Breweries "Visited"

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hops on Pops

Day #630 Poperings Hommelbier / Brouwerij Van Eecke, Watou, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Het Kappitel Watou Blond and another Watou Blond

Today marks the first day of the 2013 Penn State football season.  It doesn't feel like the first day.  Maybe it's me; maybe I haven't prepped and planned the way I usually do.  Maybe it's the fact the first game isn't in Beaver Stadium.  However, at 3:30pm today they kick off, so I better get myself ready for football... and fast.

Keeping the wheels turning on the glut of reviews from the trip to Belgium, and today's offering is a glass of Poperings Hommel Bier, a Belgian IPA from Brouwerij van Eecke.  In the glass you get a very bright and clear gold color, with a traditional monster white head.  Compared to other Belgian beers, this one is quite hoppy, both in aroma and taste, with mellow citrus flavors.  Whereas American hoppy beers give you pine aromas and flavors, this one has more of an herbal taste.  Earthy and green and tasty with a touch of malt sweetness, this beer is rather refreshing and enjoyable.  I'm not sure anyone is flying to Belgium to drink Hommelbier, but maybe they should.

This beer is brewed in Watou, a small town near the French border.  You'll hear more about Watou as I continue to go through beers.  This area is famous for growing hops, one of the main ingredients in beer. Therefore, a very important place from a geographic sense in the Belgian beer culture.  In fact, this beer is brewed using only locally grown hops. Outside of the beer world, this area is more famously known for being the nexus of trench warfare during the First World War.

Hi there, sexy.
Hops, in the local dialect, are known as 'hommel', and Poperinge is the name of the region where the hops are famously grown, hence the name of this beer.  If you wanted to learn more about hops than you ever thought possible... stay tuned.

Thing to Think About Today:
A few of my friends and I have recently been discussing a below the radar rap group from the early 90s, 3rd Bass. These guys are sort of like the Beastie Boys Light, although unlike the fun loving Beasties they spend considerable time rapping about the legitimacy of the rap game and societal issues facing African Americans. This is notable, as the two main members of the group were white.

Why am I discussing this?  In the spirit of Poperings and hops, I present some hip-hop in Pop Goes the Weasel, a song that tore Vanilla Ice to shreds for his pop star aspirations.  Plus, I love the hook they stole from Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer, so that + making fun of Vanilla Ice = awesome.

P.S.  GO PENN STATE!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Easter (in August)!

Day #629 Boskeun / De Dolle Brouwers, Esen, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: an Arabier and another Arabier (plus great writing on social equality) from the original challenge, an Oerbier and a Dulle Teve "aka, Mad Bitch" from the Beercycling trip

Today marks a huge holiday: Football Eve, the day before the first Penn State football game.  Please celebrate accordingly.

But before football, we get back to the Belgian trip.  One of the best breweries visited during the journey was De Dolle Brouwers, although I'm actually going to drop in a review from a beer I had in a bar rather than as part of the behind the scenes tour of the brewery.  More on De Dolle soon enough, friends.  Today's beer is the Boskeun, which is a seasonal Easter beer.  It poured a dark gold color with a fluffy head, and has that distinctive Belgiun yeast aroma.  There are flavors of green apple, bread, berry, and a touch of honey sweetness. Like most every great Belgian I drank, this one has a wonderfully done balance of malt and hops, which lets those delicious flavors I mentioned shine through.  I bought this because (1) I didn't get to sample this one at the brewery, (2) you don't see many Easter beers, and (3) everything else I had from De Dolle was fantastic.  I chose well.
More rabbits?
The name translates from Flemish to "Rabbit of the Woods" in English.  This is the nickname of the brewer's brother, and stems back from when they were kids.  Fun and cute label, but this beer means serious business - behind the smooth taste is a potent 10% ABV.  Happy Easter, indeed.

Thing to Think About Today:
Is it just me or have we been talking about rabbits quite a bit lately?  Regardless, another rabbit related beer means I think we should think about Frightened Rabbit, the wonderful Scottish band I'm still pissed I haven't seen live (although maybe that will change!).  We close out a Friday with a live performance of Modern Leper.  Enjoy!

"You should sit with me and we'll start again / And you can tell me all about what you did today"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hangin' Around

Day #628 Le Corne du Bois des Pendus Tripel  / Brasserie d'Ebly, Ebly, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: n/a; this beer is the first out the limo!

Football is starting this weekend; first fantasy football draft happens tonight.  Probably not a good sign that I've done no prep, no homework, no reading, no planning.... no anything.  I'll fix that.  Add that to my list of things to fix.  We're going to get this right.

Tonight's beer is Le Corne Tripel from Brasserie d'Ebly, which I had in a restaurant in Brugge.  Basically, I ordered this beer because it came in the most unusual glass I saw in all of Belgium - a horn shaped glass held in a carriage stand.  The horn is a throwback to the ancient days where bull's horns were used as drinking vessels, and quite frankly, it makes sense because you need to stand out a bit in a crowded Belgian beer world.  Mission accomplished there.  The beer itself was worth the random purchase - a dark gold color with a big fluffy white head, with aromas of bread and yeast, and flavors that balanced malt and mild Belgian hops.  Sometimes random beer purchases work out just fine.
Not my photo.  
My photo from Cambrinus:
My photo. Less exciting.
According to Google translate, the name of this beer means "Horn of Wood Hanging."  This is due to an ancient legend about a seventeenth century brewer named Cornelius, who along with everyone else from the village near Luxembourg, was hung by a band of marauders.  That sucks.  He apparently buried his beer recipe to keep it secret, and his spirit is said to still haunt the woods.  He's represented on the bottle and glass with the noose still hung around his neck.  A bit morbid, but hey, that's just me.

