Vignette 31: Peter Bouckaert

Peter Bouckaert is one of the most celebrated brewers in the world. He got his start at Rodenbach and then came to the US and New Belgium Brewing where he started the wild program. I interviewed him about that project in 2012; he has since gone on to found Purpose Brewing. See more vignettes in this series here.

At New Belgium, when starting the wild program, “We tried to develop our own microbiology from different sources, from what was embedded in the barrels. We bought a bunch of organisms also. Basically we were looking to form a culture. We were very eager initially. We tried to make something very fast and we were tasting it every week—that was completely useless." 

“Typically we never screen for microbiology in our barrels, we just taste. Foeder #2 from the original 60 hectoliters, that one we had to rebuild because it was leaky. We tried to rebuild it and it worked, but that one produces a lot of the high acidic to lactic formations. Typically number two, we turn it over fast and it has been used in most La Folies so far, to a small extent. If you turn it over fast enough, you are fine.” 

“One of the meanings of ‘La Folie’ is that it’s a business endeavor you’re sure to lose money on so we thought that was a great name for it. Why would you overly hop a beer? Why would you do something stupid like that?  Why would you make something that is the highest alcohol beer?” 

We are craft brewers. That’s what we do. We are creating different flavors; we are reviving older beers that used to exist and faded away.

Later in our interview, Peter foreshadowed the direction he would take after leaving new Belgium. At Purpose, he makes culinary beers that use unusual ingredients and conform to no style guidelines. Years before he told me:

“What is traditional? I’m struggling with a lot of things; I’m struggling with style, I’m struggling with ‘traditional.’  What is traditional; what is style?  Style is the definition of a group of beers at a certain point in time. If I find a better way to make better beer, I’ll make a better beer. I’m not stuck in tradition—I’m not a museum. I want to continue to learn.”

VignetteJeff Alworth