Belgian beer is indeed the best
Geert Van Lierde, a beer-loving journalist who writes for - you guessed it - a publication for the brewing industry - Café Revue, is adamant: our brews are particularly diversified and of a very high quality.
In the nineteenth century, it is more likely the qualities and charms of special ales that would have been extolled, the ale being the brainchild of talented English inventors. But it just took a trip across the Channel for British know-how to meet very high quality wild hops… from Belgium. And since then, the expertise has changed shores, and the Belgians have become the unchallenged champions in the art of brewing high-quality beers.
“ For one thing, we have an enormous choice of around 1,100 different beer brands,” our expert taster explains. “They are categorised according to the way they are fermented. In other countries, the beers that are most generally on offer are low-fermentation products, such as pils, or a few dark beers, or, on the other hand, high-fermentation brews. ”
“ In Belgium, however, beers aren’t limited to such and such a category. “We also have beers that spontaneously ferment, like the Lambic, the Gueuze, as well as mixed fermentation products, red/brown beers like the Bourgogne de Flandres. These beers mature in oak casks for between six months and three years. What is also original is that when we want to create a new beer, we do what they do with whisky: we blend beers of different ages. ”
But according to Geert Van Lierde, what makes us so unique is our great variety of flavours. “Belgian brewers are notorious for using many ingredients, such as a large range of spices like coriander or curaçao, and also fruit, like cherries, raspberries, peaches, apricots, which are either directly added to the vats, or in the form of fruit juice, which results in light, refreshing beers…”. Fruit beer is the pride and joy of our oldest breweries, including the Timmermans Brewery, which has been renowned since 1703 and which produces Gueuze beers and fruit Lambics (even flavoured with pumpkin!), as well as Faros in the unique natural landscape of the Pajottenland.
What is also typical of Belgium is its range of beers with high alcohol content. “ Some go as high as 10, 12 or even 14%... which brings them close to wine. ” This is the case, for example, of the famous Gordon Finest Beers range. In this range of characterful blond beers produced by the John Martin brewery, Gordon Finest Gold contains 10% alcohol, and Gordon Finest Platinum 12%. They were recently joined by Gordon Finest Titanium, also brewed in Belgium, which comes in at 14%. A real pleasure to be consumed in moderation.
Belgian beer is not isolated, far from it: it tastes wonderful in combination with food and recipes from abroad. For “Scotch” type beers, for instance, “This has become typically Belgian, in fact! ” Geert Van Lierde notes. “ Originally, it was based on Scottish know-how, but Scotch beer has almost disappeared there. It’s a beer that is particularly enjoyed in Liège, in Walloon Brabant and the part of Hainaut next to Walloon Brabant… ” The Scotch beer being brewed over here is therefore authentically Belgian, and we are without a doubt its absolute masters. Take the most famous one, he Gordon Finest Scotch, and its festive seasonal version, the Gordon Xmas. An absolute must on the menus of all establishments that offer special beers!
All in all, our country has got everything it takes to satisfy the most demanding beer-lovers. “Belgian beer is indeed the best and therefore deserves, in my opinion, a registered designation. Our brewing know-how is already on UNESCO’s list of candidates for recognition as Intangible Cultural Heritage. All being well, we should be granted this recognition at the end of 2013 or in 2014... ” our insatiable expert with inexhaustible knowledge on the subject tells us. But what are his favourite tipples? He admits three brews have a special place in his heart: an abbey Triple like a Westmalle Triple (or Dominus Triple), Orval and Gueuze!
In this respect, he is on the same enlightened wavelength as Anthony R. Martin who, not taking into consideration his own range, favours Orval, which he naturally compares to Martin’s IPA, the dry-hopping brewing process (whereby hop flowers are added after brewing) being above all a great bonus for the beer. He also mentions the Lambics and Oude Gueuzes, which are matured for many months in oak casks and brewed traditionally, as well as... He deliberately avoids giving a third one: this means he is free to travel, because a beer’s enjoyment also depends on the moment and the place at which it is consumed.