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 “August, 2012”


Writing about Beer #100 in the middle of summer madness. who would’ve thought I’d make it that far? I never doubted my drinking capacity, mind you, it’s the ongoing documentation that surprises me. It’s 9:59 p.m now. Back home after a full and exhausting day at work and an evening on campus. Since I came home I took the bottles and the paper out to recycling, washed dishes,cut and froze bananas and tidied up a little for tomorrow’s tasting (a little. Flat’s still a mess). Now I’m sitting on the kitchen floor and blogging as I’m burning eggplants for dinner. When The Secret Agent returns home we’ll watch the final episode of Game of Thrones season I. I’ll organize reading material for tomorrow’s commuting and we’ll taste a beer or two. This false sense of accomplishment or GTD even is a reason to celebrate with a bottle of beer, isn’t it?
Anyway, enough of the Fly Lady rant, you’re here for the beer and so am I, especially since the 100th beer in my project is a real beauty. Brought to the tasting table by the actuarial community’s Patron Saint of Great Beer is a bottle of Harviestoun Brewery Ola Dubh 40. Matured in casks used to age Highland Park 40, this is a rare gem and a feast to all senses. To all of my senses, who are keen on smoke, wood, dark colours and Scotland. Ola Dubh is black, opaque and has a brownish head when poured. It has a strong wooden aroma but I also noted smoke, soy sauce and some acetone. Flavour-wise this is a sweetish beer with hints of vanilla and a dry tendency. Its body is full and its texture is sleek, with hardly any carbonation. I loved every single little sip. Thank you Mr. Actuary for treating us all to such a great experience and for doing it on time for this post.
Ola Dubh (40!!!) is Beer #100 I Must Try Before I Die. Here’s to the next 901.

Today’s beer porn is courtesy of Beerandbeyond.

Are You Ready For Some Darkness?

Two distinctive stouts met my throat recently. The first is a beer I’ve been expecting to drink since The Beer Greek bought a bottle upon my request; the second – I thought would take begging to my surfer cousin or pulling other dodgy strings in order to get a hold on, but The Actuary, a devoted beergeek, took care of business and ordered a bottle.

The First beer is Mikkeller Black, the second – Sri Lanka’s Lion Stout. Drunk in two different sessions, this blog’s current state is all about filling gaps and catching up. Writing about these two uber dark beers just seems appropriate.

Mikkeller Black, an Imperial Stout that comes in an elegant bottle, was the last bottle sampled in a tasting we hosted, that followed 16 other bottles and cans. With 17.5%abv. it couldn’t precede anything. The name sums up the look – it’s a black, black beer with a light brown head. Its main trait is black coffee: sugared espresso aroma (as well as some alcohol) and tastes as sour as sometimes strong espresso tends to be. Further sipping reveals burnt and bitter flavours, again, coffee-like. It has a full body and sour-hot finish. I like this beer. It’s extreme and challenging but in a good way. However, I would’ve never drank a bottle by myself, as it’s too much to cope with on one’s own, though that’s something The Actuary did a week before the tasting at the Beer Temple in Amsterdam.

I was looking forward to drink Lion Stout for two reasons: first is marking another beer in my list, second is conquering beer from another beera incognito. I didn’t know about this beer and I wasn’t expecting anything. The editor of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die tried to include brews from as many countries as possible and thus mediocre beers from far away places took space that otherwise might have been used to list a good beer from a well-covered country.

Lion Stout pretty much in the middle. Also in the picture: some other beers that will be reviewed soon(er or later) and The Actuary.

It was nice to read and realize that since this stout was hunted by Michael Jackson, it gained an aura among beer lovers and a quite justified aura. Opened by British colonialists in the late 19th century, Ceylon Brewery is the contractor of Carlsberg’s Lager and Special Brew but continues to brew and bottle its own creation. The bottle that the Actuary brought made quite a trip around the world: from Columbo to New York to the dusty suburbs of Tel Aviv, but all this didn’t make it too weary. Coffee, some wood and liquor in the nose, bitter and a little dry in the mouth, long finish, medium body and a warm feeling that stayed for a while, at least until the following round.

So, were you ready for some darkness?

Mikkeller Black and Lion Stout were beers #98 and #99 I Must Try Before I Die.

Belgian Triplet

It’s too hot. Too hot and muggy to drink anything heavier than Helles, let alone write anything longer than a snarky Facebook status about the arbitrary and dangerous recent beer tax raise or the spin-war those who run this country are determined to launch. However, I still drink heavier stuff and still determined to go on with this blog and the 1001 project and beer writing in general, even if it means tasting Belgian ales in the middle of the Tel Avivian summer and then re-live the experience by looking at the tasting notes and typing.

