mercoledì 12 settembre 2007

When it comes to saving your beers, your reputation and a beerfestival

Di Seguito l'articolo degli Struise Brouwers, pubblicato questa notte sul loro sitoweb

After a visit in March 2007 from Senor Lorenzo Dabove with a group of Italian beer enthusiasts at the Struise Farm, we were contacted by Senor Gianni Tacchini who is a friend of Lorenzo, to ask us if we wanted to present our beers on his prestigious festival. As we are always ready to reply positively on such demands, we started negotiations and in no time a decision was taken by both parties to present Struiselensis and Struise Mikkeller on draft at the coming Villagio della Birra next weekend on 15 and 16 September.
At the time the two beers were not ready yet and still lagering, but as we had 6 months ahead of us, we were very confident that Gianni would have his two primeurs for the festival. Normally Struiselensis and Struise Mikkeller were to be ready for bottling in July. Weeks and weeks passed by, July passed too and we brewers regularly sampling both beers at the lagering tanks, and as the devil or Murphy even O'brien can be present in such cases, nowhere near they ended their lagering period. As a brewer may never lose his patience, we had to calm down everybody who was starting to wonder if they were ever going to get both brands.
Furthermore we kept very silent at the time about this situation. It became really hot under our feet when half of August passed and still no green light from Carlo came that both beers could be bottled. Severe sampling and tasting was done and Carlo was proven wright, O'Brien was definitely present at the brewery.
We had to go to America to present and brew Black Albert between the 17th and 24th of August with this negative feeling our project and reputation risked to be ruined due to two beers and too much enthusiasm. We may have passed a marvellous week in the States, one never to forget, but we were not confident of what we had left behind. In the meantime, O'brien's clock was ticking, we brewers getting more nervous every day and our confidence being kicked by interrogation marks! It got even worse when Continental airlines made us miss our connection flight on the way back to Belgium and we finally arrived a day later.
We could not wait to go check at the brewery, pressure was ever so building up. When we finally got to the tanks and sampled both beers again, I was relieved to see Carlo smile, they were ready, after all this time we were able to bottle. We only had two weeks left before the festival, we were running out of precious time. As Struise is a brewing contractor, we do not work alone at Deca. We share the brewery between the owner, George Christiaens, Guido and Nino from Deranke and Piet from the Canarus brewery, all brewing artisan beers in this ancient factory.
When bottling a beer, we apply bottle conditioning or as we better know, re-ferment in the bottle. Which means that a precise amount of sugar and fresh yeast is added to the bottle. After that, the beer has to go in a warmed up room (24° celcius) in order to let the yeast do its work, eat the sugar and produce co² or carbonation, and this for minimum 5 days. Guess what, the room was occupied by Piet, having bottled his new "Krielbier". We looked to the schedule and saw that his beer would only be ready by the 4th of September, another week down the drain, Carlo biting his nails, me having stomach aches, Phil and Peter running around full of adrenaline.

This was becoming very embarrassing as Gianni and several other clients were shooting us with emails, we not wanting to give false promises on one hand, the clock ticking on the other hand. We decided to bottle on the 4th of September hoping Piet's new Krielbier being low in alcohol, sure to be withdrawn from the warm room that day. All was done as said, leaving us until the 9th for both beers to be ready and shipped by the transporter to Italy. We contacted Alpi Belgium, the offical transport company of Gianni and they confirmed the goods were to be picked up on monday the 10th (yesterday) and would arrive just in time for the festival on the 14th. Wow, what a relief, we were saved, at least that's what we thought at that moment.

My hair, literally became stiff when I did not see Alpi coming on monday, panic crushed my chest when I read a mail the same evening from Gianni, confirming Alpi had not any means of transport to come to the brewery before wednesday, the beer would only arrive after the festival. After all the energy we had put in the beer, Gianni in his festival, the curtain had finally dropped down, all being very sad and discouraged about a failed project.

As every beer story always has a happy end, at least that's what we think, we decided to call Alpi this morning at opening hour to check what else could still be done in order to save our reputation. The people from Alpi Belgium International Transport saved our day, having had several telephone conversations, the responsible gave us the answer we were looking for. He would block the truck until 4:00 PM this afternoon giving us the necessary time to re-stack and pack the goods into our delivery van and drive of to Brussels in which we succeeded. Not only will Gianni have his beers in time, the thousands of visitors to the festival will be able to taste Struiselensis and Struise Mikkeller officially for the first time!

There is a moral to this story for us brewers, never accept to sell a beer when it is not ready...


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