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.

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Race Against Time

Bloody hell fire!

With the craziness of the new semester and pre-Passover projects at work, I managed to drink beer but barely got to write about it. The last couple of weeks were filled with cool brews, some rare, others surprising, all blog material, but only a few were reported here. Moreover, a bunch of interesting tasting sessions are scheduled for this week and for Passover holiday. I’d better start catching up, right? So stealing a few moments that should actually be dedicated to linear algebra, here’s a short report about Westmalle Tripel, which we drank last Tuesday.

Our bottle was bought in Belgium last October. Throughout the week we spent in the country we sampled beers from all the Trappist breweries except Chimay and La Trappe that are widely available here. Westmalle Tripel became the Secret Agent’s favourite and he even ordered a 2005 bottle at the Kulminator in Antwerp, that tasted a bit like mead – lots of honey in the nose and mouth – and the alcohol became more apparent.

Westmalle Tripel 2005 at the Kulminator, Antwerp, October 2011

We intended to keep the bottle for a group tasting or a special occasion, but meanwhile the beer became available here. Westmalle dubbel is said to be available on draught, though I haven’t seen a tap except for the one that poured samples at the Beers2012 Expo and both the dubbel and the tripel have been spotted in alcohol stores in town.

Since it’s no longer a rarity and because we enjoyed the beer much more in its natural, un-aged state, we opened our bottle on a Tuesday night, during a short break from – what else? – linear algebra. I must say that although the beer was good, the memories from the first tasting, in shady cafe’ on a sunny afternoon in Brussels, were better. It has a strong bitter taste that cuts the throat from inside and dominant peach aroma. Clear pale gold and heavy body that fits them 9.5% abv.

That was beer #28 in my project. More to follow.

I drank that Mercedes Beer last night

After a spring-themed beer tasting hosted by Beerandbeyond at the Norma Jean – Israel’s pioneer whiskey and beer-focused bistro, we stayed for a light meal before driving back home.

Tasting was interesting, with 7 beers that were brought especially for the tasting: Southern Star Le Mort Vivant, Two Brothers Ebel’s Weiss, Abita Mardi Gras Bock, Heather Ales Alba, Ommegang Hennepin, Peak Organic IPA and Stoudt’s Double IPA. Most were nice, some were interesting (Alba, though I wouldn’t drink a bottle by myself), and one was good – Ommegang, of course. None of these beers are in the book.

I accompanied dinner with Maredsous 10. It is far from being my favourite beer but I haven’t rated it yet and also, there was a chance that it’d be listed in the book. With 10% alcohol, more than one bartender told us that this is one of the most popular beers around and Mercedes, Mardesu, Marsedo and simply That Beer With 10% alcohol are often sought after. I see it myself in the search engine terms that bring readers to Beerdrinking, my Hebrew blog: more spelling variations of Maredsous than the Benedictine monks that benefit from the sales could have wished for.

I can understand the appeal – with 10% abv. one doesn’t need to drink much in order to get the buzz; compared to other Belgian triples M10 has a light body and therefore it’s easier to drink; and let’s not forget the sweetness, that’s always easier to cope with than bitterness. I didn’t fall off my chair, despite the grainy aroma that I always enjoy and was surprised to find in this specific ale, but hey, you can’t beat the masses.

Beer #27 I must try before I die.


Celebrating at Home

Ayinger Brewery’s pub in Munich has the saddest location ever. Right in the city center with the main shopping street and the big church nearby, it could’ve been a hell of a tourist hub. Only there’s this little thing across the alley that kind of stands on its way: the Hofbräuhaus. Yes, Aygner chose to locate their pub right by THE bräuhaus, with its size, Bavarian-ness, history and herds of tourists that occupy the benches at any given time. We visited Ayinger after sitting across the street. The place was empty and seemed out of place among HB, Starbucks and Hard Rock Cafe’

The Secret Agent and I were there a week or so after the end of Oktoberfest and the place was literally empty. We split a glass of Bavarian Dunkel that I found watery and insignificant but The Secret Agent said it was just fine. Nothing too stunning but fine nonetheless.

Fast forward to today. While I was preparing for tomorrow’s class, The Secret Agent cooked us a hearty vegan stew, that demanded the companion of a heavy, German beer, like that Ayinger Celebrator that Santa dropped down the Chimney right before 2012 began, because he knows how much The Secret Agent loves doppelbock. Fashionably and once again wrongly late, we only got to drink it today. This is a full-bodied, softly carbonated doppelbock, that smells of prune, raisins and chocolate and tastes fruity, slightly sweet and metallic. With an abrupt finish and an alcoholic aftertaste, this 6.7% abv. goat drink is well balance and still really nice, considering the time we kept it.

