Category Archives: Sour Ales

Cantillon Zwanze Day 2015 is Saturday, Sept. 19

Cantillon-Zwanze-Day-2015-stout

I’m not sure how I missed this news, because it was apparently announced more than a month ago, but Cantillon’s Zwanze Day 2015 will be held at 56 different locations throughout the world on Saturday, Sept. 19.

If you’re unaware, Zwanze Day events are held in bars across the globe once a year, and the Belgian brewer o’ spontaneous beers always unveils a sour ale that’s specially made for the occasion. This year, it’s a sour stout, according to Jean Van Roy, Cantillon’s brew maestro. Cantillon occasionally posts updates and images to its Facebook page, and way back in March of 2013, it hinted that a sour stout it was working on could end up becoming the 2014 or 2015 Zwanze beer.

Here’s a quick description of the 2015 Zwanze libation, from Van Roy:

“I fermented some raw wheat to improve mellowness and enhance storage characteristics and did not use roasted barley to avoid further accentuating the dry aspect, which was already present as a result of spontaneous fermentation.

“The recipe is that of a stout, the colour is that of a stout, and spontaneous fermentation followed by 28 months of maturing in a cask has given birth to a ‘surreal’ stout. The dry and tart notes of a spontaneous fermentation beer combine with the roasted, slightly burnt and delicate chocolate flavours sometimes found in certain stouts.

“For the 28 months of maturing we used three types of casks: 50% of the casks had already contained lambic, 25% had already been used for CoÌ‚tes du RhoÌ‚ne wine and 25% had already been used for Cognac. Beers that have matured in old Cognac casks take up the warmth of the alcohol while those from casks having contained red wine adopt winey and fruity characteristics.”

Cantillon Zwanze Stout wort

The French word “zwanze” refers to “humor typical of Brussels,” according to OxfordDictionaries.com, and it’s used to describe the Cantillon brews, because many of them are kind of odd and experimental.

Check out the Cantillon website for more details. And here’s the list of the 26 U.S. venues serving Zwanze 2015 on Saturday, Sept. 19. (You can find the full list of the other 30 venues outside of United States in the related Facebook post.)

  • Anchorage Brewing Co. — Anchorage, Alaska
  • Apex — Portland, Oregon
  • Armsby Abbey — Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Avenue Pub — New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Bagby Beer — Oceanside, California
  • Beachwood BBQ — Seal Beach, California
  • Blue Monk — Buffalo, New York
  • Brouwer’s Café — Seattle, Washington
  • ChurchKey — Washington, D.C.
  • Crooked Stave Barrel Cellar — Denver, Colorado
  • Fool’s Gold — Manhattan, New York
  • Hill Farmstead Brewery — Greensboro, Vermont
  • Holy Grale — Louisville, Kentucky
  • Jester King Brewery — Austin, Texas
  • Lord Hobo — Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Monk’s Café — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Novare Res Bier Café — Portland, Maine
  • REAL a Gastropub — Honolulu, Hawai’i
  • Redlight Redlight — Orlando, Florida
  • Russian River Brewing — Santa Rosa, California
  • Schera’s — Elkader, Iowa
  • Side Project Cellar — Maplewood, Missouri
  • Spuyten Duyvil — Brooklyn, New York
  • The Birch – Norfolk, Virginia
  • The Trappist — Oakland, California
  • West Lakeview Liquors — Chicago, Illinois
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Scenes from Allagash’s Wild Friendship Celebration with Cantillon, Russian River

AllagashWildFrienshipCelebrationYesterday, Allagash Brewing Co. held its Wild Friendship Celebration, with Brasserie Cantillon and Russian River Brewing Co., at the Allagash brewery in Portland, Maine. Allagash did an absolutely amazing job of arranging and organizing the event, which had a casual, festival-like feel, as beer nerds and brewers drank world-class brews and milled about Allagash’s tasting room, brewery, wild barrel room and a large tent outside.

For background, the Wild Friendship Celebration was a series of events to celebration and share a collaboration lambic, a blend of beers from all three brewing companies.  The three brewers contributed versions of their own spontaneously fermented beers, and two versions were made, one blended in Belgium by Cantillon’s head brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy, and another blended by Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo and Allagash’s Rob Tod in Portland. The first event (called Quintessense) was held in Brussels last May at Cantillon’s location, the second took place last week at Russian River’s Santa Rosa, Calif., brew pub, and finally, Allagash held its event yesterday.

In addition to both versions of the Wild Friendship Blend, the three breweries shared a number of additional beers. (Hit this link for the full beer list.) And the brewers were on hand to chat with beer enthusiasts. I spoke with Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie, and they both got a kick out of this Boston boy’s knowledge of where to find their beers all around San Francisco, where I frequently work–and drink. I also chatted with Cantillon’s Jean-Pierre Van Roy, who was treated like some sort of Sour Beer God by many of the folks in attendance.

Here’s a first hand, beer nerd’s view of the Allagash/Cantillon/Russian River Wild Friendship Celebration day session. Click one of the photos below to open up a carousel of larger pics. (The image quality isn’t great in all of the photos. Blame my Samsung Galaxy S6 edge, which I used to capture the images.)

