Thirst and hunger easily satisfy us.
Some may say that beer is less refined than wine, and I must confess that I myself prefer wine. However, in Belgium, small local breweries held to the high standard of Belgium beer produce complex and unique batches of beer that lend themselves quite easily to a wine connoisseur. You sip, you taste, you consider the flavor profile. However, there is something different about beer tasting than wine tasting: namely, it is much more boisterous, easeful and unpretentious. Wine can sometimes divide–a wine menu once made me shudder!–but beer united. With beer, everyone easily can turn into your friend.
Shakespeare himself remind us that “For a quart of Ale is a meal for a King.” Royalty indeed rests a little more than 2 hours north of where I live in Belgium, and in particular, a region known as Wallonia.
Like many other European countries, Belgium has a beer culture, and there is a heritage going back more than 2000 years. Private households in Roman times, from the Belgae tribe, made standard Germanic ales brewed from typical grains of wheat and barley. However, Belgium’s beer quickly started adding unique blends of hops to the mix.
Historically, Belgium has been influenced by numerous cultural powerhouses: France, Germany, Dutch and Great Britain. The eclectic nature of the Belgium culture is revealed in their beers. They don’t just specialize in one or two styles, they excel in several variety and styles. After all, there are currently well over 1000 breweries!. That’s pretty impressive for a country approximately the size of Maryland.
Diverse. This one word aptly describing Belgian beers, which makes sampling hundreds of beer brands, distinction in most bottles, a pleasing purpose in and of itself.
Take for example Daniel, who is owner, producer, cleaner, chef, server, and host at Mellevertus Brasserie in Wallonia. His typical brown ale, a nutty complex beer available in the bottle and on tap on location, won the Best of Belgium Brune this past May 2012. This accolade is 8 years in the making, as Daniel left his comfortable job as a currency trader in 2004, soon after deciding that he would like to become a professional brewer. He had never made a beer in his life. Many of his family, friends and colleagues called him “crazy” when he converted his garage into a brasserie and began to produce homemade recipes.
“I grew up slowly,” he confessed, but judging from the superb La Mere Vertus, a complex triple of 9% alcohol that lingers in the middle of the mouth with notes of spicy hops, it is apparent that Daniel has matured. This is a brew master whom prizes the details of flavor profiles. He currently produces 800 hectoliters, 85% of them are bottles, spread over 20 different recipes. Think Saffron beer, produced with local saffron from 15K away, a friendly chili beer and a beer like none other I’ve tasted before—a pepper berry beer. Daniel exports 40% of his beers, and often produces individual batches, with flavor designed with astute intention for individuals, restaurant, charities or large events.
It doesn’t surprise that it turns out that Daniel is a foodie first, and a beer maker second. When asked how he kept all those recipes in his head, he said “I’ve got a big head….” then chuckling, “but maybe a little brain.” Each beer has a specific energy: “it is more of a laboratory, then a production,” he confessed.
Mellevertus, translated 1000 virtues, does appear to make one feel a bit morally uplifted, if not a little indulgent. Small scale in nature, Daniel performs every act of production with the assistance of one full time employee and his wife, who manages the administration of his business The beer tells a story of a person following a “crazy” passion, finding creative expression and giving people drinkable pleasure. Mellevertus doesn’t engender enough money for his family to live on, but he is making something more admirable and tasty: “Virtue” itself.
Individuals can easily visit Mellevertus in Wallonia, for a fee of 7 Euro, receive a generous tasting of 6 of their beers. He sells a tasting selection of his 6 bottle beers for 12 euro. Group tours, with specific food pairings, can also be arranged. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org