Miscellaneous considerations for my upcoming trip to Belgium

Delirium Cafe - Brussels 19

I’ll be in Belgium soon. It has been a full year since last visiting and, a year ago, the Belgium trip accelerated my interest and passion for beer. My eyes were opened to a new world full of thousands of breweries with some beers being a recipe as old as the US Constitution. I’ve been planning my 2nd trip for a week and finally have solid dates so it’s good to start planning the various events and activities.

The reason for this trip is strictly business but, outside of working hours, there are things I’d like to do related to beer.

  • I arrive in Amsterdam via Boston on Thursday morning (May 24th). I’ll have the day to check into a hotel and see the city. This is the 4th time I’ve been to Amsterdam so I’ve done sight seeing. I’ll be meeting up with some iOS developers and seeing a few of the “Best Bars in Amsterdam“. There are a few on this list I’d love to visit. While in Amsterdam, there are many Dutch beers on my list to try. Here are the top 50 Dutch beers from RateBeer.
  • I’ll take a train from Amsterdam to Gent where my hotel is. On the way, my train always makes a stop in Antwerpen. This city is home to one of the most famous “geek’s” beer bar in the world. For the tourists, Brussels has The Delirium Cafe which is popular among Americans but, for beer geeks, The Kulminator is much better. This husband and wife team have been storing / cellaring beers for 30 years and their bar is now in two different locations due to the size of their bar. Want newer beers, prices are fair. Want rare 20 year old Lambics? You’ll pay more but you get what you pay for. Their cellar is open to browse through and you can spend all day sampling rare and old beers. I’ll be stopping here in my way to Gent to enjoy some tasty beers. Check out the Kulminator Facebook page for some great “beer porn”.
  • On Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th, there is a small beer festival. The Opstalse Bierpallieters are hosting their 21st Weekend of Spontaneous Fermentation in Buggenhout, Belgium. Dozens of Lambic breweries will be there and you pay per pour. I’ll be going there with a few co-workers. It should be a great time!
  • In Ghent, there is a beer store known as De Hopduvel. I have been speaking with a man the works there via Email. He has agreed to begin setting aside beers for me that arrive from 3F and Cantillon along with others. Even in Belgium, popular Lambic styles are still quick to sell out so it’s nice that a beer store will start setting aside boxes for me of things that usually run out for my purchase. The odds of finding things all in that one week is difficult so this should make things easier.
  • At some point, my colleague in Gent has arranged and scheduled our visit to Trappist Westvleteren which is one of 7 Trappist breweries in the world. Trappist ales are popular among beer lovers but all are accessible in stores most days. The are all very similar but each has it’s fans and those that are fanatical about that brewery. I have 6 of the breweries accounted for in my cellar. The one that is not distributed and only for sale at the brewery is Westvleteren (also known as Westy). You can buy it online for a 5-10x markup but I won’t pay those prices. I’m going to buy a case while there. Case prices are 39 Euros for 24 bottles. In America, a bottle runs $20-$50 which is ridiculous and the monastery forbids the beers being sold commercially but people still do it. We have our 2 cases reserved for my friend and I and will be going to pick up those while there.
  • Following my time in Gent for work, I’ll be staying in Brussels for a few days and visiting two breweries. The first is Cantillon where you can sample their beers and buy bottles on premises as well as partake in a tour. The 3 Fonteinen is another Lambic brewery outside of the city limits. Both are beers that, once again, sell online but are hard to find in America. You’ll pay 5-10 times more than at the brewery for bottles. I’ll be buying some beers there and trying many that I can’t get in the states.
  • Finally, I’m going to try to stop by some beer stores like Beer Mania. I’d like to try and locate cheap off the shelf beers that I’ve never had and can’t get in the US.
  • I have a friend who has offered to pack and ship all of the beers to me I can’t carry. It sounds like a lot but I’m only picking up a few things here and there so just two boxes and a few in my checked luggage for the flight home.

These are just some random plans. Of course, there are other things I’ll be adding to this list but, I’d say this beer-cation is going to be a TON of fun! If you have more input, let me know.

How I Approach Beer Buying and Cellaring

My Home Beer Cellar - February '12

Beer is for drinking. In the community of craft beer enthusiasts, this is uttered early and often. It’s used as a generic response to anyone who asks about saving, storing, cellaring or buying beer just to resale at a markup. It’s not always uttered but it’s uttered more than you think and often by a guy who has a few bottles cellared in his own closet. “Beer is for drinking” is a mantra that is used when it’s convenient.

