Max's Belgian Beer Fest 2011

I love good beer. I also love people who love good beer.

Okay, now I can begin my story. A bunch of us Cross Street Irregulars arrived in Fell's Point at 9:00 AM on Friday February 18. There were already several people (mostly Midnight Homebrewers) in line for the event that wouldn't start for another two hours. Good thing the weather was so unseasonably warm.

We ate a great breakfast at a nice diner called Jimmy's Restaurant, just around the corner from Max's.

The purpose of this excursion was to lay a base for all the beers to come. My base was considerably larger than that of other folks.

After clogging our arteries we took our place in the growing line. By 10:00 AM there were about a hundred folks eagerly awaiting the Belgian treats inside. Finally they let us in and we did the Find-a-Table Shuffle, pausing only for free samples of St. Feuillen Triple that was served from a huge bottle (it was either 9 or 12 liters). There was a breakfast buffet with bagels, waffles, and other stuff that didn't matter because it wasn't beer.

We and several CRABSters got some tables in the back room and proceeded to go hog wild on the hundreds of selections.

The list of beers that I tried follows, roughly in the order that I sampled them. Good thing I had my digital recorder or else there's no way I would have remembered even ten of them. Note that there was general mayhem and I'm sure a few of the beers that I was told were one thing were really another, so take the following with a grain of salt. Or barley. Also note how the beer names become more nebulous toward the end of the list as I became more inoxicated.

