Belgium's Great Beers
Understanding the beer styles
Many distinctive variations of dark brown ales are made in Belgium, especially in Flanders. The classic style, with an interplay of caramel-like malty sweetness and a sourness gained in several months of maturation (usually in metal tanks), is sometimes identified as Oud ("Old") Bruin (the pronunciation is amost the same as the English word "brown"). The most complex examples have a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The flavour and acidity render these the perfect base for the Flemish beef stew carbonade Flamande. The most famous producing town is Oudenaarde (also known for Gothic architecture and Gobelin tapestries), not far from Ghent, in East Flanders. Oudenaarde's water, low in calcium and high in sodium carbonate, gives a particularly textured character to the beers. Its small Felix brewery, owned by a family named Clarysse; the weekends-only brewery of the Cnudde family; and the larger brewery of the Roman family all make examples of the style. Roman, which dates from 1545, has magnificent 1930s buildings, and a brewhouse from the same period. It makes a "single" version, at 5.5abv and a "double" at 8.0abv. These are labelled Special Roman and Dobbelen Bruinen respectively. The most typical examples of Browns, in three ages and strengths, are fermented and matured at Liefmans, in Oudenaarde, from brews made by Riva of Dentergem, in West Flanders. The classic example, Goudenband ("Golden Band"), at 8.0-plus, is also the basis for an excellent cherry beer, Liefmans' Kriek.
Bar-restaurant in producing region: Liefmans offers tours, a bar-restaurant, small museum, and art gallery. Zaal de Baudelot, 200 Aalst Straat, Oudenaarde, tel 055-311391. On weekdays, opens from 8.0 in the morning (for breakfast), serves Flemish dishes for lunch, but may close at 5.0 in the evening, depending upon business, or by arrangement. Weekends by arrangement.