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Ne Goeien Saison

I always wanted to learn how to play the guitar when I was younger. I just felt it was something that I would REALLY like to know how to do. And, I wanted to write songs. Thing is, I tried to play guitar. And I sucked at it. Chalk that up as another one of lifes failures I suppose? At the end of the day, it means that I can’t sit down and collaborate with another singer/songwriter and compose a song and chords to go along. Yet, my job as a brewer means that sometimes, I get to do exactly this, albeit in a different medium. Instead of lyrics and chords, I get to use hops, yeast and malt. Not too shabby of a trade off.

Back when this year began, I commented to a fellow blogger that I felt 2008 was going to be the year of the Collaboration between Brewers. From what I have seen, I am quite the prophet. It wasn’t hard for me to imagine this being the case. Last year, I had traveled to Belgium to work with the DeProef Brewery on a beer called Signature Ale. This union of American ingredients and creativity coupled with the technical brewers at De Proef yielded incredilble results. It made me want to work with more brewers from Belgium.

In the fall of 2007, I was in Denver for The Great American Beer Festival. I ran into Hildegard van Ostedan and her husband Bas from Brouwerij Leyerth which is known better as Urthel. It was during a judging session that Hildegard and I began discussing brewing a collaborative beer together. We had met 3 years earlier in Belgium during the 24 hours of Belgian Beer. Our paths crossed from time to time. It wasn’t until we were at a table judging Belgian and French style beers last fall that we agreed we should get together and work on a project.

We left Denver knowing she’d be traveling to San Diego in April. It was decided that she would come brew with us on the Monday prior to the World Beer Cup and Craft Brewers Conference. Via email, we began discussions. From the get go, Hildegard made it clear that she wanted a very traditional Saison styled beer with a “firm” bitterness. No problemo we replied. If there was thing we do well here, it’s firm bitterness. A simple recipe consisting of Pilsner Malt a splash of wheat and some hops was devised. We pointed our collective compass at 5.5% ABV and set out to “Collaborate” that day.

The day began around 7AM and finished about 3PM with another round of beers to celebrate the brewing process. It was an excellent day on all fronts. We actually brewed a batch of IPA that day as well so Hildegard was exposed to a full brew day at Port Brewing. Her husband Bas sat quietly at the bar and sketched out some thoughts for the label. It’s the first time in my life that I have been drawn as cartoon (that cruel picture of me from 7th grade doesn’t count)!

We have sent the label off to print. It’s pretty cool. I’ve put my name on two bottles of beer in the past but never my face. I suppose after 12 years of brewing professionally, I’ve earned the right to splash my mug on a label? Either way it’s a done deal so we just have to roll with it. As it was a Collaborative beer, I decided to allow Hildegard to name the beer. She chose the phrase Ne Goeien. This is a Flemish phrase which tranlates loosely as “A Good One.” If you walk into a bar in Flanders and order Ne Goeien, you are telling the bartender to give you a good beer. It’s simple and Flemish. How cool is that?

We’re waiting for the proofs on this label to come back to us from the printer. We expect that it will be on the shelves the 2nd or 3rd week of July. It was packaged back in May and has been taking up space at our brewery ever since. We made 234 Cases of this beer and when it’s gone, there will be screams of oe ta meulick (how can this be?) at the brewery. All in all, it has been a fantastic experience. Sure, Ne Goeien Saison joins the list of beers we just didn’t make enough of. It sucks. Just like not being able to pick the intro to Stairway to Heaven on a guitar. But, life goes on.

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