UBN

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Beer list for Allagash’s Wild Friendship Celebration with Cantillon, Russian River

Allagash-Wild-Friendship-Blend-Russian-River-Cantillon

I haven’t posted to this blog for more than a year (because I’m a lazy, drunk, busy asshole), and I’ve been waiting for the appropriate post to make my triumphant return to the blogosphere o’ beer. As soon as I received the latest update from Allagash regarding its May 9, 2015, Wild Friendship Celebration with Cantillon and Russian River, I knew the time to bless you all with a post had come. OK, nobody reads this blog anymore — again I haven’t posted for a fucking year — but still, this information is worth a post.

Here’s what Allagash, Cantillon and Russian River will be pouring, and yours truly will be excitedly drinking (from the commemorative Wild Friendship chalice), this coming Saturday in Portland, ME:

BANG. BONG. BOOM. That there, ladies and gentlemales, is one hell of a beer-lover’s lineup. I plan to post lots of images and details from the event, so stay tuned.

UBN

Image via BeerStreetJournal

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Release Dates for Russian River Pliny the Younger 2014, Beatification

Russian River Pliny the Younger and Beatification

I just got the latest Russian River newsletter in my inbox, and it brings tidings of good beer. The brewery announced the releases dates for two of its most sought-after brews: this year’s version of Pliny the Younger, its double IPA, and Beatification, a spontaneously-fermented ale that’s produced in small batches and is inspired by one of my favorite Belgium lambic makers, Cantillon.

Pliny the Younger 2014 will be released on Friday, February 14. Here are some more details from Russian River:

“Pliny the Younger’s 10th Annual Return to our pub in Santa Rosa will occur on Friday, February 7th, 2014! It will be available everyday (until we run out each day) for 14 days. Distribution begins the following week for local and no-so-local bar and restaurant accounts.   Younger has not even been brewed yet so allocations will not be set until the final yield is determined in LATE JANUARY. If you are planning a trip to Santa Rosa for the release, I will have a Younger page up on the website SOON with more information regarding hotels, what to expect, etc. So far one local hotel has expressed interest in extending a special rate to our Younger fans! Hopefully more will follow their lead. Horizon Airlines flies directly into Santa Rosa from Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Diego if you want to book your air travel now! Stay tuned…”

And here’s some new information on Beatification:

“We are finally releasing the next batch of Beatification on draft and in 375ml bottles on Saturday, December 14th, 2013!  This is a brewpub ONLY release.  Beatification is our spontaneously fermented beer, meaning that we add no yeast and allow the beer to naturally collect any wild yeast and bacteria in the air and barrels.  We call this style of beer “Sonambic”- a nod to the traditionally spontaneous beers brewed in the Lambic region of Belgium.  The pub will open at 9AM on the 14th for bottle sales as well as draft beer at the bar.  Customers wishing to purchase just bottles (and be on their way) will have a separate “queue”, while anyone wanting to enjoy a morning beer will be seated on a first come, first served basis.  The kitchen will open at 11AM as usual.  Bottles are $18/each, limit one case per person (subject to change). “

I’ve never tried either of these beers, and while I’m sure the Pliny the Younger is fantastic, I’d trade 12 growlers o’ Younger for a bottle of that Beatification. So, if anyone reading this is able to grab some bottles and wants to trade, please drop a comment. You know I have something else you’ll be interested in.

UBN

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Tuesday is Gueuzeday

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Ya heard? Tuesday is gueuzeday, at least in these parts.

I like to celebrate the death of the start of the work week and the coming of humpday with a nice, room-temp tumbler of Belgian gueuze – preferably Cantillon or Tilquin. The gueuze pictured in the image above is Gueuzerie Tilquin’s fantastic Oude Quetsche Tilquin A l’ancienne, a top-notch gueuze made with plums. I’ve never seen this one for sale in the United States; I shipped mine in from Belgium. So you probably won’t be able to find this particular spontaneously-fermented beverage. But I strongly suggest running out to your local purveyor of fine beer right now so you too can partake in the Guezeday festivities.  If nothing else, it’s an excuse to drink on Tuesday.

UBN

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The Difference Between ‘Sour Beer’ and ‘Wild Beer’

Russian River Sour Ales

Russian River Brewing Co. makes some of my favorite sour ales

It took me quite some time to acquire a real taste for sour beer, but now that I have one, sour beers are pretty much all I want to drink—except for IPAs; I still love my hops. (Check out my lists of sour ales and Flemish red/brown ales for details on my favorite sours.)

In my quest to try every sour beer I can get my mitts on, I’ve encountered quite a few “wild ales,” some of which were sour and many that were not. I also read the word “Brettanomyces” or “Brett” a lot. Brett is a wild yeast strain used in many wild and sour ales.

At first, I assumed that sour beers and wild ales were one in the same, but after tasting many wild ales with Brett that were not at all sour, I did some research to determine the difference between the two.

