Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gratuitous Shot of Hyperactive Lambic Barrel.

Here's some lambic porn for you. I know you want it. Like the sausage coat rack, this was at Timmermans. Not my favorite lambic brewer by any stretch, but our self-led "tour" certainly had its entertainment value.

For tonight I've helped to organize a private tasting in Moeder Lambic's cellar. As always, your envious hatred is more than welcome. The group are not aficionados, just friends interested in knowing more about Belgian beer. So I'm very interested to see what co-owner Jean Hummler pulls out. He has exacting tastes, let's say, so his choices for "beginners" should be pretty interesting.

By the way, anyone can organize a tasting like this at Moeder Lambic. The current price is typically €35 a head and includes five or six beers plus cheese, atmosphere, and Jean waxing loquacious on his favorite topic. Hell of a deal, I'd say. Something to consider whether you're planning a visit to Brussels or already live here.

*See here for my recent report on Moeder Lambic's plans for a second location in the city center, expected to open later this year.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lambic on Wheels and Wurst on a Coat Rack.

It's hard to choose my favorite thing about the Tour de Geuze yesterday.

Maybe it was all the great lambics. Maybe it was drinking the new Geuze Mega-Blend or the Timmermans Oude Gueuze. Maybe it was Armand Debelder in a bow tie. Maybe it was sausages on a coat rack. Maybe it was wisely bypassing the guided tours once we realized they were both long-winded and mostly in Dutch, and heading straight to the beer instead. Maybe it was that moment in the afternoon when you realize you're on your third brewery and you've still got two more to go. It certainly wasn't that moment in the evening when you realize your time at the last one is nearly up. Maybe it was nursing a daylong buzz and watching the Pajottenland villages roll by the bus window.

Or maybe it was just meeting so many other people who shared our passion for truly great beer.

No. I'm going with the sausages.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Spring in Brussels and the Fests Are Blooming.

Looking forward to the Vilvordia BierProefFestival in Jette on Saturday. Also the Tour de Geuze on Sunday. Yessir, gonna be a fine weekend here in the Brabant.

The Vilvoordia fest starts at 10 a.m. and presumably goes pretty late. There are 70 options on the list, and it's pretty strong on quality. Also some serious rarities there, like the one-offs Crianza Helena and Zwanze from Cantillon.

Jette is essentially in northern Brussels. To get there from the center, the simplest way is probably Metro to Simonis and then take Bus 13 to its endpoint, UZ-Brussel. Hang a left (south) after the bus stop and hunt for signs pointing toward the "Erasmushogeschool," Jette campus. The event is in that school's cafeteria. It's a new location for the fest, and I've never been to this one anyway, so that's the best I can do.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm Not a Doctor, But I Do Drink Beer.

I'm recovering from one virus while watching another, more powerful one take root.

Back from a busy trip to Missouri. Wedding preparations and celebrations. Working hard, playing hard, and trying to ignore a combined fit of seasonal allergies and acute viral rhinopharyngitis. The much-delayed and re-routed flight home (why even bother having an airport in Chicago, if it never works?) didn't help matters any. However, the well-traveled bottle of homemade smoked porter I had last night helped quite a bit. Well, it was leaking a little. Had to drink, didn't I?

These trips get beerier and beerier as we sow the seeds of serious suds throughout our family. My dad looked on while my brother and I brewed, working on plans for a small home brewing installation in the shop he's building. Mom is nearly finished with her world beer tour. My sister and her husband are hooked on Cantillon. My mother-in-law is now addicted to Rochefort. My father-in-law brewed 30 gallons of zesty lager, all-grain and all by his lonesome, to serve guests at his daughter's wedding events.* All of the above were habitual drinkers of either Miller Lite or Bud Lite not long ago.

Full flavor is viral because it speaks of a full life. We all want that. Much like the common cold, there's little chance of finding a cure anytime soon.

*Pictured above in the capable hands of pals Vickie and Meredith. Gorgeous, no? And the girls ain't bad looking neither.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Morsels of Moderation from Missouri.

A holiday for me usually means a holiday away from the Internet. But the thought of a stale, neglected blog just gnaws at me. So as I look out the window over the gently rolling pastures-cum-cookie-cutter-subdivisions of the Ozark Plateau, here are some loosely connected sentences. And fragments.

Boulevard Pale Ale is to Missouri what Orval is to Belgium: characterful, highly drinkable and reasonably hoppy pale ale whose quality is matched by its availabilty. It rescues you in those places where other good beers are scarce. If you prefer a nation-to-nation comparison, replace "Boulevard" with "Sierra Nevada." Yet another beer I failed to properly appreciate until I left the country and found my palate.

Meanwhile: I don't have the taste for hop-bombs I once had. I gorge on them anyway when I come home, as if I need a fix. But I don't. It's like growing older to find that dish your mom always makes for you isn't what you remember... With most of the IPAs, the first one impresses greatly, and the rest just coat my palate with layer after layer of hop resin. Or so it seems. Most of them could dial up the aroma and dial down the bitterness.

In the fermenters at the Ozark homestead: Ten gallons of Belgian-style blonde hopped entirely with Centennial. The projected abv is 6%. Dialed up on aroma, dialed down on bitterness. Theoretically.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Brussels is Photogenic.

Check out the video below from Nice to see this city and its beer getting that kind of attention. Here's to hoping that enthusiasm translates into sales of books that focus on such things.

Also: Just came across a really excellent blog and wanted to share it with you. Joe Ray is Eating the Motherland, taking crisp photos and writing with rhythm along the way. At the moment he appears to be enjoying the hell out of Brussels.

I might've looked the guy up for a beverage if we weren't packing for a trip to Missouri. Another wedding and some Ozarks homebrewing are in our immediate future.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lock Up the Spice Cabinet, Throw Away the Key.

When I visit breweries for fun it's usually the little guys. My thinking has been that life is too short to visit a bunch of places that don't interest me. An upshot of this: I'm still easily impressed by massive lagering tanks and gymnasium-sized bottling systems. It was in that mindset that I thoroughly enjoyed a tour of Du Bocq this week. (And big thanks to Randy for organizing that for us.)

Du Bocq's beers generally run spicier and sweeter than I like, but the brewery obviously has its fans. Most interesting factoid: Each of Du Bocq's beers – from Saison Regal to Gauloise to Triple Moine and more – is brewed with four spices, according to our guide. All four – coriander, ginger, orange peel and anise – go into ALL of Du Bocq's beers, she said. I asked for clarification because I thought that must be a mistake. It seems the presence of those four spices never varies, although the amounts vary depending on the beer. We can guess that the Gauloise Brune, for example, may have very little orange peel while the Blanche de Namur has very little anise, for example.

(I get annoyed when American homebrewing books offer up Belgian style-recipes loaded with unnecessary spices. It's as if they think a Belgian recipe isn't Belgian until you've emptied the spice cabinet. Where they get these silly ideas?)

An exception to Bocq's four-spices rule would be the beers made on contract for other firms. Theoretically and officially those are made according to the original recipes. But if you've ever had Bocq's sweetish, soupy-spicy version of St Feuillien Blonde, you've really got to wonder...

Anyway, the highlight was the prolonged, post-tour tasting in the brewery's courtyard. We were lucky to get a warm sunny day. It was still beer and a damned enjoyable morning. And afterward I think I appreciate the little guys just a little bit more.