Saturday, November 5, 2016

2016 Brewery upgrades!

In the spring I added a Wort Grant to the brewery and in the summer I insulated my lager fermenter, in the fall I resurfaced the floor of the cellar and reorganize it.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cantillon temporarily stop production!

Climate change blamed for putting Belgium beer business at risk

Unusually warm autumns mean traditional open air brewing can no longer take place causing concern for artisan brewers
A leading Belgian artisan brewer said Tuesday he had been forced to temporarily halt production because of an unusually warm autumn, blaming climate change for his business losing its fizz.

The Cantillon craft brewery in Brussels traditionally allows its spontaneously fermenting sour lambic beers to cool in the open from the end of October, but this year after a brief start they have had to stop again.
“We had to pour away three brews for today, Thursday and next Monday because the nighttime temperatures are currently at between 10 and 15 C (50 -59 F), which is far too warm,” boss Jean Van Roy told AFP.

Like many breweries in this beer-obsessed country, Cantillon, which produces around 400,000 bottles a year and receives 50,000 visitors, uses old-fashioned methods to produce its beers.
Lambic spontaneously ferments in wooden vats and produces a very sour, flat beer that later acts as the base for a fizzier Gueuze that ferments further in bottles.

It is also used as the base for Kriek, the famed Belgian cherry beer.

Tradition dictates that the fermentation mixture must be left to cool “in the open air so that it is naturally infused with the wild yeasts present in the air”, said Van Roy, whose great grandfather founded the brewery in 1900.

“Ideally it must cool at between minus 3C and 8C. But climate change has been notable in the last 20 years. My grandfather 50 years ago brewed from mid-October until May – but I’ve never done that in my life, and I am in my 15th season.”
The brewing period is getting shorter every year, he added.
“Last year we didn’t start until November 10,” he said, adding that they never go past the end of March. “I adapt because I don’t have any option, but obviously it’s a shame.”
Van Roy said he now feared for the future of his business.
“We only have five months to brew and our production is very limited. If we lose a week we can survive but three weeks or more would be more complicated.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Southeast Asia Beer

Beer In Southeast Asia: A Matter Of Taste

Southeast Asia is currently experiencing one of the fastest growth rates in beer consumption in the world, according to a study by market researcher Euromonitor.
By Arno Maierbrugger

Why? Mainly because it’s so hot, say those who enjoy a cold beer to wash down spicy food at stalls and open-air restaurants between Bangkok and Manila.

Certainly. But this is not the only reason. The world’s top beer-drinking nations include the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Ireland and Poland, and it’s not too hot there.
The main reason why Southeast Asia’s citizen are gulping more booze is the growth in the number of young people with higher disposable income in recent years. There is a clear correlation between the consumption of beer and economic dynamics, let alone Western influence through the growing influx of tourists, Western-style restaurants and international beer brands. All this lets Southeast Asian people turn away from their traditional distillates, be it rice whiskey in Thailand, arrack in Indonesia or various sugar cane or coconut brews elsewhere.
The survey also found that beer is increasingly being consumed in times of prosperity, while people were seeking solace in cheap domestic liquor during harder times in the past.

Asia overtook Europe and the Americas in beer consumption already in 2007. In 2011, the continent drank 67 billion liters of beer, against 57 billion in the Americas and 51 billion in Europe, according to the latest available figures by Euromonitor. The survey predicts that beer consumption is expected to grow 4.8 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region each year up to 2016.
The top beer-drinking nation in ASEAN is
Vietnam. Vietnamese drinkers downed 2.6 billion liters of beer in 2011, followed by Thailand with 1.8 billion liters and the Philippines with 1.6 billion liters, nearly double the total amount of beer consumed in Indonesia (236.4 million liters), Malaysia (171.4 million), Cambodia (136.3 million), Laos (134.3 million), Singapore (108.2 million) and Myanmar (30.4 million). No figures were available for Brunei where no alcohol is officially sold, but certain restaurants in the small Chinese quarter in Bandar Seri Begawan would serve booze in tea cups upon request at unknown volumes.
For expats and travelers the question arises which beers in Southeast Asia are the most satisfying for the discerning palate.

