The Beer Gatherer

Blogging about Israeli beer in general and Israeli craft beer in particular, following 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die and other beer musings.

Brotherly Love

Procrastination time. Instead of studying for next week’s exam, practicing before today’s bass lesson doing laundry or simply drinking beer, I’m blogging. I get to drink many of the beers that are featured in this blog thanks to my Excellent Little Brother. 3 or 4 years ago he did the right thing and got the hell out of Israel. He moved to New York, got a job that gets him to places – especially in my beloved fly-over states – and also travels a lot outside the city. He makes the most out of his time there. Home and away, he goes to liquor stores, finds stuff from my list and sometimes digs treasures on his own, and when he comes to visit, he packs the goods and delivers.

Over the years he learned to enjoy beer. Though not his main hobby or obsession, he’s been to brewpubs in town and away, and sampled anything from imperial stout to mead to sour ales – go him!

He brought Canadian beer when he went to tap maple one weekend in Ontario, and usually and naturally, he usually brings American beer. But living in NY, he’s got an access to almost everything that’s exported, so occasionally, there’s some non-American stuff around, like Hövels Original, Altbier from Dortmund, that was sadly after its best before date when it finally reached me. Cannot blame him, though! Despite the age, it wasn’t too bad. Clear brown with white head. Malty aroma with some instant coffee with milk and a little wood. Tastes slightly bitter, malty, and a little burnt caramel. Medium body, fairly carbonated and a little burnt aftertaste.

Excellent Little Brother also brought Hofbräu München Maibock. Brewed by the famous Hofbräuhaus in Munich, bought in Manhattan and drank in Tel Aviv, this Heller Bock pours clear and reddish with cream colour foam. Very malty, seedy aroma, bitter, slightly sweet and warm malty taste, then more bitterness. Medium-bodied, long, bitter, grainy finish. I love big malty beers, and this certainly was one.

Funny enough, he found me the bottle of French Biere de Garde CH’TI Ambrée when I was in Paris last September. We were emailing back and forth, me from my hotel room, he from Wholefoods. Clear dark amber with beige head. Sweet, honey aroma. Sweet honey mead-like taste. Medium body, sweet finish. Probably spoiled, but I kinda liked it anyway.

Our drinking bodies always say that I tend to like the beer my brother brings me a little more than they deserve. I can’t deny that.

Hövels Original, Hofbräu München Maibock and CH’TI Ambrée are beers #434, #435 and #436 I Must Try Before I Die.

Christmas in (almost) July

samichlaus

Unlike some of the English pale ales, Czech pils and African lagers, Samichlaus is unquestionably a beer one must try before one dies. This 14% abv. Doppelbock is brewed every year before Christmas, on December 6th, aged 10 months before bottling, and delivered to the stores on time for Christmas. It ages beautifully, too. We held a vertical tasting of this beer back in 2011 in our Hebrew blog, with 2004 and 2010 bottles. I just started writing tasting notes then, and that session can be summed up as good and meh, respectively.

Last year The Beer Greek held bi-weekly tastings at work, to our colleagues who work with beer: the lovely product developer, the now deceased brewmaster, and the marketing crew. Being a part of the tasting panel of the brewery and generally someone who has a clue, I joined them. When it was time for the strong beer session, I donated a 2009 vintage bottle we had at home for comparison, cos The Secret Agent really doesn’t care about Samichlaus. This bottle was added to the 2011 and the then-newest 2013 bottle The Beer Greek brought.

Here are the tasting notes:

2013: Clear dark copper, small head. Cherry tomato, then raisins in the nose, very sweet, liquor-like taste. Smooth texture, full body and no carbonation. Long, raisins aftertaste.

2011: Same appearance. More raisins and chocolate aroma, deeper, more alcoholic taste, full-bodied, vinous finish.

2009: Deepr colour. Cherry tomato aroma again but also lots of chocolate. A little sour and a little sweet taste, vinous finish, smooth, no carbonation and long liquor and chocolate finish.

As I remembered, it gets deeper and sweeter as time goes by. I actually liked 2013 vintage the best in this tasting.

Samichlaus is Beer #433 I must Try Before I Die.

I need a Midas Touch

midas-touch

This morning started bad, physically and emotionally. I’m running errands on the computer I wish I hadn’t, procrastinating more urgent matters. It is one of these days that shouldn’t have happened and I wish everything just turned to bright, soulless gold.

