Hi – my name is Steve Distasio and I am the new Head Brewer of North Pier Brewing Company. For my first blog post, I figured I should write a bit about our focus on brewing Belgian styled beers. In the future there will be more technical and in depth style profile posts, so this is more of a primer.
I first went to Belgium while I was attending a brewing course in the United Kingdom. We had a week of vacation, and it was a no-brainer to visit the motherland of beer! I was also able to talk my girlfriend into flying out to join me, so I had someone to listen to me ramble on about random beer knowledge.
I was lucky enough to try some of my favorite beers in the world at the source. I also found myself learning a lot about the role beer played in Belgian culture. This really all hit me one night while at a bar in Leuven. No more than 5 blocks from our hotel sat a small pub on the corner of the street. While this place did not have a vast selection of beers (Leuven is the birth place of Stella after all), they made up for it with atmosphere. We took a seat at a small table on the beautiful patio space, next to some fresh hop bines growing up the fence. What started as a place to grab a quick beer and some lunch ended up turning into an all-night stop.
As the sun faded away and the outdoor lights flickered on, I took a moment to look at the landscape around us. There were customers of all ages grouped together at tables, enjoying the company of those around them over a couple of drinks. They didn’t have tables lined with mixed drinks and macro lagers. Rather, they had an array of fine Belgian Ales properly served in their respective glasses. There were middle aged women drinking goblets of Chimay and Rochefort, young college students sipping tulips of La Chouffe, and flutes of Geuze Boon. It was an incredible plethora of people enjoying great beer from their homeland. It was truly a beer drinking community. I was blown away and really enjoyed being a part of that community, even if it was only for a couple days.
This trip through Belgium inspired me to start brewing more Belgian styled beers. I began focusing on creating beers that were crafted to be dry, extremely drinkable beers, with beautifully complex flavors and aromas. I wanted to learn how to strike the perfect balance between large spicy, fruity, floral aromas without creating a beer that was too overpowering and offensive. How to create complexity without being overly heavy handed with spices and hops. How to let the Belgian yeast shine, and how to handle and treat the extremely finicky characteristics of each individual strain. I wanted each of my beers to embody the same artisan roots as my favorite Belgian beers. Most importantly, I try to create beers with the same aura that helps people feel connected to the beer.
If you have never explored the vast range of Belgian beers before, this may be a bit of a new experience. Each style can be polar opposites of one another, and often beers within the same style may be wildly different. Historically, Belgian brewers have never been ones to brew within specific guidelines, and beers often changed with the seasonality of ingredients. Style guidelines were, more or less, implemented as a way for drinkers in the export markets to understand exactly what they were drinking. Do not be surprised if a golden light bodied, easy drinking beer ends up having an alcohol content well about 8%. It is about quality, not quantity here.
Here at North Pier Brewing, we are busy cranking out test batches of our own interpretations of these Belgian styles. While you may not be able to drink our beer for a couple more months, we encourage you to go out and try Belgian styled ales for yourself. Remember, beer is meant to be shared among friends, so I expect some invites…