The Globality of Beer

BYOB by | Dec 2010 | Issue #47

Illustration by Ellen Crenshaw

For reasons best left unsaid, lest I end up sounding like a character from a bad episode of The Twilight Zone, I ended up in a suit and tie last Friday night. Anyone who knows me is laughing or worried because I only end up in that getup under unusual and traumatizing conditions.

This time, I found myself in the midst of a diplomatic shark pool, fearful of offending a national interest and inadvertently starting a conflagration.

To put a finer point on it, I was a panelist and beer judge at a beer dinner thrown by the Belgian Consulate. Feeling like a kid in Dad’s clothes, out of place in a gorgeous Spanish adobe mansion in chi-chi Hancock Park in LA, there was beer as my savior and an awesome lamb stew with Gueuze to boot. The consul general kindly directed our small group to a table and proffered the beer menu: twenty beers from Taiwan, Greece, Croatia, Poland, etc. Oh, and, of course, Belgium.

As the panel took to the task, scribbling furiously, ranking points, sniffing, swirling, tasting, we were covertly observed by the crowd. They circled, friendly, bemused observers of an alien species. One fellow, not quite understanding “judging,” kept interrupting, wanting to know how his country’s beer did. (Poorly!)

By the time the judging was done, not only had we come to our winner (Orval Trappist Ale), but a new appreciation for the globality of beer. Granted, a good many of the beers were what you’d expect—faux Pilsners damaged by travel, light, heat and oxidation—but there were some real gems in the mix, like a Croatian strong lager or the series of Italian “Belgian” beers. That’s when it struck me: There was no way a dinner like this could have happened 30, 20, even 10 years ago. The beers wouldn’t have been available and no one, let alone diplomats, would have thought a beer dinner a worthy idea.

Since this is ostensibly a homebrewing column and not a “Drew’s Beer-Drinking Adventures” column, my brief time in the diplomatic world also reminded me how jaded a drinker and brewer I am. Here was this spread of beers and my initial reaction was, “Oh, I’ve had that and that and that … ho hum.” I’m guessing others are guilty of that, too. Heck, look closely the next time you go ingredient shopping. There’s Belgian this, German that, UK everything else. Say what you will about the looming economic horrors that globalization may bring, but for now: wow.

In that vein, and to celebrate Orval’s win (the diplomats ranked the Gouden Carolus Van de Keizer as their favorite—a double win by the Belgians), how about a cosmopolitan spin on the Trappist oddity? So let’s spread the love, malt, hops and yeast from around the beery world. The regular version of Orval is a Belgian Pale Ale built on pale malt, aromatic and candi sugar with a healthy dose of Styrian Goldings in secondary. On the way to packaging, the beer is inoculated with two strains of Brettanomyces found in the valley surrounding Abbey Notre-Dame d’Orval.

Cosmopolitan Trout, so named for the abbey’s fishy founding legend, uses a little bit of something from everywhere. We’ve got German Pilsner malt and hops, Belgian aromatic malt and sugar, American hops (and American yeasts, if you want to be accurate). All in all, it’s a world affair! Try the Tropical Trout that pairs the tropical characters of B. claussenii with the mango/pineapple of Citra.

For 5.5 gallons at 1.058, 5.9% ABV, 9 SRM, 25 IBU, 90-minute boil

Malt / Grain / Sugar
7.0 lb. German Pilsner malt
2.0 lb. English Mild (or Pale Ale) malt
0.5 lb. aromatic malt
1.5 lb. Belgian candi syrup (Clear) (aka 1 bottle)

Mash for 60 minutes at 148˚-150˚F

Hops (Pellets)
0.5 oz. Magnum 12.9% AA | 60 minutes
0.5 oz. Czech Saaz 5.0% AA | 10 minutes
0.5 oz. Spalt | 4.8% AA | 0 minutes
0.5 oz. Fuggle | 4.8% AA | Dry Hop
0.5 oz. Styrian Goldings | 6.0% AA | Dry Hop

Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes (Primary)
Wyeast 3112 Brettanomyces Bruxellenis (Secondary)
Wyeast 3526 Brettanomyces Lambicus (Secondary)

Tropical Trout Variation
Replace Dry Hop with: 1 oz. Citra (or Amarillo)

Substitute Brett Dose with: WLP645 Brettanomyces clausenii (instead of the other Bretts)