Tuesday, October 03, 2006

September 2006 - Beligan Beers

This month’s Memphis Beer Club is featuring “Big” beers from Belgium. Belgian beer comprises the most varied and numerous collections of beers in the world. Belgian beer-brewing's origins go back to the Middle-Ages, when monasteries began producing beers. Unlike in other European countries, Belgian beer production remained alive due to the 1919 Belgian "Vandervelde Act", that prohibited the sale of spirits in pubs, inducing the market to produce beers with a higher level of alcohol. The Vandervelde Act was lifted as late as 1983.

Although beer production in Belgium is now dominated by Inbev (the world's largest brewer by volume) and British Scottish & New Castle, there remain 115 breweries in the country, producing about 500 standard beers. When special one-off beer styles are included, the total number of types of Belgian beer exceeds 1000. The yearly consumption per capita in Belgium is 26 gallons vs. the US consumption of 22 gallons (I think this group exceeds that by about 22 gallons).

It is also the only place in the world were you will find authentic Trappist beers brewed under strict conditions at one of the seven monasteries – Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle, Archel and La Trappe. This month we will try 7 Belgium beers, including one Trappist, and one specialty beer from Jim’s hometown in New York. Jim lived in Belgium for almost two years and listen to Michael Jackson (the beer hunter not the freak) about enjoying all beers that Belgium could offer. I have see Jim’s beer glass collection and he must of really enjoyed the beer

The first beer we will be sampling this month is Grimbergen Blond, a Belgian Ale brewe Alken-Maes, part of Scottish & New Castle, in Jumet, Belgium. Grimbergen is the name of ad by group of Belgian abbey beers first brewed in 1128 at the abbey that Saint Norbert of Xanten built for the Norbertine monks in Grimbergen.

They became famous for providing hospitality and their home-brewed beer to visitors, and handed down the recipe over the centuries. Grimbergen Blond has a slight hoppy aroma, which is less pronounced in the taste. It has quite sweet flavor with a strong hint of vanilla in the aftertaste.

Next will be another Belgian Ale brewed by the Orval Brewery (Brasserie d'Orval) is a Belgian Trappist brewery located within the walls of the Abbey Notre-Dame d'Orval monastery in Villers-Devant-Orval, Belgium. Orval brewery’s symbol of a trout with a ring it its month relates to the legend of Countess Matilda of Tuscany. She arrived in 1076 to visit a group of Italian monks who had settles in the area, after accidentally dropping her wedding ring in the well. She prayed for its return and immediately a trout appeared with a ring in its month. As on act of gratitude, she made a donation to the monks to enable them to build their first abbey, and proclaimed the site “Val d’Or” (golden valley). The Italian monks later moved on and were replaced in 1132 by a new religious community who became affiliated to the Cistercians, later joining the stricter Trappist branch of the order.

In 1637, at the height of the Thirty Years’ War, the monastery was pillaged. Although it recovered form this setback, it 1793 it sacked again and destroyed by French Revolutionary troops. It lay in ruins until 1931, employing lay people and intended to provide a source of funds for the monastery reconstruction. It was designed by Henry Vaes, who also designed the distinctive Orval beer glass. The first beer was shipped from the brewery on 7 May 1932, and was sold in barrels rather than the bottles of today. Orval was the first Trappist beer to be sold nationally around Belgium.

Orval has a potent herbal hop aroma and intensely dry flavor with a hint on tart berry flavor. Triple –fermentation and dry-hopped with Bavarian Hallertua and Styrian Goldings hops, it is primed with liquid candy sugar before bottling to promote continued fermentation.

The first Abbey Triple Style that we will be trying is Corsendonk Pater (Abbey Brown Ale) made by Du Bocq, same as Moine Triple. The brand name refers to the Priory of Corsendonk in Oud-Turnhout, which was founded in 1398 and, until it was closed in 1784, had a significant brewery and malt house. In 1982 the Corsendonk brand was introduced by the Keersmaekers firm in Oud-Turnhout, a former brewery which had become a retailer even though it continued to call itself a brewery. The beers are made elsewhere and are not unique for Corsendonk; the same beers are marketed by other brands as well.

The Duke of Brabant’s daughter Maria bequeathed here estate to the Augustine Order. The estate became Corsendonk Priory, and gained an nternational reputation for its scriptorium and library. The Priory had the only Greek Bible in the Low Countries, but a in the 1500’s the building were sacked during religious and political unrest. It was restored in the 1600’s, during which time it was known to have a brewery. It finally closed in 1784, but the Priory buildings were restored in 1969.

These beers are a creation of Jef Keersmaeker. He is from a long distinguished brewing family. As stated earlier the beer is brewed by Du Bocq. In the Begging, Du Bocq Brewery was just used in the winter, when the workers in the farm had less to do. After the World War I, the beer La Gauloise was first brewed and gained immediate success. All the farm activities and the door-to-door deliveries were stopped in 1960. Seven years later, it took over the Brasserie central from Marbaix-La-Tour.

The next Abbey Triple Style is brewed in Tilburg, Netherlands by Bierbrouwerji de Koningshoeven, La Trappe Triple, Koningshoeven Triple in the United States. De Koningshoeven Brewery (Brouwerij de Koningshoeven) is a Dutch Trappist brewery founded in 1884 within the walls of the abbey Onze Lieve Vrouw van Koningshoeven.