Below is a sample of beers I tried during my trip to Southeast Asia in September 2016:

Singha Beer- Country of origin: Thailand
 - Alcohol volume: 5%
 - Style: Lager

Chang Beer
 - Country of origin: Thailand
 - Alcohol volume: 6.4%
 - Style: Pale lager

Tiger Beer
 - Country of origin: Singapore  - 
Alcohol volume: 5% 
 - Style: Lager

Mandalay Strong Ale Beer 
- Country of origin: Myanmar
  - Alcohol volume: 6.5%
 - Style: English Strong Ale (this one is my favorite).

Myanmar Beer - Country of origin: Myanmar
 - Alcohol volume: 5%
 - Style: American Adjunct Lager.

In September 2016 I found an average of two brand of beer served in Myanmar and Thailand, and some places you could find Heinenken, Tuborg and/or Carlsberg ! (no signs of Interbrew (ABI)).

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Craft Beer’s Looming Crisis

Find out if your favorite local or national craft brand is in danger of disappearing.
By Lew Bryson is the author of Tasting Whiskey: An Insider's Guide to the Unique Pleasures of the World's Finest Spirits and former managing editor of Whiskey Advocate magazine.

You may want to grab a barstool before you hear this: Craft beer has some very serious issues.
While things certainly seem bubbly on the surface for the category—years of double-digit sales growth have led to a large increase in brands and an overwhelming selection of IPAs, stouts, saisons, and just about every other conceivable type of beer on store shelves—growth is slowing, putting pressure on the industry. What makes matters worse is that breweries are still opening at a rapid pace around the country and unfortunately, many of those bottles on the shelves are old or have gone bad.
And there is also the fact that fruit beers are flooding the market, which is truly a sign of the apocalypse. (Mango IPA, anyone?) This will not end well.
You might be tempted to dismiss these warning signs and order yourself another pint of your favorite cask-conditioned session brew. Don’t. This is not a prediction, it’s a replay. These events, commonly referred to by people in the business as “The Shakeout,” happened before, in 1996. Some of the bigger brewers went out of business, others were bought by competitors, and sales of craft beer—the term that was then just beginning to replace the word “microbrew”—went flat for five years.

There is increasing speculation (and worry) that the bubble will burst again.

The main concern is that despite the hype around craft beer, its rapid growth may have peaked. Thanks to an explosive decade, where the category went from representing under 4 percent of total beer volume in the U.S. to more than 12 percent in 2015, sales during the first half of 2016 were considerably slower.
At the same time, expansion continues unchecked: Roughly three new breweries a week opened in 2015 alone. The Brewers Association, the category’s official organization, has called for increased quality control, with director Paul Gatza citing beers that “were not good.”
And then there are all those fruit beers. “The signs you point out are humorous, but also serious,” admits Bill Covaleski, co-founder of Victory Brewing in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, which he opened in early 1996 as things started shaking the first time. He remains bullish as long as “everyone spends their money wisely, on quality control and assurance.”

But will everyone spend money wisely? Will young brewers, who may have been in grade school in 1996, learn the lessons of the last correction?
I hope so. Fortunately, the industry has always had a strong tradition of cooperative competition, sharing information and experience among brands. Plus, the Brewers Association has invested in setting up quality assurance standards. “If [new brewers] aren’t paying attention to them, they’re foolish,” says Covaleski.

New brewers may actually have an advantage, the same one their predecessors had over the mainstream brewers: fresh ideas paired with a quick decision cycle. And as consumers become increasingly interested in locally-made products, there has been a rise in beer bought in brewery tasting rooms, which is much more profitable for a brand considering it cuts out several middlemen from the transaction.

