Sunday, February 26, 2017

Beer glass

The Belgian and his beer glass
By Erik Verdock & Luc De Raedemaeker

Visitors from abroad are baffled when they look at our beer glasses. The Belgian beer glass really is in a world of its own. There is no other country with a greater variety of beer glasses. It is not only the shape that determines the identity of the brewery. Size and style also come into it. Our brewers are going one step further. They often feel that each beer deserves its own glass. Manna from heaven for collectors. They browse flea markets. Collectors websites and trade fairs. The hotel, café and restaurant trade does not always share this enthusiasm. After all, where do you put all those beer glasses? However, the Belgian beer lover has come to expect it. When he orders an Orval, Kwak or Chimay he wants to drink it from the correct glass. Café Anvers has many belgian beer glasses for you to enjoy your belgian beer! So come on down to the café….

The tradition of the beer glass was born in the 19th century. Before then people drank their beer from recaptacles made out of wood, ceramic, metal, porcelain, terra-cotta or enamel. In 14th century Germany introduced closed receptacles for foodstuffs to try and prevent the plague. Beer jugs were covered with a tin lid. This also protected the beer from insects crawling or flying in. The traditional wide, bulbous beer jug is reminiscent of Bavaria. The “pint” is a reference to Great Britain and Ireland. This stable, robust and masculine glass turned into the trademark of Guinness. This glass fits well in the hand and thanks to its shape, slightly wider at the top, the aromas of the stout are done full justice. The jet black color of this beer can be seen forming below the creamy head. In Belgium most beer glasses that were tied to a brand only made their appearance after the war. The current Orval glass dates back to 1947. Just like the iconic “Caétan” pils glass with its ribbed bottom. That particular glass was blown using machinery but cut by hand.

The Head

In recent years the market has been flooded with beer glasses. Marketing execs have been doing overtime and it is hard to find two glasses that are exactly the same. However, the main function of the glass shape is to do justice to the aromas and tastes of the beer. Furthermore, the glass helps to form a beautiful collar of froth that is different for each beer. The majority of beer are a reflection of the beer style involved; the chalice for abbey beers and Trappist beers, the tulip-shaped glass for a strong blond beer or pale ale, the flat, wide, massive bock glass for white beer… The bulbous, balloon-shaped glass is suitable for sark beer and the ribbed glass is characteristic of Pils. These iconic glasses belong to the beer, form part of its identity and are coveted collector’s items. Just think of Hoegaarden, Leffe, Orval, or Chimay. Some breweries are breaking the tried and trusted codes: Dupont, Dubuisson and Van Steenberge to name a few. They elevate the beer glass to a work of art. Others go for coherence by introducing one design across the board. Their beer glasses seamlessly fit the brewery in question, represent the “soul” of the beer and give much tasting pleasure to the drinker. Example include the Trappists, St Feuillien, Bosteels (Triple Karmeliet), De brabanderere (Petrus), Waterloo….The real classic drinking vessels remain the same throughout the decades. Even with closed eyes, you can recognize a Duvel glass. The same goes for the glasses of Val-Dieu, Brasserie du Bocq (Gauloise) and Grimbergen. And then you have the oddballs. This is where originality gets the upper hand on functionality. These glasses “tell a story” There is no Kwak without a coach driver’s glass. Equally, you cannot imagine a Corne du Bois des Pendus without a drinking horn or a Paix-Dieu Pleine Lune without its bulbous moon at an angle, resting on a tall stem.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Beer pipeline in Belgium!

It had long been the stuff of bar-stool fantasies: a beer pipeline that could funnel the staple drink of Belgium beneath the cobbled streets and gothic houses of Bruges.
“Everyone always thought, ‘it’s a dream, it’s a joke, it is something that is not realisable at all,’” said Xavier Vanneste, director and heir to De Halve Maan, Bruges’s only continuously working old brewery.

Now, though, the dream is about to become reality: Belgium’s first major beer pipeline will start pumping beneath Bruges from September.
If all goes to plan, enough beer to fill 12,000 bottles an hour will slosh down the two-mile underground pipeline from De Halve Maan (Half Moon) in the city centre to an out-of-town bottling plant.
Vanneste was inspired when he saw workmen laying broadband cables outside his house and, on the spur of the moment, dashed into the street. “When I started talking to those guys,” he said, “I realised it was possible, it was feasible.”
Bruges hopes beer pipeline will preserve medieval streets and brewing tradition

Laying broadband or gas is one thing; a beer pipeline is something else. No private company had ever been allowed to lay cable under the city’s cobbled lanes and around the renowned medieval buildings that have secured Bruges’s place on the Unesco world heritage list. And at first, city officials were dubious.
“My first reaction was, ‘Oh my God, what are they thinking?’” said the mayor of Bruges, Renaat Landuyt. But it did not take long to win him round, he said, when he realised the pipeline would sharply reduce the number of beer tankers driving in and out of the city.

He sees the pipeline as a way to preserve a working brewery in the historic centre and prevent Bruges from turning into a museum. “If we don’t make sure that people can work in the city centre, we will kill the city centre,” he said.

