Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium
Belgium must be Michael Jackson's idea of heaven. The diversity, individuality, and ubiquity of beer in that country astounds even the beer sophisticate. Belgians lay claim to dozens of brewing styles that, motley as they are, read like a royal registry of beer: Lambics, Abbey Ales, Belgian Whites, Strong Golden Ales, Trappist Ales, Belgian Browns. Consider the Lambic brewer's "wind through the rafters" approach, in which wild yeast and airborne bacteria are responsible for the fermentation process and the otherworldly flavor characteristics of the final product. The brewing style is so dependent on the microflora of the greater Brussels area that it cannot be successfully duplicated anywhere else in the world. Jackson exposes the history and inner workings of this quiet, quirky brewing behemoth with characteristic thoroughness and enthusiasm. We learn the origins of monastic brewing, the good fortune of spiders in Lambic breweries, and the reasoning behind using orange peels, coriander seeds, and three years' worth of stale hops in the brewing process. Ample tasting notes of commercial Belgian products--from those famous worldwide to those available only locally--provide a reference point for the reader's own beer hunting. A few bottles of Belgian brew and a copy of Great Beers of Belgium are as close to a brewing tour of Belgium one can get, short of visiting the country itself. Such armchair exploration, with Jackson as a guide, may be just the revelation that makes a physical trip irresistible.