So much beer is purchased there, in fact, that some people think category sales are significantly under-reported by retail sales-tracking services like IRI or Nielsen, which rely on register data from large store chains. Industry consultant David “Bump” Williams, who once ran IRI’s beer data division, thinks the amount is significant. He estimates that 20 percent or more of total craft beer sales go unreported. (He also points out that for some small breweries, meaning those that produce less than 20,000 barrels a year, direct sales are the only way their brews are available.) It’s a rapidly growing phenomenon, and one that could very well account for a percentage of the disappearing growth rate.
But even if one figures in direct brewery sales, the recent meteoric rise of craft beers can’t go on forever. If sales of the category continued at 2015’s rate of 12.8 percent, the entire U.S. beer market would be, well, completely craft in 17 years. That’s simply not going to happen.

At some point, things must slow down. When that will happen is anybody’s guess, but it will probably be between six months and three years from now. The magnitude of the downturn, however, is harder to predict. Some of the businesses are in good shape, but too many are undercapitalized or overextended. There is a lot of money flowing into the industry, but not all of it is backed with due diligence.
“I feel that it’s not going to be widespread, but there’s going to be some bloodletting,” says Covaleski. “It was personal back [in 1996], because there were so few of us. We knew each other. This time around, there will be more people affected.” But, as it was 20 years ago, the change will be a correction, and the surviving brewers will have the opportunity to grow into large national brands. Unfortunately, we could lose as many as 500 breweries in the process, though eventually the industry will emerge even healthier—just like it did the first time around.

How can you tell if your local or favorite brewer is in trouble? It won’t be easy. Some of those that fell the hardest in the Shakeout were riding high. Some crashed because of bad management, some because of bad business models and some simply failed to respond to changes in taste, like a sudden shift away from sweet raspberry-flavored beers.

Brewers that will survive will have some common traits. The winners will be deeply enmeshed in their local markets and locked in with their communities. Equally important, their bottled or canned beers will still taste great at least three months after packaging. They won’t discount. When they come out with new beers, they will be leaders, not followers, with innovative, original ideas.
And just maybe there will be less fruit beer, but that remains to be seen.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cherry beer

Ballaton Cherries
Before the second world war there were about 40 000 acres of cherry orchards in Britain. These were mainly in Kent, Worcestershire and Herefordshire.The past 50 years however 90 % of these cherry orchards have disappeared.
The labour was very intensive as the trees were very high, too high to cover the crop from the birds. I were mostly women who harvested the cherries on high ladders with baskets tied to their waists.
Grand Traverse
To tackle this problem nowadays and to revive cherry growing, dwarf plants are planted to replace the towering trees. The dwarf trees are covered with netting so the birds can't steal the crop and the orchard has a maximum yield.

Grand Traverse

Britain however is not the only country in danger of loosing their native fruit, in Belgium you can't even get Belgian cherries in the supermarket. You find them rarely at the market. A lot of cherry growers in Belgium leave their crop rot on the trees because it's too expensive to pick them for the price they will get for them. Such a shame that the most famous 'Schaerbeekse cherry' has been lost for ever, this was the variety used for the typical Belgian cherry beer. Instead of finding another Belgian cherry, most of the breweries choose to import the cherries from Poland. Only a small number of cherries used for the beer today are Belgian.

Slabtown Kriek is made with Ballaton cherries from the Grand Traverse area. I hope that what happened in England and Belgium is not going to happen in Michigan !

Stop by at Café Anvers for a taste of my Cherry beers "Slabtow Kriek" and "Flanders Kriek"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wort Grant (new equipment)

Lauter grant or wort grant:
Old fashion Wort Grant
When using a pump to move wort from the lauter/mash tun to the kettle, it is easy to pull liquid from the tun faster than the grain bed wants it to flow, compacting the bed and causing a stuck runoff. Aside from being a large pain, a stuck runoff can also damage the pump (magnetically coupled pumps can be damaged if run dry).

A lauter grant is simply a vessel that collects the wort from the lauter/mash tun. The pump is plumbed directly to the lauter grant instead of the lauter/mash tun. Gravity gently pulls the wort from the lauter/mash tun, thus minimizing compression of the grain bed. A float switch is used to turn the pump on when the grant is full.

