Sour Beer Studies: Rose de Gambrinus, Cantillon, Belgium

The famous nude lady sketch beer that outraged Maine or at least some officious Mainers. I never thought such a human condition was possible. Just to make a statement, I bought this 2005 375 ml bottling in Maine at the ever excellent Tully’s at York for $8.50 USD. However will I hide the empty from prying eyes as it sits in the recycling box by the curb?

Pinked amber ale under a slightly blushed fine white head, no doubt aware of the circumstances it found itself in. In the mouth, mild vinegar sour over Granny Smith. Not that much barnyardy poo in this one thankfully. There is a bit there but it melds with the over-riding under-ripe gravenstein apple effect. There is raspberry in the way that there is raspberry in raspberry vinaigrette except that there is no sweetness. After, though, you are left with an echo of the raspberry.

Most BAers approve. Do I? I am certainly less shocked having now had a few Cantillons. And I do find this one has a cream or maybe even vanilla note within the sharpness that I can’t imagine leaning on before like I do now, seeking a reason to approve. I certainly could see poaching a fillet of sole in this but the butter in the pan would temper it yet I have to admit that it is still more acidic than any white wine or rose I might enjoy. If the same fluid were labeled blanc de blanc, would we care so?

More sour beer studies here.


Cyclops – Perhaps The Worst Idea Ever

Describing taste in words is funny business but making the effort is worthwhile as it provides you with a mechanism through which you can record your experiences with food and drink, and especially craft foods like real ale. We each take in the esters, phenols and other organic elements and recreate their interconnection in our own minds as we sip, sometimes discovering what the brewer intended and sometimes finding out new nuances never expected. Then you use your words to frame your experience. Do it often enough and you develop your own descriptors that make sense for your experience.

So it is inordinately shocking, then, to learn about what may be the worst idea in the craft beer movement I have ever heard of – a standardized system of beer description not unironically called Cyclops:

Cyclops, the new scheme launched today at the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court in London, has the backing of 14 real ale breweries. Under the scheme, the brewers have agreed to follow a standardised template on all promotional material, describing the style, smell, look and taste of their beers. Bitterness and sweetness – the two main measures used to describe real ale’s characteristics – will also now be scored from one to five.

Cyclops follows a pilot scheme introduced by Leicester brewer Everards, which simplified the language used to describe real ales on promotional materials so customers knew exactly what to expect. A Campaign for Real Ale spokesman said: “Real ale is an incredibly complex drink with an enormous range of styles and tastes. Cyclops will demystify real ale so drinkers will know what a beer will look, smell and taste like before they part with their cash at the bar.”

This is tragic. And it is stunning that CAMRA supports such a thing. It is important at this moment in time that the most famous Cyclops, Homer’s Polyphemus, was blinded for life by drinking strong wine and ate people. This is hardly the making of a good brand. But even when he had one good eye he saw things…like he was born with one eye in the middle of his forehead – as in without particularly strong ability to see things from other perspectives. Plus, as man eating giant shepherds who get tricked a lot, they sort of fit the images of a rural rube caricature, kinda like in the satirical play by Euripides

And that is sort of what the program takes the craft beer lover for in presuming to tell you how to taste – it takes you for an ignorant oaf. It will create one recommended way to look at things and a snobby attitude to those who find their own way. Reject such mecho-branding systematic standards that will homogenize response patterns and trust yourself. If you think a beer tastes like the armpit Polyphemus after a long night in the cave (if you know what I mean) while the brewer tells you something like “it is a 5 (bitter), 3 (waterhardness), 3 (maltiness), 2 (mouthfeel) and 4 (overall) pale ale” then you just trust yourself and know that is likely tastes like that armpit.

¹…which would have been funnier if, instead of saying he was called “No man” thus leading to lots of punning hi-jinks that confused the big old dope, Odysseus had actually called himself “Norman” which would have led to a lot less confusion and likely the eating of Odysseus in the first few scenes thus saving thousands of undergrads the misery of figuring the whole thing out.

A Brave Man Wrote Me

Home sick from work today, I was interested to find this note in the email this afternoon. Last November, I wrote about the efforts to create a unified advertising campaign in the US about the goodness of beer. Well, today’s correspondent appears to be involved in that effort. He write as follows:

Good afternoon, or evening, or morning depending on where you call home.

I’m writing about the latest announcement that the US beer industry is going to be rolling out a “Got Milk?” type campaign in a bid to halt the slow decline of the beer market. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you can read about it at

I’m not going to put up any façade here…I work for a marketing agency contracted with Anheuser-Busch…the Evil Empire as seen by many connoisseurs of beer. While this is not our idea, I’m very interested to hear what people think. If you could humor me and forget that this effort is being headed up by Anheuser-Busch (who will spend the most money on the effort and who will reap the largest reward)…I’d like to get your thoughts.

If each of you had :30 on TV to tell the world why they should enjoy beer, what would you say?Any other thoughts, insights, insults or rants are welcome.

Thanks, Scott Burns

Scott and I emailed and I said I would ask you guys. So…what do you think? I think this is a very interesting question and I will take some time to think about it before I respond in the comments to this thread. Do put what you think and, as Scott said, rants welcome…within the scope of acceptable manners around here, of course.

And if you are a lurker, please take this moment to speak up. Join the beer blog nation while you are at it.