Sonntag, 1. Oktober 2017

Modeste Bier Festival 2017, Antwerp

Modeste Bier Festival 2017

As in the last years, the festival is organized by Antwerps Bierollege in collaboration with Zythos and de Koninck brewery.

As a start, I prepare before going to a beer festival, check the list of beers, see what additional information are available, check the app. Etc. This may sound boring but is necessary – like most people I have limited capacity and I want to make the best out of my visit. Life is too short to drink bad beer (or the beer style). This said, it requires some time.
This year’s Modeste was a bit of a negative surprise for a start. Final breweries list was resealed only on Tuesday before a start together with a non-final beer list. Festival app was released on Friday during the day. Final list of beer was on Facebook on the day of the festival. 


If you add to this that the festival app, even if it is providing a full list of beer is sending you directly to untapped for a beer details, you get an overall feeling of the last-minute event having organizational problems and trying very hard not to screw.

I don’t remember this type of problems from the last year event.


For a summary – 38 breweries in total, some breweries/beers were accessible only one one of the two days). This time almost all breweries are Belgian. This is good news though. Leffe and co, have nothing to do here. Only honest craft beers. Very interesting selection, quite a few I haven’t seen and some I respect a lot.


Like last year, the event is held next to the de Koninck brewery and one can imagine a great combo doing both festival and brewery visit on one day.
Another negative point was a security guard do not let me in the festival. Not because I have some dangerous substances, but because the critical mass of people has been reached. 15 minutes waiting for a beer. And, please trust me – you don’t want to be the one between me and my beer on Saturday afternoon.
WTF?

Honestly, I was there on Saturday at 3 pm. And I admit the situation was even worse when I was leaving around 7 pm. The line of people awaiting entrance was hitting 60-70, making it approx.. 1 hour to get to the festival. I don’t know what safety issue, regulatory stuff, discussion have led to this disaster, but in a couple of years of going to be beer festivals in few countries – I have never seen something like that before.


Another think I don’t understand – why can I pay for a beer using a real-life money and I need to buy tokens to get a burger? 
OK, it is like the next level of complication – either you do the same rule for everything or you leave it. Especially in the outside part breweries were mixed with food stands. Mixing a currency on top is weird.

So much on the negative site.

On a positive – the organizers have made a great job by inviting the brewers that have something to say. It may sound funny, but the truth is that beer is an art – you may brew a beer for years. Even a good one. But there is a clear-cut border separating good, solid breweries and the artists. Whereas the first will often deliver you a flawless experience; seconds will give you a beer to remember. Kind of a mass stab.

And I am happy to say that some of the beers were here during the MBF17.


Here are the beers I had (and just to remember – with some exceptions, I will concentrate on brewers I have never tried before).


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Bronckhorster (The Netherlands)

This was very interesting. I have never heard of the brewery before. It is either going to be one of the most awesome breweries I have met before or one of the biggest disasters. The beer list was awesome, with a strong part of new wave styles including barley wines and imperial stouts.
To keep the long story short – I have tried two beers:
Terra-Incognita (barley wine, 12% ABW) and a Populus6921 (Quadrupel, 11% ABW) and they were both great.

Terra-Incognita (barley wine, 12% ABW) is American interpretation of barley wine. Dark amber colour, medium carbonation, aroma of honey and dried plum, spices. Flavour is more bitter, with well balancing vanilla, caramel and malts. Simply great.




Populus6921 (Quadrupel, 11% ABW) is another stunning beer. Amazing combination of typical, dense, licorice Quad… hopped to the limit! I don’t even want to know what number of hops you need to add to counter dense aromas of quad, but it was worth it! Complementary aromas of dried fruits and dark chocolate/espresso also do the job. Without any exaggeration – why would I ever care about Westvletteren XII again. 


In case of any doubts - this is the Brewery of the festival for me!







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Tall Poppy Brewing Company – An Then Stuff happens (brown porter). Unfortunately, this was really the moment the stuff has happened – I have chosen a beef before the average. Bit creamy, bit of chocolate a tad watery. Without any clear flaw but just too weak to stand out.




