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Posts Tagged ‘The Beer Hunter’

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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I have developed an intense fascination, preoccupation … and obsession with wild yeast beers.

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In my personal opinion, Lambics are quite possibly the most exciting and interesting style of beer. Ales and lagers are both fermented carefully with cultivated strands of brewer’s yeast -using tremendous control. On the other hand, Lambics are produced by spontaneous fermentation.

Although, my spontaneous nature has led to less than desired consequences in the past … I still pride myself for having such a free-spirited and adventurous personality. So what if I almost died jumping off an 80 foot cliff when I was in high school … I am still alive now, right?

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I love the thrill of not knowing. I function well in chaos. I love jet setting at the very last minute. I am an adventurer and explorer. And this is why I love the concept of spontaneous fermentation.

The late and internationally renowned Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, has referred to Lambics as the winiest of all the world’s beers.

As with many Belgian beers, Lambics are also subject to many regulations. In order to receive Lambic “certification” and label privileges, Lambics varieties must have Traditional Speciliaty Guaranteed (TSG) status.

The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) is a trademark for an agricultural product or a foodstuff, which has a certain feature or a set of features, setting it clearly apart from other similar products or foodstuffs belonging to the same category. The product or foodstuff itmust be manufactured using traditional ingredients or must be characteristic for its traditional composition, production process, or processing reflecting a traditional type of manufacturing or processing.

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So what exactly is all the traditional mumbo jumbo for Lambics?

The Lambic style can trace its roots back over 400 years, and has remained mostly unchanged from its introduction. The first written recipe is dated 1516.

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Although it is impossible to confirm the origin of the word “Lambic” (“lambiek” in Flemish / Dutch), its most likely origin is the small town of Lembeek (“Lime Creek”) – a municipality close to Brussels. Today, Lambic production is concentrated in the western part of Brussels and in the nearby “Pajottenland”.

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The definition of Lambic was set out in a series of Belgian Royal Decrees in the 1960′s and 70′s. These determined that Lambic must be made from at least 30% unmalted wheat at a gravity of no less than 11 Plato.

Lambic wort is usually composed of 60-70% barley malt and 30-40% unmalted wheat. Lambic beers are typically made from an original density (wort-strength) of 11.75-13.5 Plato (12.7 is the classic level) with an alcohol content of around 5.0-6.5% by volume.

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Lambic beers use a variety of mashing regimes – some being very long and elaborate. The traditional method involves making two separate mashes and heating each in individual kettles.

At the boiling stage, Lambic beers use far more hops than conventional beers – sometimes up to 6 times as many hops. HOWEVER … Lambics are NOT bitter. (We will get to the flavor notes later). One of the MAJOR differentiating factors about Lambics is that they use AGED HOPS, typically aged up to three years.

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The object of aging hops is to diminish their aroma, flavor, and bitterness. INSTEAD, the hops are being used solely for their secondary purpose – to ward against unwanted infections and excessive oxidation.

Unlike conventional beers which usually boil for an hour or so, the Lambic boil lasts anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. After the boil, conventional beers are usually cooled in a heat exchanger. Lambics are not. Instead, Lambic wort will spend the night in a coolship.

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Then it is on to fermentation.

Unlike with conventional beers, No yeast is artificial added to Lambic wort. Instead, Lambic wort is exposed to the open air of the “Zennevalei” aka the Senne-valley. Wild yeast cells, including Bretanomyces bruxellensis and Bretanomyces lambicus (which are always in the open air in the environment of Brussels), come into the wort and eventually result in spontaneous fermentation.

Due to the spontaneous fermentation, Lambic can be brewed only in the “winter season” (October-May). In summertime, there are too much undesirable bacteria, which can infect the wort and interfere with the natural fermentation.

Most ales and lagers are produced using only a few strands of yeast, while Lambics are typically made with around 86 yeast strands.

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As you can imagine, spontaneous fermentation is a very lengthy process. The microorganisms involved in the creation of Lambics must work in a specific sequence. Each microroganism depends on the metabolized products of its predecessors. It takes about two to three years for the entire process to complete and to produce a mature Lambic.
The varieties of Lambic include: Straight Lambic (Lambic Pure), Faro, Fruit, Mars … and MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, Gueuze.

Straight Lambic: Cloudy, uncarbonated (almost still), unsweetened and unblended draught beer. Generally three years old. Extremely hard to find. It is served in only one or two two cafés in Brussels and a handful in the area of production.

Faro: Unblended three-year-old lambic sweetened with rummy-tasting dark candy sugar and occasionally spiced. Also hard to find and typically found on draught. Sometimes available at Lambic cafés in a do-it-yourself version where sugar is added directly at the table by the drinker and crushed into the drink with a mortar. Faro was once the restorative for the working man in Brussels.

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Mars: Traditionally referred to a weaker beer made from the second runnings of a Lambic brewing. It is no longer commercially produced.

Fruit: Lambic with the addition of whole fruit or syrup. Most common fruits include sour cherry (kriek), raspberry (framboise), peach (pêche), blackcurrant (cassis), grape (druif), or strawberry (aardbei). Rarer fruit lambic flavorings include apple (pomme), banana, pineapple, apricot, plum, cloudberry, and lemon. Fruit lambics are usually bottled with secondary fermentation. Lambic-based Kriek beers are the most traditional fruit brews.

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Gueuze: Bottled, sparkling and easier to find. Made by blending young Lambic (6 months to 1 year old) with more mature vintages (2 to 3 years old). It is then bottled for a second fermentation (similar to Champagne and is actually bottled in Champagne bottles). The word Gueuze (hard “g”, and rhymes with “firs”) may have the same etymological origins as the English words gas and ghost, and the Flemish gist (“yeast”), referring to carbonation and rising bubbles.

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Last spring – while drinking and eating my way through Chicago, I was introduced to the gueze. My first experience was with Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene – which absolutely blew my mind. I loved it so much, in fact, that I opted to drink Cuvee Rene for my last birthday (the quarter of a century celebration) in lieu of Champagne or sparkling wine. To this day, I find it very hard to choose between Gueuze and Champagne!

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Now that I have posted the educational mumbo jumbo about Lambics … I look forward to tasting and blogging about some of my favorites in the (very) near future!

CHEERS!


SOURCES: Michael Jackson’s GREAT BEERS OF BELGIUM, Wikipedia

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