I’m always told Aussies know their beer. The latest stats reveal they drink an average of about 3.6 litres of the stuff, per adult, each year.
Now imagine a country where annual consumption is 20 times higher . . . about 70 litres a year! How much must these guys know about beer?
I can tell you they know everything. So much so, UNESCO recognizes their beer as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ – like French champagne and cheeses.
Unfortunately, this country isn’t France. But it’s close. It’s Belgium. “Beer is to Belgium as wine is to France,” our neighbours declare. And how can we argue? France is the biggest importer of Belgian beer, which is saying something given Belgium exports three quarters of its famous ales. On per capita basis, this small nation of just over 11 million people brews 10 times as much beer as the global average.
When it comes to beer, France happily defers to Belgium. Likewise at French Basket. Six of our eight beers are Belgian. The remaining two are French (Bellerose) and Australian (Frenchies). We arrived at this ratio after careful selection, based on compatibility with our menu. Not surprisingly, it reflects the selection at cafes in France, which boast extensive lists of light-coloured yet densely packed Belgian ales.
Many of these breweries have been plying their trade for 150-plus years. They have incredible stories and traditions, which I suspect have inspired some of the wonderfully talented craft breweries on the Northern Beaches. I’d like to share a few of them with you, so when you next drop in to French Basket Dee Why for refreshment, you’ll appreciate more than just the taste!
Chimay: This beer has been produced under the watch of Trappist Monks since 1862. Proceeds support the monastery and its causes. Rouchefort and St Feuillien, also offered at French Basket, are also made Trappist beers, brewed at monasteries from local water sources.
Duvel: This blond ale was first served as a victory beer at the conclusion of World War I. In recognition of how the mild and fruity palate concealed a rather potent 8.5 percent alcohol content, a Dutchman dubbed it: ‘Nen Echten Duvel’. Translation: ‘A Real Devil’. Hence the name, Duvel.
La Chouffe: This beer’s label is distinct, featuring a garden gnome. But why? Legend has it the recipe was whispered into the original brewer’s ear by a gnomes in the Houffalize region of Belgium.
Pauwel Kwak: Beer connoisseurs would be familiar with the ‘coachman’s glass’ – a large hourglass-style vessel with a wide base supported by a wooden stand. This brewer was responsible, designing the glass for 19th Century coach drivers who, by law, could not enter the tavern and drink with their passengers. The solution? A glass that could be attached to the driver’s cabin!
Also read Hooked on Australian Coffee Culture
Now that’s the type of commitment we admire. Resourcefulness, ingenuity and refinement. We created French Basket to give the Northern Beaches community an authentic experience of casual dining in France. Heavily hopped with floral and citrus overtones, Belgian beer is an essential part of that experience. It is also a wonderful enhancement to our meals, and, with a generous alcohol content, your mood!
A votre santé!