This is beer #26 in my 1001 Beer Challenge. I am actually behind and owe you a report about one crazy tasting we hosted last week – Sam Adams Extravaganza with a capital E. Seriously.


1001 Beers, they are everywhere.

40% listed in one book, 20% listed in the other.

We are only in the beginning of the 1001 Beer Challenge, but so far it seems like the supply is bigger than the demand. I meet a girlfriend at a restaurant, order a glass of beer and later at home discover that it’s in the book; I grab newly imported Australian ales at the store and upon flipping pages in the book I see that two out of the three bottles available here are in the book. And then there are the tastings. We go to beer tastings, making sure to bring listed beers and then at home discover that other people’s bottles are also in the book. It’s easy, a bit too easy, even, but I know that at one point beer gathering will be taken over by beer hunting, when seasonal beer from New Zealand and Kenyan lager will become the main scope of this challenge.

But so far, so good. Last week Shachar, the Living Swedish Boy and the Dead Swedish Girl came over to drink Bischoff Kellerbier and Leffe Rosa with us. These are two out of the three remaining beers left in order to complete our Hebrew mission. Leffe Rosa took space that could’ve been used for fancy beer in Shachar’s suitcase and the Kellerbier was mail-ordered and delivered to me by Bischoff’s representative in Israel, who heard about me and made sure I’d tick this beer, although he doesn’t import it anymore. Last beer remaining for this mission is a shitty eurolager named Kaiser. It’s Austrian.

Shachar wanted to use the opportunity to sample some bottles he had brought from Czech Republic last October. Among them was Master Polotmavý, an amber lager that according to the book is only available on tap – things have changed since its release, this time for the better but I’m sure that the time that passes usually won’t be an advantage in the future. Influenced by Dreher’s Vienna Lager (the real Austrian brewer whose name was bought by a beer corporation that gave Dreher Bak its name). This is a dark and hazy beer with some foam – not the prettiest beer I’ve seen, I must say. I smelled cooked fruit and it tasted sweet with just a hint of bitterness. Smooth texture, light body and thankfully – short finish. It must’ve been a much nicer beer when fresh.

Krampus Imperial Helles from Southern Tier brewery was in the package my Excellent Little Brother sent me for my birthday. Hazy amber in colour with thick foam, it smelled of grapefruit and evergreen but also of grain. It tastes bitter and feels very, very dry. With a short finish, lovely carbonation and light body, the people of Southern Tier successfully brewed the anti-Christmas beer. After last night I would love to drink their anti-Saint Patrick beer and if they don’t have one already, they should consider brewing one.

Some bottles we mail-ordered arrived by mail, and we shared a bottle of Boont Amber Ale by Anderson Valley with the gang. I think it was old. Clear dark amber with sweet aroma – candy and sugar, but I sensed sourness as well.  Taste was bad: stale and as sour as old milk. Finish was sour as well. No “subtle rich roasted quality”. Shame. It always sucks when beer goes wrong, but it sucks even more when roasty beer goes wrong.

Finally, DSG’s contribution for the evening was Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout by North Coast Brewing, beer which name and label win my heart. I’m a sucker for sleazy West German bands “historical” lyrics, and drinking beer that bears Russia’s Greatest Love Machine’s name made me stupidly happy. The beer was good, probably the best   in that tasting. Black, opaque with tan head and sweet, wine and roasty aroma, its full body held round, roasty and bitter flavours which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Yes, this modest tasting supplied beers # 22, 23, 24, 25 I must try before I die. A few more were accumulated in the notebook in the past week or two and  I hope to write about them soon.

Here’s some more Old Rasputin for your viewing and listening pleasure:

Rapa Nui, man!

Once again Dror delivered the goods. As far as I’m concerned, the main attraction in Wednesday tasting wasn’t Rogue, Captain Lawrance or even Smuttynose IPA; Mahina Pia Rapa Nui, pale ale from, well, Rapa Nui/ Easter Island/ Isla de Pascua, was brought to the tasting table, curtsey of Dror’s colleague, a skipper who supported his hobby while sailing the pacific (if any of my colleagues who are traveling in the near future to Lapland, Spain and Wales are reading this – you too can show collegial spirit by delivering a well tucked bottle, secured in one of your used socks. Talk to me on lunch break).

