The Session #91: My First Belgian

The SessionYesterday was the first Friday of September, and though we just came back from a terrific conference that celebrated, among other things, collaboration among bloggers, I did not have a post ready for this month’s edition of The Session—the monthly collaborative beer blogging project where we all write about a common topic. (To be fair, this week I’ve been immersed with reviewing page proofs of the book, which is rather time-consuming.)

This month’s Session was hosted by Breandán Kearney of Belgian Smaak, and he suggested the topic My First Belgian.

The rules are that there are no rules. There is incredible opportunity at your fingertips; whether it be to write about the first time you tried a Flemish red brown ale or the time you got your taste buds around a traditional Belgian witbier.

But if you have never tasted a Belgian beer, don’t worry. Now is your opportunity to jump in at the deep end. Have you found an excellent Saison amid the current global trend for producing this dry and thirst quenching traditional summer farm ale? Have you ever drunk a Speciale Belge which took you by surprise? Or perhaps you love being soured by lambics, geuzes and faros.

He goes on to offer up a wide variety of examples and suggestions, essentially inviting everyone to write about Belgian beer in some form.

Our aim here is to explore, discuss and hopefully celebrate the ways (if any) in which this fascinating beer culture has personally impacted on each of you, the passionate beer blogging community.

Lindemans FramboiseI’ve been drinking beer for a long time—much longer than I’ve been blogging about it, or even keeping notes on what I’ve been drinking. So in all honesty, I cannot recall just what my first actual Belgian beer was—though if I hazard a guess, I would say it’s just as likely as any that it was Lindemans Framboise (raspberry lambic). I remember reading about lambics in Papazian’s books at the time and was impressed with the story of the open, wild fermentation taking place in old buildings, open to the elements, with cobwebs, dust, bugs and more floating freely throughout the brewery. And then to taste the amazing flavors coming from the bottle that Lindemans had concocted, it was a revelation—miles beyond the American-made fruit beers of the time, tart in a crisp and appetizing way—it was the first glimpse into the rich and deep brewing culture Belgium has to offer.

There have been other revelatory Belgian beers over the years: Saison Dupont, Chimay, Trappistes Rochefort, many more. And watching the American craft brew culture grow and be inspired by the beers of Belgium over the years has been amazing as well—I think it’s fair to say that of the various foreign influences that have impacted American beer, the most significant have come from Belgium, whether in the direct emulation of styles or in the melding of Belgian characteristics with other existing styles (Belgian IPA comes immediately to mind). But when it comes back down to Lindemans, that’s a tough beer to beat. I know, purists will object that it’s not a proper lambic because it’s infused with fruit syrups and is more akin to soda pop than lambic… or something. Ignore that; it’s a Belgian beer brewed by a Belgian company and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another fruit beer as well received by the general drinking public as Framboise.

And that’s kind of what Belgian beer is about, at all levels.