Chose to waste my time updating this blog. Opened the spreadsheet I’ve been using to track down my progress and my eyes fell on Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch, one of the brewery’s best known beers, of 9% and a story of it being made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas. Don’t feel like getting into this right now anyway. Shared my bottle, brewed in 2012, in March 2014. Clear gold with white ring. Sweet, honey and saffron aroma, sweet honey taste with the slightest sourness. Thick, full-bodied, syrupy, flat and round. Good and complicated beer, almost as complicated as my current state.

Midas Touch is Beer #432 I Must Try Before I Die </end of self-pity>

Quaffable and German

Veltins Pilsener is a harmless German beer. Pale in colour, slightly grassy aroma, mildly bitter and light-bodied. Augustiner Edelstoff, brought by Teva Boy to a bottleshare (only canned) is a light Helles beer, with a soft bread-grainy aroma, light body and a mildly bitter, yet grainy taste. This too is harmless and true-to-style for sure. Teva Boy also shared with us Andechser Weissbier Hell, which is a pretty amazing Hefeweizen. Cloudy yellow with white film. Classy aroma – banana and clove. Yeasty bittersweet taste. Medium-to-full body, slightly dried banana finish.

These 3 German beers, all suitable for summertime drinking but only the latter actually recommended, are Beers #425, #426 and #427 I Must Try Before I Die.

Portering with REL.

general_washington_tavern_porterGeneral Washington’s Tavern Porter by Yards Brewery from Philadelphia is inspired by a recipe that George Washington shared with his officers during the War of Independence. Some may find it hedonistic and inappropriate, to talk beer during war-time, but here in Israel we have a long history of generals and politicians who busy themselves raping, robbing archeological finds, gambling, bribing and befriending the mob, so beer drinking in wartime is peanuts. REL brought a bottle from a trip to the US, and shared it with us. It’s a good beer. Black with tan head. Malty, slightly roasty aroma with prune and date and caramel. Quite alcoholic bitterness as well as molasses in the mouth, smooth, medium-bodied, long, caramel finish. Rich and quite tasty.

drayman_porterFrom the same trip REL also brought a bottle of Drayman’s Porter by Berkshire Brewing Company, that was even better than Yards’. Black with tan head. Dryish malty aroma, like dry toast. Also dry in the mouth, good roastiness and dark fruit. Full-bodied, mildly carbonated with roasty finish. I love me some roastiness in big, robust porters. Thanks buddy!

General Washington’s Tavern Porter and Drayman’s Porter are beers #423 and #424 I Must Try Before I Die.

Stuff I drank in Prague – Day 1

In January 2014 – boy, that’s almost a year and a half ago! – The Secret Agent took me to Prague for my birthday. The one good thing about being a January kid, is that airfare and accommodation are rather cheap. In return, you get frozen ovaries, but hey, there are sales that compensate for that!

We spent a weekend in a suite in the posh Mamaison hotel, right by the river and a 10 seconds walk from the Hemingway Bar. To this day I hate myself for not visiting one of the  world’s best bars that was practically around the corner. We ate lots of amazing vegan food and of course, drank lots of beer. As usual, we created google maps using Happy Cow for food reference and Ratebeer for beer, but this time, we also watched the relevant Beer Hunter episode. 20+ years after it was first aired and some of the places are still standing.

It’s been a long time, but with the help of Ratebeer and Dear Diary, here’s a log of our beer adventures in Prague.

IMG_4556

First His&Hers of the trip

We landed on Friday morning. After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we entered the nearest beer place, U Tří Růží, or The Three Roses Brewpub.They serve their own beer, no guest beers on tap when we were there, that were traditional Czech brews. Nice place, but not a top priority, if your schedule is tight. Our next stop was U Medvídků, a brewpub known for their X33-Beer, a 12.6% abv. doppelbock, world’s strongest lager, they claim. It was probably true once. It was unavailable on Tap or bottled when we were there, as they brew it seasonally, so instead, I opted for Budweiser Budvar Dark Tmavý Ležák, that’s (Czech) Budweizer Dark for you. Because when in Prague you drink the classics – Tankova, of course.  Very dark brown with light beige head. A little roasty and caramel aroma, slightly bitter and a little dry taste. Full body, light carbonation, sweet – a little honey finish. It was good! As for X33-Beer – Armed with references and addresses, Metalhead Cousin and his girlfriend spent Passover in Prague, and brought us a bottle. Too strong and alcoholic for my taste: hazy, fizzy brown. A little spicy and caramel aroma and a little alcoholic. Alcoholic, sugary and sweet taste. Smooth and silky, very sugary and full-bodied.