The bottle from Rapa Nui was a bright reminder from our other love and passion, tiki, that is. In fact, the reason why we got into beer is because in order to enjoy anything tiki we have to mix our own cocktails/ mail order our mugs/ score bottles of rum when we travel abroad. Cocktail culture in Israel is a joke. Liquor stores offer Bacardi, Negrita and Captain Morgan. Cheesy, overpriced crude wooden spoons from the Phillipines are considered good flea market scores. Ugh. Over the past 8 years or so The Secret Agent and I have been doing our best to tikify our lives, but sometimes all we want is to go to a bar, order something and enjoy it. That’s why we started drinking beer.

Therefore, drinking an Easter Island beer, which label is adorned with a silver Moai, was a double score for us. This was also the beer we tasted that evening, due to the low-to-no expectations we had. However, we were all surprised to drink a fairly decent pale ale, cloudy blond in colour with a rather big white head. It had a sweet orange-honey aroma and mellow bittersweet taste. Although apparently the beer (and the stout made in the same brewery) is marketed in hotels and bars on the island as well as in the more toured Tahiti, one would easily mistake it with a non-commercial beer.

I begged and Dror gave me the bottle, which joined our humble collection of Moai. Here it is with a bunch of friends:

Beer bottle and friends.

Seven in Heaven

photo by Dead Swedish Girl

Nine beergeeks gathered last night in a Scrapbooking heaven in a pampered suburb not far from the big city. Nine beergeeks, 18 bottles of beer (well, 17 bottles, 16 of them of beer, one Swedish cider, and a can), 7 of which appear in the book! Without further ado, here they are:

First bottle from the Book was Stolichno Bok that one of the attendees brought from his ski holiday in Bulgaria. It was clear and reddish and had velvety wine aroma. It tastes sweet, a little like cherry and has a heavy body with light carbonation and long finish.

Dreher Bak was our contribution to the mission. We got bottles from our Hungarian friend Izabella, whom we first met 5 years ago via Couchsurfing. She stayed with us a couple of times and came again last month, with two bottles of Dreher Bak, per our request. This is a dark brown beer that has a sweet malty aroma, with hints of cooked fruit. It tastes bitter and dry and roasty and has a smooth texture, full body and long finish. Not bad at all! We have another bottle – good for us.

I think we tasted something from Urthel brewery on our trip to Belgium, but I don’t think it was Hop-It. Born in Belgium, Urthel is now brewed in Koningshoeven in The Netherlands. It’s a Belgian (or Dutch?) IPA, a little hazy in colour, with rich honey aroma that’s probably shouldn’t be there and a weird taste that begins sweet, then becomes bitter and feels soapy all along. Its finish is like a bitter apple and the carbonation is lively. I think that the bottle is either old or off. Dunno.

American or Belgian? Ommegang Abbey Ale poured hazy dark amber with a unique big yellowish foam head. It’s as heavy, fruity and honey-ish as one would expect and tastes really sweet and slightly bitter. It was a little metallic, too. The body is full, the finish is long, carbonation is medium.

Last night wasn’t our first encounter with Stone, not even in the 1001 Beers Challenge. Stone Ruination IPA is great, clear and blond and smells of peachs and grapefruit. It’s bitter, of course, straight to the point, but milder than I thought it would be. It was crisp, light-bodied and well carbonated.

Not sure whether or not I ordered Rogue Dead Guy Ale, as I’ve been eyeing this beer for quite a while. If we get it now I’ll be a little disappointed, for “wasting” my mail order on beer I have already sampled… It was alright, but not that amazing: a little apple and sweet aroma, a slightly bitter taste, apricot both in the nose and the mouth and not really carbonated.

Anchor Porter, however, was more to my liking. It was dark and opaque and smelled of chocolate and charob and tasted smooth and sweeet like chocolate milk. Medium bodied, slight carbonation and medium finish.

There were other beers there, and at least one beer that’s worth a post of its own. Soon. Now I gotta check out and make some big decisions about Purim celebrations: should we stay in or should we go to the grand opening of Dancing Camel Brew Pub new location? Went to bed after 2 a.m after last night’s tasting and barely made it through work today. I think we’ll end up staying in, drinking coke and coffee.

15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 beers I must try before I die.

