Well, I managed to survive the week. Barely! My trip to Zurich was cancelled this week which was nice, but we still ended up having to send out the presentation and the numbers....not so nice but I think that everyone was happy with the final numbers that I gave out!
Exciting events here in Brussels this weekend! Aside from the Brussels Tapis de Fleurs (Flower Carpet - done every other year on the even years) the second event that is not to be missed in Belgium is the annual Belgian Beer Weekend held usually the first weekend in September.
Some background on Belgium and Beer. In a country that is roughly the same size as the State of Maryland, there are over 450 different beers made that you can choose to drink! Now, you might be thinking "I don't like beer" but have you ever tried something besides your typical American Bud or Samuel Adams? Aside from your normal Pilsner or Ales, you have your dark stouts (like Guinness) white beer (blanche) fruit beers (cherry, peach, raspberry, banana and more), chocolate beer, red beers, Trappist beer and even here in Belgium a Lambic Beer. The alcohol content ranges from aroung 6% up to 12% Alcohol by Volume! This brings new meaning to the phrase "cheap date!" :)
Lambic beer is only produced in a small area of Belgium by International Standards and uses an ancient way of making beers that was perfected in the Monasteries (many of the beers brewed today in Belgium are connected historically or even currently with a religious order). The lambic beers use a spontaneous fermentation process (please don't ask how this works - I'm an accountant not a brewer) that results in a beer that has a tart taste that is very dry and bubbly! What is special really about the Lambic beer is that it is like a fine wine - it only gets better with age!!
In the US a beer glass is a beer glass...perhaps we differentiate between a beer mug and a glass (pint) but that is about it. Not here in Belgium! For the most part every beer will have a special glass that is made in a distinct shape and size to enhance the taste of that specific beer! While serving is often done in other glasses (i.e. you might get a blanche in a kriek (cherry beer) glass because they ran out of Blanche glasses, you will generally have the beer served to you in the correct glass shape!
There are actually only 6 Monasteries (Trappist) still producing beer today - perhaps you will recognize a name or two: Chimay, Orval, Rochefort and Westmalle are the most famous!
There are also what we refer to as Abbey beers which use a Trappist style, and were Monasteries that brewed in the past, or are linked by name to a Monastery - Leffe, Grimbergen, Duvel and Kwak are the most famous Abbey beers!
That is probably more than you wanted to know about Belgian beer, but that is going to be my weekend! I will be standing in the Grand Place sampling several of the over 200 kinds they will have there, and having some great conversations! The only beer I will not be trying again this year is the Banana Beer....must say that even though it is cutely served in half of a coconut shell, it is just plain wrong!!!!