WE PAUSE now to raise a beer in commemoration of Belgium’s independence from the Evil Empire of the Netherlands.
‘Twas 182 years ago this Sunday that a ragtag band of Belgies dressed like Indians clambered aboard Dutch ships and dumped barrels of Hollandaise sauce in the Harbor of Brussels.
This heroic act of rebellion ignited the infamous Battle of the Bulge, where corpulent gourmands from Antwerp faced down round upon round of Edam cheese.
The Dutch army, unable to march in wooden shoes, quickly surrendered and returned to Amsterdam to resume smoking pot.
Or something like that.
All I really know is that nearly two centuries later, the Dutch are known for their tulips, and Belgium . . . well, Belgium gave us beer.
And not just any beer. Not just the tradition-laden lagers of Germany or the ales of Britain.
It was Belgium, with its astounding variety of brewing styles and methods, that broke the rules and redefined beer with the likes of Flemish red, abbey dubbel, witbier, lambic, blond, saison, tripel, oud bruin, faro and more.
It was Belgian beer, with its challenging, diverse array of flavors, that inspired America’s own inventive craft brewers to experiment with ingredients and explore uncharted flavors.
Without Belgian beer, Rob Tod wouldn’t be spontaneously fermenting sour ale at Allagash Brewing, in Maine. Ron Jefferies wouldn’t be making saison at Jolly Pumpkin, in Michigan. And Jean Broillet IV wouldn’t have opened Tired Hands brewpub in Ardmore.
Without Belgian beer, there’d be no Blue Moon or Shock Top. There’d be no Ommegang, the New York brewery modeled after the farmhouse breweries of Flanders. There’d be no such thing as “abbey” beer. Or Belgian IPA. Or Framboise.
Without Belgium, there’d be no New Belgium.
Monk’s Café would never have opened in Center City, nor Eulogy in Old City, nor Bridgid’s in Fairmount, nor Abbaye in Northern Liberties. There’d be no Teresa’s Next Door in Wayne or Iron Abbey in Horsham.
Praise to the Smurfs – independent Belgium lives! And Philadelphia, a/k/a Brussels on the Schuylkill, will celebrate appropriately.
Raise a toast with one of these five authentic Belgians (plus one American):
•Mort Subite White Lambic. Light, fruity and refreshing, this is a nice step up if you’re looking for something less sweet than Lindemans Framboise, but not as funky as Gueuze.
•Duvel Tripel Hop. The world’s benchmark saison takes a cue from America’s hop craze and adds a dose of Sorachi Ace hops for a citrus finish.
•La Chouffe. The brewery’s Ardennes’ yeast is a favorite of American brewers in search of that telltale Belgian fruitiness. You’ll get the full measure of its pear-like ester character with this luscious, smooth ale.
•Vicaris Generaal. Despite flavors of dried fruit and molasses, it finishes dry and pairs well with barbecued food. It’s neither flashy nor restrained, just sublime.
•St. Feuillien La Blanche. The brewery describes this unique summertime refresher as a mix of its high-proof Tripel and easy-drinking Grisette Blanche.
•Ommegang Belgian Independence Day Double White. It’s made in the U.S.A., but Ommegang is the real deal (and often a good bit cheaper). This witbier is flavored with bitter orange peel, coriander and chamomile.
I’ll be pairing Duvel, Maredsous, De Koninck and others with excellent Belgian cheese from Di Bruno Brothers at a free sampling from 4-6 p.m. July 26 at Bell Beverage (South Philly).
Then, on Saturday, I’ll lead tastings of several American versions of Belgian beer at “Brews for Books” at Indian Valley Public Library (Telford, Montgomery County). Tickets for the festival, featuring beer from two dozen breweries, are $35 online.
Duvel Moortgat is also raising the black, yellow and red banner at these locations:
•Old Eagle Tavern (Manayunk), the Belgian Café (Fairmount) and TJ’s Restaurant & Drinkery (Paoli) tonight.
•Logan Inn and Iron Abbey (Bucks County) tomorrow.
•Wegman’s locations in King of Prussia, Warrington, Malvern, Downingtown and Collegeville, and the Foodery locations in Center City, Rittenhouse Square, Northern Liberties and Roxborough, on Saturday.
•Finally, Devil’s Den (South Philly) hosts an Ommegang Beer Brunch (and the end of the Tour de France) from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.