kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

703.203.9463

Belgian Suds

Bill Catron knows his beer. Those from Belgium, specifically. DC's Brasserie Beck only carries Belgian brews--lots and lots of them. Last week, we enjoyed a lovely dinner on Beck's newly opened patio, while Bill selected suds to pair with each of the dishes we tried (the cuisine is authenticly Belgian as well.)

We started with two light selections to whet our whistles before deciding what to eat. Bavik on tap is one of the more popular selections at Beck, and it was light and refreshing. We also had a bottle of Grimbergen, a blond ale--also highly enjoyable.

Brasserie Beck does mussels three ways, and we opted for those steamed with fennel and chorizo (my husband and I love both of those ingredients...) We sipped Saison Dupont--similar to a Hefeweizen, with a golden hue and hints of coriander.

Bill's favorite beer with oysters on the half shell is not Stout (a traditional pairing--just Google "beer and oysters.") He instead prefers Gueze. This is a spontaneously fermented beer, made with the yeast that is just floating around in the air. It's very cidery and vinegary, and certainly not for everyone (though it is his favorite style of beer.) It had a barnyard aroma, but not in a bad way. It was quite enjoyable with the oysters--kind of like the lemon wedge for the bivalves.

Gulden Draak was the beer for our duck roulade. It had a dried fruit/raisiny flavor to it, so it went well with the roulade's similar sauce. And St. Bernarbus, an Abbey ale, was the selection for Choucroute en Croute--a melange of pork tenderloin, sausage and cabbage served in a pastry shell. It was a heavy, filling dish (the kitchen was nice enough to split it in two before serving it), and this more substantial style of beer was a great match.

After dinner and before dessert, we tried what can best be described as the Port of Belgian Beers--Gouden Carullus, Grand Cru of the Emperor. It tasted so much like Port--just with some carbonation (and an interesting banana aroma.) The best part for me was learning that this beer is only brewed on one day of the year--Charles the Fifth's birthday, February 24. That just so happens to be MY birthday, too, so it was really cool to discover "my" beer.

One of the most popular desserts at Brasserie Beck is their pear tarte tatin, with which we enjoyed an apple beer (the name escapes me right now, because by the end of our meal the number of bottles and glasses on our table was staggering. So much that a neighboring table of customers sat down and said "we'll have what they're having.") Anyway, the beer was crisp and fruity without being disgustingly sweet--and a great choice with our dessert.

The coolest thing about Brasserie Beck is learning how food friendly Belgian beers can be. I've always enjoyed them, but I never had such an exotic selection from which to select--Hoegaarden is the most common brand you'll find at restaurants and bars. Check out Beck for happy hour, lunch or dinner, and be sure to ask for Bill. He's super nice and super knowledgeable.