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 “April, 2012”

Pink Elephants, not Lemonade

I was a little bit nervous, opening the 750 bottle of Delirium Tremens. Nervous, because I didn’t know what to expect. From myself, not from the beer.

See, for quite a long time I considered the cream colour bottle-packed, elephant endorsed Belgian ale as my favourite beer. I lamented its disappearance from the shelves last winter and tried to drink as much as I could from the tap that still poured it, then celebrated when a new import contract was signed with a local distributor.

Due to lack of space The Secret Agent and I don’t really collect beer glasses. We have a bunch that we got here and there and few that we bought. We do collect tiki mugs though, but being adults and partners, there are very few items that “belong” to one of us, birthday gifts included. The Delirium Tremens glass, with the tiny etched elephant in the bottom, is “mine”. The Secret Agent chooses other glasses; guest tasters are never offered to drink in it. It’s just too cute to share.

But it’s been months since I last drank it. Searching the Hebrew Blog found a tasting in September, but I think we got to drink it in December as well, when our man Etay and his girl Christina came to visit from L.A, but there’s no documentation, so whatever.

I was afraid. What if it doesn’t taste as amazing as I remember it? Moreover,  a couple of months ago I was somewhat disappointment by  Delirium Nocturnom (Hebrew Alert). But I’m a woman on a mission and thus poured the murky pale amber liquid to our glasses (my branded Delirium, The Secret Agent’s locally branded tulip) and enjoyed looking at the frothy white head that pouring created.

Aroma was fruity: we sensed red apple and pear but also cookie dough and the taste was delicious: mildly bitter, fruity,  slightly sugary-sweet but not alcoholic, despite its 8.5% abv. Its body is heavy, and with a healthy level of carbonation,  lingering soft finish and overall balance, I’m glad to write that it’s a very good beer. Had it remained a favourite? I guess it has.

An unusual beer deserves an unusual clip. Yes, that’s right, it’s Madonna. Now  press play and enjoy an enchanted clip and song (note 1:05), while I mark down beer #43 I Must Try Before I Die.

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

It is not a bottle pic if there's no beergeek in the back. Thanks DSG for the photo.

Pardon my absence.  In the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a sick leave and was more on the mood of exploiting the wonders of streaming, something I’ve never done before than into blogging.  Drinking and tasting? Yes, moderately, but been too caught up with liver-unrelated health conditions. But I feel better now, busy emptying the fridge before another beer batch arrives. I also have the time to catch up and finally write about the second Sour Beer tasting I invited myself to.

It started the same as the first sour beer tasting crashing: I heard about the plan and asked DSG to look at the beer list. Only this time 5 out of the 12 bottles were on my list. DSG said it would be stupid not to stay for the entire tasting and thus, on Sunday evening before Passover, I stopped by at a small but great Tel Avivian bakery and bought fresh, crisp loaves of sourdough bread, in lieu of the bottles that I could not contribute to the tasting.

Despite my instinctive disliking of sour beers, I tried to be as open-minded as possible, and even managed to enjoy a couple of the brews.

The highlight of the tasting, at least for me, was Liefmans Glühkriek, that we first sampled cold and then heated. I love Christmas wine (spiced wine is one of the few forms that I enjoy this drink) and whereas Cherry beer is far from being my favourite, it worked well here. When cold, cherry dominated the aroma and the taste was sweet, spicy and tangy. Warming the liquid brought out winy, spicy-allspice aroma and soft, deep, just a little sour taste. No carbonation and wine-like finish.

Lindeman’s Faro Lambic was also not the hardcore beer I expected: smells like champagne, tastes rather sweet and delicate with some sourness in the back and an oily texture.. I think I kinda like it.

Next we proceeded to an unrateable bottle: Achziv, spontaneously-fermented beer brewed by my buddy Captain Nimrod at his home, in the very heart of Tel Aviv. Hazy golden in colour, no head, dominant smoke due to the malt used (and not to the fact that Dizengoff 100‘s beers are brewed in 100 Dizengoff st, where you eat smog and bus fumes for breakfast, lunch and dinner). It tasted a little sour but not in a lambic-y way and was quite weird altogether.

