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The secret's out:
Belgium's diversity and individuality mark it as one of the world's greatest brewing nations

BelgiumBelgium's small size is misleading, because there's plenty of "there" there. The country is divided into two primary administrative, historical and cultural entities called Flanders and Wallonia (Flemish and French speaking, respectively). These regions connect with divergent traditions in Netherlands and France, while another area of Belgium to the east is inhabited by German speakers. As a meeting point for Dutch and German traditions of brewing and the French knack for wine and cooking, Belgium boasts elements of all these pleasurable pursuits, with the pinnacle of its achievement being reached in the country's beer and brewing heritage. A considerable component of cantankerous individuality remains a hallmark of Belgian brewing, with numerous styles, variations on styles, unclassifiable styles and just as many different methods of production combining to create perhaps 800 brands. These are served in Belgium's 35,000 pubs, the best of which use a different glass for every beer and stock vintages of some lambics and Trappists. We've chosen 55 fine Belgian ales to try and illustrate the amazing diversity of the country's beers, and we're always looking for others as they become available to us. Most are bottle-conditioned and will continue to evolve with time. If you've come to the point where you're ready for tastes you've never experienced, start in Belgium.

Belgium: Ales from Flanders

Geographically, Flanders is the northern part of Belgium. It borders the Netherlands to the north and France to the south. Beer styles associated with Flanders include wit (wheat ale), old brown and old red. For the beer hunter, there are many locales of interest in Flanders.

The fields around Poperinge, near to where some of the worst fighting in World War I took place, are home to Belgium's hop growing industry. Cities like Antwerp and Brugge (Bruges) boast several of the world's finest beer bars. There are breweries at two Trappist monasteries, where religion finally seems to make sense in bottle conditioned form.

Roeselare is a tremendously boring commercial town in most respects, but it is the home of Rodenbach, and any place where a beer traveler can step into almost any bar in town and get a draft Rodenbach for a buck and a half is worth visiting.

Drinking cheap Fall City neighborhood bars in Louisville during the 1950's just couldn't have been as good.

Check out Peter Crombecq's Benelux Beerguide

Daring Flavorful Wallonian ales are capturing temptations

Wallonia is the French-speaking, southern half of Belgium that borders on France, Luxembourg and Germany. Although there are large cities, Wallonia is more rural than Flanders, and this would seem to lend itself to traditions of small scale, farmhouse brewing that result in a wide variety of individualistic, eclectic, artisanal ales that is impressive even by Belgian standards.

No Belgian brewery has harnessed Wallonian imagery better than Brasserie d'Achouffe, which operates in a tiny village in the Ardennes and would have you think that it is run by the gnomes that are its namesake. However, it is a thoroughly modern brewery with a letter perfect marketing scheme that makes fantastic ales and exports a large percentage of them.

Nearby is the little known Fantome brewery, serving an almost entirely local clientele, housed in a converted barn, and brewing wonderful ales. To the southwest, in Hainaut, three country breweries stand within a few miles of each other (Dupont, Vapeur and Dubuisson), and each specialize in very different styles of ale, which are sold locally as well as exported far and wide.

The Wallonian influence extends across the border to Northern France, where bieres de garde impressively dash the prejudices of bibulous Francophobes with their malty complexity and suitability with food. See the section on France for more information.

A good place to start on the web:

http://www.artisanpress.u-net.com/Wallonia/wallonia.html


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 New Albany, IN 47150
 (812) 949-2804
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