[Ed.: Sadly, this post is entirely out of date and the URL of the the Belgian beer blog referenced has become a porn site.
I received an email today from Filip Geerts in Brugge Belgium who has a fantastic beer blog about his country's brews simply called Belgian Beer. The photos are quite useful if you ask me like the one below - obviously set up but natural and documentary. Good investigative beer blogging by a pal of the blog's author.
At De Kasteelkelder, Ingelmunster, Belgium
The title of this post is an exaggeration. I spent four days in Seattle last week, at a conference of technical writers, and in that time I managed to get around a bit and to catch a glimpse of that city's brewing life. With only four evenings to spare and a bit of afternoon time, it hardly qualifies as a full tour.
I was at the conference with my cohort, Binky. Binky and I have attended five such conferences over the past nine years. The first was in Seattle, and so too was this most recent one. Others we've attended have been hosted by Toronto, Cincinnati, and Chicago.
Seattle has always seemed like a special place for both of us, as that is where we first revealed to each other our secret, hidden degeneracies. You see, we both have a "thing" for fermented and brewed beverages, particularly of the kind that is made in small batches by brew masters whose main focus is on quality and distinction, and not just the bottom line.
Seattle, I am glad to report, is a fine brew town. There are plenty of brew pubs to choose from and they are scattered all over town.
This beer is very much its cousin like Old Speckled Hen...but as canned OSH is to bottled, that bottled OSH is to Morland's Hen's Tooth. It pours a medium caramel colour with a swiftly dissipating head as befits a southern English ESB. It has a texture that is unusual - yeasty enriched, somwhow grainy, creating a complex profile. The hops are front-forward but not in the way of a US IPA. Green and grapefruit at the first nose and sip quickly evolve into a mouthful of summer bitter herbal greens. There is an alcohol sweet bite with the sweet pie crust, husky and crystal malt, even some candy. A true multi-layered ale which may be the Freeminer Stout of ESBs. The yeast is phenomenal in its sandy delicacy - apple and spice, sub-Belgian. The Shepherd Neame Bishops's Finger that followed was quite single-minded in comparison, a shocking admission.
$2.99 USD at Portland, Maine. The beer advocates that get it, get it. Prize.
I've had maybe 4 tiny wee bottles of this lovely ale in my life. Well, three of the Traquair House Ale and one of the rarer Jacobian Ale. Traquair's website indicates they brew other ales now as well which is quite the thing given that they are working with somewhat out of date equipment:
The brewery (photograph up and right) was originally an 18th century domestic brewery producing beer for the house and estate workers. It was disused some time after 1800 but the vessels and equipment remained untouched until it was rediscovered in 1965.Traquair House, history tells us, is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland with references to Royal visitors dating back to 1107. Brewing started in 1573 and the current brewing equipment dates from the 1700s and is largely made of wood and copper. One oak fermenting vessel, left, dates to 1811, the other dates to the revival of the brewery in the 1960s. The boiling vessel, referred to as the "new copper" is 269 years old. Open coolships, broad shallow containers providing pre-refrigeration cooling, are also used.
Michael Jackson in his Great Beer Guide says that the Traquair House Ale "has a light oaky aroma; touches of fresh earthiness, pepperiness and nutty maltiness in the palate and some woody rooty tartness in the finish." Gregory J. Noonan, owner of the Vermont Pub & Brewery, in his book Scotch Ale, after suggesting the likelihood that Bonnie Prince Charlie drank the ale in 1745, describes it as follows:
OG 1.075, FG 1.012 to 1.015, 8% ABV. Deep burnished-copper color. Redder than other Scotch ales. Amber and ruby tones shine brightly. Very full and round flavour. Great depth of maltiness is dominated by alcohol, hoppiness and hop biterness. Caramel/burnt undertones. Short Dry finish. Harsh flavors in the young ale are not evident in more mature casks. Candilike flavor increases over time.It is a classic in the best name beer style of all, Scots wee heavy, which are all ales to age and develop sherry nut and roasty peaty flavors in cool cellars over a year or more. My bottle of Traquair House Ale was a Merchant du Vin import bought in Maine. It poured mahogany with a rich light beige head that quickly fell back to a lively surface foam. The sweet malt flavour is fairly to the forefront but it does not cloy, cut by the combination of burlappish hops, bright effervescence as well as warm alcohol. The yeast is somewhat Belgian spicy but much creamier and not nearly as bold as in, say, a dubbel. Caramel and chocolate notes as well as pale malt huskiness combine with a bit of smoke and a bit of roast. Really quite complex and thoughtful, definitely having a sherry vineous tone.
