13 January, 2008

The Big Book of Beer

Yesterday I picked up a book that I had seen at various places since early December and I had almost purchased several times but kept putting it off. The book is called "All Belgian Beers" , translated into English. All parts of the book are in English, French and German I believe. It is a very, very thick book that is maybe 6 inches by 5 inches by 4 inches and could prove very useful as a weapon. Although it does not have "all" Belgian beers in it, it has 750 or so. Some of the hardest to obtain beers are not included and beers from smaller breweries may not be included if they were not readily available at the time the book was published. They also did not include all seasonable beers for summer or Christmas for the same reasons. The numbers of beers is still very impressive.

The book starts with a brief description of the purpose of the book and ends with some descriptions of the various beer types and the brewing process. In between are 2 pages dedicated to each beer. The left page describes the beer by fermentation type, beer style, ingredients, alcohol level, the proper glass to serve the beer in, the proper temperature to serve it under and some tasting notes and a place for your own tasting notes. The right page has a full color picture of a full bottle next to a beer in the proper glass.
Although some of the descriptions are not very detailed or well thought out, just the volume of data and pictures is pretty imressive and gives me ideas on many many beers that I have not run into before but many that I should. The cost if the book was €35 so it was a little pricey but will make a good addition to our extensive library of books. Ok, the library is not very extensive but this thick book makes it a little more full. Hopefully it is available in the US for thos beer lovers out there as the cost for me to ship one would be a bit expensive. Sorry.

12 January, 2008

Our Visit to Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval

Today Paula and I took a drive to the Orval Abbaye. We found out it was less than an hour from our flat so we typed the address into the GPS and off we were, sort of. We could not find the exact address but got something close and started to drive. It was about 60 kilometers or so from our place (about 36 miles or so), most of it on the main motorway that takes us to all the main stops in Belgium (Arlon, Antwerp, Brussels, Brugge, etc.). Some of the trip was through the country on some smaller, curvy roads.

We arrived at Orval, just in time to get some lunch. When you arrive, you know you are there as you see a big, weathered old Orval sign pointing to the right. Down a long driveway there is the café to the left, a long row of parking spots to the right and up ahead, the Abbaye and all the related buildings. It is a rather large complex of buildings, not all of which are initially visible from the road.

We parked the car and headed into the café, A l'Ange Gardien, for some lunch and liquid refreshments. The café is nice and rustic inside with old wooden tables to sit at with little bench seats that look like they were from an old church school or from the Abbaye itself as they have little crosses engraved in the legs. There is a warming fire place in the corner of the main room that was glowing and heating us. The room we were in was fairly full at the time we arrived, with a few tables of 10 ore more people each, along with some side tables of 2 and 3 people sitting, eating and drinking.

Paula and I both started off with the Orval 3,5 beer (or Petite Orval) as I knew it. I believe this is the monks standard beer that they would drink during the day as it is lower in alcohol than the standard Orval which sits at 6,2% abv.