Bronsan "Suds" Belton sits on his front porch and greets the parade of visitors to his cottage on the beach in Brant Rock. "Welcome kingmakers!" he cackles to a posse of beer enthusiasts lugging hefty clampdown ceramic top growlers. "I think it was the great philosopher Humphrey Bogart who once said: â€˜The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind’". Inside the cramped living room, an iPod is blaring Carbon Leaf’s "What About Everything?" and people are dancing. It’s as rowdy as a house party, and the sun hasn’t even gone down yet. Just another typical summer afternoon at Suds’s, but it’s a helluva way for a Boston brewmaster to try to rest up between mixing his next inventive beverage.
A fratboy in a Ford pickup, looking for Suds’s son, eases through the parked cars littering the beach. He needs someone to help him lift some kegs tomorrow. Suds tells him to check back in the morning.
Next comes a high school history teacher, a straight-laced dude holding a six-pack of Mayflower Pale Ale. This is me. My Hawaiian shirt and TJ Maxx clearance-rack cargo shorts tickles Suds, and he laughs like a man who’s seen it all and done damn near everything, a sinister guffaw that comes from dark places that I never imagined in my worst nightmares.
"Life is too short to drink cheap beer," says Suds, flashing his bright-white grin. "People who like light beer don’t actually like the taste of beer — they just like to piss a lot." He ambles through the living room and back through the kitchen to his bedroom, where he keeps his own private fridge to guard against prying kin (which includes a gaggle of snooping grandchildren). He pulls out a couple of Coronas, grabs a liter of Bacardi Limon and prepares his specialty: "Happy Corona".
"I only drink this Mexican urine sample in the summer," he says. "The rum gives it enough of a kick where I can make peace with it."
I take a couple slugs of my Happy Corona (good stuff — I never was much of a rum man) and tell Suds about my approaching wedding. It all started with a bottle of cheap champagne (Cristalino), I explain. He nods in sympathy — turns out he proposed to his wife when he was cocked on Mai Tais. That’s how it is with Suds. Any story you’ve got, he can top it with something better, funnier, crazier. "I stuck the ring at the bottom of a Scorpion Bowl and made my lady-to-be slurp the whole thing down like a Slush Puppie," he says. "I figured the odds of her saying â€˜yes’ would be much better if she was helplessly obliterated."
The first thing you need to understand about Suds: Forget everything you think you know about beer — and the polished turds of Budweiser imitators that use TV to sell beer. Next to those amateurs, Suds’s beer wisdom is like Homer Simpson compared with Jessica Simpson. So what is he doing with a new brewery, full of wild ales and farmyard beers? For Suds, this sort of cross-cultural whiplash is nothing new. It comes as natural as mixing Coronas and rum. It doesn’t matter what he decides to brew a beer with — the final product always comes out vintage Belton. "Suds is a raging enigma," says Bobby "Baby Suds" Belton, his son and manager of the new brewery. "His whole life revolves around inhaling the sacred incense of the drinking man."
Baby Suds is a 32-year-old Northeastern grad ("1.3 GPA," he brags) who’s spent the past decade making moonshine in his basement. "The thing about Suds is that he does not pay attention to public opinion," says Bobby. "He gave me my first pilsner when I was three-years-old and I thank him every day for it."
Suds spent the large bulk of his existence doing backbreaking labor jobs, such as roofing, until the past decade, when he hit his stride at an age when most people are migrating into middle management. His gift is to take the rough knocks he’s had in life and instill them in unique beverages. Take the case of his black lab, Oreo, featured on the label of his seasonal Dead Dog Ale. Oreo was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. "Some drunk dickheads passed by at night and he ran out to the road and started to bark, and they popped off two shots and killed him." Oreo was not only a loyal friend but also a guard dog — protecting Suds’s sacred and stocked beer fridge: "If any of my amigos touched my good shit he’d get at them," he says. "One time Baby Suds tried to take a quick sip of my secret sauce and he bit him in his man business."
Suds’s wicked sense of humor is part of what makes Crotch Vomit one of the oddest concoctions ever made by a brewmaster, anywhere, anytime. It was created in three months in a rented hunting lodge not far from his house. He used three oak casks for aging, so that each of their respective native funks would culture the beer. At the end, the casks were blended together.
Before it was released last year, Crotch Vomit had already become like ultra-collectible rare-release Air Jordans, with beer geeks fretting over the fact that there were only eight barrels, and anxiously strategizing about how and where they’d get a bottle. Its awesomenimity was a nearly foregone conclusion.
