Heerlijk. Délicieux. Köstlich. Language lesson for today? Check. This past weekend, I journeyed up the road to Carlsbad, California for a tasting I had been keenly awaiting, the 2010 Belgian Beer Party at Pizza Port.
As I enter the tent, and gaze around, I see a mass of beer lovers at the large sampling table and I think, "Whew, guess I'm gonna just have to dive into there. This oughta be interesting." Then like a beacon in a maelstorm, I hear my name being called. I look across the sea of people. No connection. I hear it again, and breathe a huge sigh of relief. The ship of Dr. Bill and friends has rescued my little lost raft.
I muscle through the crowd, and what to my wandering eyes should appear? A table full of incredible beers....and an empty bottle of Cable Car! I had arrived late, and because of my tardiness, I had missed this ever-elusive elixir! Argggh. (In my head, I am doing the Honeymooners line, "Bang Zoom! to myself. Believe that.)
But as a marvelous consolation, I was poured a glass of one of my favorite beers, Duck Duck Gooze. To say I love this beer is an understatement. Click HERE to read my first review of this liquid deliciousness. Truly one of the most balanced beers I have ever tasted.
As I am savoring this and gazing in amazement at the 116 beers on the list (the website only said "Over 60 Belgian beers"), Dr. Bill asks me, "You want sours right?" After an "Absolutely", he circles the beers he thinks I should try. Now, folks this is something you take seriously. In the wine world, it would be like Janice Robinson, Robert Parker, or Stephen Tanzer telling you which wines you should drink. You pay attention.
Knowing I could only stay for a limited period, I attempted to make my way through as many of them as I could. Therefore, I apologize for the brevity of the notes. I was on a mission!
Avery Andy's Mother: Mmmm, liked this one! This is a blend of sour ales aged in Cabernet and Zinfandel barrels. You definitely get the oak within a sour nose, but more red fruit than black fruit make an appearance on the nose. There is an interesting chalky bitterness on the finish, that I really enjoyed. That combined with its minerality remind me of the lean, mean, mineral wine machines of Chablis, France. That chalkiness is also an aspect of some Saisons, such as Saison Dupont.
Cascade Sang Rouge: If you follow Dr. Bill's Twitter page "masterpairings" (if you don't you should), you will see that he paired this beer with Berkshire pork belly. Now admittedly I have no idea the taste of a Berkshire pork belly, but you can bet your bottom dollar it's a perfect match.
Lots of red fruit, specifically red currant and sour cherry, with a definite nutty aspect. Predominant oak characteristics in the nose, our guess on barrel aging was either Zinfandel or Syrah barrels.
Cantillon Monk's Cafe Geuze: Hello Geuze! Kerosene, car exhaust, funk, and and a little sock. (A geuze-filled giggle). I know this may sound offensive, unappealing, or down-right revolting to some of you. For those who don't like or haven't learned to love the magic of geuze yet, these seem like deal-breaker characteristics.
Many people have the same reaction to aged Rieslings, with its strong Petrol aromas. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, like my beloved Vegemite, that disgusts everyone I know here in America. All the more pour moi! Seriously though, geuze is a wonderfully complex and interesting beer, and if you haven't become a convert yet, give it time.
Petrus Aged Pale: Aged 24 months, produced ONLY for the United States market. Mmmm, like a sour Champagne. Truly a wine-drinker's beer. Great yeasty, bread dough notes with hints of tree fruit (apple and pear). Aged in Chardonnay barrels? Seems like it.
Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek: Beautiful. Tons of cherry, obviously with wonderful sour barnyard, stable notes and yeast. I wrote YUMMMM on this one.
Russian River Batch 23 Damnation: Strong honey note here. Sage, grapefruit, and straw. Oak chips used with this one. It is a yummy and more complex divergence from the regular Damnation. Enjoyed it.
Cantillon Saint Lamvinus: Mmm, loved this one. Aromas of grape skins, fermenting juice. I felt like I was back in the cantina making wine again in Italy. Color wise, think a hazy sparkling Shiraz (admittedly NOT a good wine generally, but the color is there) This is a delicious beer that I would love to drink again someday.
Avery Sui Generis: My second time with this one. CLICK HERE to read my original review! Interesting, after having heavy, intensely aroma'd geuzes and krieks, the Sui seems almost vibrant and delicate in comparison. Don't get me wrong, the wonderful notes of brett, band-aid, and light spice are still there, but just now seems subdued. Just goes to show how differently a beer can be perceived due to its surrounding libations.
Ballast Point Black Currant Hout: Holy black currant! Mingled with the obvious, there is also a nutty aspect. A more oily, meaty nut character, like a Brazil or macadamia. But there is an unexpected vibrancy here that makes this beer burst alive, and you want to drink this. Mmm, and I did.
And before I knew it, it was time to depart. I had barely made a dent in the Belgian lineup, but it was undoubtedly worth the drive up to Carlsbad for an afternoon of such delicious delight....