The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2015

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Page 133 of 136

december 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  133 A t only 11,787 square miles, Belgium is by no means a large country, but what it lacks in landmass, it certainly makes up for in beer production. It turns out over 1,500 kinds of beers—60% of which the breweries export to countries around the world. With the recent wave of consumers in the U.S. market looking to expand their beer palates, Belgium offers a sea of quality brews that they can delight in, but the popularity of these suds has led to plenty of imitators, some of which do not uphold the quality and tradition that define the Belgian beer scene. In late 2007, a group of these breweries in Belgium banded together to offer the consumer a guarantee of authenticity and tradition. Named Belgian Family Brewers, the association now consists of 22 members, all of which have been producing beer in Belgian for at least 50 years. These breweries reside in the western side of the country and make 185 different beers. A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of hopping the pond to check out the Flanders region and a few of its Belgian Family Brewers. Here's a look at the whirlwind of a trip: Stokerij de Molenberg: Our first stop on the beer tour may have been a distillery, but this was by no means a random visit. Charles Leclef—the fifth- generation brewer from Brouwerij Het Anker, a member of Belgian Family Brewers—started Stokerij de Molenberg to revitalize his family's tradition of distilling. The Gouden Carolus Single Malt comes from the same mash recipe as the brewery's highly-ranked Gouden Carolus Tripel. Later in the tour, we broke bread at Brouwerij Het Anker and meet the women of Belgian Family Brewers. De Konnick: This Antwerp staple—Bolleke de Koninck, an Antwaarpse pale ale, was the brewers answer to foreign imports such as Pilsner—since 1833 has recently undergone a major facelift and now includes an interactive tour at its brewery. We were treated to a beer and cheese pairing, which included cheese especially made for De Koninck called Vanillie. De Ryck: Run by a mother-daughter-son team, this regional brewery located in a small town across from an ancient fort only began bottling in 2007. Before then, they revolutionized the home draught system; customers would get their special kegs filled every week. Roman: With over 450 years of expertise, Roman seems to know a thing or two about brewing. Melding tradition with technology, they produce a wide array of beer which is exported to 20 countries. At lunch, we were even greeted by the ghost of Adriaen Brouwer, a famous painter born in 1605, whom Roman's Belgian Strong Dark Ale is named after. De Halve Maan: Located in the heart of Bruges, De Halve Maan renovated their brewing facilities in 2005. Since its Brugse Zot and other offerings have become very popular and with no room to expand, the brewery had to move bottling operations outside of the city center. To reduce truck loads and protect the environment, the brewery has begun crowdsourcing a 1.86-mile-long underground pipeline to transport the beer to the bottling plant. BELGIAN FAMILY BREWERS MEMBERS Bosteels (est. 1791) De Brabandere (est. 1894) De Halve Maan (est. 1856) De Koninck (est. 1833) De Ryck (est. 1886) Dubuisson (est. 1769) Dupont (est. 1844) Duvel Moortgat (est. 1891) Het Anker (est. 1872) Huyghe (est. 1654) Lefebvre (est. 1876) Lindemans (est. 1822) Omer Vander Ghinste (est. 1892) PALM Belgian Craft Brewers (est. 1686) Roman (est. 1545) Saint-Feuilian (est. 1125) Silly (est. 1850) Sint Bernard (est. 1946) Timmermans (est. 1702) Van Eecke (est. 1862) Van Honsebrouck (est. 1900) Verhaeghe (est. 1885) Brouwerij Het Anker. PHOTO COURTESY OF BROUWERIJ HET ANKER PHOTO COURTESY OF BROUWERIJ HET ANKER Food didn't take a backseat on this excursion to Belgian. Sam Van Houcke, whose Onder de Toren recently received two couverts from Michelin, delighted the group with his refined dishes (pictured above) that he paired perfectly with the beers from the tour. We also dined at 't Hommelhof, a restaurant that focuses on pairing food with beer. PH OTO : M I CH A Ë L D E HA SPE

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