  1. Stillwater Mikkeller Our Side had a wonderful, fresh, powerful hoppy aroma and a nice malty/hoppy flavor. One of my favorites.
  2. De Struise Damnation Mocha Bomb was a nice coffee-flavored stout.
  3. Bavik Petrus Aged Pale was nice, sour and refreshing as always.
  4. Duvel Triple Hop had a nice hoppy aroma and a nice refreshing estery/hoppy flavor.
  5. Musketiers Troiubador Magma (a triple IPA) had little aroma and a smooth, sweet, clean flavor.
  6. Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus had a nice sweet, fruity aroma and a nice sour fruity flavor.
  7. Cantillon Kriek had a nice fruity, sour aroma and a nice cherry, sour flavor.
  8. Rodenbach Vintage 2008 had a nice sweet aroma and a nice, not overly sour flavor.
  9. De Struise Pannepot. Tried it twice. One time it had a caramel/chocolate aroma and a sweet flavor, and the other time it had a fruity aroma and a smoky/fruity flavor, so either I was handed two different beers or I was more messed up than I thought.
  10. Stillwater/Olivers Channel Crossing (Belgian barleywine) had an alcoholic aroma and that's all I could make out on my recorder.
  11. Brewers Art Cerberus (cask) had an herbal/estery aroma and a decent flavor.
  12. Struise Black Damnation (aged in a whiskey barrel) was tannic.
  13. Struise Black Damnation (aged in a rum barrel) was smoky and peppery.
  14. Struise Black Damnation (with coffee beans and Jack Daniels; 13% ABV) had a nice coffee aroma and a nice smooth, coffee flavor.
  15. Bockor Cuvee de Jacobins Rouge had a good malt/caramel/vinegar aroma and great caramel/vinegar flavor. It was every bit as good as Rodenbach Grand Cru, if not better.
  16. Struise Red-Haired Jeanne had a subdued, sweet/fruity aroma and a sort of malty/smooth flavor. It seemed more English than Belgian.
  17. De Dolle Stille Nacht had a nice sweet, estery, malty aroma and a nice sweet, estery, alcoholic flavor. One of my favorites.
  18. Dubuisson Scaldis Triple had a spicy aroma and a dry, alcoholic, somewhat estery flavor.
  19. De Proef Monstre Rouge (Flemish red) had a malty, oaky, slightly sour aroma and a caramelly, chocolaty, porter-like flavor.
  20. Blaugies Dar Byste (saison w/figs) had a sweet aroma and a pretty good fruity/winy flavor.
  21. Cazeau Saison had little aroma and a decent spicy flavor.
  22. Liefmans Cuvee Brut (made with cherries) had a subdued fruity aroma and a nice fruity flavor.
  23. Regenboog Smisje Sleedorn Sloeberry had a weak aroma and a weird smoky flavor. My least favorite of the day.
  24. Rodenbach had a fruity aroma and not much flavor.
  25. Fantome Hiver had a nice hoppy, estery aroma and a good light spicy flavor.
  26. Glazen Toren Saison de Erpe-Mere Einejaar had a honey-like aroma and a cidery flavor.
  27. Deca Westoek was somewhat estery, hoppy and light.
  28. De la Senne Taras Boulba was kind of bitter and just okay.
  29. De Dochter Korenaar Embrasse had a sweet, coffee, porter-like aroma and a porter-like flavor.
  30. De Dochter Korenaar Ordinaire had little aroma and a good hoppy flavor.
  31. Glazen Toren Jan de Lichte was a good witbier.
  32. Jandrain Jandrainouille 4 had a good hoppy/estery aroma and a good light, herbal/estery flavor.
  33. Jandrain Jandrainouille 5 had little aroma and some caramel flavor.
  34. Dubuisson Scaldis Cuvee des Trolls had little aroma and a smooth, alcoholic, light flavor.
  35. Dubuisson Scaldis Noel had a good caramelly/vinegary aroma and a good caramelly, alcoholic flavor.
  36. Dubuisson Scaldis Triple had little aroma and a good alcoholic, somewhat estery, slightly spicy flavor.
  37. Dupont Avec les Bon Voeux had a nice estery aroma and a nice earthy, estery flavor.
  38. Regenboog Smisje Calva Reserve had a nice malty/tart aroma and a nice smooth, malty flavor with some hops and notes of figs or dates.
  39. Alvinne Bolleville had a subdued roasty aroma and a good woody/caramel/fruity/alcoholic flavor.
  40. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale had a nice sweet, spicy aroma and flavor.
  41. Troubadour Magma had a sweet, hoppy aroma and a good sweet, malty, sort of hoppy flavor.
  42. Alvinne Gaspar had a nice hoppy aroma and a nice bitter flavor.
  43. Glazen Toren Angelique. Another confused beer. My first sample had a good Belgiany aroma and a nice lemony, fruity, somewhat estery flavor. My second sample had little aroma and a nice caramelly, malty, hoppy flavor.
  44. De Proef Deux Brasseurs had a nice estery aroma and a nice hoppy, estery flavor.
  45. St. Feuillen Saison had a nice estery aroma and a good somewhat estery flavor.
  46. Alvinne Wild Undressed had a good lactic sour flavor with caramel/malt balance.
  47. Alvinne Oak Kersaus 2008 had a nice fruity aroma and a nice fruity, semi-sour flavor.
  48. T'Gaverhopke Extra had a good malty/tart aroma and a good caramelly, malty, alcoholic flavor.
  49. Alvinne Morpheus was a good beer that smelled like a porter and tasted like a tart porter.
  50. ??? had a nice sour cherry aroma and nice cherry flavor.
  51. Bosteels Triple Kermeliet had a nice sweet, estery aroma and a good estery, sweet flavor.
  52. Lefebvre Barbar Winterbok had a molasses aroma and a caramelly, alcoholic flavor.
  53. De Struise Tjseeses (?) (triple with stonefruit) had a fruity aroma and flavor.
  54. Dubuisson Scaldis Prestige had a nice sweet, malty, alcoholic aroma and a nice sour, sweet, caramelly flavor.
  55. St. Feuillen Green Flash Biere Amidie was a very nice saison-type beer: earthy and estery.
  56. De Dochter Korenaar Bravour had a good malty aroma and a smoky flavor.
  57. Ellezelloise Hercule was a nice alcoholic, smooth stout.
  58. Jolly Pumpkin Bambic was a good sour beer.
  59. Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire Ale Absurd was a good tart beer.
  60. De Struise IPA had a great hoppy aroma and flavor. One of my favorites.
  61. Regenboog Smisje Catherine the Great (imperial stout w/cherries) had a great fruity/vinegary aroma and a nice sour yet caramelly flavor.
  62. Oud Beersel Framboise had a nice fruity aroma and a good fruity flavor.
  63. De la Senne Waseesa (?) had a nice sour aroma and a great sour flavor that lingered. One of my favorites.
  64. Alvinne Sour Cherry (?). No tasting notes.
  65. Rodenbach Grand Cru had a nice caramelly, slightly vinegary aroma and a good malty, sweet, somewhat vinegary flavor.
  66. Van Steenberge Gulden Draak Vintage had a nice aroma and a nice caramelly, hoppy, alcoholic flavor.
  67. Van Steenberge Oud Zupiers Triple had a nice aroma and an average flavor.
  68. Regenboog Smisje Great Reserve (aged in cognac barrels) had a nice malty, oaky aroma and a good floral, spicy flavor.
  69. Noblesse XO (?) had a good sweet aroma and a good malty, hoppy flavor.
  70. ??? had a nice estery, earthy aroma and a nice witbier-like flavor.
  71. ??? had a nice estery aroma and a pretty good estery/malty flavor.
  72. ??? had a fruity aroma and a fruity, sour flavor.

