Monday, July 2, 2012

De Struise Meet the Brewer at Hair of the Dog

Urbain Coutteau (photo: Teresa Culp)
I haven't been paying very close attention to the beer events happening around me lately, so I was glad to get an email from Brian Thursday morning that there would be a meet-the-brewer that evening at Hair of the Dog with Urbain Coutteau of Belgium's De Struise brewery.  The event featured a tap takeover with eight De Struise beers seldom tapped in these parts, and since Hair of the Dog lies directly between my office and home, it was an easy call.

This was the most fun I've had at a meet-the-brewer in a long time.  The beers were great, and Hair of the Dog's wide open space made things very comfortable.  Urbain was orbiting the bar area, stopping to chat with clusters of people who dragged him over to talk about beer.  He told us he's been here about a week, but that HotD brewer Alan Sprints kept him busy brewing much of the time.  He'll have to return another time to see more of Portland.

Belgian beer is held in such reverence here that we sometimes miss some of the fun in their brewery names.  "De Struise Brouwers" means "The Sturdy Brewers" -- already a lighthearted name along the lines of "Gigantic" -- but there is also a pun involved because "struise" can mean "ostrich".  (The brewery that brought this situation to light for me was De Proef, whose self-deprecating name means something like "The Test Brewery".)

The beers that were on were:

  • Witte
  • Svea IPA
  • Elliot Brew (Mikkeller collaboration double IPA)
  • XXX Rye Tripel
  • Tsjeesus Tripel
  • Pannepot Quadrupel
  • Pannepot Reserva (barrel-aged)
  • Pannepeut Quadrupel

My favorite of the bunch was the regular Pannepot, which the brewer himself described as "a punch in the face".  It does have tons of dark roast and esthery Belgian flavors, which I felt like were diminished too much in the barrel-aged version.  Pannepeut -- a drier, lighter-bodied version of Pannepot originally brewed as Pannep√łt for a festival in Copenhagen -- was a subtler version that was still very interesting.  Urbain said he thinks of it as a more traditional abbey ale than the heavy-handed Pannepot. 

The Svea IPA seemed to me to have a lot in common with Hair of the Dog Fred -- both of them being quite hoppy but nicely balanced beers on the sweet end of the spectrum -- even though it's only about 75% the strength.  On the other hand, I thought the Elliot Brew -- I can't believe I'm about to type this -- overdid the hops.  It wasn't terrible, but a little more balance would have made it better.

Urbain seemed uncomfortable at first when I asked him what he and Alan brewed this week, so I asked if the beers were clones of De Struise recipes, and he said, "Well, pretty close, but with Hair of the Dog's hopping schedule".  Alan was more direct in proclaiming their lineage, telling me they brewed Pannepot and Pannepeut, and that he plans to barrel age some of the Pannepot to recreate De Struise's Pannepot Reserva.

This was a nice low-key event that I'm glad I didn't miss out on.  Now if we can only convince De Struise to send us a keg of their 26% ABV Double Black...

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