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Old 04-23-2006, 04:26 AM   #1
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Default Do Belgian Beers break all the rules?

Hey everyone,

I was just chatting with a friend who runs the local brewery/pub in town and I brought up Belgians asking what he thought about them. He just stated he didnt like them and the main reason being that when making a Belgian Beer you "break all the conventional and traditional rules of beer brewing". And so I just left it at that and changed the subject. From the way he talked he obviously didnt think well of Belgian brews.

So while driving home I thought hard about what he said. What exactly did he mean about Belgians breaking the rules of normal beer brewing? Whos to say exactly what the "right" way to brew beer is? Isnt it true that if you boil up some barley and hops and add yeast and you like the final product, its successful? And so what if you add some weird spices and have a funky yeast in the beer and ferment it at a higher temp? If you like it, its a good thing, right?

All in all, I was very suprised by this brewer's statements(bashing the Belgian style in general). He has brewed several award winning beers without even trying (someone else entered the beer in the contest without his knowing). This guy has made incredible IPAs, Porters, ESBs, Scotch Ales, Wheat Ales, Barley Wines, NB Ales, Stouts, etc.

SO what is the deal? Are there many other brewers out there that think this way? That Belgians are "just weird" that that they "break all the rules". I dont understand this at all. I think some Belgian beers are the best brews I have ever tasted.

Please enlighten me.

~S.T. Out

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Old 04-23-2006, 08:41 AM   #2
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Intresting topic. If you ask the Germans then, yes, Belgians break all the rules. But if you're not German should you be concerned with the rules?
My own feeling is that if you are going to break rules (encourage the off flavors, or add unusual ingredients) you need to do it well. You should be making a beer which is delicious and balanced. Sure it may contain calf's blood, but you'll have to increase the malt bill to balance it out.

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Old 04-23-2006, 10:58 AM   #3
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Who wrote the rules? I know the Belgians have been brewing longer the most countries have been countries.

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Old 04-23-2006, 11:57 AM   #4
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Could it be that your brewer friend feels this way because it would be a pain to brew Belgian beer in his brewery? I would imagine that it is pretty difficult to stray off the beaten path for brewers. They have to build efficiency into their systems and changing ingredients and procedures might be too much of a bother.
Or it could be he just doesn't like Belgian beers.

Ah the beauty of home brewing... We can follow or break any rules we want.

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Old 04-23-2006, 01:34 PM   #5
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Belgian beers are awesome!!! Who care's if they dont believe in some Kantian philosophy of following categorical imperatives (thou shalt not use candy sugar)?

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Old 04-23-2006, 04:10 PM   #6
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Rules...hmmm...breaking the rules... Rules for beer brewing... Maybe your friend needs to be educated on what he is selling.

Lets see, brewing beer has dated back to ancient times, with its birth still unknown. 9000 years ago, the Chinese brewed a fermentable beer using millett, rice, as well as flowers and spices to preserve it. Flowers and spices? Who made that rule in 7000 AD?

In the 5000 BC, and has been recorded in history in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was made from any cereal that contained fermentable sugars and used spices, and was fermented by wild airborne yeasts... Gee, which beer manufacturer brews like that anymore? Damn, we are all breaking the rules!

And since hops werent used until around 800 to 1000AD, by the French, I guess they were breaking the rules as well by deciding to add them to beer.

And the Germans decided around 1160 that they wanted to create and maintain a certain local brew style, defining themsleves in the process, by fining brewers for making so called "inferior" beers. Then they decided in Munich that the prices should be regulated for summer and winter, and abide by an oath that would be taken in front of the official governmental treasurer to use only barey, hops and water. And in 1516, they spread the original Munich rules to all of Germany with the German Beer Purity Law to dictate how beer should be brewed and sold in both winter and summer. Later the Germans "broke" this rule by adding yeast to the law.

Belgian beers seem to abide by the orginal methods of adding a cereal with fermentable sugars, fermented by wild yeasts, and preserved with spices and hops, all of which were the original forms of brewing which date back to between 5000 and 7000 BC.

So...breaking the rules?

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Old 04-23-2006, 04:17 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichBrewer
Could it be that your brewer friend feels this way because it would be a pain to brew Belgian beer in his brewery? I would imagine that it is pretty difficult to stray off the beaten path for brewers. They have to build efficiency into their systems and changing ingredients and procedures might be too much of a bother.
Or it could be he just doesn't like Belgian beers.
This is exactly what I have been thinking. And he just informed me that he can only use one type of yeast at any one time because he doesnt have a lab/clean room setup (that explains a lot). I think he is using White Labs California at the moment.

I really can't imagine brewing so many different beers with only one yeast.

Isnt it the yeast that gives a beer its distinct qualities???

~S.T. Out
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Old 04-23-2006, 04:28 PM   #8
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I can certainly understand not liking Belgian Ales, but as mentioned, the only rules they violate are the old purity laws. By these laws, any ale or lager containing wheat, corn, honey, fruit, etc. isn't real beer. Reinheitsgebot was repealed in 1987.

I don't like the flavor of Belgians or fruity wheat beers, I'm too lazy to make lagers, and I'm getting tired of Cascades, but that doesn't mean I can't evaluate them to style nor does it make them evil.

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Old 04-23-2006, 05:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S.T. Out
This is exactly what I have been thinking. And he just informed me that he can only use one type of yeast at any one time because he doesnt have a lab/clean room setup (that explains a lot). I think he is using White Labs California at the moment.

I really can't imagine brewing so many different beers with only one yeast.

Isnt it the yeast that gives a beer its distinct qualities???

~S.T. Out
I've never brewed a Belgian beer but I would think that the yeast would be an integral part of it.
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Old 04-23-2006, 10:47 PM   #10
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If he only uses one yeast at a time (and this is common for breweries), that explains a lot. Belgians are very dependent on the yeast type and "contaminating" your system with a Belgian strain will really mess up everything else. Imagine a Banana IPA? Not to mention the souring impact of lactic acid.

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