It'll Cure What ALES You

It's high time you try Belgian Beer, a distinctive brew that rivals even the finest wines.  The selection is impressive, the quality is impeccable and the pedigree is distinguished.  One taste and your perception of "beer" will be altered forever.  Take if from someone who knows, Geert Anthonis a.k.a. "the Belgian Beer Guy" in Kaohsiung…..

I can still remember sitting at the family table as a 5yr old as bottles of "table beer" were shared with one and all.  "Table Beer", or more accurately "light beer", is a rather sweet and heavily carbonated beverage with an alcohol content of just 1.5 %.  That  first impression changed when a friend took me to pub in my hometown serving "Belgian Specialty Beers". With just  one swig, I realized THIS was something I could really sink my teeth into. Three months later, I got another "taste",  compliments of the World Beer Atlas by Micheal Jackson, which explained in great detail the heritage of Belgian brews.  I was  hooked, and by the time I graduated from college, I had sampled over 300 Belgian beers and visited over 30 breweries.

I had hopes of starting my own brewery here in Taiwan, but it was not to be.  So instead of making, I turned to importing  where I'm continually asked, "What makes Belgian Beer so special?"

There are several answers, but first and foremost, the Belgian government does not over regulate the industry leaving the brewers free to do what they do best.  By comparison in Germany, the "Reinheitsgebot" states in detail which ingredients and  processes are allowed.  While Germany has close to 3000 breweries, it only has a handful of different flavors.

The individualistic, hard working nature of the Belgian brewers over the centuries is another contributing factor. They learned much from their German and English counterparts, however they were not afraid to experiment. Visit any Belgian brewery and the "brewmeister" (is that the right word?) will proudly share stories of how an ancestor came up with something new.

Though not proven, bottle conditioning, a common feature of high end specialty beers, was introduced by Belgian brewers.  After a first (or in some cases a second or third) fermentation the beer is primed with a bit of sugar and then bottled. The yeast  digests the sugar and releases CO2 giving the beer a natural carbonation. This not only makes for a beer with a nice head when  served, it also means the beer is alive and continues to evolve while in the bottle. Though most think "fresher" beer is better, that's not the case. Belgian brewers will sell their beer as soon as the conditioning period is over, but with the recommendation  that it's not consumed months or even years later (the Chimay Trappist monks claim beer is best between 2 1/2  to 3 years after bottling). Beer kept at my family home that's dated to 1983 tastes great!.

Classic Belgian Specialty Beers combine innovation, respect for tradition, select ingredients and a devotion to quality over quantity. Sadly, they are rarely exported.  After all, if the brew must mature in old oak barrels for 6 month to 3 years, it is impossible to alter production just to satisfy demands of marketing agents.

One of the greatest delights of Belgian Beer is the presentation. Each has its own type of glass to accentuate the special characteristics. The bottle is always served with the glass, yet one never drinks from it.

The latest edition of the Belgian Beer Yearbook, published by Peter Crombecq, lists no less than 469 distinctly different ales. Excerpts are on the Web at in English, French and Dutch. Surprisingly, there are currently almost 1600 different labels!  But, this does not mean there are as many Belgian Beers.  It is not unusual for a single beer to sport several labels (upwards of 20!) for distribution through various markets.  Finally, you should be advised that not all represent the highest quality standards.  There are a few unscrupulous brewing conglomerates that tout theirs as "traditional Belgian brew" just because they are made in-country.

Ask your favorite pub if they carry Belgian Beer, and then try a taste.  It will change your world, for sure.
Contact Geert Anthonis  if you'd like to place an order