The final chapter.

For those new to TheFerm blog, Part 1 and Part 2 will set the stage for the dramatic conclusion of my investigation into beer pricing at Minute Maid Park.

First, there has been a re-re investigation into the size of the pregame special at Larry's Big Bamboo. Larry's felt obliged to call shenanigans on MY shenanigans and reiterate that the pregame beer is 14 oz., not 12 oz. as TheFerm implied (happy hour board at right). I accepted this declaration and re-investigated. The fairest way to re-measure the volume, was to open a brand new St. Arnold Texas Wheat, and re-pour it into the cup. The result here proved that the pregame special cup is greater than 12 oz. Now with head and a sloppy pour, 12 oz. might be the expectation. But I cannot say it is a 12 oz. pour. It looks like 13-14 oz. and I'll take their word and declare it 14 oz. I hereby have to accept my broom flogging.

As the latest intricate research was concluded, the cup was washed out and put in a drying rack (in case further testing was needed). It was noted that the cup comes labeled as 14 oz. on the bottom. I declare it 14 oz. This has to be the same cup as the $5 regular small draft from concession stands throughout.

Other cups were then scoured for measurement, the St. Arnold (lower level) cup clearly declares itself 473 ml. Now that's only 16 oz! But is that 16 oz. with a head, or a flat 16 oz.? Back to the drawing board! Clarity is gained when a distinct 45 cl line (centiliters...really) is found on the side, with at least a cm to go above (or course the widest part of the cup). It is my belief that the 16 oz. is conservative, that is, a few oz. of head is anticipated, and with a good pour it can be exceeded. I will split the difference in the CPMMO analysis, I think the average pour here is 18 oz with a bit of head.

The rest of the third Minute Maid sortie was info gathering. A 16 oz. bottle from the beer guy costs $7.50 as has been previously remembered. For the $10 premium, 24 oz. options, they include Heineken, Corona, Shiner, and XX. The Latin Cafe (behind home plate) as the unique options of Negra Modelo and Modelo Especial. For $8, a 23 oz. pour, like the other good drafts. Lefty's was the only place (besides Larry's Big Bamboo) that a Shiner draft was found, presumably the $8/23oz. kind. Blue Moon is also at Lefty's and Larry's, not available for the pregame special, but presumed for $8. Confirmed, there is still a $6.75 for a 12 oz. St. Arnold Amber pour at Larry's Little Bamboo upstairs. I asked the vendor how much, and he quickly told me that you get a bigger draft about 10 steps to his right at the upper level premium stand. And the St. Arnold draft is still 23 oz. up there, and still only $8. Sirron got jobbed, although I note the extra ounces for the $2 vs. downstairs makes it the second best St. Arnold deal.

So the final CPMMO for 2009 is as follows:
Italics = No longer available
Bold = J.R. Ewing Recommends

27 CPMMO: Ziegenbock
/Bud/Miller at Larry's Big Bamboo - 14 oz. pregame only
32 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Ziegenbock 23 oz. draft (all levels)
35 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 23 oz. cup
35 CPMMO: Sam/ShockorDropTop/Landshark/Shiner/BlueMoon/Modelos 23 oz. draft (all levels)
36 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Ziegenbock - 14 oz. "small" draft
38 CPMMO: Bud/Miller 24 oz. cans
42 CPMMO: Heineken/Corona/Shiner/XX in 24 oz. cans
42 CPMMO: 2005 World Series Mug* 24 oz. (Bud/Miller draft)
43 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 23 oz. cup (Opening Day "SirRon special")
44 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 18 oz cup (lower levels)
47 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Coors 16 oz. plastic bottles
56 CPMMO:: St. Arnold in 12 oz. bottle poured into cup at Little Larry's

We'll do the whole thing again next year, I don't think we ever go by a year when Uncle Drayton doesn't raise everything by .25 - $1.

Update Opening Day 2010 (4/5/10): Good news folks! It appears that beer prices have stayed the same in 2010 as reported here for 2009.

This countdown was prepared last week, but I didn't want to interrupt the elegant repetition that was the American Craft Beer Week posts... then I got lazy.

Speaking of repetition… how about the preface.

Countdown is a list of news items, videos, or just ruminations that involve imbibing or are just more entertaining with an adult beverage. After all, life is life, but talking about it with a drink makes it more interesting. Feel free to sound off on any of the topics in the comment section.

5) *Knock Knock* Candygram! Wait. I-I'm Only a Dolphin, Ma'am

A dolphin? Well...okay.


The Miami Dolphin's just landed themselves on The Ferm's banned list after inking a deal with Jimmy Buffett for the naming rights to Dolphin Stadium. Those of us at The Ferm don't have anything against Margaritas (well, TwoPints has a self-inflicted aversion), but Anheuser-Busch InBev products are to be avoided whenever possible. Buffett, who in some way just licenses the A-B brewed LandShark Lager since I'm sure there is no brewery in Margaritaville, will work for free to pay off the licensing deal.

I guess I need to toss my Ricky Williams jersey.

4) Meat + Beer + Money ~ Daughter?

Mr. Marcelino de Jesus Martinez will soon be wasting away somewhere other than Margaritaville.

His plan seemed sound on paper. He had a daughter... he likes beer, meat, and money... he found a buyer. Bingo, Bango, it's a deal!

Ahh, but even the best laid plans of mice and men can often go awry. Mr. Martinez had (clearly) no choice but to call the cops when his buyer failed to cough the cash... a week after the transaction went down! I mean seriously, what does Marcelino look like sir, a bank?

Having a daughter myself, I'm appalled by this story. While I too like meat and beer, I prescribe to the Chinese proverb:

Give away your daughter for meat and beer, you eat and drink for a day.
Teach your daughter to get groceries and homebrew, you eat and drink for a lifetime.

3) The Free Beer Platform

We are down with free beer here at The Ferm. That is why we are throwing all our resources behind Kim Schroeder's campaign for the Vice President of the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association. Kim has made "free beer" part of his platform. Genius. Good luck dude!

2) Do I Detect Some Urea in This Wine?

What's does it take to craft a world famous, top selling sauvignon blanc? Cutting edge agriculture, precise fermentation techniques, and a winning combination of sweet and sweaty passion fruit, asparagus, and cat's pee flavors. New Zealand scientists spent six years and whatever $12m converts to American dollars to isolate the defining flavors that make the sauvignon blanc wines of the Wairarapa region so special... and also proving wine reviews are mostly garbage.

1) Wait, Not Beer Reviews As Well!

Calm down wine snobs, there is a whole subculture of beer snobs that have adopted your smarmy pseudo-connoisseur attitudes. It is probably a website publishing no-no to direct readers away from your site, but Bill at the blog "It's Pub Night" has put together a great Beer Review Generator that satirizes how pretentious beer reviews have gotten (click on over to Beer Advocate for some examples).

