A Big Belgian and a Bold Belgian-American

Brasserie du Bocq’s Blanche de Namur

The weirdest thing happened upon my first taste of this beer. I found myself invoking Lawrence Welk (you can look him up, kids), saying out loud with each sip, “Wunnerful! Wunnerful!”

Blanche de Namur is a wonderful Belgian white – or wit – beer, from the 6th generation family owned Brasserie du Bocq.

It pours out cloudy and almost lemonade-colored, with an incredible big-bubbled white crown that eventually settles down to a thin but ever-replenishing Belgian-laced white rim at the top of the shandy-colored beer.

My first “wunnerful!” taste began with a distinctly tongue-tingling lemon flare and finished with palate-prickling spiciness. It’s a mouthful of fun, infinitely refreshing, yet immediately you want another sip, which makes it go down fast. But at a mild 4.5 percent, it’s a great – and, yes, a bit exotic – lawnmower beer.

Despite the color and initial taste, there is no lemon in this beer. It is not a shandy. It’s a traditional Belgian wit, brewed with wheat, coriander, orange peel and licorice. It is very hard to detect the licorice, but it’s there on the very bottom of the finish, darkly spreading anise across the palate, more of an aftertaste than a component of the liquid that preceded it, but so subtle that all you licorice haters have nothing to worry about. You really have to go searching for it, so don’t let the licorice throw you off.

And all you folks who dig Blue Moon and Spotted Cow, try this Blanche de Namur because it is the real deal in farmhouse wheat.

Just Wunnerful!

Brewery Ommegang’s Belgian-Style Pale Ale

I have been a fan of the Cooperstown, N.Y., Brewery Ommegang and its penchant for Belgian-styled beers for more than a decade, but only recently was I introduced to its delicious Belgian Pale Ale, or BPA.

Let me count the ways that this beer deserves attention:

1. It pours with a brilliant white and incredibly rocky head that looks substantial enough to climb.

2. It delivers a short, sharp shock – a bubbly, carbonated karate chop – to the palate that refreshes and cleanses, making this a great beer to stand up to whatever you throw at it, from greasy burgers to garlicky hummus.

3. To paraphrase from an old American brewer, it is the champagne of pale ales.

The brewery’s Belgian yeast is used in combination with five malt varieties (Pilsner, pale, caramel, Munich and aroma) and two kinds of hops – the spicy aroma hops known as Styrian Goldings are tossed in the brew kettle and the citrusy Cascade hops are used to dry hop. (An interesting side note about Styrian Goldings: Since this is a Belgian take on the very British pale ale, you might think Styrian Goldings hops were from the English aroma hop variety known as Goldings, but you would be wrong. Styrian Goldings are a spicy Slovenian take on the English Fuggle hop. So why not call it the Styrian Fuggle? Marketing would be my guess.)

BPA was introduced in 2010 when Brewery Ommegang, known for its exquisite, high-end bomber-size offerings, was searching for “accessible draft” candidates – meaning a beer that is highly quaffable, with moderate alcohol content and reasonably priced. At the time, the brewery wasn’t certain if BPA was what they were searching for, but it obviously made the cut because it’s still here.