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 “October, 2012”

Thanks Hansen & Zita!

This entry’s title should ring a bell to those who are creepy/ lifeless enough to stalk The Actuary, the Dead Swedish Girl or Yours Truly on Ratebeer. Hansen & Zita, a couple in real life and two different members on Ratebeer. Being Danish, Zita and Hansen get *real* time off work, not just a couple of days that are wasted on Jewish holidays when work shuts down anyway or on studying to final exams. Yes, they have time for overseas travel and last August they came to Israel for a holiday. What did they do here? You know, what every tourist does, or should do: traded beer with the natives.

Several weeks prior to their arrival, The Dead Swedish Girl called The Actuary and me to order: the three of us schlepped money and The Girl collected as many Israeli brews as possible. She gathered together some 40+ bottles of Israeli micros, some are hard to find, others more common. Some beer the three of us vouch for, others, some of us probably can’t stand but all are novelty to those who drink Mikkeller for breakfast. We met Hansen and Zita on their first night in Tel Aviv and took them to our favourite brewpub, The Dancing Camel, but before that picked the bounty from their hotel room: cans and bottles of anything from Danish craft beer to Danish supermarket brand pale lager; beer from Faroe Islands and beer from Singapore; a bunch of Belgian stuff, some ciders – the rationale behind the beer they delivered is beyond me but hey, I just put the money and enjoyed the harvest – it’s DSG who did all the work! I wasn’t involved in coordinating the trade and cannot be held responsible to the 6 bottles from my 1001 mission that found their way to Zita and Hansen’s luggage:

Tiger Beer from Singapore that was as sweet, sticky and artificial smelling and tasting as pale lager gets made me happy, because no one I know travels to Singapore and I would have never thought of asking people to fetch me cheapo lager, even import lager, so that’s cool.

The other 5 from the list are Belgian and with 118 Belgian beers on my list, every bit helps. Scotch Silly is a beautiful clear dark red Scotch Ale, that smells like wine and caramel-candy. It tastes sweet and condensed, almost like wort, with a sweet, lingering alcoholic finish. Brasserie De La Senne’s Stouterik is another pretty beer: black with a big tan head and a weird aroma that I liked: fuel, mud and ripe fruit. The beer smells and looks better than it tastes: bitter but weird, with fuel echoing in the finish. It isn’t bad or wrong, just weird. Zinnebier, also from De La Senne, is a Belgian style ale that smells sweet, with hints of clove and orange peel. It tastes bitter, hoppy and a little fruity, has a medium body and a surprising finish that reminded me of caraway crackers. Malheur 10 – its name indicates its alcoholic volume – is too carbonated, tastes orangey and sweet and smells sweet as well: I noticed fruit, passion fruit syrup and plastic. Its carbonation produced a huge frothy head which is always cool, but was too much for my tummy.

The last beer Hansen & Zita brought from the list, to which they were unaware of but which granted them eternal fame in this blog and on more than 120 ratings is Urthel Samaranth, heavy quadrupel that pours clear deep bronze and is as alcoholic and fruity and sweet as you’d expect from 11.5% abv beer.

Zinnebier, Urthel, Tiger and other beers from the trade. Our place, September 2012

None of the above was too amazing. Scotch Silly and Brassarie De la Senne’s stuff were good, Tiger Beer was aweful and the rest OK, but that’s the nature of the trip down the book: lots of okayness between peaks of grateness and masses of WTFness. but the trading was worth it. Not only did we get a suitcaseful of beers we would have otherwise overlooked or wouldn’t be able to get or would have to make an effort to get (did I mention Faroe Island?), but making new friends and talking shop with people who share your passion and obsession over a glass (or glasses – like committed ratebeerians they ordered tastings) of beer is a true pleasure.

H&Z enjoying Dancing Camel brews Ratebeer style (note the notebooks).

I am always looking for trades so if you happen to visit Israel, feel free to contact me and we’ll work something out.

Thank you Hansen and Zita for providing beers #125, #126, #127, #128, #129 and #130 I Must Try Before I Die. Hope you enjoyed your end of the trade as much as I did.

Monday Morning Blues.

I don’t suffer from Monday Morning Blues, simply because work week in Israel starts on Sunday. Today’s different as the semester begins. Soon I’ll take the bus to work, where a load of missions are awaiting on my desk. Then, in the evening, school begins. A full semester, a re-test in 4 weeks from now. I kinda wanna kill myself or drop out and enjoy carefree afternoons with The Secret Agent, but I still haven’t won that ambitious devil that’s sitting on my shoulder, whispering “study hard and get a degree”.  For lack of a better topic, here are two beers I drank that the only things they have in common are their  their country of origin and their appearance in the 1001 book.

