It doesn’t matter if you’re a saint or sinner, a reverend or a priest, a farmhand or a monk, or just a right good chap, you probably like Belgian beer. What is it about Belgian ales? Why do beer nerds, myself included, flock to these exotic styles from a faraway time and place? And how has it become one of the biggest trends in American beer culture, right up there with barrel aging and imperialized everything?
I honestly don’t have a good answer. Perhaps it has something to do with Belgian’s unique creativity and how it mirrors the American Craft Beer mindset. Maybe it’s that whole “screw style guidelines” approach that has every Trippel or Saison tasting nothing like the next. Perhaps it’s that unmistakable mystique of a Belgian yeast that’s so peculiar yet familiar. Whatever the reason, we beer nerds can’t get enough of them. And it’s a good thing Summer is nearing its end, because these mild days and cool evenings right between Summer and Autumn just so happens to provide just the right climate to enjoy any number of Belgian beer styles on your patio as the sun sets.
Coincidentally, enter Vine Street Pub, the youngest of the Mountain Sun Brewpubs, centered in the heart of Denver. You may have heard of Stout Month, wherein all three brewpubs provide the majority of their 20-ish taps each to the rich chocolaty black stuff during that abominably cold month of February. Well, now Vine Street is beginning a new tradition: Belgian Month. Keeping in vein of Stout Month’s tradition, 15 or so of the 20 tap lines will be devoted to Abbey Ales, Dubbels, Trippels, Quads, Saisons, Wittes, Sours, and any other Reinheitsgebot-abolishing Belgian style that comes along.
From September 1 till the 30th, a combination of the best Belgian-esque beers from across the US (Bruery, Lost Abbey, Avery…) will join the best actual Belgian stuff (Cantillion, Kasteel, La Trappe, St. Bernardus…) as well as some new and classic Mountain Sun offerings will be available. But the list is so long that new stuff is going to be tapped every day, requiring several pleasurable experiences.
If you’re anywhere near Denver during September (hey, isn’t GABF in September?), you absolutely deserve it to yourself to check out this newest of Denver traditions. And it’s not just the beer, it’s the party. Vine Street will annihilate the mid-month weekend, starting on Sept. 15, where Mountain Sun head brewer Brian Hutchinson hosts Belgian Beer 101: Tasting the Trend Sweeping the Nation. For only $50, you are privy to a pro lesson in Belgian brewing techniques and history, while sampling rare Belgian brews and being treated to a custom Belgian food menu featuring Charcuterie plate, buttermilk chicken and waffles, Belgian Frites, and handmade local sausages.
On a budget and history ain’t your thing? No worries, because that Saturday Sept. 17th, an entire block of Denver’s Vine Street will be closed off to host a first ever Belgian Block Party, and every bit of it (besides the beer) is free. Local comics and bluegrass acts will perform on stage, near a beer garden featuring Belgian and Belgian-inspired ales from Denver, the US, and beyond. But the real showcase that day is the first ever Brewers Olympics, starting at 1pm. Nine Front Range breweries (from Oscar Blues to Avery to Great Divide) have assembled teams to compete for charity and bragging rights, featuring events like “Yeast Filled Balloon Toss”, “Grain Stacking Relay”, and “Tricycle Races”.
Since it’s already five days into September, thanks to a Hop Press server issue preventing my posts, you should hurry and get your Belgian Beer 101 ticket soon, just $50 available at Vine Street Pub on 1700 Vine St. in Denver. For current tap listings call them at 303-338-2337 or go to www.facebook.com/mountainsunpub.
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