Peter returned home last Wednesday to start his new job at Microsoft on Monday (September 12). I miss him, especially because brewery life is now much different without an extra helping-hand during production and bottling.
Last Wednesday, we bottled with new bottles, and without the extra step of sanitation and inspection, bottling goes much faster. I struggled to keep up with the filled bottles as I packed cases and crates, inspected fill lines, and monitored the date stamp machine. Fortunately, Tanguy was nearby to lend a helping hand. However, he was quite busy coordinating the upcoming Folk Festival hosted at his castle that weekend.
On Thursday, Florence and I performed the transfer of four smaller fermentation tanks - two, 40-hectoliter tanks and two 20-hectoliter tanks - into one 120-hectoliter tank (yes, it’s big). In order to prepare the transfer, you must first empty all of the dead yeast from the bottom of the fermentation tank. The most important part of this step is cleanliness. Florence stressed the importance of practicing proper sanitation techniques by ensuring that I sprayed alcohol on all the openings of the tank before, and after, performing the yeast purge. She also advised that I rinse the tank and ground with water afterwards to avoid sugar residues that can attract unwanted pests.
This past weekend, Marsinne (Tanguy’s castle) hosted the 25th annual Folk Festival. Over two thousand people from all over Europe come to Couthuin to attend this three-day festivities each year. It’s quite a production, as there are three large stages for dancing, two banquet halls for more dancing and food, booths selling musical instruments and local crafts, a puppet theater, and more.
Festival attendees showcase their passion for folk music through dance. With each song, there is a corresponding dance. When my mom and I first arrived Sunday afternoon, we thought people were just dancing for fun to the music (and some were). However, when I returned later that evening with Florence, we soon learned that indeed there are special steps.
After a few songs, Florence and I worked up the courage to join a group-dance. We tried our best to mimic those around us, and had a great time laughing at ourselves with each wrong step. No one seemed to care how knowledgable of a dancer you were, as long as you were having a good time. We embraced the friendly, free-spirited atmosphere as we danced hand-in-hand with other fellow dancers.
After a few songs, Florence proposed we get something to drink. “Maybe a beer that we brew?” she stated with a smile. I was parched, and a Leopold 7 was exactly the thing to quench my thirst.
While we drank our beers, Tanguy spotted us and came over to see how we were enjoying the festival. We chatted for a while until Tanguy excused himself to oversee the festival proceedings and Florence proposed we go home, as we both had to be at the brewery the following morning at 8 am for a full day of brewing. I had a great time immersing myself in a new music culture, as I can’t imagine experiencing anything this authentic in America.
Today, we brewed, and things went pretty smoothly. I spent my time asking a lot of questions and talking with Florence and Bastien. My mom picked me up early for a brewing day (4pm) so we could drive to Galler, a chocolate store about 30 minutes from Couthuin, to bring some chocolate back to California. We had a successful shopping experience, so much so that the nice woman working at the store gave us several pounds of free chocolate. We already purchased some to give to our Brasserie family, so we can’t gift it to people here. Packing the extra several pounds of chocolate will pose a challenge, but I am confident my mom will make it work. After all, it’s Belgian chocolate.