Most of my beer adventuring has consisted of two main types of Belgian beer: Lambics and Trappist beer.
Jacked straight from Wikipedia:
"Lambic is a type of beer brewed traditionally in the Pajottenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) and in Brussels itself at the Cantillon Brewery and museum. Lambic is now mainly consumed after refermentation, resulting in derived beers such as Gueuze or Kriek lambic.
Unlike conventional ales and lagers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, lambic beer is produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, usually with a sour aftertaste."
and"Trappist beer is brewed by Trappist breweries. Eight monasteries — six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands and one in Austria — currently brew beer and sell it as Authentic Trappist Product. . . . In 1997, eight Trappist abbeys – six from Belgium (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel), one from the Netherlands (Koningshoeven) and one from Germany (Mariawald) – founded the International Trappist Association (ITA) to prevent non-Trappist commercial companies from abusing the Trappist name. This private association created a logo that is assigned to goods (cheese, beer, wine, etc.) that respect precise production criteria. For the beers, these criteria are the following:
- The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
- The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life
- The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
- Trappist breweries are constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.
This association has a legal standing, and its logo gives the consumer some information and guarantees about the product."
These two very different classifications include all of the most highly regarded Belgian beer, many of which happen to also be some of the best beers in the world, if not the best (Westvleteran 12, in some circles like RateBeer.com).
I happen to be living about 500 yards from the Cantillon Brewery/Museum so I've taken full advantage of that and sampled all of their currently available beers. Most of the Trappist beers are readily available even in super markets here for very cheap prices. Rochefort 10 (11.2% ABV and the 17th highest ranked beer on Beer Advocate, and most importantly my favorite beer) runs for 1.75 euro for a single 12 oz bottle at the overpriced Food Lion. Some, like the Westvleterans, are not so easy to find and can only be purchased at the Abby or in a few other select locations based on availability. So, basically I've had a field day trying all these wonderful brews for relatively cheap prices. Now, I want to experiment with them. Below, I'll list some of my favorites and then describe what I plan on doing with them.
As previously stated, this is my favorite beer. It's very potent, dark, silky, chocolaty, and full of dark fruits. If my heart weren't forever on the side of cocktails over beer, I would have a heard time doing anything with this but drinking it straight and unadulterated. But I will forever and always favor the cocktail, so here it goes:
Trappist Old Fasioned
Combine Rochefort 10 syrup with bitters, add rye and ice, stir. Pour over large piece of ice in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with orange twist and cherry.
*To make a syrup out of a beer, essentially you'll make a simple syrup with beer instead of water with an extra step of removing the carbonation. Wait until Part II for more details.
Cantillon 100% Lambic Kriek Bio:This Cantillon is made by macerating fresh cherries in a blend of Lambics of various ages. It's pretty amazing. Lambics are sour and come in a little bit like Champagne. Kriek = cherry, by the way. It's certainly over-simplifying such a great beer, but it's easy to think of this as a sour-cherry Champagne. So, my first thought was to use this like Champagne in cocktails. French 75 topped with Lambic Kriek or maybe a Lambic Kriek Mimosa (this one concerns me a little since Mimosas are typically best cold and Lambics are best warm, but we'll see)?
Combine gin, sugar, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into an iced champagne glass. Fill with the Lambic Kriek. Garnish with a cherry in the bottom of the glass.
Mix ingredients into a champagne glass. Garnish with a cherry.
This is kind of a weird Cantillon because it's not technically a Lambic because they add hops. This results in a beer that actually tastes like the normal beer most of us know and love. I'll use this for Amer Biere (Amer Picon, a French orange aperitif, lemon syrup, and beer)
Amer Biere de Cantillon
Add Amer Picon and lemon syrup to a glass. Add beer. Stir.
I clearly have my work cut out for me. Stay tuned for the sequel/results. It could be great or hilariously horrible. Maybe both? Anyways, I should be back with an post about aperitifs and digestifs in the near future. And in the somewhat near future, I'm going to try and make some cocktails for a bunch of French people in someone else's kitchen with al foreign booze. THAT will be a funny blog post, I promise you. Until then,