But admittedly, the review generator can be tormenting to even the casual beer writer as well. I no doubt had it in mind throughout my 7 day reviews during American Craft Beer Week. And while I was going to tweet soon about how awesome Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale (it is dee-lish y'all), instead I will provide an auto-review:

Pours a vivid orange with a nine-inch head. Sexy lacing. Beautiful spicy aroma, and I also get some sour milk and strawberry. Amazing catty taste, with overtones of bubblegum and forward alcohol. Elegant mouthfeel and long finish. Score: 4.40/5.


Our final selection of American Craft Beer Week 2009 was not without debate. Ultimately, the Day 7 selection became an obvious one: Homebrew. The spirit of homebrewing lives in almost every craft beer brewer. Even Jim Koch of the industry's largest craft brewery, Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams), brewed the first batch of Samuel Adams Boston Lager in his kitchen.

Brewing beer is a delightful combination of ingredient experimentation, research, chemistry, hard work, and cooking (and cleaning... ugh). Each batch is cooled and stored for a week to a month (or more) while fermentation occurs. By the time the finished beer has reached a bottle or keg, it represents the painstaking, but rewarding, job the brewer carried out (keeping precise temperature control, sanitizing equipment, etc.) all while throwing a few back during the process.

Want to get started homebrewing? John Palmer's online book is a great place to start. You will also want to Google my 1st round draft pick in The Ferm's Anything Mock Draft, Charlie Papazian. He is the godfather of homebrew and craft beers. He also authored what is considered "The Guide" for homebrewing, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing.

Seven days of celebrating American craft beers and still not pumped? Check out the video below. This was shown during keynote speech by Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co. at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference. It is sure to get the juices flowing.

Day 7
May 17, 2009
Champagne Brut De Pimps (homebrew)

Website/Bottle Information:
This Belgian inspired ale was brewed by the Groom and Best Man for your enjoyment. Bottled in the Methode Champenoise, this highly carbonated lightly spiced pale brut should be celebrated with your friends and family. Prost!

OG 1.087
10.2% ABV
Bottle: 750mL

He Said:

I won't go into a lot of details about the champagne beer that K-Dub and I brewed for his wedding, since most of you can't try it for yourselves. However, let me say this sweet and light amber colored beer is one of the best I've reviewed this week. The beer is complex in flavor and as pleasing cold as it is warm, although not quite as tasty as the Day 5 Golden Monkey at room temperature.

Typical of a homebrew, the entire process did not go off without a hitch. Half of the bottles made did not get primed (for non-homebrewers, a sugar solution is added at bottling which is fermented by the residual yeast causing the beer to carbonate after bottling). I volunteered to sample a few bottles from each case made to check for carbonation problems, but never found any... quite a rewarding quality control job I might add.

The final product is fantastic, but the beer was fun to make as well. I won't bore the casual reader with the details, but if you are interested, be sure to check out the recipe. The Maltose Falcons also published a great writeup covering the process for the Methode Champenoise and a picture narration of them making the beer.

She Said:
This lovingly crafted homebrew is a medium golden color, a little hazy at first pour due to the yum-yums at the bottom of this beauty. Once the fog settles it looks crisp and clear. It doesn't taste hoppy, in fact it's just this side of Belgium-y. It leaves your pallet with a clean finish. In fact the warmer it gets, the Belgium flavors begin to explode (did I mention before that I love Belgians?) This beer is for me. There is great carbonation to this bottle aged brew.

The Champagne Brut De Pimps is not one you can go out and buy, so you'll just have to take my word for it. It's DELICIOUS!! For such a fine tasting beer one doesn't even realize it's stabbing you in the back with its high alcohol content (well, at least not until it's too late... see Mr. Smokey Pants for details). I mean seriously, double digits on this one at 10.2%!! Highly recommend... two pints up to this one. I'm just sorry we can't share it with the world. Two pints up to K-Dub and SirRon for brewing up this baby. You two make beautiful beers together. Now I'm going to go back to enjoying this prized and LIMITED possession.

If there is one thing that resonated from the online crapstorm after Beer Wars from craft beer enthusiasts, it was that, while the three-tier system does not help the small guy, craft breweries are thriving. The fact is the market share of domestic bland lagers and imports (some “fancy”, some not) are on the decline. So despite the efforts of gangster distributors and the Augustus Busch linage (nothing but a gangster party), most Americans have enough access to craft beer to at least know the difference between good and bad beer if they choose to make the distinction (most wine drinkers still drink Beringer White Z and Yellow Tail too).

This is Day 6 of the weeklong celebration of American craft beers. Tonight TwoPints and I intended to review Cisco Brewers’ The Grey Lady, a Belgian-style Wit beer. The beer is new to Houston shelves and we have visited the Nantucket, MA brewery a few times. But The Grey Lady, it was just OK. It tasted like about 7 or 8 other Wits I could have picked up off the shelf. In a market that still shuts out large portions of the craft beer world, this is an interesting realization. The craft beer market has grown so much over the past 10 years that the bar is continually raising for great beers. Cool.

Day 6
May 16, 2009
Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale

Website/Bottle Information:

Our newest addition to our Harvest family is Southern Hemisphere Harvest. This is the first time we know of that an American brewer has put out a beer with fresh-picked hops from the southern hemisphere. The inaugural ale will debut in late April and will feature fresh Pacific Hallertau, New Zealand Motueka and New Zealand Southern Cross hops, all from New Zealand.

Like our Celebration Ale, the fresh hops in this beer are dried right after being picked then shipped immediately to Chico for brewing so that they retain their peak aromatics and flavors. To ensure the freshest hops possible, we went to the added expense of flying these hops from New Zealand to Chico so we could brew with them the week after they were picked.

6.7% by volume
Bottle: 24oz
OG 14.7 Plato
FG 3.9 Plato
Bittering Hops: Pacific Halertau
Finishing Hops: New Zealand Motueka & New Zealand Southern Cross
66 IBUs

He Said:
The beer has very little aroma… slightly hoppy, but not powerful at all. Harvest Ale tastes better than the nose. The hop flavors don’t kick you in the butt, and the prevailing flavor is almost more malty than hoppy. I wonder if the atypical pale ale flavors could be due to the New Zealand hops that are used.

I remember the previous Harvest Ale from Sierra Nevada being better. It featured Cascade and Centennial hops from the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. This beer was probably more fun making that it could ever be drinking.

