Cam­bridge Brew­ing’s Will Mey­ers,

Cam­bridge Brew­ing Com­pany’s Will Mey­ers was re­cently awarded the Brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s Rus­sell Schehrer award for in­no­va­tion in brew­ing for his work in ex­ploratory brew­ing tech­niques such as wild fer­men­ta­tion and bar­rel ag­ing, but the beers he en­joys the

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents - By Jamie Bogner

the 2017 win­ner of the Rus­sell Schehrer award for in­no­va­tion in brew­ing, shares a spe­cial 6-pack.

WILL MEY­ERS IS A BREW­ERS’ brewer. A guy who’s been tak­ing risks for years with the beers he makes in this small brew­ery a stone’s throw from the cam­pus of M.I.T. and who’s gained the re­spect and friend­ship of his brew­ing-in­dus­try peers at that same time. So what does he en­joy drink­ing when he’s off the clock? Here’s his 6-pack of drink­able, well-crafted, art­ful, and con­sis­tently low-abv beers.

Taras Boulba

Brasserie De La Senne (Brus­sels, Bel­gium) “I was just over in Brus­sels with my friend Yvan de Baets of De La Senne, and I drank the snot out of Taras Boulba (as I nor­mally do), and that re­minded of the fact that—es­pe­cially as I age—my palate has ma­tured, and I want to be able to taste a num­ber of beers with­out ev­ery one of them be­ing 12 per­cent ABV mon­sters. Taras Boulba fits the “ses­sion beer” model, for lack of a bet­ter term, be­cause I tend to think of them as “nor­mal” beers rather than “ses­sion beers.” But as I thought of Taras Boulba, nat­u­rally my thoughts turned to a small brewer in Spain— Guineu—and they make a beer named Riner. It’s a 3 per­cent ABV su­per-dry su­per-hoppy crush­able beer, and I buy a case of it from my dis­trib­u­tor ev­ery year. My in­side guy at the dis­trib­u­tor says, “This just came in,” and I make sure to buy a case or two and then share it around with my brew staff. It’s a great beer to al­ways keep in your fridge when it’s fresh. I love Jester King Le Petit Prince for the same rea­son—they’re all dry, drink­able beers that are easy to en­joy in quan­tity, and yet when you stop and think about them, they all ex­press with mag­nif­i­cent com­plex­ity.”

London Pride

Fullers Brew­ery (London, Eng­land)

“It’s just a glo­ri­ous beer that I’ve prob­a­bly en­joyed for 20 years (when­ever I could get it in good shape), but now it’s tied to a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing been over in the U.K. as guest brewer a few times for a cask-ale pro­ject. I vividly re­mem­ber vis­it­ing with my friend, beer writer Melissa Cole, and ar­rang­ing a tour/hang-out-with­the-brewer op­por­tu­nity at Fullers where we were in their brew­ery, in the cav­erns be­low the brew­ery, and next door in their pub, the Maw­son Arms. It was all I wanted to drink with oc­ca­sional breaks to en­joy their porter. But London Pride is one of those beers, like Sierra Ne­vada Pale Ale as well, that em­bod­ies the idea of per­fec­tion in bal­ance, drink­a­bil­ity, and fla­vor. You can drink one, and want another one, have a sec­ond one, and re­ally want a third one, rather than just think­ing, “Gosh, I en­joyed that, but maybe I want to try some­thing dif­fer­ent.” I find as a brewer that I want to try and taste every­thing avail­able, but that drives bar­tenders mad when I ask for a taste of this and a taste of that. But London Pride is one of those beers where if it’s on and it’s fresh, I know that’s what I’m go­ing to en­joy all week. There re­ally aren’t that many other beers with that sort of ap­peal, where they’re just beau­ti­fully well-crafted beers that have more to say in their subtlety.”

