Monday, March 17, 2008

Michael at the Museum, Fermentation at the Fountains

Saturday was my last big bang for Philly Beer Week this year, Sunday was all about family and putting my new kitchen to the test. Real Ale Festival sounds like it was great, i can only imagine based on the list of beers that were available.

Things started off at the Penn Museum of Archeology for the 19th Annual Tutored Tasting, this year dedicated to the legacy of the Beer Hunter, Mr. Michael Jackson. I got there a bit later than i would usually ever get to anything (i beleive i have previously mentioned my super powers in this regard), but still managed to get a seat betwixt some nice folks pretty close to the front. The panel was announced, the beers were announced, and the chatter began.

From left:
Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head)
Don Russell (Joe Sixpack)
Tom Dalldorf (Editor/Publisher: Celebrator Magazine)

The Panel

From left:
Andover Arms Ale (Nodding Head)
Saison Dupont (Brasserie Dupont)
Old Companion (Pike Brewing)
Smooth Hoperator (Stoudt's)
Oatmeal Stout (Samuel Smith)
Three Philosophers (Ommegang)
Palo Santo Marron (Dogfish Head)

The Beer

It got noisy in the room in a hurry the moment people had to start pouring beers for each other. There was a lot of discussion around me about the beers themselves, which is great to hear people doing, but there happened to be a really great discussion going on in the front of the room by the panel at the same time.

For the most part i was able to hear the tutoring and they had some really great things to say about Michael and how each beer in the list related to his life and his work.

The trio was very quick to mention that Michael believed in drinking a beer in it's proper setting, that being pulled from a cask while sitting in a pub. Sam, Don, and Tom had many things to say about who Michael was as a person and how that can be seen and learned from in his writings.

It was remarkable to learn about his impact on brewing culture and brewing industry and hearing the stories behind his impact on the survival of styles like Saison and Oatmeal Stout made the event feel like a true dedication to his life's work.

Afterwards there was a great pouring of about 150 more beers in the museum's rotunda. Sam was pouring, Rob Tod was pouring, Scott Baver was pouring, Tom Peters was pouring, the list goes on and on. Some serious pours going on as well...Nodding Head Berliner to name just one. A great 2 hour session sent me on my way to my next destination: Tria.

Well...not without a few stops along the way. First stop Grace Tavern, then to Monk's for a pre-class sip and basket of frites. Met up with Philly's premier frite connoisseur and we built a base for the amazing tasting that would follow.

Fontein Tria

This is Armand Debelder:


Armand represents the 2nd generation of Drie Fontein (Three Fountains) Brouwerij in Beersel, Belgium. He hosted a very lucky classroom full of people with Dan Shelton at his side for Tria's final beer week event. He brought along with him 10 lambics for tasting, some pulled from barrels and bottled up specifically for his Beer Week events.

Armand spoke softly, but passionately about how he produces lambic and how much of a truly gentle process it is. Drinking lambic can be as much of a delicate activity as producing it Armand explains, "There is always mystery in making lambic, you have to admit that. You have to live with that. I am very proud that my father taught me to taste first, that is the most important part: Tasting."

Armand has forgone further education on the subject of lambic so as not to lose any of the teachings of his father. His approach to lambic makes the beer very personal, for him as the producer, for his region as producers, and for lambic as a product that decides as much for itself what it will taste like moreso than maybe a brewer ever could.

"It is very complex fermentation, if we try to do something we cannot do it. It is necessary that you learn the quality, you have to discover taste."

Seeing Armand, a man who had never been to America before Philly Beer Week, come in and captivate a room was just simply incredible. It was my assumption that he and Dan Shelton would bounce ideas back and forth and that Shelton would act as a moderator in some way, but Armand took center stage and didn't come up for air until more than 2 hours later. Speaking with him afterwards was not unlike speaking with any of the countless other brewers i spoke to since two Fridays ago, same passion for beer, same excitement about everyone coming together for Philly Beer Week, same inpsiration through simple conversation.

Bring Me Your Brett

At Joe Sixpack's Philly Favorites 11 days ago, something very special began. A community of people that transcends every mortal difference between man came together to celebrate something so different than it's common perception. We came to drink beer, we didn't bring clydesdales, we didn't bring some mutt, we didn't bring the twins: we brought history, we brought passion, and we brought togetherness to the greatest beer drinking city in America. We invited our neighbors and we told our friends: Philly Beer Week has arrived!

I realized this during my last beer in the city for Philly Beer Week ( a pint glass) sitting with Ryan of the Shawn, King of all things Frite & Agave, and Katie, Queen of the Frites that sometimes something can be so good that you have to surrender all inhibition and manners to it and just lick the plate clean.

King of all things Frite

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