For this month’s Session, I chose the topic of Collaborations because it’s one of the hot items in the brewing world today. I also chose it as I’ve been collaborating with other beer writers for some time now in various ways. For almost a year now, Peter Estaniel of BetterBeerBlog and I have collaborated on out Hopinions columns where we tackle whichever topic comes to mind, including collaborations. The Hop Press which is hosting this Session is also a collaboration, bringing together the writing talents of numerous beer writers to one place. Basically, the topic just seemed to fit.
For my entry into the world of The Session, I wanted to make it fun. I sat down with Joseph Tucker, the owner of RateBeer, split a bottle of the De Proef and Bell’s collaboration, then sent him to the other side of the house where we review the beer via Facebook chat.
Ingredients and techniques from two different areas come together to produce the beer in this bottle. Van Twee (From Two) is the remarkable result of a collaboration between two breweries know for extreme innovation: Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, MI and De Proef Brouwerij of Lochristi, Belgium. Special emphasis was placed on using ingredients from both Belgium and Michigan in designing this beer. Michigan is renowned for producing sour, dark cherries of superior quality, and a significant quantity of cherry juice was added to the brew. Deep hued Belgian candi sugar adds to the complex flavor of the beer. The sugar used for bottle conditioning came from native Michigan sugar beets. A finishing fermentation with vinous Brettanomyces strain of yeast complements the unique New Zealand hop variety, Nelson Sauvin. The result is broadly a cherry infused ’mash-up’ of the porter and dubbel styles, brewed to an original gravity of 1.072 and fermented with multiple strains of yeast. Each ingredient used brings a subtle hint of a varied fruit such as plum/prune from the roasted malts; gooseberry/grape from the hops; pear/banana from the yeast and specialty sugar; and of course cherry. These flavors are wrapped in a rich and complex roasted malt base that imparts flavors reminiscent of chocolate and coffee–much like the famous filled chocolates of Belgium. We hope you enjoy drinking this beer as much as we enjoyed making it for you.
Mario Rubio: Hello Joe Tucker
Joe Tucker: yo man
MR: So this Van Twee is a Belgian Dark Ale brewed with Cherry Juice
JT: OK Van Twee over Facebook chat…
MR: It’s a collaboration between Bells and De Proef. I get the cherry in the nose, almost cough syrupy, but not a negative thing
JT: I get cherries and a milky lactic aroma, lotsa lactic sour
MR: Lactic comes through when I drink it. Surprisingly light. With collaborations I always expect big, burly beers, over the top. This one’s only 7.5%
JT: light bodied yeah and pretty clean feel – not much in the way of particulate feel, heft or viscosity despite the creamy feel and massive head retention
MR: The more I drink the more I think “Cherry Juice”
JT: “only 7.5″ haha
MR: 7.5% makes it a California session
JT: yeah. :-) can we do emoticons?
MR: If you like
JT: the feel is really interesting. and I’m not getting much “cherry juice” or “cough syrup” or whatever but I am getting some light phenolic flavors in the clove range
MR: By the way, this bottle has been hiding in my fridge for about 6 months now
JT: the feel… it’s light and moussy
MR: Light, definitely but I’m getting lots of fruit, almost wine-like
JT: Seems like it’s held up well to some light aging.
MR: take that back, the finish reminds me of some of Ace’s ciders
JT: I’m getting some tanginess, maybe even a bit of acetic sour at the edge of the lactic sourness. Yeah, that tang.
MR: Reading the bottle it was pitched with Brett, primed with beet sugar and hopped with Nelson Sauvin
JT: I thought Ace cider (apple) had a bit of a tang in the finish too. Maybe easing tannins in the skins? would be the same for cherries
MR: for “only 7.5%” it sips really well
JT: The Nelson Sauvin could contribute to the vinous flavors but I’m not feeling much from the hops.
MR: Hops are near non existant, at least on the flavor profile. Not surprising from a Belgian Dark
JT: Absolutely. We started a little cold. Maybe mid-40s. We’re probably at just about 50 now?
MR: I get the DeProef side of this collaboration, but I’m not feeling the Bell’s side
JT: The lactic sour dark malts is Bellsy. It’s a nice creative contribution
MR: The description talks about Michigan being known for dark cherries and using Michigan based beet sugar
JT: I’m interested in how this opens up as it warms
MR: I had no idea. I only knew Michigan for its ability to riot and not properly employ the population
JT: and make great beer
MR: Well, when you’re out of work and looking to riot, you need a good brew
JT: and play football (better than Pac 10?)
MR: One win in 10 Rose Bowls does not a winner make. And at least we can count in the Pac 10
JT: So how ’bout those Michigan cherries
MR: If this beer were adding Big Ten football to the brew I think it would taste like times past and hype.
MR: Yeah, cherries…I think the cherry juice keeps the beer light on the palate, I’d imagine the juice ferments out pretty well. I’d be interested to know what a “significant quantity of cherry juice” actually is when it comes to the percentage of volume
JT: checking the color – it’s near opaque. Maybe some dark reddish edges – but not much hint as to the amount of fruit in here.
MR: You’re right, it’s surprisingly opaque. Well, my glass is emptying quickly
JT: mine too. i need to wait a little. It’s warming and some real aroma is just coming out
MR: I think we’ll have to add that as an addendum. Quite an interesting collaboration. Often it seems a collaborative beer is one that either brewery may have come up with on their own, but a cherry juice dark Belgian that falls on the lighter side of the collaboration and dark Belgian scale is rather unique. While my understanding of Michigan is probably offensively ignorant to some, I own it, and still enjoy this beer quite a lot
JT: I still feel this is pretty Bells-y with the lactic sourness and big black malts
MR: Any final thoughts?
JT: It’s very unique. Is it a sour beer? Kind of. Is it a fruit beer? Well, yeah, sort of. It’s black and Belgian and sour and fruity. Also strange how it was pitched with brett but the primary bits of sourness I got were lactobacillus type and acetic. Not much horse blanket or barnyard (nor pedio)
MR: Well, thanks Joe. As far as collaborative beer tastings go, I give you a 4.6 out of 5.
Apologies to the state of Michigan. I was just having a little fun. As for the Big Ten, I apologize for nothing. Also, given that Boonville is this weekend, I will most likely not be reading many posts until Monday, expect a recap sometime mid-week.
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