29 February 2008

DeGroen's DeMolition

Yes, as the e-mails have been saying for a while--and as I noted in my Baltimore column in Mid-Atlantic Brewing News--the brewpub formerly known as Baltimore Brewing Co. and later DeGroen's Grill is no more. The property was sold late last year for the development of a Fairfield Inn (Not Marriott, as some have said--already two of those downtown, although Marriott owns the chain).

No work going on this morning--for all I know, there was a "stop work" order because someone didn't have the right work permits in place. Supposedly the hotel plans must incorporate at least some of the facades of the older rowhouses (which once housed the BBC bottling line) into the new structure.

Tragically, there were a few (at least four) full-sized black BBC kegs in the rubble. I wonder if anyone has spoken up for the sign? (No, it won't fit in my car.)

Oxymoron of the Year?

I suppose this was the inevitable result of Baltimore's ban on smoking in pubs:

Birds of a Feather, Fells Point...

The sign at left says "SMOKE FREE: Smell and Taste the Difference."

Coming soon: Smoke-Free Barbecue, Smoke-Free Pit Beef, Smoke-Free Gouda, and Smoke-Free Rauchbock.

28 February 2008

Cask Olivers Three Lions at Metropolitan

Normally, cask Wharf Rat beer is something I don't have to go out of my way for--I'm spoiled (though some Ringwood detractors would say "punished") by having it readily available at the two Wharf Rat bars and elsewhere in town. But a cask of the higher-gravity Three Lions (7.5%)? Worth a detour en route home.

Deep amber, surprisingly bright, nice head...... typical Ringwood nose but more alcoholic..... surprisingly good, noticeably tannic, woody with a bit of tangy and alcoholic bite. Nicely malty with a thick, sweetish body, but well balanced by an almost-Belgian bracing tartness. A chalky English finish, laced with hop resins. Cask adds more depth than usual for this beer (was tempted to say "another dimension", but the original draught is three-dimensional, so....)

Clipper City news

Got the latest news release from Clipper City Brewing Co.; a lot of the usual kind of news (Holy Sheet sold out; the Oxford Organic line is (re-?)introduced in April, 2008 Red Sky at Night slated for May release; so far $15,654 raised for war vets from the per-six-pack donation plan since last June), but one new feature coming in April: The company will still hold its usual twice-monthly Saturday tours, but in addition to the charging for the souvenir glass, they will also require advance reservations beginning in April.

Never underestimate the drawing power of "free beer".

Mead at Slate? Who'da Thunk It?

Those of you who know me well know that I'm a mead maniac as well as a beer fan. It's just so darned easier to get beer, and lots of varieties thereof, than meads.

So imagine my surprise to be looking at today's Washington Post and find a link, buried in an ad box in another column, to this piece in, of all online places, Slate. It's at least intriguing to consider, although I would argue vehemently against the author's proposition that mead has "terroir" and beer doesn't (hey, ever had a good Belgian beer? Or New Glarus' Belgian Red or Raspberry Tart? Or even Oxford Raspberry Wheat?). Also, there's a bit of "where has this fella been hiding that he just noticed mead?" And, as usual with Slate, the "comments" don't really invite any discussion, but are more individual rants. But I digress and defer.

I might also add to the piece by pointing out that the vast majority of meads consumed at "rennfests" (pointed out in the column) tends not to be of superlative quality--akin to giving folks Natty Boh as the "definitive" American beer. (Maryland's Renaissance Festival is particularly guilty of this, pouring a bulk product from Liganore that is roundly decried by anyone who has had any better mead such as Chaucer's or Lurghashall.)

26 February 2008

The last of the Belgians from Max's?

Somehow I can't believe this.

If someone had, based on my experience last year with Cantillon beers at the Max's Belgian fest, had suggested that I would be ordering a full serving of the sourest of the sour, Cantillon Vigneronne (a 5.0% lambic whose name supposedly translates to "vinegar"), at my expense, I would have bet them untold sums of money. The last time I had it, for whatever reason, it was WRETCHED. A total abomination of sour stuff, akin to mixing Stella Artois and Japanese rice vinegar, with a dose of apple cider vinegar thrown in for flavor.


Faintly hazy golden, with the color, head, and aroma of good English/Normandy cider.... flavor is almost exactly that, akin to a dry, bracing Normandy cider with a malt backbone. THIS works. Now, why? I suspect that it's a combination of inactivity settling the yeast and anything else that was in solution, and some degree of oxidization working with what's left in the keg to mellow out the flavors. Now, comparing notes with others on this beer, half or more seem to think this is a new, improved version, and that last year's draft may have been "off;" one lambic specialist in this crowd thinks entirely the opposite--that THIS is oxidized and spoiled and that the original was more akin to white muscat grape champagne/brut. I'm still coming back to cider, maybe a touch of riesling grape or scuppernong (and if you know THAT grape, well, go to the head of the class). Now that I mentioned it, I can't get past that damn tannic and "foxy" grape flavor of scuppernong grape. Is it what they were aiming for? Is it spoiled? Who knows? All I know is, I went back for a second of what I formerly considered one of the most "repulsive" beers (if one could have called that malted battery acid I had before "beer") on the planet.

Surely further research is mandated.

25 February 2008

Have our legislators gone NUTS?!?

Well, some would say that it's a prerequisite for wanting the job in the first place. That, or being nuts for power.

But can anyone--ANYONE--come up with a good excuse for THIS little bit of legislation?!?!?


File Code: Alcoholic Beverages - Statewide Bills
Crossfiled with: SENATE BILL 716

Sponsored By:
Delegates Schuler, Boteler, and Bromwell

Alcoholic Beverages - Home Brewing Instructor's Permit


Establishing a home brewing instructor's permit; providing a permit fee of $250; authorizing the Office of the Comptroller to issue a permit to specified individuals; authorizing a permit holder to teach a client methods of brewing beer under specified circumstances; restricting the use of beer produced for specified purposes; prohibiting a permit holder from holding a specified license or other permit; and authorizing the Office of the Comptroller to adopt specified regulations.


There's more at the link.

Now, seriously, has anyone--ANYONE--heard of any rational reason for mandating the licensing of homebrewing instructors, aside from just another attempt to generate revenue? Just how many paid instructors ARE there?

And what is the fee for selling a homebrewing book? Or being a library with "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing" on the shelf? Or having an instructional video on YouTube? Would they charge me if I gave away homebrewing books or supplies (as I have done), or even if I traded a surplus copy of Papazian's book for a beer (as I did earlier this month)?

