Rivers Are Damp

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Philly Beer Week

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Downtown Philly
I spent the past week getting slightly toasted—over and over again. Why? Well, just to prove that this is America’s best beer city, Philadelphians have been celebrating Philly Beer Week. So getting slightly toasted was my civic duty. Woo hoo!

I started things off last Saturday at Tria Cafe’s Fermentation School with a session devoted to porters and stouts. The class was led by beer writer Lew Bryson. I’d like to be able to tell you what I particularly enjoyed that night, but I seem to have misplaced my notes. And my memory. Er, in my defense, I’ve had a lot of beer since then. I do remember that Bryson was entertaining, though, and I wallowed a little bit in the malty goodness he presented.

The rest of my week was devoted to Belgian beers—fitting since Philadelphia is so crazy for Belgian beers. (Apparently we drink more Belgian beer than anywhere except Brussels.) On Tuesday night, I was back at Tria’s Fermentation School for a session devoted to the Van Honsebrouck family’s Kasteel Beers. Xavier Van Honesebrouck, representing the seventh generation that his family has been brewing, was there, aided by Bruce Wright, an entertaining and informative importer. I have to say that Van Honsebrouck’s beers were a revelation. The Kasteel Donker, a classic Belgian-style ale, was absolutely my find of the week. It was malty and balanced, and—despite its 11% ABV—didn’t have any alcohol burn at all. I’ll be hitting my local beer distributor soon for some more.

I was also taken with another Kasteel beer, the St. Louis Peche. I’m a big fan of fruity Lambics, and the St. Louis is among the the best peach beers I’ve tasted. It’s just gueuze and fruit, but that’s all it needs to be. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for sweet beers, and some traditionalists will never accept the idea of sweet Lambics. But if you’re open to sweetness and, er, to peaches, the St. Louis Peche is worth tracking down.

Friday and Saturday saw me at the Fermentation School again and again (I started to feel like a conspicuous weirdo fixture there) for two more classes on Belgian brews. The first was led by Don Feinberg, the co-founder of both Vanberg & Duwulf Importers and America’s well-respected Brewery Ommegang. That night, I quaffed one of the world’s great beers (and one of my favorites), Saison Dupont, but it was the interesting grapefruitiness of the Boon Gueuze that really struck me. I just can’t get enough Lambic anymore.

Saturday’s session was led by Armand Debelder of Belgium’s Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen and importer Don Shelton. I particularly enjoyed two Cantillon beers that night, the Broucsella 1900 Grand Cru (which I’d had before) and the Iris (which I probably hadn’t). I have a crush on Brasserie Cantillon, and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that again sometime soon.

Sandwiched between all of these sessions at Tria was a Wednesday evening beer dinner at Philly’s Belgian Cafe. A friend and I sampled some tasty dishes designed to complement five different Lindemans beers. Lindemans beers are what got me interested in Belgian beers in the first place. And I haven’t changed my mind—despite repeated exposure to “experts” who bemoan the brewery’s emphasis on sweetness (accomplished by adding fruit juices to the beers). As I’ve blogged before (at the old place), Lindemans Framboise is my perfect combination of sourness (Lambic) and sweet (raspberries).

Somehow, I now have to face the fact that I won’t have four or five beer events to get me through the days ahead. That is so depressing! I’ve been spoiled by Philly Beer Week, and I don’t want to go back.

Written by Jimmy

March 17th, 2008 at 12:53 am

Posted in Beer

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