Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Doing the Wave in Beertown USA

By William Brand
Friday, October 1st, 2004 at 8:20 am in Uncategorized.

DENVER – Is Denver really Beertown USA? Probably not. But this weekend during the 22nd running of the Association of Brewers’ Great American Beer Festival, this is one hell of a beery place: 1,600 plus beers – Miller MGD – the pre-eminent American corn lager to Pizza Port Cuvee De Tomme – the head-thumping, stony Solano Beach, CA almost 12 percent wonder from Tomme Arthur of Pizza Port.

Actually, as I sit here four hours after the end of the first public tasting session, I’m not sure if Miller MGD is here or not – I saw a Miller’s booth, a huge Anheuser-Busch banner and the Coors vintage firetruck.

But I did get a one ounce sip of Curvee. Lordy me. Tomme – who is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of America’s most creative young brewers, has been in love with Belgian beers forever and this one pays homage to that greatest of brewing nations (Sorry Germany).

First, the bad news. Pizza Port produced just 600, 750 ml bottles. Nearly all were sold in and around San Diego. If you live in the Bay Area about the only hope is at the annual Barleywine Festival at the Toronado, 547 Haight St., San Francisco. The dates are Saturday, Feb.12 – Feb. 19, 2005. I saw David Keene, the Toronado’s proprietor at the GABF Thursday night, but he got away before I could ask him if he managed to grab some.

Tomme Arthur explains this year’s Curvee (*last year’s curvee won gold at the GABF.) Mo’ in un minutito.

Ooops. Oh yeah. The wave. I dunno why. It’s as spontaneous as it is at a baseball game. Suddenly, someone or a group will start shouting and the wave moves through the Colorado Convention Center hall – sometimes starting back toward its source. Happy hopheads. Look: here are two of them.

Credit: Photo by Gregory Daurer

Back to Cuvee de Tomme. Tomme explains that it started out as an ordinary, strong Belgian ale; fermented with a Belgian yeast, then aged on sour cherries and three kinds of wild yeasts (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis) – for a solid year in oak barrels previously used for Bourbon.

The cherries and especially the pits give the beer an unusual almond taste, Tomme says.

I tried it and wow. I simply loved this beer. Often this kind of beer is so strong and so sweet that it needs to age a few years – or in the case of Belgian lambic beers or blended gueze , they can be so sour that it’s a chore to do more than taste them.

Cuvee de Tomme’s nothing like that. It’s a dark beer – I could see brown highlights when I held the glass up to the light – with very little foam. The nose is lactic, distinctly sour with hints of cherries and yes, maybe almonds.

In the mouth it achieves a fine balance between sweet and sour. Maybe the tiniest hint of sweetness – this baby does have an extremely strong malty backbone – but the aging and wild yeast stole the sweetness.

So there’s this lively struggle going on in your mouth as you take a sip. God it’s wonderful stuff. Five Stars for this one *****.

And so it went at the old GABF Thursday night. When the last pour call came at 9:45, the herd of 5,000 or so trundled off into the night and the brewers and hangers-on journalists along with assorted beer junkies hit the party road.

I scored a tall Erdinger Hefe-Weizen glass and a Fuller’s glass at a bash hosted by importer Jeff Coleman of DBI in a tent in front of Falling Rock Tap House, 1919 Blake St., Denver and gobbled stuffed garlic and tiny pizzas at a function for brewers in a nearby hotel, sponsored by Monk’s Café, 264 South 16th St., Philadelphia and Nodding Head Brewery and Restraurant, 1516 Sansom, in Philly.

Declining a free massage at that affair, I motored off to bed – a bottle of Wild Dog, but no Curvee de Tomme under my arm.

Really, I’ll tell you all about Flying Dog and the founder’s pal Hunter S. Thompson and his sidekick, artist Ralph Steadman, who does all the Dog’s artwork. G’nite. – WILLIAM BRAND

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