An Introduction to “Old World” Beer

I can see how wine is seen as a bit of a “high brow” indulgence. Especially in America where there is no wine culture based on familial lineage dating back hundreds of years. It seems natural that mass produced beers like Bud, Coors, and Miller would take over America’s unassuming palate. To me, these beverages seem like little more than carbonated water with a small dose of alcohol mixed in for good measure. They are great diuretics as well. Ever notice the line at your local your local bar? It’s usually pretty long. And trust me; they aren’t there for the World Bank summit.             

I do think that wine is pretty damn special though, especially when all is in balance. Perhaps even more important than the overall balance is an educated consumer’s favorite “single flavor component” being at the forefront. Now depending on your taste this piece of the puzzle may be the level of acidity, tannin, fruit, alcohol or even the secondary characteristics of a slightly older bottle. Some like vibrant, crisp wines like Txakolina and Riesling, others like grippingly tannic wines like Nebbiolo or Cabernet Sauvignon. And some just want to get a little tipsy; so they shoot for the Australian Shiraz (I swear those wines should be considered “fortified”).  In my case, as George Clinton once said, “You gotta have that funk!”  I dig barn-yardy, rustic wines that may cause the casual wine drinker to run for the hills.  This “funk” is usually attributed to pesky wild yeast strains like Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus. They often inhabit the air, or more specifically, the barrels in which the most traditional wines are aged.

Serendipitously, ever since Thaddeus “Tripel Threat” Kawecki began to carefully curate our craft beer section, I have been sampling certain beers that have the same rural nuance. You may even want to call them “old world” beer. Now for all you “winos” out there, these should be your first choices:

 Orval Trappist Ale – Orval is the perfect aperitif.  Mouthwatering and delicious, there are few beers that will set you up for a good meal better than one of these. Bitter, bone-dry, aromatic and complete with a zippy acidity, the nose displays aromas of lemon zest, wet wool, citric hops and a touch of malty toffee. The beer is particularly fond of grilled sardines, bluefish and ham.  The beer’s lemony, acidic and earthy components will bring out the flavors in these oily foods. $5.29 – 6.9% abv

De Proef Reinhaert Wild Ale – An ale fermented three times with two different yeasts, including a strain of Brettanomyces – the “wild yeast” of lambic brewing. It has a pale golden color with a rocky white head.  A touch of Brett and spicy aromatic notes give way to an almond malty note on the palate, the most accessible of these last three, in my humble opinion. $10.49 750ml – 9% abv

 De Geuze Boon – It has a lively champagne-like carbonation with aromas of cider apples,  rose petals, lemon rinds and a Sancerre-like catty note. It is very “funky”. The palate is super dry with a slight bitterness, an acidic zest and intertwined flavors of apples, hay and citrus. $6.99 — 7%abv

 The Duchess of Bourgogne – Who likes balsamic vinegar?  The Duchess is a very interesting style. Often referred to as the “Burgundy of Belgium”, this sour beer from West Flanders has a distinctly dark red coloring. On the palate it is slightly sweet, but with a sour bite and bouquet. If you like rustic red wine, you’ll find it to be one of the most interesting beers you’ll ever drink. $4.99 – 6% abv

*** (Note: For maximum enjoyment and aromatic pleasure please use a wine glass when consuming- it won’t mind a bit.)***

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