Friday, July 27, 2007

The Champagne of Beers

Many women still say to me, "I'm not a beer drinker." And I'm still shocked and appalled by this huge ... lie. The last woman with whom I had this discussion said to me, quite snottily I might add, "I primarily drink champagne." I retorted with, "Well, good for you Miss Thang, I have the perfect beer for you!"

Biere de Champagne or Biere Brut, as it is also called, is not the mass produced beer known as "The Champagne of Beer." When I say Biere de Champagne, I'm talking about a relatively new and, I must say, fan-effing-tastic style of beer. Basically, this beer is brewed in Belgium and then undergoes the "methode de champenoise," or the same kind of bottle conditioning, maturation, remuage (riddling) and degorgement (disgorging) that actual Champagne goes through. Some of these beers are actually shipped to the Champagne region of France for this special treatment.

These beers are delicate, yet still rich and complex, spicy and aromatic, amazingly effervescent, highly carbonated, and really really good. Most of them are also pretty high in alcohol, but the balance is so nice, and carbonation so high, that you might not be able to tell it by the mouthfeel or viscosity.

These beers usually come in 750ml Champagne bottles, complete with cork and cage. You can find them at your local wine store that sells craft and artisanal beers. They are a little pricier than other beers, but they're cheaper than most great Champagne, and they're well worth it! Trust me. (Just be careful when you open them because they can overflow quite easiliy - a la real Champagne.)

Here are some highly regarded Biere de Champagne beers:
(FYI - Drink these in a champagne flute.)

euS (Brut Des Flandres)
Brouwerij Bosteels, Belgium
This beer rocks it. Light straw colored with huge carbonation, this beer almost floats in your mouth. Spicy and peppery, this beer drifts in the middle to fruity apricots, pears and ginger. You'll definitely recognize the Belgian yeast qualities: a slight Orvallian earthy funk. There's also some good lemon rind on the dry finish. In my opinion, an excellent beer.
11.5% abv.

Malheur Biere Brut (Brut Reserve)
Brouwerij De Landtsheer NV, Belgium
According to the leading beer expert in the world, Michael Jackson (no not that one - c'mon girls!) Malheur Brut Reserve "has a remarkably flowery aroma, with suggestions of vanilla; restrained, tightly combined, fruity flavors (apricot? citrus?); and a very dry finish." I thought that it was quite spicy and filled with sweet malt. A very good beer. I'd love to try the
"Michael Jackson Commemorative Selection 2006."
11% abv.

Malheur Brut Noir

Brouwerij De Landtsheer NV, Belgium
A friend introduced me to this beer, which he told me is called "Black Chocolate" in the States. This is much less dry that the previous two beers. Touches of clove and cinnamon with notes of dark old-world fruit: cherry, plum and fig jam. Nice vinous quality. Some heat with alcohol you can taste, but the sharp carbonation cleans this beer up to a medium body.
12% abv.

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