Lost Coast Brewery Downtown Brown, a brown ale with a cubist-like label was sampled at a tasting that was held at the Dancing Camel brewpub. I’m writing this because until recently DC also had a beer named Downtown Brown. Well, ‘downtown’ and ‘brown’ rhyme and it’s not a surprise that 37 different downtown browns are listed on Ratebeer, but Lost Coast’s is the serious/ popular/ widely available of them all. I swear that sharing our bottle on that location was coincidental though. Anyway, the beer pours dark brown with a tan head, as expected from the name and type. The exotic fruit aroma, derived from hops, sweet fruitiness and very delicate bitter undertones in the mouth are far from what was promised in the tasting notes shared in the 1001 book: where’s the nutty aroma? The coffee bitterness? Not in my tasting notes, though looking at the ones my tasting mates shared – nut, caramel, coffee and malt sure met their orifices. Beer had a considerably light body with a nice fizz and long finish where the hops appear with faint bitterness. It wasn’t a bad beer and I certainly wasn’t tuned-in.

Yuengling Dark Brewed Porter hails from the US’ oldest brewery, located in Pottsville, PA, an old coal mining town. There’s a good chance that The Secret Agent and I will visit the brewery one day, as it’s only a 30 minute drive from Centralia (click for vintage-net). In my personal 1001 places I must see before I die, there’s a page dedicated to Centralia (mental note: finish reading Donald Harington’s Let Us Build Us A City by the end of the year. Are there any breweries located in lost/ ghost towns?). This brew is made with lager yeast and is bottom fermented, a method said to be traditional but in today’s perspective is quite unique – it has a light body for a porter and it’s easily drinkable – not at all a bad thing. Yuengling Dark Brewed Porter pours dark opaque brown and smells like the combination of coke and Rosh HaShana honey cake, which in my family it means clove-loaded. It’s a slightly bitter beer that tastes a little like coke. Malty finish and fizzy and fun to drink.

Lost Coast Downtown Brown and Yuengling Dark Brewed Porter were beers #123 and #124 I Must Try Before I Die and now I’m heading off to work and then school. Fall Semester starts today. Guess I should be grateful for the weekend-long semester break I had, ugh!

Caring is Sharing

Last Passover holiday I created a Google document to help me follow the 1001 beer list and be a little more organized, a challenge to ADD me. Other than crossing out the stuff I drank and wrote about, it helps me keeping tabs with our home-stash, orders and the state of the local beer market, all colour-coded. When cooperative  friends and family fly abroad or come to visit from overseas, I copy items from the list for guidance, lest they bring something we’ve already drank or worse – bottles that are available here.

When Teva Boy announced that he’s flying to Teva’s manufacturing plant in Croatia, he asked if there’s anything he should bring from the visit. That’s how I got to taste Tomislav Pivo, a 7.3% abv. Baltic Porter. It’s an ok beer, black in colour, aroma wine, raisins and those wine-filled chocolates that in our part of the world were a popular treat among older relatives in the early 80’s and a sweet, a little metallic, malty taste. Its mild carbonation and medium body made Tomislav rather easy to drink despite the high alcoholic content.

The local ratebeerians asked to see the list, rerardless of any particular travel plans so I shared the file with them. The file brought up some interesting finds, like Business travel was, I think, a one-time gig for Teva Boy, but for Troubles it’s a routine and a focal point for his (Hebrew) blog. His job sends him to places and he explores local beer cultures for the rest of us to drool over.  Last year he spent some time in Germany and of course, brought back bottles. Upon looking at the list his eyes met the words Störtebeker Schwarzbier – he was planning to drink the bottle on his own, assuming that there isn’t much interest among the tasters for yet another lager (that isn’t a nasty pale lager from an obscure country, that is. We looooove those!). It’s a decent beer from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a Northeastern Bundesland. Despite the name it’s colour is dark purple or so it seemed in the darkness of the pub where we sampled it and it smelled of raisins, ripe figs and some smoke. With a sweet, malty taste and a little dryness in the taste and finish it was a decent beer. Nothing unusual and definitely suitable to finish on one’s own, but I’m glad it was shared.

You can trust the Dead Swedish Girl, with her mighty beer obsession, to go over the list, pretty much memorize it and bring to my attention stuff that’s available here in Israel which I overlooked as well as bringing forth bottles from his personal stash. Last Sukkkot the Secret Agent and I hosted the closest thing to a dinner party we held in our 10 years of marriage. The innocent victims to the heaps of homemade vegan Mexican goodness were Dead Swedish Girl and her partner, The Living Swedish Boy, who, like the yuppies they are brought dessert (vegan Reese’s cake that rocked my world. Peanut butter and chocolate for dessert are like smoke and wood for beer!) and bottles of wine. A true yuppie would have never dared bringing the grape-based equivalent of Utenos Alus, a Lithuanian pale lager that’s on my list. I hope that the other Lithuanian representatives are better than the duller drink that reeked of sweet grape juice and rotten fruit and tasted more like commercial clear cider than beer. But hey, it’s not as if Corona would’ve matched dinner better.

some other goodies salvaged from DSG’s stuff are Speakeasy’s Big Daddy IPA that bore wonderful smells of pine and grass and some grapefruit and tasted bitter, on the verge of dry and green, as my tasting notes indicate. A real American IPA it was and quite a good one.