Con­se­cra­tion

Rus­sian River Brew­ing (Santa Rosa, Cal­i­for­nia)

“I would be com­pletely re­miss if I didn’t in­clude at least one of Vin­nie’s beers be­cause he’s been a huge in­spi­ra­tion for me on both the clean and the funky side. Blind Pig is still one of the best IPAS in the coun­try, and when I’m on the West Coast, it’s what I want to reach for if I’m in the mood for some hops. But I have to men­tion Rus­sian River’s Con­se­cra­tion—a dark sour aged in caber­net sau­vi­gnon bar­rels with black cur­rants. I had a re­ally cool ex­pe­ri­ence with it at the 2009 Craft Brew­ers Con­fer­ence in Bos­ton—vin­nie and Natalie and I did a side event out­side of the con­fer­ence at the Bos­ton Wine School, where we held a beer tast­ing for wine peo­ple with the idea to fo­cus on the things that wine tasters en­joy in

“Even after 25 years in the brew­ing in­dus­try, you can still have these ca­reer high­light op­por­tu­ni­ties where you’re trans­ported back to your skinny 22-year-old home­brew­ing self, nerd­ing out over a beer. That was a se­ri­ous fan­boy mo­ment for me, be­ing in the Or­val brew­ery, en­joy­ing those beers with the brew­mas­ter. It was in­cred­i­ble.”

wine and things that might open up their minds to en­joy beer. One thing that re­ally im­pressed me about Vin­nie and Natalie is that, as wine-coun­try folk them­selves, they re­ally un­der­stood that the ex­pe­ri­ence the wine fan is look­ing for is a one-on-one with the mas­ter wine­maker in their bar­rel cel­lar pulling sam­ples for them to en­joy. The ul­ti­mate hands-on guided ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Vin­nie and Natalie rec­og­nized that and did some­thing su­per cool—they shipped a bunch of bot­tles of Con­se­cra­tion (which they’d just be­gun to re­lease) and also shipped bot­tles of Con­se­cra­tion that had not been car­bon­ated—still bot­tles. And they also sent a lit­tle 5-gal­lon oak bar­rel, and that af­ter­noon as we were set­ting up, they took all of the still Con­se­cra­tion from bot­tles and poured it into the oak bar­rel it­self. Then at this tast­ing for thirty peo­ple, they pro­ceeded to take a wine thief and thief out tasters for ev­ery­body. That put their heads in a spot where they were like ‘I thought this was sup­posed to be beer, but this guy is do­ing all of this wine stuff.’ From that per­spec­tive, he was able to en­gage them not only with a beer that had fruit char­ac­ter and acid char­ac­ter and oak char­ac­ter—all com­po­nents of wine—but then went on to talk about the bot­tle refer­men­ta­tion process, how beer gets its car­bon­a­tion, and how par­al­lel that is to sparkling wine (with­out the méth­ode cham­p­enoise dis­gorge­ment). Then, sideby-side, they went through how the beer tastes right from the bar­rel, and what it tastes like car­bon­ated. They ex­plained how the car­bonic acid and the bub­bles wake up the palate, as com­pared to the beer when it’s still. The chal­lenges of tast­ing the beer when still and at cel­lar tem­per­a­ture and be­ing able to pre­dict how it’s go­ing to ex­press later when it’s at cooler tem­per­a­ture and car­bon­ated. They did a phe­nom­e­nal job of en­gag­ing this en­tire group of peo­ple who were oth­er­wise pre­pared to just show up and drink some fizzy yel­low beer and get on with it.

“So be­tween that pre­sen­ta­tion and the beer it­self, it just blew my mind. Vin­nie is some­one who re­ally un­der­stands fla­vors and com­po­si­tion, and from that ex­pe­ri­ence on, Con­se­cra­tion has al­ways been one of my fa­vorite beers on the planet. Plus, at the end of the night they didn’t want to carry all of that stuff back to Cal­i­for­nia, so they gave me that lit­tle 5-gal­lon bar­rel, which I still use in my bar­rel cel­lar at Cam­bridge Brew­ing Com­pany for lit­tle projects and ex­per­i­ment­ing with things.”

