John Bachman, one of my two best friends, made the trip down to Phoenix this weekend for some football. And when I say "some football", I mean that's pretty much all we did. From 9 am until the USC officially put Ohio State away, we were parked on the couch. It helped that Oregon squeaked out a thrilling win over Purdue in double overtime, as it was an awful day for the Pac-10 overall.
And John, being the great friend he is, brought me some beer from back home. I'd asked him to pick up Bridgeport's 2008 Hop Harvest, which sounds unbelievably good. Harvest ales are typically excellent, made with wet hops brewed within an hour of picking. The flavor is lip-smackingly fresh. The beer was being released on the day John flew down, but Bridgeport wouldn't sell him any, even though the cases were stacked behind the bar. Thanks for the effort, John. Thanks for nothing, Bridgeport.
Instead, John brought me a bottle of Deschutes Brewery's "The Dissident".
The Dissident is a another entry in Deschutes Brewery's Reserve Series along side The Abyss, Black Butte XX and Mirror Mirror, which means it's lovingly-crafted and heavy. At 11% alcohol-by-volume, this is probably not something you'd want to finish alone, especially if you're driving anywhere.
Belgian brewing is generally seen as the pinnacle of the craft. While I've discussed my love of heavy-hitting hops and thick, rich stouts, Belgian beers are complex and unique. Many Belgian beers are brewed in abbeys and Trappist monasteries, where open windows and vats allow wild yeast strains to float in. Many Belgian breweries have even developed special glasses which accent particular aromas.
Colorado's New Belgium was one of the first American breweries to focus on Belgian-style ales, and other American breweries have followed suit in recent years.
Belgian beers are a difficult taste to acquire, sort of like an experimental but critically-acclaimed indie band. I appreciate the depth, but they can be difficult to drink, with odd aftertastes, and sour and sweet notes wrapped in fermentation.
Maybe it's because I drank The Dissident so early after bottling, but I found it lacked the notes which bother me about most Belgians. The first tastes are rich and grapey, bringing to mind the fruit tones of framboise, but the chewy, fermented aftertastes were pleasantly absent. Over time, The Dissident probably develops these flavors as it continues to ferment in the bottle, but it was one of the most enjoyable Belgian-style beers I've ever swallowed. From the bottle we shared, it seems John agreed.
If you're looking to try Belgian-style beers, I suggest Chimay Blue or White and Tripel Karmeliet. Both are readily available (even at Trader Joe's). For a sweeter taste, Duchess Bourgogne, framboises or lambics will do the trick. Mindy loves those those.