Tag Archives: sour beer

more book and beer pr0n

A snippet from a recent conversation, not quite verbatim, but as much as I can recall:

person: everyone thinks (artists and writers) just go around drinking heaps doing drugs, having wild sex and parties all night long…
me: …
person: they don’t know that there’s actually quite a lot of work involved…
me: (thinks about rage associated with Paul Muldoon Oxford lecture collection) uh, yeah, it really isn’t, but I like the research except when my brain won’t switch off and read for fun.

In no way am I:

  • suggesting I’m a writer
  • admitting to believing or dismissing the particular stereotypes described above
  • (unprofessionally) mad at Paul Muldoon, the famous Irish poet
  • going to wax lyrical about whatever the hell it is that writers do
  • going to avoid the blissful topic of alcohol consumption. Best for last, chums!


It’s actually really hard to read and drink because the ‘aspiring writerly’ brain is always looking to pinch, pilfer and transform better people’s words into their own (not referring to outright plagiarism and/or not citing sources – that shit is clearly not on. Some decent wordsmiths actually put effort into their craft, yo!).

A somewhat awkward slide to introduce Paul Muldoon’s The End of the Poem – a collection of lectures about individual poems for Oxford lectures. Muldoon is supposed to close read each poem, that is, analyse and beat it within an inch of its life for intent and meaning and whatever the hell it is litwank nerds do (disclosure: I do it but badly – they’re mainly just boring rants focussed on the possible reasons for the placement of a comma in one spot, etc.).

With close reading, you look for ways in which the poet has jampacked as much potential meanings and readings into as short a space as possible. So when Muldoon’s lecture about ‘poem X’ turned out to be ‘everything possibly related to the genesis of poem X and not really a reading of said poem, it got me into passionate Collingwood supporter mode (note: I do not follow AFL. Never been to a game but kind knowledgeable folks have offered to take me to my first game ever…next year.

It’ll be a good space to get my argh-Muldoon-why-so-info-overload-cant-drink-beer-while-reading rage. Basically, reading one of these lecture transcripts means (if you haven’t already) you’ll need to read five other poets, maybe a biography or two, and a bajillion other poems by the author of the poem allegedly being close read.

Stubbornly, I refused to let my Muldoon rage transfer to impressions of the beer. Reading non-fun stuff and drinking even funner stuff didn’t work – but just in this instance. Above, the beer is one of last month’s TruBru #bearclub selections – Sixpoint’s Spice of Life Citra IPA. Bring on the hop times. Hop times = fun flavour times. Screw autodidacticism. Link is back to full health – for now.

Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma is, reading-wise, easier to devour though its information…not so much. Throughout the first part, I began to understand why Children of the Corn is a horror flick. It didn’t stop me from testing this new fear by buying a quesadilla a few days later. It also helps to know I’m not reading it blindly. Corn and its (natural) growth process still sounds like science-fiction. If we eat enough of it, will it conquer us the way the Adipose did in that episode of Doctor Who? Shudder.


It seemed like a good time to try out Mikkeller’s ‘Show Me’ Cuvee – a wild/sour beer (another TruBru #bearclub selection). My palate generally is doing funky things and has decided that things I previously thought were nice or okay, are ‘ooh-er, this is really good’ – enjoyed it more than expected.

Finally! I did get fun drinking and reading in! Woo hoo!


Snatching up some sun, my official mascot/overlord (cat) is resting against my back as I take a photo of The Paris Review summer 2014 issue (Northern Hemisphere summer – just imagine my lit journal reading backlog is the size of a slab) and 2 Brothers ‘Kung Foo’ rice lager. Both were very, very moreish. Ideally, enjoy both in a beautiful patch of public park not crawling with people who may follow you home singing Katy Perry or Britney Spears at the top of their lungs, or the equally intimidating crew who illegally light fireworks near a place I fondly call ‘Mill Park-South Morang Carcossa’. It makes trips to the postbox more…interesting than usual.

PS. The Muldoon lectures are amazing, just hard-going as it’s not the type of thing one can skim-read; I’m merely related to a Collingwood AFL supporter so their zeal is, to my mind, the stuff of mere legend; and lastly, po-mo dictates that you can appropriate others’ work but you better cite and acknowledge the shit out of your sources, k?

PPS. The other book supporting Muldoon-rage-o-rama is Mark Strand & Eavan Boland’s (eds.) The Making Of A Poem – highly recommended if you want to impress someone by memorising or learning to write poems in established forms (it has examples!)


Lad(ies) Love LL Cool Lambics

Some of the best classical music composers reuse their best material and not often due to lack of originality. Have you heard how repetitive works like Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ or Allegri’s ‘Miserere’ is?

And so I repeat a claim previously made, not due to any inkling of genius but because that is what this poetaster does best, and that is to recycle. Lambics taste like ladies. Some lambics/ladies taste better than others. Imagine my horror when my father, knowing I was excited to be back in the beery-foodie game said that I could bring back any beery leftovers to share. Shudder. No Dad, you can’t have my ladies and also, lambics are an acquired taste. Dad’s not a big beer drinker at all (he prefers wine) so my concern wasn’t prompted by snobbery but by my own first experience with sour beers.

Brouwerij Boon crate! thanks to Ben at Local Taphouse :)

Both Professor Pilsner and humble Ale Star Tsar Shandy still remember the scrunched-up face of distaste that was lambic virginal Gem. I said to Tris prior to this session that tasting lambics for the first time felt like someone forcibly holding me down and squeezing an entire lemon’s contents into my mouth, wrenched open.

