Author Topic: What makes it "Belgian"?  (Read 5371 times)

Offline gmac

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What makes it "Belgian"?
« on: August 02, 2012, 08:42:46 PM »
So I've seen Belgian IPAs and now a Belgian stout. Is it as simple as a regular IPA or stout recipe fermented with Belgian yeast?  Wouldn't the hops or roast clash with the phenols of these yeast strains? 

Offline erockrph

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2012, 09:16:36 PM »
Yeah, generally it's as simple as using a Belgian yeast AFAIK. I haven't tried a Belgian stout, but the commercial Belgian IPA's I've tried have been really nice. The Duvel Tripel Hop is insanely good. While it's not a Belgian per se, the Schneider Hopfenweisse is along the same idea and is possibly the best beer I've had in the past year.
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Offline corkybstewart

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2012, 09:44:06 PM »
I have tried a bunch of these so called Belgian stouts and IPA's and I think true Belgians should be embarrassed.  For me Belgian beers are defined by the yeast, sugars and temperatures.  If I brew an English style IPA(malty,UK yeast) with Cascade and Simcoe can I  I still call it a british IPA-of course not, it's something completely different.  I don't know if Belgian brewers centuries ago brewed stouts or IPA's but even if they did they would bear no resemblance to what those beer styles have become today.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2012, 10:17:03 PM »
I find that in most cases the hops or roast clashes with the yeast character.
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Offline majorvices

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What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2012, 04:01:33 AM »
I find that in most cases the hops or roast clashes with the yeast character.

+1. In most, but not all.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2012, 06:00:06 AM »
Belgians are also famous for thinking outside the box and using a lot of artistry in coming up with beers.  In that sense I suppose trying unconventional combinations is Belgian.

Nothing says they're going to work of course.  I kind of quit this and pretty much focus on tailoring conventional styles to my particular palate.  In fact I've been through my Belgian phase and don't brew them much anymore except for lambics and the occasional wit for the wife.
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Offline nateo

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2012, 06:16:54 AM »
Belgians are also famous for thinking outside the box and using a lot of artistry in coming up with beers.  In that sense I suppose trying unconventional combinations is Belgian.

I disagree. Belgian brewing tradition was all about brewing with whatever ingredients were locally available. Brewing tradition was at least heavily influenced, if not completely dominated by the monastic orders. They weren't interested at all in coming out with the latest/greatest/weirdest beer. They just made strange beer a long time ago and are still making strange beer. I love that strange beer they make, but it's not creative.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2012, 09:57:52 AM »
Belgians are also famous for thinking outside the box and using a lot of artistry in coming up with beers.  In that sense I suppose trying unconventional combinations is Belgian.

...I love that strange beer they make, but it's not creative.

There's definitely two sides to the coin, here.

The traditional Trappist beers remain true to monastic tradition (which is really about as old as the Budweiser tradition). Awesome beers, always consistent.

A lot of Belgian breweries that we're exposed to in the US get wild hairs here and there. Cantillon plays with different fruit and dry-hops. Dupont has an excellent stout. Urthel makes (basically) an American IPA.

Even the Trappist breweries try new things every once in awhile. Orval has collaborated with Boulevard. Konings Hoeven uses bourbon barrels and has created at least one new beer for the past few years.

Great thing is - both the classics and the new stuff are GREAT.
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Offline nateo

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2012, 10:15:14 AM »
Cantillon plays with different fruit and dry-hops. Dupont has an excellent stout. Urthel makes (basically) an American IPA.

If using fruit and dry hops, or brewing a stout or an American IPA is creative, I'm basically Picasso. I don't think a lot of the "creative" beers are any good, but it's weird to say collaborating with other brewers or using bourbon barrels is creative. If I couldn't name a dozen breweries that have done all of those things, then I'd say it's creative.
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Offline gsandel

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2012, 11:33:12 AM »
What makes it Belgian?  Um....if it's made in Belgium.

But to simply answer the question, if it has to be only one thing it is the yeast.

The Belgian tradition of using locally abundant fresh ingredients, wild and non traditional yeast (and/or Bacteria) for fermentation at ambient temperatures inspires us to try different combinations of this and incorporate it into and create our own brewing traditions....some works, some does not.

An IPA using Belgian yeast should (IMO) be called Belgian Inspired IPA.
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Offline Titanium Brewing

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2012, 11:55:47 AM »
It listens to Jacques Brel and eats Schaerbeek cherries?
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Offline majorvices

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What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2012, 05:22:43 PM »
What makes it Belgian?  Um....if it's made in Belgium.

I have been told that "Stella Artois is the best beer in the world .... and it's Belgian" (or they may have said "it's Belgium", actually). ;)
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Online euge

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2012, 06:32:08 PM »
Some of the Belgian beers I've had are fairly clean and could support significant hopping if their yeast strains were used. Also New Belgium's Belgo is quite hoppy and scarcely clashes phenolic.

It's knowing your yeast and how to treat them.

For me if a beer is from Belgium it should be classified as so. Made elsewhere with the yeast it should be termed "Belgian-style" or inspired if you want as the aforementioned Belgo indicates. This will at least alert the consumer if strong yeast byproducts are apparent in the flavor and construed as intentional.
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Offline The Professor

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Re: What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2012, 07:39:02 PM »
...I love that strange beer they make, but it's not creative.

If a beer is a good beer, it doesn't have to be creative.  Sometimes it's better not to be.  After all, lot of stuff hitting the shelves these days in the USA is  proof enough that creativity isn't always a 'win'.   :o

As to the original question that was posed...I agree with euge:   for a beer to be called "Belgian", it has to be made in Belgium.  But a good "Belgian style" beer can be made anywhere with properly handled yeast of the right type. The product can be as good as the 'real thing' (and in rare cases, possibly even better).

As far as Stella Artois is concerned, yeah, it's definitely a Belgian beer...though probably more in the German or Continental  style.
I guess it works both ways.   ;)   
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Offline majorvices

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What makes it "Belgian"?
« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2012, 05:11:16 AM »
I love that strange beer they make, but it's not creative.

Thought I'd chime in on this. How is it "not creative"? Just because they used ingredients that were available to them? Using spices and candi sugar is not creative? Making a 9% golden beer to compete with pilsner is not creative? We are talking about the nation that invented the smurfs. ;) . Belgian beer is certainly creative. I don't see where you are coming from.
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