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Posts Tagged ‘merchant du vin’

Welcome to the year 2009! Here is to another great year full of drinking beautifully crafted, unique and excellent beers! Cheers!

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The current trend amongst many of my favorite bloggers has been to create some sort of list to commemorate the past year. Some have written posts about the top ten blogs that they have either written or read in 2008. Others have listed the top ten wines or beers that they had tasted in 2008. Some have done both.

Technically, my blog is not even a year old. (The Beer Wench was born February 7, 2008) This makes it a little difficult for me to make a compilation of my favorite posts or blogs or even just Beer Wench experiences for the entire year.

HOWEVER, since my blog is only in its first year … it and I have experienced tremendous leaps and growth in the seemingly small amount of time that we have existed.

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As a way of welcoming in the new year as well as reflecting upon the last year, I have chosen to create a list of the 3 most influential people on The Beer Wench (both blog and person) in 2008. Honestly, several people have made a tremendous impact on my beer tasting … beer drinking … beer writing experiences. Although most of these people will go unnamed, I hope they know how much I appreciate them and the education, encouragement and experiences of which they have provided me!

I have chosen to highlight the 3 most influential people on both myself and my blog in 2008. In my opinion, these 3 individuals have educated, inspired and helped develop me and my blog into what we have become today. And without any further ado … allow me to present The Beer Wench’s 3 biggest influencers of 2008.

Drum roll please…

3. Sam Caglione. It is no secret that The Beer Wench is obsessed with Dogfish Head beers. In many ways I attribute my passion for craft beers to Dogfish Head. Not only is the beer DAMN GOOD, but the stories that accompany each ale are equally intriguing. Drinking Dogfish Head is more than just mere consumption of beer. It is an experience. Each ale has a compelling story. Each ale is brewed with unique and interesting ingredients. Each Dogfish Head ale is brewed with an obscene amount of TLC … and trust me, you can taste it.

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I have many of these extraordinary “off-centered ales” sitting in my “cellar” at this very moment. (And by cellar I mean the several cardboard boxes of beer I have sitting in my closet. Currently, I have Raison D’Extra, World Wide Stout, 120 Minute IPA, Pangea, Theobroma, FORT, Red & White, Punkin Ale, Midas Touch, Chicory Stout, Palo Santo Marron, Olde School Barley Wine…)

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My preoccupation with everything Dogfish Head resulted in my reading of “Brewing Up A Business” … written by the brilliant founder and owner of Dogfish Head, Sam Caglione. His book was extremely compelling and surprisingly inspirational. Sam’s dedication to producing the highest quality “off-centered” ales is rather amazing. His passion for beer is contagious.

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One of my most memorable moments of 2008 was my first visit to the Dogfish Head Brewery and Brewpub in Delaware. Unfortunately, Sam was not around at the time. HOWEVER, I am intent on meeting him (and his wife Marnie) in person … in the very near future. Until then, I will just have to stalk them via Twitter (@dogfishbeer).

PS: Rumor has it that The Beer Wench will be co-hosting a Twitter Taste Live beer event with Sam Caglione in mid-February. Stay tuned for official confirmation. (‘The virtual tasting will definitely happen … when and who will be involved is TBA.)

I encourage you all to raise your glass to Sam Caglione and the ridiculously awesome beers he has created at Dogfish Head Brewery! CHEERS!

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2. Michael Jackson. My number two is a no brainer. Almost all homebrewers, brewmasters, beer bloggers, beer connoisseurs, etc. can attest to the fact that Michael Jackson, even after his death, is and was the most influential person in the modern day beer world to have ever walked the planet.

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His books are my bibles. Especially when it comes to Belgian beers. And we all know how much I love my Belgians. Any time I need information, confirmation, further education about a Belgian beer, style or brewery … I consult MJ (my pet name for Michael Jackson). He is my go to reference when it comes to beer.

Unfortunately, the infamous Beer Hunter died before The Beer Wench was even conceptualized. His death occurred just as I was coming in to my beer obsession. And sadly, I will never have the honor of meeting him. He will never be forgotten, though. I have aspirations to keep his legacy alive and lofty dreams of becoming a female version of The Beer Hunter. (After all, like MJ, I combine a passion for beer with a “skill?” for writing.)