She Said:
This one is amber in color, bubbly, and hoppy. I enjoy the hoppy scent it gives off, and of course the hoppy flavor. Southern Hemisphere Harvest is just okay for me. If it's not to expensive, and SirRon tells me it isn't, then I'd recommend picking one up, BUT not saving it for a special occasion. To quote my in-laws, this is a "Tuesday" beer. That's all I got.

Tonight TwoPints and I watched the final two episodes of Celebrity Apprentice off the TiVo. Two episodes... Five hours! I guess Trump fired the editor during this season too. It was five hours of "celebrity" snobbery and some fairly compelling drama... well except I already know who wins. I knew the morning after the episode aired. E! Online and spilled the proverbial beans on their website mere hours after the winner was decided.

This is not a gripe against media printing spoilers in the DVR age. I've heard those complaints, and I don't think they hold much water. My gripe is a practical one. Why do "news" organizations write titles with enough information in them where you don't have to read the actual article? Instead of "Trump picks Joan Rivers as the next Celebrity Apprentice" (sorry, now you know too), how about "Trump picks the next Celebrity Apprentice." What is the difference? In the RSS age it is the difference between me visiting your site or not. I can't remember the last time I visited E! Online... I just read their RSS feed titles on my iGoogle page and I'm good. I'm pretty sure that isn't what their advertisers want to hear.

Notice how I didn't put "Victory Golden Monkey: Awesome... go out and buy a 750mL bottle right now!" as my post title. Just saying.

(Note to TwoPints: if you read the intro instead of skipping it, you'll notice the tie-in to the Day 5 selection right there at the end :))

Day 5
May 15, 2009
Victory Golden Monkey
Bottled May 12, 2006

Website/Bottle Information:

Strong and sensual, this golden, Belgian-style ale glows with goodness. The richness of German malts and Belgian yeast are tempered by a sparkling approach and overall light body. Considerable depth of character with abundant herbal, fruity notes make this one to savor.

A magical, mystical Monkey whose golden soul glows with the wisdom of ages. This radiant, flavored ale is rich in the spirited tradition of Belgian-inspired brewing. Our Golden Monkey is both playfully delightful and profoundly satisfying. Exotic spices from the East round out this global journey to joy. Get on board. This Monkey's bound for glory!

Malts: 2 row German malt
Hops: European whole flowers
Yeast: imported, of Belgian origin
Alcohol by volume: 9.5%
Bottle: 750mL

He Said:
I have visited Victory Brewing Company in Downington, PA many times while I was working on a project for West Chester University. It's a full scale brewery, restaurant, and bar (and you can purchase take home beer... sweet!). It is not really a comfortable friendly bar where everyone knows your name, but they make fantastic beers, so the get a free pass on the snobbery... It could be a Texan bias.

Let me start by saying Golden Monkey is on my short list of favorite beers. The 750mL version is bottle conditioned, making it suitable for cellaring. This one, picked up from the brewery, lasted three years in my kegerator, which is probably a personal record for a Monkey. The beer pours with a thin white foamy head that disseappers within a minute. Typical of many Belgian style beers, the carbonation is lively. The nose was very nice... "Belgian-y" for those who just like beer... coriander, herb, and slightly fruity for beer snobs.

For a 9.5% ABV, this beer is amazingly drinkable, particularly when cold. An hour elapsed between first sip and last (a function of enjoying the beer and having to put the kids to bed). As expected, the beer is much better (more complex) warm. I typically enjoy craft beers a little colder than the suggested temperature, but in this case preferred the flavors after 45 minutes to the earlier ones. Age seems to have mellowed some of the powerful Belgian Tripel flavors, however, age probably has added to the overall complexity of the beer. I would also like to add this version seemed very different from the 12oz bottle version. I wish I had one in the fridge tonight, but if memory serves me right, it is sweeter and has less depth... both most likely attributed to the difference in aging.

Being that this three year old Monkey was on my virtual display shelf in the kegerator, my expectations were high. Maybe too high. I loved the beer, but I remember the four year old Monkey I opened several years ago being one of the best cellared beers I've ever opened. This one didn't live up to that memory.

She Said:
Ooh ooh aah aah! It's Monkey time! Golden is the perfect adjective for the color of this beer. After three years it still has wonderful carbonation. The taste is crisp. To me this screams "Belgium!" and also "Drink Me!" (okay so I've been watching Alice in Wonderland with my little Half Pint... but I digress). Golden Monkey is probably THE one American Belgian style beer that has turned me into the happy Belgio-American beer drinking person I am.

After letting the beer rest and warm up a bit, all the complicated flavors that make up a Belgian style beer begin to come out. While taking several sips, what strikes me is that your palate is left with very little after taste. In other words if you don't grab the tastes while the brew is in your mouth you might miss them. It is not just the spices that grab you with this beer, it's more of the very tasty yeast and malty flavors. The Belgian Tripel sweetness comes out as the beer warms up. Very delicious and worth the extra $$. Two pints up to Victory for its superb Golden Monkey.

I made the pilgrimage to Denver, CO for the Great American Beer Festival in 2005 in 2007. The first time was a bro weekend trip with K-Dub and Mr. Smokey Pants. The 2nd, K-Dub and I brought our ladies and Mr. Smokey Pants bowed out. Below is a comparison of the experiences.

2005: K-Dub and Mr. Smokey Pants alternated turning in early at night.
2007: The ladies turned in early at night.

2005: Stranahan's... great! Wynkoop... don't believe the hype.
2007: Stranahan's... still great! Wynkoop... still terrible.

2005: Set the high score on ESPN Zone's football throwing skills game with K-Dub.
2007: Broke our previous high score on ESPN Zone's football throwing skills game with K-Dub.

2005: Drank before the GABF sessions... between the GABF sessions... and after the GABF sessions.
2007: Limited the pre-lubing to only a few beers but still closed down the town in the evenings.

2005: Attended the Friday session. If frat parties got together once a year and had a frat party convention, it would be similar to the atmosphere on the Friday evening GABF session.
2007: Took a break from GABF on Friday and visited area breweries. I'll never attend another Friday GABF session again.

Day 4
May 14, 2009
New Belgium La Folie
Hand Bottled #9/2-8977 (2007)

Website/Bottle Information:
La Folie Wood-Aged Biere, is our original wood-conditioned beer, resting in French Oak barrels between one and three years before being hand bottled, numbered and corked for your enjoyment. Brewmaster, Peter Bouckaert, came to us from Rodenbach – home of the fabled sour red. Our La Folie emulates the spontaneous fermentation beers of Peter’s beloved Flanders with sour apple notes, a dry effervescence, and earthy undertones.

When you uncork La Folie, it is best to let it breathe before drinking. This will not only improve the bouquet but also increase the beer's temperature providing a more complex taste and body.

