Sunday, February 11, 2007

Recap: Belgian beers and appetizers at Classico.


Last evening’s Belgian Beer sampling at Caffe Classico was another great event, thanks primarily to Chef Josh and his superb selection of Mediterranean-influenced appetizers. To have one of his fried risotto balls is to swear off Scotch eggs … well, at least for a while.

Thanks to Tommie Mudd for organizing another winner.

Certainly the high point of the evening for me was the appearance of Mark Allgeier and Matt Gould (owner and brewer, respectively, at Cumberland Brews), Jerry Gnagy (Bluegrass Brewing Company brewer) and Michael Borchers, former brewer and employee at New Albanian Brewing Company. That’s a high powered group, and somewhat intimidating, yet it’s heartening to see members of the good beer community gathered together.

For the record, here’s the cheat sheet I prepared for use by the crowd at last night’s event. There were some dynamite pairings, and I hope we can do it again this summer.

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1. Lindemans Gueuze with " pan tumaca" … toasted blue dog pugliese bread with spanish olive oil, tomato rub and shaved manchego cheese

Belgian “Lambic” is brewed from a mash of barley and unmalted wheat, hopped with (intentionally) stale hops as preservatives, then transferred after boiling to large, flat, rectangular pans for overnight exposure to all the wild yeast the Belgian breeze can muster. Aging takes place in oak barrels previously used for wine, sherry or port. Unblended Lambics are rare. Generally, batches of young and old Lambic are blended to achieve house character, yielding Gueuze. If fruit is added, as in the cases of local cherries (Kriek) or raspberries (Framboise or Frambozen), a second fermentation occurs.

2. Abbaye de Leffe Blonde with “baccaloa moderne" … salt cod fritter, with blood orange and aioli

The Abbaye Notre Dame de Leffe in Namur province licenses the use of its name for the production of a line of popular ales, and was among the first to do so more than a half century ago. Abbey-style ales sometimes have such direct connections to their source, and other times not. Think of this example as less a kissing cousin to a certified Trappist than a Belgian Pale Ale.

3. Hennepin Farmhouse Saison with "mussels muniere" … mussels sauteed in garlic, tomato, shallot, parsley and butter

The Ommegang brewery in Cooperstown, New York, is an American outpost of authentic Belgian brewing culture, and its Hennepin Saison upholds the rural tradition of brewing in Wallonia – Belgium’s French-speaking half. Originally these “farmhouse” ales were bottled, stored and kept for drinking during summer months when heat made brewing difficult. Saison is a consummate food beer with rich malt but a hoppy balance with peppery, refreshing notes.

4. Duvel with "risotto frito" … deep fried risotto balls with sofrito

Duvel (“The Devil”) originated when a prominent Belgian brewing scientist isolated multiple yeast strains in an ale from Scotland. These were used by the Moortgat brewery to ferment a strong dark ale. After World War II, the brewery substituted light-colored pilsner malts and stepped up the German and Slovene hops, and the resulting blonde ale became an overnight classic — top-fermented and boasting subtle fruity notes, yet aged like a lager.

5. Duchesse de Bourgogne with "flemish" … sausage, red cabbage on potato cake

Firm, ruddy red and brown ales from Flemish-speaking West and East Flanders (respectively) were traditionally stored in oak barrels for aging before bottling. The interplay of ale, wood and time produces burnished but pleasingly tart beverages derived from blends of older and younger oaked batches, and quite simply are to be regarded as among the prime glories of not only Belgian, but world brewing culture.

6. Chimay Blue with "curso fromagio" … port salut, and alta nivel manzanilla olives

For certification as a Trappist brewery, the brewing operation must be located on the grounds of the monastery; monks must retain overall control of the brewing operation (secular brewers are permitted); and a portion of the profits accrued from the brewing must go to charitable purposes. Belgium boasts six official Trappist breweries that produce ales only loosely related in terms of style, but uniformly delicious overall.

7. Scotch de Silly with "pan chocolat" … toasted baguette slices with chocolate, olive oil and salt

Malty, sweet ale in the Scots tradition came to Belgium along with troops from the British Isles during two world wars, and now a handful of varieties are produced with a fruity, estery Belgian yeast twist. “Silly” is a town and a brewery in Hainaut province … and this is dessert.

1 comment:

David R. Pierce said...

Since when are you intimidated by a few brewers?