The count of 72 was a coincidence for those of us who remember that Happy Days episode:
Richie Cunningham:"All we had was beer in teeny-weeny little glasses."
Howard Cunningham:"How many teeny-weeny little glasses did you have?"
Richie Cunningham:"Seventy-two."

In addition to the commercial beers, my friends Paul and Jason shared several of their homebrews:

By 5:00 PM I was blitzed, as I normally am at this type of event, but this time I managed to not become a liability: I stayed awake, I did not get thrown out, and I did not pick up a tranny. My friend Brent's wife drove him and me home, and I have absolutely no recollection of the trip, except a vague memory of someone yelling, "Ben! That's not a urinal!"

Here are a few random pics that for some reason I thought made sense to take:

Saturday February 19. I arrived at 9:30 for a 10:00 private tasting in the upstairs lounge that I was invited to by my friend and homebrewer-turned-professional Brian Strumke, maker of Stillwater Artisanal Ales. Scores of beer industry folks and beer geeks were there to try two casks of Brian's beers.

The featured beer, called 25-to-1, made with cocoa nibs, was a good funky, alcoholic, roasty ale. The other beer was a nice tart, malty, fruity ale that was a blend of several worts, yeasts and bacteria.

At 11:00 the second day of the fest officially began. Downstairs it was the madhouse we've all come to know and love.

I spent almost the entire day in the lounge sharing great beers with many friends, both old and new. A few of the folks in our group had brought coolers with both homebrewed and commercial beers.

  1. Jolly Pumpkin Bambic Winking Lizard had a nice sour aroma and a good lactic sour flavor.
  2. My gueuze had a nice sour aroma and flavor.
  3. Van Steenberge Gulden Draak was just okay.
  4. T'Gaverhopke Quad was a bit thin.
  5. Kerkom Bink Triple had a good estery aroma and a good estery/earthy flavor.
  6. De Ranke Saison de Dottignies had a good floral aroma and a good sweet, estery flavor.
  7. Malheur 10 had a nice estery, slightly hoppy aroma and a good hoppy, dry flavor. (I believe the bottled version is sweeter.)
  8. Glazen Toren Saison de Erpe-Mere Einejaar was kind of sweet and floral.
  9. Regenboog Smisje Catherine the Great (made with cherries from the brewer's backyard). No tasting notes.
  10. Jason's sour golden had a nice lactic aroma and a nice tart flavor.
  11. Slaapmutske Nightcap had a nice estery aroma and a good estery flavor.
  12. Cazeau Saison (made with elderberry flowers) had a floral aroma and flavor.
  13. Blaugies Darbyste (made with fig juice) had a sweet fruity aroma and a good tart, fruity flavor.
  14. Jolly Pumpkin Luciérnaga had a good tart aroma and a nice earthy, tart flavor.
  15. Columbus Brewing Company IPA had a great very hoppy aroma and a nice hoppy, grassy, fresh flavor.
  16. La Baladine Xyauyù (from Italy) had a good sweet, slightly sour, alcoholic aroma and a sweet, mead-like flavor with no carbonation.
  17. Jolly Pumpkin Pumpkin Beer had a saisony aroma and a good, sort of tart flavor.
  18. La Parcela. No tasting notes.
  19. Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire Ale Absurd had a tart aroma and a good tart, alcoholic flavor.
  20. Cantillon Cuvée des Champions had a nice sour aroma and flavor.
  21. Brewers Art L'Ombre Saison had a subdued aroma and a caramelly flavor.
  22. Jason's funky saison had a good earthy, estery aroma and a good tart, somewhat estery flavor.
  23. Jason's wild Belgian pale had a nice tart, funky aroma and a good sweet, Bretty flavor.
  24. De Dochter Korenaar Embrasse had a nice caramelly aroma and a good, interesting, roasty, funky flavor.
  25. Jason's sour cherry saison had a nice fruity aroma and a good fruity, tart flavor.
  26. Cantillon Kriek had a good fruity aroma and a nice sour, fruity flavor.
  27. Cantillon Classic Gueuze 2009 had a wonderful aroma and a great sour flavor.

What better use is there for cameras?

People came from many states other than Maryland, including Delaware, Virginia, Ohio and New York, to name a few. I met lots of great beer lovers who had interesting stories. One person told me about a six-pack of Westvleteren 12 that sold for $950 at a Meals on Wheels auction.

Despite the dozens of beers I sampled, I managed to stay relatively sober due to small sample sizes and spreading the beers out over the course of about 7 hours.

I did not go on Sunday, but I heard that there were beers on tap that day that were not available the other two days. Oh well. So many beers, so little time...