By Lucy Zachman
If you're a true lambic lover, you had a good time at the March meeting. Dan Shelton from Shelton brewers brought us a sampling of some of the finest lambics available -- those from the Cantillon brewery in Brussels.
Dan and his brother, Joel, are not your regular importers. They set out specificly to bring Cantillon to the American people. (God bless 'em!)
After being introduced to these horsey, barnyard-scented lambics while in Belgium, Joel and Dan fell in love. (Dan aptly describes the scent as that of "European sophistication and decay.") Once back home, they decided that Cantillon's brews would be the perfect accompaniment to their Thanksgiving dinner. But when they couldn't find Cantillon anywhere around here, it was time to take matters into their own hands.
Cantillon had been in limited distribution by a Washington(DC)-based importer. But, obviously, their reach and supply was not adequate for those of us up north who longed for these lambics. Dan and Joel made many visits back to the Cantillon brewery and eventually became good friends with the family--led by head-brewer Jean Claude van Roy--and finally convinced them to let Shelton Brewers distribute the Cantillon line.
For our meeting, Dan brought almost all of the Cantillon varieties, beginning with the Gueze, a blend of 12 and three year old lambics that have been aged in Oak wine casks. The Cantillon lambics are made with 1/3 unmalted wheat and get their characteristic scent from the 20 wild yeast that are native to the area. The yeasts are introduced to the beer through louvers in the roof of the brewery that permit ventilation around the huge, square, copper vat that the beer is poured into to cool. The lambic also receives some flavor from the sherry and port casks it is stored in.
This Gueze was tart, yet refreshing an went surprisingly well with the French onion soup I was eating.
Kriek is the traditional lambic with the addition of cherries. Charbeck cherries are the favorite cherry variety to add, but they are grown in a small area and quantities are limited. Especially, Dan said, this year as the area had a poor cherry crop. Another variety is sometimes substituted. Dan noted that this years Kriek is made with Kellery (?) cherries and the flavor is not as pronounced.
Rose de Gambrinus is Cantillon's Framboise. It is made with a fruit combination of 10% cherries and 90% raspberries. Vanilla has also been added, but not in recent years. This beer may find it's label to be it's claim to fame. Dan says they have received permission to market the brew with it's traditional "naked lady" label. Dan argued that they label was a work of art produced by a well-known Belgian painter. So the dress came off once again. (What's next, naked pigs?)
Dan poured Vinerone, the grape infused lambic, next. Italian Muscat grapes make this unusual beer go especially well with food, particularly walnuts. Dan said that the tannins in the walnuts blend with those of the grapes to cleanse the palate.
And finally, we sampled the Grand Cru, Cantillon's unblended, three-year-old, still lambic. It has a dry finish and a rich complex flavor that has a slight bitterness. Quite a treat!
In other good lambic news, Dan said that Shelton Brewers is making Tre Fontaine, another exceptional lambic, available later this year. The company also imports a number of German beers including those produced by EKU. With a local distributor for a partner, Dan said that the availability of these fine beers should improve very soon.
See ya at the next meeting, and don't forget it's on the third Wednesday of April. (April 15, just to be precise-ed.! See below:)
Recently, Bob and I took some day trips in the quest for beer. Both of these trips are manageable, by car, in one day.
Our first trip took us out to the Hamptons on a bitter cold day - at least the beach wasn't crowded. We stopped at the Southampton Publick House, which has a pleasant bar area as well as a slightly more formal dining room. Unfortunately, we didn't take any notes on the beers, but we enjoyed each one that we drank (including a porter, an IPA, their "Secret Ale" - supposedly an alt, and a stout). Most of the Southampton beers that I have had in bars in NYC seem to have suffered from the incredibly long journey from the South Shore, but we were not disappointed by any of the beers we tried at the brewpub. Both light dishes and full meals are available at the bar; we had a mediocre clam chowder and a decent smoked salmon salad. The atmosphere was pleasant and relaxing, but it probably gets quite crowded on summer weekends.
Our next stop was in Patchogue to visit the Brick House Brewery and Restaurant. The atmosphere was immediately less welcoming than Southampton and we had to suffer through their attempts to repair the stereo and speakers, which, when working, blared very bad music. They had 5 beers on tap: Light, Porter, Red, Scotch Ale, and Centennial ESB. We had the Scotch Ale and ESB, neither of which was impressive. The Scotch Ale was thin and tasted like it had a pediococcus infection, while the ESB dripped with more buttery diacetyl than any beer I've ever had.
Even closer to the city is the Long Island Brewing Company in Jericho. We arrived about 9 p.m., and our presence forestalled the pub's closing for 1/2 hour. We tried a very likable milk stout, replete with lacto-sweetness and an average yet unoffending scotch ale.
