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.

Sour but Sweet

jolly_ichtegemRight after publishing the previous post, we rushed to a tasting with our fellow ratebeerians and untappers. It’s been a while since we all met – with The Secret Agent and I being sick, me having to study, us traveling to Spain and them – a whole bunch of them – traveling to the US for a hardcore West Coast beer tour.

For this tasting I grabbed whatever was in the fridge, taking into consideration bottle size (we were supposed to be 10 people at the tasting) and FIFO, and ended up sharing Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Ichtegems Grand Cru, American and Belgian sour red/brown ales, respectively. Apparently La Roja was one of the first beers shared in an Israeli Ratebeer tasting, way back in 2009. I joined the website in late 2011 and we started attending tastings around that time, I think. It feels like ages, so 2009 is pretty much ancient history. Anyway, I think that Dead Swedish Girl and The Actuary liked this beer even after all these years and the thousands of beers each of them has imbibed. This Flemish beer that’s brewed in Michgen pours murky brown, and smells sour, a little lactic and of cherry yogurt. It has a sour mouthfeel and yet, one can sure taste the grain, which is pretty cool. Body’s relatively light, there’s hardly any carbonation and finish is sour, though mild and tolerable.

Ichtegems Grand Cru comes from the Belgian family-run brewery Strubbe. It is the brewery’s Oud Bruin that’s matured in oak tanks. This one also pours murky brown and smells a little vinous – I sensed grapes and some cherries. Tastes sweetish and not sour at all; it actually tastes a little like sherry – pretty cool! The beer isn’t really carbonated, it is full-bodied and has a long, sherry finish. Really nice, delicate and inoffensive.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Ichtegems Grand Cru are beers #401 and #402 I Must Try Before I Die.

Beergeek Love – 601 more beers to go

beerlove

First, apologies for yet another hiatus. I had that exam, then the flu, then Agent Family flew to Spain, to celebrate Mama Agent’s 70th birthday in Jerez Flamenco Festival. So these are the reasons for the latest absence – quite legit, right? Although I am in the middle of the British Beer Recap, I’m taking a detour, to celebrate Beer #400 I Must Try Before I Die. A round number is a reason to celebrate with something special; we had Harvistoun Ola Dubh 40 as #100 in August 2012; a rare, prestigious beer for #200 in March 2013; and Avery The Maharaja for #300, in September 2013.

Beer #400 is Finlandia Strong Sahti. Sahti is a traditional Finnish beer that like Altbier and Kolch has an area designation. It is made with Juniper berries along or instead of hops. Juniper twigs are used for filtering the mesh in a a hand-carved wooden trough called a kuurna. Much like Belgian Lambics, Sahti is also exposed to wild yeast and bacteria. Unlike so many generic third-world pale lagers that are scattered all over the gold and amber chapters of the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book, or really obscure one-off creations from nano-brewers that are available only in some hellhole in France, Finlandia Sahti Strong is rightfully there – unique and traditional on one hand, widely available throughout its country of origin on the other. So while Finland isn’t the most popular travel destination in the world, it is still relatively easy to get if you or your friends are there or if you trade with someone from there.

a classic in plastic

a classic in plastic

Mia, Stas’ partner, flew to Finland last summer. Having a beergeek as a partner, Mia was given a shopping list of all things Finnish, Leningrad Cowboys and terva excluded. Now Stas has an access to my 1001 beer list, but I’m not sure whether he had a look at my list or just ordered it because he wanted to. He opened the bottle at a group tasting in mid-August, only The Secret Agent and I were 300 kilometers away, in a mud hut desert getaway. Internet connection was fizzy at best and it was only after midnight and hut-tubbing under the starry Arava sky that I saw Dead Swedish Girl’s text, asking me if Finlandia Strong Sahti is in the book – way after the tasting was over. Bummer. As my beer peers sampled this beer, they won’t be motivated to hunt it again. However, soon another text arrived at the desert – the beer came in a PET bottle, and DSG saved us some and took the bottle with him. The evening we returned from the south DSG and his partner – the sweetest person to have sat on our couch and eaten generic crisps while playing with the cats – came over with the 3/4 empty bottle and shared.

Here are the tasting notes: Please note that oxidation may have occurred; bottle was opened on Wednesday and sampled on Friday, but Dead Swedish Girl said it was still OK. Headless cloudy brown. Pungent fruit syrup and spices, then some phenol in the nose. Estery, sweet, a little honey taste. No carbonation whatsoever, light-to-medium body, a little smoky aftertaste. The 10% abv. are not apparent at all.

