Saturday, June 25, 2011

Visiting Brasserie Cantillon

If you like sour ales, chances are that you've at least heard of Cantillon. While I was in Brussels I had the opportunity to visit the brewery. When you first enter right off the streets you get the feeling that you shouldn't be there. You find yourself in a warehouse type building. And it is somewhat dark and there is the constant drone of machinery in the background.

After your eyes adjust to the light and you acclimate yourself to your new surroundings, you kind of shuffle 10 - 15 yards from the door where you are greeted by an attractive middle aged blond haired woman. She efficiently explains that you have signed up for a self guided tour of the brewery, which upon your completion you are entitled to two free beers. She gives you a quick run down of your stops along the way and sends you stumbling off into the brewery.

Once you find the first stop on the tour you start to realize just how cool the place is. The brewery is somewhat old, but very functional. The immediate charm of the dusty brewery starts to rub off on you. You realize that this place brews ale that is spontaneously fermented, so they really can't risk cleaning the brewery head to toe with bleach, because the brewer wants to attract the microbes that are required to inoculate the brew. Their coolship is beautiful and the barrel room even more striking. And the cobwebs, ah yes, the cobwebs. The brewery is full of cobwebs because as the wort cools overnight in the coolship the brewer believes that the spiders catch errant insects lurking around the brewery, therefore keeping those bugs out of the cooling wort.

Their beers are unmatched in terms of quality. The basic gueze is a blend of aged and young lambic, and more importantly it is incredibly quaffable. The Kriek and Framboise, aged with Cherries and Raspberries respectively are not sweet girly beers. These bad boys pack some sour punch and they finish quite dry. As complex as any wine you've ever had. In short, you've got to try them.

The brewer and owner Jean-Pierre Van Roy was a teacher by training. However, his wife was a Miss Cantillon. And her father who was the previous brewer and proprietor asked Van Roy to take over the brewery or he was going to close it. No real option, he took it over. Below is a picture of me and Jean Pierre.

If you've got the time and your in Brussels and you want to see how authentic Belgian sour ale is produced, this is your place!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good News Abound, Norms and Sierra Nevada Brewery

Great news! Norm's of Vienna is here to stay, as reported by the Washington Post this morning:

"The Fresh Market, which is set to open this summer, issued this statement, and posted it on the “Save Norm’s” Facebook page: “Being responsible and active participants in the community is what The Fresh Market does and is an important part of who we are. As we have learned more about the Vienna community it has become apparent that Norm’s Beer & Wine is an integral part of the fabric of Vienna. We will work with Norm so that he can continue to serve his patrons from his existing location. We look forward to being neighbors with Norm’s Beer & Wine and together serving the residents of Vienna for many years to come.”

I actually was at a going away party this weekend for a Norm's employee, Jeff (he's moving to Cali). I had the opporunity to sit down and ask Norm how things were and he said that things with Fresh Market were on the mend and he hoped to have something final from them soon. At the time I had no idea he meant this soon. Alls well that ends well, I suppose. The Save Norm's Facebook page attracted over 1,700 supporters. Maybe there is something to this Facebook (this is a huge acknowledgement coming from a non-Facebooker).

In other news I read an article today in the Roanoke Times that Christiansburg, VA is currently #2 on Sierra Nevada's list of top locations to build their east coast brewing facility. The current #1 spot is in Blount County Tennesse, about 90 miles south of Knoxville.

"The company began looking for an East Coast site several years ago and narrowed the list from several hundred east of the Mississippi. The Christiansburg site and the Tennessee site were "head and shoulders" above others looked at in terms of quality of life, Manley said"(company spokeman)

The list of things that SN is looking for is refeshing. From a business perspective they would like good quality water and access to rail and shipping. Additionally, and perhaps more important they would like a nice community, low crime rate, good music scene, and closeness to the outdoors. Christiansburg/Blacksburg has got all of those things, that's why I loved going to school there. Maybe there is a homecoming in the works if SN decides to get started in C'burg.

"The new plant, which would include brewing and bottling facilities and a restaurant and brew pub, would employ about 100, from busboys to engineers, Manley said. Proximity to Virginia Tech is a plus, he said. The company often hires students from California State University at Chico for its plant.

The new brewery would produce up to 500,000 barrels of beer a year (a barrel is about 31 gallons), or roughly half what the Chico plant produces."

Last, your boy ordered an all-grain kit from northern brewer. I don't usual brew from kits, I like to come up with the recipes myself, but when I saw that Northern Brewer was offering clone kits in their pro beer series for Surly Brewing Co of Minnesota, I had to buy one. A nice big malty amercan brown ale should make for a good first all grain experience. I'm hoping to squeeze some brewing in on Saturday morning. I'll keep you posted.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Birthday Gifts

Unfortunately I haven't had the time yet to post much about our trip to Amsterdam and Belgium. I feel like I stepped off the plane and landed in a quagmire of work that I'm just starting to tred my way out of.

Now, today is my birthday and my fantastic wife purchased me a 10 gallon all grain brew setup. After partial mashing and extract brewing for the last 5-6 years, I'm finally launching in the world of all grain brew. Can't wait to whip up my first batch! It only gets better from here.

Keep brewing,