Bottle: 750mL
ABV: 6.0

He Said:

I picked this bottle up while visiting the brewery in 2007. The bottle sat in the kegerator mainly because it was expensive (I think I must have bought this for at least $18 or so) and it's different. When is the right moment to serve a sour brown that you cannot easily replace? I guess American Craft Beer Week.

This puppy is sour. I mean like real sour. The kind of sour that will stay in your mouth for quite a while after the sip. Beer snobs... Don't hate... but I ate a piece of peppered turkey jerky before starting this post and the sour flavor is still in my mouth. The internet tells me the "La Folie" means "crazy" or "insane" in French. Crazy sour.

The bottle says to let this beer breathe a little, which to me meant try it right away… how else will I be able to appreciate the differences? It was cold, sour, and heavily carbonated minutes after the pour. The head disappeared immediately. As it warmed, the flavor improved. In fact, I saved the last sip for a while and the flat, room temperature sip was enjoyable.

The beer is balanced, but not terribly complex. For a beer that gets such attention from the brewery (aged in oak barrels for 1-3 years and hand bottled), I guess I expect a little more. I do not mean to be overly negative (I wish I had another in the fridge), but this is an above average beer that does not live up to the hype.

She Said:
Brown, dark brown, with a tinge of red on the edges. I am already a little concerned, but it's a Belgium style "sour brown" I like sour, I like Belgium, not so much brown.

Wow, now that's sour! It bites the heck out of your mouth when you take a sip. In fact, caution not to take too big a sip like I did, it actually made my lips pucker and my eyes water. Very carbonated, even though it doesn't look bubbly. Boy is it tart. I don't think I'll be able to finish an entire snifter of this one. It is definitely for sitting around and taking your time. This is not a beer you'd drink quickly, often, or at all during the summer. It feels wintery to me, like on a cold day sit, sip, and get warm kind of beer. The more I drink it the more I like it. It's a nice beer, but definitely for a special occasion. If you like sour things this is for you. The back of my 'buds are still screaming from the last sip I took. I'd give it a pint up for its uniqueness. For sure give it a go, if you don't, how could you hold your head up and call yourself a craft beer connoisseur!

In the summer of 2006, TwoPints and I traveled to Delaware with Milton and Rehoboth in our crosshairs. While in Rehoboth, we serendipitously connected with 90 Minutes/30 Days. The brewery describes it as a "special brewpub-only release... We aged three kegs of our 90 Minute IPA in Pinot Noir barrels stuffed with Amarillo hops for 30 days - hold on to your hats!"

It was a game changer. Something to write home about. Seriously, I would have tweeted the moment... if that existed back then. On our 2nd visit in as many days, we ordered the last pint of 90 Minutes/30 Days and thought nothing of it (but the sadness that the next round would have to be something else). It turns out, this was the last (only?) version that was ever brewed. It was one of my favorite draft beers I've ever had.

Day 3
May 13, 2009
Dogfish Head Red & White
2008 (?)

Website/Bottle Information:
A big, belgian-style Wit brewed with coriander and orange peel and fermented with Pinot Noir juice. After fermentation a fraction of the batch is aged in Oregon Pinot Noir barrels, and another fraction is aged on oak staves. The beer is blended together before packaging.

This has been one of our most popular Limited Edition beers at both our Rehoboth Beach, DE brewpub and at festivals. It successfully marries the refreshing citrusy qualities of a Belgian-style white beer with the robust complexity of a bold red wine.

Original Release Date: 01/2007
Glassware Recommendation: Snifter
Availability: Limited

He Said:
Tonight started with a few glasses of Havens at my parents' house while picking up the kids. Once home, the evolution to a Dogfish Head Red & White for Day 3 of American Craft Beer Week was inevitable.

Sam Calagione may be a lot of things to to the craft brewing world, but in my opinion, his beers epitomize flavor balance. Quite simply, Red & White is a beer that blends wine (red) with a Belgian Wit beer (white). Personally, I don't really detect the Pinot flavor, but seriously, do you want this to be the dominant flavor in your beer? The wine and oak flavors are best kept in the background. Frankly, this beer does not remind me much of a Wit either, but maybe that is due to the multifaceted blend. The sugary Belgian flavors and are prevalent and compliment the beer nicely. The beer is complex, delicious, but not quite an equal to 90 Minutes/30 Days. But I'm Amercian (unapologetically by birth). I like hops. I can't help it.

She Said:
Oh Red and White you're so sweet,
drinking you is always a treat.
Bright and bubbly, you're never a bore,
leaving me to drink much more.
Off to Central Market beer aisle we go,
finding our prized Red and White down the row.
Oak barrels and Pinot Noir,
I'm so ready for another pour!
Thank you Dogfish Head for making it your mission
to bring us this awesome Limited Edition.

I'm not one to write poetry, but I was inspired by this Limited Edition Belgian-style Wit beer. I love the sweet beginning and the bit of a bite at the end. If you roll it around your mouth you can taste the coriander, which happens to be a flavor that works well with orange, another ingredient in this DELICIOUS beer (Oh uh there goes the SHIFT key again!). There is no way that I couldn't be a fan of this FANTABLOUS beer, not only does it taste great but one of my favorite brewers created it (SirRon is my ultimate favorite). Two pints up to Sam and Dogfish Head for keeping it "off centered" ............ oak barrels... GENIUS!

sal·va·tion, n 1. deliverance from the power or penalty of sin; redemption. 2. The agent or means that brings about such deliverance.

In 2007, TwoPints and I tagged along with my parents and sister on a Santa Rosa, CA area wine trip. While I got schooled in some mind blowing wines (e.g. Pine Ridge, Verite, Havens, Lambert Bridge, and did I mention Verite?), I hooked the fam up with a scheduled visit and tour of the Russian River Brewing Company. While I had never had the pleasure of tasting a beer from Russian River (thank you TABC and the three tier system gangsters), I had brewed my own version of Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig (thanks B3).

Not only was Russian River a unanimous (near) favorite stop on a *wine* trip, it has got to be what every aspiring homebrewer wishes to achieve: World class beer, lively bar scene, exemplary brewery staff, and this crazy unusual idea that you can sell your own beer without the local Bud/Miller/Coors distributor involved. I brought one of everything they had in 750mL. We opened one tonight.

Day 2
May 12, 2009
Russian River Salvation
Batch 004

Website/Bottle Information:
This Belgian-style strong dark ale has a tawny brown color and strong notes of spice and candy sugar that dominate the initial aroma of the beer. Subtle malt flavors blend perfectly with fruit-driven characteristics created by the classic Belgian yeast used to ferment this ale.