UPDATE: The bill was withdrawn by its sponsors before committee deliberation on March 7th. More details to come in Mid-Atlantic Brewing News.

22 February 2008

Fullers Vintage Ale 1998

Helping a friend celebrate his 50th birthday, decided to slip over in the ice (he has off from work today, was going to be brewing, but.....), so I brought over my bottle of Fullers Vintage Ale 1998. Bottle #81201 for any wonks who actually care....

Pours with a nice head that fades slowly, dark amber with a hint of haze.... nose of toffee, prunes, old oak, old yeast, maybe some Chinese spice or pepper? He says apples and black cherries, and mint..... no alcohol content listed on bottle or box. Bottle back label, hidden by box, says "Best Before End 2001"--oh, fine time to tell us that!

Fullers website says 8.5%. Also says:


The beer has a great depth to its color, deep amber with a slight orangey-brown note.

On the aroma, spices, cloves and floral, grassy notes come through all deriving from the hops. The malt character has a rich caramel flavor. The citrus fruit of this beer is like the peel of an orange. The Vintage Ale is like an orange liqueur and these warming alcoholic notes provide syrup like sweetness to the beer.

Upon tasting, the beer feels full in the mouth. The fruit notes come through onto the palate with cherries and pineapples noticeable. The hop notes found on the nose appear on the palate to give a spicy element to the beer. The citrus notes are present accompanied by caramel, coffee and biscuit notes from the malts.

Vintage Ale is smooth in texture and in flavor. The balance of caramel, spicy and citrus hop flavors and the mellow warming effect of the alcohol help this beer to linger on the palate long after it has been savoured."

21 February 2008

And now the Mahaffey's list--and is my face red!

Wayne just slipped me the list of what was ACTUALLY served:

#1 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot
#2 Dominion Millennium
#3 Moylan's Old Blarney
#4 Weyerbacher Blitering Idiot
#5 Stone Old Guardian
#6 Avery Hog Heaven
#7 Victory Old Horizontal
#8 Great Divide Old Ruffian

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (*^_^*)

So for me it was Dominion versus Weyerbacher and Stone versus Great Divide, and Dominion versus Great Divide, and finally Dominion Millennium. I guess I know which beer I'm buying two sixers of tomorrow. (^_^)

My sincere thanks to Wayne and his upstairs barkeep Lori for their help in this ridiculously insightful blind tasting. Trust me, folks, if you want to learn about beer, have it poured for you "blind" with NO preconceptions whatsoever as to style, region, etc.!

Mahaffey's Great Barleywine Challenge

Okay, I'm here, but Wayne now claims it starts @ 18:30, not 18:00 as his e-mail says. And there's local WiFi and Mahaffey's secured wifi I can use. Gentlemen, start your palates!

(And why do I use 24-hour clocks? No, I wasn't in the military; I adjusted to the 24-hour clock that British Rail used when I was there in 1991, and never figured out how to set my digital watch back, so......)

Okay, he's serving 8 barleywines in a taste-off competition to best four, two, and winner, March Madness style. The beers are, in no particular order: Stone Old Guardian 11.2%, Avery Hog Heaven 9.2%, Victory Old Horizontal 11.0%, Great Divide Old Ruffian 10.2%, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 9.6%, Dominion Millenium 11.4%, Moylans Old Blarney 10.0%, and Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot 11.1%.

#1: bright, deep mahagony, hoppy-barleywine nose (well, duh)--fairly sweet, heavy body, rich mouthfeel, very hoppy but not quite SNBA, I don't think. I'm thinking Avery or Stone. Avery as a wild-posteriored guess for starts.

#2: a bit lighter in color but very hazy as real ale, yeasty nose with chewy promise. Dammit, this is a tough one.. very British in profile, somewhat chewy and sweet, with some light fruit notes and sugary/molasses tones, drying finish with alcoholic bite. I like 2 better than 1, but I'm guessing either Moylan's (which I haven't had) or Weyerbacher. The latter my concerted guess.

To go to the next round: I pick #2 easily.

By the way, stop worrying--they're pouring in small wine glasses. Maybe 3 oz. a sample. Classical music playing as we sip. Don't say this guy doesn't have class.

#3: bright amber (turn up the lights, dammit!), grapefruity nose throws the suggestion of Stone instantly. Aggressively hoppy with pine notes. As hoppy as I would expect Bigfoot to be, but my first guess is Stone Old Guardian, 95 IBUs.

#4: about the same color, nose of brown sugar with a hint of Belgian. Well-balanced but very sweet, smooth and creamy with lots of fruit--almost a "strawberries/cherries and cream" thing going. Based on the "cheat sheet" descriptions, I'm guessing Great Divide Old Ruffian, 90 IBUs.

Pick one for the next flight? I'm reluctantly saying #4.

Wayne is serving pretzels, cheddar, bleu cheese, and Ritz crackers. Wayne: "Bleu cheese and barleywine--they're incredible." I'm inclined to agree, even if I don't normally like bleu cheese.

#5: Hazy amber, sweet malt nose with a hint of whisky/smoke. ............ I dunno. My instant thought is Dominion Millenium or VOH, both my favorites in the category. But it's got a raw, yeasty and VERY alcoholic bite.

#6: a bit darker, best head retention so far. Hoppy hoppy joy joy, hoppy hoppy joy joy.... (any "Ren & Stimpy" fans reading this?)....... the taste HAS to be SN Bigfoot--the classic "hop tea and the burlap sack they came in" flavor, though if I were t disregard my preconceptions and throw SN aside, I'm guessing Stone. By comparison, #5 is English; #6 is raw California/Colorado aggression.

Do I like either better? The fact that I choose #5 reflects that I'm not the stereotype hophead. Oh, wait, I gotta guess a #5. Okay, Dominion Millennium. No, wait....... hmmm, neither VOH or DM seem to match this one, which doesn't seem quite 11%.... Okay, call it DM.

#7: seemingly darkest of all, good HR (head retention) but not that much nose to it. Big and fruity flavor, cut with a lot of bitterness and chewiness. Okay, IF I'm calling them right, I've got two left: Moylan's and VOH. Let's try....

#8: deep amber, vinous/barleywine/spirits nose..... it's biting, it's chewy, it's BIG.

Back to #7: this is sweeter, more approachable, but still with rough edges to shake you up. A rounder, more English balance. #8: aggressive, pushy American, with a honed hop edge. Or call it a cute brunette versus a redhead with attitude. Do I prefer one to the other? This is as close to a draw as I have--nicer or edgier? With a great deal of reservation, I pick 8. And yes, I'm willing to call #7 Moylan's and #8 Victory OH.

