Thursday, September 24, 2009

The belgian tasting

Backtracking a bit, last Sunday night was the Belgian beer tasting that I put together. Some friends of ours got married a few weeks ago, and the groom wanted a tasting as a wedding present. I wasn't sure when we were going to do it, but I started collecting beers immediately. My idea was to pick the highest rated example of each of the main Belgian styles that I could find. Kind of like a Belgian 101. Luckily, I found a good group of beers fairly quick, because the tasting snuck up on me... and what a great tasting it was!

First, the line-up:

Belgian golden/pale - Duvel
Saison - Fantome Saison
Belgian IPA - Urthel Hop-It
Belgian Wit - Steenbrugge wit*
Unblended Lambic - Cantillon Cuvee Des Champions
Gueuze - Girardin 1882 Black Label
Fruit Lambic - Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille
Biere de garde - Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien
Flanders Red - Rodenbach Grand Cru
Tripel - Tripel Karmeliet
Quad - Rochefort 10
Belgian Strong Dark- Maudite

*admittedly not the best available belgian wit, but it was the best I could get on such short notice.

Now the setting. The groom invited us over to his house, where he promised to cook a Belgian inspired dinner. Now the groom is also a well known chef, so I knew I was in for a treat.

We started off the night with a caviar salmon chive creme fresh spread and crackers that was delicious. On the beer side, we started with some of the lighter beers. Duvel, Fantome, and Steenbrugge. We then moved into the Urthel, then the Cuvee Des Champions. By the time the Cuvee Des Champions came out, we were onto dinner. The acidity of the Cuvee was fantastically paired with a pork roast served over a bed of cooked cabbage with a belgian endive salad, and crispy potatoes. As we filled up, and began drinking the beer unaccompanied, the Cuvee was a bit too much for some of the palates in the room, so we backed off the more sour styles, and opened up the Tripel Karmeliet. Everyone enjoyed this while dessert was being prepared. For dessert, we had pan seared peaches cooked with spices in a splash of Rochefort 10, served with a spoonful of chocolate ice cream, a belgian waffle cookie, and some fresh whipped cream. Fantastic, and awesome accompanied by more Rochefort 10. After dessert, the guest list dwindled, and the host and I got back into some of the other styles. With the flavor and scent of dessert still fresh in our minds, we opened the oud beersel oude kriek vieille. This went over well. Then we opened the Girardin 1882 Black Label. Although I was enjoying all these great beers, this one seemed to go down a little less easy for my host.

At this point of the evening, we ended the tasting, saving the rodenbach grand cru, the abbaye des saint bon-chien, and the maudite for another time.

I think the tasting went well. My friend was very interested in the different styles, and expressed an interest in having me meet with his sommelier to discuss the possibility of offering more Belgian styles in their restaurant. Predictably, I think he enjoyed the safer, lighter styles a bit more than the sour and heavier beers, but I think having sampled some things outside of his comfort zone, a major bridge has been crossed. I had a fantastic time beer geeking out and sharing all my knowledge with everyone. This is definitely something I'd do again.

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