Here in Northern Michigan, we pride ourselves on our beer. In fact, the Travel Channel has just announced Traverse City, MI as one of the Top 7 Beer Destinations. A long history of brewing has existed in Michigan dating as far back as 1829 with influences around the world as immigrants began settling in the mitten state. In early statehood, lumber mills sprung up around the state creating jobs and communities of hardworking people fighting to make a living. The consumption of beer became a popular past time, a reward for the working class people and breweries grew into the fabric of Michigan culture.
However, Prohibition would temporarily stunt the beer business until the 21st Amendment was introduced. Michigan was the very first state to ratify the 21st amendment which repealed Prohibition, and once again, beer as a subculture began to thrive. Today, many Michiganders take their beer drinking quite seriously with a developed pallet for full range bouquet. While the taste is a part of the experience here in northern Michigan, it is also about the coming together of friends and community. It is about our history, our hard work, and one of the best parts of life, leisure. It is why we are always on the prowl for new hearty beers to introduce to the culminating tastes that define the art of beer drinking here in Michigan.
With the last of the snow finally melting, we are approaching prime beer drinking season. There are only 3 short months of glorious sunshine and you guessed it, beer. This summer I have fallen in love with a rich, earthy beer from the land of Belgium, Gulden Draak. The dark, triple ale is a uniquely blended array of flavors with 10.5% alcohol by volume and an aggressively smooth texture. Its extensive, familial history of brewing and the crisp hoppy bite paired with warm undertones of caramel make it a great addition to my cooler. Next to incredible and authentic taste, there is something very attractive about a beer with a history, and Gulden Draak has a tale built upon the culture and struggles of Belgium throughout the centuries. A tale which defines a country’s strengths and its passion for brewing revealing that it is more than just beer, it is a way of life.
The name Gulden Draak is actually a translation for Golden Dragon, and it is traced back to the golden dragon statue atop the Belfry in Ghent. Its first appearance was on the bow of a great Norwegian ship sailed by Sigrid Magnusson in the crusades of 1111. Then, Magnusson presented the gold figure to the Emperor of Constantinople where it was placed on the dome of the Aya Sophia which was an immense church that held the record of biggest church for over 1,000 years until St. Peter’s of Basilica church was built in Rome. A century later, the Flemish count Baldwin IX had the piece removed and sent to Belgium, and eventually it made its way to a church in the city of Bruges.
In 1382, during the Ghent rebellion against Louis II of Flanders, the Battle of Beverhoutsveld was a turning point for Ghent and the path of the country. The habitants of Ghent managed to invade and take over the neighboring city of Bruges, a Flanders supporter. In their victory, Ghent took down the looming golden dragon from the church in Bruges and transported it to their own Belfry where the communal charters were kept. The golden dragon sat perched atop the great church protecting the city of Ghent. It was a symbol of power, strength, and freedom. It was the perfect figure to represent a beer by the people for the people, and its motto became Conquer the Dragon.
As for the birth of beer in Belgium, it started back in 1784 when many people brewed their own beer at home because it was often safer to drink beer than the water during that time. Jean Baptise De Bruin was one of those brewers, and he would eventually began to sell his homemade concoctions to neighbors. After his death, his wife took over the brewery and so started a long lineage of brewing which spanned over 200 years and seven generations becoming today’s Gulden Draak. Margriet Van Steenberge, who inherited the brewery from her own father in the beginning of the 20th century, once said, “I was born a brewer, and I will die a brewer.” This passion has created an empire with a foundation of dedication and quality. Over the generations, the painstaking practices and the legacy of Gulden Draak has been handed from brewer to brewer. For everyone that has accepted the legacy, they have provided the stepping stones to evolution making way for specialty beers, high fermentations, and secondary fermentation creating rich and impeccable brews.
Today, Paul Van Steenberge and Jef Versele have taken over the operations, continuing to use the highest quality ingredients while constantly working to reduce water and energy consumption to stream line their process. A new facility is underway with the testing phase starting this summer and the initial move beginning in September 2016. The state of the art operations including a new cooling installation will make the brewing techniques more efficient and sustainable. The marriage of careful, historical brewing and cutting edge technology makes Gulden Draak a beer filled with passion and a desire to deliver the best taste. This conscious perfection is what earned Gulden Draak the award of Best Tasting Beer in the World in 1998 by the American Tasting Institute (currently ChefsBest).
Part of the brewing secret comes from the yeast and sugar that is added during the bottling process through a technique known as secondary fermentation. It has taken over 3 generations to get this process exact, but it gives the beer a chance to mature as it is stored over a two week period. This process also means the taste continues to change over time. If you drink it right off the shelf you will enjoy a fruity and fresh taste, but if you let the beer continue to age at room temperature, the longer it matures the more intense and intricate the taste will become. The Gulden Draak 9000 wine yeast is used in the secondary fermentation which adds to the unique bouquet giving it a more dimensional flavor.
Gulden Draak has also been proven to be a big hit at the Goed Gevoel Ladies Fair in Belgium. Women are known to have a better sense of smell which means they can appreciate more flavor combinations as beer lovers. Gulden Draak was excited to introduce their aromatic beers at the ladies fair, and they also did a little digging with questionnaires to see what kind of relationship their female customers had with beer. They found that 69.7% of women enjoy a glass of beer as a relaxing past time, and one in three women give specialty beers as gifts. What was once considered a boys’ club is now creating budding female connoisseurs around the world, and Gulden Draak is at the forefront.
In addition to its bold full-bodied taste, Gulden Draak also pairs well with a variety of foods from red meats to bleu cheese, but its whispers of citrus-y fruit beautifully accompany desserts. The Gulden Draak Cake is my new favorite go-to dessert for summer get-togethers and holiday weekends. The moist chocolate cake with a delectable cream cheese frosting is easy to make and great with an ice cold Gulden Draak. Give it a try for your next event.
[yumprint-recipe id=’39’]Gulden Draak is now encouraging beer lovers, beer connoisseurs, and even those not yet sold on the art of beer drinking, to Conquer the Dragon. Check out the Gulden Draak Facebook page to learn more about experiencing the Golden Dragon. Try one of the Guldren Draak beers and post to social media with the hashtag #ConquertheDragon or #GuldenDraak and be entered to win some hot swag!
Check out Gulden Draak’s video of a data analyst conquering the dragon in his life. It might just inspire you to do something crazy and conquer the dragon in your life…
The post was created on behalf of Gulden Draak. All opinions remain my own.