Sigh. Just one week ago I was defending my decision to review expensive beer with the caveat that this would not always be the case. I hate to say it, but here I go again.
What can I do? New Year’s Eve is upon us and there are so few beers that fit the traditional-for-the-observance profile. Ale fermented with champagne yeast is hard enough to come by let alone a beer brewed in the methode champenoise. Even then, I’ve got but three scant bottles of what I’m about to discuss available.
Rarity of select beer aside, it’s the quality of ingredients and precision of execution that makes the Deus Brut de Flanders such a special and unique beverage. It’s this adherence to high standards that had me fall in love with true “grower’s” champagne years ago.
Your average sparkling pinot noir/chardonnay/pinot meunier combinations of grapes from the Champagne region of France falls under the designation of negociant manipulant, or NM for short. These are big-output wineries that, due to demand, are allowed to act in opposition to the rest of France’s purity laws regarding wine production; i.e., they’re legally allowed to source grapes from vineyards not their own and still call it their juice. Your well-known Champagne producers all fall under NM designation; Dom, Veuve, Piper.
Considered to be lower than that are the cooperative de manipulation, or CM. Businesses that don’t own their own vineyards or production facilities but still love to make wine fall into this category. All of these initial indicators can be found on the label – in really small lettering – of any sparkler from the Champagne region.
Then there’s recoltant manipulant. This is wine babied from day zero. Every step of the process is closely monitored and cared for; from bud to cluster, trellising to pruning, picking and pressing. No robotic arms to turn the bottles in their aging caves; recoltant is all about hands on. I have yet to find a “grower’s” champagne that isn’t stellar.
That’s all fine for wine, but what about this beer I mentioned? Deus is the world’s only beer brewed in the fashion that Champagne vintners use to make their wine. Champagne yeast ferments the wort to begin the beer while dosage – additional shots of sugar to further a secondary fermentation – and disgorgement – removal of the spent yeast – are all done to Champagne tradition. The result is a hazy straw-yellow liquid with a massive head and gorgeous scents of orange blossom, apple, pear and white pepper. Flavors are firmly between those of traditional Belgian golden ale and a demi-sec sparkler; banana, lemon, allspice, honey, bread and clove with a dash of hop bitterness.
Ring in your new year with a true “champagne of beers.” Your resolution may end up being to never drink the cheap stuff again.