The people we taste with rarely ever bring Belgian Ales to the sessions. Scandinavian stuff?Oh yeah! American beer? Bring ’em in! Italian brews? The more, the merrier. Belgian ales? Unless it’s Crazy Sour Sessions or true rarities, usually they won’t be found on the table*. It’s too heavy, too spiced and not too interesting to the seasoned drinker, I guess.  However, the Israeli market is quite fond of Belgian Ales with it’s high alcoholic percentage and sweetness. Maredsous, the Dwarf beer and Chimay are popular around here and beer importers always expand the selection of available Belgians. Besides the major players, every now and then the local beer hunters and gatherers bump into new bottles on the shelves, brought by unknown businesses that for one reason or another decide to get into the importing game, either because they read too many press releases about the raising popularity of beer or because they drank something fantastic they had to share with the world. I think that De Halve Maan beers that The Secret Agent and I spotted on the shelves of the local homebrew supply business Beer-D in the spring of 2011, is an example of the latter. Why else would a computer hardware company distribute beer from Bruges?

The three types of beer marketed by the computer company, Straffe Hendrik triple and quadruple as well as Brugse Zot, were a rare sight at the beer shops. Then it went on sale at the Ninkasi, Beer-D’s pub and pretty much disappeared from the market. We bought bottles at Beerandbeyond’s sale last spring. They seemed pretty old back then and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were from the same batch as the ones we bought at Beer-D’s a year before.

The Secret Agent and I remembered liking those beers, but lowered our expectations because of the age of the bottles and more importantly the shift in our particular taste, that’s been less tolerant towards Belgian stuff. The floating particles that were pretty apparent while pouring the clear amber liquid kinda turned me off. It also tasted and smelled old and cider-like with dominant yeast and toffee in the nose and sour in the mouth. I recall it was much better last time we had it.

Last May The Not-Yet Nicked brought us 2 25cl bottles from the beer tour he guided in Belgium. I sent him a list of 80+ items and told him to grab whatever. Didn’t look for rarities (and at that point preferred not to spend money on them anyway), just for stuff that’s unavailable here. He returned with  bottles of Rodenbach and Dupont Biolégère, both we shared at tastings.

Biolégère is an organic Saison by the creators of Saison Dupont which we fondly remember from our trip to Belgium last October, but like too many other organic beers we got to sample, this one wasn’t satisfying. Dry aroma with some yeast and limestone and a little sour, a little sweet taste.  It has light body and fruity finish and I won’t regret never drinking it again.  Rodenbach is a Flemish sour ale. I’m becoming more and more tolerant towards sour beer so drinking it wasn’t too shocking. Sourness and cherry in the nose, malt, sour, sweet undertones in the mouth and a medium body with hops that pop up towards the finish.

These were beers #95, #96, #97 I must try before I die. 3 more to the 100.

*The above sentence is based on gut feelings and not on real statistics.

Quadruple IPA

IPA Day in Tel Aviv, poster by Big Bear

How did you celebrate World IPA Day? The Secret Agent and I sampled dozens cups of homebrew in Samuel Adams Longshot Finals event that took place in Herzliya Marine. We drank some IPA’s – I think but I cannot remember – and on Friday joined the local beer fans to celebrate Israel’s humble-yet-fun  hoppy party that took place at Porter & Sons in Tel Aviv. I think that every IPA that is commercially available here was poured on Friday. We focused on new locals, Og Ale Kayzi (Og Summer Ale) by Golan Brewery and 2 new HaDubim and overlooked the small selection of imported beer. Friends who mentioned the so-so taste of the Worthington White Shield reminded us of the bottle we bought a couple of months ago, suck in the back of the fridge and pretty much forgot about. Later in the evening, at home, in front of one of the final chapters of Boardwalk Empire Season II we opened it. It poured murky nutty reddish amber with a tan head and bore flowery aroma with hints of honey. Taste was very bitter and sharp so we let it warm a little; beer was in the back of the fridge. After a while drinking became more pleasant. The bitterness remained but fruitiness came along. Medium body, bitter finish and and overall sense of mediocrity. It felt more like PA than IPA.

The following day, still at home, we opened a bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA. We followed The Actuary’s advice, who said we’d better drink it as fresh as possible. This is a generally good advice, that becomes more acute with IPA’s. Torpedo smelled of tropical fruit and a little like candy and tasted bitter and somewhat dry. Its texture was sleek and the finish was dry and long. A great beer but not something I could drink on a daily basis, had I drank anything except for water and malt beverage on a daily basis. Despite its rather light body and despite drinking only half a bottle, the sensation of 7.2% abv. appeared rather quickly.

another IPA we drank recently was Rouge Imperial India Pale Ale that Midi Bear brought from his travels. It smelled OK but not as awesome as other Rouge brews we have tasted;  butter, candy, honey and ripe fruit and tasted sharp, bitter and alcoholic. OK but not the Greatest Rouge Ever (have you seen their Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale? The bottle and the combination almost made me regret being vegan. Almost).

Those who follow this blog may remember that we already drank Brewdog’s Punk IPA. Drank and loved it. A couple of weeks ago we got to sample a milder, 5.6% version of the beer (as opposed to the original 6%), from a can that The Actuary brought from a city getaway in Amsterdam. Well, as much as I like lighter beers or at least the idea of lighter beer, the reduction did not improve this one. Quite the contrary: bitterness was softer, carbonation was softer, aroma is flowery. I liked the old school version better, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?

White Shield, Torpedo and Imperial IPA are Beers #92, #93 and #94 I Must Try Before I Die.

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