Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Funky 8 Belgian Style American Beers

[link to podcast page]

For eight years, NYC beer-scenester Warren Becker has, with friends Bill and Glen, organized a unique beer party for Warren's inner circle of beer buddies. "The Funky" was created to disprove the incorrect assumption by one unnamed, misinformed Belgian brewer that American craft breweries weren't so great. With his friends' help, Warren decided to collect together a horde of great Belgian style beers made by American brewers from coast to coast, and celebrate the knowledge ability, technical skill and creativity of our country's accomplished brewers -- USA! USA!

Last year's Funky 7 was featured on the blog/podcast.
Jason, Brian, Bob & B.R. (photo by Lefty)
In this week's podcast, we speak to the President of Funky, Warren, as well as 8-time Funky veteran Glen, and Funky participant Leighton, who came all the way from London, England!

Barcade owner Paul with Warren.
If there were a substantial number of great American craft brewers eight years ago who were tackling Belgian styles, then today the number is astronomical. But the growth trend is really a recent development, which began to significantly increase after 1990. To put the modern American brewing industry's growth, decline and rebirth into perspective (according to the Economic History Assn.):

-- in 1870 there were 3,286 brewers each producing an average of 2,009 barrels/year, meaning incredible variety, and many local breweries
-- in 1980 there were about 101 breweries in the US brewing an average of 188 million barrels/year, meaning no real variety, and almost no small local breweries
-- in 2011 there were about 1,900 breweries, more breweries in the US than at any time since 1890
BR and Warren... what pair of mugs!
With American breweries like New Belgium, Jolly Pumpkin, Stillwater -- even Brooklyn Brewery -- making some of the finest Belgian style beer anywhere, I think that the point has been proven that Americans make some kick ass biere. And with that point decisively made, another raison d'etre has emerged for the annual Funky. In recent years it has evolved into a fundraiser for the The Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC), with participants donating cash to the animal shelter, and even some "graduates" of the organization participating.
Bill's alumni of BARC, Sophie and Otto.
This year I live-Tweeted every single beer that I sampled -- 39 of 'em! Some were amazing, most were pretty good, some not so great, and at least 3 were, to put it politely, "not to my liking" (you'll have to dig through the Tweets to figure out which ones). As the day wore on, the unrefrigerated bottles didn't benefit from the gradual warming, eventually all reaching room temperature. Some held up better than others. The Blanche de Brooklyn and Hanger 24 Belgian Summer Ale both showed no flaws at room temp. Though others presented as oxidized and imperfect when they were no longer cold. And if Coors Light commercials tells us anything about beer, temperature -- specifically being "cold"--  is the most important characteristic of a beer (especially for beer that tastes bad, or has no taste at all).
Not sure where to start with over 150 beers? Just ask John! "This one!"
Out of the 39 I tasted, I'd list my top 8 favorite categories and standouts as:

-- White Birch "Cooper's Dilemma" ale aged in birchwood for being so unique and extremely tasty (you could really taste the birch flavor!)
-- "Blanche de Brooklyn" for freshness and for being true to style
-- Hanger 24 "Belgian Summer Ale" for being clean, simple and refreshing
-- Dogfish Head "Festina Lente" for its wonderful sourness (with Smuttynose "Brett and I" also worth mentioning in this regard)
-- New Holland "Farmhouse Hatter" IPA for its subtlety, and curious tea-like flavor
-- Iron Fist "Spice of Life" for its well balanced use of orange peel and coriander
-- homebrewer Peter's "Sour Flanders Red" made with cherry juice, for an excellent, homemade version of this uncommon style
-- Boulevard's "Nommo" dubble made with molasses & spices for its richness and complexity
Too funky for you, Bob?
Further below are listed all 157 different brews that the attendees brought and shared with one another -- 22 more than last year. And yet even further below that are a slew of photos from the Funky. Some more pictures of the Funky 8 are available at Glen's photo page, and at Lefty's photo page. Some photos posted here are courtesy of Glen and Lefty, and we thank them most wholeheartedly !

The 11am troopers.
Paul and Bill.

BR, Glen and Mary.
Purple shirt, purple shirt.
Mike and interview subject Leighton.

Paul and Warren.
Waffeletierre Mary.
List 1 of 4.

List 2 of 4.
List 3 of 4.

List 4 of 4.



BR's homemade Belgian White Cheese, made from scratch.

Pour Warren.

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