Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Vermont Loop: Beer Run and Review for Hill Farmstead

As we are currently staying at a cottage about 30 km North of the Vermont border, we had planned on a trip to Hill Farmstead (and a hopeful family picnic at a state park).  When the weather became rain, rain, rain, snow, and rain respectively for the 5 days we'd be here, we gave up on the picnic and my wonderful wife said, "why not drive while the little guy sleeps and make the loop you'd originally planned on and buy some Heady Topper too?"  (I know, she's pretty awesome!)

Vermont currently hosts the world's top brewery, according to ratebeer, and the best beer according to beeradvocate.  Thus, my motivation and a 3 hour-drive loop isn't too bad for the chance to procure them all - though the lonesome bored border staff at an empty crossing likely spelled "D-U-T-Y" upon my return even if I saved money on gas.

So we arrived in Morristown around 11:15 am.  The place we stopped, the Green Top Market which deserves a shout-out for their EXCELLENT food and super-friendly staff, assured me that their Friday delivery of Heady would be there anytime between 10am and 4pm but without any more specific predictability.

Thus, we headed South to Stowe, and I found myself picking up a four-pack (and some other niceties to be reviewed and consumed at some point in the not too distant future) under a strict "One-four-pack-per-person" policy at the State Liquor Store there.  I pondered trying another nearby retailer or stopping back into the Green Top Market, but decided I had better get in line at Hill Farmstead, still a good 45 minute drive North-East of my then present location.

Originally we had planned to be at Hill Farmstead by noon as I understand one can expect to wait in line for 1 to 1.5 hours to get their growlers filled if they arrive after the noon open.  With the prospect of procuring Heady, I figured "well, we'll line up for 1.5 hours and it'll be fine."

Had I known when I arrived and was told that it would be a 2 hour wait that it actually would have been nearly four hours before I'd get out with filled beers, I'd actually have gone home and come back in the summer, but upon waiting for 1.5 hours before getting samples and still thinking it would be faster, the samples and I-have-been-here-this-long-already feeling sustained me through to the painfully long finish.  Yes, my wife and child stuck it out (I know, she's pretty awesome!)

Alas, I tried 4 different HF brews and purchased three of them.  I won't say much about "What is Enlightenment?" since I only had the taste and found the Simcoe notes a bit overwhelming, but as I purchased the others I tried, I can say a bit more.

For those who don't know, Hill Farmstead is praised for having successes at everything they brew, while they focus on and specialize in unfiltered, dry-hopped, naturally-carbonated pale ale and IPA.  While there, they had four current beers continuing this trend: two pale ales and two DIPAs.

Edward (5.2% ABV, 85 IBUs American Pale Ale) is the brewery's flagship brand brewed in honour of Edward Hill, head brewer/genius Shaun Hill's grandfather.  It should probably be called an IPA and presents what I called upon my first taste "a million dollar nose" of citrus and sweet mango and papaya drifting out from a cloudy yellowish-orange body capped by a creamy white head of fair retention.  The taste presents orange, rind, and peach with a dry yet delectable finish and faint linger, while the mouth is fairly full yet nicely creamy due to the natural carbonation.  Grade: A

If Edward has a million dollar nose, Abner (8% ABV, 170 "Theoretical" IBUs Double IPA) wafts a cool billion!  It pours a cloudy orangish-amber with a bubbly white head that exudes these heavenly aromas of citrus through and through, dominated by sweet tangerine and orange, while the taste is similar but milder with some resin and a longer linger than Edward.  Again creamy and medium bodied, and just a wonderful DIPA for those with a sense of adventure in an IPA!  Grade: A

Ephraim (9.8% ABV, 280 "Theoretical" IBUs Imperial IPA) pours a similar appearance to Edward while the nose is more subdued with some piney grass and rind.  The taste, however, is stronger with that lingering Simcoe hops bitterness bordering on my personal astringency.  I still like it, in fact I would gladly drink it just about anytime, but it stands a shade below the others for me personally though many a true hophead may dream fondly of it.  One other slight criticism: this has the lightest body of the bunch and could truly be beefed up a bit.  Grade: A-

For some general comments on Hill Farmstead - without having tasted anything aside from these and a cask collaboration IPA with DDC that rocked my world - I would like to add the following:

