Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three 'Belgians' and an Icon

The last month has been pretty crazy. Not only with all the brewing (keep drinking it, folks!) but also with all the 'networking'. Part of the appeal of getting into this profession is that our 'conferences' and 'conclaves' are often beer festivals, and our meetings, well, are almost always conducted over, if not centered around a pint of ale or lager. I've had a few out of town colleagues pass through in the last month. You may recognize a name or two.
At Cicero's Beer School on 1/21, the presenters were from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, MO, just across the state line from where I grew up. My first exposures to craft beer were Boulevard beers. I will never forget those first Boulvard Pale Ales and that first Bully! Porter was without a doubt was part of the reason I ended up making beer for a living.
Boulevard didn't send just a sales rep (just teasing, Laura and Nicole, you rule!). But John McDonald, the founder and Steven Pauwels, the brewmaster, were there, as well. John made time to talk with me about the early days of Boulevard, moving his family into the fledgling brewery when it was adjacent to his carpentry shop and about the disciplined dedication it takes to run a major brewery at such a high standard.
Steven was very encouraging about our little project in Benton Park and excited to discuss the exploratory nature of the Smokestack Series, and how his Belgian nature and experience has made the experimentation that much more comfortable. Small batch brewing, whether five gallons, 3 barrels or 35 barrels can be a lot of fun. Steven hopes to brew on our tiny system next time he's in town, after all, it is 1/100th the size of Boulevard's main kettle.
This past Wednesday took me back to Cicero's Beer School to meet Brennan Greene and Stephen Hale's good friend, Lauren Salazar of New Belgium Brewing Company. Lauren heads up the Lips of Faith Program, Sensory Evaluation, Sour Ale program and other projects at New Belgium. Brennan and I drank Mighty Arrow with Lauren after her talk and decided to head down to Bailey's Chocolate Bar with her for some more beer and discussion. Afer some 2004 La Folie (sumblime) and Le Fleur Misseur (delightful) her event at Bailey's ended and we stepped next door for a night cap. 33 Wine Shop had some North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, which I could not resist, and then we split a bottle of De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2006, a funky, strong Flanders style sour ale of the highest caliber. Then it was time to go home, after all, we had Hefeweizen and Altbier to brew at the Taproom the next morning.
After we finished the double brew day and plenty of cellar work I recieved a phone call from a friend. Micah from Brasserie Brugge in Terra Haute and Indianapolis, IN. He was passing through town for the night and in search of some ingredients he was short on. We hung out at the Taproom for a while and between he and some other visitors stopping by we had a nice impromptu little party, then it was on to Buffalo Brewing Company for some Buffalo Drool, Rye IPA and chimichangas. Micah also shared some of his excellent Belgian sytle ales with us, White, Black and Trippel de Rippel.
Friday, it was back to work at Mattingly. After a morning of cellar work I trekked over to Schlafly to borrow some line cleaning gear and ran into Brennan, Lauren, Mike Sweeney and Joel from New Belgium finishing up a tasting. They then informed me that the tasting was about to continue...at Mattingly! I rushed back and put some vintage homebrew in the cooler and they showed up shortly thereafter. Following a quick tour and a brief draft tasting of Cardinal Direction Abbey Dubbel, Black Sky Stout Porter and others we got down and dirty with the homebrew. Two year old Wild Ale, two year old Straight Rye Whikey Oak Aged American Rye-Wine, two year old Saint Andrews' Strong Scotch Ale, and over a year old Pale Ryeder Palm Sugar Rye Tripel were all sampled, and thoroughly enjoyed (don't worry, they were each split 5 ways).
Lauren then had another event to host at The Stable, so I finished up my work for the day and met plenty folks down there. I had some Abbey Grand Cru with Augie Altenbaumer, who works on the bottling line with us at the Taproom for the Reserve and Bottle Conditioned Series and has been brought on as the brewer for The Stable.
We finished up with some Southern Tier Cuvee #2 and called it a night...because Mardi Gras was the next morning and there was plenty of work to be done!

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