My Wort Grant side view
My Wort Grant top view

Advantages of using a wort grant:
1. It acts as buffer tank between lauter/mash tun and wort kettle.
2. It gives positive suction to transfer pump (full flow)
3. Main advantage of later grant is: it avoid choking bed. as it avoid choking of bed, brewer will get maximum clear extract in less time.
4. One can easily check gravity at any time.
5. maximum extract with high gravity.

My own design!

Thursday, June 9, 2016


The Duvel is in the detail
Author: Erik Verdonck
PUURS - Some beers are veritable icons and Duvel is certainly one of them. If you spot a tulip-shaped glass, even without the logo, you will have a good idea of what its contents might be.
This particular degustation glass goes all the way back to the ‘flower power’ era of the late 1960s.
It holds an entire 33cl bottle but don’t pour out the beer too quickly or it will just turn into airy foam.
The glass narrows towards the top and this helps to sustain the immense collar of froth.
The design is well thought out too. Look into the bottom of the glass. Can you spot the engraved ‘D’? It makes the carbon dioxide bubbles sparkle beautifully.
Artists and other creative people take Duvel to their hearts.
They share their idiosyncrasies with this character beer and a string of famous names have let their creative demons loose on the designs of Duvel Collector glasses.
Pouring a Duvel is also an art form in itself. You start off with a clean and dry glass at room temperature. Position the glass at an angle and avoid contact between the glass and the bottle.
Start pouring and continue to widen the distance between glass and bottle whilst pouring. Once finished, stand the glass upright to create the luxurious collar of froth.
The Duvel logo imprinted on the outside of the glass indicates the ideal point where the beer turns into froth.
The yeast at the bottom of the bottle accounts for the extra-bitter taste.
It is therefore recommended to not empty the bottle completely but to leave 1cm at the bottom to enjoy a beer with a great balance between a subtle bitterness and a delicate aroma.

90 Days
Duvel is brewed with the house yeast of Duvel Moortgat, pale malt, Saaz-Saaz and Styrian Golding
aroma hops. The beer has the freshness of a pils but has the fragrance and flavour of a specialty beer.
Duvel is a strong Belgian blonde beer (8.5% ABV) that re-ferments in the bottle.
You can taste a pleasant thirst quencher with a dry but still alcohol-sweet flavour, with a pronounced hop aroma. The beer surprises with the huge foam head, delicate sparkle and soft feel in the mouth.
The beer that ends up in your glass has been through an extra-long brewing and maturation period of 90 days.
Once bottled, the beer will re-ferment for a ten-day period in the brewery’s warm chambers (24°C). Finally it will stabilise for six weeks in the cold storage chambers (5°C).
A few years ago Duvel gained a sibling, the stronger Duvel Tripel Hop (9.5% ABV). The Duvel Tripel Hop – what’s in a name? – is brewed with three types of hop: Saaz-Saaz, Styrian Golding plus a third variety that varies from year to year.
The taste and aroma of a Duvel Tripel Hop is quite different from that of a Duvel. Fans of the original Duvel took some time to get used to it but now they look forward to the new edition of the Duvel Tripel Hop every year.

Duvel is a lady of a venerable age. She was born back in 1923. The beer is the fruit of a lengthy search for just the right ingredients. The first generation of the Moortgat family started brewing in 1871 and from the outset the brewers set the bar high.
Quality standards were self-imposed that were non-negotiable and quality was never to be compromised.
During the First World War, Belgium experienced the influence of Britain and the British ales that were popular at the time.
Brewer Albert Moortgat was inspired by this success story and decided to produce a craft beer based on the same model.
Albert only wanted to work with the very best ingredients. He made his way to Scotland in search of the ideal yeast strain.
To start with, he encountered much resistance from the local brewers.
In the end, Albert’s quest culminated at a small Scottish brewery where he found exactly what he was looking for. He was able to lay his hands on a sample of the yeast he had been coveting for so long.
Even to this day, the brewers are using yeast propagated from the same strain.
Albert Moortgat refused to stop experimenting until he got the recipe absolutely perfect.
Under the name of ‘Victory Ale’ this beer heralded the end of the First World War. It turned out to be surprisingly good.
At a tasting session with the village dignitaries, the beer released its devilish aromas.
This prompted shoemaker Van De Wouwer to exclaim: “This is a real Duvel (devil).”!!! You can taste all this history for yourself.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Belgian white (wit) beer has a unique cloudy-white appearance with very little bitterness, some spiciness, and a slightly sour/tart finish. There is a very light sweetness with soft, creamy feel that is not cloying or heavy. None of the flavours or aromas stand out, making for a light refreshing beer with a moderate alcohol level usually hovering around the 5% ABV mark. Wit beers are usually quite cloudy from starch haze, with a very light straw to light golden colour. It's a refreshing beer for hot summer days. 