I think it’s a no-brainer that beer should be for drinking. This is the case for me except how can I say this when there are over 300 bottles sitting in my cellar? There are a lot of guys who cellar beer because you have to sometimes. Sometimes, you go to a store that’s in another town or while you’re on vacation in Europe and it’s hard to not grab only what you’ll be drinking that week. Perhaps there is a beer that you’ve been searching for since last year and they have a bottle. This is the story of most craft beer enthusiasts. Many of our wives or girlfriends give us a $100 dollar bill and that’s our limit even if we only claim to be getting a seasonal IPA from our favorite brewery. As expected, we come out with a box of beer and that there were things we just couldn’t pass up.

So, when guys say they are cellaring beer, the truth is, they’re keeping beer at an ideal temperature until they get around to drinking it. I buy 4 beers because I won’t see them until next year or ever again and then I prioritize what I drink based on how the beer ages. I don’t age beers intentionally but beers that can sit for 5 years might just sit for 5 years until I can get around to them.

I feel like this is the right approach. Sure, buying only what you can drink now is fine but there is this feeling of a missed opportunity when it comes to harder to find beers. Would you not go and buy a beer that is amazing and hard to get just because you have a 6-pack in the fridge? No, but then you have 350 beers in your closet and feel like a hoarder.

I buy what I want to buy and drink what I want to drink. I don’t buy beer to keep. I know this doesn’t make sense but it’s my approach.

Now if only brewers would stop releasing great beers so I can drink what’s in my cellar.

Review: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Posted on RateBeer:

  • 1.5
  • AROMA 3/10
  • APPEARANCE 4/5
  • TASTE 2/10
  • PALATE 1/5
  • OVERALL 5/20
  • MAR 15, 2012

I received this as an extra in a trade. Poured into an Ommegang glass at fridge temperature.

A – This beer poured a dark golden color which was surprising. I expected dark brown but this is clearly a golden ale. A 2-Finger head was produced that was crystal clear and dissipated almost instantly. There’s some nice bubbles on the swirl but, at 8%, no alcohol legs to speak of.

S – There’s not a lot of smell to this. Clear Bourbon scent but it’s very weak. I’m no getting much and am overall pretty disappointed with the scent. Smells like a BMC beer.

T – Immediately, I’m getting Wild Turkey or Makers Mark mixed with a glass of spring water. It’s really pretty nasty. Dry and roasted malts on the back of the tongue.

M – 80% carbonation on the mouth swish. Light-bodied and a mouth quenching whiskey linger.

O – This is flat out a drain pour. wow, what a disappointing beer.

This beer was utterly terrible. Imagine Yuengling aged in Bourbon Barrels with water added. I’m going to avoid this one from now on.

 

Review: Lindemans Faro Lambic

Lindemans Faro Lambic Beer

Posted on RateBeer:

  • Overall: 3.4
  • AROMA 8/10
  • APPEARANCE 5/5
  • TASTE 6/10
  • PALATE 3/5
  • OVERALL 12/20
  • MAR 15, 2012

Picked this up at the Lebanon Health Food Store for $5.25. Poured into an Ommegang Glass at cellar temperature of 59 Degrees F.

A – The beer is a dark amber to brown color. Really beautiful. An easy pour generated 3-fingers of off white to leather colored head. It dissipated to a small line of bubbles after 5 minutes.

S – The standard Tart & Sour scent is what hits the nose first. This is followed by wheat and very bready yeast. It has a sort of ice cream scent like mint ice cream. Creamy and sugar along with cream. Very pleasant and not too over powering.

T – Yeah, it’s a very mild sweetness. The sweet and tart notes fade away almost instantly which is disappointing. The wheat taste is the dominant taste in this beer. I’d prefer more sour from a Lindemans beer but it’s not terrible.

M – 50/50 bubbles to liquid on a mouth swish. Lingering candy taste after swallowing. Light and drinkable.

O – This is a solid beer but not fantastic. The price wasn’t too bad. As I finish this glass, the sweetness is starting to sit weird on the palate. If it was a bit more sour, the sweetness wouldn’t be such a turn off.

I wouldn’t have this beer again. It was beautiful but way too sweet.

“Today’s New Wave of So-Called “Beer Geek.””

via “John Smith” on Vimeo:

Today’s New Wave of So-Called “Beer Geek.” from John Smith on Vimeo.

I’d hate to admit that I did this for the first few days of getting excited about craft beers. A lot of the veteran beer lovers have made fun of this video but they’ve been drinking craft beer for decades. The landscape was different back then and they still get excited about it.

Me, well I discovered craft beer more recently when the scene was different and I can relate to this video but this lasted for about 3 days and then I changed the approach but I’ve never ordered beer on eBay…ever.