Thing to Think About Today:
In the spirit of a brewer hung by marauders, I give you the Rolling Stones and Hang Fire.  Have a good evening, dear friends....

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 627: Dogfish Head Chicory Stout

I can't encounter the word chicory without thinking about the time Gary got hickory smoked at a winery outside Nashville. Who could resist views like this, a couple of bottles of wine and a block of cheese? Definitely not us!
If you lean closely, you can still smell the hickory.
Hickory, chicory, here's my segue...

Let's talk Dogfish Head Chicory Stout. It's brewed with roasted chicory and organic Mexican coffee. The label tell me that it's "Goodness beneath a bone white head." It is a very, very deep, dark brown...nearly black color with a tan head. It smells of sweet chocolate and wood and rich coffee beans. The flavor reminds me of cold coffee. There are hints of cola, a touch of wood. It drinks with a thin mouthfeel.

As it warmed a bit and I got closer to the bottom of my glass, it's characteristics changed slightly. First some burnt coffee flavors were becoming more dominant. After a few more sips, the chocolate flavor took over. This is a complex beer that will keep you thinking about exactly what you're drinking.

Beer stats
Style: Stout
ABV: 5.2%
IBUs: 21
Rating: Great

Previously reviewed from Dogfish Head
Mr. Blog Named Brew's review of the 60 Minute IPA
My review of Raison d'Etre

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Party in the Put Some Damn Pants On

Day #626 Cuvée / Brouwerij de Ranke, Wevelgem, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: another Cuvée

I haven't really discussed much other than beer lately, and that's not an accident.  But I did feel like there are three things I need to share:
1. I wish all of my pants/shorts had a built in belt.  This would be helpful for when I forget to put one on, obviously.  Which I seem to do a lot, and that obviously causes problems.
2. Dear people who wear sunglasses inside: YOU'RE INSIDE.... you can probably take off your sunglasses.  I get when you wear them in from the car and forget to take them off immediately after walking in the door. Please trust me when I say I do that too.  No worries there.  But unless you just had your eyes dilated, I think you can eventually take them off to conduct your daily business.  The person in the grocery store wearing their sunglasses in the checkout aisle?  Hmmm....
3. So apparently Miley Cyrus lost her mind.  That's unfortunate, but not really unexpected when we make demigods out of marginally talented tweens and teenagers, then feed the beast by documenting their every move of every day until they sort of snap.  Our society and where we place our priorities sucks, really.  Get well soon, Miley.  We'll always have Party in the U.S.A., won't we?

I guess the last item can be today's beer, which is a glass of the Cuvée from Brouwerij de Ranke, another brewery that we unfortunately didn't get to visit, but thankfully did get to sample.  We did ride past the town this brewery is in, if that's worth anything.  Anyway, in the glass this beer showed off an apricot hue, with a wispy white head.  There's a perfect sour tartness, with great citrus notes and noticeable flavors of yeast and green apples.  This is also a rather interesting beer, as it's a blend of 70% oud bruin beer made with Rodenbach yeast and 30% lambic from Girardin.  Or, in other words, two other breweries involved in this beer.  Odd?  Maybe, but who cares, it's absolutely delicious.
Possibly the worst photo ever.  EVER.
Thing to Think About Today:
Free Miley!  Okay, so I've already dropped Party in the U.S.A. on your faces, but I didn't drop the Next Episode mashup with Dre and Snoop, now did I?  NOW I DID.  Is this version on my iPod?  Do you even need to ask?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 625: Brewer's Art Petroleuse

After writing non-stop about Belgian beers for a couple of weeks and then hitting the West Coast for a beer or two, it's time to show some love to an East Coast beer. And it's easy to love the beers from The Brewer's Art and that's not just because Brewer's Art was where we hatched this hare-brained scheme to blog about beer.
Tonight's beer is La Petroleuse, a biere de garde. Interesting little tidbit about La Petroleuse. Proceeds from sales benefit women's entrepreneurship in Baltimore. So drinking this beer is really doing a good deed!

La Petroleuse pours an oaky brown color ale with an off-white head. It smells like fresh bread and lightly of black pepper. The flavor is redolent of biscuits, hops with undertones of butter. As it warmed up, I started getting a little bit of caramel.

Beer stats
Style: Biere de garde
ABV: 7%
IBUs: Unknown
Rating: Great

Previously reviewed from The Brewer's Art
Mr. Blog Named Brew's thoughts on Petroleuse, La Canard, Green Peppercorn Tripel
His very first blog post ever!
And my first post...because you never know what life has in store for you. And, yes, I did just quote myself. I'm that guy.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Basement Fires

Day #624 Vuur & Vlam / Brouwerij De Molen, Bodegraven, Netherlands
Previously from this brewery: Engels, London Porter

So after reviewing the first two beers from Sint-Sixtus, you're expecting the legedary Westvleteren 12 here today, right?  Nope.  Going to make you wait for that one.  My blog and I can do whatever I want.

Instead, I'll give you the only non-Belgian beer I drank during the Beercycling trip: a bottle of Vuur & Vlam, an IPA from Dutch brewer Brouwerij De Molen.  I found this bottle on the impressive tap list at Le Trappiste, a cool basement (catacombs?) bar in Brugge.  This beer poured a dark gold color with a fluffy white head.  At least I think it did - not great lighting in the catacombs.  There are aromas of tangerine, and when you drink it you find pine and grapefruit, with good amounts of bitterness throughout.  Very tasty, and easily the hoppiest beer I drank on the trip.  If you close your eyes, this tastes exactly like an American IPA; one that I really enjoyed.

