Friday, November 20, 2009

Thiri... eh?

France beckoned me once again, so I gave her what she wanted. I’m back in France now for a couple weeks, living with and working for Daniel Thiriez of Brasserie Thiriez. Maker of a line of smooth, earthy French farmhouse ales (with a distinct Belgian accent), Daniel is widely regarded as one of France’s best brewers. Daniel’s wife, Marielle, greeted me after several hours of biking against the relentless wind, sometimes so strong I was slowed to a near halt. It was all good, though, when Marielle slid me a steaming bowl of spiced pumpkin soup and a buttered slice of homemade bread. Their house is adjoined by the brewery and is cozy, old, and decorative. As I type this, pleasant French folk music is lilting along downstairs… I think I hear bagpipes… or is it a hurdy-gurdy? I’m looking forward to spending time with this kind couple and having Daniel as a mentor. Tomorrow’s a brewing day, so stay tuned for some action!

View of the house through withered hop vines

…OK, didn’t get to publish that last paragraph until now, several days into this recent sojourn. Well, it’s been awesome. Brewed Ambrée d’Esquelbecq on Tuesday; dawdled around the brewery on Wednesday, waving hoses and bottles and labels around, hoping to make things clean and prepped for brewing, bottling, and shipping; bottled Blonde d’Esquelbecq and La Rouge Flamande today. Daniel’s brewery is something special; a visionary blend of small-scale production and efficient automation, it welcomes you with its homey comfort but eases the brewers’ burden with partial computerization and a CIP system (cleaning-in-place). It’s absolutely not industrial, despite this. And the beers that Daniel brews are full of character: fresh, balanced, quaffable, with a house yeast character that is at once cozily appetizing and zestily wild.

Daniel harvests the yeast

That’s a quick update for now. Tomorrow’s another brewing day with a musical treat in the evening that has nothing to do with brewing. I will serve you in due time, dear reader, with more about this picturesque brewery amidst the northern French countryside.

Dominique steam-cleans an old keg

... Another update: today is the day I just wrote about. Couldn't get to a computer. Well, today we brewed Blonde d'Esquelbecq and tonight we'll be going to the concert! Marielle served a scrumptious salmon, egg, and ham salad this afternoon tossed with her home-made dressing. Rochefort and aged Gouda topped off the meal as well as a taste of paté made with Daniel's Ambrée. Yum.

Windmill at Cassel

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