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 “November, 2012”

Last Call

Mikkeller says hi.

So… we’re flying to Switzerland for the weekend.

Ain’t the above sentence sounds, well, European? A featherlight getaway, one in a few that The Secret Agent and I take every year. Not as exciting as the tracks in Vietnam or the parties in Ibiza, but still fun and necessary break.

Of course, being Israelis who struggle for every shekel that enters our bank account, this weekend getaway is anything but obvious: we are going to The Young Gods’ show at the Rote Fabrik, a silver jubilee of their first album. Needless to say, we plan to cram the weekend with as many beer tastings and hunting as possible, although neither Basel nor Zürich seem like big beer cities (you can buy  Mongolian beer there  and we know enough people who consider this fact a good enough reason to visit a town but still…).

Before heading to the Land of Expensive Brews, we stopped in Jaffa, at REL’s parents’ lovely apartment, for a short tasting in Riedel glasses, with a smaller group than usual and a smaller variety of beer than usual. Yet, there was a variety. We brought 4 beers from the book and Teva Boy, a lucky bastard who has just returned from a business travel to Copenhagen, provided two more listed beers.

We started the tasting with Boag, James Boag’s Premium Lager. A mediocre lager that traveled from Tasmania to Tel Aviv via New York, and spent too much time in metal containers for its own good. I find it hard to believe that there was anything special about this beer when it’s fresh. Apparently there was a clash of kings between the Late Michael Jackson to Boag’s brewery owner regarding the nature of Australian beer. You may call it hubris, but as opposed to The Beer Hunter, I cannot praise this generic pale lager.

Next followed Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor that Alma7 brought back from her visit to Bruges and Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, both from breweries I appreciate, both I was looking forward to drink.Unfortunately, both were rather disappointing. You’d expect a beer named Hopsinjoor to be hoppy. Well, there were *some* hops in the aroma and there was *some* bitterness in the mouth, but the general feel of this Belgian Stong Ale was of yeast. It’s an OK beer, but I find it a case of false advertising. Blanche de Chambly was disappointing in a different level. A Belgian-style white beer/ witbier/ wheat beer this one’s supposed to be, but instead of bold coriander and citrus aroma and taste, we drank a delicate, almost tasteless, peach-coloured and peach smelling brew that was very drinkable but that’s about it. There’s nothing to this beer besides drinkability.

The one good beer we shared was Green Flash West Coast IPA. Its mild skunkiness can be attributed to age, but I can live with that. Piney hoppiness, green, grassy bitterness and light-to-medium body.

Other than the 4 bottles we brought, we should thank Teva Pharmaceuticals for sending Teva Boy to try out machinery in Denmark. He brought a bottle of recently retired Nørrebro Bryghus Bombay Pale Ale. As the name indicates that’s an IPA. A retired beer, it’s waaaay past its prime. The one we shared was skunky and watery and smelled of yeast, malt and cleaning detergant. What a shame.

[Edited to add:

We actually drank Nørrebro Bombay Pale Ale (Økologisk) which is a new, all-organic version of ye olde BPA, launched last November. This makes it even sadder that the beer was off. Thanks, DSG, for yet another correction.]

Luckily, the other bottle Teva Boy shared, Limfjord Dark Porter, a baltic porter with an unattractive label, was superb. Roasty, woody, a little port and fenol in the nose, apparent barrel in the mouth and all in all an interesting and good beer.

To sum up this tasting, no heights but not true lows. Just beers  #142, #143, #144, #145, #146 and #147 I Must Try Before I Die.

Happy End.

Singha. Stupid commercial pale lager from Thailand. Yet another weird editors’ choice, but who am I to judge? I only follow. It’s pale and clear and golden, with a crisp malty aroma and that generic bitterness that no real beer lover cares about – a thirst quencher.

But then I swallowed and there it was, not hidden underneath the fizz: that long fresh malty taste that indicates recently-brewed beer. It was fun.

Singha is beer #141 I Must Try Before I Die. I drank it at my father-in-law’s birthday lunch. Happy birthday, Father Agent!

England’s Dreaming

Compared to other Big Beer Countries, aka Belgium, Germany and the US, I don’t drink as many English beers and I’d like. The reason behind it that not too many English beers are imported here and that England is not a destination my beer contacts frequent (I’m not even gonna talk about The Secret Agent and me, who as a couple visited the Land of Crass a miserable visit once in 2005). To us Israelis, England* is a more distant and more expensive travel destination than mainland Europe.

So compared to American, Belgian, German and even Danish beers, we don’t get to taste too many English brews. Thus, tasting 4 English beers at a tasting that took place a couple of weeks ago at The Beer Greek’s new and cool pad was quite a rare occasion. The fact that 3 of which are listed in the 1001 book just added to the joy.