Okay, now for the second flight: 2 versus 4, 5 versus 8:

But first, a break: My palate-cleanser, besides water, has been Anchor Liberty, hazy golden, fruity hop nose, a malty golden ale with hints of pine and celery in the hop profile--maybe even a touch of watermelon texture to the hop flavor (okay, I just might be tipsy if I'm reaching for watermelon to describe hops, but it works--pine and chewy, spongy watermelon/mango....)....

#2: Malty, rich, full, a bare hint of old Snow Goose/Thomas Hardy's wet cardboard/malty kernels in the body and flavor. A bit of toothpaste mint prevalent in many fresh British barleywines.....

Okay, to be different, I've flipped over my original sheet, and I can't see what I wrote above on this screen, so it's the proverbial clean slate off the list........... Okay, it's Blithering Idiot.

#4 puts the wine in barleywine--sweet, rich, wine-like body (think a chardonnay).... I was calling this between GD and Stone's, wasn't I? It's GD....

And between these two, I say #2 just for the far richer malt character and fuller character. (And by now, someone has changed the soundtrack to some rock....)

5 & 8: #5 spicy, a bit wood-edged, hoppy, a bit too assertive in hop bite...... Was this Moylan's?

#8: mellower, better balanced, but still VERY big and assertive. I called this VOH, didn't I?

Okay, final sip-off between 2 and 8. Whatever they are. I flip over the original sheet and see that it's (according to my guesses) Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot versus Victory Old Horizontal. And if by some far-fetched chance I'm right, I'm definitely an Easterner, not an Anglophile or Westerner. (Though we haven;t had any British beers in this competition.....)

Final taste-off: 2 vs. 8: On nose alone, 2. But on palate...... aw cr@p.

2: Nose of woody but edgy barleywine, a bit of spice wood, rich but with lots of hops & alcohol to balance.

8: Nice, but a touch too much iodine to the flavor and finish to work for me.

And my winner is: #2!

20 February 2008

Barleywine at Mahaffey's tomorrow, Smuttynose Scotch Ale tonight

First, tomorrow's news, clipped from the weekly dispatch from Mahaffey's of Canton:

"Join us tomorrow night upstairs for the Great Barleywine Challenge. This will be a blind bracket tournament-style tasting to come up with your favorite American barleywine. Plenty of cheese, pretzels and crackers for palate cleansing and alcohol up-soaking. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. These beers are big. Seating is whenever you want to arrive. Will begin at 6 and end at 9:30. $16 a head. Also, a prize package will be awarded to the person who guesses the most right."

Hmmm, sounds like a plan. Dunno whether I'll be able to update from it live; I don't think Mahaffey's has WiFi, but I continue to be surprised by the amount of free/unsecured wifi to be found around Baltimore.

Meanwhile, for tonight, Smuttynose Scotch Ale, a 22-oz. bomber picked up somewhere along the way (probably Wells or The Wine Source): Bottled 2007, no alcohol level given, pours bright and porter brown (darker than all those "stouts" from Belgium last weekend!), medium head retention, nicely peaty/smoky nose, not overdone--but then we actually taste the beer, and it's frankly a rauchbier, as smoky as a BBQ shack, and though balanced with plenty of malt, the dryness of the flavor accentuates the smokiness to an almost preposterous degree. Do NOT get this beer unless you really, REALLY like smoky beer! On the other hand, it's reminiscent of the late, lamented Baltimore Brewing Co.'s Rauchbock, though a bit drier. As the glass drains, however, the tongue acclimates to the smoke and more malt profile slips in. Or maybe the taste buds are slowly dying off from smoke-induced cancer?

I wrote an article for a somewhat recent Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, "How Scottish is your Scottish Ale?" Suffice it to say that in Scotland, this beer would be a novelty act, not a regular quaffer.

18 February 2008

Returning to the scene of the crime......

Yes, Max's is still standing. By my count there are still 37 Belgian beer available, including Brewers Art Resurrection, Ommegang Rare Vos (the last Ommegang standing), and the last inch or two of the two Brewers Art firkins on the bar. Did I miss any? Oh, yeah, if you poke around upstairs or in the side bar, you'll find a couple more. Still the proverbial "embarrassment of riches," then.

de Proef Zoetzuur Flemish Ale 7.0%--bright, deep amber, tart fruit-wine nose, I'm expecting a painfully tart Flemish ale but am pleasantly surprised by a very fruity beer, almost a Liefmans fruit beer balanced with a stone fruit body rather than their aggressive fruit flavors, with a balancing tartness with just a hint of wood. A truly nice Flemish, making me rethink the style. Or maybe everyone else will say it's to Flemish Red what Chapeau fruit beers are to the rest of Belgian fruit beers, I dunno.

de Glazen Toren Angelique (historic recipe), 8.0%--amber, bright, great head, vaguely herbal/woody nose reminiscent of Fraoch/its siblings.... I go Internet-searching for info, and find "Beer made by female members of OPA Aalst (local branch of Zythos vzw) and now released for mothers' day." Also three RateBeer reviews from other Max's drinkers posted in the last 48 hours. Nothing else telling me the "historic" nature of this dubbel, but way too many places (retail, pubs, and "I drank this" blogs just listing the beer.... the dubbel reminds one a great deal of Fraoch in that herbal sort of way...... a bit of woodiness and nuttiness akin to rye and/or oat malt. Think an herbal or old-hop bitterness as opposed to regular hops, and plenty of it--but then again, how much of this is from whatever yeast is used? I keep coming back to rye flavors.

Hiding in the coolers for possible future review: Three Aspall English ciders (Med., Dry, and Organic), plus three sets of bottles of Harviestoun Ola Dubh--12, 16, and 30 (relating to whisky casks, no doubt, and almost the price per 330ml bottle!), and looking very much like either a companion to or competition with Orkney Dark Island Reserve. Definitely more research needed.

Never Complain About Jim Koch Again!!!

Lew Bryson reports (lifted from ProBrewer) in his blog that Jim Koch has offered limited but serious amounts of his brewery company's hop inventory to smaller craft brewers--AT COST:

For a couple of months now, we've all been facing the unprecedented hops shortage and it's affected all craft brewers in various ways. The impact is even worse on the small craft brewers--openings delayed, recipes changed, astronomical hops prices being paid and brewers who couldn't make beer.

