The Belgian people must be living right. International opinion on the country reads something like this: "excellent waffles, chocolate, frites, and beer." For a tiny country nestled between regions known for their culinary prowess, that's a pretty enviable legacy. Belgium's gastronomic successes have inspired countless artisan food ventures in the states. The Bay Area is home to a Belgian waffle truck, eateries inspired by Belgian fries (Frjtz), and beer halls such as La Trappe and The Trappist that aim to replicate the ambiance of a Belgian tavern.
If there's one American industry most influenced by Belgian tradition, it's arguably the craft brewing sector. A brief look inside SF's world famous Toronado is informative -- the entire wall is lined with empty, magnum-size bottles of Duvel, a prototypical Belgian Golden Strong Ale. In fact, it's that very brew that inspired High Water's Steve Altimari to craft this week's featured beer.
Rio d'Oro is High Water's attempt to bring a slice of Belgium to the bay. True to its name, the beer pours a veritable river of gold. The brew has remarkable clarity, and an initial whiff yields aromas of tropical fruit, white grape, and a hint of rosewater. The beer tastes like a study in clean fermentation, with the yeast yielding a fruity character without any noticeable alcohol burn despite the 8.5% ABV. Despite the sweet aroma, the flavors are well balanced, with a citrusy hop note balancing the sugars and leading to a slightly peppery, dry finish. Altimari used an authentic Belgian yeast strain from East Flanders, which contributes the bulk of the beer's flavor without overwhelming the palate.