To honor the establishment of a country with a long, deep and rich beer history on Belgian National Day (July 21), let’s go through a quick and dirty breakdown of Belgian beers: a what to know and where to go in and around the District to drink and buy these complex brews. As Belgian-inspired, Belgian-style and Belgian beers are more accessible, look to these places in the DMV for help in learning, growing or just enjoying a traditional, historic style of beer.
The H Street Corridor’s old-timey, Belgian-inspired gastropub puts an emphasis on harder-to-find Belgian beers and new or up-and-coming local breweries. Check out Granville’s menu for an extensive bottle list, and on the many chalkboards in the restaurant for unique Belgian or local drafts, many of which pair well with the spot’s nationally recognized mussel options.
Granville’s beer maven, Erin Gilbert, suggests Ertvelds Wit, on draft during the summer to complement the corn chowder mussels. The gastropub is known for its unique draft list, including the Tripel Van de Garre.
“It’s an 11 percent tripel and goes down like a 5 percent,” she says. “It’s a beautiful example of what a tripel should be.”
Granville Moore’s: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com
Want to have fun? Go into Roofers Union in Adams Morgan, find beer director Dave Delaplaine, smile nicely and start asking him questions about his favorite beers in stock – many of which are tart, sour, spontaneously fermented lambics. The restaurant and bar has a huge sour beer focus, with at least one to two on draft from Belgium at any given time.
“I love what Belgian yeast brings to the table,” Delaplaine says. “Whether it’s a beer from Belgium or a beer using yeast from Belgium, the complexity created is so extravagant, I cannot get enough of it. When searching for sours, I love the lacto acidity that really makes your mouth pucker. Many of these beers may seem unnecessarily acidic until you pair them with that perfect fatty meat…then bliss.”
Several sours will make their debut on tap at Roofers this summer. In the meantime, enjoy two 2014 sours from Roofers’ cellar that Delaplaine is currently crazy about: Oud Beersel and Weyerbacher’s Riserva.
Roofers Union: 2446 18th St. NW, DC; www.roofersuniondc.com
Schneider’s of Capitol Hill
Browse through an interesting craft beer selection at Schneider’s, a shop known for its eclectic selection and 60+ year history. Beer Director Stewart Phillips posts to Twitter (@schneidersbeer) when he has harder-to-find beers in stock. Or, if you’re one of his top customers, you might get an email with a heads up when new brews come in.
Phillips mixes up Schneider’s beer selection with Belgians because, unlike many U.S. beers, they’re not as hop-forward – especially during the summer, when he recommends a light, citrusy tripel. He suggests starting your Belgian education with the regularly stocked La Trappe Tripel or Quadrupel, or Saison Dupont.
“They’re easy to get into,” Phillips says. “Belgian beers can have a great flavor without being overwhelming. A classic saison can especially be easy drinking, but as you progress in your beer education, you can get into more heavy stuff, like quads.”
Schneider’s of Capitol Hill: 300 Massachusetts Ave. NE, DC; www.cellar.com
It would be silly not to include the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s newly opened bar and bistro in Georgetown dedicated to “celebrating the rustic cuisine and fabled brewing culture of Belgium.” The Sovereign’s beer program features 50 drafts and more than 350 bottles curated by Beer Director Greg Engert.
But don’t expect to order the Belgian beers you know from your drinking past. The Sovereign’s brews aren’t sweet or overly nuanced.
“We are really focusing on fewer producers, because we are concentrating on the best,” Engert says. “But, we also have a full range of flavors from those Belgian brewers.”
In regards to the exclusivity of the beer that The Sovereign stocks, Engert says, “We get consistent, direct shipments of exclusive Belgian and Belgian-style brews from the likes of Cantillon [Brewery] and Tired Hands [Brewing Company].”
This month, The Sovereign is setting up events to showcase bottle and draft pours of some very rare lambics. You will most definitely find options not available anywhere else in the DMV, and possibly the U.S.
The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com
Photos: Courtesy of Schneider’s and Granville Moore’s