Belgium News

News, Nuggets & Longreads 20 August 2016: Ribbeltje, Gasholders and Serebryanka

Here’s all the writing about beer, pubs, beer glasses and gasholders that’s caught our eye in the last week.

Barm (@robsterowski) breaks the oddly sad news that the company behind Stella Artois is to cease serving its premium lager in so-called ribbeltje glasses in its native Belgium, going over instead to the fancier chalice design:

As is widely known, despite the brewer’s attempt to punt it in other countries as a ‘reassuringly expensive’ premium beer, in Belgium Stella is the bog standard café beer, with a basic, proletarian glass to match. This, of course, is precisely why the marketers hate the glass so much. It’s not chic enough for their pretensions.

Dandelion saison in the glass.
SOURCE: Ales of the Riverwards

With a cameo appearance from just such a glass, Ed Coffey at Ales of the Riverwards has been reflecting on foraged ingredients and his idea for dandelion saison is simple and, we think, rather brilliant.

beer and food

Beer and cheese


We’ve resolved to hold a beer and cheese tasting for our friends this year, so we thought we’d do a trial run.  Several trial runs in fact, to work out what really works, without relying solely on perceived wisdom and the experience of others.

We did consult a few references, though. As well as Garrett Oliver’s book The Brewmaster’s Table which inspired us in the first place, we also read interesting articles by Fiona Beckett (here), Pete Brown and commentators (here) and New Zealand cheese salesman and brewer Kieran Haslett-Moore, who has lots of suggestions all over his blog.

It’s clear from our initial experiments, however, that it’s tougher than it looks.  It’s not really enough to say that ‘X type of beer goes with Y type of cheese’ as there is as much variety in cheese as there is in beer.  Still, it’s a lot of fun trying various different combinations, even if we did have nightmares afterwards.

Test set 1: Pilsener Urquell and Hoegaarden

We had four quite different cheeses to match up here to get some sense of the lay of the land. There was a nice soft goat’s cheese, a not-very-posh Camembert, some (rather boring) cheddar and some Roquefort.

One of our theories to date has been that Hoegaarden works with pretty much any kind of food including curry.  We were proved wrong. The goat’s cheese didn’t influence the flavour of the beer very much, although possibly brought out a little bitterness.  The camembert accentuated the citrus notes and was probably the best match.  The cheddar — dull as it was — still managed to overpower the Hoegaarden. The Roquefort completely killed it.

The goat’s cheese complemented the PU really well — it brought out the malty sweetness but kept the balance, whereas the camembert made the PU seem watery and less bitter.  The cheddar made it harsh and unbalanced.  The PU stood up remarkably well to the Roquefort, although overall we would say that the cheese won the battle.

We really enjoyed the Roquefort and are keen to find a beer that can handle it. More on that to follow and, as always, suggestions welcome.

Photo from cwbuechler at Flickr, license under Creative Commons.

czech republic

Pilsner Urquell: control subject?

Another Prague post we didn’t get round to putting up at the time…

On our first night in Prague, we grappled with a complex logic puzzle at the central station: how to buy an 18 crown tube ticket with a 2000 crown note, when everything is shut? It took us nearly an hour to make it to our hotel, by which time we were very grumpy indeed.

Fortunately, the pub across the road (U Ceskeho Lva) happened to serve Pilsner Urquell ‘tankova’. Tankova dispense is some complicated arrangement where the nasty gases used to pressurise the beer don’t come into contact with the beer itself, but push it out of a bag, resulting in a rather gentle, natural carbonation. It’s also unpasteurised, unlike the usual product. Nice. We sank several pints very easily and a bit too quickly.

It tasted just fantastic to us.

Five nights later, having made a whistle-stop tour of as many pubs and breweries as we could, we’d got a better handle on Czech beer, so when we returned for one final pint of tankova PU, we weren’t as blown away. It seemed a bit clinical; rather sharp; one dimensional. Where was the fruitiness; the body; the yeasty complexity of all those other beers we’d tried?

For all that, it’s still a great beer, and one we’ll continue to seek out in London. Our home city is a hard place to get decent pale lager, hence our enthusiasm for Meantime’s products, Moravka, Budvar and Urquell – and, for that matter, our tolerance for Staropramen.

You make the most of what you’ve got, right? And perception of quality is relative.

For more on tankova beers, this post by Pivni Filosof is very informative, as is Evan Rail’s Czech beer guide.