Belgium

Belgian flag

 

Belgium”, General Charles de Gaulle once said, “is a country invented by the British to annoy the French”. Well, he had his issues. Luckily for the rest of the world, they’re not annoying us at all. In fact, many beer writers and experts have posited that Belgium is to beer what France is to wine, the Scottish Highlands to whisky, and even Cuba to cigars! Tim Webb, in his ‘World Atlas of Beer’, even deBrughes canalscribes it as “the Mother Ship of craft brewing”. So, if you’re interested in beer, you’d better get interested in Belgium.

This fairly small European country (approx. x6 times the size of T&T) of 11M people, is home to no less than 140 breweries! In comparison, if T&T grew to ten times our population, based on our current brewery to square mile ratio, we’d have, uhmm..yes, 9 breweries. Take some time to swallow that. And the next time you meet a Belgian, throw yourselves at their feet and beg them to take you home. For it is there that the widest variety of categories, sub-categories, styles and sub-styles of beer in the world have been brewed for centuries.

There are Trappist & Abbey ales such as Chimay and Orval, fabulous Oak-aged ales like the exquisite Duchess De Bourgogne, the ‘farmhouse’ or seasonal beers known as Saisons such as Saison Dupont. There are spiced Wheat beers, infused with coriander, cumin and orange peel, and then there are the idiosyncratic, uniquely Belgian Lambic sour, almost wineish beers. Add cherries and raspberries to give you Kriek and Framboise lambics respectively, and then pair them withMoules_Frites food, and you can start to believe that wormholes through time and space actually DO exist. Then, there’s the fact that practically every neighbourhood has its own ‘regional’ beer; Duvel Moorgat is a good example, and you can picture your fairly well informed beer enthusiast writhing around on his back in a cobble-stoned medieval square somewhere in Belgium babbling and frothing with information overload. It’s sort of like that Heineken TV ad, where all the men come to a house warming party and start screaming at their mate’s newly acquired Beer Cave, in tandem with his wife’s friends screaming at her Shoe Cave. Except that, the breadth and depth of Belgium’s brewing chutzpah can actually stun you into silence (almost; the author is hard to shut up).

The evolution of Belgian cuisine over the centuries, as a consequence of this happy cornucopia of styles, has meant that there is no better place in the world the true connoisseur of cuisine a la biere can go to open their palates, and minds.

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Beer Belly (Part 3)

 

(Part 3 of 3)

Kitchen scene 2

 

In the kitchen, beer can be used as a tenderizer, in marinades, and a leavener. Beer has wonderful tenderizing properties, as the enzymes released in the brewing process make it an excellent choice for a marinade for tougher cuts of meat. Dark, maltier ales would be best for this job. Breads and pastries baked using beer have a more moist texture and a longer shelf life. Using beer to glaze ham or poultry imparts wonderful flavours, and any recipe calling for stock or water can also have beer in the mix, as can soups. In batter coatings for fried foods, or Yorkshire Pudding mix, the yeast in the beer acts as a mild leavening agent, causing the batter to puff up, as well as adding a distinctive enhancing flavour, and many folks like to steam hot dogs or shellfish in beer. Lagers and ‘mild’ ales (diluted with water) work better here.

A good recipe using beer will have a subtle, not dominating flavour in the finished dish. Note that when slow cooking, the bitterness of the hops will become more prevalent the longer the cooking time, as the bittering α-acids in hops don’t break down the way the other flavour elements do. Better to add the beer a bit later in the process. For those concerned about the alcohol in beer, it largely evaporates during the cooking process, depending on cooking time and temperature. Non-alcohol or ‘lite’ beers can be substituted, but the flavour and texture of the outcome may not be the same.

Bar scene

And now, from the kitchen to the dining room! Here are some classic beer and food matches that any serious beer enthusiast needs to try at least once:-

(N.B. These are just suggestions based on personal experience, and also on what’s available locally in T&T. Feel free to recommend others!)

 

Sushi
Beer and sushi1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip:-  The fatty-textured raw fish is well balanced by lots of hops, some acidity and/or carbonation

Wheat beer- Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, Blue Moon

German and European style lager  – Paulaner Hell, Stella Artois,

Classic pilsner – Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar,

Craft Lagers – Belhaven Craft Pilsner, Sam Adams Noble Pils

Japanese ‘dry’ lagers – Asahi, Sapporo

Sake – actually a ‘ rice beer”, and not ‘rice wine’

 

Oysters and shellfish

Oysters

Tip: A dash of dry stout or a very hoppy ale can add a very nice edge to soy sauce, or horseradish dips served with seafood and sushi.