HandBryggeriet Norwegian Wood was an interesting find. I think she traded it with one of her Scandinavian beer pals. A homage to an old Norwegian brewing tradition, actually a law that required farm owners to produce their own ale, this honey-brown colour ale uses smoked malt and juniper leaves and branches, a combination that results in a wonderful fruity and at the same time smokey aroma and a pleasant bitter and a little roasty taste. A slightly burning sensation towards the finish makes it even better in my book.

In the last tasting she brought a bottle of Brewdog Rip Tide. Brewdog’s been featured in this blog more than once, because of the mission and also because it is one of everybody’s favourite breweries. It has 4 representatives in the book, and after Punk IPA and as many editions of Paradox as I could find, Rip Tide is the third I sample. It’s a 8% Imperial Stout with a pretty tan head on top of an opaque, black body, that smells a little metallic but also roasty and good, tastes very alcoholic, but the kind of bitter alcoholic, with hints of anise, has a full body and is softly carbonated. Definitely a good beer.

Now who’s sorting us out with a bottle of Tokyo*?

Our friends are awesome and we really try to reciprocate. There’s a tasting tonight and they’re in for an unpredictable treat.

Tomislav Pivo, Störtebeker Schwarzbier, Utenos Alos, Big Daddy IPA, Norwegian Wood and Rip Tide are beers #117, #118, #119, #120, #121 and #122 I Must Try Before I Die.

1001 Beer Quest Hits Tel Aviv!

Have you ever read the description of this blog? It begins with “Blogging about Israeli beer in general and Israeli craft beer in particular […]”, followed by the 1001 thing. Yet, not many entries are categorized under Beer in Israel. My Hebrew blog remains the hub of my Israeli beer entries, which tend to be both informative and critical. Local beer writing in the Beer Gatherer are supposed to be all shiny and bubbly, and introduce our small but growing industry to the English-reading world. Alas, with a full time job, 2 blogs, Ratebeer account maintenance and lots and lots of beer tastings that help me reach my 1001 goal, the Israeli aspect of this blog has been neglected. Also, due to the high cost of living in this country we had to sell our car. During the week it’s pretty cool, as public transportation to work, the city center and our local pub (we’ll get to the pub shortly) is frequent and effective, but it also means that we no longer jump into the car and visit breweries and far away pubs whenever we feel like.

This Sukkot holiday finally brings forth an entry about Israeli beer. Dancing Camel Brewing Company were the subject of the blog’s second entry. I wrote about their Cherry Vanilla Stout brewed for Hannukah, and 3 seasons later comes the Trog Wit. More than any other breweries around, DC are big on Seasonals, that in their world relate to Jewish Holidays: Carrobian Stout that’s brewed for Tu Bishvat, New Year of the Trees that’s celebrated by eating dried fruit, such as dried carobs;  613 – annual brewing of one of the brewery’s regular ales infused with pomegranates for Rosh HaShana. There’s also the full moon Golem, honors the legend on The Golem of Prague, an iced version of the IPA that’s served at the brewpub every month on full moon, with changing, tend-to-extreme abv. Beer is not kosher for Passover so there’s no seasonal at this time of the year, though more iced versions of the regular beers are served at the traditional Kick the Keg party held at the Brewpub.

And now comes Sukkot, with pretty neat traditions (saith the atheist), like having guests and sleeping under the stars and also special prayers and blessings such as the one for the Four Species. Etrog, The fruit of citron tree (aka yellow citron or citron medica), is one of the Species, to which are attributed both taste and aroma – hey, the two most important features in beer! – is the focal point of this seasonal.  ‘Trog Wit is based on Dancing Camel Hefe Wit, a Belgian-style wheat beer, but instead of the orange peel addition there are heaps of Etrogim. We drank it on the first day of Sukkot, at the pub, along with a glass of Golem (most Jewish holidays take place on the full moon), although it’s hard to say we went there especially for this seasonal. If there’s an assassin out there, looking for The Secret Agent and/ or me, they’d better head down to the Dancing Camel brewpub. That’s our main hub, where we pamper our livers when not in group tastings (and sometimes there are group tastings AT the Dancing Camel).

L-T-R: dancing Camel Golem and `Trog Wit

Anyway, you probably wanna read about the `Trog Wit, right? Well, it’s a cloudy and light coloured beer with banana and delicate flowery aroma accompanied by cool tartness. It tastes a little sour but also bubblegum sweet with a long, fruity finish that’s also a little sour.

‘Trog Wit’s a cool beer, refreshing and so suitable to the Israeli autumn which is actually summer with some showers. Moreover, it really captures the spirit of Brewmaster David Cohen, who immigrated to Israel with an intention to open the first ever microbrewery in this country, combining local ingredients, American brewing style and Jewish tradition for unique niche seasonals. Also, `Trog Wit is the one Israeli beer represented in the 1001 Book. Choosing this one is pretty strange, because not only is it available only in Israel, it is available only for a limited time every year and only at the Dancing Camel brewpubs, both are in Tel Aviv. Served only on tap, I won’t be surprised to find out about just as hard-to-get New Zealandi, Brazilian or South African beers. I need to save money for beer travel, I guess. Anybody wants to buy a kidney? Ovules? A liver lobe?

Meanwhile, that’s beer #116 I Must Try Before I Die.

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