Note: The events hereby described may or may not have happened as is and are the humble perceptions of a somewhat zealous beer aficionado present at this wonderful extravaganza. The names used are not fictional and generally represent a great bunch of people I wish I could meet more often. These are the adventures which unravelled one cloud-laden evening in CapFlu’s warm and welcoming Ottawa residence.
We had only been looking forward to this for months - salivating over the proposed bottles, dreaming of what would be an incredible selection and anxious to meet fellow Ratebeerians we had only communicated with through e-messages. Finally, early afternoon, Saturday, August 9th, co-Montrealer Patrice (aka Simon_Patrice) and I stop in front of CapFlu’s building, filled with brews to share and tangible excitement. Out of the blue, as if this city was just teeming with Ratebeerians, Aaron and Kathy (aka Argo0 and...Kathy!) walk by a mere second later to help us carry in the tasty supplies and we soon have the immense pleasure to witness a soon-to-become mind-warming monument being built bottle by bottle, each time a new, generous Ratebeerian alighted with his or her wealthy load of precious gems. Todd (CapFlu) glowed as he allowed me to glance in the gold-carrying fridge and I could not do otherwise but smile and laugh childishly. As our treasure chest was generously getting filled in slow increments, anticipation rose and some eyes started to quiver with excitement. Since the number of expected attendees had doubled from the initial 5 or 6, most of us were going to witness a line-up of unparalleled girth and beauty (I’m talking beers of course). We knew we were in for something memorable and nothing was going to stop us, not even the constant menace from above.
Those already in attendance at an early hour couldn’t wait for everyone of course and the keg of Sgt.Major’s IPA, graciously donated by Scotch Irish’s brewer Perry (aka pondoshuffles), filled glasses to soothe the impatient. Hey, it’s not like we were going to run of that one (20 litres for 11 people who have brought an average of 5 or 6 litres each...yes, we had plenty). The masterful, gastronomical talent of the Great Jesse (also known as Mr_Kimchee to all of you) had already given birth to a plethora of delightful concoctions which were later on in the soiree to give us the necessary substance to subsist this onslaught of heavenly brews. A marvellous guacamole with nachos, an outrageously succulent sausage and oatmeal stout chili, refined mussels à la Maudite and rich beer biscuits deserved as intense a tasting as the great beer vessel we were to embark upon and everyone was more than grateful to lend their stomachs and tastebuds to Jesse’s learned skills. Soon after, everyone expected arrived (Joe, aka Joey_Capps, Radek, aka Radek, Jeff, aka Radiomgb, Bob, aka Ol_Juntan, and Michael, aka Kasta) and tongues and glasses lined up, pumped and lovelorn as ever.
In true child-the-morning-of-Christmas fashion, Michael beckoned us to stop staring at everything and “open something”! The much sought after Cantillon Lou Pepe (1999 bottle mind you) was thus the first bottle to be opened by the slobbering group, revealing a smooth and complex gueuze which surprised most people. After all, we are used to a relentless acid bludgeoning from the world-renowned lambic traditionalists but here we discovered a brewer holding back a bit with delicate care, which was a sign of things to come. Indeed, their “Foufoune” soon followed, slightly tinted by the peach-like sweetness of apricots but again disclosing the fresh, airy lambic body which the Lou Pepe adorned, only this time hugged by a hint of that vinegary tartness inherent to Cantillon. Still masterful.
Then followed a moment for which most Ratebeerians thrive: the unveiling and disrobing of a completely new beer, an unrated, untasted and never before seen Belgian ale, unknown even to most Belgian-native beer fanatics : the “Dindon” from the very young Brasserie de Lautenne. A curious moment of silence captured the anticipation as this “turkey” was being cracked open. No expectations were possible - this was as virgin a tasting as it could get. A truly memorable moment. You know where to read those ratings if you’re interested. And the metaphorical treasure was then slowly and meticulously spent as bottle after bottle was being taken away to be tasted on the terrace and/or living room. This rhythm was perfect to allow our tongues and minds to pursue our enticing quest without losing important senses. Coupled with ample glasses of water between each beer (as often as possible anyway), our pace of around a 100ml sample per 20-30 minutes was life-giving as well as enlightening. The pace also gave us the time to get to know some of our fellow Ratebeerians better, which made the evening even more fulfilling. Human trees of philanthropy and bonhomie thrived and oozed this sap as only the most unique arboretum of passionate beings could generate. It was obvious that we are a natural family. Smoked porter comparisons then emerged (Stone’s Smoked Porter and 6th Anniversary Porter, Le Chaudron’s Calumet), Westvleteren 12’s flowed (we even witnessed a rarity; a spoiled, astringent, tomatoey Westy!), Australian pilsners and pale ales, Sweetwater products, Grottenbiers, V-12s, Eggenberg Dunkel Eisbocks, and a host of other delights that all ended in the perfect Ratebeerian show of perseverance - with a flight of barley wines, and American and Belgian strong ales the likes of which had rarely been seen in the same locale. Dreadnaughts, 3 Guys Off The Scales, Expedition Stouts, Old Guardians and Gouden Carolus Christmases truly tested our still standing palates, and provided the fireworks finale for a night, I am sure, we will remember for a long time. There are so many good brewers out there who love what they do! And I hope to be able to taste their love children as long as I can!
This, a tasting of immeasurable magnitude, is the quasi-perfect portrait of how I try to enjoy my life. An enthralled group of wide-opened eyes and soul-sharing passion donors partaking in a multidimensional tasting of godlike nectars and intrinsically reaching a collective apex of personal enjoyment and social well-being. Proof that together we can build a microcosm that illuminates our path and enlightens our daily lives. Together we can evolve to an always greater enjoyment of each nano-moment we perceive and thus radiate our own smiling spirit towards others who may need it. A Ratebeer gathering such as this one is of course not the only way, nor is it a faultless way to adorn this scintillating aura. But man, is it ever a beautiful way to feel like a walking lighthouse! For the following few hours, a tired and somewhat zombieish lighthouse, but a lighthouse nonetheless. Shining.