Friday, January 30, 2015

There's this little trip to Belgium next week

Remember that raffle that I won in December from Philly Beer Week and 12% Imports? Well, it's finally here. Not that it snuck up on me all that much, but any ideas I had about preparing adequately to maximize my travels have all but evaporated at this point.

I know I have a flight, a hotel room, and a valid passport. The weather looks clear (and cold) leaving Philly and overcast/rainy (and not quite as cold) when arriving in Brussels.

Beyond that, oy.

That's not really true, though. The level of communication has been much higher than expected amongst all the principals involved in the trip. Brian Ewing of 12% Imports (the importer of the host brewery, Hof ten Dormaal) is picking up the travel tab for myself and the brewer I tapped, John Stemler of Free Will Brewing, and has been playing his liaison role between the brewing entities on both sides of the pond. This role has become even more critical in light of the devastating fire that HtD suffered earlier in January. They continue to work like crazy at their brewery just east of Brussels to prepare for our brew day on February 5.

The dialogue between the brewers, myself, Tom Peters (of Monk's Cafe), William Reed (Standard Tap), Casey Parker (Jose Pistolas), and others around the recipe specifications has also taken on a life of its own in long-running e-mail conversations. While it's still too soon to say with 100% certainty, you can bet we'll be talking about the recipe next week as we tweet, burp, share, post, blog, bleep, blurp, write, and take pictures along the way. The free-wheeling conversation leading up to the trip has been fun and educational for me as an outsider to the professional brewing world — or at least to the part that involves recipe formulation, ingredient planning and sourcing, etc.

Side threads have also sprouted in e-mail around other group excursions apart from brew day. Staying in Brussels, Cantillon is an obvious choice. Drie Fonteinen and Boon are also likely visits. As he has taken the lead in planning these additional visits, the respect that Tom Peters garners in his home away from home in Belgium is immediately obvious.

Finally, as Stemler and I will both be coming into Belgium prior to the larger group (we expect a total of 11 from Philly, I think is our last count, in the complete traveling group), he has been taking the lead in establishing other brewery meetups and possible brew days in order to further his professional relationships abroad during this trip.

So my rough count is that there have been over 130 e-mails over the past few weeks leading up to what should be a most-excellent trip. Now, it's time for me to count some Euros I have at my home desk and figure out if/how to get more. Set up my international data and calling plan. Figure out the best route into the city from the airport (likely the train). Determine which, if any, "gift beers" I'd like to pack for the new friends we make over there. Clothes, toiletries? Eh, minor stuff!

Oh, and the minor footnote of being 89% of the way through editing my 416-page book manuscript, due by the end of this week--is that today?! Separate story for a different day. Maybe I'll write something about it on the plane ride to Belgium.

While I'm in Belgium, expect to see updates here at The Brew Lounge. I'll also be forwarding some material to for Michael Klein to include in his column. Philly Beer Week will also have some fun content that we'll be chipping in with along the way. And the usual social media outlets — The Brew Lounge on Facebook and The Brew Lounge on Twitter — should be alive and well during this trip and full of fun things found, heard, and tasted along the way.

Here we go....

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