The alcohol content is deceptively high, similar to its sister beer Damnation. 9.0%ABV / 1.081 O.G / 22 BUs

Silver Medal, 1999 World Beer Cup (Belgian Ale Category)

Available almost Year Round in the pub, and in 750mL cork finished bottles.

He Said:
This is a Belgian-style strong dark ale... and a good one. It has a great spice and candy sugar aroma and that fruity Belgian flavor. As an added bonus, its hefty, but nearly undetectable, 9% ABV is enough to get your eyelids buzzing. The first sip of this beer inspired a revelation. The Salvation experience can be compared (for the American craft beer drinker) to tasting a great pale ale after you've been stocking your fridge full of the hoppiest beers you could find. As it turns out, your beer doesn't have to kick your taste buds in the nads to be "good." Salvation provides this experience in the Belgo-American realm. I *love* me some Belgian pales, but clearly there is something to be said for some malty balance to that Belgian ale yeast flavor... and I'm board with it. I'm not saying to run out to your local liquor warehouse or watering hole and get the first dark Belgian you can find. Salvation Ale is possibly the best of its kind brewed here in the United States. Well done Vinnie!

She Said:
Let's start with HOLY CR@P! DELICIOUS!! This beer is OUTSTANDING. Okay I LOVE my shift key, can't help it, but seriously WOW!! I was way turned off to the coffee like color of the beer and didn't expect anything that would tantalize my buds. Then I took my first sip and Good Gravy Baby, it was AWESOME. (Did I mention I LOVE the SHIFT KEY?) So back to the beer. This is a dark Belgian and it was so tasty that I was disappointed to have to share the bottle with SirRon. Salvation has a rich chocolaty/coffee taste to it that is begging for another sip. Those of you that know me know I'm not big when it comes to chocolate, but for some delicious reason I couldn't get enough SALVATION. It HAS to be a sin to drink an entire bottle of this beer, so I guess pints up to SirRon for saving me or should I say for being my Salvation (Ha, you didn't think I could work that into a funny, did you!?!? He Said: you called your own joke, no points). I can't recommend this beer enough. If you are fortunate enough to be cellaring one of these bottles, think long and hard before you open it because when it's gone it's gone and chances are you won't find it anywhere outside of the left coast. The dark rich flavors (I know I said it before) are DELICIOUS! Two Pints Up to Russian River Brewery, right now you guys are my HEROES! I wish I had more adjectives for FANTASTIC (oh there's another one!). Thank you RRB... you ROCK. (Man I love the SHIFT KEY!)

In 2006, the U.S. Congress created American Craft Beer Week with the passage of House Resolution 753. To commemorate American Craft Beer Week, TwoPints and I are reaching into the cellar and opening up a good bottle of beer every day. To document the consumption of seven of my best bottles the seven bottles I have convinced myself I should open, we are also reaching back to one of our old beer journal techniques. We call it "He Said, She Said." In the journal, we'd each jot down our thoughts on the beverage at hand on adjacent pages... usually without the elitist terms like opalescent, rosewater, or lacing.

Enjoy, and Happy American Craft Beer Week!

Day 1
May 11, 2009
Allagash Grand Cru
Batch #20 (Winter '08-'09 release)

Website/Bottle Information:
Allagash Grand Cru is our winter seasonal. We brew this special, deep-golden colored beer each year in limited quantities. It has a full, yet refined malty palate and a gentle fruit and spice aroma, which will continue to mature and evolve over time when the beer is cellared. Enjoy Allagash Grand Cru by itself next to a warm fire, or as an accompaniment to pate, sausage, or a hearty lamb dish. Allagash Grand Cru is the perfect compliment to the cooler seasons!

Available in: 12 oz and 750 ml bottles, 5.17 and 15.5 gal kegs
ABV: 7.2%
Original Gravity: 1067
Recommended Cellaring Temp: 55°F
Recommended Serving Temp: 45 - 60°F

Suggested Food Pairings: Pair with full flavored, spicy entrées such as lobster or shrimp diavolo. Also excellent with curried dishes. For dessert pair with bread pudding, Indian pudding, carrot or spice cake.

He Said:
Aw man. I love this beer. Even before I became a true beer snob, Allagash Grand Cru was one of my favorite 750mL bottles. It turns out, Grand Cru isn't exactly a beer style, but in the U. S. it is usually used to describe a Belgian-style beer, usually brewed with spices. Allagash's version is a near perfect blend of spicy and malty. The smell... it's kind of a spicy, alcoholly heaven. This is pretty heavily carbonated and tastes great both cold and as it warms. As for Allagash's claim that it's a winter beer... I think the medium alcohol level (eeh, 7-ish), lively carbonation, and balanced flavors make it a pretty good warm weather beer. Take that!

She Said:
Allagash Grand Cru, to me, is not a beer you would pick up on a hot summer day. Because of the spiciness, I'm reminded of winter time beers. This makes perfect sense, as I'm told that is how they market it (He Said: you'll find a snow flake right there on the label). I love the bubbles bouncing around with every sip. Not my favorite type of Belgian but great tasting none-the-less. Every beer drinker has their "it" flavor, Allagash Grand Cru just misses the mark for me. The beer is just a little to heavy and serious for my taste. No way would I push it away if offered to me, but not my "go to" beer of choice. It's good, try it!

Editor's note: Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 3 of this investigation

Another research sortie took place last week to Minute Maid Park. Previous research had raised some additional questions and proved to be incomplete.

First order of business is that I need to retract one charge of shenanigans on Minute Maid Park. I had previously declared that some of the craft beers were $9 at the upper level, but $8 at the lower level. This proved to be untrue, the sign next to the stand did not apply to the craft beers. Craft beers appear to be $8 for 23 oz. at all levels.

However, a new charge of shenanigans needs to be levied. At the same stand that SirRon got a $10 St. Arnold (23 oz) on opening day, I received the same for $8. As front line Minute Maid employees are involved in the process, the blame presumably lies there. Either the vendor on opening day overcharged, or the vendor this week undercharged. Hopefully the former. There is a secondary shenanigans charge as a result, $8 now gets two different quantities of St. Arnold on the lower (20 oz) vs. upper (23 oz) levels. Maybe they figure us po' folk up top need a bit more beer for our $?

Before I delve into more CPMMO analysis, another issue needs to be brought above the table. The one (1) upstairs craft beer stand still has "line issues". The Cubs/Astros game I attended was light on fans, but the line still took one full half inning, and part of another. With only 5 people in line in front of me. The problem is plastic. Everyone that was charging beers was slowing the vendor down 1-2 minutes per transaction as she was not equipped to just swipe and go, she had to wait for the whole thing and get the receipt signed. The lady in front of me and I had cash, pour & transaction time reduced to ~60 seconds. Otherwise it was 2-3 minutes for each (x 5 people = 15 minutes). As a PSA, please, please bring a little cash to Minute Maid to grease the skids here. As a second note, Cubs fans almost universally seemed to love their Bud/Miller products, shunning the vastly superior St. Arnold and slightly superior other options. Minute Maid should add an auxiliary stand for the 24 oz. cans (we used to have one behind Section 328, but it seems to have been rolled into this one bottleneck stand).

