BBJ: Pierre, thank you for this opportunity to speak with you! My first question is, what motivated you to become a brewer? (I ask this question to all my interviewees)
PIERRE: After my PhD thesis in statistical genetics, I was fed up with scientific research and I wanted to come back to something more practical. During my thesis, I visited Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen and I progressively became passionate about lambic beers. I like especially lambic beers, as they are more uncontrollable than normal beers. There is and there will always be a lot to understand in the process, which makes this type of production very interesting and challenging.
BBJ: What series of events provided the open doors for you to train at Huyghe, 3 Fonteinen, and Cantillon once finishing your brewing studies in Leuven?
PIERRE: I earned a PhD in statistical genetics but I wanted to come back to something more practical. I took a small two weeks course at Leuven, called the International Course in Malting and Brewing Sciences. Then I started to search a job in a brewery. It was not easy with a PhD. Most of the bosses are afraid of someone more graduated than them. I came to Huyghe for applying for a job, and they told me they would maybe open a new position for a brewer. I visited the brewery every two weeks to ask when that position would open, and eventually they hired me. I was brewing the second brew of the day (from 3:00 pm to midnight) it was a bit crazy. Then, I was in contact with Armand Debelder, and after working 1 year and two months at Huyghe, I quit the job and started at 3 Fonteinen. I stayed at 3 Fonteinen for 6 months. I was supposed to stay but we each had our character and it was not possible to get along. Furthermore, I was asking too much questions. Then I worked 6 months at Cantillon. I was supposed to brew but they let me do only a simple worker job, and again I was asking too many questions and wanted more responsibilities. So I stopped working at Cantillon but I left with the promise that if I would start a blendery, I could get a brew from them.
BBJ: After you gained the skills to become a proficient brewer, how long did you spend developing your business plan that you presented to interested financial investors? What challenges did you meet along the way?
PIERRE: After Cantillon, I stayed without job for 6 months and I took an accounting course to learn the aspects of a balance sheet. Then, with the help of two accountants, I built a forecast balance sheet on 10 years to see what was the minimum volume to produce and when would it become profitable. When I found that I had to start directly producing 500 hl per year, I was able to calculate all the costs of the project. The challenge was that the banks were not keen to lend us all the money, and that we had to bring 2/5th of the all investment. As I couldn’t supply the all money myself, I was obliged to accept external investors, like a business angel, as well as the Walloon region. The rest of the capital was supplied by myself, my family and a friend Grégory Verhelst, from Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles.
BBJ: Your website promotes 3 beers: Gueuze Tilquin, Quetsche Tilquin, and the Draft version of your Gueuze. However, you have also produced a wide variety of other beers and even compilations with other breweries such as La Rulles. Will those one-offs become part of your regular portfolio?
PIERRE: Mûre, Rullquin, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris are or will be regular in the Portfolio.
BBJ: We noticed that 2018 was the 3rd year of the Tilquin English Beer Festival. Where did that idea originate from?
PIERRE: I started the first edition as I had received the proposal of some English brewer friends to come help me on the Toer de Geuze, which was at that time only on a Sunday. As I had to rent a tent the entire weekend, I proposed to 7 English brewers to come on the day before and do a small festival to make the tent more useful. I also started this as my normal open door weekend due to the fact that the Toer de Geuze was not bringing a lot of people and what people that did attend were not staying for long, as it is not possible to drink sour beers all day. Inviting other breweries was a possibility to attract more people. And finally, I am a fan of English pale ales and IPA, and I like the kindness and calm of English people (not so noisy as Americans).
BBJ: Belgian Beer Journal was able to obtain a 2015 / 2016 version of the Quetsche Tilquin. How has this version differed from previous or subsequent versions?
PIERRE: The Quetsche 2015/2016 was not different from other versions of Quetsche. It is made with 260 gr plums per liter, fermented for 4 months in one year old lambic, at a rate of 1 kg for 1 liter of lambic, and then blended with 1, 2 and 3 years old lambic to reach the final dilution of 260 gr per liter, and to obtain refermentation in the bottle. It is made with a plum called Quetsche véritable d’Alsace, that we receive fresh, and destoned, like olives. This variety of plum is an oval blue plum close to the Damson.
BBJ: Are there any new developments you wish to expound on?
PIERRE: A new bigger batch of Pinot Noir Tilquin à l’ancienne is coming in September, as well as a new Pinot Gris Tilquin à l’ancienne and another new Groseille Rouge Tilquin à l’ancienne.
BBJ: Pierre, thank you so much- Belgian Beer Journal appreciates you taking the time out of your very busy business day to answer our questions for this BrewView of Quetsche Tilquin.
PIERRE: You’re welcome.
BEER STYLE AND COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION
Style category: Belgian Fruit Lambic
The Quetsche Tilquin à l’ancienne (6.4% alc / vol) is a spontaneous fermentation beer obtained from the fermentation of destoned fresh purple plums (variety Prune de Namur or Quetsche véritable d’Alsace, close to the Damson) in a blend of 1 and 2 years old lambics for a period of 4 months. Unfiltered and unpasteurized, it is re-fermented in the bottle for a minimum period of 3 months. The lambics used were fermented and matured in our own oak barrels at the blendery. They are made from worts brewed by Boon, Lindemans, Girardin and Cantillon.