Finlandia Strong Sahti is a special beer, but it’s not for its unique production, place of origin or ingredients that I picked it as beer #400 – for me, it demonstrates all that’s awesome about the world of beergeeks, hunters, gatherers, and the people who love us, or at least amused by our passion, or, if you insist, obsession  – taking the extra mile, making an effort, carrying a list, staying alert. Names and nicknames are scattered throughout all my ratebeer and blog entries and I appreciate each and every one of you. THANK YOU ALL for sharing.

In case you didn’t get it, Finlandia Strong Sahti is beer #400 I Must Try Before I Die. 601 more to go!

 

English Beer Recap Pt. 3 – Scottish and Manx from Cask!

I should be studying for tomorrow’s exam and I would be studying, had the builders not drilled and hammered the flat downstairs, where the hoarder who turned our lives into a nightmare for the better half of the past decade used to reside. So today’s entry is not procrastination, but rather an attempt to make the most of junk time. Anyway, English Beer Recap is becoming interesting, as I’m leaving the bottles behind and get to write about beers I drank from cask – which means that I’m finally getting to share anecdotes and images from the Real Ale Trail The Secret Agent and I took in September 2013.

A little background – 3 months into my new job at the time, launching a huge campaign that involved emails and phone calls during weekends, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, lack of sleep and loss of vitality, The Secret Agent bought us tickets to Manchester. Initially he wanted us to go to Scotland, a long time dream of ours and back then – relevant more than ever, as I was managing both The Glenlivet and Chivas brands in the local market; however, due to the little time I had for proper holiday, we “settled” on Yorkshire. A peek at CAMRA website revealed that a festival in York was taking place at the time we were visiting, Good Beer Guide 2013 indicated that there are good pubs in Huddersfield, and thus an itinerary was constructed.

Let’s keep the personal mode here. I lived in Yorkshire in the 90’s. Fell in love with an English boy I met in Philadelphia, where his touring band was playing – I went backpacking from coast-to-coast, from record store to punk show – and moved in with him in Bradford. It was as intense as only first love can be – full of drama and with amazing background music. To stay within the blog’s realm, C and I drank cheap lagers in the local pubs and I discovered Hooch – the alcopop. I also discovered CAMRA then. Found a zine on the counter at the 1in12 – the local club/ anarchist community space/ info-shop – and picked it up. Had no idea what a Campaign for Real Ale meant, or what Real Ale is (though they served some at the 1in12 – I’m almost certainly sure!), but there was a heartfelt diatribe against the favourite beverage category of 19 y/o me – alcopop. I vaguely recall something about irresponsible drinking and lack of tradition, but maybe it’s adult me who thinks she remembers.

Back to the trip. Hotel rooms/ B&B/ Air BnB in Manchester, Huddersfield and York were booked and so was rental car, and some destinations were marked on the map: Bradford, of course, cos I haven’t been there since 2000, and cos I wanted The Secret Agent to visit the location of so many stories from my formative years; Masham – cos of Black Sheep and Theakston; and the Coast. Coast with capital C, because of the brilliant BBC series that we always get back to and never have enough from. As ambitious and thorough as a documentary series gets. Prior to the trip we watched the relevant episodes and decided that Scarborough and Whitby are a must. Rarely in the past couple of years do we decide on destination first and look for watering holes second, but In Good Beer Guide Book And App We Trust. Oh, and some Yorkshire Dales and Moors and country pubs were also on my wishlist.

Before we went, I went through my list of beers from the book. I was determined to drink most of the beers who were listed, but into the second day of our trip I realized that it’s not gonna happen; cask ales distribution depends on so many factors such as pub owners (free house or chain-bound?); regional distribution is a big thing in the world of casks; and ever-changing selection is also something that characterizes good pubs.

