Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Beeradvocate's Belgian Beer Fest 2008 another big success

Photo: Todd and Jason Alström with Duvel Brewmaster Hedwig Neven

Over the past weekend, I attended the Beeradvocate Belgian Beer Fest for the third year in a row, and I'm happy to say this one was another very successful event for the Alström Brothers, Jason & Todd. "All three sessions sold out several days in advance" Todd told me happily, as we spoke during the "Night of the Funk" on Friday, September 26.

About 500 tickets were sold to the "Night of the Funk" which featured standout brews like Cambridge Brewing Delilah, a blend of barrel aged strong golden ale with Brettanomyces Anomalous and Bruxellensis, and an herbed blonde gruit beer.
I had lunch at Cambridge the same day, and brewmaster Will Meyers was doing some experimental blending while I was there. The food and beers at Cambridge are very good, and it's a must stop while in the Boston area.

Other brews such as Deschutes The Dissident (sort of in the style of Rodenbach Grand Cru); Ithaca Beer Co. Vitus and Champagne Grissette; New Belgium Love; The Bruery Saison Rue; and Lost Abbey's entire lineup of Cable Car 08, Cuvee de Tomme, Saint's Devotion 08 and Sinners 08 were superb.

There was a speaker panel Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Duvel/Moortgat brewmaster Hedwig Neven spoke about the new Duvel draft during the Saturday evening session. Hedwig said the Duvel draft is a new beer, with a reformulated recipe. It weighs in at 6.8% abv and is deceptively drinkable, with a light body. A side by side tasting of Duvel Draft and bottle-conditioned Duvel was lead by Hedwig for an interested crowd. Note that the Duvel Draft is not the same beer as the "Red" labeled bottle-conditioned Duvel: "You'd never go from 6.8% abv to 8.5% abv with just bottle-conditioning" Hedwig told me. "You might get half a percent abv at the most. The new Duvel Draft is a different beer from the bottle-conditioned Duvel" he continued.

There was a plethora of great brews during both Saturday sessions. With about 1,000 tickets sold per session, the fest remained comfortable and not packed to the gills as other beer fests sometimes are. There was good food available, such as waffles, Flemish Beef stew, mussels, bratwursts and more. A chocolatier was on hand, and the free samples were very well received. I know, as I went back for seconds and thirds. Fourths, even!

See http://beeradvocate.com for info on future Beeradvocate beer fests at the Cyclorama in Boston. The next BA fest is the Extreme Beer Fest February 20-21, 2009.

Cheers, Bros.

Patrick and Rachel Rue, of the Bruery. Their beers were very well enjoyed at the fest!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Duvel brewmaster Hedwig Neven to appear at Beeradvocate's Belgian beer fest

Duvel brewmaster Hedwig Neven, on the right, with an assistant brewer.

Hedwig Neven, the brewmaster of Brouwerij Duvel/Moorgat, located in Breendonk/Puurs, Antwerp Province, will be a guest speaker at the Beeradvocate Belgian beer fest this weekend in Boston.

Hedwig will be talking about the new Duvel draft, as well as comparing the draft and bottled versions, beginning at 7 pm Saturday night, during session two.

I toured the brewery on May 29, and enjoyed a few beers with Hedwig in the Duvel Depot tasting cafe.

I look forward to tasting the new Duvel draft and hearing Hedwig speak about it.

The new brewhouse at Duvel Moortgat.

Hop Street!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

De Struise Brouwers

Urbain Cotteau, pouring a Tsjeeses at the bar at "The Noordhoek" resort

With all the attention De Struise Brouwers-The Sturdy Brewers-have been getting lately, I thought I'd share my photos as well as an article I wrote last year.
I visited the "resort" where Urbain et al raise Ostriches, and also brainstorm their next great brews, on Feb. 27, 2007. My friends Danny Van Tricht, Jan and I had paid a visit to Brouwerij St-Bernardus in Watou in the late afternoon and early evening, and it was 8 pm/20.00 before we got started. It was a very dark night, and the back roads in West Flanders are not very well lit. Actually, that's a vast understatement on my part!

Danny, acting as "Bob", aka the driver, told me that we would have never found the place without his trusty GPS. Find it we did, though, and we were in for a fine evening of Belgian hospitality.

With Urbain as our host, we tasted all the De Struise beers that were on hand, inside the cozy main room.
"The resort" as the Sturdy Brewers refer to the "Noordhoek" guesthouse, is actually a place that can be rented to groups of up to 25 people. The "Noordhoek" is very popular in summer and on weekends, as a place where groups can have a place to have a reunion, post-wedding celebration, or other celebrations.

As we visited in the middle of winter, there was a roaring fire to ward off the cold, as we talked about all the Struise beers and also the Ostrich farm. Fresh-baked bread and delectible pates made with beers like St-Bernardus and Duvel were spread around and savored. We sampled and compared Pannepot and Pannepeut. The Aardmonnik/Earthmonk was incredibly good. There were other beers too.....a great evening. The next day was a fine one as well, as Danny and I visited Brouwerij Westvleteren in the morning, and then visited with Carlo, Peter and Urbain at Deca, where we sampled more of the De Struise beers, right at the source.

Fast forward to Sept. 2008: I have not even sampled the Black Albert as yet, however I know it must be a good one. Maybe next trip to Belgium I might find some....

Here's my Celebrator article on De Struise and St. Bernardus:

St. Bernardus and De Struise

photos: De Struise Brouwers

(Photo: Urbain Cotteau, enjoying the good life.)

Carlo, with a sample of Struiselensis, right from the open copper fermenter.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Beeradvocate's Belgian Beer Fest returns...again!

(Photo: Trappistes Rochefort brewer Gumer Santos and Beeradvocate's Todd Alström)

In just a few short weeks, one of the premier Belgian beer events in North America returns to its home in Boston. The Brothers Alstrom, Jason and Todd, will once again lead the way in organizing "The Return of the Belgian Beer Fest" at the Cyclorama.
I attended the event in 2006 and 2007, and was suitably impressed. The beer and brewery list covered a who's who in Belgian and Belgian-inspired brewing, and the guest speakers were some of the most noted in the industry. While the speaker list has not been posted yet for this year's event, to be held Sept. 26-27, I'd say that judging by last year, when Trappistes Rochefort brewmaster Gumer Santos and Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de la Senne were guests, beer lovers can expect some well known figures at the event.

I wrote an article about last year's beer fest, published here: Belgian Beer Fest

Photos from the 2006 and 2007 fests:

2006 BA fest

2007 BA fest

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Brasserie Trappistes Rochefort

Photo: Brother Pierre at brewkettle one in the brewhouse at Rochefort/
Abbaye Notre Dame de St-Remy

I visited Brasserie Rochefort at Abbaye Notre Dame de St-Remy, for a third time, on May 27. Danny Van Tricht and I were warmly greeted by brewmaster Gumer Santos, as well as Brother Pierre and Brother Antoine.

Rochefort is currently brewing about 21,000 hl per year, of which about 60% is the 8 (9.2% abv) with about 30% for the mighty 10 (11.3%) and ten percent is the 6 (7.5%.)

We also had a fine lunch at La Gourmandise in the town of Rochefort. This restaurant features Cuisine a la Biere, and a fine beer list, including all the Rochefort beers. There are all sorts of breweriana from Brasserie Trappistes Rochefort throughout the restaurant.

Brother Antoine, the retired brewer, at brewkettle one at Rochefort.

Brewmaster of Brouwerij Bockor at foeder (oak barrel)

Rudi Ghequire at Foeder 132, Brouwerij Rodenbach

Photo of Rodenbach brewmaster Rudi Ghequire