As anyone who has read my past columns knows, I am a Belgian beer freak. I love all the beers of Belgium for their originality, their audacity, their heritage, and most of all, their taste. That is why when a truly original Belgian beer becomes available I am all for opening it and giving it a go. So, on a muggy north Florida evening, while eating some truly amazing smoked pork, Steve Rushe owner of BeerJunto.com and I sat down to drink a few Belgian brews.
At the top of the list, and by far the rarest offering that evening, was Antigoon a rather wonderful Belgian double blond ale brewed by Brouwerij De Musketiers in Ursel, Belgium. This brew was developed specifically for a Belgian restaurant in Washington D.C. called Brasserie Beck as the house beer and became such a hit that the brewers and restaurant owners decided to begin bottling it and distributing it wider than just one restaurant. Lucky for us they did, too!
But, before I get to more beer talk, you may be wondering where the odd-sounding name, Antigoon, came from. The name is a reference to a legend out of Antwerp in Belgium about a terrible giant that lived next the river Scheldt. The giant, Druoon Antigoon, seeing an opportunity to make some change, began requiring all ships traveling the river to pay a fee. If the captain paid the fee, the ship was allowed to pass unscathed. If, however, the captain refused, the giant would hook off his hand and toss it into the river. Some folklore exists that claims this is how the city of Antwerp got its name. The Dutch word for the city is Antwerpen literally translates to “hand throwing” in Old English.
What Antigoon did not count on was a brave Roman soldier named Silvius Brabo coming along, defeating him and throwing his hooked-off hands into the river. The legend is so pervasive that there is a statue of Brabo tossing Antigoon’s severed hand into the river in front of the Antwerp Town Hall.
Enough history, let’s talk about the beer. The first thing you will notice is the handsome bottle this brew comes in. The label is painted on to the bottle and depicts Brabo severing Antigoon’s hand, a bit macabre, but still an impressive label. As is only proper of a fine Belgian beer the bottle is closed with a cork and wire cage.
Serve this beer at about 45 to 50 degrees, in a tulip glass, snifter, or over-sized wine glass so that you are able to capture the aromas of grains, sweet malt, spices, and slight floral. The brew should pour a deep golden color with abundant tiny bubbles and a frothy, generous head. When you sip it you should get the sweet malts and spiciness up front. The two balance each other nicely, neither dominating the other. You should be able to pick up subtle notes of apple as well as the floral, leafy notes hinted at in the nose provided by the hops. The finish presents a lingering bitterness that has been masked up that point by the malt and spices.
In helping develop this beer for Beck’s, Thor Cheston, the restaurant’s beer director was recognized by the beer guild in Brussels, Belgium with a knighthood. Not a small honor, that. So, as you enjoy this intensely sessionable, 6.8 % brew, keep in mind that you are drinking the beer of a knight and show the proper respect. Serve the beer correctly as prescribed above, set out some tangy cheese, drop a plate of wonderfully smoked meat, and enjoy!
Until next time,
Long Live the Brewers!