Wednesday, June 6, 2018

BrewTales: Paix Dieu

Enjoying a Belgian-style Tripel, brewed on the harvest moon
There are many, many, many (!) forums, blogs, videos, photos, apps, tweets, social media outlets -  let's just generalize and call them websites - out there dedicated to reviewing beers and breweries. Most are fine, a few outstanding (which is a bit like coming across that perfect beer - rare).

There are, however, far, far far (!)  fewer websites describing how people came upon a beer. Their origins, histories, what's-the-craic-with-that-one tales. So, we decided to tell our stories.  Beer stories.

Beer: Paix Dieu.
Style: Tripel
Geography: Belgium. Style originated from Brouwerij Westmalle, in Malle, Belgium.

Backstory: If you're superstitious or religious, or both, then this beer is for you. Paix Dieu means Peace of God.  At one time brewed in the Abbey of Paix Dieu, earning it the title of an abbey ale. But today it's brewed at Brasserie Caulier, which is a family brewery in the region of Tournai, Belgium.

But perhaps more interestingly, the beer has a unique brewing tradition - being brewed only when the moon is full. That's right, this is a true lunar beer. Earth's celestial body beer. The orb of night beer. The brewers claim the yeast is more active on nights with a full moon, and cuts fermentation time from seven days down to five days. According to the label, our beer we sampled was brewed on October 5, 2017, the harvest moon. The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which falls on September 22 or 23 each year. October harvest moons are fairly rare, with the prior one occurring in 2009.

And here we though it was just another typical Thursday under the sign of Libra in the year of the Rooster.

Our Story: It was our last night in Brussels on a surprisingly warm (but only relatively so) November in 2017.  We, along with what seemed like half city, stopped by Delirium Cafe for a couple of beers. The experience was a bit short-lived, considering we were overtaken in our little space by a gaggle of wee heavys (what we call young drunks). Upon our walk back to get some shuteye before our ridiculously early morning flight, we passed a relatively nondescript beer store called Beer Planet. Now this was not the first beer store we entered upon in Brussels - there are many in the old part of the town. But this one was intriguing; namely, because the only thing they were selling in the story was beer.  No chocolates.  No knick knacks.  Just beer. Good beer.

We were a bit surprised to walk in and be the only customers in the store.  If this store was in the US, it would be empty by now because everyone would have bought all the beer already. The owner, a rather tall man with an amicable nature, asked if he could help us. So we do what we do when we enter most establishments that sell beer - we asked him for a local suggestion.  A good one.

He first recommended a Belgian IPA.

"Is it good?" we asked.

"Actually, I've never tried it... but I heard it was good".

"Let's open it then" we said.

" the store?" he asked.

"Yes!" we said.

"Oh!" he said, with pleasant surprise. "I've never had a customer ask this before."

So...was it good?  No, not really. We exchanged tasting notes, which led to a couple short stories about good and bad beers. The owner made an offhand comment on how really knew a lot about beer.

It was then we told him that we were professional beer drinkers, traveling the world to do research for a beer book. We mentioned we had just published a beer book with National Geographic, which we just happened to have with us (because hey, when you write a book with National Geographic, it seems to be pretty common to just happen to have the book with you). We also showed him photos of our selfies with many Belgian, other European and American brewers.  He knew several of them.

Before long, the place looked more like a beer bar than a beer shop, with a half dozen or so empty bottles on the counter.  It was a great time. As we left, he gave us the Paix Dieu, telling us to try it back home and let him know about it.  Well this is what we know: At 10%, it's boozy for a tripel (the common range suggested is 6-9.5%). The beer has a strong maple aroma, with a hint of earthiness. Taste-wise, there are notes of bubblegum (from the yeast), banana, and caramel. It's a nice beer for sharing, and we will always remember that evening in Brussels!

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