Last weekend, JorisPPattyn attended the Weekend of Spontaneous Fermentation by the Bierpallieters in Buggenhout, Belgium. Here is the report he posted, as published on the Burgundian Babble Belt. - Ed.
<P>Fantastic! The Bierpallieters, who run this festival, have a voluntary taxi service, getting people from 3 railway stations in the surroundings to Opstal, which is devoid of ferroviary blessings. Phoned right on arrival, after which I was immediately seized upon by another train-descending individual (Alex Surmont, another long-lasting OBP-Zythosser, as it turned out), with the same kind of scheme in mind. David confirmed two could come, and that's what happened.
<P>Since two years, the venue is in a new hall, behind another pub - and resembling to a charm the first... but ever so slightly cleaner, I'm told. Fairly large hall, nice tables, quiet - it looked rather more like a restaurant than a beer festival! Also - no deposit for the glasses, no tokens, just ask and you're served. Mightily civilized. But, as Alex remarked after counting, possible because at the height of our stay, only just over 40 people were attending. SHAME on you, Belgian beertasters! This festival ought to be overflooded. Even more shame on the OPA's , who thought it necessary to have another gathering the same day, with the announcing of the Trappist-book by Jef Vandensteen - which wasn't even ready! Jef, you ought to have been in Opstal. I hope you come today.
<P>Anyway, the Bierpallieters' organization was next to flawless.
<P>And then, the beers. About 12 draught lambics, a few draught kriekenlambics less.
<P>One remark here. Only from the Belle Vue, they had both young (up to +/- 1 year) and old lambic. Why not the other breweries? Mind you, the old Belle Vue was out of this world. It had 4 years and 4 months brewery-conditioning. They're definitely the only brewery capable of keeping a beer for such long time. God knows what they do with it afterwards. Rating this beer on Ratebeer already earned me the 'wrath' of Josh ;^} I can vividly picture him drooling...
<P>The whole range of gueuzes (including Millenium and Sélection Lambic!), the same in the Krieken, the whole selection of Buggenhout beers (Bosteels and De Landtsheer), including Malheur De Pit, a special 2-year old one off which is the most American West-coast tasting Belgian beer I've ever had. Brewed for some cultural centre in the surroundings - so worth searching for. Not that I've had the whole selection. My poor stomach is only human, and my head is currently sending out subdued but insistent messages that naughty Joris did something yesterday he oughtn'd have done, reasonably speaking. Another special was the 'Opstalse Tripel', brewed by the already gone Galmaarden microbrewer Meesters, specially for the Bierpallieters.
<P>I kept the best tidbits for the end. They had a little list 'Specialities', including - hooray, hooray - the Hanssens/Lurgashall Mead the Gueuze. Halali! Thanks to De Bierpallieters, and to BrianB, I've had now the two Belgian beers only available in the USA. The two that I know of, anyway. Alex also managed to talk me into the 'new' Donkere Duivel from Frank Boon - bottled in beautiful antique Vanderlinden bottles, but actually going back to a recipe of 1907 from the Pêtre brewery in Halle. Duivelsbier van Halle is a local Halle (south of Brussel)style, a dark mixture of lambic, top-fermenting ale and dark-sweeteners. In this case, liquorice, which is something I loathe in beer. To me this has a 'dishonest' sweet taste. Actually, Boon regrets the demise of saccharine--illegal these days. I must confess, an aged beer with saccharine gets a smokey taste I find a lot more palatable than liquorice... Yet, the original Vanderlinden recipe was infinitely superior, IMO.
<P>I had been pestering that yours truly seemed to be the only one in the hall, not yet having tasted the new Palm beer, Royal (made for the 90th anniversary of the brewery godfather Alfred Van Roy). So, when the Pallieters' taxi service brought us back to the station in Buggenhout, we figured out we had another half hour to wait... So we found ourselves a Palm-owned pub, right next to the station, and lo-and-behold, it hung full of posters for the new Palm 7% top-fermented beer. I didn't rate it, as Alex started falling into repeating himself three times in two minutes, and that's a sign I know very well from myself. So I bought an extra bottle, which is now safely in my fridge...
<P>Next to the Stella Premium 6.4% - no not from Interbrew but from some Egyptian brewery... This had to be a sad case of beertasters' misfortune. Actually, I was keeping it, out of spite, to rate it as my 5000th beer. My REAL 5000th should have been a specially-brewed beer by Johan, which I would have liked to call Westvleutse Tripel (after the Pattyntje Dubbel). But alas, finances won't have it, so I decided for the worst case scenario of camel's p*ss... For the 7500th, maybe, Johan?
<P>Until yesterday. Whilst jotting down the Mead the Gueuze I suddenly realised it was the third new beer of the day - and my counter had been on 4997... Well - ANYTHING is better than the Egyptian brew I suppose :)) Other new entries included the bottled De Cam Kriek, which I hadn't had before, as well as the young Girardin, which is somehow missing in my notes.
<P>Back to the Palm Royal. Alex was having a ball, as it had liquorice notes again, which he obviously likes. We agreed it was not unlike the defunct Aerts Spéciale, as brewed by Palm - the original Aerts from Sint Joost-ten Node (Brussels) was something of another world. Another gone classic (Cantillon Iris is supposed to be in the same vein).
<P>Ah - stop your retro-moaning of auld lang syne, JPP! Everything was better once for old people. The Bierpallieters are young people, and they're doing a fantastic job. They deserve praise - and a lot more visitors on their festival. Next year - scores of Babblers and Ratebeerians, maybe?