A long time ago when I first visited Belgium harboring the crazy idea that I’d drink the country dry of traditional ale, there’d be these bottles on the market shelf with replaceable plastic caps and a budget traveler’s dream price tag.
Closer examination revealed why; they were “table beers” of very low alcohol content, suitable for thirst-quenching by those (I’m one) who find little value in sticky sweet soft drinks — or, as was explained to me at the time, intended to take the place of those awful little cartons of milk at American school cafeterias, because Belgian schoolchildren drank table beer, not liquid bovine snot.
Verily, the stork dropped me on the wrong continent.
Like most other beer styles and traditions embraced by Americans during the years of the craft beer explosion, table beer has undergone a metamorphosis into something different than it ever was, explained here.
What Is Table Beer, the Beer We’ve Been Seeing Everywhere?, by Alex Delany (Bon Appetit)
No, table beer isn’t just when you put a beer on your table.
… Historically, a table beer was a beer for everyone at the table, most prominent in Belgium and France. Your mom. Her friend Carol. Your great uncle Victor. And the kids. All of the kids. Like, six year-old kids, drinking beer with their 16th century meatloaf. In medieval Europe, table beers usually contained less than one percent ABV.
But, yeah, kids used to drink beer. At the table. Not behind the shed in their friend Chad’s backyard. Table beer (or biere de table) varied widely in color, but probably tasted something like soaking Wheaties in water and then squeezing out all of that absorbed liquid. Kinda bready. Kinda sweet. Gently carbonated (or maybe totally still).
These days, table beer is a bit different … in Indianapolis, Central State Brewing is canning an easily crushable, pleasantly tart, 4% table beer that tastes something like lemon curd spread over a baguette. It’s the ideal “I am currently sitting in a chair on a porch/deck/balcony/patio and have no intention of moving,” beer.
We’re carrying 16-ounce cans of Central State Table at Pints&union.
Rustic Blonde Ale
Table is a rustic blonde ale fermented with our unique yeast strains and brewed in the style of French and Belgian style table beers.
Malt Bill: Indiana-Grown 2-Row and Rye
Hops: Noble varieties, varies from batch to batch
Yeast: CSB House Yeast Blend
Got to Pints&union, get a burger and drink Central State Table with it. You won’t be disappointed. In closing, allow me to point out that my personal interest in table beer didn’t begin yesterday. During my former career at NABC, we formulated a session-strength table beer somewhere around the year 2009, and it was a great favorite of mine for volume consumption.
NABC Tafel Bier
Belgian-style “Table” Beer
OG: 1.040, or 10 degrees Plato
It’s better dancing on the table than sleeping on the floor. Tafel Bier is the Flemish language term for “table beer,” denoting a flavorful session strength accompaniment to the wonders of Belgian cuisine … or burgers and wings, too. What do you think filled those earthenware jugs in the Brueghel painting? It wasn’t Bud Light Lime, was it?
Malts: Belgian Pale, Aromatic, Biscuit, CaraPils
Hops: German Tettnanger, Select
Yeast: House Ardennes