We were in charge of Old Peculier that’s brewed by Theakston from Masham, North Yorkshire. That’s 40 miles from where I lived for a year or so, back in the 1990’s. You can read about the history of Theakston Brewery and the origins of the beer’s name here. I hope you’ll also be willing to give it a try if you haven’t done so already, because this old ale style beer is good!It’s clear-brown in colour and has a thick, cream-colour head and has a smooth honey, malt, caraml aroma and sweetish malt and molasses taste. Delicate carbonation and bitterness that’s revealed in the finish, along with the long-lasting maltiness.

Troubles began working with an English client and took the trouble to look for a beer from my list on his visit to a local supermarket: Wells Bombardier by Wells and Young. You can get some Wells and Young stuff in Israel: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, McEwan’s shows up here sporadically, Wells Banana Bread Beer… Bombardier used to be sold here but its marketing stopped a while ago. This ESB pours clear bronze, has a rich malty aroma, tastes bitter but also slightly sweet. It’s a fun, drinkable brew indeed.

isn’t it one of the coolest labels you have ever seen?

The Third English beer on my list was Meantime London Stout, courtesy of REL’s parents. It’s quite different from the Guinness-influence brews and that’s not unintentional – note the London in London Stout. One of the dominant smells I sensed, along with coffee and roast, is that of a rotten egg.It was strange and unpredictable, but not as disgusting as it sounds – quite the contrary actually. Lightly carbonated, roast and coffee tasting, it’s a a good and interesting beer. There are a couple of other Meantime Brewery beers listed in the book and I’m looking forward to try them all. We should start thinking about a UK beer tour.  Late 2013? 2014?

There was an American beer we shared in that tasting that’s worth mentioning here: Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is a Californian brewery, but they named their India Pale Ale Union Jack IPA so there you have it. An award winning beer, the bottle we got was probably a little old and therefore suffered from some skunkiness along with the bitter taste and the fruity, ripe melon aroma.


Old Peculier, Wells Bombardier, Meantime London Stout and Union Jack IPA are beers #137, #138, #139 and #140 I Must Try Before I Die.


*by England I mean London, of course. Few are the Israelis – and I assume that tourists in General – who take a Megabus outside the capitol, where everything is actually relatively cheap. I lived in England and it’s not THAT pricey once you leave central London.

Procrastinate. It Can Wait.

Other than a sip of Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier and the remains of the pale lager I used for baking a loaf of beer bread, I haven’t drank at all in the past week+. An all too familiar pain sent me to the ER. A quick diagnose, a quick surgical procedure and the doctor’s orders for bed rest means that instead of sitting at the pub or joining tastings I’ve been drinking up my sick-leave days. Well, it never hurts to give the liver some rest. It would’ve been a good time to catch up with the blog and delete columns from my Blog Entries to Be Written file, if I didn’t  have to study for tomorrow’s horrific exam.

Being Type-A procrastinator, at this point I’d rather write about dull beer than go through another SPSS sheet. St Feuillien Triple from Belgium’s Brasserie Saint-Feuillien is indeed rather dull. The first time we drank it was at Delirium Cafe’ in October last year. My journal states that at that point in the day my tasting buds we gone. No wonder. That was the 4th round at the Delirium/ Hoppy Loft complex in Brussels. Prior to that we had 3 more beers during lunch and visited Cantillon where we sampled 4 more beers.

Anyway, that was before the blog and before the 1001, so a few weeks ago we opened a bottle found at a store here in Tel Aviv – St. Feuillien beers can be found here, though rather sporadically. I didn’t miss much that night at the Delirium. It’s a cloudy golden beer that bears the aroma of cooked peach, apricot compote and ripe oranges. It tastes sweet, heavy and fruity but as you keep sipping the taste becomes bitter like unripe citrus peel. The beer has full body, high carbonation and an unpleasant sour finish. At least it was a small, 330cl bottle.

St Feuillien Triple is beer #136 I Must Try Before I Die. Good riddance. Now back to study.

Here’s to upgrades.

When you more often than not drink your beer  in tasting sessions that on average contain 18 bottles/ cans, you are bound to bump into beers that are on your 1001 beer list.

Such was the tasting at REL’s, several weeks ago. He shared with us a big bottle of Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout his sister brought him. The book lists the regular version, i.e the one without cocoa nibs, but special versions count, don’t they? They do, in my book. It is a really, really great beer. It came late in the tasting – the last beer out of 14-15 beers and according to my tasting notes, my senses weren’t tuned: stale aroma with faint ash, taste of blackk pepper, ash and wood and in the finish, guess what – ash, along with full body and soft carbonation. Don’t let these weird notes turn you off, as I truly  enjoyed this beer: it’s currently #9 out of more than 750 beers I’ve rated in the past year. My more experienced friend, The Dead Swedish Girl, also liked the beer and actually noted the chocolate and the espresso one would expect to find.