For Andhra Pradesh in Indian - because...:
Andhra Pradesh is dry this summer. A dispute between manufacturers and suppliers of beer has left bars and liquor shops without any stocks of beer, the state's most popular summer drink. The three prominent breweries in the state - UB Group, Shaw Wallace and Artos - have stopped production since March to try and force the monopoly procurer, AP Breweries Corporation, to shell out an additional Rs 60 for each case of beer. Since then, UB has scaled its demand down to a hike of Rs 35. But for the corporation, Rs 10 is the limit.
"For the last few weeks, I haven't been able to find a single bottle of my favourite Kingfisher lager in Hyderabad," says Yazdani, an IT worker, who has been forced to travel either to the border districts or to Bangalore during the weekends for a swig. "In April, I paid up to Rs 90 at the local bars for a bottle. Now it isn't available at any price."
Check out...Czech out perhaps...Lew's trip to Prague in his May 2005 edition of The Buzz.
A very interesting article in the Globe and Mail's Business section by Derek DeCloet this morning on the pressure to drop prices in the Canadian macro-brewing industry. The factual highlights are these:
Just before Christmas, John Sleeman, the man who runs Canada's third-largest brewery, committed an act he'd once hoped he would never be forced to do. He slashed the cost of his beer...So mega-beer producers suffer from unhealthy images; equal advertizing opportunities granted to the competition; homogenization and standardization of product; and none of the breaks in taxation micros get. In his very interesting article, DeCloet goes on to analyze which brewers are going to be the best bets for investment over the next while. A good read.
Mr. Sleeman says part of the change can be traced back to a 1991 story by 60 Minutes that documented the so-called "French paradox," which suggests the French live longer and suffer less heart disease because of their love of a fine Beaujolais. Wine sales began to climb "the next morning," recalls Mr. Sleeman, and they haven't stopped. In 2003, the average Canadian of legal drinking age consumed about 14.4 litres of wine, up 31 per cent from a decade earlier. Average beer consumption fell 5.5 per cent in that period. If the wine makers had CBS on their side, liquor manufacturers benefited from changing laws and social mores. In 1995, the Federal Court of Canada struck down as unconstitutional a regulation banning hard liquor advertising on TV...
Some industry watchers argue that brewers have themselves to blame for their downbeat image. Accountants may love the Canadian brewers' deal to use the same, long-necked brown bottles for most of their brands because it saves millions in packaging costs. But since every bottle looks the same (with few exceptions), and the liquid often tastes the same, who can blame beer drinkers for concluding that most beers are the same, and buying the cheapest one?...and
It's not that Lakeport is more efficient than the mega-brewers. Rather, it is small enough to qualify as a microbrewery under Ontario law, and gets preferential tax treatment. A micro that ships about 1.2 million cases a year in the province will pay a basic production tax of $3.1-million. Sleeman, Molson Coors and Labatt pay nearly $5.6-million to sell the same number of cases.
Extraordinary. The aroma is like warm milk infused with fine herbs. It is milky malty rich with the flavours of a sweet clean summer barn plus cherry and vanilla and malteser or malted milk. A lively white head over antiqued gold ale. Very rich and lovely. About $2.50 CND at the LCBO for 330 ml of 7.5% northern French goodness. Showing a bit of age from the cap marks on the bottle. Raters rate.
Click for a bigger pic.
This string of Maine posts has surprised even me - and I was there - but who knew that by the Maine seacoast there was an excellent Belgian brewer like you find in more obvious spots like Quebec and in the leatherstocking region of New York? I thought I had picked up a 750 ml each of Allagash's white, dubbel reserve and triple reserve but had doubled my double by mistake, foresaking the white. I had had their white at Bull Feeney's in the Old Port and was mightily impressed but took no notes. I was also impressed to see that they make a dubbel and a dubbel reserve. Conscientious readers will recall that we like dubbels hereabouts.
The Allagasheen at their work
The Dubbel Reserve from Allagash is a classic: some boozey heat, a rich mahogany hue, sweet brown sugars and burlay funk. A bit light for a dubble at 7%, it is still a lot of beer for one bottle having as much of that organic chemical as about 3.5 regular brown pops. Say what you like, but it is all about the yeast strain when you are talking dubbles and this one is nice: chalky, nutmeg spicy, soy milk and vanilla. Sub-creamy. The front end is east Indian spicy, exotic seed at the first, moving to a glow suggesting chili. Between that and the yeast is a nice warm brown malt seam. Real nice dub.
A few weeks later, I popped the Allagash Triple Reserve after reading the Belgian Beer blog. This ale is quite bright with rocky but shallow head supported by quite active bubbling, attractive in an Orval glass. It is hot at 9% as a triple should be with a good candi and pale Belgian malt body up to the task. The brewery says:
This golden hued ale is marked by passion fruit and herbal notes in the aroma, with subtle suggestions of banana and honey surfacing from its deep and complex palate. The Tripel's finish is remarkably long and soothing.I get the passionfruit and might add banana> I would call it the colour of straw or even spruce wood. The finish is sea salt and old bitter greens. Very nice.