First of all, there are no concrete definitions of sour beer and wild beer. But here’s what The Oxford Companion to Beer says on the subject:

“The development, largely by American craft brewers, of entirely new categories of beer [that use wild yeast and/or bacteria] during the past decade, has resulted in the need for a new nomenclature to describe them. This nomenclature is surely unsettled, but the two terms in general use are ‘sour beer’ and ‘wild beer.’ ‘Wild beer’ is generally used to describe any beer that displays earthy characteristics of Brettanomyces yeast strains, regardless of whether the beer is a light golden ale or a strong dark stout. If the brewer adds acidifying bacteria to the beer, it is termed a ‘sour beer.’ If both Brettanomyces character and bacterial acidity are in evidence, then the beer is generally deemed to fit both categories.”

So, to sum that up. Beers with funky, Brett character but no acidity from added bacteria are commonly referred to as “wild ales,” and they are not necessarily sour. If a brewer opts to add bacteria to a beer made with wild yeast the beer will take on an acidic, sour flavor. These beers are called sour beers. Wild ales can be sour, but not all of them are. The difference between the two is the addition of bacteria during the barrel aging process—the two most common bacteria used in the process are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.

There you have it, wild beers are not necessarily sour beers; some just taste “funky” due to the wild yeast used during fermentation. And many sour beers, but not all, can be called wild, because they use wild yeast, as well.

UBN

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The Single Best Holiday Gift for the Beer Nerd in Your Life

Beer Nerd Christmas Tree Ornament

I hate holiday gift guides. A lot. They suck. Or most of them do at least. I don’t care whether they’re focused on gadgets, clothing, media or beer, most of them consist of a bunch of cliché crap thrown together by lazy writers, often in the form of “slide shows” to maximize page-view traffic.

Here’s the only gift suggestion you need for your special beer nerd: Buy beer. Good beer. Beer they probably wouldn’t buy on their own, because it’s too expensive or because they’d have to order it from a far off land, like Belgium. And buy them the appropriate beer glass to drink it from. That’s it.

Is your beer nerd an IPA-crazed hop head? Buy him/her one of the beers on this list, and a glass from the brewer—not a shaker pint if at all possible. If your beer geek loves sour brews, buy one of the beers on this list and wrap it up all purty like, along with a fancy schmancy glass. Do a little research, find the best beer store or liquor store that sells beer in your area, and buy a bottle of something special. Or do a search for Belgian/German/whatever beer online. Etc. Etc.

I admit, this post was written in jest…sort of. But I’m also dead serious. I’m a class-A beer nerd, and the best (beer-related) present I could get from my significant other would be a bottle of Cantillon, any Cantillon, and a Cantillon glass. (I’d really love a new Mercedes, but we all know that ain’t fucking happening, sooooo….)

Forget those silly bottle openers and tshirts and shit. Good, special beer is the best gift a beer nerd can receive this holiday season.

UBN

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Thankful for Craft Beer

Rodenbach Vintate Allagash Interlude Stone Enjoy By IPA Brux

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for craft beer. (I’m also thankful for lots of other things—and people—but this is a beer blog, so I won’t bore you with all that shit).

As I wandered around my local beer shop yesterday, stocking up for today’s holiday, I couldn’t help but feel happy about the current state of craft beer in my home state of Massachusetts and throughout the rest of the United States. I stopped in one of the liquor store aisles, surrounded by bomber bottles stacked so high I couldn’t see beyond them, and thought about how awesome it is that beer is finally getting the respect it deserves. Talented brewers are pushing the boundaries of beer making every day, and I, and all my fellow beer lovers, get to reap the benefits.  For that, I’m truly thankful.

What you see above is my Thanksgiving 2012 craft beer lineup. I plan to start with Stone Brewing Co.‘s fantastic Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA, then move on to the Russian River/Sierra Nevada collaboration wild ale, Brux. After that, I’ll either pop the cork on the Rodenbach Vintage 2009 or the Allagash 2009 Interlude; I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

I hope you’ve got something special to sip on today, too. Happy Thanksgiving, beer nerds.

UBN

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Pucker Up: 12 Sour Beers that’ll Have You Hooked in No Time

Russian River Supplication Sour Ale

Sour beers aren’t for everyone. They’re definitely an acquired taste, and not everyone will acquire the taste for tart ales. Those who are daring enough to push their beer boundaries a bit, however, will very likely be rewarded. (Check out this post for details on the difference between “sour beer” and “wild beer.”)

I started drinking sour beers about a year ago, and I’m absolutely hooked today. It took a bartender at the Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston, Mass., to convince me to give sours a try beyond that first challenging sip. Now the first thing I do when I visit a beer bar is scan the draft/bottle list for sours.

It pays to start off slowly when wading into the waters of sour ales, though. The following list spotlights a dozen of my favorite sour beers, starting with some less-challenging sours and finishing up with some seriously sour brews. Most of these beers, with a few exceptions, can be found in quality craft beer shops throughout the United States. (Note: The Russian River beers at the bottom of the list are very hard to find outside of California, but they’re so damn good, I had to include them.)

UBN

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