IMG_4585

After a short nap in the hotel we headed out to U Fleků, perhaps Prague’s most famous pub. They serve food, cater to locals and tourists alike, with a band that’s playing. We weren’t there for the very carnist menu or for the music, but for the one beer they serve there, U Fleků Flekovský Tmavý Ležák, which is considered one of the best Dunkel beers in the world, and I must agree: very dark brown with a hard beige head that leaves a pretty lace. Grainy, caramel aroma but all in all rather faint. Sweet, roasty and a little nutty taste. Smooth, medium-bodied, slightly roasty finish.

Following Michael Jackson’s footsteps, we headed toPivovarský Dům- a 2-story place (street level and basement) not too far from the center that’s known for its creative, flavourful beers. The one I tolerated the most was their Nettle beer that had a neon-green colour and really tasted of nettle and sage. Dům Štěpán Český Klasický Ležák Světlý
is a pilsner and it’s also in the book – not very true-to-style though – hazy gold with a quick dissolving white head. Malt and butter aroma, lemon/ citrusy, butter and some salt in the mouth. Medium-bodied, salted butter finish, carbonated but a little creamy too.

We then crossed the street to Nota Bene, a basement bar with plenty of Czech craft beer that did good to our tasting buds and also some imports. Found Belgian beer Piraat there, that’s also in the book, but I already blogged about it.

Our first day in Prague ended with 3 hours of sleep the night before, a short nap and 19 different beers. Miraculously, no hangover the following morning.

Budweiser Budvar Dark Tmavý Ležák, U Medvídků X33-Beer, U Fleků Flekovský Tmavý Ležák 13°, Dům Štěpán Český Klasický Ležák Světlý are beers #428, #429, #430 and #431 I Must Try Before I Die.

Das Boot

Been a while since I blogged about Italian beers. I like Italian beers and so does The Book. Both innovative in taste and design and with strong link to tradition (again – the design), there are no less than 47 beers from the Land of Pizza and Gucci in the first edition of the book. Some of them are naturally hard to get. With the help of this blog’s benefactors – friends, fellow beergeeks and my Excellent Little Brother who lives in New York, where you can find stuff from all over the place (except for Fat Tire, that is).

Teva Boy was extremely helpful with Italian beers – he always is. He had a project near Milan and managed to grab some  bottles, like Birrificio Italiano Bibock, a 6.2% Hellr Bock. It pours a little hazy amber with a white head. Aroma of citrus and some honeysuckle as well as some minerals, mildly bitter taste, with diluted honey sweetness. Medium body, mildly carbonated and mild floral aftertaste. Feels a little old but that’s my fault for taking my sweet time meeting with Teva Boy.

Same goes with Farrotta, by Almond 22, that’s made of spelt grain. Also courtesy of Teva Boy. Hazy yellow-gold with a white head. Dry and dusty aroma, a little sugar and cookie as well. Tastes sweet, some candy, a little sourish and sugary. Full body, sweetish, bun-like finish.

Stas brought Verdi Imperial Stout by Ducato from one of his many beer holidays. We drank it in Haifa last winter – it’s been that long ago! Very dark brown with tan head. A little alcoholic and spur in the nose, some tomatoes, chocolate syrup and faint smokiness. Above the bitter taste – chili pepper hotness, the roast and again, faint smoke. Fulfilling, carbonated, very long chili-chipotle finish. Quite amazing, even more amazing than it reads!

I could go on, as there are other Italian beers waiting to be listed here, but it’s time to get prepared to bass lesson.

Birrificio Italiano Bibock, Almond 22 Farrotta, Ducato and Verdi Imperial Stout, #420, #421 and #422 I must Try Before I Die

A quick note – Tsingtao

Tsingtao

Tsingtao, China’s #1 Premium Beer – I’m sure this slogan is used somewhere – is available in Israel. The Secret In-Laws didn’t know that, and brought us two cans from their trip to China last September. We drank it, I did the mandatory check-in in Untapped, but my tasting notes date back to December 2011, a few days after starting this blog. It’s a generic lager that worked fine for me 3.5 years ago, but 3K beers later, I’m sure I would’ve rated it quite low. I mean, “premium lager”.

Tsingtao is Beer #419 I Must Try Before I Die. Now who’s fetching us a bottle/ can of Zhujiang?

Canadian beer – end of the easy stage.

There are 31 Canadian beers in the first edition of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die. I have already written about 7 of them, all under the Canadian Beer category in this blog and drank 4 more, which are reviewed in the following paragraphs:

The first three beers here hail from Quebec. Dernière Volonté and Rosée d’Hibiscus are brewed by Dieu du Ciel from Montreal – one of my favourite cities in the world, and Maudite is made by Unibroue in Chambly, which is a suburb of Montreal. All three bear strong Belgian influence.

