Sunday, February 15, 2009


The first time I saw the shop "250 beers" I realized I was way out of my league.  I started looking around online and contacted a blogger by the name of Chuck Cook (  who admitted he may not be the best person to point out places within Brussels and aimed me towards Joe Stange (  Chuck is a blogger from the US who writes about all beer from Belgian origins, he's been to Belgium on more individual trips than I've been here days and I imagine he can probably drink me under multiple tables.  Joe is an American Expat living in Brussels who is literally writing a book on Belgian beer.  He suggested two different places to start in Brussels:  Cantillon Brewery and Chez Moeder Lambic, the latter he will join me at when I get there.  I don't think I will take a trip there for a week or two to get past a big deadline so for now I just tried my best with Cantillon and some store bought beers.
Cantillon was one of the better alcohol based tourism events I've participated in.  On a previous trip I went to both the Jameson and Guinness tours in Dublin and they aren't really worth it in comparison to Cantillon.  The pull of this trip is the reality of the beer production.  At the Jameson tour they tell you it is a farce and just show you some historical artifacts.  Guinness wasn't much better, but at least they are situated on the site of an existing factory.  Cantillon is a functioning small brewery, as you walk around you can smell the hops and see the storage barrels foaming because of the fermentation.  It was wonderful and ended with a tasting of two classics:  Gueuze and Kreik, Lambic beers.
I've decided I'm entirely unqualified to discuss the subtleties of these beers in depth so I'll give you the technical explanation first.  Lambic is a "spontaneously" fermenting beer.  I'm not sure what that means and guess its similar to how the Baby Jesus was made:  Magic.  There is no added sugar or yeast to this beer and all fermentation occurs naturally.  After spontaneous fermentation they barrel up the beer for one to three years.  Afterwards they mix it all to make Gueuze and some of the other mixed beverages or bottle just the three year old Lambic for the special reserve.  You can actually store these beers in a cellar and they will mature for up to twenty years.  My father is now thinking that instead of having a wine cellar, he needs a Belgian beer cellar.
The tasting was interesting, Gueuze is literally the "champagne of beers" and I'm not talking about Miller High Life.  I really can not begin to describe it beyond this very cryptic statement:  It doesn't taste like beer at the beginning, but by the end of the glass it does.  It is sweet and sour, but still beer.  The Kreik may be a little easier for me... It is mixed with cherries for almost six months and it makes the beer smell horrible.  I can actually see my fathers face scrunching up a little at the thought of Cherry Beer.  I'll say this though, it was not sweet.  It was more like cider and had a sour bite to it.  Needless to say, I bought three bottles of different types and drank a bunch to "test" them out.  I did save one bottle of Grand Cru for a personal celebration later.  Those of you in NYC can try out Cantillon beers at ( few fine establishments.  Know this though... you will pay at least four times what I paid.  I would suggest the Gueuze to start as it is very accessible and tasty.
Today I decided to buckle down and do some more research.  I went down to my local corner store and bought some Chimay and some Grimbergen.  These are examples of Trappist and Abbey beers.  Chimay, as a Trappist beer, is produced under the supervision of real life monks.  When you purchase a Chimay you are helping to pay rent for their monastery... seriously, their monastery.  Grimbergen is an Abbey Beer living a dirty lie.  Abbey beers were created to look like they are from a monastery and are usually commercially produced under a licensed name.  When you purchase something like Grimbergen or Leffe you are supporting a lie and should be ashamed of yourself.  I enjoyed Chimay before I left NY but wouldn't get it very often as it was cost prohibitive.  Eight dollars for a smallish bottle was a little much for me at my well priced beer drinking locale.  Now that I can get the same bottle for 1.50 Euro I'll drink it at lunch if I'd like because its still cheaper than the bottle of water you may get.  I tried out Chimay Red and Chimay Blue.  I prefer the Blue, but after finding out that its 9% alcohol decided it may not be the best choice as a lunch based beverage.  The Blue is still one of my favorite beers in general, though I won't begin to try comparing it to Guinness they are different beers for different occasions.  I didn't actually like the Grimbergen very much.  This isn't because refuse to support a lie, I actually don't mind the lie.  I didn't like it because it had a metallic taste to it that I couldn't get over.
I promise I will continue to test as many beers as I can as often as I can.  I can also promise my blog entries may start to get a little funny if this I keep up with that much beer.  I will document my struggle between Lambics and Trappists, you guys should send me beer types that say "Belgian" on them and I'll do my best to research them here.  LaurEm posted a suggestion last week that we do a Pomme Frites comparison and because of that you guys don't get the Frites write up until some States Side folks send me some images.  Anyone can send me pics and descriptions of their favorite Frites in the US and I'll try to put together an objective comparison.  We all know the French version is also a dirty lie, so try to only show me Belgian style.


  1. Welcome to the wide world of Belgian beer. With lambic, here's how it seems to work: A tiny percentage of people love it immediately. A tiny percentage of people are so revolted that they'll never be able to enjoy it. The rest of us are the lucky ones: We get to gradually acquire the taste. Afterward you can never really think of beer the same way.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. You are really dedicated to you research, aren't you? ...Now i want beer!