So we looked at our own hops supplies at Boston Beer and decided we could share some of our hops with other craft brewers who are struggling to get hops this year. We're offering 20,000 pounds at our cost to brewers who need them. Specifically, we are able to spare 10,000 pounds of East Kent Goldings from Tony Redsell, a top English grower featured by Michael Jackson in Michael Jackson's Beer Companion (page 75 has a picture) and 10,000 pounds of the German Noble hop Tettnang Tettnanger from small farms in the Tettnang region in Germany. These are both type 90 pellets from the 2007 crop and are the exact same hops we brew our own beers with. We're not looking to make money on this so we're selling them at our cost of $5.72 a pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Goldings and $5.42 per pound plus $.75 a pound to cover shipping and handling for the Tetts. They're packed in 22# foil bags, boxed four bags to a box in 88 lb. boxes and will be shipped from cold storage.

The purpose of doing this is to get some hops to the brewers who really need them. So if you don't really need them, please don't order them. And don't order them just because we're making them available at a price way below market. Order them because you need these hops to make your beer. We're not asking questions, so let your conscience be your guide.

A few mechanics--until we know how much need there is, we've put a maximum out there of 6 boxes per brewer, which is 528 pounds. You can order less in 88 pound increments. You pay shipping. If we get more orders than the 20,000 pounds, we'll have a lottery. We will be putting the basic information to order, some faqs and the actual offer on our website www.samueladams.com in the next day or so, probably no later than Tuesday. Look for "Hop-Sharing Program" on the front page of the site.

We hope this will make brewing a little easier for those hardest hit by the hop shortage.

Jim Koch, Boston Beer Company

Now, I've heard folks complain about Sam Adams in the past. If you're reading this, you probably have, too. But the fact remains that Koch's beers and company was the greatest gift to the craft brewing "industry" (not that it could be called that back then) in the 1980s. FAR too many of us started drinking beer because we were attracted to a small upstart offering a beer with--horrors!--actual flavor and quality at a time in the mid-1980s when it was considered a miracle to find draft Guinness or Michelob Dark in many markets. And from there, many of us progressed to more local or interesting beers (Wild Goose in Cambridge in my case, although hardly "local" to central Pennsylvania).

Some of us may be able to pick a nit here or there (remember the "Cranberry Lambic"?), but I don't want to hear anyone say that Koch has left his roots behind.

And if you get any hops from them through this notice, my commission is one pint of beer made with that hop, should I get to you in time. (^_^)

Cask returns to Federal Hill

Cask ale has been notably absent from Federal Hill since the closure of Sean Bolan's a couple years ago. Now, thankfuly, cask ale has returned to the "other" side of the harbor.

The Metropolitan Coffeehouse and Wine Bar, 902 S. Charles St. (formerly One World Cafe), has been discretely serving high-quality craft beers alongside its wine and coffee. As of the beginning of this year, it's now serving Firkin Thursdays, subject to availability of course, beginning at 6 pm in their upstairs bar. Recent firkins have included Otter Creek Sea Otter Baltic Porter (allegedly the only cask of it to get out of Vermont), Wintercoat Cockney Imperial Stout, a round of Williams Brothers (makers of Fraoch Heather Ale); and coming up this Thursday, Troegs Nugget Nectar from Harrisburg. This place bears watching. Website: www.metrobalto.com ; there's also a blog and MySpace site (93 "friends" already)......... Gad, now I have to add Thursday nights in Federal Hill back to my "to do" list.......

Max's Belgian STILL ongoing!

So you missed the 72 Hours of Belgium. Don't fret--did you think they were just going to dump the leftovers?

If you get to Max's sometime in the next 48-72 hours--heck, maybe all week--the Belgian beers will STILL be on tap. Although I don't know for sure, I'm willing to wager that Casey didn't even get to hook up every keg that they had. So get there and enjoy the beers still, with less of a crowd and maybe even applicable happy hour deals in effect (although don't expect the 32-oz. Friday mugs).

So--did y'all have a good time? Heard this morning from one blog reader who had to pass up the fun because he's skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland (bring back chocolate, mate).

17 February 2008

Day Three

Hey, my wife had a rare Sunday off, and you know, spending time with her seems more important than yet more Belgian beer, so.....

I finally arrive to find two Miller Lite-MILLER LITE, fer cryin' out loud--drinkers bogarting the spot I had used for the past two days, so in the interest of plugging in without creating a tripping hazard I'm behind the doormen's table next to the front window.... new photocopied/printed lists have replaced the now-fantasy-laden menus of two days ago.

Kasteel Rouge, on the new menu, kicks moments before I can order one for Jenny. In compensation, a full order Oude Beersel Framboise, apparently just put on a nitro tap to replace something else..... bright mahagony/red amber, tart nose, poor head retention, a very nice sweet-tart combo, sour raspberries against a somewhat gentle lambic backbone.

I'm not sure which thought is worse: Miller Lite drinkers here, or someone chugging Malheur 12 FROM THE BOTTLE. Am I sexist if I point out that all three in question are women?

Brewers Art La Petroleuse firkin (and they're tilting it to pour mine) 7.8%--okay, this is room temperature, but nice. Amber, a bit of sediment, nice funky flavor, pretty hard to pin down, just a good Biere de Garde.

Barkeep gets me while I'm still looking over the tap list for something I haven't had..... damn, usually I find a choice and wait 2-3 minutes to get waited on.... Achouffe Houblon Chouffe 9% double IPA--okay, it's getting hard for me to find something I haven't had before, if not almost "routinely" (and that speaks more for Max's than for my drinking)........ very pale, light haze, good HR, nice hoppy nose, terrific I2PA/Belgian flavor. This is what I imagine a Belgian imperial pils should taste like--it's restrained on malt and showcases the hops.

The crowd this afternoon seems a little lighter but a litter rowdier--seemingly too many habitual sports junkies and young pubcrawlers blundering into the event. The Daytona 500 started a few minutes ago, it seems. In this short time, no less than three patrons have walked out with cases of bottles/glasses. One said he was taking them to California for trading.

de Glazen Toren Canaster 9.5% Winter Scotch Ale, seemingly the only "Belgian Scotch" of the weekend: deep mahagony, nearly bright, thin nose, nice head retention. a bit cold, let me let this warm up a bit.

Meanwhile, some idiot raised his Miller Lite bottle into the overhead ceiling fan, sending it out of his hand and to the floor (spilled but in one piece). It's obviously the Lite/Smirnoff cooler drinkers that are the "problem" today; thankfully they're BADLY outnumbered. (^_^)

I just found the Legends rep, who allowed me to finish off a 750 of Orkney Dark Island Reserve 10%, sold only in Md., DC, and Portland, Oregon (30 cases total in USA): Dark as used motor oil, stupendous whisky/wood nose atop a Hardy's/Lees Harvest fruitcake..... oh, gad, forgive me but this is the best one of the weekend! luscious toffee/butterscotch lacing a big whisky-oaked big stout, laced with figs and dates.