The abbey opened a brewery inside the monastery in 1884 in order to finance the monastery and contribute to charitable causes. Despite this goal, the brewery was run as a commercial enterprise. The abbey owned several bars in the area and produced lager under its own Trappist brand as well as several private labels. In 1969, the abbey licensed the brewing operations to Artois (now InBev). In 1980 the deal with Artois ended, and the monks went back to brewing themselves, this time a top fermented beer which had been made in limited quantities since the 1950's only. Over time the brewery introduced more varieties, first with the Dubbel and Tripel in 1987, then in 1992 they introduced their Blond. Between 1993 and 2000, the brewery also marketed a variety called Enkel. The brewery also produces the world's only Trappist witbier.

From 1980 until 1999, the brewery was largely run by the monks. Due to the difficulty of the aging monks continuing to operate the brewery, a limited liability company was setup as a subsidiary of the large commercial brewer, Bavaria. In 1999 the new company began to take over day to day operations, renting the buildings and equipment from the abbey. As a result of this agreement, a dispute arose with the International Trappist Association, the body that governs the labeling of goods as Trappist. They claimed that this new method of operation was against the regulations that permitted the beer to display the Authentic Trappist Product logo. Whilst the beer continued to be brewed within the abbey walls, the arrangement with Bavaria was felt to be too commercialized. As a result, the brewery withdrew their use of the logo on 1 December 1999; however the brewery continued to label the beer as Trappistenbier. After a lengthy study by all parties, and a review of the agreement between the abbey and brewery, the beers were granted the right to display the logo again as of September 9, 2005. As part of this settlement, the monks have taken a more active control of the brewery day to day operations, working several hours each day.

The La Trappe Triple is the strongest of the regular ales from the brewery and it has a fiercely bitter hop character, with spicy Goldings hops dominating the aroma. While the palate is a great balance between hop spiciness and the rich fruity malts (with a touch of orange and honey), the high alcohol content leads to a dry finish.

The next beer is from a small Micro-Brewery in Glen Falls, New York, Cooper’s Cave Blind Rock MaiBock. It is an un-pasteurized Bock beer produced by a family owned company. The started the brewery in 1997 when Ed’s job was eliminated when his company moved out of Glen Falls. In 1997 our son Adrian joined us and we found an old machine shop, which we since have purchased. We scrounged up old bulk dairy tanks, old Grundys, and other assorted stainless equipment.

A year and a half of rebuilding and refurbishing and we finally opened for business on St. Patrick's Day 1999. With no advertising and no sign, we immediately sold out of our small quantities and for the first eight months there was a 2 week waiting list to purchase a growler. We're now producing 14 barrels per week and have more than 50 tap handles in the Glens Falls area.The beer that we will be trying is their traditional Bock beer. Bock’s are deep copper to dark brown in color with a medium to full-bodied flavor. Hop flavor and aroma can be light to non-existent.

Next we will be trying a second beer from Grimbergen, Grimbergen Double. Grimbergen Double is an Abbey Double style ale which has the traditional Grimbergen Phoenix Logo. The logo was chosen based upon the abbey’s ability to de born-again out of the ashes. The Abbey was burnt to the ground in the 1700’s and was rebuilt in 1931. The Latin motto on the beer states “burned but not consumed,” on the other hand the beer is most certainly consumed.

The Grimbergen Double is a dark brown ale with a fruity male aroma. It has full –bodied malt flavor with sweet toffee, ripe dark fruit and roasted coffee notes. Even among all of the abbey beers, all of the Grimbergen beers tend to be on the sweet, liquorish side especially notable toward the finish.

The last style we will be sampling is Belgium Strong Ales. The first one is brewed by the Brouwerij Mootgat brewery in Breendonk-Purus, Belgium as Maredsous 8. It began as a community of Bavarian monks, on land donated by a Belgian ecclesiastical printer, and became an abbey in 1878. It commissioned the Mootgat brewery to produce its own label beers in 1963. There are three beers from Maredsous and are distinguished by a number that corresponds to their alcohol content.

Maredsous 8 has a deep tawny color and a body that is light for the strength of beer. It has a sweeter palate with hints of chocolate and coffee towards the finish.

The last beer of the night is Trios Pistoles, brewed by Unibroue. Unibroue is a brewery located in Chambly, Quebec, Canada, that was bought by Sleeman Breweries Ltd. in 2004. The company was incorporated in 1993, and has grown exponentially since then. They began exporting their beers to the United States (under the name "Unibrew") in 1994.

Unibroue makes a wide range of beers, although there is a focus on Belgian-style brews, such as their Maudite ("Damned"), La Fin du Monde ("The End of the World"), and Don de Dieu ("Gift of God"). Most of Unibroue's beers are bottled "on the lees", or containing yeast sediment. This practice provides additional fermentation after bottling, resulting in a beer which ages well if kept in the dark and unrefrigerated, and allowing it to be relatively cheaply shipped to international markets. The yeast gives Unibroue beers a striking cloudy appearance and provides a characteristic element to the taste.

It has been argued that Unibroue, until they were bought by the Ontario-based Sleeman's, made beers for a sovereigntist and nationalist audience, and that their labels invoked myths and stories (e.g. the chasse-galerie on the Maudite label) that appealed to a largely Francophone audience. To fill the void created when Unibroue was bought, a Quebec City-based group has entered into an agreement with the Québec City brewery, La Barberie, to produce a beer called "La Militante".

Trois Pistoles was launched in June of 1997. It contains 9% alcohol and is brewed with roasted malt. Its rich, smooth texture, and the presence of yeast used for in-bottle refermentation give it a very distinctive flavor. It also enhances the flavor of desserts like chocolate mousse and fruit salad, and can even replace coffee as an after dinner drink

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