Thursday, February 01, 2007

Another choucroute and beer tasting

My friend Virginie doesn't like wine but enjoys beer a lot and she really loved the choucroute and beer tasting that we did last year. So the other weekend, we did it again. We were at the ski cabin and it was unusually cold outside: 18°F! We had spent half the day skiing cross country to keep us warm and now we were hungry! Our Choucroute (sauerkraut) was slowly cooking in the oven; it was time to get the beers out of the fridge.

This year, we selected some Abbey beers from Belgium including a Trappist. Trappist beers are made by abbey monks from the Trappist order. Monastery brewhouses used to exist all over Europe because the monks were brewing beer to earn their living. But today, only seven Trappist breweries continue to produce beer, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. Unlike Trappist beers, Abbey beers are not made by monks anymore. Instead, they are produced by commercial breweries under license from the Abbeys.

We started with the Affligem Blonde. Affligem Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Flemish Belgium. Until 1970, brewing was the responsibility of the abbey's monks. Today, the making of the beer has been taken over by the nearby Affligem brewery, under license from the monks. The Affligem Blonde is a classic Abbey Ale, with a clear and deep yellow color and a toasty, nutty, and slightly bitter taste.

The Grimbergen Blonde Ale was created by monks of the Norbertine order from the Grimbergen abbey. Like all the abbey beers, the Grimbergen is a high fermentation beer, which means that the fermentation takes place at a temperature varying between 15°C and 25° whereas low fermentation temperatures are around 8°C. The beer had a pleasant nose of citrus and honey. The palate had a definite sweetness and not much bitterness.

The Chimay Blanche or Triple is a Trappist beer brewed by the monks of the Notre-Dame de Scourmont abbey in the town of Chimay. Like with all the Trappist breweries, the monks are making beer to financially support the abbey. The beer is non-pasteurized. After being bottled, it is allowed to ferment a second time for three weeks before being shipped. The Chimay beers can age well, at least five years and up to fifteen years for the Chimay Bleue, a dark and strong ale. The Chimay Blanche had a darker color and a compact foam. The color was slightly hazy. On the palate, it was dry and hoppy with a long bitter finish.

The Leffe Blonde comes originally from the abbey Notre Dame de Leffe, but today, all Leffe brands are brewed at the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven. The beer had a glowing golden color and a flavorful and refreshing palate, followed by a long finish.

My friend Virginie fell in love with the honeyed sweetness of the Grimbergen. Personally, I thought that the Affligem was particularly well balanced and a great accompaniment to the sour cabbage and the spicy sausages of the choucroute.

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