Back to Canaster: nice and malty, rich balance of stone fruits in the flavor (or is that leftover Orkney?), less funky and more malty beer than most of today's oferings.

16 February 2008

Time for another break.....

My favorite radio show (NPR's "The Thistle & Shamrock" is on in eight minutes, and I can't seem to pull it up on the WiFi here. Time to scoot to the car.......... yes, some things are more important than beer..............

Latest tap casualties....

Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux
Brewers Art Resurrection (replaced in kind)
De Reg Catherine the Great
De Dolle Stille Nacht
t"Smisje Speciale pumpkin
three of the four Fantomes
Alvinne Podge Imperial Stout
Alvinne Tripel
All 3 de Proefs
and at least one more I can't figure out under the plastic cup...........

Who came the furthest?

It looks like I found them.

Kevin and Mary Kay Sands, originally from New York City, now of Amsterdam, came back to the States just for this beer festival. They have been to the past two festivals, and weren't going to let a new career in Amsterdam (financial consulting) deter them from meeting up with their friendsfrom Vienna, Va. at Max's. And, no, they didn't cash in frequent flyer miles for the trip, they said.

So much for the "carrying coals to Newcastle" theme.... though they profess to having a trip to Belgium in their 2008 plans............

Yet more--when will I ever learn or stop?

Fantome de Noel 10.0% winter ale from 750ml bottle: dark and hazy, cidery/vinegary nose typical of Fantome, a definite tartness as well as a red ale flavor (not very much Xmas ale character of you're looking for Anchor OSA or the like).........

de Graal Tripel 9.0% 750ml bottle sample: hazy golden, odd nose of cotton candy and mowed grass, maybe some bubble gum..... sweet almost to the point of disgusting, balanced by grassy dandelion notes at best. This might be the one sample I don't finish. Alan takes over for me, IDs some ginger notes. I agree to some extent, but it just doesn't work for me.

Malheur Dark Brut 12% 750ml bottle: RICH malty/oak nose, tawny brown color.... As with the other Malheurs, malt rides over the yeast--supremely rich and saturated, more akin to a Scottish 120/- with Belgian notes as opposed to a Scottish or Belgian........ damn, I want more!

Kerkom Bink Bloesem 7.1% Farmhouse w/ pear & honey..... bright mahagony, ale nose.... nicest funk so far, think aged pear and a hint of spice and wood on a Goudenband-styled body.

And now the locals... and Embarrassing Typo of the Weekend......

Brewers Art (Baltimore) Proletary Ale with cocoa and candi sugar 5.0% cask engine: darkest beer of the weekend by far, rich head... think one of those Belgian "chocolate" stouts with very subtle chocolate notes, very thick in character, more of a nutty character than a cocoa character....

Brewers Art Resurrection cask engine with cloves 7.0% --in spite of handpump, nicely bright and dark amber/mahagony, spicier nose than average.... nice clove addition to the usual Resurrection, woody/hot without being as cloying as, say, Constant Comment tea. Though with some orange peel, this could get interesting.

Now, for those of you that can't read the tap handle on the right, the white "Label-maker" label at top center says "W/ COCA". Let's hope the DEA doesn't see this one........

Aiming for rare birds.....

Liefmans Goudenband 8.0% Old Brown: Liefmans reported in receivership in Belgium, who knows whether we'll see this again.... dark amber, nice dubbel nose, actually the most character-filled draft sample I've had all day save lovely for the Kasteel Rouge. Tart nose of a Belgian red, very full initial palate, classic dubbel with rich notes of oak wood, sherry, port, and chewy malt. Complex and ready, I dunno what aging would do to this (says the guy who opened up a 13-year-old 1987 Goudenband in 2000). Great and ready now, enjoy.

Somebody just walked by with a Miller Lite bottle. I've started a petition to have him ejected.

I just wolfed down a bison/buffalo burger with Chimay cheese and frites on the side. Gotta give this a chance to settle. Let's see the latest casualties of "plastic hat disease"--the Regenboog T'Smisje Speciale pumpkin ale and two of the three de Proefs.

van den Bossche Buffalo Stout 9.0% sample from 750 ml bottle: darkest so far, but still a bit transparent. A nicely roasted Belgian stout, first really good roast treatment I've seen so far this weekend, although more akin to a great porter than a true UK stout. Nicely balanced, funk of yeast against the roast notes and hint of caramel sweetness.

De Proef La Grande Blanche 7.5% Imperial White Ale: hazy light yellow/pils, flowery nose.... "wit on steroids" or high-gravity wit sounds about right, decent if not mind-boggling.

Me at work yesterday

courtesy of Paul Milligan:

Picking off the ducks at the shooting gallery......

Bel Pils 5.3% pilsner..... bright, light golden as a pils should be........... man, a nice dry pils with just a hint of nice Belgian yeast character in the background. Actually takes me back to Baltimore Brewing Co., in a sense. nice if you're looking for pils--which, of course, most folks here aren't, except in a "pick off a beer you won't find elsewhere" sense.

sample from 750 of Lupulus, from Les 3 Fourquets (spelled correctly, as per the European label with no English and a nice painting of a wolf-dog amongst hops) 7.5%: fuzzy light yellow/tripel color, floral nose, a nice well-bodied hoppy ale (wouldn't call it an IPA, except maybe the Belgian yeast is balancing out the hops too well)...........

Silly Abbaye de Forest 6.5% white/abbaye ale: fuzzy golden/wit, rich head w/ good retention.... cold, think a wit with the orange/coriander removed and replaced with hops and spicy yeast and a slightly tart background to the mouthfeel.

Olay, some woman just pushed a big baby stroller into this madhouse..... Okay, it folds up nicely, but two kids in this craziness? At least they went upstairs......

de Regenboog Plus 10% Imperial IPA: hazy amber, good head retention, nose more Belgian than I2PA..... a very hearty hoppy beer, nicely balanced by the Belgian tartness, not very British or German, but a good experimental IPA nonetheless, might pass muster in an American i2PA competition except for the tart background.....

On behalf of a friend who says he doesn't like fruit beers, and now he's just "seen the light": Van Honsebrouck Kasttel Rouge 8.0% Brown Ale w/ cherries: BOO-YAH! stupendous cherry/beer balance, wins over a guy who says he doesn't care for fruit beer--the cherries are seemingly a blend between black and sour, nicely mellowed like a wine instead of maraschino or the like.........

