The best Belgian luxury beers
Beer continues being an ordinary consumption product in the collective mind, despite its recent growth in quantity and the resurgence of traditional and local microbreweries. In fact, beer is the world’s third most consumed drink behind water and tea. It reminds some people of the classic “Homer Simpson” character with a Duff, while it reminds others of a nice evening watching soccer with friends and family while eating pizza
s. However, few individuals match beers with a wedding or a date night… And to remove this “cheap” perception of beer, several Belgian brewers have decided to transform the traditional beer into something of luxury and exclusiveness.
Réserve Royale, a sparkling beer
Interested in a beer that can compete with champagne during big events, receptions and other business dinners? A challenge many will find insane but, François-Xavier Delahaut and Roy de Marco – two young entrepreneurs – aren’t scared to rise to the occasion.
Created in 2016, the Réserve Royale is a 100% Belgian and handcrafted top-fermented lager beer brewed with high-quality ingredients. Neither too sweet nor bitter this beer is distinguished by its fine bubbles, which reminds us of champagne.
After bottling, the Réserve Royale ferment during 20 days in a humid and dark 25° room. It then rests in a cool place for two or three months to finish the ripening process. This process allows the beer to become rich and form complex aromas of intense flavours using flourished hops mixed with subtle notes of yeast.
It took the pair two years to finalize the project. Peter De Bock, a well-known brewer in the field, agreed to help the two men. Regarding the brews, they have been made at Anders, in Limburg. The brewery is also known for its partnerships; especially the one with Brussels Beer Project for which it produces most of the beers.
Finally, François-Xavier Delahaut and Roy de Marco developed an exclusive packaging, which is distinguished by a champagne-type bottle, fitted with some 18 kt gold and a cap made in Epernay, France. This beer couldn’t have been made without the help and collaboration of designers, glass manufacturers, and illustrators. The Réserve Royale’ deer engraving behind the bottle has been drawn by a famous artist, Zosia Dzierzawka. Each bottle is packed in a beautiful white box, which protects the beer from the light and helps it to keep all its flavors.
The two friends have met the challenge as the Réserve Royale is nowadays in the drinks-menu of gastronomic restaurants, lounge-bars and other renowned establishments. At 6.8%, this beverage goes well with aperitifs!
Dame Jeanne, mix between beer and champagne
Some other breweries go further by brewing their beers through a traditional champagne method. These “crude” beers are midway between beer and champagne.
Dame Jeanne is a sparkling beer mixing the flavors of typically Belgian hops with the lightness, fresh, and effervescence of champagnes and traditional sparkling wines.
“In olden times, we used to produce sparkling wines, but in 2012 we decided to launch crude beers. We asked the Champagne d’Eparnay oenological centre and Marc Struyf – Den Triest brewer in Willebroek – for some pieces of advice. Before popping the bottles, we found it more appropriate to gain experience first” – Patrick Theunissen – director at Dame Jeanne Brewery.
Champagne method demands a lot of accuracy; the beers must ferment two times in natural champagne’s sugar and yeast. During approximately 3 months a second fermentation in bottle should be made, a step in which the remaining crust is led towards the neck of the bottle by manually stirring, which is turning the bottles upside down. Afterwards, we have to disgorge the beer, which consists of transforming the crust into ice and taking it out of the bottle. The final step is to cork the bottles. This method makes the beverages sparkled and to ensure a perfect balance between the effervescence, the flavours complexity, and the fullness, which brings a light aftertaste of bitterness.
“We re-ferment in bottle in those crude beers two times more sugar than usual, which hikes the risk of the bottles explosion. As a result, this represents a major challenge which requires a great skill, know-how and a lot of patience”, admits Patrick Theunissen.
Within the range of its ‘raw” beers, Dame Jeanne incorporates flavors of sparkling wines without sacrificing the characteristics of the beer and its hoppy flavours.
If you wish to taste a Dame Jeanne, you can either go at Perrin Nord café in Brasschaat or purchase it from specialized retailers.
The Deus and La Malheur Bière Brut beers are the same type of beer as Dame Jeanne, respectively brewed by the Bosteels Brewery and Malheur Brewery. They are both located in Buggenhout in Eastern Flanders. The Brute beer from the Val de Dendre Brewery (Ollignies) is also one of the same kind, containing almost 20% of Chardonnay!
Golden Queen Bee, gold in bottle!
The Golden Queen Bee is a top-fermented lager beer combining old beer production methods with some notes of modernity. Produced with high-quality raw materials – spring water, Castle Malting malts and Luc Lagache (the only Belgian hops provider) hops – the Golden Queen Bee has the double feature of being flavored with honey and inoculated with a hint of edible gold (E175) – 24 kt gold flake more exactly!
The use of edible gold has been inspired from practices used during ancient Roman times that consisted of tapping gold leaf into the beverages of certain nobles and emperors for purification purposes.
This non-sparkling beer brewed by La Binchoise for Aurum Drinks International releases a hopped and malted smell, honey flavor and some flourished notes of orange blossom taste. At 8.8% its alcohol level is quite high, while its bitterness is light.
St-Feuillien Barley Wine, a limited edition
St-Feuillien is a family brewery and independent founded in 1873. They decided to innovate and propose new beers for sale, i.e. (la Grand Cry and Grisette Blonde bio gluten free). Some of them are limited editions and the idea is to develop special and creative brews. The one we are suggesting is Barley Wine (2nd Edition), launched last March. This top-fermented amber beer is brewed with acacia chips, which gives a vanilla taste.
At 11%, Barley Wine distinguishes by a fresh floral bouquet with some caramelized and roasted notes. The selection of special malts emphasises the chocolate taste mixed with a hint of coconut flavour.
Finally, its alcohol level allows you to keep Barley Wine longer in your wine cellar.
If you wish to taste this beer, you will have to hurry. Its production is indeed limited to four 90 hl brews.
La Prose, the “arty” beer
A beer associated with the art world? This is an original idea to provide a well-heeled and glamorous look to the beers. Launched in last April, La Prose is a special lager beer whose bottle label is at the disposal of artists. As a matter of fact, young painters, photographers, or drawers can show their masterpieces on the label.
“La Prose reflects an entrepreneurial motivation and the will to launch a project built by brothers”, explained Alexis le Hodet, La Prose cofounder. “We are looking for something in which we can bring its expertise, express its preferences, to create a beer matched perfectly with our expectations. Nonetheless, as we are not brewers and we were willing to offer a high-quality beer we started searching for a handcrafted brewery”.
Humblet children, the handcrafted brewery Bertinchamps founders agreed to collaborate with the Hodey brothers.
“We wanted our beer to go along with a strong and innovative concept and the idea to be associated with young modern artists came up”, detailed Alexis. “We are currently working with 5 artists, among who Awol Erisku (former Ethiopian artist who photographed Beyoncé pregnant) and we have nine labels spread around the world. Each label is printed in 3,000 copies, which allows a nice visibility to those future artists.”
La Prose is delivered through a network of art galleries, art fairs, museums, and in some selected bars and restaurants. For instance, we can find it at Jam Hotal, Jean Bon, Pantin or Chez Lulu in Brussels.
Regarding the beer, it is a special lager containing 6% alcohol. It is brewed with Beloeil malts using also New Zealand and Nelson Sauvin hops, which brings to the beverage a slight hopped flavor, some flourished notes and its light bitterness. “It is a light and tasty urban beer, and is especially affordable! It appeals to men as to women!”, concluded Alexis Hodet.
Beers upgrading is on!