North by Southeast
Last week we picked up DSG, drove to Haifa, ate the best falafel in the entire universe and headed to Nimrod, the alco-wizard kid from The Attic , who has just returned from a 6 week trip in Laos with a bottle of Laobeer and 3 bottles of Lao-Lao. He posted an invitation at the wine and alcohol forum to join him and take tasting notes, The Secret Agent and I jumped on the opportunity to try new stuff and meet Nimrod and DSG couldn’t miss the opportunity to add yet another country to his beer tasting list. We were joined by our good friend and master mixologist Padod and the northern branch of the small Ratebeer community, E and Y. DSG, E and Y are beer-curious, Padod doesn’t understand what the beer-fuss is all about but is easily tempted with distilled stuff and The Secret Agent and I will try almost* anything.
We started with three different Lao-Laos: rice whiskey distilled in the villages, drank by locals, claimed for 50%ABV and sold in 60oml plastic bags for less than a dollar a bag. Nimrod transferred the content of the bags he bought to bottles, labeled them with the name of the villages and measured the actual content (anything between 42 to 48%). We spotted differences between the three: First was sweet and smelled like porridge; second had honey and plastic, tasted hot and had burnt plastic aftertaste. Nimrod says it’s probably from a plastic part (container?) used in the heating process. Third smelled like kumquat, burnt a little less and tasted a little bitter.
It was different, for sure. Not a sipper, not a mixer, not in my world – the other, cocktail-geek world, that is. Also, after tripping over homemade Yemenite Arak at a restaurant in one of the suburbs, I try to keep away from moonshine. However, if it has Nimrod’s seal of approval, I feel safe. We also drank Mongolian vodka that was slightly sweet and not as oily as vodka as we know it, and sampled baijiu before we headed to the beer part or the tasting.
So, Beerlao Dark Lager. One of the three Beerlaos available in Laos (the other two are pale and golden), and one of the two that appear in the book. It’s clear brown in colour, with a foamy, thin white head. Aroma is malt, some grain, toasty and a little sweet. Tastes delicately bitter with sweet caramel tones and has a toasty finish, light body and a fair balance. Overall a decent beer, one that’s perfect for hot days which I understand are not quite rare in this part of the world.
I’ve never been anywhere east of Taybeh, Palestine – I feel right at home in the West and have not had the desire to travel in Asia so naturally, local touristic beer culture is foreign to me. Imagine my surprise on the day after the tasting, when I spotted one of the douchebags at the gym wearing a wifebeater endorsed with Beerlao’s label. Apparently the beer is “[…] finding flavor with the growing number of tourists now visiting the landlocked but scenically stunning part of Southeast Asia”.
Either way, Beerlao is the 61st beer I Must Try Before I Die. Who’s flying there and bringing me the pale lager?
*had the silkworm poo tea Nimrod brewed before we left not nested inside cocoons, I’d have drank it for sure.