  • It is noteworthy that by cloudy, I truly don't describe any of these unfiltered, hop-heavy beers as chunky.  Unlike Heady Topper, there is NO particulate here, just a haze.
  • Though I really enjoy every beer they make, I could name dozens I love more, but they are very consistently impressive; never receiving poor reviews for anything, brewing very balanced (or delectably imbalanced!) yet complex and crisp beers.
  • The focus on natural carbonation coupled with water from a local well dug by Edward Hill - the brewer's grandfather - is remarkable and fits well with the unfiltered, dry-hopped mastery he has nurtured.
  • Just what are their so-called theoretical IBUs?  Is this simply a statement of exaggeration (since human palates cannot discern this extreme) or are these calculated or measured numbers were this degree possible on the IBU scale?  Since they consistently use the phrase they should explain it!
  • Likewise, what is this distinction between Imperial IPA and Double IPA they make?  Everyone else simply chooses one term or the other for the same thing!  It seems semantic and pedantic to do otherwise, unless you are making a distinction, but if so it won't catch on in the beer world unless you clarify that too.
  • Finally, they need to speed up this process!  Primary suggestion (and I have many I won't get into): have filled 750s and growlers that can be exchanged for top-up-cash and empty HF bottles for those arriving with them.  Really, this is good beer, but I would never wait this long for it again.  If there is a next time, I will be there at five to twelve and if the line-up goes outside the building, I will leave!

And on my way back, I was asked one question on contents by the border guard, "Are you bringing back any tobacco?"  I was easily able to honestly say "No," and figured I should have brought twice the beer had I known I'd get that response!  I guess she didn't care if I brought back beer... or maybe she'd procured her daily quota of booze duty from those in front of me in the Hill Farmstead line.

Mondial Marvels: Enticing Options

I have said it before and I'll say it again: unless you want to get stuck just buying whatever is near and getting who knows what based on name or (perhaps) style, you need to make a plan for Mondial de la Bière.

For me that means entering each brewery into beeradvocate and/or ratebeer and checking out the offerings available as detailed on a pdf on the Mondial site.  From that, I have narrowed down my quest and given my trip a purpose.

There may be larger beer festivals in the world, often with a shorter time-frame, but this worldwide selection is unparalleled in diversity while five days allow for days off in between and or multiple days of moderation in the pursuit of many new and typically unavailable tastes.  As this is the world of beer and with the booming craft beer scenes of Italy, Brazil and, of course, the United States, it means that these will be my areas of focus (if not exclusively) alongside a few harder-to-find Quebec oddities.

Specifically, I am excited to try brews from Brazil's breweries Bodebrown, Colorado, Gaudenbier Cervejaria Curitiba,  St. Gallen, and Wäls, especially Wäls' Brut since these champagne-style beers are so rare and wonderful!  Bodebrown brings some enticing IPAs and DIPAs, while Colorado's Brown, IPA, and Russian Imperial Stout seem to hold some strong promise too.

From the States, I look forward to some untried offerings from Allagash, Dogfish Head, Elysian, Smuttynose and Stone.  Specifically, I am anxious to try Elysian's wild/sour ale called Mortis and, though I am only likely to get two or three things I have had before, I will definitely be having an Allagash Curieux again as this Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Tripel is a rare marvel to enjoy and may even dig into another Burton Baton from Dogfish as it is a remarkable and unique oak-aged blend of an old ale and a double IPA!

Like Brazil, Italy also has a booming craft beer industry and top Italian brewers Baladin, Birrificio de Ducato, and Birra del Borgo top my list with the largest number of enticing offerings (not that others, as  with those from the countries above, don't also offer magnificent prospects!).  Del Borgo's l'Equilibrista and del Ducato's La Luna Rossa offer me my craved sourness that is so hard to find, while many of these breweries (and the other unmentioned Italian ones attending) also make strong American IPAs and Belgian styles commonly, especially Saison.

Finally, a few of Quebec's limited production breweries, Le Trou du Diable and Hopfenstark especially, promise much that is usually quite hard to come by and hold the promise of their excellent and well-deserved reputations!  I am disappointed about the apparent absence of Microbrasserie Charlevoix who seems not to be on the list this year and, though I have had all of their regular beers, I will truly miss the opportunity to once again taste their delicious Brut.

