Friday, 1 October 2010

Belgian Beers

Belgo Centraal
50 Earlham Street
Covent Garden
London WC2H 9LJ

If you thought Oktoberfest was a German thing, disabuse yourself - the Belgians are in on it too. At a special fest tasting at Belgo, London's most reliable purveyors of moules frites, I discovered that pairing beers with food actually works - improving both. While Belgian beer in particular can be a little demanding as a session drink, it makes a fine alternative to wine with dinner.

Food highlights here. Drink highlights here:

Belgo White/Witbier
, 5% (pictured top)

Paired with: Moules Mariniรจre (steamed mussels)
Said to be based on a 500-year-old recipe for a traditional Belgian wheat beer, Belgo's house white is made with raw wheat and seasoned with coriander and dried Curacao oranges. Produced by the people who bring other people (but not me) Hoegaarden.
A light, wheaty beer with a slightly malty finish. A little bland - but good with seafood.

De Koninck Blonde
, 6%
Paired with: Champagne, duck and truffle terrine
Another light-wheat beer, slightly sweet, with a fruity tang. Doesn't taste like a 6% beer, even though it is one.

Witcap Stimulo
, 6%
Paired with: Beef Carbonnade (braised beef cooked in beer)
Fruity, malty, wheaty.

Bruges Zot Blonde
, 6%
Paired with: Moules Portugaises (mussels & roast chorizo in a tomato sauce)
One of my favourites, a lovely balance of wheat and fruit, quite full-bodied with a longer finish.

Floris Apple
, 3.6%
Paired with: Poached Pear
Completely different.
A light, crisp, fruity beer, not too sweet, with a Granny Smith aroma.

Westmalle Dubbel, 7% (left)
Paired with: Belgian Chocolate Pudding
From one of Belgium's six Trappist breweries, whose beer - to be authentically Trappist - must be made within a monastry's walls, overseen by a genuine monk.
Darker, like cola, in mouthfeel. An aroma of banana with a mild liquorice taste.

Mort Subite Gueuze
, 4.5%
Paired with: Belgian Waffle
A lambic beer, meaning a blend of newly brewed and aged (2-3 years) beer.
A little sour - the closest one to a cider. Not my cup of tea.

Tripel Karmeliet, 8.4%
A bonus beer towards the end of the evening.
Caramel sweetness with a long finish. Nice.

: Out of respect to Oktoberfest, Belgo's five London locations are offering a special meal deal every Wednesday in Oktober - t
hree courses paired with three of the above beers for £33, in a pilgrimage-cum-masterclass hosted by one of the mini-chain's venerable Beer Masters.

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