Henk, one of our tour guides, is from the Netherlands and actually grows hops on his farm which he sells to De Molen.  He let us know that this beer name translates to English as "Fire & Flames," although if Henk knew why, I'm not sure I wrote that down.  They have a number of "something & something" named beers, in fact, if you check out their website. Guess they have a fondness for the ampersand?
Darkness not good for photos
I mentioned that Le Trappiste is in an old basement - the bar is in a building that (allegedly) dates back to the 13th century.  They had an impressive draft and bottle list, including a beer from Flying Dog in Maryland. One of the very, very few American beers I saw on any of the beer menus I looked at.  As if this all wasn't good enough, the sound system was blaring a Queen album.  Not just one song - an entire album.  It's like they knew I was coming!
Life in the catacombs
Thing to Think About Today:
Follow me a bit: IPAs are known for their strong hops.  Hops grow on vines.  This beer is named Fire and Flames.  Therefore, I make a stretch connection and give you Death Cab for Cutie and their extraordinarily mellow Grapevine Fires, a song with a permanent home in my quiet mix for when I want to just zone out.
z

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ice Cream? ICE CREAM.

Beer #623 Westvleteren 8 / Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren, Westvleteren, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: The blond, the blond, the Westy 8

Sunny and warm Saturday on deck, so I guess that means I'm spending part of it in front of a computer screen.  I should at least take my laptop outside and work on my tan, I suppose.

Next up from Sint Sixtus is the Westvleteren 8, a dubbel beer that pours a dark mahogany color.  In fact, it's basically the same color as the Westvleteren 12, so we had to continually make sure we knew which was which so photos and notes could be organized.  A small price to pay to be able to sample three of the world's best beers, to be sure.  Served in a gorgeous chalice, there are aromas of malt and stone fruit, and when you take a sip you find a wonderful balance of caramel, stone fruit, brown sugar, and chocolate. There's a good bit of sweetness, but nothing overpowering.  Very complex, yet I could easily drink this beer all day.  I wish I could drink this beer all day, in fact.  This abbey beer was delicious from the start, but improved as it warmed a bit.  Want to know how good this beer was?  Some members of our group thought this beer might have been better than the legendary Westy 12.....
The 12, the blond, the 8
Tiny bit of history: the abbey has been in existence since 1831, although there have been other religious orders in the area dating back to the year 806.  You know, as in the 9th century?  And just in case beer isn't exactly your thing, there's also a killer ice cream made with the Westy 8 available at In De Vrede, the cafe next door to the monastery.  Here's your beer ice cream review:  it was freaking delicious!
heavenly (small pun intended)
Thing to Think About Today:
Keeping with the saintly theme related to Sint Sixtus, Louis Armstrong takes us home with When the Saints Go Marching In. Enjoy.... see you all again soon.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Day 622: Russian River Damnation

I read an interesting article in The Press Democrat this morning. It coincides nicely with the beer I planned to review tonight so I recommend that you give it a read. If you're not into reading or if you prefer to have your news spoon fed in tasty little nuggets, here's what I learned. Russian River Brewing Company maxed out capacity and the news seems to have broken in a most dramatic way...they ran out of bottled beer at their Santa Rosa restaurant on a recent, particularly busy weekend.

Russian River started out in 2004 with a brewpub in Santa Rosa and not even ten years later is among the most coveted American beer brands in the United States (my interpretation of the facts). With Russian River only being available in California, Colorado, Oregon and at select bars in Philadelphia, I fear they are going the way of The Alchemist and that's going to severely impact my ability to get my hands on their product. That day is going to be a very sad day indeed.

Until then I'll be stockpiling Russian River beer like it's the end of days. 

Tonight's beer selection if Russian River's Damnation--a bottle aged golden ale. It pours a bright golden color with a loose white head. The flavor full and round with a good balance between malts and hops. There are fruit undertones with banana standing out. Russian River writes that this beer is inspired by Duvel. Having just spent some time in Belgium drinking Duvel (and many other beers) like it was my job, I can assure you that the tribute is spot on!

Beer stats
Style: Golden ale
ABV: 7.75%
IBUs:  Unknown
Rating: Excellent

Previously reviewed from Russian River
My review of the sampler during a visit to Russian River in Santa Rosa with some fantastic vacation pics!
Mr. Blog Named Brew's review of the sampler, Consecration and Damnation
My horizontal tasting of Supplication
Mr. goes all Captain Ahab on Pliny the Younger but not Pliny the Elder

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Religion In a Glass

Beer #621 Westvleteren Blond / Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren, Westvleteren, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Blond and Westvleteren 8

And so we come to one of the reasons I thought going on the Beercycling trip would be a lot of fun - getting to Westvleteren to sample some of the rarest - and widely regarded as best - beers in the world: the abbey beers of Sint-Sixtus.
Time to wandelroute!
Marci has done a far better job than I could on explaining Trappist beers, so I'll just link to her comments and move along.  Visitors aren't actually allowed in the Abbey where the beers are made, but we were able to make a stop and pay our respects in a grotto on the grounds with a religious shrine.  As it was said (and I'm paraphrasing) while we were there, "a holy spot before we have a holy beer."
Very cool, peaceful spot to contemplate things
Despite not being able to hang out with the monks, the cafe next door had all three varieties of the beer brewed on tap, as well as whatever they want to sell you.  Seriously, some days they have beer for sale, some days gift packs, some days cheese, some days they sell out ad they go all Belgian Soup Nazi and it's NO BEER FOR YOU. Although I doubt they yell when they say this.  To get a full case, you need to call a special number and pray someone answers; they don't, apparently.  If by some small miracle you get them to answer they tell you what day you can come pick up your case, and then do everything short of take a DNA sample to make sure you don't try to buy another case and resell it.  Our group hit the jackpot, as they had an abundance of six pack gift boxes, which came with two glasses.  SCORE!
Did we buy some Westy?  Why, yes.  Yes, we did.
I'm fascinated by these monks.  They only make as much as they need to pay the bills and support the religious order.  If they have a special need, as they did when they needed a new roof in 2012, they release a small bit of beer in America and other places, and watch as beer geeks line up for days to pay exorbitant prices for the rare chance to sample this beer.

