Experimental, surprising or unexpected - beers that defy tastes
The advantage of beer is that as soon as you have all the basic ingredients (malt, hops, etc.), it is possible to add a host of different elements and create that personal touch. And when it comes to choosing your desired flavour, there’s no limit to the supply of natural resources. Just about anything is possible!
A number of artisanal beers have recently emerged on the market for instance with aromas of... fir. The Brasserie Artisanale du Dauphiné launched Mandrin au Sapin (fir) beer made with malt, aromatic hops and dried fir needles from the Vercors and Chartreuse region. It is produced using the high fermentation process and has an 8% alcohol content and a delightfully spicy, resinous flavour, an amber colour, and a thin white head and no bubbles. Le Naufrageur, a Quebec microbrewery, launched Saint-Jean Baptiste with ingredients that are 100% sourced in Quebec: malted organic barley, raw wheat, Jean-Talon yeast, hops and balsam fir. It has a relatively low alcohol content of 4.5% and a wonderful bouquet that mixes herbs, coriander, basil, tea... and fir. Taste-wise it features an attractive bitterness.
Here in Belgium we find some rather successful results of experimenting with flavour: for instance the speculoos-flavoured beer that is brewed in Ecaussines, a chocolate-flavoured beer, and mulled beers such as Warme Kriek created by the Timmermans brewery: an original and welcome take on beer in the heart of winter. Heated to 60°C and with an array of citrus fruits and spices added to it, this beer has a unique flavour.
High fermentation beers in the style of Indian Pale Ale (IPA) that are more traditional and typically English date back to the 18th century. They were produced for British colonial troops, in India in particular. They have a higher alcohol and hop content than the ales of that era and they keep better during long sea journeys and in the heat of the colonies. Martin’s IPA has revived this traditional recipe from the days of the Empire: amber in colour with a 6.9% alcohol content, it features a pronounced bouquet of hops and an attractive sparkle. Its secret: dry hopping: fresh hop flowers are added at the end of the fermentation process which give it both a marked bitterness and an exceptional balance.
And now, a special word for a beer that is truly deserving of the word: Real Ale. Exported to Belgium specially for John Martin, the only place you will find it is at The Duke pub in Antwerp (on the Keizerlei). This is a draught beer (the air is pumped by hand) that is unfiltered and unpasteurised. Yeast and hops are added to the barrel during the brief fermentation, which gives it its typical mildness. Martin’s Real Ale is a lively and authentic beer that is pulled with a traditional English pump. The beer, which has a very short shelf life, is delivered by special transport and stored in a cellar in exclusive spring-mounted barrels to guarantee a balanced slope at all times and to allow for perfect pulling regardless of flow rate.
And let’s not forget the beers made with pumpkin that are such favourites among the Americans. Pumpkin Lambicus Timmermans for example. This is a light (4%) and fruity spontaneous fermentation beer with an amber-orange colour. It has an elegant flavour with a hint of controlled acidity on the lambic combined with a dry fruity flavour accompanied by the sweetness of pumpkin. And in the centre of the palate you will pick up hints of brown sugar.
Dating back to Pre-Columbian times in South America, corn beers are still produced and consumed in the Andes countries (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia). Chicha is made from maize and peanuts and fruits are added to it. Fermentation takes a few days to two months depending on the desired alcohol content. Africa too has maize beers, such as Chakpalo. This is a traditional drink from Benin which, in its simplest version (there are several variants) is made by fermenting maize and water for 48 hours. The fermented water is tapped off and caramel is added. It is consumed well chilled.