July 4, 2010

All you need to know about Belgium beers and Chocolate!

If you tell people you’re going to Belgium, they will tell you about the good beers, chocolate, waffles and French fries.

      1.The culture of the beer
Beer is an essential part of social life, culture and tradition in this small country located between France, Holland Germany and Luxembourg. With only 11 millions of inhabitants, Belgium is the 3rd biggest producer of beer in the world with 125 breweries making around 800 standard beers.  The diversity of Belgian beers is reflected in the variety of shapes of their bottles, their evocative names and pictorial labels. Belgians drink around 93 liters of beer per year. They rank 7 in the top beer drinking countries, behind Germany.

There is no single way to classify Belgian beers and trying to do it may be a perilous exercise as passionate beer lovers will often disagree on the choice of criteria or the designation of a given beer within a given category. Most often, a mixed classification system is used: beers that belong to a given tradition (Trappists and Abbey beers) or region of production (Saison), or beers of a precise type (Pils, Amber). Often both criteria coincide (Lambic, or Flemish old brown for instance) but sometimes we will find very different beers under a same category (Trappists and Abbey beers often offer 'dubbel' and 'tripel' versions).

Each beer deserves its uniquely designed glass, the shape of which is supposed to enhance its taste, color and optimal froth appearance. Serving and drinking beer is an art: it must obey strict rules as to the proper temperature and presentation, amount and shape of froth, yeast sediment, etc.

Each town celebrates its beer festival, all along the year but especially during summer. The best way to taste the Belgium beers is to go out with a local. But don’t worry if you don’t have time to taste them all, about 60% are exported around Europe but to Canada, the United States and Australia too!


2.The world known Chocolate
Belgian chocolate is considered to be the gourmet standard by which all other chocolate confections are measured. Even the Swiss, known for their own high quality chocolate, imported the basic recipe from French and Belgian chocolatiers. Brands of Belgian chocolate and pralines, like Callebaut, Côte d'Or, Neuhaus, Leonidas, Guylian, Galler and Godiva are world renowned and widely sold.

Belgian chocolate is currently one of the most sought after types of chocolate in the world. The biggest consumers of Belgian chocolate include its European neighbors France, Germany and Great Britain. The high-quality cocoa beans used to make Belgian chocolate normally come from Africa. Most chocolate makers in Belgium make their chocolate by hand rather than by using a machine, and take pride in its form and decoration.

Belgium produces 220,000 tons of chocolate per year, so 22 kg of chocolate per inhabitant annually. The world's biggest chocolate selling point is Brussels National Airport.

   3.French fries and Waffles
Even if called French Fries, Belgians claim to have invented chips, and indeed about all towns and villages have their own friterie/frituur (chips seller). Many Belgians believe that the term "French" was introduced when British or American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them "French", as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time."Les frites" (or "Frieten") became the national snack and a substantial part of several national dishes.

A visit to Belgium can’t be complete without tasting their famous waffles. There are 3 main sorts of Belgian waffles: Liege waffles (the most common), Brussels waffles (bigger, lighter, rectangular, and eaten with toppings such as strawberries or ice cream), and stroopwafel (two thin layers of baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle).

No comments: