Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and He's Bringing Belgian Beer...

Some folks are difficult to shop for a Christmas time. Not so for a hard-core beer lover like yours truly. Just give me a big bottle or six-pack of a new craft beer to try or a new book on the subject of beer and I'm as happy as the proverbial pig in you-know-what.

So if you're looking for a gift for the beer lover in your life, I'd like to make a suggestion: 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die by Tim Webb & Joris Pattyn, published by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Before my wife and I moved to Alaska to rusticate, I served at the beck and call of dear old Uncle Sam. It was an interesting twenty year career and perhaps the best of it was the three years we spent in London (mid-1998 to mid-2001). Besides all the fantastic British ale I could drink on a daily basis, Belgium was only a few hours away by train and ferry, and my wife and I took advantage of that whenever we could. I had already encountered Belgian ales stateside, but having the chance to drink them in situ opened up a whole new realm of enjoyment.

Diving into Webb & Pattyn's new book, I was reminded of those heady days. While any "list" type book is bound to be somewhat subjective, I think they do a fine job of identifying most of the very best that Belgium has to offer. The book includes information on visiting the breweries (if you are lucky enough to get the chance) and information about who is importing each beer into the U.S. or the UK. The writing is witty, with just the right amount of banter between the two authors. If you or someone you know is at all interested in Belgian beers, I can't think of a better stocking stuffer.

Update: Last post, I mentioned that I had obtained several new beers to try. I've had the chance to taste two of them, so far.

The first was Saturn, from Midnight Sun's Planet Series. They are calling it a Belgian-style Fresh Hop IPA, weighing in at 8% ABV and 55 IBUs. Tasting it, I was impressed by how much more delicate the hop flavors and aromas were than those imparted by the standard dried hops used in other beers. The wet Centennial and Cascade hops used pair very well with the flavors arising from the Belgian yeasts. A very interesting and drinkable brew!

The second was The Lost Abbey Brewery's Lost and Found Abbey Ale, from a 750 ml corked bottle. The beer poured a deep, dark red, with a relatively small head. According to the brewery, it comes in at 7.5% ABV, is hopped with German Magnum and Tettang hops, and has pureed raisins added. The raisins are very evident in the fruity notes in the deep, complex taste of the beer. The initial taste was wonderful, though the beer seemed to fade a bit toward the end of the bottle.

Until next time, Cheers!

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