This is my first time back in the saddle after a several months long writing hiatus here at DivineBrew. Fear not, I’m still alive, or something life-like at the very least (I’m not a full-fledged bar vampire just yet). To say I’ve been super busy sounds like an excuse so let’s skip that and get right to the latest. I studied for, and passed, my BJCP exam. I’ve judged three competitions and plan to judge several more in the near future. The Belgian beer program at Tryst appears to be going well so far. Beer sales are up which means I haven’t totally F*&%ed up yet. DCBeer.com did a write up here which outlines a lot of the new changes. We have an awesome event happening soon to celebrate Belgian culture and our appreciation for their delicious beer making techniques. Lastly, and most importantly for my psyche, I’m homebrewing again. I hadn’t seriously homebrewed in at least a year and probably more than that. I almost forgot how much homebrew improves the quality of life.
The First Shameless Plug in a While
On July 19 @ 7PM all the drafts at Tryst will convert to limited release Belgian style beers from American brewers. The lineup is F&*$ing ridiculous. Probably the only time you’ll ever see these beers together in one location. The final set will include the following: Jolly Pumpkin IO Saison, EPIC Brainless IPA, New Belgium Paardebloem, Allagash Confluence, Ommegang Gnomegang and Goose Island Sofie Paradisi. And if that ain’t enough for ya, all draft and bottle beer will be 33% off that night only. Yeah, I just did that. Continued
What follows is a brief introduction of the Belgian style beers we’ll carry on the menu at Tryst Coffeehouse Bar & Lounge. Each beer will represent a portion of the hierarchal system I developed. Before we get into the beers, there is one more thing worth mentioning…
Friday Nights Just Got Awesome(r)
Starting on March 1st we’ll be featuring all of the Belgian beers listed below for 33.33% off every Friday night from 7pm to close. It certainly won’t be the same $5 rail drinks Adams Morgan is known for, but it’ll be the best affordable luxury on the 18th Street strip.
In the previous section we talked about Belgian strong ale and some of the unique differences amongst those various sub-categories. Now we turn our attention to a category that I’ve identified as Belgian café beer.
Belgian Style Café Beer
Belgian cafés are famous the world over for their unique atmosphere and wonderful cuisine. Not all Belgian beers are of great alcoholic strength. These may sometimes become known as ‘food beers’ for their ease of pairing and drinkability. From a historical perspective, many of the beers that fall into this category were drunk amongst ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-nots’.
Belgian Sour Beer
Sour is a term that carries some limitations. It leads the guest to believe something may taste one very specific way. In reality, beers that are labeled as “sour” are often one-of-a-kind. Some of these “sour” beers are initially fermented with brewer’s yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) but then wild microbes and wild yeast (brettanomyces) infect the beer. The result is often a full-bodied, full-flavored unique beer. Ale is always beer, but a beer does not have to be an ale. Continued
In the previous section we talked about beer, beer style, and this new categorization system that we’re implementing at Tryst. What you really need to know are the linking principles behind this system. Let’s take a closer look at the definitive Belgian style strong ales…
Belgians have always retained a bit of a reputation for drinking very strong, high ABV beers. ABV is a measurement of the alcoholic content or Alcohol By Volume in a beer. So many Belgian style beers are high in alcoholic strength that ‘Strong Ale’ provides for a great umbrella category. The sub-groupings can then be later defined by history, flavor, etc. What this means: all the sub-categories of the strong ale category have the potential to F&@* you up. Remember this when serving/consuming.
Trappist Style Strong Ale
A whole dissertation could be written about this one segment of Belgian brewing. Not today. Here is what you need to know about: Trappist beer and ‘Trappist style’ beer. Trappist beer means that it is brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, only seven of which exist. Think of ‘Trappist’ similar to Champagne; it ain’t champagne unless it comes from that region of France, otherwise it is sparkling wine. That is known as an “appellation controlee”, or indicator of origin. Continued
I developed a new categorization system for Belgian style beers. I’m following up with a four-part series to explain it in more depth. This is the first installment in the four part series.
Beer style is a funny term. We all seem to know what it means yet nobody could tell you exactly what beer style is. Lets looks at an example: three major beer nerds are given the same beer. One calls it an American IPA, the other calls it an Imperial IPA and the third labels it as hoppy American amber ale.
Are any of these three nerds right or wrong? Probably not, with beer style comes a high degree of subjectivity. The only thing it appears that they agree upon is the perceived hoppiness of the beer, which we’ve all come to associate with the three-letter acronym IPA and the word “hoppy”. Even still, the biggest nerds (myself included) would tell you that saying something is hoppy doesn’t really say much at all.
What Does Belgian Style Mean?
“Belgian style” is a loose term that many struggle to define. It can mean a great number of very different things. It may refer to any of the following:
- Brewed in Belgium
- Complex characteristics stemming from unique strains of yeast and/or a high degree of focus on fermentation techniques
- Based on historical Belgian brewing practices (i.e. the use of Belgian candied sugar to make beer, brewing practices of Belgian monks, etc.)
- The complete lack of ability to taste similar to another beer; the individuality of any of these beers stands out
When we examine that last bullet point things get a little confusing. The very nature of Belgian beer is such that it can’t easily be defined… Why bother at all then, right? Continued
Cider… I’m wondering where to begin. I don’t know a damn thing about cider and I’m supposed to host an event next Monday at Tryst. I know this is a beverage category that I could spend a lifetime learning about. I have bills, and sitting around reading cider books certainly isn’t going to pay ‘em. Good thing I’ll have cider expert Brian Shanks of Bold Rock Hard Cider with me to chat people up. I have an arsenal of questions myself. I’ve done a little investigating; here are my thoughts about the cider industry so far…
A Brief History (Pulled Out of My…)
The craft cider industry seems to be about where the craft beer industry was 20 – 30 years ago. I wasn’t there for it, but based on recounts from seasoned beer industry vets, the old craft beer industry had a ‘new frontier’ feel. There was a lack of polish across the industry; a beer may taste a little different than the last time you bought it, but that was ok because nobody else made pale ale at the time. You were so thirsty for anything with taste, that unbridled passion and enthusiasm would wash away the grey areas on both the producer and consumer ends. At the time this was entirely acceptable. Now, you’ve got educated and innovative brewers who grew up in a world of craft beer that consistently make mind-blowingly awesome products. In fact, All About Beer just released a 30 under 30 features which hit newsstands today. As a result of talented brewers, the current craft beer drinking populous is well educated and significantly less forgiving. Dare I say this point of maturation is a brave new world for beer? Lets hope we never go the way of snobbery Continued