Brewing on the De Halve Maan site was first recorded in 1564. Vanneste’s ancestor took over the brewery in 1856, where he made “a hazy beer that tastes a little sour”.
Before the second world war, Bruges city centre was home to at least 30 working breweries. At that time beer supplies were delivered by horse and cart to people’s homes and tourists had not yet discovered the city’s Flemish old masters and winding canals. De Halve Maan is the last survivor of that vanished world, although one venerable old brewer recently reopened after a gap of 60 years.
Today, beer is no longer brewed in two-metre deep open vats that have to be scrubbed out with hand cloths and brooms. Instead water, barley, yeast and hops are mixed in four state-of-the-art steel kettles, overlooked by St Arnold, the patron saint of brewing. Several floors up, visitors can stand under the red-brick brewery chimney, with the city’s rooftops spread at their feet and the air rich with the tea-like, malty aroma of brewing beer.

Some financial experts advised Vanneste to close the city brewery – a charming warren of rooms dating back to the 16th century – and move operations to the bland industrial estate housing the bottling plant. But that would have meant De Halve Maan could no longer say its beer was made in Bruges. “For me, Unesco heritage is not only about bricks and material things, but having a living brewery here,” Vanneste says. “That is a part of the immaterial heritage.”
“Bruges is full of tourist traps,” he continues. “You have chocolate that is not made here or even in Belgium. We want to brew every single litre here ... right where it has been brewed for so many centuries, just as Trappist beer is brewed in the abbey or champagne is brewed in the Champagne area.”
So he hired tunnelling experts from the oil and gas industry and Belgium’s top professor in malting and brewing. Laying the pipeline was done using computer-guided drills to minimise street digging. That pleased city planners, but increased costs.

Despite initial doubts from city councillors, the beer pipeline has become an urban hit, sparking endless jokes about illegal tapping points and secret home drilling. Some €300,000 of the €4m (£3.4m) budget was raised through crowdfunding. The most expensive gold membership costs €7,500 and allows the buyer a bottle of blonde Brugse Zot (the Bruges Fool) beer every day for life and 18 personalised glasses.
Local business owners, who have long seen beer tankers struggling to turn around on narrow lanes, are supportive.
Gavin Vandenbroucke is manager of the New Walnut, a family-run brasserie, decked out in bunting coloured the red, black and gold of the national flag to celebrate that other source of Belgian pride, the football team. He describes the beer pipeline as very special.
“It is big publicity for Bruges, for the brewery and for Belgian beers,” he said. The opening will be welcome, as his takings are sharply down since the Paris attacks and then the bombings in Brussels put Belgium on high alert.

Over the street, Marc Souris who owns the Fascino hat shop, was sceptical that traffic would decrease, pointing out that the ingredients for making beer still had to be delivered to the brewery. But the project was a “great and unique” one that was bound to bring more tourists to the city. Around 100,000 people visit the brewery each year. “We get a little slice of that cake,” he said.
His turnover, too, is down – by a third on last year. “March was a disaster because of the Brussels attacks … [and] June is too quiet,” he said. A series of strikes on Belgian railways last month did not help, either. “It should be packed now.”

Nicole Stael, who sells postcards, snow globes and souvenir plates, said that in the 40 years she had owned her gift shop business had not been so bad. Fear of the unknown was keeping people away, she thought. “[The threat] is not in one place and people are no longer sure where is safe,” she said.
Across the square, outside the brewery, horses and carriages clip clop down the lane. De Halve Maan is in the final weeks of testing the beer pipeline: four separate polyethylene tubes that look like ordinary drainpipes.

The brewer does not think the pipeline will pay back in less than 20 years, but it appears to be a shrewd commercial move. De Halve Maan has seen double-digit growth for its beers for more than a decade and now exports to 30 countries, including the US and China.
The Bruges brewer is riding a wave of interest in traditional Belgian beers, as drinkers turn against bland, watery lagers and look for flavour. Although Belgians are drinking less beer than they used to, they are getting choosier. Beer drinkers are opting for Trappist and abbey brews, ales and blonde beers, rather than mid-priced lagers, according to the latest market research by Euromonitor.
People are also rediscovering family brewers, partly driven by the craze for craft beers. “A lot of people love craft beers, they are very hoppy and very strong, but they are a little bit too much in flavour at the moment,” said Marc Stroobandt, a master beer sommelier. “The family breweries have been doing it for years and have found the right balance of flavour and drinkability.”
He thinks the pipeline will help De Halve Maan preserve its authenticity and provenance, adding: “I am so surprised they got authorisation to do it.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sour beers makes a comeback!

The sweet taste of sour beers makes a comeback
By Chris Morris

Valentine's Day may be generally associated with sweetness, but if you want to win the heart of a craft beer lover, sour is the way to go this year.Tangy, sour tasting beers are the hottest trend in the craft world these days - and they're resulting in some really interesting (and really tasty) concoctions.