Saturday morning

And off we go for Saturday morning with about 30 people waiting in line (well, more a mob with no line) at 11 AM, quickly filing in and claiming prize bar seats. First order of the day for me--literally--is a de Regenboog t'Smisje Fiori 7% "special ale: cloudy golden, nice head, classic dubbel nose, think of a yeast-filled strong amber. sort of a wheaty/weizen character, with a strong Belgian ale biting finish. Not spectacular, but at the same time not bad either.

For those placing bets on which beers would go first, the overnight casualties were the Les 3 Fourquett Wheat (firs to kick), Ommegang Saison de Gewurz (2nd), Alvinne Blonde (3rd), then Alvinne Dertig, Boon Oude Lambic Mariage Parfait 17B, and de Regenboog t"Smisje Kerst. Repleacements: Van Steenberge Piraat and Gulden Draak, Val Dieu Grand Cru, St. Feuillien Vuvve de Noel, Petrus Old Bruin, and Caracole Nostradamus. Now, it comes to mind that when Nostradamus is "second-string," we're talking SERIOUS selection here..........

de Regenboog BBBourgondier 12%: deep cloudy amber, BIG fruity nose, sweet and assertive with a cutting tartness in the background, somewhat citrusy/grapefruity as well. A bit of elusive fig/prune flavors as well.

Mardesous 6 6% golden ale: fairly bright, nice head retention........... hmmmm, compared to the bigger siblings, this is almost lackluster, more a vastly improved Stella Artois than a lesser Mardesous. Think a crisp yet nicely-bodied Belgian Pils or light golden ale, fit to not offend as much as the competition here.

15 February 2008

Time, gentlemen, please.....

Okay, it's 8:08 as i type this, and I didn't get enough sleep last night through no fault of my own. There's perhaps 200 folks in the place now, and more trickling in as I type. If any beers run out tonight, ain't my fault. See you tomorrow morning.

The big ones?


Strubbe Keyste Double Triple 9.2%, Double Triple [whatever the heck THAT is]....... mahagony/porter color, bright as a polished bell, light/no head...... nose of red ale/cardboard funk with a dose of red wine...... call this an uber-rich red ale with too much alcohol. Lots of character, but some light salad dressing notes, vinaigrette & balsamic hints, tannic notes in the finish. Cries for spinach as a balance.......

Bel Pils (and what the heck is this, anyways?)...... 5.3% Great golden pils color, faint haze..... a stupendous "lightweight" character, exactly what you expect of Belgians doing pils. Page Baltimore Brewing and do a joint Pils project with Brewers Art........

de Regenboog T'Smisje Fiori 7.0% "Speciale ale": hazy amber (isn't that the default, around here?) yeasty nose (after 1/2 hour of arguing beer points with Joe before returning to this..), distinct herbal finish against a very herbal backbone, very nic in the Fraoch/herbal category, but a bit lost against more "normal" beers...............

A Table Full of Bottles

Okay, someone just plopped FIVE 750's full of beer on a table behind me, and I got invited to share, so:

De Proef Signature Ale 8.5% joint project with Port Brewing's Tomme Arthur--pretty bright amber, nose of yeast/nut/butter..... Tripel flavor profile, dubbel body/strength...... nice flavors, needs a full serving to do it justice......

de Graal hoppy blonde ale 6.5%--yes, light haze to a blonde, Pils-ish nose..... a nicely subtle excursion from all the heavyweights I've been having of late, think a zesty Pilsener with outrageous Belgian yeast character......... almost a Pils crossed with the Indian food buffet........

de Graal Gember 8.0% with ginger: fuzzy light amber, seemingly Chinese spicy food on nose.... an excellent ginger ale, reminiscent of Hitachino Nest Ginger Ale in spades..... This is what Hitachino meant to be, the complexity of the Belgian yeast balancing the zesty ginger.......

de Graal Dubbel ("hoppy Belgian dubbel"), 6.5%: slight haze to deep amber, nice head..... spicy/winey nose w/ notes of wood & tannin.... nicely rich but subdued, reminiscent of the tannins in cinnamon/nutmeg .... so where are the hops?

de Graal Speciale 8.5% hazy deep mahagony, pine-laced nose...... Is it suggestion, or is this a pine-laden beer? A definitive tartness to nose which balances out the semi-chalky palate, resiny flavors, etc. Think in terms of resiny casks from California......

Our thanks to Jeff of DOPS for sharing the quality-control check...................

Rarest of the rare?

"Cheat sheet" just passed to me by fellow MABN writer Steven Frank:

The RARE ones on the list:

Silly Abbaye de Forest (Only one on the East Coast)
Alvinne Dertig (Anniversary house beer forn the Eramus Hotel in Bruggse--Only one in the USA)
Bel Pils (Only keg in the USA)
All three De Proef (only ones on the East Coast)
De Reg Catherine (First keg in the USA)
De Reg Plus (first in USA)
De Reg Fion (Only place serving it outside Belgium)
Les 3 Fourquette Wheat (only place outside the Belgian brewpub)
Maredsous 6 (only kegs in USA)
Ommegang Saison de Wurz (1 of 2 places in USA outside brewery)
Strubbe Keyte Double Tripel (first place serving this in USA)

Note: No warranties in place, trusted secondhand information. Enjoy responsibly. Close cover before striking. This bag is not a toy.

Bottles Part Deux

Still on Malheur 12, not sure why I'm still drinking it (oh, yeah, I've been distracted seven times so far)........... still obscene richness, an abundance of character.......... Okay, call this the Belgian Thomas Hardy's and be done with it.............

As of 3:40, approximately 200 folks in Max's settled in for the long haul..............

and now for the bottles......

Now bottles are being opened and passed about. By throwing money at some of the bottle holders, I'm getting samples worth commenting on:

de Landtsheer Malheur 10 10%--750 bottle label: "Sunny yellow color, Rose-like peachy aroma. Rich, oily honeyed texture. Medium to full body. Big, orange-zest and a hint of bitter sourness to a warming finish--Michael Jackson" My take: I overhear someone say "better than anything I've had on the taps today!"; I concur, sadly......... fuzzy honey color, deep yellow, nice head.... once the honey is suggested, all hope is lost--rich honeycomb flavors (including the beeswax); almost mead-like character. Damn, I want a full bottle...........

de Landtsheer Malheur 12--let me get back to you on that-----

Fantome Saison 8% 750ml bottle: Fuzzy amber, VERY grassy/herbal nose..... You know what this is reminding me of? Dandelion wine crossed with saison or sparkling mead! It's got that lovely dandelion bitterness and floral notes, balanced by a dollop of honey. This is late spring in a bottle, nice and freah.