New Belgium Lips of Faith’s Beer de Mars was not to my liking. Cloudy orange in colour, orange and clove in the nose and white orange peel in the mouth, it is a light beer, rather flat and unimpressive. The label was pretty though, and that’s a statement you’d never hear or read about Orval, the next in line. You’d think that a trappist beer has no place in a sour tasting session, but had this bottle been a human being, it’d be a 4th grader now. Bottled in March 14th 2002, it poured cloudy with particles floating and sinking, and minimal foam. It smelled yeasty, stinky and limestone-like and tasted poisonously sour. A little burning finish, flat, heavy body and hard to drink, Orval doesn’t age gracefully, although there was something I liked in the taste and the smell.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is not a beer tasting if there’s no Mikkeller in line. This time, Spontancranberry: violent, raw sourness, hard to swallow and rather flat, with cloudy orange colour and cranberry aroma. I didn’t detect the manure aroma that others have sensed. Not sure if I’m glad about missing it or not.

Oude Beersel Oude Geuze is listed in the book and was one of my least favourite in this session. Cloudy piss colour with white head, with a delicate dust and grease aroma, it tasted sour and stingy and had a salty finish. Girardin Gueuze Black Label smelled of garlic (one of my favourite aromas in the whole world, just not in beer) and piss and was hardcorely sour: burning sensation, green olives in the mouth and a sweetish finish that was left in my mouth when the flat liquid went down my esophagus.

Like Mikkeller and beer tasting, it seems like it is not a sour beer tasting if there is no Cantillon on the table. The Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio is blond, almost flat and cloudy, that sports dairy aroma (brie in particular) and some apple. It tasted hot and, well, sour and had a light body and dry, flat finish. 3 Fonteinen Zwet.Be was pretty cool: dark porter brewed with lambic yeast. It poured dark opaque brown, had tan head and smelled like marmite and grapes. Zwet.Be had a hint of sour, but unlike the other drinks sampled this one reminded me of beer with its slight bitterness. Light body, light carbonation and pretty decent.

Russian River Temptation was one of the better parts in this tasting: Clear blond with a slim white film of foam, it sported  a condensed pungent aroma and while there was a little bitterness, sour dominated the taste buds. Light body, oily with light carbonation, it was a little like wine.

We finished the tasting with De Dolle Special Reserva Oerbier, 2008 edition. Cloudy brown in colour, muddy, then alcoholic, then cherry aroma, unpleasant hot, sour and acidic  taste and fizzy body.

It was an interesting tasting and I am glad I was welcomed. 6 beers were crossed off my list: Orval, which I’ll probably taste again in a fresher mode, Oude Beersel Oude Geuze, Girardin Gueuze Black Label Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, Russian River Temptation and De Dolle Special Reserva Oerbier are beers # 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42  to try before I die.

Where’s #43, you ask? Well, I made a mistake earlier  and Young Double Chocolate Stout is NOT in the book, so there.

Passover is Almost Over

We had planned to host a couple of Israeli craft beer tasting on Passover week, but they were cancelled for different reasons. All for the better, though. Had more time for myself and didn’t need to clear the living from from any evidence of math. I wasn’t afraid to lose my coolness, mind you; I honestly fear of my precious notes.

We did get to attend one tasting, though. It was a small-scale due to the absence of some of the regulars, who either observe Passover or spent time with their families, but The Secret Agent and I met a new guy, who brought some Czech beers that we haven’t tried before and will most likely not try again in the future. Some nations should stick to their traditional recipes and methods, I guess.

We did get to sample a few interesting beers in this session. The Dead Swedish Girl brought a couple of dark brews that are worth mentioning: Danish Liquorice porter by Det Lille Bryggeri that although smelled of liquorice was much ti my liking. There aren’t many tastes and aromas that repeal me, but anise/ liquorice is one of the few.  It also had malt and some chocolate to balance the smell, and a bitter, somewhat dry taste. Well carbonated, full body and all in all – pretty good.

The second bottle The Swedish brought was St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout by Montrealian brewery McAuslan that had a sweet chocolate liquor aroma with hints of plum and a sweet-bitter-alcoholic taste that was nice altogether. Unlike the Lakrids Porter, this one had hardly any carbonation, but again, it was nice. Also, it was nice to discover that it appears in the 1001 book.

Our contribution to the tasting were also part of the 1001 challenge, but sadly, they weren’t on the awesome side of the scale:

Shipyard Fuggles IPA, that pours clear dark golden had an apple and malt aroma and tasted sweet. It was weird, not the kind of IPA you’d expect from an American craft brewery. Victory Hop Devil was also somewhat a disappointment. I believe it’s an old bottle. We’ve sampled this brewery before and liked what we had, but this IPA, despite having the “right” fruity aroma and the bitterness, was quite insignificant.

