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.

4 in 1

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The night before I flew to my Austro-Hungarian holiday, we’ve been to a tasting at the training room in my old workplace. There were 4 Book Beers in this tasting, a rare thing these days because it’s harder to get a hold on the remaining several hundreds, and moreover, people are more thrilled looking for new and fancy beers than the ones in the book. Cannot blame them really. However, The Beer Greek was kind enough to buy a bottle of Timmermans Framboise Lambic, that everybody, including him, and probably including me, has already drank, as it was distributed in Israel in the past. It’s a lambic with some additives, that pours clear-to-hazy reddish-brown and smells  sugary and of raspberry syrup. Tastes sourish, lots of fruity sweetness. Light body, soft fizz, long sweet finish. Tastes like children’s syrup.

Sailor Tom, who’s been spending most of his time in Ireland now, and always brings cool stuff, shared a bottle of Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale and by that I finished all Irish beers from The Book. Yay! Not only that, but about a month early, Sailor Tom brought Northern Ireland’s representative – Clotworthy Dobbin. Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale is actually an APA, but the bottle was probably a wee bit old, and the main motif of my tasting notes was “old hops”. Not too bitter, on the fruity side of things. Clotworthy Dobbin, by Whitewater brewery, was a pretty decent porter. No novelty, no gimmicks, but tasty and balanced. Sweet and nutty aroma, with a little chocolate as well. Nutty taste, slightly bitter and toasty, then sweet. Lightish body, chocolate and nutty finish.

More from the British Isles, a bottle of Exmoor Gold, a golden ale from Somerset, regionally distributed, got it from a trade. Clear golden with a white head. Paper and a little moldy aroma, sweet and old taste. Light body, stale and sweet finish. Not too amazing.

I also shared a bottle of Smuttynose’s Doppelbock, S’muttonator, that my brother got for me in California, I think. Hazy brown with a beige head. Old grapes and dark fruit aroma, sweet, dark fruit taste. Full body, very fizzy and boozy finish.

When we finished the tasting we visited the new brewery. I worked there for almost 2 years and was always too busy or stressed out to go any further from the soft drink bottling line, that was a shortcut to the canteen. So I took a picture:

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Timmermans Framboise Lambic, Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, Clotworthy Dobbin,Exmoor Gold and Smuttynose S’muttonator, are beers #439, #440, #441, #442 and #443 I Must Try Before I Die.

Greetings from the Bygone Empire

trumer hadmar

Has it really been a month since the last time I wrote? An intense month it was, I guess. Some university stuff, the jobseeking, plenty of errands and a spontaneous trip to Austria and Hungary! while I ended up drinking plenty of beer, mainly due to bottlesharing and samples, I used my time in Central Europe to walking and relaxing. Some cemetery visits, strolling by the Danube and visiting Zentralfriedhof, Vienna’s largest cemetery. I believe that the best way to get familiar with a place is to visit its drinking joints and cemeteries. Both Hungary and Austria are experiencing a craft beer revolution, with the emergence of breweries, specialty shops, brewpubs and craft beer pubs. First published in 2008, The 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book which I’ve been following ever since starting this blog, has either overlooked the local scenes. They may have been too small to notice at that time, as far as I know. There was one Hungarian beer in the book, Dreher Bak that we drank in 2012, and 12 Austrian beers. We’ve already covered Urbock 23, Stiegl Goldbrau and only recently – Samichlaus which stands out, as most of the Austrian beers in the book are generic lagers, sort of. Yet, finding them was hard. Some are seasonal, other local. Out of the 9 remaining beers, I only got a hold on two.

I found Trumer Pils at the first bar I visited. The Krah Krah is a noisy, smoky (like everywhere in Vienna) old-school bar, not far from the Canal. At 16:45 in the afternoon it was full of men who were socializing after work. There are a bunch of taps of  mostly Austrian beers, and some bottles, with Leffe being pretty much the more exotic option. Trumer is served in a flute-like glass, thin and quite elegant. It pours clear gold with a big white head and has fine aroma of grass and grain. It tastes bitter and slightly buttery, but not in a way that really fucks up with the beer. Light-bodied and quaffable, perfect for that hot summer afternoon, in this unair-conditioned venue.

My friends and hosts Anna and Roey, had a bottle of Hadmar, an organic pale lager, and shared it with me. Clear and fizzy gold with a white head, cereal and grain aroma, light bitterness and malty with some grass. Medium body, with a mouthful bitterness and malt. It tasted great but I cannot help but wonder how a different ambiance would’ve affected my impression – colder weather, different people…

Trumer Pils and Hadmaer are beers #437 and #438 I Must Try Before I Die. Budapest and Vienna are great cities to visit: beer is good, people are friendly, prices are between reasonable to dirt cheap and food is awesome and surprisingly vegan-friendly. Head to ratebeer.com/places for beer and happycow.net for food. As for the rest of the Austrian beers on the book – I guess I’ll have to visit there again. Next time with The Secret Agent.

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.

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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.

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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?

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