Or­val

Brasserie D’or­val (Florenville, Bel­gium) “Or­val, of course, was a life-chang­ing beer for me. As a home­brewer in the very early 1990s, I dis­cov­ered this beer that was kind of de­li­cious no mat­ter how old it was but was in­her­ently de­signed to change over time. As a home­brewer, I was fo­cused on fig­ur­ing out how to keep my beer as fresh and clean as pos­si­ble. And here were these brown-robed monks over in Bel­gium stir­ring vats at some monastery, say­ing ‘Hey, this stuff is great for six months or a year or two years.’

“I’d typ­i­cally buy a case of Or­val ev­ery year, and my wife would go down into the cel­lar and pick 2 or 3 bot­tles of Or­val of dif­fer­ent bot­tling dates and pour them for me to taste blind to see if I could guess how old they were. That was re­ally cool in terms of wrap­ping your head around the age­abil­ity of beers like that. Or­val young and fresh is nice and hoppy and grassy with that great European hops char­ac­ter. And then over time as the Brett starts to ex­press, the hops start to regress from the palate, and even­tu­ally it be­comes this crazy, Bretty barn­yard bomb with some nice acid char­ac­ter. Still, to this day, I think it’s a re­mark­able beer in a world where you can’t be an Amer­i­can brewer with­out a bar­rel pro­gram and five dif­fer­ent Brett and Lacto strains.

“I had the chance to travel to the brew­ery one week ago while I was in Bel­gium and was able to ar­range the tour with Ann François, the brew­mas­ter there. We trav­eled through the lab and brew­ery and cel­lar for sev­eral hours, cul­mi­nat­ing at the brew­ers tap­room at the top of the brew­house build­ing, en­joy­ing bot­tles of sev­eral dif­fer­ent ages plus the fresh ta­ble beer. So even after 25 years in the brew­ing in­dus­try, you can still have these ca­reer high­light op­por­tu­ni­ties where you’re trans­ported back to your skinny 22-year-old home­brew­ing self, nerd­ing out over a beer. That was a se­ri­ous fan­boy mo­ment for me, be­ing in the Or­val brew­ery, en­joy­ing those beers with the brew­mas­ter. It was in­cred­i­ble.”

Oude Gueuze

De Cam Geuzestek­erij (Gooik, Bel­gium) “I had a beer that I’d never had be­fore in my life when I was in Brus­sels a few weeks ago. Yvan de Baets and I trav­elled out in the Pa­jot­ten­land to a lit­tle vil­lage called Gooik and vis­ited lam­bic brewer De Cam. The brew­mas­ter, Karl, has a day job as a brew­mas­ter for the Witkap brew­ery, but on nights and week­ends his hobby is work­ing as a lam­bic blender—which is ob­vi­ously his true pas­sion in life. Man, I’ve en­joyed a bunch of lam­bic and gueuze and fruited sour beers in my time, but I don’t know

that I’ve ever had any­thing that was so pre­cisely well-bal­anced and ex­pres­sive for an oude gueuze. That beer was so re­mark­able that I im­me­di­ately re­al­ized I had to buy so many bot­tles that my lug­gage was go­ing to be over­weight, and it was go­ing to cost a zil­lion dol­lars to check ex­tra bags home. But I did it be­cause I didn’t know when I’d have the next op­por­tu­nity to go to his brew­ery out­side Brus­sels and en­joy it. The De­cam Oude Gueuze was rev­e­la­tory.

“Along­side that, I’d say Frank Boon’s Mariage Par­fait has al­ways been one of my fa­vorite lam­bic beers avail­able state­side. I en­joy it for the same rea­son—an un­der­stated el­e­gance and it’s so well-thought-out. You can re­ally taste the brewer and the blender’s pre­ci­sion in un­der­stand­ing the craft and com­po­nents of the beer and how they marry to­gether. I got to spend the day with Frank and Yvan and toured the brew­ery and tasted the beer from at least a dozen dif­fer­ent foed­ers. It blew me away that this guy has a hun­dred dif­fer­ent foed­ers and knows what’s go­ing on (in­ti­mately well) in ev­ery one of them over the three years that the beer might be res­i­dent.