Rogue Yellow Snow IPA, that does not appear in the book, was the highlight of the tasting, not only for me but also for Big Bear Host, who specifically requested it. With a hazy amber colour and a creamy head, it poured beautifully. Its aroma was grassy, a little skunky and the taste was dry, grassy and bitter. Also, There’s a Frank Zappa song that shares title with this IPA:

Look! Beers #35, 36, 37 out of 1001 I must Try Before I Die!

A Nightcap of Bitburger

I’ve been spending most of the holiday on my own. It’s the first holiday in a long time that The Secret Agent is busy, too busy to hang out with me. Also, Other than a beer tasting (more info soon) and meeting two girlfriends for a quick afternoon drink, I’ve been studying at home most of the time. It’s actually pretty cool. It’s rare, having the apartment all to myself, spending time by myself. Also, the cats seem more relaxed when I’m home. No tantrums or attention-seeking that take place when I come home from work. Maybe my true call is being a stay at home mom for Miza and Yossi?

The Secret Agent came home late today and I suggested we’d go out to unwind. Lacking any better alternative we found ourselves sitting on Porter and Sons’ bar, once again staring at the taps like a teenager looking at her full closet and thinking that she has nothing to wear. I ordered Bitburger Premium Pils, German lager that hails from the city of Bitburg, which we drove by on our Euro Beer Expedition last October. The Secret Agent reminded me that I had drank it before, but that applies to the other 49 taps at the Porter and Sons (and pretty much to the 70 bottled beers in the fridge).

Bitbutger Pils is a nice. crisp golden lager, bubbly with a quick dissolving white head and a typical grainy-malt aroma. Graininess is apparent in the mouth as well, with malty taste and finish. With a light body and fun fizz it’s a decent beer, especially for the summer. At home I discovered that it’s also a beer I must try before I die. #34 out of 1001.

Passover at the Monastery

Working in a company with an Orthodox management means that I have the week of Passover off. Usually The Secret Agent and I spend this springtime week roaming around the country, taking road trips and eating out, but this time I’m taking it easy. The Secret Agent is working on some project and I use the days off to catch up with math and friends.

On Sunday I met The Gorgeous Blond in the city center. She had some time off before her drumming lesson, which we spent shopping for cheapo knock off glasses and talk about everything at the Minzar.

The Minzar (Eng: Monastery) is one of Tel Aviv’s most (in)famous watering holes. Open 24/7, serves relatively cheap beer, pretty good food and caters pretty much everybody, it is usually too hip, smokey and crowded for me, but that’s because I usually go out in the evenings. During the daytime it’s quite a pleasing place: rugged tables, lots of sunlight and a generous happy hour that lasts from 10 a.m til 8 p.m. The Gorgeous Blond ordered coffee and I chose Estrella Damm, light lager that suited that beautiful sunny, warm day perfectly. Estrella is what it is, pale lager: light, grainy, malty. Good to quench one’s thirst on a hot day. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Gorgeous Blond installed Instagram in her Android:

Estrella Damm was Beer #33 I must try before I die.

Smokey America

I spent the first day of Passover vacation studying statistics and reading blogs. Caught up on many months of my beloved The Lope – a must-read to anyone fond of Americana, read a tumblr about food sampled on a Route 66 road trip that took place in December 2010, browsed a motel postcards blog that sometimes also publishes transcriptions of the notes scribbled on the back of the cards and even paid a visit to the Tiki Forums I have neglected in the past year due to beer overtaking my free time. I was in my Great American Road Trip Mood, a mood that rose from the ashes as of late, since The Secret Agent and I have began discussing a trip to be taken place in Summer 2013. A short, 4-6 weeks one that will be focused on people – friends and family who are living the American Dream.

At the moment we are still in the talking stage, no real plans, just a very, very rough itinerary that includes Texas. The Secret Agent and his family visited the Lone Star State in the early 90’s; us two drove through the Panhandle when we did Route 66 in 2007, but (other than friends) we know that there’s more to Texas than what we’ve encountered so far.

what, more than Bradley Kiser 1930 66 Super Service Station in Alanreed?

We know that at least there’s some good beer brewed in San Antonio. Tonight, when the Secret Agent came home, we opened a bottle of Ranger Creek Mesquite Smoked Porter, that I got as a birthday present. I said it before, I’ll say it again – I  ♥ ♥ ♥ smoked beer!