Off-site, after-hours, we get the off-Mondial events listed on yet another pdf linked at the Mondial site.  Though I don't know if I will get to any, the Franco-European beer event on Wednesday at Dieu du Ciel looks like a gem, but you'll have to arrive super early, while Saturday promises 15 Quebec casks at the Sherbrooke Benelux location.  Additional events at the St. Ambroise Terrace, Le Chavel Blanc, and Le Saint Bock should also impress those who don't get their fill between the 11am and 10pm hours of the event itself.  Frankly, there is so much to do, drink, and try at this event and around it that it should please any who enjoy a good beer.

For those who don't there is also a fantastic selection of mead to be had on site and, from last year, I can attest to the deliciousness of this sweet honey-wine!

Oh - and one more thing I am looking forward to is the new venue at Palais des Congrès and with inside and outside sections.  Now if only the weather cooperates to maximize the outdoor enjoyment, I anticipate a near perfect week!

Enjoy safely and responsibly, and let me know what most impresses!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Two Solid and Currently Available Beers!

Yes, I seek out obscure things; I trade for them, great travellers bring them for me, my vacations have a beer-seeking element to them, I try to get to beer events when I can whereupon I again seek the obscure.

Some of you share my obsession, yet others have said to me, "What about beers I can get?"

Well, many I have reviewed you can with a little effort, but my favourite recent Quebec tasting and a solid current Ontario offering deserve your purchase and praise, and can fairly easily be found to do so.

For Quebec, I have recently had the Gose from Les Trois Mousquetaires and found myself most impressed.  A gose is a salted and often soured witbeer, and this one impresses.  This cloudy 3.8% ABV sessionable version is fairly salty and citrusy, beginning with a light citrus nose and lemony taste complemented by a substantial salty finish that dries it out without excessive hops.  It is decently tart, yet quenching and very drinkable with a tingly effervescence, while the mere 3.8% means it can be downed all day!  Grade: A

Though I truly love Vices et Versa, I have found incorrect answers from their staff at times and their chalkboard called this "Gose/Berliner Weisse" though the staff at LTM assure me it is purely a gose.  So if you try this on draught there, be forewarned of this error!

That said, the LTM folks inform me that this seasonal offering is either on the shelves or will be within a week at Montreal locales like Depanneur Peluso, Rahman le Paradis de la Biere, Fromagerie Atwater and Metro Bellemare, while it is also currently on tap at Vices and Quebec's finer beer-bars.  Get it while you can!

For Ontario, Cameron's current RPA (Rye Pale Ale), available at the LCBO (in 650ml bottles for $6.95), is an under-marketed gem.  That is, you would err in judging a book by its cover for its under-designed label.  The beer itself, however, is much better crafted than the label!

This 6.6% ABV brew pours a hazy amber capped by a fluffy white head that exudes a superb citrus nose, with a fine spicy citrus taste complemented by a fair malt backbone.  Only faintly tingly and fairly heftily bodied, this is a very, very good example of the style and will be enjoyed by those who like hops, rye spice, and a malt-balanced PA.  Grade: A

There - now go get some and tell me what you think!  Did my reviews nail it, finding similar notes to those you did?  Did you also enjoy them?  Let me know!

'Til next time... cheers!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Benelux Verdun and Beau's Vankleek Hill - Both Kinda Like Home!

Sure, it's a cliché, but just like home these two places have good beer and good company!  This past Thursday I found myself at Beau's All-Natural Brewing and Saturday at Benelux Verdun.  And I will start with the beer before touching on the company.

Though Benelux has yet to amp up towards their 24 draught capacity and has yet to crack a cask, they are up to six beers and have a few gems (in process) on their hands.  Head brewer, Tico, tells me they are all being tweaked, adjusted, altered, and aren't definitive as is, but as they stand three stood out for some noteworthy thoughts:

Vélo (a 5.5% ABV American Pale Ale) is pretty marvellous!  It is dry-hopped with Centennial at the moment, though I am told this may frequently change to a different hops variety in every offering.  Regardless, every hop-head loves to hear the words "dry-hopped" as it adds to the excellent aromas and this beer brings that with a solid citrus and rind nose, with some tasted resins and a touch spicyness.  Some people may ask what is desirable about dryness in beer, and this expresses it well: it is not bitter but simply sufficiently perfectly dry so as to erase the sweetness and cleanse the palate enough to invite a second sip... er, third sip... er... you get the picture!  Grade: A

