Thanks to Liar’s Club, one of the best beer bars anywhere, I had these last night (both on tap):
New Belgium La Folie. Very Belgian, in the style of a Flemish red ale, but with some lambic qualities as well. I was sure it had been brewed with some fruit, as it has a very sharp fruity (Montmorency cherries?) sourness to go with a yeasty complexity. But it has no fruit. The fruity character comes from aging in barrels that previously had been used for storing burgundy. Brilliant! A very daring brew and one I had heard about for some time. Finally getting to drink some did not disappoint. One of the more remarkable new flavors I have had in some time, apart from various geueze and other (old) Belgian experiences.
Russian River Pliny the Younger. I had tasted this once before, years ago, but did not remember its being this bold and deep in flavor. Maybe it was the sequence. Last time I had it at a Russian River tasting, so I’d had many great hoppy beers before getting to the Younger. This time I tasted it shortly after the La Folie, which meant it was a total turnaround for the taste buds. Wow, this beer is amazing. They call it a triple IPA, hopped three times as much as their standard India Pale, and dry hopped four times. At 11% alcohol, it is a beer to be careful with! But it does not taste of just hops and alcohol. It is well crafted, with a strong malt backbone to support its bigness. A masterpiece.
We had to leave Liars Club, unfortunately, because it was packed and the prospects for getting a table were bleak. So all I had was a tiny taster of the Pliny the Younger. So, off to the San Diego Brewing Co., which always has a great list of guest brews (along with their house brews). And guess what: They had Pliny the Younger, too. Who could have imagined? A pint and some fish and chips were made for each other.
According to a call to action, InBev plans to move production of Hoegaarden, the most famous of the recently revived old style of Belgian witbier (white beer).
I can’t argue with this logic:
If real parma ham has to have [its] origin in Parma, if champagne has to be produced in a strictly assigned region, why shouldn’t an internationally famous, but typically regional original product like the Hoeegarden White beer, be produced in the town of Hoegaarden.
By this same principle, of course, a certain Midwest US megafactory that produces a vaguely beerlike substance needs to be stripped of its right to use the geographic term, Budweiser, for its product.
My last post of 2005 was about my discovery, in a New Year’s Eve trip to Holiday Wine Cellar, of 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze, which I had not seen since a visit to the brewery in Beersel, on the outskirts of Brussels, in 2003. It is only fitting, then, that my first post of 2006 should be a tasting report.
I was so excited to be drinking this fine brew that I neglected to take a photo of the beautiful dark amber liquid with the effervescent head, but the brewery website offers a photo of the brewer, Armand Debelder, with a glass of another of their blends. This morning I took a photo of the label–not easy to do, given how much the logo wraps around the bottle.
(It’s not the highest quality photo, but as a souvenir, it will have to do.)
I really do not have the vocabulary to describe the incredible array of layered flavors, aromas, and textures that this beer offers. It is vaguely champagne-like (but much more refreshing and complex), making it perfect for New Year’s Eve. It has a terrific balance of tartness and sweetness. The flavor profile is quite fruity, even though there is no actual fruit in it. (It is very common for lambics to be brewed with fruit*, and while geuze is a blend of three different “vintages” of lambic, to my knowledge fruit lambics are never used in geuze blending.)
When I tasted another blend at the brewery cafe in 2003, I was struck by the similarities in flavor profile to pitanga, one of my favorite lesser-known fruits. This bottle had some of that pitanga funkiness, too. This brewery’s house flavor has the same sort of “wild” (if it were meat one might say “gamey,” in the good sense) or “musty” sweet flavor as the pitanga, which must be something imparted by the wild micro-organisms of this corner of the Senne valley. It is the bacteria landing spontaneously in a lambic brewery’s open cooling vessels in the attic that give any genuine lambic its distinctive character. Some of that character no doubt also comes from the aging in oak casks and, in the especially intense and complex form associated with the geuze, from the secondary fermentation in the bottle. (more…)
I could hardly believe what I found at Holiday Wine Cellar (an incredible beer/wine/liquor shop in Escondido, barely more than 15 minutes from Ladera Frutal).
3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze!!!
On our trip to Brussels in 2003, we wanted to experience some of the Senne Valley, the only place in the world that has the naturally ocurring mico-organinisms known as Bretanomyces that are needed to create true lambic, an open-fermented traditional country brew of Belgium. The town of Beersel is not far out of Brussels, but it is not an easy place to get to on a weekend, so we splurged for a cab to get us down there and back. We were gald we did. Gorgeous town, beautiful brewery cafe, and great lambic served with sumptuous traditional Belgian beer cuisine. Few, if any, other foreigners present–a great travel experience!
Very little genuine lambic is exported to the USA. But now I have a couple of bottles with which to relive one of our best beer/travel experiences.
At the 3 Fonteinen website, you can read about the process of lambic brewing and geuze blending. Geuze is produced by mixing one-year old, two- and three-year old lambic, then bottling it and letting a secondary fermentation take place in the bottle. On another page, you can see a (very) short video about the brewery.
I celebrated the first day of winter yesterday with some Anderson Valley Winter Solstice. Tastes almost like a rich caramel, particularly on tap. (The bottle benefits from several months to a year of aging.) One of my all-time favorite winter brews.