“I’ve de­vel­oped more re­spect for what Frank Boon has been able to ac­com­plish— he has an in­cred­i­ble en­gi­neer­ing mind, and for many many years he did all of his own cooper­ing and bar­rel re­pairs. He’s some­body who re­spects the tra­di­tion of lam­bic brew­ing, of spon­ta­neous in­oc­u­la­tion, of wood ag­ing and blend­ing, and he also be­lieves that it doesn’t re­quire some will­ful ig­no­rance and be­lief in the magic of lam­bic beer. He wants to know how he can make his beers bet­ter. How he can track in a lab the dif­fer­ent lev­els of yeast and bac­te­ria as they progress in his beer. That’s not some­thing you’d typ­i­cally think you’d see in a lam­bic brew­ery. You’d think it’s just ro­man­tic cob­webs and bar­rels of magic, and yet here’s this guy who says, ‘I ab­so­lutely want to know what’s go­ing on.’

Loretta

Oxbow Brew­ery (Port­land, Maine) “I’ve been a fan for a few years now of this smaller, newer brew­ery. Along with my own brew­ery and a few others in the North­east that I’m aware of, they were one of the first to es­pouse the brew­ers’ love for the small sai­son sub­cat­e­gory of grisette. This grain-for­ward, lowhop, low-al­co­hol sai­son was his­tor­i­cally pro­duced and served to min­ers. They do two beers—loretta is a clean Sac­cha­romyces fer­ment, and the other ver­sion is the mixed-cul­ture fer­men­ta­tion La Griseta. Both of those—like Le Petit Prince from Jester King—em­body that great com­bi­na­tion of dry­ness and drink­a­bil­ity with mas­sive com­plex­ity that suc­ceeds be­cause it doesn’t de­mand your at­ten­tion like a mas­sive bar­rel-aged quadru­ple would. It de­mands your at­ten­tion be­cause it’s re­ally de­li­cious and as you think about it, there are so many lay­ers in the beer. There’s a great ce­real grain fla­vor in the Oxbow Loretta—it’s su­per dry and su­per re­fresh­ing.

“We’re in this world with 5,300 brew­eries and ev­ery­one’s try­ing to be dif­fer­ent by do­ing the same thing—fruited sours and hazy IPAS and crazy big beers—and a lot of them are re­ally de­li­cious and I re­ally en­joy tast­ing them. But if we’re be­ing hon­est, it’s just not what I grav­i­tate to­ward to drink. If I’m go­ing to have a few glasses of beer in a so­cial set­ting, it’s good for me to en­joy some­thing that ac­com­pa­nies the con­ver­sa­tion rather than try­ing to con­trol it.

“No mat­ter how wacky and wild the world of craft beer gets, the beers that peo­ple al­ways want to drink over the long run are the ones that are drink­able and el­e­gant. The rest of the stuff is su­per fun, but as beer drinkers and their palates ma­ture, ev­ery­one I’ve ever known has al­ways come back to the idea of drink­a­bil­ity. And that’s what ul­ti­mately sus­tains us as an in­dus­try and crafts­peo­ple.”

“We’re in a world of 5,300 brew­eries and ev­ery­one’s try­ing to be dif­fer­ent by do­ing the same thing— fruited sours and hazy IPAS and crazy big beers. A lot of them are re­ally de­li­cious and I en­joy them. But if we’re be­ing hon­est, it’s just not what I grav­i­tate to­ward to drink. If I’m go­ing to have a few glasses of beer in a so­cial set­ting, it’s good for me to en­joy some­thing that ac­com­pa­nies the con­ver­sa­tion rather than try­ing to con­trol it.”. ”

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