He is probably the nicest brewer I've ever talked to. He's very friendly and asked a lot of questions. Of course, I wanted to hear him talk about himself and brewing but he wanted to get to know people. We talked about future brews and the future expansion of New Belgium. We talked a little homebrewing, our shared love for sour beer and his past. Something that surprised me was that he said he really likes hefeweizens (and gave a shout out to Fort Collins' CooperSmith for their hefeweizen) but rarely has the chance to brew them.
Most people know his career by his presence at New Belgium and former position at Rodenbach. What you might not know is while he was at Rodenbach he was homebrewing and it grew until he decided to open a brewpub based on one of his recipes that he ran on the weekend while he worked at Rodenbach during the week. Rodenbach didn't care that he was running a competing business as long as it didn't interfere with his job at Rodenbach. He produced a single beer in a very spartan brewpub. "If you wanted something else to drink there was tap water. If you wanted something to eat you brought it with you."
For other sour beer fans, you'll be happy to know New Belgium is massively expanding the barrel space. (Some of this information has been public for a while.) They are expanding from 35 foudres to 64 foudres (selling three and adding 32 new foudres) effectively doubling capacity. The reason they have been slow to put out sour beers this year is because they are using the existing beer to inoculate the new foudres but next year should see a return of more sour beers in the Lips of Faith series plus a larger production of La Folie each year.
In continuing good news, when the Asheville brewery finally gets up and running, it will have it's own Lips of Faith program where they will put out some different stuff from Fort Collins. They won't just brew duplicate batches of the same stuff to market to the whole country. That means more Lips of Faith diversity. However, they will brew the regular line up and seasonals to help fill regular distribution. Bouckaert is especially excited because this will be his first chance to help put together a brewery from the ground up (minus his very small brewpub) rather than running an established brewery already running at capacity.
What I didn't realize about New Belgium's seasonals is that they run a seasonal for two years and then retire it. That makes sense, thinking about it. I was sad when they replaced Two Below as the winter seasonal. That's been my favorite NB seasonal. However, a new fall seasonal is coming out and it's supposed to be really good. I also love the new summer seasonal Rolle Bolle.
In other upcoming beers, Bouckaert said there will be Lips of Faith releases coming up that include a collaboration with Cigar City, a berlinerweisse and a coconut curry hefeweizen that he promises is very interesting and very good. I'm allergic to coconut and questionable about a hefeweizen with habanero and curry flavors but I might have to give that one a try.
As an aside, if you tried the Brewery Vivant collab Biere de Garde and didn't love it when it first came out, try to find some now. It has aged quite well and really mellowed nicely.
Finally, here's a nice picture of a bottle of the collaboration tripel with Dieu de Ciel (which is very tasty) plus the new New Belgium globe glasses with a picture of the brewery etched in. P.S. if you look at the screen print on the bottle just next to the glass you'll see a black scribble. That's his signature.