This introduction took too much beer-text space, so let’s get rid of the non-English cask beers from the list. Deuchars IPA hails from Caledonian Brewing Company in  Scotland. I found it in a small pub named Ye Dolphin, a small pub in the small coastal town Robin Hood Bay – as picturesque as it gets and one of our favourite spots in this amazing trip. Narrow and steep streets that lead to the foot of the sea, quaint alleys and the end of the English coast-to-coast trail.

coast-to-coastye dolphin robin hood bay

You can see that there’s a seating area outside, and although the weather that day was t-shirt friendly, beergeeks tend to be indoor patrons, where it’s easier to focus on the brew and dwell in the atmosphere. According to the 2008 Book, Deuchars is Scotland’s best-selling cask ale. Book states it’s a 4.4% abv., ratebeer begs to differ and indicated 3.8%. Our beer was clear, golden and had white head. Its aroma was fruity, like preserved fruit, exotic fruit syrup like Monin Passion Fruit, and also had some piss notes. Mild bitter, English hops were apparent in the mouth. Light body, oily, malty finish. deuchars_robin_hood_bay

Second non-English Beer in this English beer recap is Dr Okells IPA from the Isle of Mann. We had it in Old Bell Tavern in Harrogate, a busy place in a location that used to be a toffee shop that also carries a large varieties of bottled and imported beer in a marvelous spa town. We were too busy drinking beer to visit the baths – next time. Last summer someone brought a bottle of this beer to a tasting. It was mediocre at best; however, from cask it was delicious! Clear pale gold with a frothy white head. Slightly citrusy aroma, beet and fresh cut red apples. Bitter and grainy and robust. Medium body, a little carbonated and bitter finish – perfect English India Pale Ale, or Manx, in this case. There are two more beers from Okell’s in the book and I hope to get to drink them soon.

old bell tavern

Dr. Okell IPA and Deuchars IPA are beers #398 and #399 I Must Try Before I Die. More of the Real Ale Trail beers to come :)

English Beer Recap pt.2

I have an exam on Monday and haven’t started studying yet. While destroying a medium-sized rain forest printing files and forms that are supposed to help me prepare for this shit, here’s a recollection of a few bottled English beers I drank and which are listed in the book. Why bottled? Because cask beers demand a little more blogging time and effort.

So here we go:

brakspear bitterBrakspear Bitter is available in Israel. Not too widespread, but can be found in premium supermarkets such as Tiv Ta’am and specializing stores like Markol Ha’Derech in Ramat Ishai or Beer and Beyond in Tel Aviv, where I got my bottle. It’s not too popular here, I believe that due to minor marketing attempt and also due to its low abv. – only 3.4%. Israelis prefer their beer stronger, it’s a value for money thing. I rated it almost exactly one year ago, on February 15th 2015 and are my notes: Hazy brown amber in colour, and an aromatic, malty aroma of biscuit and candy. Slightly alcoholic, bitter and malty taste. Medium-bodied, sweetish finish. Quite nice and rather rich for a 3.4% beer.

St. Peters brewery uses the nicest oval bottles for their beer. Both label and shape remind me of craft spirit – Sloe Gin maybe? – more than craft beer. They have two beers in The Book:

st peters fruit beerSt. Peters Fruit Beer is some sort of heavy-ish Radler, with 4.7% abv. It is based on wheat beer and with grapefruit added to it. Potentially summery and refreshing, but in reality quite lame: Lots of grapefruit in the nose but only slightly hoppy. Bitter, like expired grapefruit juice, malty, then very bitter, but in a bad way. Medium body, bitter finish with some caramel. Not good – maybe it’s a bottle/ batch/ delivery defect? Sure hope so.

st peters cream stoutSt. Peters Cream Stout pours black, opaque with tan ring. Sweet, red grapes. slightly roasted – but only slightly – aroma. Tastes roasty, slightly bitter and a little alcoholic. Mildly carbonated, full-bodied, long, slightly roasty finish. Better than the grapefruit beer but again, not too amazing. Their Scotch Ale, The Saints, is quite good though. Peaty and phenolic and fun.

And finally, for today’s entry, as I should really start working on functions and PERT and shit, is nightmareHambleton Nightmare, stout from the beautiful town of Ripon, in Yorkshire, only we didn’t drink it there, but from a bottle that arrived from the US. Pours very dark brown with white ring. Chocolate, diacetyl and chocolate milk aroma, a little buttery and sweet with some wood in the mouth, but more buttery than roasty. Smooth texture, full-bodied. Not quite a nightmare, but definitely not amazing.

Brakspear Bitter, St Peters Cream Stout and St Peters Fruit Beer and Hambleton Nightmare are beers #394, #395, #396 and #397 I Must Try Before I Die. Happy Friday the 13th y’all!