Victor (a 5% ABV Oatmeal Stout), is the first rated of the trend to name after local streets.  Yes, I am a sucker for a good stout, but few seem to get the oatmeal style right.  Those who do, seem to do it perfectly, yet the gap to the rest is normally huge.  Not in this case, which falls well towards the high end.  Here, the oats show well on the malty sweet nose, while there is a faint smokiness I discern on the tongue.  My one critical thought concerns an assessment of the body as lighter than anticipated - especially as oatmeal is supposed to fill the body - but this beer is nonetheless tasty for it.  Grade: B+/A-

Regina (a 5.1% Hefeweizen) brings out something different in me: I typically don't enjoy hefeweizens despite liking cloves and pepper since I hate - I mean hate - bananas.  This beer minimizes that (and the cloves) as it presents a mild yeasty funk, with some sweet citrus notes in presenting an easy summer drinker, but a solid one!  Usually I rate to style and, per style norms, this beer slightly neglects to conform to them, but for me it benefits from circumventing the standard banana and so it may be unfair of me to offer a grade.  What I will say is try one and let me know!

Beau's impresses as always, particularly of course with their Greener Futures project of barrel-aged alterations of their other brews as a fundraiser for energy self-sufficiency.  Of particular note was the Greener Futures Soured blend of Strong Patrick Irish Red Ale and Festivale which was only mildly tart amidst the woody bourbon notes, but was sour enough to intrigue me and make me long for the membership I cannot currently afford!

What both of these places have most in common, however, and one of the things that pushes them over the top is super-friendly staff who seem more interested in kindness and talking beer than up-selling you.  They know their products speak for themselves.  As a result, their kindness stands apart from those places where you become simply another sale, another person sold the image of craft beer.  I can accept illusions, but illusions of kindness go much farther than the reality of a bottom-line all-too-frequently hidden under the guise of perceived quality.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

For Russian River Sours, I Supplicate!

I don't really understand those beer drinkers who don't like sours.  Then again, I do understand that any - let alone good - sours are hard to come by and it may just take the right (re-)introduction!

It was my good fortune that some dear friends brought me back a Supplication and a Consecration from Russian River in Santa Rosa, California after their recent visit.  (I have yet to try the Consecration, but I promise to let you know what I think!)

This delicious American Wild Ale evolves from a base brown ale that is aged for a year in pinot noir wine barrels.  Moreover, during the aging process, sour cherries, brettanomyces (a funk-inspiring yeast) and two intentional (not harmful) souring bacteria (lactobacillus and pediococcus) are added.  The bottles are additionally bottle conditioned and, let me tell you, this results in one fantastic product!

This 7% ABV beer pours a gorgeous clear red capped by a thick frothy white head of fair retention.  Some fine lacing clings weakly to the glass and recedes alongside the delicious nectar of the gods as it is tilted to the mouth.

Enticing aromas of wine, wood, and tart vinegar alongside traces of fruit and something like soured apple juice greet the nose.  As great as the nose is, the taste is even better with a virtually unrivalled complexity and flavour evolution.  It begins with a sweetly-sour cherry taste before a tingly acetic-vinegar-esque lactic sourness ahead of the combination Brett funk and wine dryness that leaves some lingering tartness.  This tartness is the farthest thing from unpleasant, rather it leaves the mouth craving more!

On the tongue, it presents a medium body with a solid balance of tingly (bottle-conditioned) carbonation alongside the moderate gravity of the final body.

This beer is, in my opinion, perfect.

Grade: A clear A+

The bottle itself defines Supplication as, "V 1. to ask for humbly or earnestly, as by praying. 2. to make a humble entreaty to; beseech."  By this definition, I cannot be the first and probably won't be the last to supplicate to any forthcoming North Cali visitors to bring me more of this!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Alexander Keith's Hop Series: An Exciting Prospect?

As an avid craft beer enthusiast and anti-macro beer guy generally, one may find my tempered excitement at the idea of Alexander Keith's Hop Series products bizarre.  And it is!  Though I have yet to try them and won't be seeking them out intentionally, my tempered excitement is fuelled by the following logic:

I am excited that upon those rare occasions when I end up at a bar not of my choosing, when the options are 9 kinds of macro-brewed lagers that are all essentially the same beer with no alternatives, I may in this pending future have what may amount to a vaguely tolerable alternative.

