Membership has its privileges… As a Rare Beer Club member, you’ll be the first in the nation to taste the fourth installment of collaboration beers brewed by Dirk Naudts of De Proef Brouwerij and a US craft-brewer collaborator. This year’s beer, like previous offerings, was brewed in Western Flanders, Belgium, at De Proef. And in this corner, representing the US for round four is Brian “Spike” Buckowski, founder of the Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Georgia. Their creation, called Monstre Rouge, could be described as an Imperial Flanders Red Ale, and it doesn’t hit US store shelves until August—giving you at least a month to gloat and torment your fellow beer geeks (or, share with them… what ever works for you).
De Proef owner and brewing innovator Dirk Naudts is nicknamed “the prof” (as in professor), a sobriquet that he wears with pride. The word hints at learning and teaching, so it’s a logical step to embrace that educational element through the spirit of collaboration. The international craft brewing culture is rather unique in that there are so many brewers vying for a very small piece of the overall pie. In the US alone, there are more than 1,400 craft breweries all splitting their share from about 5% of the total beer market. With so many breweries vying for their very narrow slice of the beer business, you’d think competition would be fierce, and collaboration uncommon. But remarkably, it’s just the opposite. Craft brewers participate in a unique spirit of cooperation domestically, and it turns out the brewing olive branch extends internationally as well. During the past four years, De Proef has played host to a series of US guest brewers from internationally renowned microbreweries—folks like Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing and Lost Abbey in Southern California, Jason Perkins from Allagash Brewing Company in Maine, and John Mallett of Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. Naudts was among the first international brewers to engage in this type of transatlantic team up, and the maneuver has caught on—international collaboration beers are today far more prevalent than they were about five years ago when he came up with his own Belgian-American collaboration concept.
Brian Buckowski of the Terrapin Beer Company also proudly proclaims a nickname on his business card and beer labels: “Spike.” We’re not sure where the spike comes from, but being familiar with Terrapin’s beers, we often think it refers to a heavy-handed spiking of his beers with hops—since the Terrapin beers can carry quite the alpha-acid punch. Among the Atlantic states especially, the American South is experiencing a craft-brewing surge, with some very exciting beers being dreamt up (and served up) down there. Buckowski has played a large part in that uptick in quality beer from the South, having realized early on that he wanted to apply his homebrewing skills professionally to create new beers not formerly available in Georgia, or in much of the South for that matter. Along with co-founder and fellow homebrewer John Cochran, Buckowski introduced their first beer in 2002, and took the unusual step of kicking things off with a spicy, aggressively-hopped Rye Pale Ale. A bold move for a new brewery, but smart; six months after the first pints were drawn at local watering holes in Athens, GA, it won the Gold Medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival in the Pale Ale category. In the years since, they’ve rolled out the barrels, oak-aging many of their beers, dosing some with honey, cocoa, and whatever else suits their fancy. They’ve made some pretty big, monster-sized beers, including one called “Big Hoppy Monster,” upon which the De Proef collaboration brew is loosely based (with some of that southern rye thrown in for good measure, of course!).
They brewed only about 110 barrels of Monstre Rouge. Trust us when we tell you, this beer will sell out at the retail level—so you may want to think about upping the number of bottles that you pick up, because not only is this a unique, very tasty brew, it’s going to age wonderfully, so stock up now so you can stash away a few monsters in the closet!