Rosée d’Hibiscus is a wheat beer with hibiscus flowers added during brewing, that don’t only give the beer hibiscus tea aroma, but also the colour of blood orange. Pretty neat. It tastes tarty with fruity undertones. A nice and easy to drink beer with tea-like finish and light body.

Dernière Volonté – that’s French for Last Will – is a Belgian Ale with 7% abv. We shared our bottle at the tasting and got the very bottom of it, which was very yeasty. Ugh. Hence the murky greenish blond colour and the very yeasty aroma.  Beer tasted sweetish and rich. Medium body, smooth, fruity aftertaste ended our sample.

Maudite (“The Damned”) – a strong Belgian ale – Chilled honey, a little onion, then more honey honey – lots of honey – in the nose. Sweet, malty and heavily fruity taste. Full-bodied, mildly carbonated, long, red apple finish.

Of these three, my favourite is Dernière Volonté.

the 4th Canadian beer I drank and haven’t blogged about yet is King Pilsner. locally available in Ontario, my brother fetched a bottle for me in one of his maple tapping adventures. He also brought a mason jar filled with the most delicious maple syrups I have ever tasted, surely not a match to the beer, which may have a little aged by the time we opened the can. Hazy gold with white film. Grainy aroma with apparent saaz grassy hops. Grassy taste, delicate bitterness with hints of grainy sweetness that then disappears in favor of bitterness. Light body, delicate fizz, bitter finish.

Rosée d’Hibiscus, Dernière Volonté, Maudite and King Pilsner are Beers #415, #416, #417, #418 I Must Try Before I Die.  This is the end of the easy part of checking off Canadian beer. Any Canadian beergeeks reading this? I’ll be happy to trade locals for locals. Contact me and I’ll send you my list.

Rosée d’Hibiscus, Dernière Volonté

Belgiana

Again, a month-long blog hiatus. Been busy doing, well, stuff. And drinking beer as usual. Beer like Saison de Pipaix by Belgium’s Brasserie à Vapeur that The Beer Greek brought from a recent business trip. It’s a whimsical saison with a complex aroma that contains honey, orange, ginger and candy along with a little rye, and a sweet taste, followed by hints of black pepper, honey and a little anise. Full body, a little anise aftertaste and spicy finish. I am usuallya little repulsed by anise, but here it worked fine.

Bellevaux Black, 6.3% abv. old ale style that I got in a face-to-face trade in Gent last November poured murky brown and ugly, but other than that was quite alright. Malt, cold coffee, mud and some roast in the nose, Roasty, malty, coffee and soft bitterness in the mouth. Medium-to-full body, roasty finish

I have drank Pauwel Kwak many times – it’s been distributed here for years – but only got to rate it last February, the night before we flew to Spain. Drank this Belgian Strong Ale from tap at the Porter and Sons in Tel Aviv. Had I bothered reviewing it when I started this blog, I’m sure I would’ve written a much more raving review, but now it’s just too alcoholic and acetic for my taste and the strong banana liquor taste didn’t amaze me.

Malheur 12 is another Belgian Strong Ale that I didn’t really enjoy. Murky dark brown with a beige head. Sugary, some burn caramel aroma, sugary and very sweet taste. I really only tasted sugar. Fuzzy, medium body, unpleasing alcoholic aftertaste.

I shared my bottle of De Ranke Guldenberg at the same tasting we had Malheur 12. Hazy orange-amber. Sweet, honey aroma, very sweet and a little oxidized taste, honey in the mouth. Smooth, medium body, sweet and heavy finish. Overly sweet and too heavy for me.

My Excellent Little Brother bought me a bottle of Corsendonk Angus from New York. It’s an Abbey Tripel that pours clear gold with a foamy white head. Light fruity aroma, a little red apple notes. Bitter, fruit bubblegum sweetness in the mouth. Medium body, sugary finish, fairly fizzed.

When I logged in to the CMS I thought I’d just wrote about Pipaix and Black but then I went up and down the list and just covered all the Belgian beers I drank in Israel and haven’t written about yet. There are plenty of Belgians I drank in my travels which will be covered some other time.

Saison de Pipaix, Bellevaux Black, Pauwel Kwak, Malheur 12, De Ranke Guldenberg, Corsendonk Angus are beers #409, #410, #411, #412, #413, #414 Beers I Must Try Before I Die.

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