From the description by the brewery:
From the first sip of Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale , your senses will be aroused with the vision of a glowing fire, warming the hearth and home, as gently drifting snow flakes silently blanket the trees outside.
Yes, that sounds like winter here at Ladera Frutal. (more…)
Steven Taylor notes a study on the beneficial health effects of beer, or specifically, one of the critical ingredients of most beers: hops! As Dave Schuler notes in comments to Steven’s post, hops have been recognized as beneficial for a long time. Still, always good to have scientific confirmation!
In addition to favoring beer–the hoppier the better–I also drink a little hop tea now and then, and I highly recommend pickled hop shoots. And that hop tart that I had at Westvleteren (to evoke one of my very first F&V posts) was the most memorable pastry I have ever had.
Suddenly, I am quite thirsty, and craving a double IPA–more hoppy, more beneficial, right? Perhaps I’ll one of those last bottles of the late, great Frank that I still have left. I will pour it into a stein. Frank in stein, get it? (That used to be an annual Pizza Port Halloween event, though with the change in brewers, no more, sadly.)
Their Czech counterpart never did make into parliament (those pesky high thresholds again), but at least they rehabilitated one of Prague’s finest pubs. From As Think Magazine describes it:
At no. 2, right at the bottom of the street, is U Kocoura (House at The Cat). A rarity in this area, this pub makes no attempts to make itself into a magnet for passers-by. No tri-lingual menus, no welcoming hostess, no nothing. Just a few tables covered with dirty table cloths, 22,5Kc for a half litre of Budvar, and a big picture of Garfield on the right hand wall.
The double doors are opened when it’s warm, and the atmosphere is airy and relaxed. It used to be (and maybe still is) owned by (Pratele piva) The Friends of Beer, a former political party…
Yes, former political party. Sigh. And they still own the pub, as far as I know. But I have to admit I have not been to U Kocoura in my last two visits to Prague, having been just a little disappointed that the Friends of Beer changed their pub’s tie from Pilsner Urquell to Budvar and prettied the place up a little too much for a real Czech pub experience. Oh, a topic for a future post…
Yes, ‘pop’ is what I grew up calling it, despite being a California native. Must be from my mom’s Minnesota roots.
Anyway, I have to say that I have never really been a big fan of fizzy water with corn syrup. However, I will admit to liking Vernor’s. I never knew why, till I followed the link provided over at Cinerati. It’s the oak aging. Now that is something I am a big fan of.
But I wonder, regarding Faygo Original Rock and Rye, why does the list of ingredients not include rye? That’s something else I am a big fan of, especially when combined with ample hops.
These historic vestiges of a Belgian need to capture summer fruit are made without added yeast…because the valley of the Senne is loaded with airborn natural yeasts.
I’ve got some Cantillon apricot lambic and also their muscat grape version chilling (and aging well, I hope) in the fridge. He is dead on about how the local yeast in these open-fermented beers brings out the summer fruit. The apricot + lambic really is a perfect match.
UPDATE: Like many old Old-World brewers, the Oud Beersel brewery is threatened. There is a petition on line regarding the possible ending of production at this wonderful example of one of the oldest and rarest styles of brewing in the world.
Via Steven Taylor, I see that the monks of the Westvleteren abbey–one of only six Belgium Trappist monastery breweries and one of the smallest–have had to cease sales of their beer. It seems that one of their beers was rated over at ratebeer.com as the best beer in the world, and now they have had to cut off sales due to being unable to keep up with the demand.
From Beer Advocate there is a link to a more extensive story in The Independent. The very first paragraph got my mouth watering at the memory of one of my favorite beer-travel experiences, when I visited the monastery’s brewery cafe in 2003:
For more than 160 years the Trappist monks at Saint Sixtus monastery in Flanders have been producing a rich, dark-brown, beer renowned for its exceptional flavour and strength.
Mark Bode, the coordinator of the Westvleteren claustrum, is quoted in The Independent regarding the principle behind the brewery:
It is to produce as much beer as we need to finance the community. We make the beer to live but we do not live for beer.
Now, I have to say that not living for their luscious beer is a bit sad, but these men sure do provide a valuable service to the rest of us–at least when we can get their product.
It was the Westvleteren 12 that was rated “best in the world,” but don’t even think of overlooking the Westvleteren 8. Both are just amazingly complex and delicious (I especially recommend the review by “hobbes2112″ at the “12″ link above). Almost as memorable as the beer is the hop tart that they serve in the cafe. Yes, a hop tart! Also great cheeses (Belgian abbey ale and cheeses, also made by the monks, are a match made in heaven) and sausages.
By the way, Mr. Bode, quoted above, lives in the nearby town of Poperinge, also a wonderful center of brewing, home of the Popering’s Hommelbier (“hommel” means hop, and the beer has one of the spiciest hop characters I know, even if it is not exactly “hoppy” by American hophead standards). There is also a great museum to the cultivation of the hop–visiting it is practically a religious experience–in Poperinge.
I have to say there is something quite refreshing about a world-classic beer that you have to travel for. Better anyway that the beer drinker, rather than the beer, does the travelling!
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4