Style Profile: Biere de Champagne

Posted on September 15th, 2009

Riddling the champagne

Riddling the Champagne

Biere de Champagne is a new style in which beer is put through a similar process as the one traditionally used to produce Champagne, known as the méthode Champenoise. The beer making process and Champagne making process are already very similar, but the extra steps taken when producing this style give it unique qualities that any serious beer drinker should try.

Both bottle-condition beer and Champagne go through primary fermentation in large batches and secondary fermentation in the bottle where additional sugars or yeast is added to naturally carbonate the beverage. Unlike most beer, Champagne then goes through a process of collecting (riddling) and removing (disgorging) the sediment from the bottle.

Riddling is performed by placing the bottles at a 45° angle racks known as pupitres. The sediment in the beer or Champagne slowly drifts down to the neck of the bottle. Every few days it is carefully turned and angled further until all of the sediment has been collected, usually taking about 6 to 8 weeks.

The sediment is now removed from the neck by removing the cork and allowing some of the liquid to spill out, a process known as disgorging, which today is automated by machines which freeze the bottleneck but years ago could only be performed by a skilled practitioner.

After all this additional yeast or sugar can be added for what is essentially a third fermentation. Putting beer throughthis process, which can take years if done properly, gives it the subtle complexity, spicy flavor and rich carbonation that Champagne is known for. All of this is balanced by the rich body and balance which only a beer can provide. Actual Champagne yeast is used sometimes to further enhance these flavors.

All of this makes for a wonderfully light and refreshing beer that is akin to Champagne but with the body and hops that are unique to beer. The process is a costly one, as a result there are not many brewers who offer a beer of this style, just a handful of mostly Belgian brewers at the moment. The most well known is probably Deus by Brouwerij Bosteels with Malheur Brut from Brouwerij De Landtsheer coming in at a close second.

Ever tried this new style of beer? If you ever get the chance to try it let us know what you think by tweeting your beer and adding the ‘#mybeer’ hashtag.