Belgian beers will be the unofficial theme for this spring. Matt and I plan on making three Belgian style beers: a Belgian Wit, a Belgian brown, and a Biere De Garde.
Information about said styles,
the Belgian Wit (white) style is a fruity, pale wheat beer accented with orange peel, coriander, and other spices. This is a subtle, delicate beer, best appreciated by those who like a refreshing wheat beer with a touch of spice character. The name wit (or white) was attached to this style due to both the original use of unmalted wheat, and to the fact that this beer was brewed without finings, so more yeast than normal remained in suspension.
Many distinctive variations of dark brown ales are made in Belgium, especially in Flanders. The classic style, with an interplay of caramel-like malty sweetness and a sourness gained in several months of maturation (usually in metal tanks), is sometimes identified as Oud ("Old") Bruin (the pronunciation is amost the same as the English word "brown"). The most complex examples have a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Biere de Garde
This northern region [of France] shares a border with Belgium, one of the greatest brewing wonderlands in the world. As is the custom of French Flanders, beer is the traditional drink, a love that displays the style and finesse of the people, along with their dedication to artisanal tradition. This is the center of bieres de garde, or beers for keeping, the ales that were brewed to last throughout the summer months.
Like the saisons of Belgium, these bieres de garde were farmhouse ales brewed for the farmers and their fieldhands, but were vastly unique in flavor. They were intense, invigorating, strong – and stored in traditional champagne bottles.
You might interpret the champagne bottle, with cork and wire hood, to be a statement about an elitist cultural attitude toward beer in this region of Europe. However, the champagne region of France lies fifty miles to the south, and the convenience of using the same bottles led to the tradition for biere de garde.
These beers may be flattened gold to intense amber in color, the result of lightly kilning the barley malt. They generally have an earthy character, with anise, exotic spices and herbal wood undertones. You may find a sweetness or fruitiness in the center, along with flavors of biscuit, and the warming splash of alcohol. It has a rounded smoothness, the result of the process of warm fermentation, followed by cold maturation.
It's going to be a good spring...