Thursday, August 23, 2012

Snapshots of the Postmodern: Craig Allan.

That fourth bottle going from left to right, with the colorful swirly label and 37.5cl bottle, is the Cuvée d'Oscar from brewer Craig Allan. As I wrote in my recent article for Draft, Allan is a Scot living in France who brews at Proef in Belgium. So there is another slice of the transnational craft beer movement for you.

Those bottles were displayed on the mantle behind the bar at the Kerelshof in Cassel last December, something like the "beers o' da month" shelf. Hence the Christmas beers. The Oscar isn't a seasonal but rather one of Allan's regulars, alongside his American-citrus-hopped Agent Provocateur. The Oscar, meanwhile, might be an ideal route for anyone wanting to get to know Nelson Sauvin -- grapes and berries? -- a bit better. Allan is big on hop flavor and aroma, with plenty of late- and dry-hopping. Meanwhile the bitterness is kept in check. I found each beer to be a joy.

While there we heard some gossip that Allan, who lives in Picardy -- about halfway between Lille and Paris, if that helps -- wanted to open a brewhouse of his own in Cassel. A couple of days ago I finally remembered to ask him about it. It turns out the place he was looking at hadn't been used in about 10 years, needed a lot of repairs, and the owner was asking for too much money for all that. "So unfortunately c'est tombé a l'eau as they say in France," Allan said in an email, "a shame because as you know Cassel would be perfect for a brewery..."

And more, in case you're curious:
I am currently based in Picardy where my French wife is from and am back to looking at an installation in this region. My wife has started a new job here so we will probably stay around here now. ... At the moment I have around 40 professional clients in Paris, about an hour's drive away, including some very good restaurants (my wife studied wine in Burgundy and used to sell to some of the best Parisian restaurants so had some good contacts) and I think there is enormous potential in Paris so perhaps Picardy isn't too bad after all! I am looking into brewing in a brewery in the north of France to supplement the beers produced at de Proef but the ultimate aim is still to have my own brewery.
Like a lot of people, Craig Allan is making some fine beers at someone else's brewery. Like a lot of people, in fact, he is doing so in Lochristi, Belgium, at Proef. Yet I find myself hoping that he gets his own brewhouse going and settles down. Why? Will the beer be better, or have more character? No guarantees there. I'm a hedonist and I shouldn't care. But I do.

I like it when a brewer faces more risk and challenge to achieve a vision for what ends up in my glass. Maybe it's because I'm a writer and adversity makes a better story. Or maybe I'm just a sadist. Anyway, I find it reassuring that he says he wants his own place. There seem to be many other brewers these days content to do otherwise.

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