It is true that he educated Father Theodore in modern practices, and guided him through the development of the recipes for these world famous beers, but I cannot think of a single element of the taste of this beer that is not determined by a pre-exisitng Belgian cultural force, whether it be a temperance movement, the domestication of microzoa, or the historical influence of Belgian farmers’ sugar making practices. It seems to me that De Clerck used the tools of modern zymurgy to bring Belgian cultural tendencies to a very high expression.
The central question of War and Peace is: Did Napoleon cause history, or did history cause Napoleon? The central question of Belgian brewing is: Did Jean De Clerck create the landscape of modern Belgian beer or was he simply a particularly active and efficacious function of pre-existing social patterns, namely folk brewing practices and modern science in the wake of Pasteur?
First you gather your materials: the stones you will burn, the juniper branches and berries, the barley and rye, the wood for the fire, and some food and drink as you know this will take all day in the sauna.
Don’t let your uncle tell you how he misses old fashioned beers like Bud Light. A pilsener is newfangled nonsense. These sour, dark, smokey, high alcohol, spicy, herbally bitter, witchy, healthful brews were the original beers. They were called gruits.
Scratch Brewing uses fermented acorns to impart a flavor of, as they say, oak, leather, madeira, prunes, and bourbon; it doesn’t all have to be hazy IPA’s with Citra, Mosaic, and (fill in the blank with some Australian variety).
The answer was obvious because it had been close at hand all along: beet syrups.
We get the essence of the taste of the tree without the tannins of the wood itself, and the bigness of the beer without the oiliness of a huge grain bill. We’re back to a syrup koan: the essence of the birch is kept, but the tricky business of the body is excluded.
The radical difference of flavor comes from the peculiar combination of honeys and the yeast used, both of which collaborate to produce the strange “quoted” sensation of the fruitiness.
Honeys, saps, and syrups lighten the body of a beer. Paradoxically, they prevent beer from getting syrupy and gelatinous.
Yeast is the most avoided element of brewing in America. We tend to obsess over either the hops of our various pale ales, the malts of our stouts, porters, and even our hazy IPAs. But even sours that have become so popular often simplify the phenolic profile by using a “team player” yeast, like the Chico strain, in conjunction with domesticated strains of lactobacillus and pediococcus. The idea is to get a more mechanized dump of lactic acid, which is reproducible, but not as complex in flavor and smell as a lover of lambics might want them to be. A brewery like Ommegang will always be an outlier and considered… Read more »