Miller High Life may claim to be the “Champagne of Beers”, but actual champagne beer is quite a different thing. Primarily brewed in Belgium and northern France, this hybrid beer style called Biere de Champagne, or Biere Brut, is one of the newest beer styles available. Created by Belgian brewers as a way to compete with high-end wines, these beers are light to a medium/dark gold in color, high in alcohol, and sparkling with bubbles like a champagne. It’s sold in 750ml champagne-style corked and caged bottles with an ABV of 9-14% or higher.
The process of brewing beer and brewing champagne is very similar. When you combine the two processes, a whole new beer drinking experience is created. Both bottle-conditioned beer and champagne go through primary fermentation and then secondary fermentation in bottles, where additional sugars or yeast are added to naturally carbonate the alcohol. However, unlike beer, champagne goes through an additional process of riddling and disgorging.
Riddling is performed by laying the bottle upside down at a 45° angle rack known as a pupitres. The sediment collects in the neck of the bottle as the bottle is turned every few days. After about 6 to 8 weeks, the disgorging begins. The bottleneck is frozen with dry ice, the cork is removed, and all the sediment is taken from the bottle. This used to be performed by a trained specialist, but is now done by machines.
After that, additional yeast or sugar is added to the bottle for a third fermentation. Then the bottle is allowed to sit for years to allow the complex spicy flavors and rich carbonation to develop.
This process creates a refreshing experience that has the malt and hoppiness of beer, and the light sparkling feel of champagne in the mouth. The most well known example is probably Deus by Brouwerij Bosteels and Malheur Brut from Brouwerij De Landtsheer. These beers aren’t cheap and usually go for $30 a bottle or more. This isn’t an everyday drinking beer but a special occasion beverage that you want to save for special moments in your life, like when you stomp Fruit of the Loom characters.