Friday, July 21, 2006


Brabanconne Day

It is 21 July, and the federal kingdom of Belgium celebrates that it is exactly 175 years since Leopold I could ascend to the throne to be the first king of this young country.

It is a day for La Brabanconne- the national anthem of Belgium (and also the name of a statue at Surlet de Chokierplein near the Madou metro station in Brussel and a stone's throw away from the Bier Circus, until recently the best beer bar in the Belgian capital).

La Brabanconne is also the name of a range of beers from the new Brasserie du Brabant in Brabant-Wallon, a province described by Tim Webb as "a disaster area for beer drinkers".

On the picture is La Brabanconne Ambree. From the big, 75 cl bottle pours a deep amber beer with a good off-white head and 9% ABV according to the smallish label. Nose is chocolatey and spicey, and there are chocolate flavours with good hoppy bitterness throughout, a lot of fruit and hint of spices. Warming alcohol (as if that was what was needed this hot summer night), long chocolate aftertaste that is quite dry, and full-bodied. Worthy of its pompous name.

To many Belgians 21 July may not be much to celebrate (except for a day off work) - a legendary Antwerpen beer bar decided this year to honour 11 July - the Flemish "national day" celebrating their peasants beating the French noblemen in the Battle of the Golden Spurs- but remain open for business on 21 July. It is not hard to see that the "Belgian compromise"- though watered out somewhat by federalism- is not exactly to the advantage of the hard-working Flemish people.

In the flag it is the golden colour that unites the Wallonian red rooster with the black lion of Flanders. In everyday life it is the golden liquid. The Belgians may be at odds at home, but their beers have conquered the quality-conscious beer world! La Brabanconne could be one of them.

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