Arguably the most popular commercial version of this beer is Hoegaarden, named after the village near Tienen in Flanders, which was the modern birthplace of Belgian white (wit) beer. Records of brewing in the village date back to 1445, when the local monks were enthusiastic brewers, but the tradition died out in the 1950s as consumer tastes moved towards different styles. 

Ten years later, Pierre Celis, a milkman who had grown up next to the brewery and sometimes helped with brewing, decided to try to revive the style. He started a new brewery, called de Sluis, in his hay loft. He used the traditional ingredients of water, yeast, wheat, hops, coriander, and dried bitter (Curaçao) orange peel. In the 1980s, with demand for the product continuing to grow, Celis bought a former lemonade factory, to expand his brewing operations. 

Things changed after a fire in 1985. As is traditional in Belgium, several brewers offered their help to keep the business going and Interbrew (now InBev) lent money for the purchase of other buildings to rebuild the brewery. Over time, Celis felt very strongly that the company used the loan to pressure him to change the recipe to make the beer more "mass market". So Celis decided to sell them the brewery and moved to the United States where he set up the Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas, to continue making witbier to what he described as the 'original' Hoegaarden recipe. It was later acquired by Miller Brewing who eventually closed the brewery and sold the equipment and brand names. 
Most Belgian Wit recipes will call for crushed coriander along with the zest of fresh (or dried) oranges. I find that much of the spicy flavour behind a Belgain Wit already comes from the yeast. 

Some recipes will also call for chamomile flowers as a reportedly "secret" ingredient that Celis used in the original Hoegaarden recipe. He debunked this in later interviews indicating that coriander and bitter orange peel was all that he ever used. 

Want to start a never-ending debate amongst brewers? Ask them if a Belgian Wit (or any other beer for that matter) should be served with a slice of lemon or orange. (There's no right or wrong answer) 

Slabtown Wit on draught at Café Anvers! Stop by for a wit!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Liquid heritage, Rodenbach Flemish red-brown sour ale

ROESELARE - The Rodenbach Flemish red-brown beer from Roeselare is part of Belgium’s liquid heritage. Eugène Rodenbach, its original brewer, drew his inspiration from the dark English porter beers,introduced to Belgium from 1812.
They were produced with a controlled souring process that increased their shelf life.
From this process was born mixed fermentation, in which the brewer blends young, top-fermented beer that has finished fermenting, with soured beer fermented in large foeder barrels.
“It’s the best of two worlds,” master brewer Rudi Ghequire says with a smile. “You add a young beer to tone down the sourness of the beer."
"While the lactic acid and acetic acid in the old brew safeguard your beer from harmful bacteria.”
We are strolling in Rodenbach’s impressive foeder hall, flanked by barrels that are several metres tall. No fewer than 294 foeders are lined up ready to do battle.
Every one of them is designed to allow in just the right amount of oxygen to fuel the microbes that convert organic acids into fruity esters. And it’s all thanks to the wood these barrels are made of.

