That title ain’t some kind of lame joke. I’m off for a Belgian holiday tomorrow, and I’ll start my adventure in that most Belgian of Belgian locations: New York City. Okay, fine, it’s not super Belgian, but it sure is half-way there physically, and there’s a few beer themed places I’ll hit up en route.
First up is Tørst, a semi-famous beer restaurant in Brooklyn opened by the equally semi-famous Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso, of Evil Twin Brewing. Technically, I’ll actually be hitting up the slightly more exclude Luksus, a room within Tørst, but as it’s all news to this beer geek I’m not splitting hairs. The menu is coy about what exactly on offer here, but considering my buddy Jer was incapable of discussing this place in complete sentences, I think I’ll be okay.
Next up is the famous Blind Tiger, with its unique combination of classic dive bar plus the best beer lineup you could possibly imagine. I wrote about this place in a recent BC Craft Brewing News (Issue 4) so I won’t tempt you with further details. Besides, on to Belgium!
First stop: Brussels, but only for as long as it takes to de-jetlag. On the itinerary are Cantillon Brewery and Chez Moeder. I’ll be honest with you: I’m not a fan of brewery tours, especially of breweries whose beers I am already very familiar with. I’ve been inside enough breweries in enough states of disrepair that, frankly, it’s all a bit boring by now.
Brewing is a light industrial process, and once you get over the basics tours just become endless lectures on how beer is made. Here’s the secret: I already know how it’s made. Having someone explain to me that–holy shit–malted grain is steeped to create wort(!), takes time. Time I could be drinking beer. Therefore, I’ll be limiting the number of breweries I hit up during the pilgrimage and focusing instead on bars. An exception to that list, though, is Cantillon.
Perhaps it’s because of Cantillon’s unique history, or perhaps it’s that I love their beer, but maybe even it’s that I’m in Brussels for 18 hours and need something within walking distance of my hotel to occupy my barely-awake brain for a few hours. Whatever reason it might be, Cantillon makes the list. Next day, though, we’re on a train to Bruges.
A bunch of you just shook your head and murmured “go to Ghent, you rookie.” Well, folks, I am a rookie, and I’d like to make my rookie mistakes, thankyouverymuch. Bruges is a must-hit touristy destination for the Belgian virgin, and in addition to wandering its cobblestone streets dodging pickpockets and Germans alike, I will be throwing my shadow into a few pubs. Pubs like ’t Brugs Beertje, Cambrinus, Staminee de Garre (and its tiny alley) and the de Struise bottle shop.
Belgian, and therefore Bruges, pubs are bottle focused. They maintain large, dusty cellars full of quality ales much in the way a top flight BC restaurant would cellar wine. It’s not uncommon to see a place (like ‘t Brugs Beertje for example) boasting 250 different ales & vintages on their bottle list but only 5 taps of draught (and often one or two of those is macro swill to appease the tourists). It’s a… different place.
After a few days touring, canal-ing, and staggering the statistical mean distance of two blocks between my hotel and every quality pub in town, it’s time to tour the countryside a bit. With the countryside comes another spate of breweries. The short list is, indeed, very short (see above re: visiting breweries), but even then some quality places made the cut: Glazen Toren, Rodenbach and, of course, Westvletern (or at least, the bottle shop across the road).
From Bruges the beer dream fades quite a spell as I take a fast train to Paris. Sidenote: Brussels to Paris is 2/3 as far as Vancouver to Portland. YVR to PDX by rail? 8h45. Brussels to Paris? 1h26. Fuuuuuck (for the math challenged amoungst you, that’s like YVR to PDX being 2 hours–imagine Portland being closer than Whistler).
Fear not, craft beer fans, as I have one parting kick at the can. Paris recently saw the opening of their first ever craft brewery, and damned if I’m not going to try their beer. Also, while there, it would be criminal to not hit up a pub called “L’Alibi“, which focuses on great craft beer. Nigel, do you have a trademark lawyer available?
That’s it. From there I disappear into the French outback for a few days of gorging myself on seafood, butter, wine and duck. I might die.
Now, I know what’s about to happen below. The comments will all be of the “I can’t believe you’re not going to XXX brewery” nature. Before complaining that I’m an idiot recall my view on brewery tours above (also, recall that my idiocy is both generally acknowledged and well documented).
Heck, my schedule is such that I likely won’t even hit up all the breweries I’ve listed above, as small as that list is. If you do have a suggestion, by all means make it, but also suggest which brewery I should not visit in order to fit it in. Bars, though? Throw ‘em on.
Cheers. See y’all in May.
It’s one thing to start a debate on a hot topic and another thing entirely to propose a solution. Recently there was a post and resulting, quality discussion here around how we should approach this proposed “Brewers Quality Alliance.” Lots of great details were posted by folks in the comments, and now I’ll repost those in a main article and take all the credit. You guys making blogging so very easy; thanks!
