We asked the founder, organiser, and wild yeast mastermind Jan Lemmens some questions about the Carnivale Brettanomyces.
Hi Jan, you organize the Carnivale Brettanomyces now for the fifth time. This time with more the 40 brewers and even more events. Did you imagine such a dimension 5 years ago?
Nope, but we could have know having the time on our side. As we noticed a growing number of beers around us using brett or other deviant fermenters, the idea was to give these a stage and promote them, as in, we wanted more of them. As every where the ‘craft beer revolution’ had slowly started in the Netherlands already too, bringing an new open minded audience and brewers. So we could have known, but we where naive.
Why call it Carnivale?
Despite the rather serious formula of the fest, with lectures, aiming for sharing knowledge, beer is a social and fun thing. We love having the nerds hanging around smelling their beer to identify the exact type of yeast used, we might even do that ourselves, but beer is fun too. A social lubricant and a delicious nectar. Besides that, we are (where perhaps) the beer festival of the uncommon beers. I think ‘Carnivale’ covers that wicked and jolly side of the event.
Is the festival just for beer geeks that already know sour beers and like them? Or can also somebody who hasn’t yet been in contact with spontaneous fermented brews have a good time at the Carnivale?
Everyone can have a good time at the festival. There is a lot of beer to taste, to drink. As our topic is yeast, styles can vary from lambic to imperial stout. As long as you are willing to leave your possibly prejudiced idea of what a beer should at home this is a great festival to be positively surprised of. And brettheads are nice people to hang out with. Really.
Carnivale Brettanomyces is a special festival not just because it is exclusively about sour beers, but also it takes place over 4 days at different locations. Can you describe a bit how the Brett Fest is different from other beer festivals in the way the visitor experiences these days?
In one way the fest is a pub crawl. There is no central location, no one has to buy a ticket to get in, there is simply a lot of specific beers at several places. With having little and bigger events like tap takeovers, the crowd can move from place to place to catch some of that fun. And someone who was just going out for a beer will find him or herself in an unexpected vibe, hopefully for the better.
The other side is the lectures we do. Slowly we see other festivals offering masterclasses, crash courses etc. too. Something we endorse. Despite the fun beer ansich is already, many of us like to know something more. By trying to get a broad spectrum of the best speakers we can offer a unique opportunity to listen and discuss with often the high end authorities on the topic. These lectures vary from historical to cultural to hardcore nerdy biochemistry. Honestly, we’ve been surprised with the enthusiasm these have been received. There is a whole world out there who likes to know a lot about their favorite drink.
There will be a lot of knowledge about wild yeast and probably lots of beers to try. What is your recommendation for the visitors to experience the most at the festival?
Al breweries and speakers are handpicked, we’re a craft festival 😉 Personally I’m very happy to finally having Chad Yakobson from the Crooked Stave Artisan brewery over. He is one you could refer to as Mister Brett. His work on the Brettanomyces project is groundbreaking. Having him doing a public discussion with Jean van Roy, Brewer at Cantillon is a dream coming true. Yvan De Baets, founder of De La Senne brwery in Brussels intrigued me for a long time too, because his comprehensive knowledge on the history of Saisons. And Sahtipaja, a brewer in Sweden has proven last year to make outstanding berliner weisses. But it really does not do right to the other speakers and breweries. They are all here for a reason ,they all have proven to be among the best.
If one can only visit three events during the Carnivale, which would you recommend?
Do not miss the opening with, as mentioned above, Chad Yakobson and Jean van Roy. In discussion. I should mention we found Daniel Shelton from the Shelton Brothers, an American importer, to do the moderation. These guys imported Lambic to the states and possibly avoided a bankruptcy from Cantillon by doing so. Not that they could sell it in the states, it was pure passion. The world had to know. Now, the world does know. Cantillon is one of the most sought after beers in (and outside) the USA.
There is Raf Meert, blogger at lambik1801, who claims a whole different history of lambic than the public opinion tells us. He does a lecture about this on Saturday.
And then the foodpairings, a 6 course dinner at De Waalse kerk, with goat meat in every single dish. It is more than a gimmick, it is a savoury carnivale.
For more information about the Carnivale Brettanomyces, check out article with all you need to know!