In other research, the following price schemes were discovered/clarified:

1) 24 oz can poured in a cup in upper is $9 for Bud/Miller, $10 for premium (which I didn’t see any brands out as an option, typically it has been Shiner or Corona in previous years)

2) Pregame Big Bamboo special verified 12 oz.

3) $7.50 draft at standard concession stand is 23 oz. Ziegenbock is one of the options at certain stands.

4) $5 (“small”) draft at standard concession stand “looked like” 12 oz.

5) Bottles are only 16 oz, I think only $7.50 (need to look at the vendors button next game).

This sets the CPMMO (Cents Per Minute Maid Ounce) board as follows:
Italics = No longer available
Bold = J.R. Ewing Recommends

31 CPMMO: Ziegenbock/Bud/Miller at Larry's Big Bamboo - pregame only
32 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Ziegenbock 23 oz. draft (all levels)
35 CPMMO: Sam/Shock/Drop Top/Shiner(?) 23 oz. draft (all levels)
35 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 23 oz. cup (second week of May)
38 CPMMO: Bud/Miller 24 oz. cans
40 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 20 oz cup (lower levels)
42 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Ziegenbock 12 oz. "small" draft
42 CPMMO: Premium 24 oz. cans
42 CPMMO: 2005 World Series Mug* 24 oz. (Bud/Miller draft)
43 CPMMO: St. Arnold in 23 oz. cup (Opening Day "SirRon special")
47 CPMMO: Bud/Miller/Coors 16 oz. plastic bottles
56 CPMMO:: St. Arnold in 12 oz. bottle poured into cup

* Mug was collectable, retail value at least $2, knocking price down to 33 CPMMO.

Future work needs to be placed in finding what 24 oz. costs $10 (according to signs) and general Shiner availability. One fan was seen purchasing a St. Arnold in a bottle at Larry's Little Bamboo upstairs as well. Dos Equis is available downstairs, and the options at Lefty's Pub needs to be fully vetted.

Update 5/8/09 10:08AM - 2009 DRAUGHT COMPLETE!

It's time folks. The Anything Mock Draught is just what you might expect... a satirical draft mocking mock drafts. Our "league" happens to be drinking related items and topics.

The draft will go 3 rounds, and the order has been set. Check back often to view the results as they come in.

Round 1

1. Two Pints - Belgium

Belgian beer, whose origins date back to the middle ages, comprises the most stylistically diverse national collection of quality beer in the world. With over 450 standard varieties of beer coming out of Belgium, I'll have plenty of choices to go with those fries w/ mayo, or chocolates, or waffles...

About 100L of beer is consumed per Belgian per year! That is over 211 fair pint pours per year for those of you in Oregon.

2. J. R. Ewing - Oktoberfest

I also scouted Western Europe heavily. It's hard not to, with such ripe talent across all TheFerm categories. While Belgium is strong, my #1 prospect remained on the board. October has always been a favorite month of mine. It happens to contain my mother and wife's birthdays and my own anniversary. The Texas-OU game is always played in October, Halloween is one heck of a holiday. And who doesn't look good in lederhosen?. The weather begins to turn mild, and the beer is as good as it gets. Therefore, with the second pick in the inaugural TheFerm anything draft, J.R. Ewing selects...Oktoberfest.

3. SirRon - Charlie Papazian

Sometimes being "The Man" is a good thing. Charlie was the founder of the Association of Brewers and the American Homebrewers Association. Charlie also founded the Institute for Brewing Studies, Brewers Publications, the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, and Zymurgy magazine. If you are a homebrewer, then you also are sure to have a copy of the homebrewing bible Charlie wrote, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Today, when he's not being the coolest homebrewer and beer drinker in the world, he is lending his time as the President of the Brewers Association of America.

But it is Charlie's motto that keeps me calm during hectic brew days... so I thank him most for that... "Relax, don't worry--have a homebrew!"

4. Mr. Smokey Pants - The Norris Family

We've had a place, an event, and a person...what's left but a thing. But naw, I'm not going there. Even though there are worthy candidates (The Whitis Cabin Beer Fridge, Norris Honeymoon Cigars, Chicken Wings, Michelob) and G$ kinda stole my category, I'm sticking with the #1 on my board. The only thing better than actual beer drinking: drinking buds. I considered Jerry Seinfeld, the Most Interesting Man in the World, Mark Twain, Matt Maloney, and Major Applewhite, but they all pale in comparison to The Norris Family. So peeps, I've taken a people, including their blood relatives (like the Whitis fam) and relatives by marriage (like the Arevalo fam). I get Greg (who'd take a bullet for me if we get in trouble), Amanda (who keeps us out of trouble), Mad P n' Ollie (for entertainment), Kyle (who I won't allow to take us to anymore aggie parties), Katy (and her impressive liver), Leslie (and her average tribond skeelz), Mike & Ruby (sophisticated wino travelers), Arnold and Rita Marie (who seriously know how to part-tay). They created the pick'em league, this blog, this Draught, and tasty homebrews. They introduced me to Guerras, BW3, NTN, Michelob, Iron Chef, Grolsch, etc. And they are the only reason I survived law school. I was going to just take G$, but that would be I've taken his entire family! Ha ha!! You are all mine!!! When imbibing, the occasion is 80-90% of the time improved by drinking buds. So, in the Anything world of The Ferm, when I'm drinking and need drinking buds I'll always have my choice of The Norris Family. For example, if I'm trying to shark some intruders in our world at darts or pool, I'll definitely conjure up Mike. Or, if I run into some current or former Longhorns in our world and need inside knowledge, I can go to Teach, or her alumni-band cousins. But most of the time when I'm just knockin back a few, I need a gamer to hang with or some old skool raps to nod my head to...BOOM! I'll order up G$. And I'll never be lacking for good drinking conversations. Maybe I'll remember a few in that world...

5. K-Dub - Yeast

Yeasty joys.
Micro organic beastie boys.
They are a zymurgist’s toys.
Fermentation’s beauty.
Eating carbs are their duty.
Ethanol and CO2 they pooty.
Asexually reproductive.
Subjectively the reason to live.
Byproduct always seductive.
That's yeast y'all.

6. Leslie - Gary Vaynerchuk

He’s the host of Wine Library TV. He eats grass, licks rocks, and smells dirty socks all in the name of wine-love. That’s true love.