English Beer Recap part 1.

Over the past year and a half I’ve accumulated a bunch of English beers I drank (along with some Welsh, Manx and Scottish ales). Some were shared by friends, others I shared with friends, plenty The Secret Agent and I drank in our real-ale trail in Yorkshire, in September 2013. I’ve been meaning to write about this trip but cannot seem to get to it. I procrastinate, beer adds on, and it’s freaking me out. The only way to take control over the British beer list is, well, a recap. I will try to write about all the cask ales we drank in the trip together, but for starts, here’s a list of stuff we shared and shared with us at tastings here in Israel.

Gales Prize Old Ale, wax-sealed and corked, brewed in 2001 and shared in Marched 2014 by the Actuary. Pours muddy brown. Cherry Heering and chocolate milk aroma. Vinous, sour taste, full-bodied, no carbonation, sourish finish. It was interesting to taste, but I wouldn’t be able to finish a whole bottle by myself, even a 275ml. one.

I shared a bottle of Batmen’s Combined Harvest at a tasting. Not sure how I got the bottle, I guess it was shipped from the US. Pours Murky honey-brown, with a fruity, oxidized and some cardboard aroma, oxidized fruity taste with some honey. Medium-bodied, no carbonation and sweetish finish. Something went wrong along the way, that’s for sure – manufacturing? storage?

We definitely brought a bottle of Marston’s Old Empire from our trip. I remember getting it at a supermarket. Nice skunkiness in the nose, Bitter skunkiness in the mouth with grainy undertones. Slightly carbonated, light-bodied, herbal finish. Nice, in its particular skunky way. I kinda liked it.

St. Austell Tribute, it’s another one we brought and shared at a tasting in the training pub in my old work place. Clear golden. A little fruity hoppiness and limestone in the nose, stale bitter taste – like English bottled beer. Light body, slightly malty and dry finish. A decent bitter, for sure.

Also from St. Austell brewery is Proper Job, shared by Sailor Tom. A fairly decent APA that pours clear dark gold with white wave. Honey hoppiness, floral aroma. Bitter, slightly dry with fruity undertones. Mildly carbonated, sweetish hoppy finish.

Finally, Thornbridge Hall Bracia - REL, The Actuary and The Dead Swedish Girl brought it together, maybe from Rome, and it’s a kick ass beer! Black with tan head. Wine, ink and gouache paint aroma, inky, bitter, slightly dry and slightly roasty in the mouth, full body, sleek, light carbonation and a little roasty finish.

 

Gales Prize Old Ale, Bateman’s Combined Harvest, Marston’s Old Empire, St. Austell Tribute and Proper Job and Thorbbridge Hall Bracia are beers #388, #389, #390, #391, #392 and #393 I Must Try Before I Die. Getting closer to 400!

Pale as Hell

 

Got plenty of time now and plenty of beers to write about, including another intense beer trip, but meanwhile, I’ll do a short backlog, just because I feel like it. Here’s an account of several beers I sampled recently:

Tusker Malt Lager from Kenya, not to be confused with Tusker Lager - brought by Alexei, one of the Dancing Camel Brewpub frequent flyers, because of this 1001 challenge. Thank you for that! It smells like cardboard and tastes like cardboard and I’m once again left puzzled by the editors’ choice.

Gubernija Ekstra – another pale lager, from Lithuania this time, that Stas brought from his Christmas visit to the country. Thank you Stas for the dear suitcase space taken by this overly buttery beer. That’s the last of the 5 Lithuanian beers in the book, and certainly the worst.

We’re flying to Spain in a couple of weeks. I have already mapped the beer spots where we’re going and began hunting for beers from the book. Had 7 Spanish beers left, and some of them are quite obscure and local to Barcelona – we’ll be in the south. Anyway, the one beer I knew I’d be able to find for sure is Voll-Damm as it’s widely distributed. Apparently it just made its debut in Israel and we got to drink it at a small, spontaneous tasting at Dead Swedish Girl’s parents’ place in the north. Very alcoholic, metallic aftertaste.

These 3 horrible pale lagers, Tusker Malt Lager, Gubernija Ekstra and Voll-Damm are beers #385, #386 and #387 I Must Try Before I Die. I believe that the next entry will cover some better stuff – it’s hard not to.

