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Can you ‘nail’ a Belgian style?

Dan CareyIn all fairness to Todd Haefer – who writes a Beer Man column that appears in many newspapers part of the Gannett chain and already catches enough grief for some of his comments – he didn’t write the headline and the term didn’t appears in his copy, but here it is:

Beer Man: New Glarus nails the Belgian style

The headline made me giggle. Haefer is writing about New Glarus Belgian Quadruple, part of brewer Dan Carey’s “Unplugged” series. Quadruple is simply a word you don’t hear Belgian brewers use. It became a term of convenience – meaning dark and very strong, ala Westvleteren 12 or Rochefort 10 – after Koningshoeven began shipping LaTrapppe Quad to the United States in the mid-1990s. That Trappist monastery is located in The Netherlands.

So not only does the headline insinuate that any style is something so specific that it can be “nailed” but that a Belgian brewer or consumer would cotton to the idea.

Speaking of styles serves many good purposes, but testifying for the other side here is Carl Kins, a Belgian beer enthusiast who has judged several times for the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. “We Belgians do not like categorization that much. Whether it is strong blonde ale or abbey style is not very relevant, as long as the beer tastes good,” he said in the chapter called Matters of Style in Brew Like a Monk.

Last week Stephen Beaumont wrote about this beer and Enigma, another in the “Unplugged” series. Spend a little time with his descriptions and it becomes apparent that Carey is more focused on “nailing” a great beer than capturing, or recreating, a style.


3 Responses to Can you ‘nail’ a Belgian style?

  1. Loren May 15, 2007 at 9:40 am #

    Categorization of beer in the American brewing world is something that is as inevitable as the setting sun. Plus it’s fun for us geeks to argue over too!

    I’ve never been impressed by any Belgian-style offerings from NG…so I’ll have to check these out for sure. Style nailing(s) aside.


  2. Jonathan May 16, 2007 at 7:26 pm #

    I’ve never nailed a Belgian. I’ve heard they’re frisky.

    But in all seriousness, we are going to be venturing into the territory of pseudo-Belgian beers ourselves soon. Hopefully we can do the category sufficient justice.

  3. Stan Hieronymus May 16, 2007 at 7:36 pm #

    Jonathan – the way to approach the “style” is to do lots of research. Particularly with examples that come out of Belgian breweries.

    Perhaps you guys are the reason that after the abv limit was lifted in Georgia that Atlanta began the hottest new market for Belgian beers in the US (and probably the world).

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