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And now I ask you all to raise a glass to my number 2 … quite possibly the most infamous man of the beer world … Mr. Michael Jackson. CHEERS!

1. Brian Van Zandbergen. Who is this mystery man, you ask? How on earth can any one person out rank THE Michael Jackson? Why have you not heard me mention him before now? Or have I …

Allow me to explain. Brian has had, without a doubt, the biggest impact on my beer world yet. He completely revolutionized the way I thought about and tasted beer.

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Need elaboration?

I met Brian in Chicago. I was in town for the National Restaurant Association show. 2008 was the first International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event at the NRA show. Naturally, after the day long event … everyone involved spent a good amount of time eating and drinking throughout the entire city of Chicago.

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One night, I found myself in the same Irish restaurant as a Mr. Brian Van Zandbergen. A mutual friend introduced us … knowing that I was an aspiring beer connoisseur and that he was not only a beer connoisseur and the Merchant Du Vin representative for Illinois … but also the infamous author of The Beer Enthusiast’s Guide to Chicago!

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When I first met Brian, I thought I knew about beer. BOY WAS I WRONG. Although I was the biggest advocate of American craft beer, I still had a thing or two to learn about the world of beer. And Brian made sure to school me … and school me he did. We traveled around the city of Chicago to all of his favorite, and arguably the best, beer bars in the entire city. And learn about beer I did.

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Because of Brian, I am obsessed with Belgian beers. And because of Brian, I am head over heels … completely in love with Lambics. And because of Brian, the GUEUZE is my absolute favorite style of beer.

I told Brian that I loved IPAs and Double IPAs. He schooled me on what a real IPA was. And then he schooled me on the Belgians.

Brian gave me one of the most memorable beer experiences of my young Beer Wench life … and for that I am eternally grateful. He is an amazing mentor … and friend.

And now I ask you all to raise a glass to my friend, my mentor … a fellow beer lover and connoisseur … Brian Van Zandbergen. Thanks, Brian. You have inspired me in more ways than you will ever know. I look forward to visiting you in Chicago sometime in the near future! Cheers!

And so kids … we begin a brand spanking new year. Cheers to making this year better than the last!

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The press release below was recently forwarded to me by the Midest Regional Manager for Merchant du Vin. The product is now available in all MdV warehouses.

Merchant du Vin and Pinkus Brewery (Munster, Germany; est. 1816) are pleased to announce that a new Certified Organic dark lager will be available in the US soon: Pinkus Jubilate.

Merchant du Vin holds exclusive import rights to many of the world’s greatest beers, including several Trappists. If your local retailers and bars do not carry any of the beers imported by Merchant du Vin, I highly recommend that you ask them  to start. A list of Merchant du Vin distributors can be found by clicking HERE.

ABOUT MERCHANT DU VIN

Merchant du Vin sets the strictest standards for the beers that bear our importing label. All Merchant du Vin beers are “authentic”—meaning they are naturally made, without chemicals, additives, or preservatives (sometimes referred to as “adjuncts”). Secondly, the beer must be an outstanding representative of its style, and produced by a brewery of superb reputation. As a result of these standards, Merchant du Vin’s benchmark breweries appear on nearly every list of the top beers in the world.

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Although the two previous days in Chicago were spectacular, from the perspective of The Beer Wench – the third evening was “la piece de resistance.” (For those of you who did not grow up spewing out French sayings, I’ve attached the definition …)

pièce de ré·sis·tance n. pl. 1. An outstanding accomplishment: “The bison is an evolutionary pièce de résistance, the result of thousands of years of genetic development under the toughest weather and geographical conditions” B.J. Roche. 2. The principal dish of a meal.

Monday brought yet another day of prowling the floor of the NRA show – indulging in countless foods such as gelattos, chocolate truffles, gourmet cheeses, lots of artisan breads, pizzas, soups, dips, sandwiches, more cheeses, more chocolates, more breads … and every type pf cuisine you could imagine. On top of all that food, I also had the opportunity to have lunch with the Illinois Restaurant Association. We were served a lovely salad of fresh greens, yellow raisins, toasted pine nuts, a huge brick of goat cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. The main course was Chicken Marsala over basil orso pasta. Surprisingly (for it being meat) … I gobbled down the dish. To finish it off, we were served a rather large individual apple tart, finished with a thick cinnamon whipped cream and fresh berries.