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De Dochter van de Korenaar – 
L´Ensemble di Montalcino (barley wine) 

This clearly was the barley wine festival (at least for me). De Korenaar deserves a word of explanation – for me this is probably top 5 of Belgian new wave brewers. Their “Belle Fleur” was first good IPA I had in Belgium. None of their beers were ever disappointing. Same this time. L´Ensemble di Montalcino smells with toffee, pine and caramel. Flavor is malty caramel, some fruity notes and light bitter finish. Another very good beer.  


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Tall Poppy Brewing Company – An Then Stuff happens (brown porter). 

Unfortunately, this was really the moment the stuff has happened – I have chosen a beef before the average. Bit creamy, bit of chocolate a tad watery. Without any clear flaw but just too weak to stand out.


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‘t Verzet – Kameradski Balsamico (hybrid of RIS and Flemish sour ale). 

This was something that I couldn’t imagine. RIS and sour ale? Yep. This works but it is not everybody’s case. First surprise is that a sour beer kept all typical RIS notes - roasted malts, coffee and dark chocolate. This must have been an amazing RIS. But then it was changed in a vinegar-like liquor. Complemented with fruity berries and wine aromas. For me this is brilliant. Also, another proof that you need a good and heavy starting material for beer experiments.
To make it clear – all the vinegar part comes at cost – after finishing I was convinced that the beer just perforated my esophagus. And it was worth it.

Beer of the festival!



 D`Oude Maalderij – Homo Beerectus 3 Hop hanker Sorachi Ace (blond). 


 Knowing me, you may be surprised – this is very good blond beer. But none that could win the competition in its own style – why, because addition of Sorachi Ace have complemented it with fruity and characteristic herbal notes that, on one hand do not belong to blonde style, but on the other made this one really enjoyable. Very nice and refreshing beer. 

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De Koninck – Black Pearl (RIS aged in rum barrels). 

It is a funny story with De Koninck brewery. If you ask me about a solid Belgian beer, that would be de Koninck. On the other hand, I couldn’t name a single beer from them being great or above the average. Black Pearl has potential to change that. I know that the beer is a bit of an overkill, barrels have given a crazy, strong rum aroma and taste which may be unacceptable for many. Still, this is a step in the right direction. Nice festival end.

BWT - I have no idea what the cool in line saturation means...


Donnerstag, 21. September 2017

Festival des Bieres Artisanales, 17 September 2017, Nivelles, Belgium

Festival des Bieres Artisanales

17 September 2017, Nivelles, Belgium





The festival is being held for a second year in a row. You can find my last year report here.
https://beerlander.blogspot.com/2016/09/festival-des-bieres-artisanales-17.html

About Nivelles:

Nivelles is in the Wallon-Brabant region of Belgium and its population is almost exclusively French speaking (and they mean it). Its rather small town (28000 people) with a long history. Per the Wikipedia the first settlers started to work here around 4000 bc. Then it suffered from Roman and German invasions.
The important part of Nivelles history starts with a woman named Gertrude, who became first abbes of the monastery founded here by her mother. As the Gertrude was venerated a saint upon her death, the place required space to handle the growing numbers of pilgrims. That’s how the impressive collegiate church of Saint Gertrude was build. The area around the collegiate is the cultural and leisure center of the town until today. In fact, the collegiate itself is worth seeing (on top you can see the sarcophagus of St Gertrude and listen to a famous 49-bell carillon here).
















As the festival in Nivelles is concentrated on a regional food and drinks, also the brewers come from the area. Observing them is very interesting – half of the day gives you an excellent opportunity to overview Belgian craft beer scene.



























1.



Belgians love blonde beer. Majority of the beer on the festival was blonde. Moreover, I have spotted a few new brewers (new for me) that have offered just blonde beer (see the photos below). If you are surprised why there no reviews of the blonde beers in this post – blonde is the second most boring beer style existing (IMHO) and even after two years of living in Belgium, I am not able to separate good blonde from bad. They are just all boring.














2.