Ranger Creek brews beer, distills whiskey and sells the products in some points in Texas. The Mesquite Smoked Porter is described – both on the label and on the website as influenced by the classic Bamberg rauchbiers. I drank Bamberg rauchbiers both in Bamberg and at home and rauch-wise this one is way more gentler than the German stuff. The beer is dark brown and opaque and pours an impressive big, foamy tan head. The aroma starts sweet and nutty and then smoke appears. Delicate smokiness, that is. Also, I sensed hops, grassy hops.

Mouth was interesting: wooden, smoky, bitter, hickory and a little bittersweet chocolate.

Hickory reminds me of Missouri Hicks in Cuba, Missouri. Being vegetarians, we satisfied our craving a month or so later, munching on vegan jerky in Eugene, OR.

It’s a full-bodied porter, carbonated-to-measure with some malty finish. One of the better beers I have tasted recently.

Efes Holiday

Got a week off from work due to Passover and I’m gonna use it for three things mainly:
1. Customize my Blythe dolls
2. Catch up on Algebra
3. Make room in the fridge
There’s so much beer that we never get to drink, that we sure need a week off to make more room for new purchases. A group tasting is already scheduled, another group tasting is in the work and in between – lots of oddities that we have accumulated over the past months.
Today afternoon, while cutting veggies for tonight’s dinner (Passover Seder it is NOT, mind you; we are heathens, the Secret Agent and I), I opened a bottle of Efes Pilsener, Turkey’s representative in 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die. Got my bottle last December, in a goody bag given away in a local pub that celebrated its 2nd anniversary. Best Before date: April 27, 2011. I didn’t notice when I got the bottle, because I was mistaken to think that goody bags and trash bins are not the same thing.

Beer was too sweet, smelled of rice and corn syrup and despite the crisp finish and the right look – clear golden with a big, white foamy head, it tasted old.

I’ve drank Efes before – at my brother’s wedding and in Turkish holiday resorts – and it’s a decent lager, one to drink on a hot summer day, but only when fresh.

Beer #32 I must try before I die.

Oldest, Rarest, Fanciest Sams.

Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. The Secret Agent, The Dead Swedish Girl, currently-nickless Shachar and I have been planning to check out a pub in a kibbutz 50 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. A couple of days before Saturday Shachar texts and asks if we’re available to a tasting before driving to the north. Sure, if there’s time for the driver to chill out before hitting the road. A second text message soon follows: can it take place in our place? Only 5-6 people including The Secret Agent and I.

Fair enough.

A couple of hours before the tasting comes a third text: Is it possible to add another guest or two?

Uh, ok, I replied, thinking WTF. In the next message I was asked whom I think should be invited. Puzzled, I called and found out that the tasting that’s about to take place in my place in a couple of hours will contain lots of Samuel Adams bottles: seasonal, limited releases and other goodies that are both unavailable here and come in big bottles, so if it’s possible to share the love with others, it’d be cool. We succeeded recruiting one more participant and only when Shachar arrived I understood why more would be merrier: 11 bottles. Including 1997 Triple Bock and 2003 Utopias. Then Oren arrived with bottle #12 – Samuel Adams Utopias 2007. Yup, two bottles of Utopias on my IKEA glass table in one evening. WOW!

There were so many Sams on the table, we couldn't get a good group picture.

Bottles were organized, bread was sliced and off we started with coincidentally appropriate Samuel Adams Irish Red, one of the three Sam brews that are listed in the 1001 book. Clear red beer with sweet caramel and strawberry aroma and a sweet and sharp taste. It felt a little oily and had a long finish. A nice start. From Saint Patrick’s we regressed to Christmas, with Sam Adams Holiday Porter (2010 edition): dark, brown and muddy looking, with sweet chocolate aroma and smooth sweet chocolate taste. Medium body, long finish.

Samuel Adams Black and Brew coffee stout has the strangest label. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but does it look like a Samuel Adams label to you? If this label is supposed to symbolize the content, I’m afraid that it’s not really working, either. I mean yes, the bottle contains coffee stout, the content is black, and coffee is apparent, at least in the aroma, but you don’t get fancy cappuccino here: that’s American drip coffee I smelled, and that’s exactly what I want to smell. I prefer my coffee Italian-style, but I’d rather drink drip from a cracked, heavy mug in a diner in Missouri. Other than American coffee I smelled chocolate and smoked pepper and tasted bitter, sweetish and rich brew with a long finish and smooth texture.