NOW ON TO THE IMPORTANT PART.

Once again, we left the show to embark upon yet another culinary tour of Chicago. This time the cuisine was mainly beer.

First Stop: The Gage, a restaurant and tavern situated on Michigan avenue directly across from Millenium Park. Newly opened, The Gage is known for its upscale comfort food, fine wines, boutique beers and whiskeys in a sultry and vintage decor.

I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc — but before I could enjoy it I was stolen away to meet two very important people in the world of beer. Both are with the country’s leading importer of fine beers — Merchant Du Vin — and are known nationally (if not internationally) for being beer connoisseurs. In fact, both also serve as beer consultants to hotels, restaurants, bars and the like.


Merchant du Vin sets the strictest standards for the beers that bear our importing label. All Merchant du Vin beers are “authentic”—meaning they are naturally made, without chemicals, additives, or preservatives (sometimes referred to as “adjuncts”). Secondly, the beer must be an outstanding representative of its style, and produced by a brewery of superb reputation. As a result of these standards, Merchant du Vin’s benchmark breweries appear on nearly every list of the top beers in the world.

After listening to me rattle on about my beer blog and passion for beer, the younger of the two beer gurus (a local Chicagoan) found it pertinent to give me a proper beer tour of Chicago. Of course, I could not resist, and so my coworker and I piled into his car for a most memorable beer experience.

Second Stop (although the first of the beer tour): Clark St. Ale House. Unfortunately, we could only srounge up enough meter money for a half an hour – so our time here was brief. My beer of choice was the Southern Tier IPA, which was served in a pretty small Brandy sifter. During the first half of its consumption, the beer was too cold to really embrace its true flavor. My beer guru companion informed me that the whole point of the brandy sifter was so that I could warm the beer in my hands. By the time I reached the end of the glass, the beer reached a desirable temperature and was quite enjoyable.

While at Clark St. Ale House, I had the opportunity to purchase “The Beer Enthusiast’s Guide to Chicago.” Although it is slightly outdated, the content of the guide was extremely well organized and helpful. Unfortunately, it is very rare to find and I was extremely lucky that I could procure a copy. And the icing on the cake? The bartender informed me that the author of the guide was none other than my beer guru companion sitting next to me. How about them apples?

Third Stop: Goose Island Brew Pub – Clybourn. Now, if being given the beer tour of Chicago by one of its most renowned beer connoisseurs wasn’t awesome enough already – at Goose Island we were accompanied by one of the world’s leading writers on beer. (Names will be added when permission is granted).

My first beer: Reserve Imperial IPA 9.0% ABV “At Goose Island, we live and die by hops. With our Imperial IPA, we pushed the hop limit to the extreme. We took three of our favorite hops, Tettnang, Simcoe and Cascade and balanced their spiciness with tons of malt… then we added more hops and more malt until this beer was exploding with citrus aromas and flavors… you’ll smell the hops from a yard away. What will surprise you is how drinkable it is. Served in a Tulip.” The Beer Wench gives it two thumbs up!!!

My second beer: Saison ‘08 6.5% ABV “Brewed by our Fulton brewers here at LPB, Saison is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale traditionally brewed in the cooler months for summer consumption. The Saison strain of yeast works at warmer temperatures and produces unique fruity and spicy aromatics with slight tart character.” This was the first time that I had ever tasted this particular style. The Beer Wench takeaway? It definitely has a unique earthy (manuresque) characteristic. According to Wikipedia, “what truly makes saisons unique is the fermentation which is closer to a red wine fermentation. Taking place at temperatures upwards of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), these ales are incredibly phenolic; peppery, floral, often reminiscent of the spice found in a bordeaux wine.” As a lover of bordeaux wine, my palate is inclined to prefer saisons as well. I look forward to further exploration.

Food wise, we enjoyed the fresh baked pretzels (cheddar jalapano and regular) as well as the sausage and cheese plates (complete with artisan bread and olives).

Fourth Stop: The Map Room, “A Traveler’s Tavern: Don’t Get Lost.” Traveling with “celebrities” definitely has its perks. Especially traveling with beer celebs on a beer tour. At the map room, my coworker and I were given a personalized no holds bar beer tasting led by the pros.