The taste is slightly tart but also fruity and round which makes this Quetsche à l’ancienne more accessible for non-experts or less sophisticated palates. It also has a slight dryness from the skin of the plums. The nose perceives a plum brandy perfume.
• Beer made from 60% malted barley and 40% wheat
• When boiling, only aged hops are used
• Natural contamination by the air during cooling
• The day after brewing, contaminated wort is brought to blendery and pumped into oak barrels
• Spontaneous fermentation in oak barrels for a period of 1 to 2 years
• Fermentation of fresh plums in the lambic in stainless steel tanks for a period of four months
• Blending and then refermentation in the bottle for minimum 3 months
• The final concentration of fruit is at least 250 grams of fruit per liter of lambic
• Average production time : 2 years
OUR BREWVIEW ON GUEUZERIE TILQUIN – QUETSCHE TILQUIN (2015 / 2016 version)
Served at 50° F, it poured a 1-finger height head that collapsed somewhat quickly.
The color is a orangish / deep caramel color with a very faint purple tinge to it.
The meniscus is medium rising, rim color variation medium to light golden color. The was some gentle carbonation beading rising from the bottom of the glass.
This is indeed, a beautiful beer to look upon. Our anticipation to delve into the aromas and tastes of this much hyped beer was growing by the second.
Upon opening up the bottle, there was an immediate wafting of a deep plum aroma that began to fill the immediate space around us. We actually took some time to let this beer be exposed to the air- we did not want to rush this rare experience. Upon letting it sit for a few minutes, our first impressions of the bouquet were of Umeshu (Japanese Plum Wine), plum skin that has wild yeast on it, faint white pepper. The funkiness level is a bit subdued. There is also very faint cinnamon. The classic musty, barnyard, horse blanket aromas are softened by the addition of the plums. POST YEAST DUMP: Yes we know that dumping the yeast sediment into our glass is not standard protocol; we have discussed this many times, to the chagrin of Belgians. However, after adding the yeast sediment, we did notice a white flower aroma.
The flavors do carry over from the aromas. The plum factor is not forefront, it is very well balanced with the customary lambic flavors. Mild Budda’s Finger lemon rind tartness, and soft brett make this a very easy lambic to drink. POST YEAST DUMP: The plum factor did increase, as well with the white pepper flavors.
The acidity factor is moderate, making the pucker factor very easy to handle, especially for first timers.
FOOD PAIRING SUGGESTIONS
Quince and plum cheese, stuffed plums with Goat cheese and Prosciutto, Crostini with fresh greens and Camembert and shrimp. Classic Botterhammen with pâtés or terrines.
Of course Moules-frites (preferably with some of the Quetsche Tilquin liquid in it to give the mussel liquor a unique and fresh edge), Vol-au-vent, Paling in ‘t groen, Kip met frieten en appelmoes, Pork Tenderloin with a sweet plum sauce, Pan fried venison with sloe gin and plum sauce.
Anything with plums, baby! Summer Plum Crostata, Puff Pastry Plum Tarts, Roasted Plum, Ginger, and Honey Ice Cream, Peach and Plum Pie, or simply get your hands on Prune de Namur or Quetsche véritable d’Alsace plums. If those are not available, then easier obtained varieties would be Japanese black plums, Mirabelles, Santa Rosas or Simcas.
We allowed this bottle to age in our cellar for about a year. That amount of time almost had us forget the $18.00 price tag on this one bottle… almost, but not quite!
This is indeed, a truly world class product that begs to be paired with food. It certainly lived up to all the hype we read about it.
We want to get our hands on the other products in the Gueuzerie Tilquin portfolio. Now that Lambics and Gueuzes are gaining availability and interest in our Redding, California market, we might be able to persuade our local Liquor Barn to bring them in.
If you see Quetsche Tilquin at your local retailer or at your favorite pub, throw caution to the wind when looking at its price tag. This is a somewhat rare product to be seen in the United States due to its limited availability. But believe us, the experience of tasting this magnificent liquid is so worth it!
OUR THANKS GO OUT TO:
Pierre Tilquin- thank you once again for your time in our interview with you! We wish you nothing but the greatest success for your future!
Liquor Barn- thank you for saving this bottle for us as long as you did when you first got it to your store.
GUEUZERIE TILQUIN USA IMPORTER:
Twelve Percent Imports
HORAL / Digitale Toer de Geuze – Gueuzerie Tilquin
BrewView author GORDON A. PONCE is the main driving force behind Belgian Beer Journal.com. Since 1983, Gordon recognized that beers from Belgium were special, set apart from the typical craft beer.
He views beers from Belgium (plus Belgian-style and Belgian Inspired beers from other countries) great examples of the brewer’s art. Gordon and his wife live in beautiful Northern California- a great place to enjoy Belgian beer!