"Oak not only imparts its own flavours – initially caramel and vanilla, later floral flavours – but are also watertight and relatively airtight, so that there’s a slow, steady inward flow of air and little leakage."
“The size of the barrel determines how long the beer takes to mature,”
Rudi explains. “It’s the ratio of the volume of fluid inside to the dimensions of the interior wall.”
The maturation process takes up to two years, each foeder ripening at its own pace and developing its own taste before the cellar master selects the most mature foeders and designs the ideal blend.

As a rule, a Rodenbach will contain one-quarter old, matured beer and three-quarters young beer. But each is different. For example: Grand Cru is

made with a blend of two-thirds old beer to one-third young.
“Did you know that red-brown beers have a history going back to the early Middle Ages?” Rudi asks.
“In those days, hops weren’t used to extend the shelf life of a beer."
"But beers containing lactic and acetic acid (which taste sour and sharp) could be stored for longer."
"This gave rise to the tradition of ‘soured beers’, made by blending young, fermented beer with old, mature beer.”
Rodenbach owes its red-brown colour to roast caramel malts.
Not only do these malts lend the beer its colour, they also ensure that the beer oxidises at a slower pace.
The beer is brewed using Double Target variety hops from Poperinge - both adding aroma and promoting sustainable production - ground maize to promote a full-in-the-mouth taste and water from Rodenbach’s own well.
“The use of these ingredients – the malt, the herbs, the hops – can produce off flavours during fermentation or maturation,” Rudi explains. “This is why we taste our beers at every stage of the brewing process.”
We happily follow Rudi’s advice and sample a three-month-old Rodenbach followed by one that is 20-months old and poured straight from the foeder.
The younger beer has aromas of grapefruit and citrus and has a dry taste.
The more mature beer is fruity but sour (from the acetic acid) with hints of green apple.
Rudi himself describes the taste as “three-dimensional”: slightly sour, full-mouthed and dry. Rodenbach is quite similar to wine. It is no coincidence that its pH is 3.5, just the same as wine. The amount of bitterness from the hops is deliberately kept below the taste threshold.
Mature and Complex
“We only need the hop to produce a stable collar of froth, but we never allow it to dominate,” Rudi explains. “Rodenbach makes for a fine aperitif and goes beautifully with a meal."
This slightly sour beer stimulates the appetite and aids digestion. It relaxes the stomach muscles and opens them up to enjoy the meal.”
The Rodenbach range increases in complexity, starting with the classic Rodenbach, a fresh and fruity thirst-quencher.
Rodenbach Grand Cru contains beer that has matured on oak for two years.
It is multi-faceted and intensely fruity with a very long finish.
Rodenbach Vintage is a superior Grand Cru, matured for two years in one specially selected barrel.
The Rodenbach Caractère Rouge will continue to mature for another six months with of fresh, sour krieken cherries, raspberries and cranberries.
Finally there is also the refreshing and light Rodenbach Rosso. Launched in 2014, the beer matures with full-bodied berry fruits and boasts an ABV of
only 4%.
Staying True to its Roots
I ask Rudi how Rodenbach has stayed so true to its roots, helping to preserve very traditional regional beer styles? Rudi says: “Just take a step back in time. Rodenbach has inherited the tradition of mixed fermentation from the area around Roeselare and Kortrijk."
"Our brewery was one of the few to survive the First World War."
"And unlike in many other breweries, the German occupier left our copper brewing equipment intact, which meant that after the war we were able to re-start production almost straight away, based on the old traditions."
"Our expertise was not lost and our foeders remained in good condition."
“To this day, we employ experienced coopers, who repair the foeders and build new ones. You won’t see this anywhere else in the world."
"Plenty of other breweries have since jumped on the brown beer bandwagon. They never used foeders or, if they did, only occasionally."
“But these foeders are essential to the aromas and tastes of Flemish red-brown beers. After WWII artificial sweeteners grew in popularity, saccharine for example, as evidenced by the impressive rise of commercial, sweet beers such as the capsullekensgeuze in the 1960s and its equally rapid demise at the start of the 1970s."
"That approach is anathema to a beautifully balanced, oak-matured Flemish red-brown beer from an ancient foeder that stays true to its origin.”