Monday, October 5, 2009

A Peek Behind Girardin's Curtain, Thanks to Chuck.

Chuck Cook might be the most determined dude in the beer-writing biz. Despite only getting to Belgium twice or thrice a year—his trip itineraries are insane; how does he find the time to stop and drink?—he's managed over the years to get behind the walls of places like Rochefort and Westvleteren.

But his latest coup, I think, is more impressive. Earlier this year Chuck was the first beer writer allowed into the secretive Girardin lambic brewery since Michael Jackson in 1993.

To read about his visit you need to go buy or subscribe to the latest issue of the Ale Street News. Do this now. Besides Chuck's regular column in there you get other goodies like Lew Bryson's truth-laden "Steaming Pile" (this month: "Pumpkin Beers Mostly Suck"). It's a fun paper to read.

A sneak preview: According to Chuck, Girardin grows all its own wheat for its lambic beers. (Lambic recipes are typically about 30 percent unmalted wheat, with the rest usually pale malt.) It also grows barley and sells it unmalted to buy malt. So, basically, most other places calling themselves "farmhouse breweries" can crawl on over and lick Girardin's big rubber boots.

Also: Those beautiful, shining brewing coppers, which anyone can see through the window from the road, are not used for lambics. Instead they're used for the brewery's Ulricher Pils. The lambic kit is tucked away deeper inside the brewery, away from prying eyes.

There's a lot more in the article, and more stories and photos from his visit in the pipeline. But he worked hard for them, so now you've got to do your part and pay up. That's just how it works. Subscribe to Ale Street here.

The photo is mine from a visit in January. Not a forbidden tour, just a stop to buy lambic. Read here about how and when to go and get your own jug of some of Pajottenland's finest.

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