Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The end is nigh...for Belgium...maybe

There is some historic news coming out of Belgium right now; as of today Belgium has gone 150 days without a functioning government. If memory serves the last record for number of days without a Belgian government was 148 set back in 1988. Now, as then, linguistic and cultural differences between the 6 million Dutch-speaking folk in the Flanders region to the north and the 4.5 million French-speaking inhabitants in the Walloon Region to the south are the cause of this debacle.

With the seemingly impending splitting of the country into two independent nations, two questions come to mind. First, will poor old King Albert II's be able to take this or will his heart break like his country via an ironically poetic myocardial infarction? (Dude is old, I'm just sayin'). The second, and lets face it, much more important question, is what will become of Belgium's over 500 varieties of beer?

The rational side of me thinks that even if this break were actually to occur there would be very little change. Beer and chocolate make-up a large chunk of their economy and disrupting or interfering with their production would be tantamount to political suicide. For instance InBev, the largest beer company in the world, is located just a few kilometers to the east of Brussels. If some interim punk PM from the country of Flanders And Regional Territories (or whatever name they come up with, I just like that one because you can make a childish, yet hilarious, acronym out of it) tried to get in InBev's way, he would be crushed faster than a PBR can against a frat boys forehead. Realistically, the worst that would happen would be a slight shift in tariffs causing my Westvleteren 8 to be a few cents cheaper, but my N'ice Chouffe to be a few cents more.

The irrational side of put what I'm thinking into words would make it even more horrific. I'm already going to have a hard time getting any sleep tonight. Taking away Delirium Noël would be like taking away Christmas itself. Suffices to say, I'll be keeping an eye on this story.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Year of Beer

Starting now-ish (let's say the beginning of November 2007) till the end of October 2008 will forever become known as my "Year of Beer", at least it will be in the annals of my gray-matter-bound biography. It will be known by this rather unimaginative, yet still catchy, moniker because over the next 12 months I'm dedicating my self to beer and beer culture. Basically, this is my excuse to do all the beer related things that I either haven't done in a while (i.e. homebrew) or have always wanted to do, within my limited means of course.

Someday I'll make it to all the Trappist breweries in Belgium and experience the Darwin beer-can regatta in Australia, but that's not going to happen this year. There are plenty of relatively local events that I've never attended. There is the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest, Hard Liver Barleywine festival in Seattle and the Sasquatch Brew Fest in Eugene just to name a few. Of course, there is one event that every avid beer lover must attend at some point in their lives, and that is the Great American Beer Festival. If all goes well the GABF will be the exclamation point on this experiment.

However, this year is about much more than just drinking a lot of really good beer, it's also about education. I haven't brewed a beer in years, and it's been months since I've reviewed one. I call my self a beer geek, but have never read any of Michael Jackson's books (not that MJ). So, beer reviews will be starting up again (probably at a bi-weekly schedule), I'll be mixing up a batch of homebrew at least every other month and I'll start reading those books I've been letting collect dust on my shelves. I may even take another look at the BJCP study guide.

I have no idea if I can accomplish all the things that I want, but I'm not getting any younger and I have an unprecedented amount of freedom right now that I will probably not experience again. In other words, it's now or never. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how far I get with this project. It's the journey, experiences and camaraderie that is formed when people of dissimilar backgrounds come together to celebrate a similar interest that I'm craving.