Dry Irish Stout – Guinness with Oysters on the half-shell is an Irish Classic. Or, try a Black Velvet – a 50/50 mix of Guinness and Champagne! The tanginess of the dry stout (it must be a DRY stout) melds well with the saltiness of the oysters. A marriage made in heaven! Also works for other mollusks (clams, mussels), shrimp cocktail, deep-fried soft-shell crab, and lobster bisque. Another good match would be the strong and slightly acidic Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale.

Wheat and wheat/barley beers – Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, Blue Moon, Hobgoblin Gold

 

Salads (e.g. green, chicken, salmon)

Tip:- try beer friendly ‘malt vinegar’ in your dressings!

Wheat beer- Paulaner Hefe-Weisse, Blue Moon

German style lager – Paulaner Hell

Flavoured pale ale – Badger Golden Champion (with Elderflower)

Classic pilsner – Pilsner Urquell, Budweiser Budvar, Heineken, Sam Adams Noble Pils

Brown ale – If it contains nuts, or nut oils in the dressing, try nice & nutty Newcastle Brown Ale, or Badger Fursty Ferret.

 

Curry

Curry

Tip: Highly spiced foods need muscular, flavourful beer, ideally ‘hop forward’, but ‘malt forward’ beers work well too, depending on the desired effect!

Pale ale (malt forward) – Abbot Ale, Old Speckled Hen, Fuller’s London Pride, Badger Fursty Ferret, Fullers Organic Honeydew

Classic IPA (hop forward) – Greene King IPA, Badger Hopping Hare, Fullers Bengal Lancer, American Style IPA– Anchor IPA, Harpoon IPA, Brooklyn IPA, Fullers Wild River, GK Double Hop Monster IPA, Thwaites 13 Guns IPA, Robinsons 9 Hop IPA

Belgian Ales – Duvel Moorgat,

Highly carbonated beers – Most local and regional lagers

 

BBQ, Burgers, Sausages

BBQ ribs

Tip: these frequently combine vinegar based acidity and sugar sweetness in the sauces (BBQ, Ketchup), lots of meat and a fair amount of fat, so decide what you want to emphasize, or balance.

Pale ale –  GK Abbot Ale, Old Speckled Hen, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Badger Golden Champion (with Elderflower), Fullers Organic Honeydew

Brown ale – Newcastle Brown Ale, Gales HSB, Thwaites Big Ben Brown Ale

Classic IPA  – Greene King IPA, Fuller’s Bengal Lancer India Pale Ale (IPA),

Porter & stout – Fuller’s London Porter, Guinness, 

Highly carbonated beers – Most local and regional lagers

Chinese

Chinese noodles

Flavoured ale –  Blandford Flyer ale (with ginger), Fullers Organic Honeydew ale (organic ale brewed with honey)

Sweet/ strong stout  – Mackeson milk stout, Belhaven Scottish Stout ( for rich, spicy Szechuan)

Highly carbonated beers – Most local and regional lagers

 

Salmon

Salmon steak

Grilled – Newcastle Brown Ale, Paulaner Dunkel Weiss (dark wheat beer)

Poached – Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, Blue Moon

Smoked – Belhaven Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

 

Grilled meats

Apple ciderRoast pork

Pork chops – Fuller’s London Pride, Badger Golden Champion, Badger Applewood Pearwood cider, Cornish Orchard Apple or Pear cider (OK, the ciders are a bit of a cheat, but they’re GREAT with pork!)

Lamb chops – Belhaven Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Fuller’s ESB, Newcastle Brown Ale, Paulaner Salvator

Steak – Fuller’s London Porter, Gales HSB, Hobgoblin, Thwaites Big Ben Brown Ale, Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale,

Steak

Brasserie scene

And finally (finally!) there’s no such thing as a Beer Belly; that’s just Pulp Fiction! Wine and Vodka have more calories per unit volume than beer, but have you ever heard of a Wine Gut or a Vodka Belly? It’s about lifestyle, not ingredients. Simple. And here’s a handy calorie checklist (below) to help any captive winos out there feel a bit better. So relax about the calorie thing, OK! The choices are out there, so be adventurous. You’re very unlikely to get stuck with a $500.00 bottle of beer!

Go on, I dare you….I DOUBLE dare you!!

 

Calorie chart for beer vs. wine

 

Beer  Pint/568ml Lager (163) Ale (182) Stout (170)
Wine

125ml

Red (85) Dry white

(85)

Rose

(90)

Champagne

(95)

Sweet white

(120)

Spirits

50ml

Whisky, gin vodka (120) Liquers, brandy (150)

N.B. Figures are averages across categories