The woman I love is as pretty as Perrier-Jouët, but as complex as Krug. She appreciates the flirtatiousness of champagne, but her true devotion is to beer.

The woman I love is as pretty as Perrier-Jouët, but as complex as Krug. She appreciates the flirtatiousness of champagne, but her true devotion is to beer.

My St Valentine's treat for her looked at first glance like an antique bottle of Dom Perignon. A closer inspection reveals that the monk has been upstaged. The bottle was labelled Deus, and described as "Brut des Flandres, Cuvée Prestige, a divine drink, based on barley."

No champagne can retain its mousse as Deus does. Nor can it create Belgian lace down the side of the glass with each swallow. Other great beers might approach, but not quite match, the delicacy of Deus: the clover-like bouquet; the juicy, dessert-apple, fruitiness; the touch of tannin in the dryish finish. A goddess deserves nothing less.

This wonderful fusion begins in Belgium, with barley-malt, hops and a primary fermentation with beer yeast, but then crosses a frontier in more than one respect. It is given a dosage of priming sugar and wine yeast, and taken by tanker truck to France: to a champagne cellar in Reims. There, it is bottled, undergoes a secondary fermentation and more than a year's maturation. This bottle conditioning develops complexity of aroma and flavour, and often, rose-like characteristics.

Then, as in the production of champagne, the yeast sediment is removed by remuage and dégorgement. The bottles are held in racks in which they can be tilted and turned until the yeast has been spun neatly into the neck. The bottle is then dipped and frozen so that the beer's natural carbonation can blow out the icy plug of yeast.

This isn't all new: many of the world's great beers, notably from Belgium, have a secondary fermentation in the bottle. But the champagne-style removal of the yeast sediment is.

Antoine Bosteels, who brews Deus, has previously made a six-grain beer called Karmeliet and the less complex amber ale Kwak, which in Belgium is always served in a stirrup cup, much to the delight of tourists. Antoine designs his own glasses, and at 11.5 per cent alcohol, Deus isn't drunk by the pint but from a 30cl flute.

The brewery is one of two in the village of Buggenhout, near the hop-growing town of Aalst. The other, built in the Nineties by Emanuel De Landtsheer to restore his family's beer-making tradition, uses the adopted the brand-name Malheur (meaning, perversely, "Misfortune"). And this, a couple of years ago, produced the first true champagne beer. In a bottle reminiscent of Veuve Clicquot, Malheur Brut Reserve is peachy and blossomy, with a herbal fragrance.

The brew that inspired these champagne beers was developed by Pierre Cellis, the man who created the ever-popular Hoegaarden wheat beer, and comes from the St Bernadus brewery near the French border. It is taken to the other end of Belgium to be matured in "grottos", huge caves left by quarrying, close to Maastricht. It is turned, but not disgorged, and is therefore yeast-sedimented. Called Grottenbier, it is perhaps the beer world's answer to a champagne cocktail?

Deus retails at about £8.99 per bottle, available from Booth's supermarkets; Malheur is available from Safeway at £9.99, and Grottenbier is around £4.50, from specialist outlets.

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