Friday, July 20, 2007

Beer O’Clock: The Best Day of the Year

Your Beer O'Clock comes to you this week from the SOBA Neil Miller of Real Beer and beyond. . .

July 21 is the best day of the year. No question. That sacred date is the national day of Belgium - the 176th anniversary of the coronation of Belgium’s first monarch, King Leopold I.

Personally, I celebrate Nationale Feestdag many, many times with some of the finest ales known to humanity accompanied by lashing of tasty beer cuisine because Belgium is undoubtedly the world’s most interesting beer nation. That in a nutshell is why this is the best day of the year.

While some struggle to associate the concept of “interesting” with the country which writer Tim Webb called “the historically fascinating and endearingly daft little kingdom at the heart of Europe,” the simple fact is that Belgium has the largest range of beer styles in the world and its products are highly and deservedly revered.

When the Belgians call their nation of 10 million people “the paradise of beers” it is not marketing hyperbole. Their 120 breweries use traditional craft techniques to produce beers of exceptional quality from centuries-old brewing recipes.

For this Beer O’Clock I recommend every reader try a real Belgian beer (no Virginia, Stella doesn’t count), preferably one you have never been brave enough to try before. The Belgian Beer Cafes are a great place to start.

Belgian cuisine is also renowned for cooking with beer and for their extensive use of fresh seafood and quality game. The consummate food accompaniment for beer in Belgium is mussels, fries and mayonnaise (moules frites). I’d recommend mussels steamed in either lobster broth or wheat beer, but if the mussels are fresh then it's all good.

If the sheer quality of their beer is not enough for you to raise a glass to the endearing and enduring Kingdom of Belgium, this alone is reason enough: Charles de Gaulle once said that “Belgium is a country invented by the British to annoy the French.”

Op uw gezonheid!

Neil.

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