So, here is my proposal. BC LDB, are you listening to me? Is this thing even on? Not that it matters, this is now the Chuck Standard for labelling beer, and all subsequent standards will have to be discussed according to how they either did or did not improve upon or the Chuck Standard.
Chuck Standard for Retail Beer Packaging
(aka Brewers Quality Alliance Label)
The Chuck Standard is a consumer-focused standard aimed at providing purchasers of beer in the Province of British Columbia consistent, standardized information to allow informed, carefully considered purchasing decisions.
The Chuck Standard is defined and maintained by Consumer(s) (in this case, by Chuck, but I could use some help). Professional brewers, owners of breweries or holders of a Liquor Manufacturers license will have no say in defining and enforcing The Standard, due to conflicting interests.
In order to be eligible to display the Brewers Quality Alliance (BQA) label, a packaged product must contain all of the following information. The information does not have to appear in any specific format or layout.
- Where the beer was manufactured
- The company that manufactured the beer (holder of the Manufacturer license)
- Alcohol by Volume
- International Bitterness Units (note: an approximate range of 20 IBU is acceptable, e.g. 20-40IBU)
- Beer Style (see below)
- Ingredients, in order of prevalence, including:
- Malts contained in this beer
- Hops varietals contained in this beer
- Yeast species used in this beer
- Non-barley sugar sources for fermentation (eg Wheat, Rye, Corn)
- Non-malts/hops/yeast ingredients (specifics not required, e.g. “spices” or “brewing salts”)
- Package must indicate the following techniques used, if applicable:
- Preservatives not listed in ingredients
- Bottle conditioned
- Barrel aging
- Negative methods (eg Unpasteurized) are optional but encouraged
- Production date, as accurately as possible (season of production is acceptable)
Additionally, the term “BC BQA” may be displayed on products that are produced in BC by breweries wholly owned by BC interests.
There ya have it, folks. Some BC brewers are already compliant with this standard while many are not. Attention BC Brewers: don’t wait for The Man to enact this stuff, go ahead and start printing your Chuck Standard Compliant labels today!
Note on Beer Styles
The goal of The Standard is to provide consumers with some indication of what is in a bottle without simultaneously impeding the creativity that makes BC beer great. For that reason, The Standard simply requires that style be stated as specifically as possible, and accurately reflect the product in the bottle.
Use of overly broad styles such as “Lager”, “Ale” simply “Beer” or even omitting a style entirely is non-compliant. Refer to the list of 2008 BCJP styles for guidance, but do not feel compelled to list a fully qualified style. Examples of style declarations that are compliant: “16E Belgian Specialty Ale”, “Belgian Specialty Ale”, “Belgian Ale with Spices”, “Northwest Belgian Ale” or “Belgian Ale.”
Qualitative style descriptors are non-compliant, e.g.: “Refreshing Belgian Ale” or “Superb Belgian Ale” except where historically included in styles (specifically “Best Bitter”).
When declaring a style that matches an existing BCJP style or category, ensure that your product can be defended as part of that style. Do not attempt to market an American IPA with undetectable IBUs, for instance. It will not be compliant.
It’s been a while, so it’s time to draw attention to another excellent beer from BC. Up this time is the Juxtapose IPA from Four Winds Brewing. Four Winds shocked a few folks by earning my Beerdies nod for Best New Brewery in 2013, especially considering that rival upstart Brassneck was also in its first year.
However, if you’ve had their beer you know what I’m on about. If you follow this brewery, then you know that each and every new release from Brewmaster Brent Mills is something worth saving your pennies for, and their first bomber “Juxtapose” is no exception.
This is that rarest of treats, a Brettanomyces IPA. While not as extremely Brett-y as some of the rarer offerings from the folks at Anchorage, it’s still a lovely beer with a rich, rewarding complexity. Brent’s efforts at playing around with Brett only betters Four Winds’ case for the title of Best Brewery in BC. Are they there yet? I don’t think so, but they’re definitely second. Not bad for an upstart.
Muddy orange/yellow with thick, persistent head.
Quite mild for the style. Hints of Brett/barnyard and some hops aroma, but not at the levels you’d expect.
A milder Brett IPA. Bit of the funk mixed with tropical fruits and a slightly unbalanced bitterness (towards sweet).
6.5% ABV / 50 IBU / Brett IPA
Yup. This is a rare example of a rare style from a brewery that deserves your business.
|Could it use barreling?||Yes. Yes please.|
|Cost||~$8-11 per bomber|
|Similar Beers||Anchorage Galaxy, Anchorage/Mikkeller Invasion|