With Belgium's Independence Day falling on Saturday, retailers and pubs specializing in good beer are celebrating all week with specials on Belgian beers, starting last night and running through Saturday -- though the celebration runs through next week with the Libertine Bar's Belgian Beer Dinner Tuesday the 24th.
Other Belgian-inspired dinners include one at the Bottle Shop, on Greenville Avenue across the street from the Libertine, with food pairings created by People's Last Stand chef Josh Black. Also, tonight's glass night at Holy Grail Pub in far north Plano is an opportunity to pick up the very unusual glassware for Pauwel Kwak, traditionally served in a round-bottomed hourglass-looking thing that requires a wooden stand. The Belgian strong ale is an outstanding brew, and worth the trouble. For a comprehensive listing of events, once again I defer to Plano Craft Beer Examiner Brian Brown for compiling an excellent selection of beer goings-on, Belgian and otherwise.
Last night The Common Table's weekly Monday night Pour Man's Beer Dinner focused on Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews -- big ones. None had an ABV lower than 9 percent. While three of the four were the same style, quadrupels, each of the beers revealed differences both subtle and pronounced when tasted in successive order.
Brooklyn Local #2, a Belgian-style strong dark ale, seemed an odd choice to pair with the first course, a crab BLT with creamy saffron aioli. I'd have expected something lighter and crisper, maybe a blond like Duvel. If I remember right, the idea on the menu was that the malts would complement the sourdough bread and the light yeast character would cleanse the palate from the overall heaviness. Whatever. The crab BLT was awesome, and I hope it becomes a regular menu item there, and I'm not going to complain about a chance to drink Local #2 no matter the pairing.
Three Philosophers from New York's Belgian-owned Ommegang, with its cherry sweetness, was a nice contrast to the tart and tangy salad with vinaigrette, goat cheese and blueberries. The drier, more aggressively carbonated Chimay Blue with roast beef and potatoes au gratin went well with the demi-glace and stood up to the heavy meal. Rochefort 10, a bit sweeter than Chimay, complemented a great bread pudding (more bready than pudding-y) with Kahlúa whipped cream. Not bad for $29 at all. It was my first Pour Man's, but won't be my last. I even had funds left over for an after-dinner brew and went with Gnomegang, a hazy golden Ommegang Belgian strong made with d'Achouffe yeast. It was nicely spicy and crisp, dry but with some fruity flavors. The 9.5 percent ABV seemed well-hidden, warming but not unpleasant. Then again I'd had nothing but 9-plus beers all day. Great beer I'd definitely seek out.
And seek out at least one bar event or special offer from a beer store. Belgian beers are among the finest if not the very finest of beers, and now's as good a time as any to enjoy one with Belgian-style frites, Belgian chocolate or, if you really want to catch a buzz with some very strong brews, on their own.