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?
The answer was obvious because it had been close at hand all along: beet syrups.
Honeys, saps, and syrups lighten the body of a beer. Paradoxically, they prevent beer from getting syrupy and gelatinous.