Sometimes there’s nothing to write about – like the past week – and then suddenly it all falls together. Judging in Belgium with Brussels Beer Challenge a weekend ago, some ‘incidents’ that in themselves are futile occurred – in combination with other issues they are all but futile. So, here goes another tirade – Oh Hell, it’s Monday: stop beer craziness!
As part of the entertainment program of Brussels Beer Challenge, judges are bussed off to tour local breweries and so we found ourselves at Lindemans, a true Lambik brewery. We learned beautiful tasting glasses are not particularly stable and there’s a hell of a difference between real and artificial wood-ageing. Lindemans served us lambic as they’ve been ageing it for decades, in Inox cylindroconical fermenters where they toss a bag of wood chips in, as well as lambic aged in newly built 10,000 litre oak ‘Foeders’ – the traditional way. One glass was cloudy, with an intense wood aroma, tart sourness and essentially flexing its muscles – the other proved well-nigh clear, elegantly wearing a woodish aroma as if it were a perfume, touching the tongue delicately with tart sourness but essentially trying to conceal a magnificent cleavage. The latter, of course, was the wood aged: valuable lesson learned for all brewers and beer lovers that patience will pay. I hereby declare wood chips or spirals as unwanted in beer as slices of lemon in Witbier, all other fruits than lemon, as well as Green Tea, in Radler and aroma hops in Hefeweizen. Stop this beer craziness!
We dined at a traditional Belgian family restaurant in Brussels, just opposite La Tour Noire, and spotted a Sixtus on the beer menu. Wow, that’s a find, particularly for the € 4,50 they charged: Sixtus, as you know, was the brand name under which St. Bernardus produced Westvleteren under license until 1992 – so this would be a vintage of unprecedented value! As could be expected it was ‘regular’ St. Bernardus Abt 12 – a great beer in itself – but not the advertised Sixtus. The landlady claimed it still read Sixtus on the label (which it doesn’t) and couldn’t see our problem. Come on baby, do not try and sell me something it isn’t! Stop this beer craziness!
Then an add hit me, advertising Guinness Blonde American Lager, ‘a bright American lager brewed with American hops’. What is wrong with the world if even Guinness, a brand as strong and big as planet Jupiter, is branching out from stout to American lager?! Sure, new consumers are turning away from industrially produced beer and other foodstuffs, but countering that development by introducing an American lager, brewed in Dublin? Has Guinness hired the Hillary Clinton Campaign Team to do their marketing? Stop this beer craziness, and brew us a decent stout – Arthur must have been making pirouettes in his coffin after learning of this add.
Midweek some sweet PR girls dropped a crate at my Bier&cO desk, containing the new Bavaria Gluten free pilsner and all sorts of gluten free snacks – inviting me and my colleagues to enjoy a gluten free Vrijmibo (Friday drinkies). As I was not at my desk but have great colleagues, they put all perishable stuff in the fridge, including the beer (one colleague was overly helpful and drank one immediately).
Thanks for whacking out so much money at us, Bavaria family brewers: we enjoyed the snacks and the beer and I will hereby tell my readers you guys have a new me-too product: gluten free pilsner, not what the world has been waiting for as we already have a great gluten free pilsner called Mongozo which is also organic and fair trade – and is a multiple gold medal winner. Stop this beer craziness, and while you’re at it, stop flooding the world in flavored Radlers – Radler is lemon, period.
What seemed to be the final insult occurred at Flevo Bier Festival, organized by Pint, in Almere. I ordered a Dubbel from one of the brewers, who in turn asked if I knew the beer. I drank it light years ago so replied ‘no’, upon which the brewer presented me a taster. I repeated my order and the brewer persisted: taste it first, and ‘do you like the little sour in there?’ The beer was acid, and no Dubbel should taste that way, so I was gearing up for a heated debate when the brewer told me he didn’t like it either and was looking to be rid of that sour. Years ago, a Dutch brewer would simply have said this was his personal take on the style, the beer was thus intended this way and now hand me my token! Consequently I was amazed, wished him luck and ordered a Blonde (which was tasty). Although I still believe that Dubbel should not have been tapped there in the first place, I prefer to look at the bright side here and believe firmly that signs like these mean beer craziness is coming to an end – slowly, but surely. Thank the Good Lord for that.