Altneuland’s Brews

A few days ago The Secret Agent and I drank Herzl. Created by Maor Helfman and brewed at Mivshelet Ha’am (The People’s Brewery). We’ve heard a lot about Herzl, but couldn’t really find it in the usual beerfest circles, except Samuel Adams Longshot finals last summer. We drank it there, liked it but were too pissed to remember WHY we liked it.

It’s not as if now that the beer is brewed in Mivshelet Ha’am bottles of Herzl are offered in local pubs and at the supermarkets, but, well, it’s a little less scarce. We tasted two bottles: Herzl Del Habano, brewed with real Cuban cigar leaves and Herzl Katamon, named after either  Katamon neighbourhood in Jerusalem or after Hapoel Katamon basketball team. The beer being red ale and Hapoel Katamon’s uniforms being red, I’d suspect the latter.

Katamon is cloudy ruby-brown beer, with sweet aroma that reminds me dried figs. Its flavours are rich and sweet with a bitter finish, medium body and fine carbonation. Well balanced and good. Herzl Del Habano is brown and opaque, with a small brown head. I smelled roastiness, burnt wood, smoke and fruit. Herzl Del Habano is much more bitter and dry, but despite all the wood and the smoke, it is rather light-bodied and easily drinkable. Its finish is sweet and a little burning.

Both are really good, but the Del Habano is better. I hope to get to drink Maor Helfman’s creations more often.

an accidental gathering

One thing I like about following 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die is that while the acquisition of many beers that are listed in the book requires hunting, hustling and harassing, plenty of others are just there, available everywhere. Like Fuller’s ESB. I drank it last Monday. Met The Gorgeous Blond after work at the Porter and Sons resto-bar in Tel Aviv, to belatedly celebrate her birthday. There are 50 beers on tap at the Porter and about 70 different bottles. I fancied something relatively light, compared to the wintery Belgian ales that grace the menu, and opted for the ESB, the first beer that The Secret Agent and I write about in our Hebrew blog.

Beer arrived at the table and my note-taking amused The Gorgeous Blond enough to take out her android and shoot:

note the unrelated coaster: that's the new HaDubim Brewery coaster that was immediately added to my collection.

Fuller’s ESB was served with a big white head on top of the clear dark ruby-coloured liquid. It has a grainy aroma with very faint hnts of honey and fruity hoppiness. Honey is faintly apparent in its taste, along with light bitterness. The light-to-medium body properly held the rich and balanced goodness.

Look at this beauty

photos by Ophira Strenberg.

 After dinner we split. The gorgeous Blond took a bus to the southern town where she crashes til she moves back to the city, I took a bus to my neighbourhood, transferred my notes to ratebeer and moved on. Then, yesterday, The Secret Agent and I opened the 1001 Beers book. Secret Parents-In-Law are visiting the family in California and were kind enough to agree to bring us a couple of bottles. We flipped through the book, looking for not-too-obscure craft beers, when I accidentally opened page 129 and saw Fuller’s ESB’s entry. So here it is then, Beer #14 I must try before I die, effortlessly gathered in one of Tel Aviv’s nicest bars/ restaurants.


Lost in a Fantasy

What do you think about when you read the phrase Fire Island? I had to go to Wikipedia to learn that this is a real place in New York State, adjacent to Long Island, pop. 292 + lots of tourists. Pop. 292 settled well with my imagination. In my mind’s eye I also saw Douglas fir and pine trees, flying fish and velvet, fire-like sunsets. The beautiful illustrated labels that adorn the bottles of Fire Island Beer Company tell a story not far off from my imagination. Deer, sunsets, a lighthouse and a paddle boat that whisper serenity.

We received Fire Island Lighthouse Ale and Fire Island Red Wagon IPA from Beer of the Month Club and drank them both quite some time ago. Both were pretty good. Lighthouse is a light-bodied APA with honey, citrus and ripe pear aroma, and bitter taste with a hint of sweetness that gets better as you drink. I liked Red Wagon IPA better. The malty-sweet-candy aroma indicates that the beer was past its prime, like many other beers that we get via mail order but I liked it nevertheless. Its taste, however, was crisp and hoppy-bitter and the aftertaste was light.

Li’l SIL goes to school in Stony Brook, which is a 40 minutes drive from the Fire Island Ferry dock. When we fly over to the US next year (hopefully, hopefully, fingers crossed), I think I’d like to include a visit there in my itinerary. We shall see.

And look at the brewery’s bewautiful website: Fire Island Beer Co.

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