Initially, it was not an experience I was particularly keen on replicating. It should be embarrassing (and they tease me mercilessly about it) but looking back, I’m actually pretty proud of how far my palate has come. Me and lambics are now truly friends. To continue with the overtly sexual conceit (fuck yeah lit nerdery), I can now hide my rude robbed-of-virginity face, though now everyone knows what my (beery…) orgasm face looks like.

Most of the folks at this evening were pretty well informed about sour beers, so this did allow Shandy to get into some more beer-nerd-tech aspects of lambic and its genesis. They are old, and according to our excruciating trivia questions, ‘lambic’ derives from Lembeek, assumed to have given this beer style its name. It also apparently means ‘lime creek’. It would have made my day if it actually meant ‘lemon’ creek given my predilection for the ladies (I can’t believe no one remembers this as slang for lesbian in primary school: showing my age, you say?).

First up, and probably my favourite of the evening was the Cantillon Bruocsella Grand Cru, brewed in Nov 2005 and bottled in Nov 2008 — because I know some of the more…pedantic among us were concerned.

Cantillon Bruocsella Grand Cru

My photographer was off-duty (read: a disorganised whatsit) so I had to resort to the Smartphone of Evil™ for my photos. The light wasn’t great so yes, the using of flash sin was committed this evening, and committed often. However, I had previously enjoyed this beer so have a better photo of it on my Flickr account.

Revisiting this lambic was a remarkably different experience to my first trial of it at the Slowbeer Cantillon showcase: it was smooth, not at all that sour and wine-like, which was actually one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. The beer was kept in a sherry cask hence its less blonde colour and its vinous aromatics. Virtually no carbonation and no head.

For our second beer, we had the privilege of Scott, the main brewer of Bright Brewery introduce his ‘Pinky Framboise’. My beer briefing sheet is absolutely covered in notes about this beer: it’s made with raspberries from a farm local to the brewery and they’d experimented with making a similar one based on wild blackberries! Mmm, wild blackberries…takes me back to visiting my lovely uncle who lived in Hertfordshire and used to let us pick blackberries from his garden to eat. Ah British childhood memories!

Argh, the beer! It wasn’t that tart, with a hint of bitterness that I did not initially attribute to hops, but the hop bitterness become more evident when the beer warmed. The beer was made when raspberries were in season and the one we had on the evening was, by the brewer’s admission, still a little young. Gorgeously fragrant in the best way possible, I think this is a beer to ride cider’s coattails. I really wish it had’ve been the sour beer to break my sour beer virginity.

Scott of Bright Brewery introducing Pinky Framboise

Shandy gracefully stepping out of the limelight...for once

Back to hearing our fave beery Scot talk, the third beer on our list was Brouwerij Boon’s Oude Gueuze.

(image is not mine and comes from UC Davis ChemWiki site)

I added the above image to illustrate how one measures levels of acidity and alkaline/basic substances. Water (roughly) has a pH of 7.

The Oude Gueuze has a pH of 2. That, my friends, makes it a really fucking sour beer and oh boy was it felt! Easily the beer my palate struggled with the most. It was pretty ‘rude’ on the nose and extremely lively on the palate. Ale Stars folks had some great tasting notes for this one: dry concrete, wet cardboard (oxidation), pineapple, sherbet. Beautiful, cream-foam head. Apparently aged in two hundred year old wine barrels (and these dudes have making it since the sixteenth century). Reprazent.

Lastly, a nice bookend to my personal lambic journey — started with a Cantillon I’d had before and ended with another: the Iris. Again, before the sour beer pedants get up in my grill, first things first: Iris’ maturation year is 2007 and any matured in 2007 were bottled in 2009. It’s one of the few unblended lambics that uses fresh hops. Funny that this seemed such shock to the tastebuds (again, at Slowbeer’s Cantillon showcase) but seemed quite, well, natural at this stage. It has a white foamy cottonwool-like head, a very carbonated mouthfeel, with antiseptic and metallic notes – none of those notes being unpleasant. A tad bitter initially not seeming to be hop-driven, but like the Pinky Framboise, once it warms up the bitterness is more evidently hop-related. Still, it’s mouth-puckering but a solid, smooth flavoured sour beer.

Cantillon Iris

Though there are about one hundred different bacteria to be found in lambics, the three main suspects for making lambics the special whatsits that they are are Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and acetic acid bacteria. Erm, don’t read the lacto’s Wiki page too thoroughly…it’s present in some rather yonic places, it would appear. So yes, ‘bad’ bacteria can yield some good things. Unrelated to beer, I learnt just before going to this Ale Stars that sometimes really, really bad bacteria can save lives. In other cases, it can cause mirth within the Australian craft beer community, particularly when an uninvited bacterium gatecrashes. I’m sure Corey Worthington wouldn’t have minded…

Incidentally, even repetitive music when performed consummately is still hair-on-back-of-neck amazing. The same goes with beer, and these beers too. While I’ve had the pleasure of having had both the Cantillons offered at this night before, repeat performances remind you why you fell in love with them in the first place, or give you a chance to have them grow on you. The lambic love groweth and this was reflected by fellow Ale Star members, though given the aceness of Ale Stars in general (no, not myself, I’m a miscreant lapsed member now), it’s not a jot surprising.

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