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Belgian Beer Cafe kicks off Loose Goose

Posted: October 4, 2008 9:07 p.m.
Updated: December 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Peter Goossens, left, founder of the Loose Goose Wine Festival has a beer with Marc Stroobandt, master beer sommelier, at the beer and food pairing luncheon held to kick off the 2008 Loose Goose Wine Festival. The Belgian Beer Cafe is a new addition to the festival, which will run from 1 to 5 p.m. today in Bridgeport Park.

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The Loose Goose Wine Festival, based on a traditional European fall festival, has always been about the wine. But this year beer will also be center stage as the Festival expands to include a beer pavilion - the Belgian Beer Cafe.

"I'm Belgian, and I don't hide it. Belgians don't discriminate against alcohol," said Peter Goossens, founder of the Loose Goose Wine Festival. "Of course, I love wine, but beer is very important to Belgians."

To kick off the five days of Loose Goose Wine Festival activities, Goossens hosted a beer and food pairing luncheon Wednesday at the Robinson Ranch clubhouse. The luncheon featured three different Belgian beers, Stella Artois, a classic Belgian lager; Hoegaarden, the original Belgian White beer and Leffe, an authentic Belgian Abbey Ale.

Marc Stroobandt, master beer sommelier, walked guests through the proper way to pour beer (make sure it has a nice "head" of foam).

"I want you to concentrate on the taste of the beer," he said. "I want people to appreciate beer in a different way."

The Belgian-born Stroobandt is one of only a handful of master beer sommeliers in the world - a title he earned by study for years with Belgian brewmasters. He has been awarded an honorary knighthood, the Knighthood of the Brewers' Mashstaff.

At today's festival Stroobandt will demonstrate the proper way to pour and serve beer. He will also be on hand to explain the unique characteristics and brewing process of the three beers, offer suggestions for intriguing food pairings, and teach about the significance and importance of each beer's signature glass.

At the beer pairing luncheon Stroobandt also demonstrated the importance of the glass in how beer tastes. He served guests the same beer in two differently shaped glasses - one tulip shaped and the other with a wide mouth.

"Glasses are specially designed for each beer," Stroobandt said. He encouraged guests to smell each beer.

"Nearly 50 percent of your taste is determined by your nose and I'm sure you'll notice the difference in the smell," he said.

Stroobandt instructed the luncheon guests in the history, makeup and unique character of each beer.

The Hoegaarden was paired with the first course of grilled prawns served over baby red oak lettuce, caramelized orange segments and citrus cumin vinaigrette. The Stella Artois was paired with the main course of flatiron steak marinated in whole grain mustard and Stella Artois and served with peppered frites and a grilled tomato half with Gorgonzola cheese. The final beer, the Leffe Blond was served with Sebastapool apples in a strudel with caramel sauce. The lunch menu was designed by Tom McNulty, executive chef of Robinson Ranch and Cindy Smith of RSVP Catering.

Goossens said the addition of the beer cafe was at the behest of past Festival guests.

"We listen to our guests and many of them said they enjoyed having beer at the Festival," Goossens said. "Wolf Creek Brewery has been with us since the beginning of the Festival and has always been one of our most popular booths."

The Loose Goose Wine Festival benefits the Brenda Mehling Cancer Fund and the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation.

Loose Goose Wine Main Festival in Valencia Bridgeport Park will be open today from 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets are $65 at the Festival Gate. Visit www.loosegoosewinefestival.com.

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