Ah, this beer... we ordered and shared all three drafts during our lunch at the cafe.  The Blond pours a hazy gold color, and you get prominent notes of grain, biscuit, and grass, and there's definitely more bitterness than a typical blond.  There's some light citrus in there as well, and drinks very smooth. There's not much malt sweetness, but enough to balance out some of the flavors.  Just a wonderful beer.  While the Westy bruins take all of the credit, this blond holds up to any beer out there.

Thing to Think About Today:
The monks at Sint Sixtus as about as close as I come to believing in religion.  So, let's celebrate with The Shins and a live version of the lovely Saint Simon.   Good night, my friends.

"Nothing really holds a candle to / The solemn warmth you feel inside of you"

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Day 620: Cantillon at the End of the Road

This is me after riding my bike nearly 250 miles. I'm smiling so that's a good sign, right? Looking back at this trip..at all the amazing beer and food...thinking about the great job that Evan and Henk did to keep us organized, entertained and safe...recalling all the adventures with the other Beercyclists, the only thing I can say now is that this truly was a trip of a lifetime.

I still have some random reviews scribbled here and there and some photos that don't seem to have reviews but nothing matches up. So I'm calling a wrap on the Beercycling posts with tonight's installment, but I retain the right to look back nostalgically in the coming days and weeks if manage to find more photos and track down more beer notes.

And while our tenth and final brewery on the tour was Cantillon, I'm not closing out with a Cantillon Brewery review. I'm going with a Cantillon review of a beer that I had on our first night in Brussels at a bar called Moeder Lambic. While some people would have tried something else knowing that they would be at the Cantillon Brewery ten days later, that's not my style. I wanted all the Cantillon I could get while in Belgium!
This is the Cantillon Lambic, which was on cask. It poured a slightly hazy, but bright gold color with a loose white head. It had a lemony and buttery aroma. The flavor was minerally--kind of like sucking rocks. (You know, because I do that all the time and totally know what rocks taste like.) There was also a terrific tartness. It was also insanely dry, which challenged me to find other more subtle flavors but there was the typical funky mustiness.

Beer stats
Style: Lambic
ABV: 5%
IBUs: Unknown
Rating: Excellent

Previously reviewed from Cantillon
His and hers reviews of the gueuze

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forgetfulness, Pressure, and Rememberance

Beer #619 Hapkin / Brouwerij Alken-Maes, Mechelen, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Grimbergen Blonde and more Grimbergen Blonde

I'm once again at a point where I'm not even sure what day it is - I sincerely thought today was Monday. Good for me, weekend is one day closer.  Bad for me, I really didn't know today was Tuesday.

Speaking of not knowing or remembering, I really don't even remember ordering today's beer, a bottle of Hapkin from Brouwerij Alken-Maes.  Perhaps this was at the hotel in Diksmuide?  The menu in the picture seems to suggest that, anyway.  At some point, some of the things in my life do start running together. You know, days of the week.... beers I drank a month ago. Regardless, this one poured a clear blonde color with a thick, white head.  There's a hoppy aroma, and when you take a sip you get a mellow, floral hop flavor. This one drinks dry, with a mild bitterness on the finish.  It's fairly potent at 8.5% ABV, but I didn't notice a strong alcohol taste.  I ordered it randomly, just to try something new, and it was a decent although apparently not memorable beer.  They're also sort of owned by Heineken, but I didn't know that when I ordered it.
There you have it.
If I had this in Diksmuide, I'll add in two things: One, the drinking age is 16 in Belgium.  A few of us went out on a Saturday night to the local watering hole, and it was really awkward hanging out with kids who were putting back drinks at the bar.  Face it, 16 year olds drinking in a bar only happens in Belgium... well, and Hazleton, PA.  But it was still odd.  Also, this town was basically flattened during the First World War, and has been entirely rebuilt since then.  In a country with thousand year old buildings, it was odd to see everything so (relatively) modern.  The picture below is of a peace memorial that was built after the first World War.  The Germans, in a textbook definition of irony, destroyed the peace monument during the Second World War.  Thankfully, no problems since then.  Although it does seem to be a rallying point for those in northern Belgium who would prefer a separation from the southern half of Belgium, thus creating an independent Flanders state.
Peace
Thing to Think About Today:
Without further ado or explanation, I give you Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie.  Just because.

"These are the days it never rains but pours..."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 618: Piraat Triple Hop

Some days I wish this blog wrote itself. But after 618 consecutive days, I'm too stubborn to let it fall by the wayside.
I promise that there's beer beneath that giant white head! It is the Piraat Triple Hop from Brouwerij Van Steenberge.  It poured with a fantastically full white head over a copper color ale. Interesting fact about Belgian beer: They tend to max out their hop profile right around the same place that many American beers start. That's not a disparaging comment in the least as I thoroughly enjoyed the Piraat Triple Hop.

