Climate Change Disrupts Cantillon

In late October, the Cantillon brewery in Brussels allows its spontaneously fermenting sour lambic beers to cool in the open. This year, however, unusually warm temperatures have forced the brewery to pour away three batches of beer and to temporarily halt production until cooler weather arrives.

Ideally, lambic should cool at between between 26 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. However, nighttime temperatures in Brussels stayed in the 50s, was much too warm for the beer.

Jean Van Roy, who heads the century-plus-old family business, said that his grandfather used to brew from mid-October until May. In the last 20 years, however, Van Roy has seen the brewing season steadily shrink. Last year, his staff didn’t start brewing until November 10.

Meet The Bjergso Brothers

Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine ran an article titled A Fight is Brewing, by Jonah Weiner. It is about Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso and Mikkel Borg Bjergso, who are identical twins who both entered the brewing business–and who can’t stand each other’s company.

The name Mikkel might sound familiar. That is because he’s the founder of Mikkeller, the brewery named after him. It’s called a “phantom brewery” because it contracts out 100 percent of its production. The business model allows him to turn out a wide variety of beers–well over 100 last year–and to be creative in his selection of ingredients. Jeppe, too, owns a phantom brewery. It’s based in Brooklyn, and you might already have guessed its name: Evil Twin. One of Evil Twin’s beers is called Bozo, a not-too-subtle dig at super-high-gravity beers made by people like his brother.

But the brothers’ feud isn’t the main focus of the article. Weiner followed the brothers on their brewery travels in both the U.S. and the Continent. The highlight was Brouwerij Boon, where Weiner and Mikkel met owner Frank Boon, the man credited with saving the lambic style.

Some Like it Sour

In an article in New Yorker magazine, writer Christian DeBenedetti (The Great American Ale Trail) says we’ve come full circle with sour beer. Before refrigeration and advances in fermentation science in the mid-19th century, almost all beer was more or less sour. Even after science eliminated most off-tastes, some breweries continued to turn out sour styles. The best-known such brewery is Brussels’s Cantillon brewery, founded in 1900. To this day, it specializes in spontaneously fermented lambics and gueuzes.

DeBenedetti notes that Cantillon’s beers were, at first, widely misunderstood by American customers. Some reacted to their tart and musty character by calling the beers “infected” and sending them back. As late as 1997, when he first visited Cantillon, its products weren’t available in the United States beyond a few semi-smuggled shipments. Dan Shelton, who took the risky step of importing Cantllion, said that it took almost ten years for people to realize that lambic and gueuze were supposed to taste that way.

Today, a number of American breweries have developed a reputation for high-quality sour beers. They include Jolly Pumpkin, Russian River, Crooked Stave–and De Benedetti’s own sour beer brewery, which he’s building on his family’s hazelnut farm in Oregon.

The Friday Mash (Cats Edition)

On this day in 1982, Cats, a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, made its Broadway debut. It was the second longest-running play in Broadway history, behind Phantom of the Opera. Ludwig has a standing offer of a pint for cast member Marlene Danielle, who appeared in all 7,485 performances.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in North Dakota, where the Fargo Brewing Company dipped into pop culture to name its first beer. Wood Chipper, an India pale ale, was inspired by–you guessed it–the famous prop from the Coen brothers’ 1996 film Fargo.

Human males aren’t the only species to suffer “mating failure” when beer is involved. Two Australian biologists discovered that male beetles mistake beer bottles for potential mates. Worse yet, some of the beetles get dragged off by predatory ants.

Minnesota’s Surly Brewing Company is planning to build a $20 million brewery and tasting room, and dozens of Minneapolis-St.Paul-are communities have rolled out the welcome mat, hoping to land the facility and the jobs that come with it.

Did you know that the taste of English ale drinkers differs by region? Northerners like their beer smooth with a tight head and a creamy finish, while southerners prefer a clean, crisp, hoppier finish and a looser, frothier head.

Fittingly for a party town, New Orleans has a rich brewing history. It was once the brewing capital of the South. Sadly, however, the last big brewery closed in 2005.

Do your taste buds–or your tasting notes–need a lift? Let Linnea Covington introduce you to nine unusual beers made with guava, turnips, bacon, and other exotic ingredients.

Finally, if you’re a very patient person, there’s a beer for you. New Zealand’s Moa Brewery just released a bottled lambic which, it says, should be ready to enjoy in about ten years. That’s eight years less than “Cats” ran on Broadway.

The Friday Mash (For the Boys Edition)

On this day in 1941, the United Service Organizations, Inc., was created. During World War II, the USO presented hundreds of thousands of shows featuring the greatest names in entertainment history. Those shows were brought back to life in the 1991 film For the Boys, which starred Bette Midler.

And now…The Mash!

We begin at the University of California, Davis, which has opened a $20 million winery, brewery and food processing complex. The facility also has earned a LEED Platinum certification.

Jack Curtin reviews Dethroning the King, an account of InBev’s successful hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch. He points out that A-B committed a series of blunders that led to its being taken over.

Prague’s U Fleku is more than 500 years old, and is the world’s oldest continually-operating brewpub. Charlie Papazian caught up with Ivan Chramosil, who’s been its brewmaster for 40 years.

Evan Hansen of Underground Detroit magazine introduces his readers to lambic. Did you know that a beer with only 10 percent lambic can be labeled “lambic”?

It appears that something Wicked this way will no longer come. Gambrinus Company has announced that it will stop distribution of Pete’s Wicked Ale on March 1.

Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, has a bone to pick with’s best beer list. Actually, his target is extreme-beer fans, who’ve voted so many high-gravity beers onto the list.

Finally, a quiz question. What do Apollo, Boadicea, Citra, and El Dorado have in common? Time’s up. They’re new varieties of hops.

Good Beer Earns Mainstream Media Attention

Lately, beer culture has been attracting more attention from the mainstream media. Yesterday, Reuters correspondent Philip Blenkinsop filed a story about the growing popularity of sour Belgian beers. Lambic, which some believe to be the world’s oldest beer style, almost died out a decade ago. However, Blenkinsop reports that its survival and growth now seem assured in spite of its being among the most awkward beers to make, store, and market. Meanwhile, Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnick has turned his attention to the art of brewing and serving cask-conditioned ale. Gopnick was happy to discover that the D.C. area has a new beer bar called ChurchKey, which has a changing five-cask lineup along with 50 drafts and 500 bottles.

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