Here beer is the solution... This was the first time I have seen a social project to be supported by selling its own beer. Somehow beer in my mind is still connected with causing social problems rather than resolving them. In Belgium, it is different, Beer is a part of a culture and nobody here would think that it could be bad for a society to drink beer. Btw. I have tried a framboise and it was great fruity, not worse from any framboise of famous brand that I could get in the supermarket. This is the way of support I admire.





3.

Belgians can’t brew… IPA. OK..ok… this clearly is generalization as there are already a few good Belgian IPAs. Still, the clear majority of the local IPA-beers should be put in a box called experiments that failed. This one is no different. Funny earthy aroma, very strange aftertaste, no bitterness.  (Hoppy Redskin, Red IPA, Brasserie Hoppy, http://www.brasseriehoppy.be).  



4.

The number does not always mean quality. Belgians are considered beer nation. They produce thousands of beers and there are approx. 200 breweries in this small country. If you ask an average Belgian about their beer they think that it is the best thing in the world (maybe after Belgian chocolate).
Let's just say this is very simplistic view. Here some examples.


From the left – two beers of a Brasserie du Renard (www.brasseriedurenards.be). The one on the left – La Roublarde is brewerd with the use of 4 malts and 5 aromatic hops. La Roublarde is very low in aroma of hops, smelling mostly of malt and dried fruits. Taste is clearly malty and sweetish, full body and creamy texture with a metallic aftertaste. Not the first time where adding too much does not result in anything special.

The one in the middle is La Rousse de Poire from the same brewery. This one is supposed to be a fruit beer with an addition of pears. Phew. 3 People in my group have tried and couldn’t smell or taste pears here. Malt, yeast, heavy carbonation. Yes. Pears. Not.

Bisous M’Chou – called a social drink since 2015. I was wondering why would you consider this a social drink and I know it. When people socialize, it is better to avoid controversies. What is the least controversial taste, where it really is hard to quarrel? it is WATER. Well, Bisous is a perfect replacement (www.bisousmchou.com). 



5.

Every time I try to be negative there are some beers that are really striking and I must shut up and enjoy. These are few surprises of the festival. Even more because two of them are beers with addition of fruits, that usually will not get my attention.



Monkita


Who would imagine that the brewery that gave us the Bisous M’chou described above would be able to brew such a kick ass banana beer. There is no sarcasm, it is like eating a banana, not an artificial powder like many banana-taste things on the market. This is amazing, real fruit experience. Minions would love it!
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Pampelmousse

Bertinchamps (http://www.bertinchamps.be/) has delivered another blast. One of the best grapefruit beers I have ever had and a great idea of refreshing the traditional blonde beer. When adding a serious number of grapefruit to a flat blonde, you obtain a sort of grapefruit based refreshing drink. Almost a soft drink not a beer. Hint of ginger and a soda feeling. Overall very nice and fresh. I like the idea and the product. The only worry I have is the timing – this is clearly a summer beer (and only summer), releasing it so late could kill it.


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La Robuste Ambree 
La Redoutable

Sorry this time just a photo of the stand. Ambree and Triple Brune from the brewery Elfique (www.elfique.be). Whereas the Ambree was quite OK, with its moderate sweet-bitter taste, caramel and fruity aromas it was clearly above the average. What I loved was triple brune. Really heavy, liquor, sweetness. Aroma of malt and some hops. Could as well be a Belgian answer to English barley wine. Very good beer. 

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Belgo Sapiens Triple
Last, but no least the beer of the festival (at least for me). Belgo sapiens (www.belgosapiens.be) has delivered an amazing Triple. Smooth, nonalcoholic, but well hopped and aromatic. This is the best Triple beer I have had this year and probably the best Belgian Triple. Why, because it is perfect combination of traditional smooth triple and a modern hoppy beer. What is important – it is not American Triple, a triple simply loaded with tons of Citra or Mosaic, the bitterness is subtle, but clear, it does not change the character of Triple style but just adds a new facet. It just knocked me off my socks. Brilliant.
They should be selling that in 2 weeks and I will be standing at the door of the brewery waiting for the sale start.
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Last but not least - two extra hoppy (and happy beers)



Freitag, 15. September 2017

BXLBeer Fest 2017 - first (?) craft beer festival in Brussels

BXL Beer Fest 2017


A capital city of Belgium is known because of a lot of things – Manneken Piss, Grand place, food, beer. But not really a craft beer.

