Sunday, May 9, 2010

Beer Spotting 1 - Westmalle Tripel and Leffe Blond

Yesterday my hubby asked if I would like to go to a cafe with an indoor children's playground so we can have a drink and His Majesty can play in the playground. No, he wasn't thinking of celebrating Mother's Day for me, neither was that on the mind of His Majesty as he was still too young even to call me mama. So we went to the cafe this afternoon and I suddenly realised that I haven't really had a chance to try out all the different types of beer in Belgium. Hence I decided to do a beer-spotting and sample 1 type of beer per week at a gezellig (cosy) cafe. According to the wikipedia, there are 125 breweries and more than 800 types of beers in Belgium, not including special one-off beers. I wonder how long it will take for me to sample all the different types of beers in Belgium? 16 years? Oh my god...
I can't hold my liquor, I know that very well. But I am in Belgium, and the locals here drink beer just like they drink water. So I have to train myself hard so that my face won't turn red just after sipping a few drops of beer. I tried that this afternoon, and I think I still have a LONG LONG way to go. Just a glass of Westmalle Triple (330ml, 9.5%) was enough to knock me out and I ended up "staggering" to the toilet. I think the children must be laughing their heads off when they saw me walking in a zig zag manner, trying to catch hold of His Majesty. :)
We ordered a Westmalle Tripel (which is a Trappist beer from the Westmalle Abbey) and a Leffe Blond (which is an abbey beer but not a Trappist beer) and a portie kaas which came with mustard sauce. I know it sounds confusing, but what is the difference between a Trappist beer and an abbey beer? Trappist beers are beers brewed by monks in abbeys of the "Trappist" order. (There are also other abbey beers which are not Trappist beers, such as Leffe and Grimbergen.)

In fact, there are only 7 Trappist abbeys or monasteries in the world, 6 in Belgium and 1 in Netherlands. They are namely Achel, Chimay, Koningshoeven (Netherlands), Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren. The Westvleteren is the most sought-after Trappist beer simply because they don't sell it on a commercial basis. We will try the Westvleteren beer when we can spare the time to make a trip to De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren. (You have to make a reservation weeks in advance and go down personally to the abbey to collect the beer.)

I am not a beer historian, so I am not going to bore you with all these details. You just have to know that the Westmalle Abbey produces the Dubbel (darker colour, 7%) and the Tripel (lighter colour, 9.5%), and that the Westmalle Dubbel is good for breastfeeding. Yes, I am NOT kidding. I heard it from a midwife, now you know why I am drinking it. :)

So the next time you go to Belgium, don't forget to order a Trappist beer, and a portie kaas or a bitterballen to go with your beer !  

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