True to its name, the aroma was strong on hops. The flavor was amazingly smooth with a good hop bite at the finish. Another interesting tidbit: The fine folks at Van Steenberge aren't happy with this name so if it makes its way to the U.S., it will most likely be under a new name!

Beer stats
Style: Belgian IPA
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: Unknown
Rating: Excellent

Previously reviewed from Van Steenberge
We're venturing into crazy list territory with Van Steenberge so use this handy link to see what all we've reviewed!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

God.

Day #617 DeuS / Brouwerij Bosteels, Buggenhout, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Tripel Karmeliet and more Tripel Karmeliet

I REALLY don't feel like writing a post today, but there's been a post for the past 616 days (seriously, go back and read them if you don't believe me), and writing lets me clear my head.  Or at least distract my head.  Either way.... #617 is here.

The beer for the day was one of the more unusual finds the Beercycling crew came across.  Why?  Because DeuS, from Brouwerij Bosteels, lives somewhere between beer and champagne.  Seriously, after this beer is brewed and bottle fermented, it is sent to France for a final fermentation with champagne yeast.  You know... the stuff they make champagne with.  This bottle was shared with the group during a nightcap at Rose Red on our last evening in Bruges.

It arrived with frozen champagne flutes, and poured and looked just like champagne, although admittedly a bit darker and a bit less effervescent.  There are notes of light citrus fruit, green apple, malt, and some peppery spice and yeast, almost like a saison.  Very interesting, very unusual, and very tasty.  Very glad I was able to sample this one.  I have in my notes the phrase, "beyond the best of", although I think it might be a marketing slogan I saw on the bottle or the menu.  At 11.5% and over 30 Euro for a bottle (about $40), this one is best shared.
Crappy picture.  Sue me.
Bosteels also makes the wonderfully delightful Kwak and Tripel Karmeliet; two delicious beers that could thankfully be found in most restaurants we visited.  They both provided a great go-to beer when more adventurous choices weren't available.  And I still say the Karmeliet glass is the best in all of Belgium, a land filled with beautiful glassware for beer.
Glorious! And the cafe next to us was the headquarters
for a biker gang. Thankfully not the cafe we were at....
Thing to Think About Today:
I don't think I really have anything here for you today.  Deus is Latin for God, so I guess I can give you Dear God by Monsters of Folk and The Roots.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rabbit, Run

Day #616 Quad 10 / Brouwerij Fort Lapin, Bruges, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: The Tripel (and a shout out to the new King of Belgium), the Tripel, and the Quad

Another beautiful Saturday, which I will spend sitting inside.  Seems like a good plan.  I don't always sit inside - here's a picture of me and the bike I rode across Belgium.
I kid. I only rode across half of Belgium.
I've previously written about Fort Lapin, a relatively new brewery in Belgium.  In addition to sampling the Tripel during our visit, we got to try a glass of the Quad as well.  It poured a mahogany color with a substantial off white head.  There are floral and malt aromas, and when you take a sip you get a big mix of candi sugar, dark fruit, chocolate, cinnamon, and clove.  Very rich and complex, yet remarkably easy to drink.  If I had to pick a favorite between the two, I'd probably take the Tripel, but the Quad is very good as well.  You're not likely to see these in America any time soon, however.  Sorry!
Hi there.
The brewer told us the story of how his 10 year old son likes to help around the brewery, and wants to grow up to be a brewer one day.  That sounds like the most awesome experience ever for a 10 year old!  We also promised that we wouldn't relay the story of how his 10 year old has been drunk two or three times before. No problem keeping that one quiet - it's not like anyone reads this silly blog anyway....

Thing to Think About Today:
As previously mentioned, 'lapin' in French translates to 'rabbit' in English, so I'm closing out a mellow, contemplative Saturday with The National and Pink Rabbits.  Have a good Saturday...

"Am I the one you think about?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 615: Gulden Draak 9000

No one really reads Friday posts and I'm utterly defeated by life lately. Now for the beer.

It's the Gulden Draak 9000. Mr. Blog Named Brew tells the story of how the 9000 came to be in a recent post so I won't rehash it.
It's brewed by the fine folks at Brouwerij Van SteenbergeIt pours a deep amber color with a light tan head. It smells of biscuit dough with a light sweetness. The flavor is candi sugar, a little bit of chocolate and dark fruits. I also noted oranges.

Beer stats:
Style: Belgian strong dark ale
ABV: 10.5%
IBUs: Unknown
Rating: Great

Previously reviewed from Van Steenberge
His review of Gulden Draak 9000 and all the other posts linked up nice and neat here

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wild, Not Crazy

Day #614 Morpheus Wild / Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Heule, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Wild Undressed Regular and Wild Undressed Regular

You get a short post tonight because that's just the way it goes.  Tonight's beer is a bottle of Morpheus Wild, from Alvinne, which was not a brewery we visited.  I don't really remember drinking this one, but from the order it was in my email and from the chairs in the picture I think I had this one at Rose Red, a cool beer bar connected to the hotel I stayed at in Bruges.  Ghent is a cooler, more interesting town, but Bruges has better beer bars.  This is an unquestionable fact.

This beer is a Flemish oud bruin, and pours a dark brown color with red highlights, and a monster off white head.  The bottle sort of exploded into the glass, in fact.  There's a tart aroma, and when you take a sip there's a sort of effervescent quality.  Along with that tartness, there's a dark fruit quality, some sourness, and definitely some chocolate coming through.  Really a very nice beer, even if I don't remember actually drinking it.  And that's not a function of how much everyone drank on this trip - there were plenty of beers consumed, but due to early starts and long bike rides, no one was up late being all crazy.
Wild, not crazy
Thing to Think About Today:
This song popped up on the iPod today and I like it, and due to the name there's a tangential relationship to the bike trip, so here it goes.  I think the first time I've dropped a hidden track in this space, and certainly one of the longer songs I've used.  We close it out with Eurotrash Girl by Cracker.  I did meet some strange characters while in Belgium, but I guess really nothing more strange than you'd see anywhere in the U.S.

