During a quick stop in Belgium this spring, I strolled down a twisting, narrow cobblestone street to the Delirium Taphouse, where I discovered why Brussels is known for making some of the world's best beer. Amid a growing clientele of young twenty-somethings, bartenders still serve vintage Kasteel beers just miles from the suburbs where they have been brewed for centuries.
"Subtlety makes Belgian beers unique," said Belgian-born expert and beer blogger Wim Vanraes. He says Belgian beer is distinctive because unlike Germany, Belgium does not have purity laws limiting the ingredients that go into beer. In addition to malt, yeast, water, and hops, Belgians add flavors like raspberry and cherry.
Vanraes added some other fun facts. For example, his own grandmother claimed that darker beers provided an essential dose of essential vitamins including potassium, vitamin B, and folic acid, and advised young pregnant women to drink beer moderately during pregnancy.
That might trample on underage drinking laws so we'll steer clear of folklore. Instead, here's a local guide to Belgian beer and complementary food pairings in New York for responsible (and age-appropriate) drinkers.
Gueuze is a dry beer, tart and acidic. As a snack, it pairs deliciously with a bowl of raspberries or blackberries. It also goes well with crab cakes or salmon. New Yorkers can find Gueuze in Brooklyn at Downtown Bar and Grill.
Bourgogne Des Flandres was featured on the 2009 Finest Beer Selection list and awarded the maximum rating. As a dark, full-flavored beer, it goes well with both light snacks or pizza. For a taste of the classic Belgian beer in New York City, take a hike to the Tri-boro Beverage in Astoria.Beer-experts recommend
Nostradamus as a king among brown beers. It complements dinner, but can also stand on its own. This premium beverage offers a full rich taste complete with hints of pear and toasted bread. It is also available in Brooklyn at Downtown Bar and Grill.
Lastly, Westmalle Tripel is a classic trappist beer, deliciously soft and creamy with a hint of vanilla and a soft, fruity scent. Vanraes recommends it as a complementary drink for vanilla ice cream mixed with crushed gingerbread cookies and a dash of cinnamon. Top the ice cream with wild honey and serve next to a bottle of this classic Belgian beer and you have the perfect easy dessert. Affectionately called "The Mother of All Tripels," Westmalle is available at a variety of bars including Valhalla or Rattle N Hum in the heart of Midtown.