When you think of Belgian-style beer, hops likely aren’t the first thing that come to mind. Typically, most people reserve thoughts of hops for IPAs which are one of the most prevalent styles of beer in the American market. So how are Belgian-style beers and hops related?
It might be surprising to some to learn that hops are an integral part of Belgium and the tradition of brewing in Belgium. The northwest region of the country, West Flanders, is known for growing hops, particularly in the municipality of Poperinge. The tradition of hop growing has been a part of the Poperinge lifestyle since medieval times and is so ingrained in the culture that the image of hops is even incorporated on the Poperinge city flag. Poperinge is an absolute ‘must see’ for any beer trip to Belgium. Today, hop growing continues to be a major part of life in the area as well as in the local brewing tradition. Historically, noble and UK varieties of hops are grown in this area but in recent years, new hop varieties are being introduced annually. As the American craft beer market continues to influence and inspire beer styles around the world, the importance of hops in Belgian beers has taken on a new role. The American trend has impacted Belgium along with some of the “hop bieren” that it produces. Here are a few Belgian examples available locally worth trying:
- Houblon Chouffe, 9% – this unfiltered hop bier is brewed with 3 types of hops and is named a “double IPA tripel”. Arguably the original Belgian hop bier.
- Duvel Tripel Hop, 9.5% – this is the traditional Duvel which is then dry hopped with a different hop variety each year, resulting in a unique hop aroma each year.
- Cuvée de Troll, Specialé, 7% – A specialty beer of the Brasserie Dubuisson, this beer is made with an addition of orange peel late in the boil to accent the hop profile.
These beers begin to represent a bit of the hop expression that exists in the brewing scene today in Belgium. The result is well-balanced hopped-up Belgian beers where hops work with the foundation and enhance the beer’s aromas and flavors. For us, a Belgian-style brewery in Minneapolis, this is the inspiration behind our newest year-round beer, Django. It took multiple batches over the course of several months to figure out where Django was ultimately headed but in the end, Django emerged as the Minneapolis version of a Belgian hop bier.
Django features Wai-iti hops from New Zealand, which are recognized by a pronounced melon aroma while added lemon and orange peel influence Django’s notable citrus flavors. Against its base of 4 types of malts – pilsner, pale, white wheat, and Belgian caramel – the hops shimmer on the top of the beer and offer a pleasing and refreshing drinking experience.
Finally, this beer’s inspiration comes from gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, who was Belgian born and a master of blending artistic styles. Our own Django came into existence under similar circumstances. Just as the Poperinge breweries began to forge new directions with their hop varieties and the beer they brew, we feel it is worth bringing this movement into the Minnesota craft beer scene.
For those that crave hops, worry not – as a hop bier, Django will get the attention of your taste buds. If IPAs in general aren’t your preferred style, Django might surprise you with its combination of refreshing flavors and mild bitterness. No matter what you’re looking for, hops or a refreshing beer, one thing is certain: Django was definitely Born in Belgium, Crafted in Minneapolis.
The official release of Django will take place at the Boom Island Brewing taproom on Saturday, February 20 from 1-9pm. To ensure Django is given a proper welcome, jazz musician Brad Bellows will perform from 7-9pm.
Details on the Django Release Party can be found at the Boom Island Brewing event page.