And here are the beers … (drum roll please):

1. To drink, we all started out with the De Ranke XXBitter … aka “a really f*ing hoppy beer.” Delicious. It got better as the night progressed and the beer became warmer.

2. Saison Du Pont, “a barnyard ale. Brewed in spring to last throughout the summer in order to fuel the workers.” We used this beer to cleanse our palate and jump start the tasting. Once again, I’m very intrigued by the Saison style.

3. Lindeman’s Gueze Cuvee Renee, “ Possibly the oldest beer, Gueuze, or Geuze, (pronounced “GOO-za”) is unseasoned, wild-fermented wheat beer. The brewers blend aged lambic and younger lambic, to taste, and a bottle refermentation occurs after capping. It is highly coveted by gourmands in Belgium who lay it in their cellars like wine. Golden color, cidery, winey palate; reminiscent, perhaps, of bubbly dry vermouth with a more complex and natural flavor. Style—Gueuze Lambic.” Source: Merchant Du Vin.

Numbers four and five were tasted side by side, as they are different variations of the same style from a brewery called Westmalle. “Bottle-conditioned Dubbel and Tripel Trappist Ales brewed by the Abbey of Westmalle, one of only seven Trappist breweries in the world. The monastery is located in the village of West Malle, Province of Antwerp, Belgium, and was founded in 1794. Both the Dubbel and the Tripel are considered by many tasters as the benchmarks for the style. Westmalle Dubbel was first brewed for consumption within the Abbey around 1836; Westmalle Tripel was introduced in 1934.” Source: Merchant Du Vin.

4. Westmalle Trapist Tripel Ale, ” Glowing orange-gold color, herbal aroma, and complex flavors that meld rich malt sweetness, warmth, hops, and powerful drinkability.” Source: Merchant Du Vin.

5. Westmalle Trapist Dubbel Ale, “Brown-amber color, subtle dark-malt aroma balanced by Belgian yeast character. Deeply malty, with a subtle and dry finish that hints at tropical fruit.” Source: Merchant Du Vin.

6. ORVAL, “Brewed and bottle-conditioned at Orval monastery founded in the 1100s in the pastoral Belgium countryside. Fermenting three times with three different malts and two types of hops give great character and complexity. This vintage-dated chardonnay of the beer world can be cellared up to five years. Sunset-orange color; a fruity and slightly acidic bouquet, firm body, profound hop bitterness, and long, dry finish.” Source: Merchant Du Vin.

7. Samuel Smith IPA, “The rich Samuel Smith strain of yeast at The Old Brewery dates from the early 1900s. Hops are hand-weighed by the master hop blender, and the brewing water is drawn from a well sunk over 200 years ago. First introduced to the U.S. market in 1978 by Merchant du Vin, Samuel Smith beers quickly became the benchmark ales for the emerging craft beer movement. To this day, they remain among the most awarded. All Samuel Smith beers are vegan products, registered with The Vegan Society. Samuel Smith’s IPA: A restrained maltiness and an emphasis on the aroma and flavor of hops from England’s finest vineyards.” Source: Merchant Du Vin.

8. Three Floyd’s Boheameth, “A massive American Barley Wine; caramel-sequel and hoppy appeals.”

Fifth Stop: Delilah’s, “one of the great whisky bars of the world.”

According to Center Stage Chicago, “Delilah’s owner Mike Miller is to whiskey what Hemingway claimed to be to bullfighting—an aficionado. He not only runs the bar with hands-down the biggest selection of whiskeys in the city (he advertises more than 300, and the specialty is, yep, bourbon), but has written scholarly articles and given lectures on whiskey around the country. From his resume, the uninitiated might think Miller runs a quiet, cigar-and-snooker type joint, but Delilah’s rocks. With DJ styles ranging from punk Mondays to play-your-demo Thursdays, the music is eclectic, and loud.” The owner spent the evening sitting at the table with us. As for beer, I savored a Samuel Smith’s IPA while having the opportunity to taste some truly exquisite Bourbon.

Overall, this was one of the coolest beer experiences I have ever had. It was my best beer experience in Chicago, by far. I am very excited to have important friends in the beer world and look forward to them playing mentor to me.

Thank you to all those people who made this night as awesome as it was, you rock!

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