Round 2

7. Two Pints - Sam Calagione
I sure didn’t want to disappoint anyone, and I’m positive my pick of Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head will not come as a shock. Not only is Sam an incredible craft brewer, he represents craft beers with style and dignity. May the Beer Gods continue to bless Sam Calagione and his brewery so that we “off-centered people” have more craft brews to fill our tanks!

Ode to Sam

Liquid off-centered
The craft is strong with this one
Sexy Sam’s the man.

8. J. R. Ewing - Body Shots
Taking the draft a different direction and rounding out the categories over to "spirits". What high school prepster doesn't aspire to go to college for the sole purpose of sucking, licking, kissing various consumables off a willing co-ed? That's right, it's time for a little salt, followed by a tequila shot (preferably Jose Cuervo, although too often Pepe Lopez), then a wedge of lime or lemon. With the 8th pick in the inaugural anything draught, J.R. Ewing selects...Body Shots. It's as American as Apple Pie, Beer Pong, and Elvis Presley. But in the case of Body Shots, you get an excuse to acquaint your lips with the anatomy of a nubile hottie.

9. SirRon - B Vitamins

Here's the skinny. When the body metabolizes alcohol, one molecule of ethanol produces 2 molecules of NADH. Elementary, right? Well, until it steals that vitamin B12 and uses it as a coenzyme. Drink a lot (i.e. metabolize a lot of ethanol) and you'll find yourself with a vitamin B12 deficiency. But pop a B-complex vitamin before, during, and after your session, and you could literally drink ALL. NIGHT. LONG........ and only have all the other side effects of drinking to worry about. After the draught, I'm taking B vitamins out for a little celebratory partying... whoo!

10. Mr. Smokey Pants - Mos Eisley Cantina

So I've got my drinking buds... where to now. Not Belgium, dammit. We need a bar. Not just any bar. We need the greatest bar in the universe. I had to travel the entire galaxy working out draught picks. That's gonna be one helluva expense report. But when I wandered into the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine, the decision was made. I hung with Han, kicked Luke in his female parts ("But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!"), high-fived Ben, played holographic board games with my bro Chewie, and blasted a couple nerf herders...half-witted, scruffy looking bastards. Then I chilled out to the freaky tunes of Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes.

This pick is a tribute nerds everywhere and one of my favorite subjects... flicks. It's also an homage to my LSMSA nickname. In closing, here's some beer haiku from far far away:

Pirate city bar.
No droids. No blasters. Greedo
gets his. Han shot first.
Arms out of sockets...
Wookies are known to do that.
Let the Wookie win.

11. K-Dub - Michael Jackson
(Not the one with the singing career)

Michael Jackson was best known for his writings on all things beer, but he was also an avid whiskey aficionado. In fact he has been the author of many books such as "The World Guide to Whiskey", "Great Beers of Belgium", "Ultimate Beer" and "Scotland and its Whiskies." Although this homes was a Brit, he has been quoted with saying, "...I would prefer to celebrate the most interesting of American beers, some of which have more flavour than anything made ." He was especially fond of Rogue Brewery in Newport, but then again, who isn't? Although it has never been confirmed, I'm pretty sure that SirRon and I saw Mr. Jackson at the GABF 2005.

Unfortunately for Planet Earth he passed away in August 2007, the man suffered from Parkinson's and diabetes, but his soul lives on in his writings and now in the Draught.

12. Leslie - Tailgating

There's nothing like the combination of college football, autumn air, and daytime drunkenness. Tailgating is the true fans' ode to their team, salute to the game, and celebration of everything culinary that can be transported in a cooler. It is my second round pick and quite possibly my favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Round 3

13. Two Pints -
Randall the Enamel Animal
The Randall, a Dogfish Head invention, is described on their website as "an organoleptic hop transducer module. A three-foot-long, cylinder-filter packed with a half a pound of whole leaf hops that we affix to the beer line leaving a keg."

If you haven't already, you've just got to try it! SirRon and I have had the privilege of trying an "off centered" 90 Minute IPA that was filtered through the Randall at the Dogfish Rehoboth Beach brewpub. If you like hops, and oh boy do I like hops, this is the invention for you!

I am thrilled to choose the Randall the Enamel Animal as my final pick in the 2009 Mock Draught. TwoPints Out!!

14. J. R. Ewing -
The Alley on King of the Hill
Much like Mr. Smokey Pants, I'll be looking for a more regular place to drink November - September. With Mos off the board, need to look a little more local. Look no further than Arlen, TX. With the 14th overall pick in the Inaugural Mock Draught, J.R. Ewing selects...the Alley on King of the Hill. With this pick, I acquire four permanent drinking buddies in Bill, Dale, Hank, and Boomhauer.

Upon hearing of his selection, Boomhauer had the following to say "I tell you what, man, you see the page where dang ol' SirRon & TwoPints come in there and he's talkin' 'bout bacon and she Sam and Mr. SmokeyPants comes poppin' in there, he always does that. Them Ferm boys, I tell you what...just a dang ol' good blog, man'. "

15. SirRon - Food Pairings
Which comes first, the drink or the food? Pairing a Cabernet Sauvignon with that mustard glazed lamb or a Stout with that salmon can take the eating experience from an "I'll just eat this until I get full" experience to something like Remy's magical fireworks scene in Ratatouille. Food pairing isn't an exact science, which is a good thing for those of us that like to experiment.

My fondest festival memories often tend to be the pairing sessions, whether it be GAFB, the Texas Craft Brewery Festival (someone please, *please* bring this back!), or the upcoming SAVOR event in Washington D.C. (which TwoPints and I will be attending this year). The outstanding pairings prepared by the Texas Culinary Academy at the Texas Craft Brewery Festival inspired me to host my own food and beer pairing (two sessions of consisting of four courses prepared by a variety of guests).

So here's the opening up the cellar and planning that next menu. And here's to finding that pairing that takes a funky and stinky piece of cheese and turns it into the greatest thing you have ever put in your mouth (hint: science is science.... it probably won't be a wine... but I'll sure as heck be around for some testing!).

16. Mr. Smokey Pants - Happy Hour

When you've conquered space, what’s next... I'll tell you what's next: TIME! Boom, drafted. Happy hour. It gets you through week. It helps you tolerate work. Everything is cheap. And everyone is looking to unwind. You might get some good sports and tasty bites. Best part about it, it's always five o'clock somewhere... in my pants!

