Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Brussels Hiatus

As I am now living in a cramped ill-equipped room in the Schaarbeek neighborhood of Brussels, my Spanish cooking projects have collapsed. Although there is an abundance of Spanish food in store for the near future (San Sebastian and Valladolid here we come!), I need something to fill the time until July 21. So I will try to mark time with some observations of Belgian food/drink.

My early experiences with Belgian food have been underwhelming. As a result, I will start with the "drink" part of the equation! Belgian beer is justly reknowned for variety and quality. Even the cheap Belgian beers are head and shoulders above their American/German/Mexican competitors. You can get a bottle of Chimay Blue label for $1 afterall! Another factor often overlooked by American frat boys is alcohol content. Sure you can get a case of Beast Light for nothing but there is a reason for the price: alcohol content is directly proportional to the amount of malt in the pre-fermented beer. Few American "pilsners" go much above 5% (if that).

The situation in Belgium is light years apart. Even mass market beers can reach 8% abv. In fact, outside of fruit beers, it is difficult to find a Belgian ale under 7%. Since I have to wake up early for the archives tomorrow, I decided on one of these weaker fruit beers for tonight (although it still clocks in at 5.2% abv...above most American light lagers).

The above beer is Leireken's Wilde Vruchten (or since we are in a country with a dangerous linguistic divide Fruits Sauvages). It is a lambic (wild fermentation) brewed with mixed wild fruits. I much prefer too-literal English translation of the name Savage Fruit! This beer tastes like Fruit Loops should. It's flavor and aroma are a complex mix of wild berries but it is not cloyingly sweet. Instead, it has a subtle tang from the wild fermentation that perfectly balances the fruitiness. Even better, it won't leave me hungover for another day of illegible 16th century documents.

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