[7/28 Update: These timetables may no longer be accurate. Matt Dinges of the Shelton Brothers informed me that some of the Pannepot beers may not arrive before fall. We expect Black Albert to be released as planned mid-late August in time for Ebenezers Belgian Beer Fest. No news on Pannepot Cafe.]
[6/20 Update: Please read the follow-up to this article with new timetables. Note that there is no new information on the Pannepot Cafe.]
(Woesten-Vleteren, Belgium) – De Struise Brouwers will release their masterpiece, Black Albert, in 33cl bottles for U.S. distribution as soon as this summer according to Head Brewer, Urbain Coutteau. Coutteau says that plans are to export 540 cases (24 per case) of 33cl bottles around June 15.
The release of this beer will be much-anticipated considering the attention it has received through beer ratings. In December, Ratebeer ranked it #4 in the world for its Ratebeer Best 2008 competition, which also named De Struise Brouwers the #1 brewers. Beer Advocate also named Struise Black Albert #1 in the world in its magazine back in December. It may be among the best-brewed Russian Imperial Stouts ever though Coutteau contends that Black Albert is a “Royal Belgian Stout.”
One of the first hints of this beer’s release came back in early February when it got label approval in the U.S. with the Shelton Brothers stamp on it. However, there was no mention of the beer being released in the multi-hour Easter podcast interview with Chris Lively, owner of Ebenezer’s Pub, Coutteau, and Carlo Grootaert, Struise Taste Analyst, over at The Brewing Network. Lively confirmed that the beer would be bottled soon at Beer Advocate one month ago.
Staying on the subject of beer forum rumors, it seems that the release of Black Albert has been tied closely to a new Belgian pub in the States. This has been known for some time as Coutteau revealed back in late January that the new Pannepot Cafe could open in Maine late this spring. Unfortunately, the project, a partnership between Struise and Lively, has been delayed. However, in a surprising turn of events, a mysterious new Beer Advocate user, “Mainemove,” posted on the forum this month that the cafe will be opening up in South Portland, Maine, (old Eggspectations spot) as early as June 1st (it’s credible). An 8.5 barrel brewery is also slated to open there by the end of the year. Little is known about the arrangement though the Easter podcast also revealed that world-class beer chef, Sean Paxton, of Homebrewchef.com, has been consulting on the menu.
As for Black Albert, Struise originally brewed the beer for Lively as part of the Belgian Beer Festival held at his top-rated pub in Lovell, Maine back in August. Several lucky patrons and some folks out in California have been able to try the beer since then. The beer has also been semi-exclusively available on tap at Brasserie Erasmus in Brugges, Belgium. According to the brewery’s website, it appears as if Black Albert may be available as early as May 9 for those in Belgium [ed: Can someone translate it?].
Lastly, there was also some word of some Black Albert resting in oak Bordeaux casks when the beer was first reviewed. Coutteau confirmed that this would be available “next autumn” [ed: We’ll follow up to to see if that means 2008 or 2009].
Finally, there have been recent plans to import Struise Pannepot Grand Reserva to the states this summer as well though that will have to remain speculation at the moment.