Another special edition of a beer that appears in the book was sampled a couple of months ago at a tasting we hosted. Troubles, a seasoned beer traveler who spent many a days in Italy over the past year, brought Birra del Borgo ReAle 7 Anniversario, which once again I can’t compare to the original ReAle. This one has the aroma of tropical fruit such as mango and also of some paper, the bitter taste of hops and also  fruit and sweetness, medium body and a long fruity finish.

Back to the tasting at REL’s, New Kid also brought a version of ReAle. This time the ReAle Extra that pours hazy amber with white head and hoppy aroma that also contains roses and faint fruit. It tastes fruity, a little sweet and really nice and has a peachy finish. My tasting notes say that I like the latter better, but I wish I could try them head to head, along with the original ReAle, of course.

Before any smartass purist  says that it’s not the beer The Book means that I’d drink: shut up. It’s my journey, and as far as I’m concerned, (Chocolate) Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout and these two variation of ReAle are beers #134 and #135 I Must Try Before I Die.

Mission: Honeymoon.

My Excellent Little Brother and his lovely wife AKA The Pianist got married in a fever in July 2011. A month later The Pianist took off to New York, to pursue her DMA in Piano and in December my Excellent Little Brother joined her after promoting the album release of his übercool band Lo Dubim that plays Mediterranean-influenced power funk. Relocation and career got in their way and the couple didn’t get to go on a honeymoon until July. Good for them, they went to California – San Francisco and L.A. Good for The Pianist who flew straight to Israel, to a family visit and a recital straight afterwards. Good for me, because My Excellent Little Brother was sent to City Beer to fetch me some hard-to-find Californian bottles that got delivered by The Pianist.

My Excellent Little Brother is not a beergeek. He’s also not a tiki freak, craftaholic or a punk, but he’s curious, kind and seems to enjoy shopping for me as I do for him (a lyric book of Nirvana’s Bleach translated to Polish… oh, the joy of giving!). Of course I’d love to shop for beer myself, but outsourcing to him is second best.

Armed with a list composed by the Dead Swedish Girl and me, the young couple went on a mission and returned with some sought-after goodies that The Pianist delivered as soon as she got off the plane. What goodies? Such goodies that calling them goodies doesn’t do them justice.

The Lost Abbey’s  Angel’s Share aged in bourbon barrel, for once. 12.5% abv. makes this heavenly drink too strong to be called beer in accordance to regulators and legislators who probably didn’t have to deal with that Armageddon hype (please convince me that this beer is more than a buzz to promote a new, unknown, cred-less brewery) or any other strong but better-known beers and thus labeled “malt beverage aged in oak barrels”. Fear not, it’s just a fancy name for barley wine, but barley wine is just a simple name for the heavenly headless muddy brown liquid poured to the tasting glasses. First I smelled it. Alcohol. Then chocolately velvet. Then sweet children’s non-alcoholic wine. After smelling, I tasted: deep, sweet, slightly alcoholic, cherry and chocolate taste. Full-bodied, smooth, liquor-like texture. “Beer” may not be the most accurate description for this wonderful dessert drink. The angels must share the bottle because the drink is so rich that finishing it all by oneself is impossible (and sinful).

Last winter The Secret-Parents brought us a bottle of Alesmith IPA which I declared as one of the best IPA’s I have tasted so far. Alesmith Speedway Stout follows the greatness. It’s a brilliant imperial stout, full and heavy that poured beautifully. I wish I took a picture of its big tan head. Its great aroma contained roastiness, hints of raisins and, of course, coffee beans and it tasted dry and bitter and coffee like. With ash and roast in the finish, a full and heavy body and 12% abv. it was a surprisingly drinkable beer.

As if these two bottles  weren’t enough, the third was a true gem: Russian River Pliny the Elder. As soon as I posted on Facebook about the trio I got emails from fellow beer-buddies, asking us to share. Rated #19 on Ratebeer’s top 50 beers ever, 2 on the top-50 imperial IPA, and is currently#6 in the most wanted list.  A true gem I was given. No idea whether my Excellent Little Brother and The Pianist picked the bottles by themselves or asked for assistance at the store, but they sure scored. It pours murky amber with a thin white film and smelled of evergreen and fresh skunk in a good way. It tasted bitter, 100 IBU tends to cause bitterness, with some saltiness and nori seaweed. Pliny had a surprisingly light body and an unexpected hyssop finish. I truly enjoyed this beer. and I think everybody else did too, although remarks about it being overrated were heard around the tasting table.

Mission Honeymoon accomplished and Mission Business Trip’s already ahead, as my Excellent Little Brother is coming to Tel Aviv to do some work stuff later this month.

Pliny The Elder, Speedway Stout and Angel’s Share were beers #131, #132 and #133 I Must Try Before I Die. Having just being released from a surgery and completing this entry at the hospital bed, it’s a relief  I can go on with the next 868 beers. My liver’s fine 🙂

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