When I first came to Belgium, I have joined an event called Belgian Beer Weekend. After an evening spend on a Grand Place of Brussels. Crowded with drunken tourists, and being served beers that I could get in the supermarket next door, I got a strong impression that Belgian Beer Culture is vastly overrated. It took me a lot of time to realize, that a quite a few of this so called Belgian family brewers are owned by large international corporations and that the event I have attended is Belgian counterpart of Oktoberfest. Which means – hardly any craft beer lovers are going there.

Since then, I have been in many Belgian beer festivals and have developed a solid respect to the local scene. Even more, because there is slow opening to the beer from outside and local breweries started to realize that one can brew more styles that blonde, ambree double and triple.

Now going to the BXLBeerFest17. I was really excited about that event. Advertised as a “Good craft & honest beers...” was being held for the first time this year. I was even more excited because folks from the BeerHive were strongly involved there and I always enjoy to see proper beer info made using their app (https://www.beerhive.com/).

Summary of the festival:

Place:
Tours&Taxis, old warehouse and offices, formerly being a part of a railway system. Build in the beginning of the XX century contain several large and small building, that were carefully renovated almost 10 years ago, the main building has even got the Europa Nostra award for the renovation quality (2008). So, yes, the venue of the festival really kicks ass.


Fee:
Appropriate. 25 Euro includes glass, booklet and tokens. Number of booklets were limited, the organizers encouraged use of internet (all beers were listed on Untapped). 

BTW. few days after the festival I accidentally broke my glass. I would be grateful if somebody could tell me where to get one (if possible)?


Who was there?:
49 breweries, 12 countries,

Worries:

Who came to the idea that the last beer is being served at 8 pm on Saturday? OK, I could take it on Sunday – people need to go to work, brewers must get home etc. But Saturday? Simply weird.

Second worry is the attendance – I was there for a few hours on Saturday evening, which in my experience is always the moment when craft beer festivals are full. But not that one – in fact, there was a lot of space in the tour and taxis. Trying to be positive, I could say that the expo space was huge and there is a possibility that this added to an optical illusion of having less people attending the festival. Still I would be happy to know that the event was a commercial success.



BEERS

CONSOLATION PRIZE
Imperial IPA
Lord Hobo (USA)


Not a very good start of the festival. Not a bad beer, but clearly does not stand out of the crowd of IPAs one can get on the market. Average body, average, typical IPA fruity and grassy aroma. Lower than average bitterness. Mediocre at best.









Û BACCABIANCA
Italian Grape Ale (IGA)
Ca’ del Brado (Italy)


Italians do wine. Don’t they? Well this could have been a true statement in the past, but nowadays Italians also brew. And they do it better and better. They can also be innovative – e.g.: by joining two worlds beer and wine. Italian Grape Ale was recognized as a separate style by BJCP in 2015. The main style characteristic is that the grapes are the part of the recipe, but they shouldn’t overcome other beer-like attributes. Color and the rest are rather open-end parameters.

Û Baccabianca is the first time I have tried a grape ale. And is complicated – 2 sorts of grapes, spontaneous fermentation, addition of Brettanomyces and aging for 6 months. Complex process and complex beer. First feeling is that it resembles a little Grodziskie/Gratzer style. Light sour, bit smoked. But the grapes give it a nice fresh and grape aroma twist. On top, there is a clear bitter note. Light carbonation and very smooth on the tongue. This clearly is a great beer!


DIRTY NAP
DIPA (IIPA?)
The Veil Brewing (USA)




What do you say about one of the best double (imperial) IPAs I have ever tried? Humongous blast of oranges, grapefruit, pineapple and mango in the nose, tastes like hoppy heaven. Bitter after 3-4 sips. Not filtered, creamy, well balanced. FANTASTIC.