Following these “unrelated” were 6 bottles from 2011 limited releases. Each adorned with a beautiful illustration and a title that brought fantastic worlds, far away from the usual All-American Sam Adams look and feel, to mind. We started this part of the evening with Tasman Red, a very dark red-brown red ale, that has a big tan head and pine and moss aroma. It tasted bitter with hints of seaweed and bore a full body with an oily texture – very rich like most beers sampled that night. Dark Depths is cataloged as Baltic IPA by the brewery’s marketing department and as Black IPA by Ratebeer. It has an illustration of a steampunk-like diver, and an opaque, dark colour with a big, thick tan head. Smells of hops – evergreen and grapefruit and tastes softly bitter. The body is surprisingly light and the texture stiff. Finish was long and bitter. The Vixen is chocolate chili bock, black in colour, tan head. It has sweet, milk chocolate aroma with hints of chili, and tastes mildly bitter and a little sweet. Finish had some chili but not enough as far as I’m concerned, soft carbonation and medium body.

Third Voyage, a double IPA, has clear brown colour and a foamy white head, beneath which good, dry aroma of grapefruit and pine was hiding. Taste was appropriately bitter with a hint of sweetness,finish was dry, carbonation – soft, body – light. It was a good bear. Cinder Bock is the name of the smoked beer in this series. I absolutely adore smokiness in my brew, and I attribute it to two decades of meat-free diet; this must be some sort of compensation. Anyway, that Rauch Bock has clear dark ruby-brown colour and a yellowish head. It had faint smoke aroma, that also contained some metallic and alcoholic notes and sweet, smoky taste. There was smoke in the finish, oily texture and medium body. Again, I could do with more aggressive smoke, but that’s me.

Griffin’s Bow closed this part of the tasting. Barley Wine. Clear, orange-amber in colour and wooden sweet aroma opened for a bitter-sweet tasting brew that also bore hints of vanilla. It had a heavy body and buttery texture and was good. Dark Depths was my favourite in this part.

The rest of the bottles. Yes, that's a second Utopia!

The third part of the tasting would be considered by many as the crown jewels. Triple Bock was the brewery’s first attempt in extreme brewing, they say, and the beer sure stretches the limit of the definition. Last brewed in 1997, we opened a 15 years old bottle, which texture resembled soy sauce more than actual beer. Thick, black with no head, soy and chocolate liquor aroma and a rich but not very good taste of chocolate, salt and cherry. Body was thick and full and the beer itself was extreme indeed – too extreme for me.

Finally, Samuel Adams Utopias. Well, UtopiaseS. First is 2007 vintage, which fellow bottle from the same batch is currently available on ebay for $260 and 2003 that at time of writing is offered on ebay for $649. Those two on my table. Guinness Book of Records Strongest Beer in the World(since 2002, %25 abv.), star of any World’s Most Expensive Beers/ World’s Strangest Beer Bottles lists, on MY table. 2007 had a dark soy sauce colour, and soy sauce-alcoholic aroma. It tasted very sweet, liquor-like, and also had some wood. It had a sleek oily texture, obviously lacked carbonation, long, chocolate, burning aftertaste and a general “this is liquor, not beer” feeling. 2003 was brown and cloudy, smelled sweet and moldy, tasted sweet, chocolatey and alcoholic and had a thick, oily, really long finish.

The evening’s best beers were from the 2011 limited edition series, but how can a beer lover not be excited about the opportunity to sample these rare, old editions? I broke three records that night: Oldest, strongest and most expensive beer tasted up to date.

happy camper me (and Oren, too)

#30 (Irish Red) and #31 (Utopia) I must try before I die.

Then we went to the pub. I drank Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier that’s also in the book, but I’ll write about it some other time.

Behind, again.

So many beers to write about, so little time. I just returned from a tasting. We sampled some 12-13 beers tonight.Had information about most of the beers prior to the tasting and was relieved to find out that none is listed in the 1001 Book. And yet, as soon as I came back, some 10 minutes ago, I had to check out the index to see maybe I missed something. Well, of course I did.

The Abyss by Deschutes Brewery from Oregon  is listed on page 616.  We sampled the 2011 Reserve edition of this awesome black concoction that is crowned with a dark yellow head. It has a rich dry wood, dark chocolate aroma and a heavenly wooden-coffee-smoke burning bitterness. It was the last but definitely the best beer we sampled tonight.

Victory Prima Pils was another beer we sampled tonight. A clear greenish blond liquid that bears a very faint aroma that becomes sweet and fruity after stirring. It’s a thin, watery brew that bears no distinctive taste.

Beer #29 was cool, beer #30 was rather insignificant.

There are at least 7 more beers in my notes that should be covered in this blog. Soon.

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