Five cool bottles of Belgian beer on the wall
Beer Blog #2
Belgian Beer is the shit! It’s the godfather of the craft brewing industry. Without Belgian beer, the American craft brewing industry wouldn’t even exist. If beer were hip hop, Belgium would be Grandmaster Flash, with the Sugar Hill Gang playing the role of Germany. (America would be Dr Dre.) The Germans brought beer to a wider audience, but Belgians made it great. And they keep on producing. Here’s five Belgian beers currently on the shelves (in limited quantities) at Downtown Spirits that prove that point. And quite honestly, I’m surprised they’re even still of on my shelves!
#1 De Ranke XXX Bitter
I know we all love IPA’s. In this day in age, who doesn’t? Around this time of year, triple IPA’s are all the rage, so why not go for a jacked of version of De Ranke’s classic XX Bitter. They took their classic noble hop masterpiece of a Belgian IPA and made it, for lack of a better phrase, bigger. It was a onetime brew in which they overloaded pretty much everything; without sacrificing the balanced flavor and without putting the alcohol level too much higher than the original. At this point in its life, the hop characteristics have faded slightly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still delicious. Even the bottle says it’s best before 2018 and that’s 3 years away. Now that’s an IPA that could sail around the Cape of Good Hope.
#2 Scaldis Prestige de Nuit
Amazing Belgian beer aged in wine barrels from one of the greatest addresses in France? Yes please! Côte de Nuit is one of the preeminent wine districts at the heart of France’s famous pinot noir growing region known as Burgundy. Using the barrels from an even smaller sub district, Nuit-St-George, the folks at Scaldis were able to make their Noël strong ale taste like heaven in a bottle. The wine barrel flavor adds just enough oomph to an already amazing beer to make it that much better.
#3 Oude Gueuze Tilquin Quetsche and Oude Gueuze Tilquin Squared
I’m doubling this one up because both these beers are rare variations of one of the best examples of gueuzes on the planet. The regular Tilquin Gueuze is the one of the flag bearers of the style, blending lambics from 3 different years and from some of the best Lambic houses in Belgium, into a sour, funky treat. The Quetsche is that same blending with plum juice added, something they only do once a year and in very limited quantities. The squared is a version that, due to over-carbonation, had to be taken out of the bottles and put back into barrels before being put back into bottles, making it a truly one of a kind beer.
#4 De Cam Oude Lambiek
Want to know what separates a good lambic blending house from a great one? The master blender. And Karel Goddeau is one of the greatest, having been involved with several fantastic breweries, including 3 Fonteinen and Proef Browerij, before becoming the master blender at De Cam. The Oude Lambiek, however, is not a blend like the geuezes listed above. It’s a straight lambic with a minimum of 3 years of aging. And the coolest part about it is that it’s completely still, which is hardly ever bottled let alone shipped to the United States. This is definitely one of the rarer bottles you will find in the shop.
#5 Hof ten Dormaal Barrel Project
Traditional beer made by a family on a self-sustaining farm in the Belgian countryside. If that doesn’t scream old world brewing then you need a hearing aid. Andre Janssens and his family have only been brewing since 2009, yet they’ve already become legends in the brewing world. They are one of the few, if not the only, commercial breweries to be completely self-sufficient. They grow their own grains and hops, they cultivate their own yeast strains, and they power the whole operation with rapeseed oil produced on their centuries old farm. The only thing they ever have to bring to the brewery is the barrels used for their super limited barrel aged project series. For this series, the family behind Hof ten Dormaal hand selects barrels from some of the finest wine and spirits makers across Europe and then ages either their special golden or dark ale in these carefully selected barrels. The barrels used for this project range in style from smoky, peaty Islay scotch barrels from Bruichladdich to sweet sauternes wine barrels from France. Each variation is as unique as a snowflake, and they are all incredibly delicious.