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The Skinny on Belgian Ales

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Q.†I found a recipe for Carbonade Flamande, and I would like to try it. It calls for Liefmans Goudenband. I have no idea what this is. Do you know what it is?

A.† It never ceases to amaze us how ignorant most Americans are of their Belgian ales. Where were you people raised???

Liefmans Goudenband is one of the 650 beers produced in Belgium. According to Denis Blais and Andre Plisnier, authors of Belgo (Canada, UK), Liefmans Goudenband was the classic Flemish brown ale, given a somewhat sour flavor by boiling dark malts and roasted grains for a long time. They say it was the perfect partner for rustic meat dishes and stews. With the advent of commercial production, Blais and Plisnier wail, the sourness has given way to a sweeter taste, which makes it a better accompaniment to chocolate, but still they use it in their Carbonade Flamande recipe. Liefmans Goudenband has an alcohol content of 8%.

As an aside, and to show how little tradition matters even in Belgium, a dish ŗ la flamande, or in the Flemish style, traditionally includes braised cabbage, carrots, turnips, potatoes, and sometimes pork or sausage. Given that Blaisí and Plisnierís Carbonade Flamande has none of them, nor is the meat grilled over charcoal (the implication of the word carbonade), we think you can substitute any dark ale or beer for the Liefmans without a twinge of guilt.

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