MONKEY ON A TRAIN
American IPA
Ocelot (USA)



Another interesting story from the festival. This is the second time in my life I have tried a beer with lupulin powder.
Lupulin powder (LupuLN2) is believed to be a new hype in brewing. Fresh hops are being dry frozen and literally mashed to dust. This apparently results in magical powder that would replace the fresh hops. The trick is that to obtain the effects of 1 kg hops by adding 0.5 kg of powder. I have tried a beer with lupulin recently at OtherHalf Brewing in NYC and was not impressed. In comparison to the other beers they were selling lupulin one was not great. I honestly hoped that the powder is not “much ado about nothing”, and that there is a learning curve that need to be done by brewers. Monkey on a train was second time I have tried a magical powder beer, and this time I was positively surprised. The final product was more than solid, aromatic, tropical-fruity blast of aroma. If I could complain a little is low bitterness. Still, it was clear for me that this time lupulin was used in a proper way. And the brewer has confirmed it – they have experimented with lupulin and forund out that just adding it to the tank is not sufficient. It will behave a little like oil, forming small balls and not really mixing in. To cope with that Ocelot has created a special technological process including a lot of additional mixing and pumping. The effects are amazing. Well done.


Thanks a lot for all the info



Wadesda 7
Saison blended with Catillon lambic
Brasserie de la Senne





Experimental beer from Brasserie de la Senne. Were you ever curious how would lambic-infused Saison taste? Well it tastes like lambic with a tick of bitter taste. Peppery, aromatic and unusual. Very interesting to try, but on every day basis only for lambic lovers.





Belgian Goat
Belgian Strong Ale BA
Brasserie de la Lienne



Normally, barrel-aged beers get some nice aroma that add to their complexity. In the modern craft people tend to put strong beers in the various styles of barrels, and usually obtain unique and amazing effects. But for me a golden rule is – the beer must have a kick-as aroma before barrel aging. And I mean it. Don’t try to barrel age international lager. Otherwise it will be like aging sparkling water. All aromas will come from the barrel, and IMHO - nothing great can be obtained that way.
From all other nations, Belgians seem to have a different opinion on that fact (and I respect it). I have already tried Belgian blonde that was aged in cider barrels (yep, tasted like cider). This time Brasserie de la Lienne have aged their Belgian golden ale in a Belgian Owl whisky barrels. Apparently, there are only 574 bottles of this beer, which makes it unique. Sadly, this is not followed by the aroma or taste. You know what is the characteristic of Belgian strong golden ales – these are great beers, that contain an enormous amount of booze in a way that you drink it almost like water. Smooth, not very yeasty, not too bitter, alcohol not detectable (even if it is clearly there). Amazing beer, but not the aromatic one. Barrel aging have clearly added a lot to the overall appearance – caramel aromas, boozy sweetness are on the positive side. Strange vegetable taste and veal appearance of being a cheap, washed out whisky are on the negative side. I was glad that I have tasted this one during the festival, because I believe that I would be quite annoyed after paying the high shop price for this one. 



100 Years
Stout
Pravda Beer Theatre (Ukraine)




Another fresh encounter for me – first ever beer from Ukraine. And a good one – a high class stout. Low carbonation, not very bitter, but the aroma and flavor of smoked plums make it original and outstanding. I hope that there will be no problems, but I am very thankful for selling this beer to me at 8:05 pm (after the sale stop).


Montag, 28. August 2017

Autumn is coming - more barley wine to warm you























Żywot Barley’a (Life of Barley)

Browar Maryensztadt (Poland)

Give me your barley wine and I will tell you how good you can brew. This may be a harsh statement, but I find it a kind a mastery to hide 9-12% of alcohol behind aromas and facture of the beer. Honestly, this is the level that separates the craftsman from the master.

And it is clearly visible here. The beer is 3 months after its best-to-drink date. In case of the strong beer, this promises rich taste and well balanced alcohol. Not in that case. Of course, there are some fruity aromas and malt and so on, but there is an overwhelming alcohol, hitting the nose, burning the throat. Very strong, too strong, unacceptable.