“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.”
–Paul Carvel… (Belgian author)
“The good Lord has changed water into wine, so how can drinking beer be a sin?”
–Sign near a Belgian monastery
If we are bilingual, it is usually English and Spanish rather than Flemish and French. Our capital is Austin, not Antwerp. (The similarity of Austin and Belgian traffic jams is a coincidence.) But at least when it comes to locally-brewed beer, it seems like Austin is enjoying a little bit of Belgian style.
Many local breweries have begun brewing Belgian-style beers, and the initial results are quite good. If you’ve never had a Belgian style, now would be a great time to branch out and see what the fuss is about; the Belgians are arguably the greatest brewers in the world. If you have experimented a little, then let me tell you a secret; there is beer and life beyond Chimay. How often can you broaden your horizons and still drink locally?
Let’s start with the beer from Adelbert’s Brewery. From the bearded and bespectacled gentleman on the label to the clean elegance of the bottles, these beers exude Old World style. Happily, the beer within can match the look without; Adelbert’s makes excellent Blonde, Dubble, Tripel, and Wite ales. My favorite, however, is the Scratchin’ Hippo Biere de Garde. Biere de Garde is “a strong pale ale or keeping beer… These beers were originally brewed in farmhouses during the winter and spring, to avoid unpredictable problems with the yeast during the summertime.” The Hippo is a little darker than many Bieres de Garde, with a rich smokiness that plays nicely with many foods. Try it with barbecue – or crazier still, try it in chili.
Real Ale is one of the best breweries in Central Texas. It’s no mistake that their Devil’s Backbone Tripel Ale. A honeyed nose moves into a beer that’s rich, sweet, and complex, with notes of dried fruit and caramel malt on the tongue; there’s enough bitterness to cut the sweetness. A nicely balanced beer, Devil’s Backbone used to be a seasonal beer. Now, it’s available year-round at your local Twin Liquors.
The new kid on the block is South Austin Brewing Company. Their beer selections currently include a Belgian Golden Ale (the iconic style of which Duvel is the most notable member) and a Saison. Saisons are great for Texas; they’re a lighter farmhouse-style ale, suitable for drinking in the heat. Local brewers Jester King also offer a farmhouse ale.
While we are probably a bit of a way away from wit beer-steamed mussels and pommes frites replacing barbecue, the selection of Texas beer has never been greater. Try one today!