Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Beer

Gerolf dresses the rabbit

Perigueux: this dead-end alley fooled me

Finally, I will be posting a few pictures. I've taken so many it's just made the task of choosing which ones to post so much more daunting, hence the stalling.

But first, what have I been doing for the past several days? Well, I've been doing a lot of the usual farmwork: harvesting green beans, planting lettuce and chard, picking apples, getting the knees dirty. I've also helped Gerolf with a couple of very odd property maintenance jobs, like spraying a fields-worth of ferns with some unknown smelly substance, and igniting patches of dead blackberry bushes, creating flames that licked the wispy grey stratus clouds. I've also enjoyed some entertainment. I visited nearby Perigueux, capital of the Dordogne region. It's a beautiful little city, replete with its own rich history that is reflected in some of the beautiful architecture. They even have a few ancient ruins. At the farm, I've been getting in a bunch of solid reading time. My books of choice: Great Beers of Belgium by Michael Jackson (betcha didn't know he was into beer, eh?) and Tim Webb's Good Beer Guide: Belgium.

I'm getting a renewed excitement about my future plans here in Europe. First of all, I should be helping Gerolf brew tomorrow. For a while I was a bit disappointed that he doesn't brew very often. I still would like to brew more, but I'm getting a second wind of enthusiasm for this journey as I plan for the coming months. Gerolf has been extremely helpful in making contacts with brewers and cheesemakers. A friend of his might be able to accommodate me on his sheep's cheese farm in the French Pyrenees, and Gerolf helped me get in contact with one of the owners of Brouwerij De Ranke in Belgium. I plan to meet the owner on a trip to Belgium later this month, and if he likes me (or if I learn French) I might be able to work out an apprenticeship with the brewery. Perhaps a more promising lead is with Brasserie Thiriez in Esquelbecq (northern France). During a visit to Allagash Brewing in Portland, ME, I met the head brewer, Jason Perkins, and heard from him about an American who did a similar trip at Thiriez. I emailed Daniel Thiriez, the owner and brewer, and got a potentially positive reply. Again, he requested that we meet in person, and, again, it would help if I spoke some French. Ah, c'est la vie, non? During this quick trip to Belgium later this month I will also be joining Picobrouwerij Alvinne and Brouwerij Huyghe for their respective brewing days. Huyghe is world-renowned for their head-spinning Delirium Tremens beer. Check it out, it's got a picture of a pink elephant on the bottle. In fact, my head is spinning thinking about this whole experience. I've decided from now on to skirt the easy targets; I'm truly living what I see as the dream of every young brewer. I've been able to speak with and entertain the idea of an apprenticeship with handfuls of the world's absolute best brewers. I'm not even sure what an easy target is, either; nearly every one of these world-class brewers has at least responded to my emails, most of them positively. Of course, I haven't yet set foot into any of their breweries, but patience is a virtue and it's still early. I'm living the dream in theory.

And, speaking of beer, here's what I've been able to try, given that I'm in the middle of nowhere. First, before I stepped onto a plane to leave the country, I took a road trip up to Canada and on the way stopped at an awesome beer bar in Portland, Maine, called Novare Res. There I found it: a beer from De Struise Brouwers. My first from the glorious brewery I might be working at in January. It was a luscious, opaque, creamy black brew called Pannepot. Lightly spiced with a chewy mouthfeel, it made me think for an instant I was rolling tropical fruits (papaya), figs, licorice, and dark chocolate around in my mouth. At the strength of wine, it warmed the soul without being too offensively alcoholic in taste. Wow. What a beer! In France I've tried to sample some local beers. La Nonnette from Brasserie Du Canardou was a lighter (in alcohol) dark beer, with spelt and buckwheat. It reminded me of a robust porter and was very well balanced with pleasant roasty notes and some grainy, spicy flavors from the alternative cereals. Belzebuth from Brasserie Grain D'Orge was a whopper of a beer; its 13% alcohol by volume was certainly apparent - a little too harsh for my tastes. It glowed a deep honey brass and possessed a firm light malt backbone, but it was just too strong and too sweet. Oh, I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, but I would have brewed it a little differently. If I could brew.

Pannepot, from Struise

With my Couchsurfing buddies

1 comment:

  1. Yeah Portland Maine! I was sitting next to you when you took that picture of the Pannepot.