While it’s Miller High Life that claims the title of “the Champagne of beers,” there is a style of craft beer that aims to fill the flutes of revelers with a refined malt beverage that can hold its own against sparkling wine.
Known as bière brut or bière de Champagne, these brews were conceived by Belgian brewers as a way to compete with high-end wines and present beer in a format and with flavors familiar to Champagne drinkers. Some varieties of the style are processed like a Champagne with lengthy, labor-intensive secondary fermentations, cave-aging, and dégorgement -- where yeast is removed from the conditioned beer.
The result is a beer that is dry and very effervescent and that showcases complex fermentation flavors and amplified alcohol content. There are dark versions available alongside the straw-pale versions, and there is even an example brewed with cherries -- Cuvee Brut from Lindemans -- that is as vibrant as any pink Champagne.
Bottles of bière brut can be tough to find, and they’re often priced at $30 or more, but the examples from Brouwerij Bostells (DeuS) and Brouwerij De Landtsheer (Malheur Bière Brut and Brut Noir) are available at L.A.’s better beer shops, and the occasional Whole Foods Market.
If you’re looking for something a little different than sparkling wine or high-alcohol imperial stouts to toast the new year (or you want to surprise a wine-loving friend with a beer unlike anything else), pop a bottle of biere de Champagne before the ball drops on 2013.