Okay, back to Malheur 12: Colour of a big dubbel or barleywine, rich head, dubbel-like nose but more alcoholic..... by comparison with the many so far, obscene candy-like sweetness, rich and toffee-like, drifting almost towards a Belgian Thomas Hardy;s in flavor and mouthfeel, but the complexity of the yeast flavors inhibit the cloying sweetness of a Thomas Hardy's/JW Lees Harvest......

Pannepot Old Fishermans Ale 2006 330ml bottle 10%: a strongly aged character. slightly phenolic/cardboardy, as with an overaged Snow Goose...... the additional alcohol of this one makes it work, but it's LOADED with the buttery character of a rich Ringwood beer.... oh, HELL, yeah! Give me a bottle of this--but later.......... Okay, I was just informed that the bottle in question came from the Danish end of the project, whatever that is, now for the Belgian bottle.....

Now once again back to Malheur 12: spicy, almost decadent by comparison, barleywine with spicy yeast notes. dammit, am I ever gonna finish this?

Pannepot Old Fishermans Ale 2006 BELGIAN: Ka-BOOM, what a difference! Milkshake-like creaminess and sweetness, foamy as a nitro tap, seemingly diabetic-inducing sweetness, a beer you survive rather than relish.......... The "Danish" is for sipping, the "Belgian" for a party.

By popular request....

well, semi-popular, anyway.........

Alvinne Podge Imperial Stout 10.5%: bright, porter-color,complex woody nose............. packs the flavor of what I would more likely call a strong red ale than a stout, very malty but almost no roast to speak of, fruity, semi-sweet........... once again, one wonders if draft lines were misidentified..... or maybe I'm just too British-American in my expectations.

Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux 9.5% Farmhouse/saison..... hazy yellow/pils color, nice head.... VERY nice, crisp, grainy, light spice/pepper, medium dry, begs for a touch more malt sweetness to balance the white pepper flavor notes, lingering finish of herbs, hop bitterness, and pepper once again.

de Glazen Toren Saison d'Epre-Mere 7.5%, served by mistake instead of ordered Saison Gewurz (trying like heck to put an umlaut over the U, but the character map doesn't seem to work with Blogger): similar appearance, less head, nose I can only describe as buttered citrus (did someone order lobster?), much fuller body and flavor, seemingly that counter-balancing sweetness I sought from that previous entry....... similarly dry and peppery, but washed off the tongue by that sweeter finish.

Ed comes up to me and asks, "Escargot?" Of course, the only response I can come up with is "T car broken down, U car waiting for a driver......" I'm handed off the last three of a now-cold order of escargot and frites. Speaking of which, what else is on today's food menu? Let's see..... Mussels (natch), frites with Aioli Mayo, Cheese Plate (seven cheeses, some Chimay), Apps (the aforementioned escargots); ham/chicken/veggie sandwiches, Endive salad, Vol au vent (chicken stew), regular and buffalo burger with Chimay cheese.........

So far, I've seen staff from Clipper City, Franklin's, Growlers of Gaithersburg, and Mahaffey's walking through the door, as well as two other MABN writers. More to come, no doubt.

Okay, let's keep the saison thing going: Ommegang Saison de Gewurz, the only "new" Ommegang here for my sampling..... cloudy yellow/amber, nice head, definite Belgian-styled nose, VERY spicy/full of flavor, almost sandpapery on the tongue...... a little rough, but a nice change-up.........

Menu mania

If you retreat back to the far corner of the downstairs (where a pool table used to be), there's a pseudo-Belgian brunch spread: Waffles, fruit, bagels, cream cheese, mini-muffins (poppy-seed, no less)............

Okay, we see a La Chouffe Fourquette tap handle, but no Chouffe on the menu. Closest several of us can get to a match is Les 3 Fourquett Wheat, a 5.8% wheat ale. This glassful from the Chouffe tap is yellow and cloudy as very fresh apple cider, nose lemony like a wit...... hmmmm, seems to have the same Choufe signature yeast flavors I like, but seemingly reaching for the citrusy wit style, lemongrass and ambiguous spices..... not bad at all, but the name seemed to hint towards a quadrupel...... if this be the only Chouffe this weekend, I'm happy.

Jim W. just handed of the rest of his Stone Vertical Epic 2007, 8.4%. First "bright" beer so far, the only non-"Belgian" here........ menu says Strong Pale...... I call this odd. Cross Belgian yeast character with the funk of a wheat wine with a strong golden like Erie Railbender; nose is almost fruity like a Vignoles, Vigonier, or Riesling wine, but then you get hit with a hoppy palate and odd finish. It' something I'll have to come back to in order to figure out why I don't care for it.

By 12:05 I have had two menus stolen from my "work station". #3 is now "chained" to my laptop on the same security cable as my bags and laptop. Several photocopied menus are floating about in the side-room bar. The former darts lounge is now the cigar/smoker's lounge. and cigar store--"No Drinks Past" the closed door, but you can smell the cigars in the side bar.

Annnnnd........ THEY'RE OFF!

The doors to Max's Taphouse opened at 11:04 am; approximately 50 folks get through the door at the opening crush, led by Ed James and someone else sharing a toast from a huge Duvel goblet. First beer: Fantome Chokolat, an 8% saison supposedly brewed/laced with chocolate. Hazy/cloudy amber, tart nose, .................... there's chocolate in here? A complete contrast to the over-the-top chocolate stouts........ Well, that's Fantome (Ghost) for you; not bad as a saison but I'd never find chocolate in here unless you told me....... should I be disturbed that a TV interview with Gary Coleman ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin!") is playing on the far-off big-screen TV?

Next up: De Regenboog Catherine the Great, 10%, "Imperial Stout"......... This cloudy brown stuff is supposed to be a stout?!? Maybe an imperial brown........ flavorwise, more akin to a woody brown raw cider, dry with earthy tones, for which "roast" is an alien term.........

14 February 2008

Tell me what to drink.........

Limited-time offer................

If you read the draft list at Max's, and you see a beer for which you would like my opinion/tasting notes, comment with a request, and I'll add it to my list and post notes as I go, should it be available. Offer not applicable to Chimay, Duvel, and other "readily available" Belgian beers. (Those of you in places like Florida and Utah may direct their screams and complaints elsewhere.)

