Thursday, October 18, 2012

Belge and the Ups and Downs of Collaborations

We live in a time of intense globalization. The world is smaller than ever, which allows people who live very far away from one another to still work together. Travel is quick and easy and communication is even better. It is a great time to be spreading ideas. 

Belge is a beer made in a collaboration between Brasserie Dupont, Monk's Cafe (Philadelphia) and Iron Hill Brewing in Pennsylvania. It was made exclusively for Philly Beer Week 2012 because Dupont is awesome like that.  

If you are unfamiliar with collaboration beers, they are exactly what they sound like: a product of cooperation between two or more breweries, each bringing their own distinctive character to the beer. The resulting beers can vary in quality. For instance, this particular beer: I liked it, but I think I prefer Saison Dupont and their other individual beers better. Maybe it is the style, maybe it is because I just like how Dupont does it, I'm not sure, but this one was just not exactly what I was expecting. 
This is a common problem with collaborations. I will give you a "for instance". Lets say you really like Russian River Brewing and you think that Sierra Nevada puts out some ok beer. You hear that they put out a collaboration in a style that you love, in this case, a wild ale. You see the beer, it is packaged really nicely. Now, take a sip.

Son of a bitch! Not what you wanted. The idea you had in your head was better. Now you know how I felt when I tried Brux. Sounded great on paper, but it only hinted at what I would have expected from Russian River and devolved back to what I would have expected from Sierra Nevada. Toned down, unexciting. Not the sour masterpiece I wanted. To top it all off, it was expensive! You have been warned about the dangers of collaborations. 

Don't get me wrong: Not all collaborations are disappointing. Some are fantastic. The danger is that you really don't know what the beer will be like when you get it. Will they tend more towards the style of one of the breweries? It isn't that the beer is going to taste bad. These breweries know how to make good beer. It is just that your expectations may get the best of you. Try to avoid it.

Ok, back to Belge. It is effectively a maltier version of a Dupont beer. It has the characteristic funk, moderated by the malt. It is a delightful beer to drink. One of the nicest parts is that it is reasonably priced. I bought this for about $12 a bottle. Higher than normal for Dupont, but in comparison to US collaborations (generally $15-$25 a bottle), it is a steal. Wonderful beer, absolutely beautiful color. Good buy. What more could you ask for? 

For all of the advice that I am giving, if I see a collaboration with a brewery that I like, I will always buy it. It might not be worth it, but I will still do it. I'm a sucker that way. 

Glassware: Saison glass, tulip, goblet

Synonym Beer: Dupont La Biere De Boeile

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