Saturday, February 13, 2010

Van Twee Belgian Ale

After a long afternoon of writing, it's time for a beer. Alan Shapiro at SBS-Imports sent me some samples a while ago, and I'm getting to them slowly; had a lot going on (just checked; it's been over a month since I posted a tasting note!). This is going to be my last beer at age 50; I turn 51 in about an hour and a half.

Van Twee Belgian Ale pours dark, with a deep tan head that doesn't quit; not foamy-billowy, just tenacious. (It's a collaboration between John Mallett of Bell's and Dirk Naudts of De Proef, a combo of porter and dubbel, with Michigan sour cherry juice and good old Belgian brettanomyces. It's all here.) There's a nose of chocolate, clear cherry, and just a tinge of brett woodiness. The brett makes its presence known in the mouth, thought, as it pulls the fat sweetness you'd expect here right out of the picture. A sophisticated beer, with malt, chocolate, cherry, and brett coming together -- not fighting -- and no one factor overpowers the other. The only flaw is a mineral note I'm getting after the beer clears my mouth in the swallow; I believe it's brett-derived, and it's not wholly unpleasant.

Collaboration continues. Is it something wonderful? It can be. Is it something unique? Almost certainly. Is it collectible? Bet your monkey, and it's definitely tickable. So who are these beers made for? The brewers, the fans, and the wired-in Dark-Lord Kate-the-Great types for sure. The retailers whose rep is made by having those beers that are hot. Not for the general market.

Which is okay. I mean, that's who fugu sashimi is for, that's who Ferraris are for, that's who Thomas Pynchon novels are for, that's who 12-tone music is for. Van Twee, unlike all those others, is affordable, and actually tastes pretty damned good. Who the hell would want to eat Gravity's Rainbow?'s been pointed out to me that Gravity's Rainbow is actually quite affordable in paperback. As are recordings of Schoenberg's 12-tone music. Sorry. I was on a roll. I'm going to leave it, as it apparently amuses some of you. Thanks for the catch. However, I still maintain that Gravity's Rainbow would not be pleasant to eat, even with gravy. 


John Clarke said...

Sounds not entirely unlike the new Decadence Kriek, the cherry imperial stout (8.7% ABV) from Manchester's Marble Brewery, here in the UK.


Anton Weber rocks. So does Van Twee.

Carey said...

Reading the last paragraph reminded me of the first time I read some of the entries here

I felt reduced, figured out, decoded, banal. In fact microbrews are #23. I own a moleskin notebook that records books I've read. I cook. I have shelves full of Pynchon, next to the other great postmoderns, like Amis, Delillo, Wallace, Franzen, Bolano... I have a listening room full of music, some 12 tone. And I really enjoy Bells and De Proef. Despite some BS, life is good.

Brad said...

Had this on tap on Friday at Max's Taphouse ("72 Hours of Belgium" fest)

Really, really enjoyed it.

P.S: happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

I think beers such as this are slowly becoming the "norm." Barlywine was a relatively unpopular drink 10 years ago with Bigfoot and Old Stock keeping the hardcore fans happy. This is no longer the case as evidenced by the six hundred people who lined up in front of the Tornado for the barlywine festival on Saturday. Van Twee will make it's way to Healthy Spirits, if it it's not there already, and people will buy and drink it. Beers like this are made for the general public because the hipsters and yupsters who need something new to talk about have already moved on to homebrew beers the general public has zero interest in. I believe if it's in a bottle it's there for everyone to enjoy, and everyone will enjoy it. Why else would a guy from Michigan be making unique beers with a Belgian. I look forward to trying this beer, and I'm sure your review will be spot on.
Cheers !

Brad said...

Just remembered what this beer tastes very similar to - Ommegang's Three Philosophers (and that's a pretty good thing)

Russ said...

Too funny, Lew... I'm actually on my third attempt at reading Gravity's Rainbow right now (and, being 225 pages in, I think I'm going to make it this time. Granted, I still don't know what the hell's going on, but I'm going to make it this time!). Anyway, now that you mention it, I think New Glarus's Unplugged series, and Enigma in particular, would win my Pynchon award for beer that's crazy and complex but not really enjoyable. But others love it (and who knows, maybe I'll love Gravity's Rainbow by the end) so to each their own. Happy 51st!