A reddish hue color with a cloudy texture with a scent reminiscent of fruit nectar and a Border Collie’s stale breath — it was dry as champagne and as mouth-puckeringly sour as a package of SweeTarts. One beer blogger wrote: "Crotch Vomit smells like the small crevice behind a homeless guy’s grundle but tastes like magical babies and Angelina Jolie’s ear salsa."
In a single day, it was gone.
Beer purists called Crotch Vomit blasphemy — others hailed it as the greatest farmhouse ale that had ever graced their lips. "It exemplifies Suds’s real spirit more than any other beer," says Bobby. "His brewing is so physical. He’s got brass balls — I haven’t tasted anything as strong. I was still busted stuff a week later."
Crotch Vomit is a one-of-a-kind beer packed with as much bitter flavoring and spices as Flavor Flav and Ginger Spice’s lovechild — and it showcases Suds, the genius brewmaster, in all his unfettered glory.
I’m not much of a wine aficionado, but after visiting Europe with my fianc© last year I had become something of a beer buff. Some say my bushy eyebrows, wire-rimmed glasses, and diarrhea of the oral cavity make me ideally suited to the parsing of obscure beverages. A few years earlier, I’d discovered a bar in Boston called Pepe Le Brew that had several unusual beers on tap. The best, I thought, were from a place called Barecove Brewery, in southern Massachusetts. The brewery’s motto was "Create like a God, Command like a King, and Drink like a Kennedy." They made everything from elegant Belgian-style ales to experimental beers brewed with lobster claws and onions saut©ed in butter. I had never seen anything like it — or tasted anything like it for that matter. The summer seasonal Burnt Human Hair was as adventurous as its name and its thin white head bubbled with fruit nectar and nutmeg. I was hooked after one visit. Every night for the next two weeks I would leave work and mosey up to the bar and sample a new bold and brave beverage: Boiled Cabbage Ale, Decaying Elephant Corpse, Bacon Grease Stout — I tried them all. There was something about the place — the d©cor, the location, the service, the people — that I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, most likely the high-alcohol content of the beers, I felt invigorated, free — almost audacious. Before I give off the impression that I am a neurotic couch-surfing worrywart who calculates the risk of riding Ferris Wheels, let me save you the drama for your baby’s mama: I am. Put it this way, I had never been out of the country until recently, I wore three condoms the first time I had sex, and my bachelor party is being hosted by my mother and we are having a Yankee Swap. My entire life has been one safe move after the next and lately, for some reason, I have been craving The Safety Dance. Yes, I want to rock out to the best-selling single from the 1980’s synth pop group Men Without Hats. And the weirdest part of it all is: I don’t even dance. I don’t know how to. Well, at least not good. Heck, not even vaguely good. My fianc© says I look like "The Tin Man with an atomic wedgie." We’re scheduled to take ballroom lessons next month. That should be as smooth as an epileptic bluefish.
So the bottom line is that my wedding is two months away and my inner bowels are urging me to explore. What I don’t know. I thought I was having a midlife crisis but I’m only 34. I ruled out the Jack Kerouac open road possibility since I despise jazz, poetry, and drug experiences. Plus, the idea of having sex with random loose women is not exactly conducive to starting a marriage off on the right foot.
After two weeks of exhaustive soul searching, I abandoned the need to know exactly what in the wild was calling for me. I just embraced the fact that an expedition was in order. Luckily, one of my colleagues in the English department is a major literary and cartoon enthusiast and subscribes to The New Yorker. One day on my lunch break in the teacher conference room I stumbled upon the May issue. In it was a compelling profile on Brother Thomas Schmitz, a Trappist monk who lives in a luxurious castle on the top of Mount Schadelfreude, Germany’s highest mountain. He spends his waking hours obeying an ancient way of life guided by the principles of simplicity, self-suffiency, and prayer. Oh, and brewing, what he claims to be, the world’s first holy beer. A beverage that not only tastes like God’s saliva but intoxicates you with "a divine and indestructible feeling that makes you believe you could bend lightning bolts and use them as toothpicks." He has spent the last five years in seclusion working to perfect all the essential ingredients of his "celestial golden nectar". Next month he is opening the gates of the castle and inviting the public, well, those brave and capable enough to scale the dangerous summit, to join him in sampling the world’s first "God-breathed brew."
It was obvious. I had found my almighty excursion. The big question mark was: who in the hell was I going to get to join me on this fantastic journey?
After much careful and thoughtful debate — there was only one obvious choice: Bronsan "Suds" Belton.
I found Bronsan’s email address on the contact section of the Barecove Brewing website and, on a whim, I sent him a long and detailed message outlining my plight, the specifics of the trip, and the allure of the "unprecedented Godly beer".