Despite the name, not every sour is a lip-puckering experience. Some are aggressively tart, but others are more earthy - and it's one of the few beer styles where "funky" is a compliment. And because of their distinct taste, they've become an increasingly popular choice for food pairings, going especially well with seafood and select cured meats and cheeses. Creating a sour beer is often more challenging than putting together an IPA or other common style. Instead of keeping wild yeast out of the brewing process, it's encouraged - and it's easy for things to go wrong. As a result, some craft brewers are approaching the trend cautiously. Some, though, like California's Russian River Brewing Company and Colorado's New Belgium, are rushing in.
New Belgium makes three varieties, while Russian River has four barrel aged beers that sit for anywhere from four months to a year in wine barrels. "I like that the yeast is in charge," says Vinnie Cilurzo, co-founder of Russian River. "In all of these, the beer tells the brewer when it's ready, not the other way around. ... I think it's the next great challenge for brewers. I don't want to say we've conquered hops, but ... everyone and their brother makes IPAs now.
This is an extension of the brewer's creativity." Sour beers can be an acquired taste, but the good news is they come with varying layers of tartness. Here are some of the best we've found. Once virtually extinct, Charleston, SC's Westbrook single-handedly brought this German-style sour wheat beer back to the U.S. It has a salty, sour-y taste that's surprisingly refreshing. You'll smell the coriander it's made with, but the mouth experience is more citrus-like, with hints of grapefruit and green apple. The salt brings about a slight pucker at the finish, but it's not overwhelming. Widely considered one of the best sours on the market,
Consecration is a well-balanced ale that's aged for 4-8 months in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. It has a tangy tartness that mellows into a beer with black currant/sour cherry notes that linger a bit on the finish. If you're unable to get your hands on this, Russian River's Supplication (a sour brown ale) is just as good - and maybe better, depending on your tastes. (ABV: 10%)
New Belgium La Folie  Credit New Belgium with being up-front about this Flanders Oud Bruin. The company labels the bottles as part of its "Lips of Faith" series. The sour cherry flavor that goes with this style of beer is present, but La Folie is unquestionably a heavy pucker sour. It has a nice yeasty funk and good acidity and it's a beer that would seemingly pair wonderfully with Chinese take-out. Worthy of note: It's only available in a bomber bottle, so find someone to share it with - as 24 oz. may be too much for a single person. (ABV: 7%).
Slabtown base pseudo Lambic
This one will be ready in 2020?
Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck Bacchus  Craft brewed in Belgium, Bacchus is a good starter beer for people dipping their toes in the sour waters. It's a Flanders oud bruin style beer that smells and tastes of sour cherries with a dark red/brown appearance. There's a malty sweetness layered in with the sour that balances things nicely - and this is a beer that really opens up as it warms in the glass, giving it a wonderful compexity. (ABV: 4.5%).
Evil Twin Sour Bikini - You don't find a lot of sour ales around, so Evil Twin wins points for originality. Sour Bikini is tart and refreshing, but not overpowering. The ale and sour tastes get a bit muddled, but that's not a bad thing, actually. There's none of the hoppy bitterness you might expect from an ale, with citrus instead proving to be the lingering flavor. It may be a bit light for colder climates right now, but it's another example of a sour that's
well suited for warm afternoons. (ABV 3%) Petrus Aged Red  Very heavy on the sour cherry flavor, it's easy to get just a so-so first impression from this one. Let it warm up a bit, though, and it's a flavor explosion in your mouth. The tartness is fairly muted. In fact, it's an incredibly sweet beer, leaning more towards the Lambic family with its fruity tastes. It's a great way to finish off a good meal. (ABV: 8.5%)

And of course you should taste the "Slabtown" sour beers : Kriek, Gueuze, Faro and Peche...

Monday, January 9, 2017

Saint Arnold ?

Who is Saint Arnold?
Arnold, born in Brabant, the son of a certain Fulbertus was first a career soldier before settling at the Benedictine St. Medard's Abbey, Soissons, France. He spent his first three years as a hermit, but later rose to be abbot of the monastery. He then became a priest and in 1080, bishop of Soissons, another honor that he sought to avoid. When his see was occupied by another bishop, rather than fighting, he took the opportunity to retire from public life, founding the Abbey of St. Peter in Oudenburg. At the abbey, he began to brew beer, as essential in medieval life as water. He encouraged local peasants to drink beer, instead of water, due to its "gift of health." The beer normally consumed at breakfast and during the day at this time in Europe, was called small beer, having a very low alcohol content, and containing spent yeast. Thus the drinker had a safe source of hydration, plus a dose of B vitamins from the yeast which grew during the fermentation of the beverage. The miracle tale says, at the time of an epidemic, Arnold was an abbot in Oudenburg, Belgium. Rather than stand by while the local Christians drank water, he had them consume his alcoholic brews. Because of this, many people in his church survived the plague. During the process of brewing, the water was boiled and thus, unknown to all, freed of pathogens.

St. Arnold patron saint of brewers is honored in July with a parade in Brussels on the "Day of Beer.