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11-06-2010, 16:00
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I have a new brewing hero, or maybe that should be: I have had a new brewing hero added to my own personal pantheon. Heís a smallish guy, in his early 60s, possessed of a twinkle in the eye, only makes one beer, engages fulsomely with Brett and shuffles about his kingdom with the calm pace of a monk, which is just as well as his bosses are Cistercian monks (who answer to a higher authority). My new hero is Jean-Marie Rock, the man who for the past 25 years has been head of brewing at Orval (http://www.orval.be/an/FS_an.html), the Trappist beer that has enthralled and enriched my life since I first picked up a bottle from Oddbins in the 1980s. So there I was, along with Sharpís (http://www.sharpsbrewery.co.uk/) head brewer Stuart Howe (http://brewingreality.blogspot.com/) (a man from whom the description headstrong was surely created), walking across the loading bay at Orval. A couple of guys loading crates stared at a couple of poncy Brits in suits striding across their yard. ĎWeíre here to see Jean-Marie,í said Stuart in his cockney-accented French. Then behind us, through the glass doors, a beatific smile on his face, came Jean-Marie. ĎGet up you fool,í I whispered to Stuart, all but down on one knee. There then followed the sort of intimate concourse with a brewer that makes beer-writing with all its faults and foilables worth the game. In the course of two hours, which concluded with several glasses of draught Orval (Iíve never had it this way before), Rock led us on a journey through the world of Orval. Myths were corrected ó itís only one yeast strain, not five as has been written elsewhere ó while stuff that I didnít know before was also imparted. Jean-Marie was patient, quietly and dryly humorous and everything the company of great brewers can be. ĎI love himí said Stuart as we left. I know what he means.
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