That, however, isn't the crux of my excitement.  To me, it means macros are realizing something: people want more flavourful beer and I doubt this is a market they can compete in.  However, in the process of trying to compete, I think the macros are paving the way for their loyal legions to discover a gradual shift towards more hop-forward products that could only expand craft consumption and, inevitably, production.  By this I mean, they risk introducing the Keith's faithful to flavour and, as happened with me, this is a step towards bolder tasting beers.  Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but it just may be that this series will actually advance the interests, the market, and the evolution of the craft beers I love.

Ironically, at the same time this launch is taking flight, a Slate article has arrived denouncing craft hops primacy.  Ironic though this may be, I thought I'd simply add that what this article gets right is that nuanced craft flavours abound and we'd benefit from an expanded selection that includes, say, sour more frequently (implied in the article by the nod to wild yeast).  Yet, one of many things I find it gets wrong is that many craft beer enthusiasts love a variety of flavours and styles (malt-forward, hop-forward, sour, tart, funky, etc and not simply hops-only) and that it is scarcity of product that creates the pursuit at times.  It isn't a market of hops-monolith, even if it is predominant, and many of us appreciate the existent diversity and path to it that this article seems not to notice.

Though I truly do love both hop-forward IPAs and sours, I seek out sours since solid IPAs are so readily available while solid sours are so rare.  But in another market - the one from not so long past, perhaps, dominated as it was by the bland - we'd all be seeking our bitter-fix.  We need not temper our hops insanity; rather we must expand our horizons and taste explosions further!  Hops and its perpetual evolution is but one valuable path in that pursuit.  I see it not as diminishing our options but capitalizing on a trend in order to allow the craft beer movement to thrive.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Dry No More: Welcome to Verdun, Benelux!

Historically, an eternally dry neighbourhood,* my 'hood, Verdun, has wet its welcoming whistle with yesterday's opening of Benelux's second brewpub at 4026 rue Wellington!

So, I popped in today!

It is a great location, and not simply because it is four blocks from my home!  Moreover, it sits near de l'Eglise and Wellington, right near de l'Eglise metro in the up-and-coming heart of Verdun.

Even more impressive, however, is the exterior old bank façade contrasted with the beautifully renovated interior.  The pub itself has varied seating for groups large or small, a great amount of space, an interior upstairs that overlooks the rest and a tremendous patio/terrasse.

By-laws mean they can only serve beer brewed on site, which for now means only one beer is currently available: Prélude (a 5% ABV Blonde Ale) which is quite good for a blonde, if unremarkable.  However, friendly brewer Tico says that Benelux's two locations will generally focus on different styles of beer.  While the original location emphasizes Belgian styles and American IPAs, this location will allegedly focus on English and German styles.  I am thrilled with the pending promise not only of a regular stout and stream of porters but of imperial stouts and numerous bourbon-barrel-aged versions at this location!  It may become my second office - and 10 students indeed had their papers graded there this afternoon!

The food is (so far) limited but of high quality with interior-grilled hot dogs, chicken, pulled pork, etc sandwiches on baguette with fresh potato chips.

It is, frankly, a gorgeous establishment with the promise of nearby cask, a rotating selection and BBA imperial stouts... within triple-jumping distance.  Come visit... we'll go!  More on the forthcoming beers will be, well, forthcoming!

*Note: by "dry" it means that Verdun has allowed the purchase of much booze in many places, but nowhere out without a meal.  One could always hit up the local SAQ for all types of alcohol and buy beer/wine on every corner, while there are many bring-your-own-wine/beer establishments and several licensed restaurants, but this is its first ever bar!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Some Delightful Beers From Our Southern Neighbour - But Especially Heady Topper

Canadians have many preconceptions about American beer.  One of these once had a basis in truth: that the race to the bottom towards more cheaply made, mass-produced, flavour-muted, adjunct lagers was exemplified by the poor quality of beer there.

What they were and are wrong about are:
1) That our cheaply made, mass-produced, flavour-muted, adjunct lagers were any better;
2) That ours was (or is) stronger (since American beers used to measure alcohol by weight, while we always measured alcohol by volume and... guess what?  4% ABW = 5% ABV!
3) That things haven't changed immensely.

As a Canadian, and as one who only grew to love hops, it took me a while to realize the American craft beer scene topped the world.  But it does, and we all owe their excellent craft brewers a nod, some deference, and a toast.  I hope we all catch up, because the best thing for good craft beer is more of it!

