated it selectively.

Duvel (which means "Devil" in Flemish) is a "strong golden ale" and is made from Scottish Yeast, Czech hops, Barley from France and local Belgian water. The beer undergoes 3 fermentations - the first is a top fermentation taking place at a temp of 64-82F, the second is a "lagering" process at 27F, the tertiary step is a "bottle conditioning" whereby additional yeast is added prior to bottling and aged first at around 72F, then for a longer period (about 6 weeks) at 41F. It is this lengthy process which prompts the website to proclaim "Guaranteed not Fresh!".

Following are my tasting notes for these two beers which were served straight from the fridge in a wide-mouthed snifter approximating the glasses shown in the pictures:

Chimay Triple
Color - Dark golden, amber, slightly hazy
Nose - Malty, cereal grains, yeast
Palate - Full-bodied, round, malty. Complex, with some dark, raisin-spice notes.
Finish - Malty, smooth, complex

Color - Light gold, slightly hazy
Nose - Bright hoppy elements. Crisp, mouthwatering
Palate - Fruity hoppiness continues, well balanced, crisp. Some yeasty/doughy flavors.
Finish - Crisp, bitter hops. Very nice.

Pour yourself a glass of these delicious, yeasty brews. And if someone happens to catch you with some beer foam on your upper lip and nose, you can proudly proclaim "That's how we drink it in Belgium. It's called a Belgian Dip." - to quote Dr. Evil.