If you've ever seen a child's eyes light up from receiving that one true toy he's always dreamt of, you know the emotion. Those same reactions covered the faces of the slightly more than a dozen craft-beer enthusiasts who took over the Sybarite Pig in Boca Raton on Labor Day to celebrate the fruits (quite literally) of hard working brewing labor with the first of two Cantillon Brewery beer events at the gastropub.
Chef Daniel Naumko put together an all-star cast of aged bottles from the highly rated sour beer manufacturer for an evening of good feelings. "I wanted to have a cool plate of food and [have beers] that people can enjoy together," he told us. "I don't like seeing [Cantillon] going for so much money per bottle at other places. People sell them for way more because they're limited in supply... That's not my style." Instead, he said, he sells his bottles when he gets them for a simple markup like he does his other beers.
This Cantillon event, and another one happening on October 6, feature more than a handful of different aged bottles, ranging as far back as 2010. The list, in case you were wondering, is thus:
- Rosee de Gambrinus
- Saint Lamvinus
- Lou Pepe Kriek 10'
- Lou Pepe Kriek 11'
- Lou Pepe Gueze 10'
- Classic Gueze
These beers are all lambics or sour in character, meaning that they rely heavily on spontaneous fermentation, resting on fruit for months or years or aging in barrels... some taking all three into consideration. The Belgian brewers attempt to keep things as traditional as possible, and open fermentation (as opposed to the usual fermentation inside closed stainless-steel vessels) produces some of the funkiest beer around.
Iris, for example, showcases mango and tropical fruit bitterness inside of a tart and liquor-like frame. Classic Geuze brings out the most sour and funk of the evening, with an almost abrasive attack on your taste buds in the best way. Sour fans are akin to those who love hot sauces.
On the other end of the spectrum are the kriek beers, aged on sour cherries, like the 2011 Lou Pepe Kriek, which brought to mind some funky and juicy apple cinnamon flavors on top of the smooth-finishing cherry base. The 2010 bottle, for comparison, had a stronger sour punch and a broader range of complexity than its younger cousin. This could be due to different blending techniques, age, or any number of factors and highlights the difference that individual years will have on a beer of this nature.
Included with the beers is a dish close to Naumko's heart, as he puts it: a ten-hour-smoked lamb leg with stewed summer tomato, chilies, and guava, featuring a Nøgne Ø / Terrapin Imperial Rye Porter gastrique. "It jumped-started my career in food and won me judges' choice at the Houston Beer Experiment a couple of years ago," he said. If this were on the menu all the time, it would be a top seller. It's cozy comfort food.
Make note of the next event on October 6, as seating is limited. This will probably be most people's only way to experience this amount of different Cantillon beers in one place without traveling to Belgium, and it's right here in South Florida. In other words, don't miss it.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Instagram.