17. K-Dub - Belgo-American Style Beers
Well if I can’t have Belgium, I’ll pick the next best thing, the entire style of Belgo-American Style Beers. That’s right, we’re talking Allagash Brewery, Lost Abbey, Russian River, Dogfish Head and New Belgium just to name a few. Sure, even some of the Big Three (Bud/Miller/Coors) have their crappy versions of these beers (Shock Top, Blue Moon, etc.) but they’ll have to wait on the bench while Damnation, Red & White and La Folie lay down some craft brewing smack.

18. Leslie
- Lone Star Puzzle Caps

Good beer is not hard to come by around here, but sometimes you just want a taste of home. Distribution laws keep most (decent) Texas beers out of the New York. I suppose the assumption was that no one really drinks Lonestar so they let it sneak through the system. Cheap and dirty beer -- yum. Of course, they charge about what it costs for a six pack for each bottle so I guess that leaves me with just dirty. The trick is to only drink Lonestar at this one BBQ restaurant in Chelsea that serves Blue Bell Ice Cream. It's a taste profile that only a displaced Texan could love. A bucket, a scoop, and a few puzzle caps -- home sweet home.

I'm a passing this recent email from the Brewer's Association to The Ferm readers. If you live in Texas, please contact your representative (even if they are not listed below) and pledge your support to this cause.

May 7, 2009

Dear Texas Beer Activist,

The small brewers of Texas have asked for your help in moving HB 2094 (pdf of bill), which would authorize certain brewers and manufacturers to conduct tours of their premises after which tour attendees would be allowed to purchase a six pack or a case of beer for off-premise consumption.

Small Texas breweries believe passing this legislation is critical for their continued growth and success as it would enable them to ultimately sell more Texas craft beer through the distribution system. Increased sales would benefit brewers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers. The bill would also allow Texas small breweries to compete fairly with out-of-state small breweries that have the same rights in their home states.

HB 2094 is now before the House Committee on Calendars, which determines if and when bills are sent to the House floor for a vote. With the legislative session ending in 2 weeks, it is extremely important to let the members of the Committee on Calendars know of your support for expeditiously moving this bill to the full House for a vote. Following is a list of committee members – please follow their individual links for contact information and call or email today!

Brian McCall, Chair - Plano
Eddie Lucio, Vice Chair - Brownsville
Norma Chávez - El Paso
Garnet Coleman - Houston
Byron Cook - Corsicana
Brandon Creighton - Conroe
Charlie Geren - Fort Worth
Jim Keffer - Eastland
Lois Kolkhorst - Brenham
Edmund Kuempel - Seguin
Jim McReynolds - Lufkin
Alan Ritter - Nederland
Burt Solomons - Carrollton

Due to the short time remaining in the legislative session, we are also asking you to call or email your State Representative at this time to express your support for HB2094 in anticipation that the bill will move to the House floor for a vote. To find contact information for your State Representative go to , enter your address and look for the State Representative listing.

Thank you for your support of Texas small brewers and for increased consumer access to craft beer.

Charlie Papazian
Charlie Signature

Brewers Association

Gary Glass
Gary Signature
American Homebrewers Association
888.822.8273 x 121

My beautiful wife and I went to Belgium and Germany on our honeymoon back in September, I know, she's cool. Part of our trip was to spend some time in Brussels which is home to a famous true Lambic brewery, Cantillon Brewery, or Brasserie Cantillon Brouwerij as the locals would call it. In fact it's the only true lambic brewery in Brussels. And if you ever get the chance to visit get your taste buds ready because these famous sour ales will make your face implode. That's right, I'm talking bitter beer face at its most awesome-ness, but in a good way, trust me.

The Brewery
The brewhouse is something out of a time machine, steam powered belt driven mash stirring thingy, old red copper brewing equipment, cast iron beer filter and so on. Now if you've ever been to a craft brewer in the states I must warn you that Cantillon is a far cry from the cleanliness level you might have seen before. And that's saying something since alot of craft breweries here in the states are based in a freaking warehouse. Cob webs with spiders all over the place, dusty and muggy throughout the wooden structure that is the brewery. All of this are things that the lambic brewer wants, because it is the environment that dictates how the end beer will finish out.

What is a Lambic?
Now being a true lambic brewer comes with some responsibility and, I guess, regulations. First and formost there is no brewer inoculation of yeast into the prepared wort, instead the near boiling wort is transferred to a cool ship. The cool ship is pretty big which allows a large surface area for the wort to cool overnight. When cooled down the naturally occuring airborne yeast and bacteria begin to attack the sugars in the cooled wort. From here the brewer pumps this now fermenting beer into old wood barrels that have been used in the brewery for a long long time. In fact, there is supposed to be dormant yeast and bacteria in the barrel from what beer used to be in that barrel. This dormant stuff is what, in part, is said to give lambic brews their house character. As a side note the brewers at Cantillon only make wort between October and April, that's because during other parts of the year the naturally occuring yeast and bacteria are different and will result in a product that is less desirable.

The Beverage
Unless you get a bottle of straight lambic you will most likely end up with a blended beverage. The brewer does this because no two batches of lambic will result in the same flavor profile. Because of this the brewer will blend two or more batches together to try and get some consistancy in their product, similar to what wineries do. Before you take a quaff, prepare yourself during the first few sips, they will be quite sour. After your palate adjusts to the sour sit back and enjoy some of the most unique beer from Belgium.

Lambic Fakers
Belgium isn't immune to the "wine cooler crowd," there are fake lambics out there that you need to avoid. An example, in my opinion is Lindemans, these super sweetened lambics are most definately made for the masses. Cantillon lambics on the other hand are not sweetened after fermentation which results in a dry, refreshing product. Another sign of a fake lambic are the ones made with fruit that is not typical of Europe. Banana and Strawberry lambics are a dead give away, they will almost always be super sweet versions of a lambic beer, and give you a tummy ache if you drink more than one. Take it from me, a Mort Subite Extreme lambic I had in Belgium was like drinking candy, and it was awful. Other Mort Subite products are good, the Extreme line is the "wine cooler" type of lambic. A true lambic is something that can be drank in quantity and not result in a candy headache.

Final Thoughts
In today's world most everything is driven by the uh in this case....euro. At Cantillon the owners are much more interested in making a product that is true to it's roots and avoiding the "what's hot now" attitude. While the owners want to make money and keep the business going, it seems like they understand that true lambic brewing isn't going to make them rich. At least that was my take after speaking with our tour guide. The process of lambic brewing takes up alot of real estate and it takes a long time to produce, around three years at a minimum. As a point of reference, a normal strength ale (~5% Alcohol) from a homebrewer's standpoint can go from grain to glass in about four to five weeks, and sometimes faster. The tour was greatness and I hope that if you get a chance in your life to visit Brussels you can swing by this historic brewery that makes those sour ales. A Votre Sante Ya'll.