"You know she never did like me"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's all Guld, yo.

Day #613 Gulden Draak 9000 / Brouwerij Van Steenberge, Ertvelde, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Seriously, make it easy on me and just click here

Continuing on with our Beercycling recap, we stick with Van Steenberge for an interesting beer, the Gulden Draak 9000.  Bottles of ordinary Gulden Draak are readily available near me in the Philly 'burbs, but I was excited to try this alternate version.  The story we heard was that the 9000 was a fortuitous error - during production of Gulden Draak one fateful day, someone forgot to add caramel malts, thus creating a much lighter color beer. The staff at the brewery tried it, figured out it was delicious, and shazam - the 9000 is born.  True story? Don't know, but when it comes from the guy who owns the place, you have a tendency to believe.

This beer has a dark gold color, and once you get past the big fluffy white head, you pick up notes of candi sugar, a honey sweetness, bread, and dark fruits.  Like with all of the beers we sampled, a nice balance of malt and hops, with great flavors folded in.  What you may not notice is that this beer packs a 10.5% ABV, which is serious business.  Really a unique and fantastic beer, a definite highlight of the trip.  Better than the gigantic bottle of aged for four years Gulden Draak that the owner brought from his private collection for us to pound furiously drink respectfully? Maybe not, but that's another story for another time, kids.  Besides, you're sick of hearing about Belgium by now.
Unleash the dragon...
This beer is named for a famous golden dragon statue that sits atop a belfry in Ghent.  I unfortunately do not have a photo of that, so instead you get a photo of a canal that runs through the heart of the town (near said belfry).  The number sequence 9000 is the postal code of Ghent, in case you were wondering (you were).
Nice!
Thing to Think About Today:
If the beer today is the 9000 and we're being all four digit numerical, what if we dropped in some Andre 3000?  Because everyone loves the co-front man from Outkast, I think I'm going to do just that.  Let's wrap up with Hey Ya, always a crowd favorite.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Day 612: Westvleteren 8

One of the things I found very interesting about dining in Belgium is that bread and butter weren't handed out freely like in the United States. In fact, most places would charge you for it if you requested it. On the other hand, frites (never call them French fries in Belgium!) were inexpensive and everywhere. I'm fairly certain I had frites with every lunch and dinner that wasn't a picnic.

And after pedaling through farmland for ten days, much of which was dedicated to potato farming, I'm certain I'll be able to identify potato crops for the rest of my life.
Potatoes as far as the eye can see!
I'm also fairly certain this guy is going to give me nightmares for a good long time.
Monsieur Frite! What have you been smoking?
 Enough about potatoes, let's talk beer and close out my reviews from Sint Sixtus. I had three beers at In De Vrede (the cafe nearby Sint Sixtus Abbey)--the blond, 8 and 12. The blond was reviewed in my last post and I'm saving reviewing the 12 until I can put together a tasting dinner. If you're really nice, I might invite you!

The Westvleteren 8 pours a medium tone, hazy brown color with a light tan head. It has a light mouthfeel. For some reason I expected it to have a lot of body. The smell is rich with chocolate, plum and malt. The flavor is full of caramel and chocolate with dark bread notes. I'm sure it goes without saying since this is a Westvleteren beer, but it was excellent!

Beer stats
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 8%
IBUs: Unknown
Rating: Excellent

Previously reviewed from Sint Sixtus
My thoughts on the blond

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pirates, Piraat, and Long John Silver's: The Trilogy

Day #611 Piraat Triple Hops / Brouwerij Van Steenberge, Ertvelde, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Have I reached "just click this button" status for Van Steenberge? I have.

So after our first beer and the wildly unsafe tour through the bottling area, we checked out some of the other operations at Van Steenberge before settling back into the tasting room to unwind and see how badly injured some of the team was from the steam incident (just some melted sneaker, thankfully).  One of the beers sampled was a special pour that isn't usually available in the tasting room - Piraat Triple Hops, a relatively new beer in their line-up.  In fact, Piet, the father-in-law of the owner, had someone bring up a case just for us to try - another fringe benefit of rolling like a VIP with the Beercycling crew!  Triple hopped beers seem to be the mini-Belgian version of the American craft beer arms race, as Duvel also has thrown their hat in the ring with a triple hop.

This one poured an amber color with a typical monster white, fluffy head.  There's a light pine aroma, with a nice, mellow bitterness.  If Belgian brewers are ramping up their hops and bitterness, they're doing it baby steps at a time and remembering to bring solid flavors and balance along for the ride.  It was referred to as one of the bitterest beers in Belgium - I haven't tried them all, so I'll just take their word for it.  As was said by someone along the way, "Belgian hoppy beers end where American hoppy beers just begin."  True enough, but that doesn't make this beer any less tasty.
Ahoy, matey!
I have a note that I wrote indicating that this beer is going to be sold in America under a different name, much how Augustijn will be sold as St. Stefanus.  However, this beer was right about where the party was starting to kick into high gear, so I may have that last fact incorrect.  I think it may also be 10.5% ABV, which also may explain why I don't know the full story of renaming this beer in America.

Thing to Think About Today:
Piraat in the glass means you get stuck learning that one of my favorite books as a kid was Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.  As a child, I found this to be a magical tale of pirates, buried treasure, and the open sea.  Look, if adults are going to read books made for children (looking at you, Hunger Games), adults should probably take a moment and re-read the classics.  Even better if you do it with your child, and teach them to appreciate good literature.

