Slowly, Belgian beer is starting to make headway into the US market. Urged on by international megabrewer Interbrew, beers from Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe are getting promotional support, at least in the New York market. Recently, the company kicked off a worldwide promotion with guest chef Herwig Van Hove, one of Belgium’s leading beer and gastronomy authorities. Van Hove believes Belgian beers, unlike the most popular beers brewed in the US, create numerous desired changes on the palate when paired with specific foods, much like wine. Some beers, in fact, do a better job than wine, he said, since beers are better designed to complement the strong acids and vinegars found in some dishes than most wines. Gastronomically, he compared Stella to a light red or dry white wine, Hoegaarden like a dry white wine with a sour note, such as a Chablis, Muscadet or sauvignon blanc. He also compared Leffe Blond to red Bourdeaux or Chianti Classico Riserva, Leffe Brown with pinot noirs, and Leffe Tripel with white Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Van Hove whipped up a multi-course meal to pair with the various brews, matching shrimp-stuffed tomatoes and Belgian frites with Stella Artois, grey shrimp croquettes with Hoegaarden, terrine of chicken, rabbit and veal and beer-baked chicken with Leffe Blonde, steak tartar with Stella, Liegeoise salad with Leffe Blonde and stewed meatballs with Leffe Brown.
The introductory program, designed to educate chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers and beverage directors, as well as the media and general public, about the range and pairabiity of Belgian beers, took place, appropriately enough, at NYC’s Markt, the extremely popular Belgian brasserie already well-established as one of THE places in NY where authentic seafoodbased Belgian food and an extensive selection of Belgian beers are available.
In addition to the feeding and feting, Belgian-style, in the popular brasserie, Labatt USA, the US branch of Interbrew, distributed a handsome four-color binder with bar food, snack recipes and beer basics; the binder will be offered to all clients of Labatt USA with the purchase from their portfolio of Belgian beers.
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