 

There Is Always Time

imageI drank Meantime London Pale Ale last month, on what should redefine the term ‘business trip’ to London. A great group of guests and colleagues and skyrocketing levels of gin consumption: straight in cocktails and mainly with tonic. Hey, this is what I’m getting paid for! Beer was used as an essential break and palate cleanser during this trip. Drank plenty of decent stuff during this trip – managed to sample all Samuel Smith’s casks at the Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, introduce our PR guy to the wonders of Brewdog in Camden, and check out the busy pub by the hotel. And drink beer in restaurants and in the hotel bar. And this bottle of Meantime London Pale Ale I ordered at a gin bar in Soho. I was so not mission-oriented in this trip, at least not a beer mission, so drinking a Book beer was an added bonus. Clear amber gold and white head. Toasty bready aroma and mildly bitter and a little limestone in the mouth. Medium body, bitter and a little toasty finish.

Meantime London Pale Ale is beer #384 I Must Try Before I Die and the only beer from the 1001 book imbibed in 72 hours of gin.

From… To…

mikkeller

Today I’m gonna write about Mikkeller’s Fra Til. It’s too hard to find, like so many other beers in The Book. When The Dead Swedish Girl. The Actuary and REL went to CBC last May, and brought back a bottle of Mikkeller X-mas Porter 2012 Fra Til Via (From To Via) Tequila. This will do as a replacement for retiered or really hard-to-find beer, I guess. Pours black with a nice tan head. A little vinous, some cocoa beans in the nose, dry, ash, a little wood, then wine and cocoa in the mouth. Didn’t sense the tequila at all. Smooth, full-bodied, a little ash finish. Very good.

I’m gonna drink plenty of Mikkeller next week. The Secret Agent is taking me to Copenhagen for my birthday – wonder if this birthday trip yealds blog entries; last year’s weekend in Prague hasn’t (yet.)

Perhaps I’ll also find a repleacement for Jacobsen’s Sommer Wit that’s also in the book and also retired. We’ll see. I actually consider visiting Carlsberg Brewery. I love big brewery tours.

Mikkeller X-Mas Porter 2012 Fra Til Via Tequila is beer #383 I Must Try Before I Die-ish.

wholesomeness and awesomeness

Dorothywholesomestout

Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout – what a cute name for a beer! Other than having a cute name, it’s also a pretty awesome beer Brewed by Wye Valley from Herefordshire, England. Available in cask, I got the bottle conditioned version in a trade with gunnar from Norway. It pours black and opaque, smells roasty, with walnut and wood. the aroma reflects on the taste buds, that feel wood and nuts and plenty of roastiness. Medium body, with a long smooth and bitter finish that’s mildly carbonated. Again, pretty awesome, though I’m really not sure about the label. At least they didn’t fall for the blond ale cliche’.

 

 

 

Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout is beer #382 I Must Try Before I Die.

Kölsch Kölsch Kölsch

reissdorf dom fruh

A recap of different Kölsch beers I drank and haven’t blogged about yet. First time I’m blogging about Kölsch, actually, since I had to add this category for this entry. Last year The Beergreek went to Köln  on a business trip and brought a few bottles of the local, area-designated brew. In an Alphabetical order, Dom Kölsch comes first, with an illustration of the famous cathedral on the label. Clear and very light yellow-gold. Cooked vegetables aroma, mildly bitter in the mouth. Light body, nice finish. Next comes Früh Kölsch, a beer that The Secret Agent and I are very fond of; it was the first beer we drank on our first beer trip, 3 years ago. We drove from Liege airport to Köln early in the morning and the Brauhaus by the Cathedral (or Dom, in German) was our first destination. We entered the place around half past eight in the morning, but the problem is that they start serving beer only at 9. We ordered Frühstück, aka breakfast and patiently waited for half and hour, until the elderly servers started walking around with the special tin trays that hold 20cl glasses of beer. It was so fresh and so quaffable that you could go on and on drinking it. However, bottling kinda ruins this beer and while the bottle the Beergreek brought was fine and malty,  it just wasn’t the same as drinking it fresh. Reissdorf Kölsch didn’t quite match to the first two. Light blond, clear, white film. Slightly grainy and a little corny aroma. Bitter, a little grainy taste. Light body, sweet finish.

 

 

Dom Kölsch, Früh Kölsch and Reissdorf Kölsch are beers #379, #380 and #381 I Must Try Before I Die.

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