Other things of note that you may find interesting (or not):
1. One of my other favorite books, as I've already told you, is Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.  In fact, I also just read a book about the true story that Moby Dick was based on, where the crew of a whaling boat floated across the Pacific for 90 days before being rescued.  Check out In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathanial Philbrick, for a captivating and scary story.
2. Clearly I like books about adventure on the seas, as I also read an amazing book about 100 foot waves, surfing, and the dangers that lurk in the ocean.  Check out The Wave, by Susan Casey, and be amazed. Who's ready for tow-in surfing?  Not me!
3. I used to love going to eat at Long John Silver's, a fast food restaurant - and name of a prominent character in Treasure Island.  Fond memories of childhood there, as I'd often go with my grandmother.  That's a thin tie to literature, but I just thought you should know this.
3. As an adult, I was captivated by seeing the original illustrations from this book, which were done by local art legend N.C. Wyeth.  They're prominently displayed at the Brandywine River Museum, a fantastic place to visit if you love the works of the Wyeth clan (as I do).
N.C. Wyeth. Culture, yo!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Day 610: Westvleteren Blond

Being an admitted beer geek, one of the highlights of the Beercycling trip was the opportunity to get my grubby little hands on some beer from Westvleteren--the only one of the eight Trappist brewers that doesn't ship to the United States.

In case you were wodering, the Trappist order originated in the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe, France. Various Cistercian congregations existed for many years, and by 1664 the Abbot of La Trappe felt that the Cistercians were becoming too liberal. He introduced strict new rules in the abbey and the Strict Observance was born. Since this time, many of the rules have been relaxed. However, a fundamental tenet, that monasteries should be self-supporting, is still maintained by these groups.

Monastery brewhouses, from different religious orders, have existed across Europe since the Middle Ages. From the very beginning, beer was brewed in French Cistercian monasteries following the Strict Observance. The Trappists, like many other religious people, originally brewed beer to feed the community, in a perspective of self-sufficiency. Nowadays, Trappist breweries also brew beer to fund their works and for good causes. Many of the Trappist monasteries and breweries were destroyed during the French Revolution and the World Wars. Among the monastic breweries, the Trappists were certainly the most active brewers. In the last 300 years, there were at least nine Trappist breweries in France, six in Belgium, two in the Netherlands, one in Germany, one in Austria, one in Bosnia and possibly other countries. Today, eight Trappist breweries are active; six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands, and one in Austria. 

Trappist beers must meet strict production criteria:
  • The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision;
  • The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life;
  • The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need;
  • Trappist breweries are constantly monitored to assure the irreproachable quality of their beers.

Westvleteren is brewed by the monks at Sint Sixtus Abbey. For awhile, the monks outsourced their recipe to Saint Bernardus and some people say that the Saint Bernardus 12 and the Westvleteren 12 are pretty much the same beer. I'm going to reserve judgement until I can do a side by side comparison.

Our trip first took us to a lovely grotto adjacent to the abbey. It seemed appropriate to visit a holy place before enjoying a holy beer.
We then rode over to the front of the abbey but I didn't get any photos. After that it was another two minutes around the corner to In de Vrede, a cafe and visitor centre, the only place to purchase Westvleteren beer other than the abbey. The gift shop is not guaranteed to have anything from the abbey for sale, but the day we visit we hit the jackpot. They were selling six packs of Westvleteren 12 that came with two tasting glasses. I am very happy to report that all six bottles and both glasses made it home safely. No small feat considering that they were tucked in our bikes' saddlebags for the next several days and had to survive being checked in our luggage!

Once our group raided the gift shop, we sat down to a well-earned lunch and shared quite a few bottles of the blond, 8 and 12.

If you're wondering, from left to right: 8, blond and 12.
The blond poured a hazy, deep gold color with a bright white head. It has a zesty, bready aroma with hints of white grapes. I also wrote in my notes, "What is that? Apple?" Do what you want with that comment. The flavor was also a little bready, grassy. I noted very light fruit and some honey as well. There's a perfect balance to this beer. There's a reason why the beers of Westvleteren are often ranked among the best in the world. They are damn tasty.

Beer stats:
Style: Blond
ABV: 5.%
IBUs: Uknown
Rating: Excellent

Previously reviewed from Sint Sixtus Abbey
First out the limo!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

August and Everything After

Day #609 Augustijn Blonde / Brouwerij Van Steenberge, Ertvelde, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Their own St. Stefanus Grand Cru, and house beers they produce for bars: de Garre, Klokke Roeland, and Monk's Flemish Sour

After spending our first night in Ghent (great town, by the way), the next morning the Beercycling crew was headed north to Brouwerij Van Steenberge.  In a trip filled with behind the scenes access to brewers and brewery owners, this one may have taken the cake.  The father-in-law of the current owner gave us the least safe, most in-the-machinery tour of the trip, and we drank beer with the owner, all of which made for a truly unique experience.  More about that soon enough....
Up close and real personal, taken from inside the bottling line
In the tasting room, our first pour was the Augustijn Blonde, which had a bright blonde hue and puffy, lingering white head.  There are aromas of Belgian yeast, and the taste gives you a nice malt sweetness, with notes of grain and apple, and a good mild hop balance.  Easy drinking, flavorful, and refreshing.  Everything you want in a beer.  There is a long tradition of Augustinian friars brewing beer in the area of Ghent, stretching back to the 13th century.  In 1978, the brewery acquired a popular recipe from the friars; hence the Augustijn name.
Blondes... always good
Due to some legal mumbo jumbo, this beer is being released in America under a different name; be on the lookout for bottles of St. Stefanus hitting shelves in stores near you.