The next day, we headed west towards Pennsylvania. Our first stop, in Manheim, was the Summy House (Baron Brewing) which was closed for vacation. Moral of this trip: call ahead to make sure that the place is open. From the outside, it seemed nice. Perhaps next time... Then, only slightly delayed by slow horse and buggies, we headed to Lancaster and the Lancaster Malt Brewing Co. Located in a 19th century factory, this brewpub is very pleasant and airy. They have a decent selection of beers: Golden Lager, Maple Cranberry Ale, Dark Lager, Winter Warmer, Apple Ale, Red Rose Ale, Milk Stout, Plum St. Porter, and Amish Four Grain Ale. The lunch menu was quite good and we were happy with our sandwiches. We tried their very clear Dark Lager, which had a subtle malt aroma with hints of caramel and molasses. The malty sweet flavor had a faint roastiness and was very clean and crisp with some hop bitterness in the finish. Overall, it was a very good example of a German-style lager. The honey-gold Amish 4 Grain Ale (oats, wheat, rye, barley) was almost lager-like in its crisp, dry aroma. The flavor was very dry and smooth with a slight wheat tang, some bitter roastiness, and a hint of Tettnang hops. We enjoyed this one so much that we picked up a case to bring back with us. The Plum St. Porter had a very chocolatey, roasty nose with the same characteristics coming through in its very clean flavor. There was a hint of sourness in the aroma. Their Winter Warmer, which they billed as an "English-style old ale", was deep amber in color and had a surprisingly large head for the style. It had a sweet aroma and flavor but once it warmed up, the alcohol in the nose and flavor was too predominant. There was also an odd metallic tang in the finish. On the whole, it was a nice beer, but wasn't mellow enough and would have been improved by aging.
We were very excited about our next stop: Stoudt's Brewery in Adamstown. But what a disappointment! First of all, their brewpub's decor is not to our taste, which always puts us a bit on edge. They had decorated it in a kitschy, turn-of-the century style that was one tiny step away from your grandma's house in Long Island. (Editor's note: Some of us actually like the kitschy style of Stoudt's).
We both got samplers in order to try as many beers as possible. Several of the glasses arrived only half full and when we politely asked for them to be topped off, the bartender only did so after a few dirty looks (on her part) and a lot of complaining about the difficulty of pouring beer into small glasses. It's amazing, however, how much power a pen and paper hold over people; she looked very worried when she saw us taking notes and was then very polite and apologetic. The beer itself was surprisingly mediocre.
The bright yellow Pils had a big, foamy head and small, slow carbonation bubbles. It had a corn-like aroma with some faint cidery notes. It was rather weak overall, with some mild hop bitterness, not unlike a German helles, but not as complex as that. Their very clear Gold (described as a Helles) also had a corn-like aroma as well as no hop aroma. It had a malty palate with a hint of corn and a medium body. The Bock was caramel brown in color and had a slightly burnt aroma. There was some semi-burnt/caramel flavor, but not much else. It was very thin and small for a bock with no apparent alcohol detected. The ESB had a nice golden bronze color with big carbonation bubbles. The aroma was marred by an incredibly cheesy hop aroma. There was immediate hop bitterness in the flavor, but also some cheesiness (and we were not eating any cheese!). The Fest had a hay-like aroma and a straw-like flavor, and a faint caramel nose, but not enough maltiness. The flavor was roasty-sweet with some hop bitterness and caramel notes. The Stout had a huge, roasty coffee nose and the same attributes in the flavor, as well as some hop bitterness. Although I though it had a nice, full body, Bob found it to be a bit mild overall and closer to a porter than a stout. The cask-conditioned ESB was dripping with butter, both in aroma and flavor. There was some malt smoothness in the flavor and a slight hop bitterness, but overall it wasn't exciting. We also detected a slight sourness in the beer. The American Pale Ale had, uncharacteristically, a very low level of hops in the aroma, as well as some yeast. The malt supported the hops in the flavor where more Cascade flavor and bitterness came through.
After an uninspiring time at Stoudt's, we debated whether or not to continue our research, or just head back to some good Manhattan homebrew. We decided to try one last place that was on the way home, and while it wasn't the holy grail, it was certainly worth the stop for entertainment purposes. As we got lost trying to find the place, it suddenly dawned on us that a place called Camelot Brewing Co. (in Wyomissing, near Reading) might not be the best place to try a beer. We stopped for directions and got even more worried as we drove past strip mall after strip mall, turning left a Denny's, right at the Red Lobster, and past TGI Friday's and the Home Depot. We pulled into a parking lot next to a building that was, uh, a cement castle with lights outlining turrets and a faux drawbridge. We almost turned around right there, not wanting to watch a jousting tournament while eating meat with our hands, but decided to persevere in the name of Beer. Much to our relief, the interior was only low-key castle decor and no one was dressed up as a knight. They only had 3 selections: Dry Stout, Pale Ale, and Light Ale. The Stout was "not very anything" according to our notes; there was a very faint roasted aroma and not much flavor, and the body was fairly thin for the style. The Pale Ale, which was served far too cold, was a basic brewpub pale ale with some hops and malt in the aroma, and a quickly diminishing malt flavor followed by some hop bitterness. The straw-yellow "Light" ale was carbonated - and that was about it for flavor. As it warmed, we thought we might have detected some malt in there, but we weren't sure. We had a light dinner at the bar and were quite pleased with the food (and the fact that they had so many vegetarian selections on the menu). The bartender turned out to be the assistant brewer and he was very impressed that we had driven out there for beer and weren't even stopping at the outlet stores. He told us that they were using the Alan Pugsley system and that they had only been open for several months and were still getting settled; we hope that their beers will develop more character over time, but we probably won't be returning to find out.
Overall, we found 2 places that we would like to return to (Southampton and Lancaster) and plenty more on our list that we still need to explore.
On Wednesday, April 15, 7:30 PM, the Malted Barley Appreciation Society will have our next monthly meeting. The guests will be Jean-Louis Dits and Vineiane Dits of the Brasserie a Vapeur of Belgium, producers who will be bringing many find artisanal beers, and are scheduled to do a little cooking as well! In addition, many good homebrews should be available for the tasting. As usual, the meeting will be held at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. See you there!
Return to the Malted Barley Home Page.
Any comments should be sent to Our E-Mail Address.