In keeping with the spirit of this limited-time offer, I also offer this link which provides an answer to the pressing question: Should I drink beer? (If the animation looks vaguely familiar, it should if you saw/remember the Quizno's Subs commercials with animation based on this strange bit ..... WARNING: Management is not responsible for nightmares, "ear-worms", or other problems caused by viewing the previous link.........)

Valentine's Day Beer?

So what beer seems best for Valentine's Day?

Of course, the ol' "red ale" answer could work. And thankfully, there aren't any beers that actually are brewed with any form of hearts that I know of, although years ago someone undertook to ask Cecil Adams of the syndicated "The Straight Dope" column about the rumor that a certain North American industrial lager contained chicken hearts (not true, by the way).

This year's rage, fueled in no small part by columns on the subject by Washington Post columnist (and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News editor) Greg Kitsock and others, seems to be chocolate beer. It's been done for years in many ways, with the original standard apparently being Young's Double Chocolate Stout--a beer that reminds many of a delicious non-nitrogenated stout (yes, they exist--Guinness has yet to take over the brewing world) with a shot of Hershey's syrup, akin to the "chocolate Coke" of old-time soda-fountain fame. (Yes, I'm just that old, or at least my home town was that old-fashioned.) Contenders for most popular chocolate beer this year among the beer geeks I've spoken/drunk with seem to be Ommegang's 7% Chocolate Indulgence and Southern Tier's 11% Imperial Choklat Stout, though I'll wager that the popularity of the latter is proportional to its alcohol rather than its flavors.

But you know what the proper answer to this question should be? The beer your spouse or significant other enjoys.

Luckily for me (oh, am I so lucky!), my wife shares my disdain for the crass commercialism of Valentine's Day, and has a favorite beer that even I enjoy: Lindemanns Cassis, a pseudo-lambic brewed with black currants. She also enjoys sushi, however, and I just happen to have a case of varied sakes awaiting opening......... So we'll wait until after the weekend for some decent sushi and sake. But for now:

Let's see. She's a redhead with long hair. She commutes to and from work on her bicycle. So what better treat than this wine, instead of yet another beer?

So it's the 2005 Central Coast Chardonnay, not the Cab. Same irresistible label. (And NO, she doesn't ride nude. She wears a helmet, after all. (^_^) )

Welcome to Bawlamer, Hon!

Well, let's see how this works out, huh, mates?

Greetings. If you've somehow stumbled across this blog by cruising aimlessly through the blogosphere or internet, I'm an average beer geek, beer snob, beer aficionado, whatever you wish to call me. I write a column and many articles for the bimonthly "brewspaper" Mid-Atlantic Brewing News and was for a spell also their Maryland columnist.

Starting tomorrow, I'll be attempting a "trial by fire" by attempting to blog live from Max's Taphouse in Fells Point during their "72 Hours of Belgium" beer "festival". Thank goodness for their free WiFi and a relatively new Dell laptop. Look over the "final" starting draft list below:

Silly Abbaye De Forest Ale
Alvinne Blonde
Alvinne Dertig
Alvinne Gaspar
Alvinne Podge Imperial Stout
Alvinne Triple
Bel Pils
Blanche De Brussels
Boon Oude Lambic Marriage Parfait 17B
Boon Oude Lambic Marriage Parfait 52
Brewers Art Speciale Resurrection(Cask)
Brewers Art La Petroleuse (Cask)
Brewers Art Speciale Proletary(Cask)
Brewers Art Ozzy (Cask)
Brewers Art Resurrection
Cantillon Bruocella 1900 Grand Cru
Cantillon Gueuze
Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek
Cantillon St Lamvinus
Cantillon Vigneronne
Chimay Cinq Cents
Corsendonk Christmas
De Dolle Dulle Teve
De Dolle Stille Nacht
De Glazen Toren Canaster
De Glazen Toren Jan De Lichte
De Glazen Toren Angelique
De Glazen Toren Saison De Epre Mere
De Glazen Toren Onedinke
De Proef La Grande Blanche
De Proef Signature Ale
De Proef Zoetzuur Flemish Ale
De Regenboog BBBourgondier
De Regenboog Catherine The Great
De Regenboog Plus
De Regenboog T'Smisje Dubbel
De Regenboog T'Smisje Fiori
De Regenboog T'Smsije Kerst
De Regenboog T'Smsioje Speciale
De Regenboog T'Smisje Sleedorn
De Regenboog Vuuve
De Regenboog Wostijnte
Delirium Tremens
Dubuisson Scaldis Noel
Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux
Fantome Brise Bon Bons
Fantome Chocolat
Fantome Printemps
Fantome Saison
Kerkom Bink Blonde
Kerkom Bink Blosem
Kerkom Bink Bruin
Lindemans Framboise
La Rulles Meilleurs Voeux
Leifmans Goudenband
Les 3 Fourquett Wheat
Mardesous 6
Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence
Ommegang Hennepin
Ommegang Ommegeddon
Ommegang Witte
Ommegang Three Philosophers
Ommegang Rare Vos
Ommegang Saison De Gewurz
Oude Beersel Framboise
Oude Beersel Oud Lambic
Rodenbach Red
Rodenbach Grand Cru
Slaapmustke Triple Night Cap
St Bernardus Pater 6
Slaghmylder Witkap Pater Triple
Stone Vertical Epic 2007
Strubbe Doebel
Strubbe Keyte Double Triple
Van Honsebrouck Brigand
Van honebrouck Kasteel Rouge

In addition, they have another 30 or so to rotate into the drafts as the kegs run out, although they have more kegs of some of the more popular beers available. Also, about 130 bottled beers are expected. Thankfully, samples are reasonably priced at $3 each, though full servings (likely to be goblets and not "pints") will range up to $9.

So, which of these is on your "must try" list? How many of these have you had? Which are you betting will be the first to succumb to the dreaded "plastic hat syndrome" (i.e. a plastic cup over the tap handle indicating a drained keg)? With online reports that Liefmans is in receivership, is this possibly the last chance for Goudenband to be on draft? And seriously, does the Stone Vertical Epic, rare and/or wonderful as it may be, belong in this lineup?

Myself? Well, I've never been big on the beers that seem to taste like malted citric acid (did someone say Cantillon?), and I'll have my beer notes from previous years' festivals to avoid duplication if necessary (or seek it, in other cases). I'm wagering that fellow beer drinker Jim M. will show up as he did last year, with three of his friends and a catalog of tasting notes of the offered beers copied from sites like BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, and I can just crib suggestions from him.

See y'all there.........