Thing to Think About Today:

Yes, I dropped a Counting Crows reference in this post title.  You don't get that here, I regret to inform you.  As August(ijn) turns to September, sweater weather is soon to follow.  The other song currently rolling around in my head: Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood. Hey, it's a close of a connection as I can make, and I fully admit it's not a great one.

"One love, two mouths / One love, one house
No shirt, no blouse / Just us, you find out"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 608: De Dolle Oerbier

The other beer I wrote notes on while visiting De Dolle Brouwers is the Oerbier. But before I get to the review, let's recap some of the highlights of our visit to De Dolle.

I got to see a coolship in action. What's that, you ask? It's a large shallow pan used to cool wort overnight using outside air temperature. During the cooling process, naturally occurring yeast in the air inoculates the wort. Once the wort is cooled, it moves onto the next stage of production--often barrel aging!

 
We also got to sample a year-old beer straight from the barrel. 
 Here I am enjoying it!
Several times on the Beercycling trip, Mr. Blog Named Brew mused about the terroir of beer. Terroir is a French wine concept incorporating everything that contributes to the distinctive character of a particular vineyard site. This includes its soil and subsoil, drainage, slope and elevation, microclimate, which in turn includes temperature and precipitation, exposure to the sun, wind and fog, and the like. It can also include strains of wild yeasts that come in on the grape skins and live in the wine cellars. 

But what does that mean for beer? Water, strains of yeast, varieties of hops and malts all give beer its characteristics. But what about equipment? Does equipment that is hundreds of years old change the beer? Maybe. Does a brewery's history have an impact? Absolutely. 

What about as a beer drinker? Is there terroir of beer drinking? Does time and place impact how good we think a beer is? We asked ourselves this question many times during the trip. Did the beers taste better because of where we were and who we were drinking with? I don't know. The halcyon glow of vacation likely had a positive impact on our perceptions but did it make an average beer seem that much better? Or was it possible that we didn't have a bad beer the entire time we were on vacation?

One beer that I'm pretty confident was just a darn good beer is De Dolle's Oerbier.
It poured a hazy brown with a thick cream-color head. It smelled slightly fruity and tart with an earthiness and some hop. The flavor is amazing. Lots of malt body with some dark fruit and tartness hiding out. Every few sips I could find some slightly sweet wine-like notes. I also wrote down silky with about sixteen exclamation points. I think I wanted to make a note of how silky it felt to drink.

What you can't really see in this photo is the phrase "Nat en Straf", which means wet and strong. I can attest that perfectly describes this beer. I could also claim it as my personal motto on the Beercycling trip as I ended most days soaking wet with sweat but feeling unstoppable. That's me...nat en straf.

Beer stats
Style: Strong dark ale
ABV: 9.5%
IBUs: Unknown
Rating: Great

Previously reviewed from De Dolle
My review of Dulle Teve, which includes me and a lot of spandex!
His and hers reviews of Arabier

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Owl, The Arms Race, The Way We Move

Day #607 Steenuilke / Brouwerij De Ryck, Herzele, Belgium
Previously from this brewery: Arend Tripel

Here in America, craft beer is an arms race.  Every brewery tries to outdo the rest of the industry by adding more hops than realistically needed, or by mashing together crazy ingredients just because they need to be different to stand out in a crowd.  Call me crazy, but beer made with gun powder, dandelions, Milk Duds, and hearts of palm just isn't what I need.  I need good beer, well crafted with solid flavors that stand out because they're delicious, not because they're weird.  Anyone out there remember the scene in Superman 3, where Richard Pryor is trying to reverse engineer homemade Kryptonite, but can't figure out the missing ingredients?  Inspired by his cigarette pack, he inserts tar, and it turns out that his Kyrptonite just turns Superman into a prick rather than killing his powers.  I feel American craft beers is sort of like that, adding tar because they can't figure out what that missing ingredient is sometimes.

At Brouwerij De Ryck, they've managed to craft a new beer that combines unexpected ingredients without going off the deep end.  Specifically, the Steenuilke, a pale ale that takes its name from a local bird, the Stone Owl.  This beer pours with a clear gold color and a fluffy, puffy white head.  There's a good flavor of light hops; not hoppy by U.S. standards, but by far the hoppiest beer in the De Ryck lineup.  There's a wonderful and unexpected herbal spice to this beer, and it has a fresh, green flavor.  Perhaps not the greatest beer I had while in Belgium, but without a doubt this beer was the most unexpected and unusual I found along the way.  Well done, De Ryck!

In case you were wondering, that unusual spice and earthy quality comes from local herbs: sweet woodruff, angelica and blackthorn.  Much, much better than gun powder.  Or tar.  Trust me.  De Ryck has recently started shipping their beers to America, and I sincerely hope that Steenuilke is part of that distribution.
I see you, Owl. I see you....
And, if you still need further proof that beer people are good people, this beer was brewed in a partnership with a nature conservancy to increase awareness and raise funds for the preservation of this bird.  Beer people?  We solve problems, yo.

Thing to Think About Today:
The song currently stuck in my head, and hopefully stuck in yours very shortly, comes from Langhorne Slim & The Law - their hit summer song The Way We Move.  I defy you to play this one and not roll down the windows while driving at least 10mph faster.  Plus, he's actually from Langhorne, PA!  We're practically neighbors not really but it's still fun.

"In my bed I can't sleep
All my friends have crooked tales
And that's the way I like it / that's just what I need."