Recently, I not only traded for some Heady Topper, but also made a trip to Buffalo's Premier Gourmet, where I carefully sifted through their insane selection to pick out those I most desired to try.  These brief reviews consider the best of those.  Alas, none are regularly available in Ontario or Quebec, but let's bug the LCBO and SAQ to at least bring some of them in seasonally, if not regularly.

Heady Topper, a very limited run beer from small Vermont brewer, The Alchemist, has a remarkable reputation.  It allegedly sells out is days after weekly shipments meaning it is more frequently UNavailable, is only (un)available extremely locally even when stocked, is (like all Double IPAs) best consumed fresh, and makes beer geeks guffaw as it consistently receives raving reviews and currently tops the beeradvocate charts as the highest rated brew in the world (a title that varies by fad amongst the crowd-source, of course!)

Well?  It is delicious!  The can requests consumption from the can, which to me seems simply blasphemous as it would seemingly hide the nose, so I tried half of my first can in a can and the other from a tulip glass.  And... it does, oddly, show at least as well in the can!  I figured they said this since it is unfiltered and chunky with six types of hops presenting a chunky particulate visible within a glass, a description and image that some may find unappealing in their brew (but not I!).

The brewery describes Heady Topper as "not intended to be the strongest or most bitter DIPA.  It is brewed to give you wave after wave of hop flavor without any astringent bitterness... just enough malt to give this beer some backbone, but not enough to take the hops away from the center stage."  And...  deliver on that promise, it assuredly does!

This is truly a showcase of hops evolution that indeed does come in waves that transform expressing herbal, floral, piney, citrus, and resinous notes in various dimensions from the remarkable aroma through the dry, but not lingering or astringent finish.  Though far from balanced, it isn't excessively bitter; it is rather expressive in solid ways, if not quite malty enough for my usual DIPA preferences.  It doesn't, in other words, present that well-back-boned, balanced, yet dry typical DIPA profile, instead opting for neither excessive hops nor a substantial malt base as it truly does what it claims offerings waves of hop diversity without excess.

This post has been in draft for some time, but as the rest are left to notes and my memory falters, I will simply say that of many, the following impressed the most:

Stone Ruination IPA

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Great Divide Espresso Oak-Aged Yeti

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Troegs Nugget Nectar

And just a step further down the delicious line, but still in the realm of great, I'd add: Monk's Cafe Flemish Red Ale, Green Flash Rayon Vert, and both Clown Shoes' Brown Angel & Eagle Claw Fist.

Grab'em if and when you can and if they fit your tastes!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

May Means One Main Thing: Mondial de la Biere!

It may be somewhat new for me, but May is an exciting time since my semester draws to a close allowing for some necessary family time, Steelhead fishing allows for my annual up-the-creek reprieve weekend, and Mondial de la Biere offers the best of the beer festivals!

This Montreal celebration of a worldwide selection of brews runs from Wednesday May 29 to Sunday June 2 this year, and promises a likely selection of 550 or so beers and special one-offs popping up at after-party events around the city's finer beer establishments.

Just what is so special about Mondial, itself?

Well, it truly offers a global selection of beers complete with excellent and unique oddities from around the planet - including Italian and Brazilian gems alongside the big-guns from the good'ol US of A.

Sure, the atmosphere gets partisome on Friday and Saturday, while the best brews are often gone by Sunday, but the diversity of excellent offerings, the early appeal, the rarity of the selection (often otherwise unavailable in Canada), and more make this an event not to be missed.

There are judged competitions here as well, judged by the qualified, not the drunk and most beers cost from $1-6 for a supposedly 4oz (but often 8+ oz) sample.

Yes, that can be cheap or pricey depending on the beer but with the possibility to taste excellent products one may never otherwise find here (or for a much cheaper price than they would cost with bar markup) make this a worthwhile endeavour indeed!

This year, I hope to make it to Benelux for the Vermont Brewers Association event multi-brewer cask event and hopefully also to Dieu du Ciel when they crack that Cantillon keg!

I should also cross my 1000th rated beer mark this year.

However, with such a selection, I highly recommend a plan!  Shortly, the exhibitor and beer list will be available.  One could quickly devolve into the drunken lout behaviour of the masses without getting to the prized gems if not for following a plan.  Going in blind is a sure path to becoming overwhelmed.

It is, perhaps, Mondial's best kept secret that Wednesday and Thursday at open are the best times to visit, with a nice sobering dinner before after-partys to avoid the rowdy insanity.  Unless that's what you're there for!