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 “May, 2013”

Bières de France. Seven of them.

It’s time for another omnibus entry and this time 6 beers from France, out of the 25 that are in the book. Quite an impressive number for a country that isn’t really known as a beer destination. However, many months ago we realized that 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die isn’t up to par with the current beer trend. Suffice to say that France has more than twice representatives in the book than Denmark. Well, again, with more than a little help from our friends we pulled up some goodies.

langelusThe Beer Greek, who gets paid to do beer business and traveling to SIAL Food Show in Paris is a part of his job, brought Annoeullin L’Angelus Bière de Froment that has a beautiful, rustic label, depicting a peasant couple in a wheat field – very Bière de Garde-ish. It was a weird beer. Pours clear straw with apple, vinegar and a little fuel aroma and a very sour taste that surprisingly has some candy sweetness too. The body is light and the texture feels somewhat oily – weird.

Like a true, devoted beergeek, Teva Boy was on the lookout for cool stuff to bring and drinketoile during a romantic winter getaway to the City of Light.  Thiriez Etoile Du Nord is an alright Saison that he shared at a tasting. I got to drink the bottom of the bottle, which is usually fine by me, as I like the yeastiness. The cloudy, weird, hay-like colour of the liquid in my glass was due to all this goodness. I smelled cookie dough, raisins and jasmine. And tasted mild, lingering bitterness with some cucumber. Smooth texture, light-to-medium body, leafy green vegetable finish make Etoile Du Nord a fresh, springy beer, though we tasted it in the winter.

biare-de-brie-ambraceBière De Brie Ambrée has a cute name, cloudy-opaque muddy brown colour with a dissolving frothy cream-coloured head, earthy, grass and spices aroma, and it tastes like Belgian ale: yeasty, sweetish and good. It is full bodied, carbonated and has sweet finish. I like it alot.

3 Monts is from another family-owned brewery, St. Sylvestre. Clear light golden colour and a 3-Montsfrothy white head, straw, sweet and some corn aroma, vegetal, sweet taste and a light body makes it an OK, thirst-quenching drink.

CuveeDesJonquillesCuvée des Jonquilles by Brasserie Au Baron is my favourite French beer. A fine Bière de Garde, that paints the glass in cloudy pale amber protected by a big white head, it smells of sugar, spice, allspice and other nice aromata such as yeast, flowers and earth. The taste is fruity, faintly sour. Medium body, fizzy, long finish. Balanced and good.

We also gathered our French loot: From our weekend in Switzerland we brought Adelscott,adelscott Scotch Ale made with peat-smoked malt. I’m a sucker for anything smoky but was quite surprised to learn that this is a Heineken beer because smoked beer is not something you’d expect the giants would play with. Well, this beer pours clear dark golden (whisky colour?) with white ring. It has honey and malt aroma that is slightly grainy and has notes of pipe tobacco which I quite like. It tastes very sweet and a little smoky I guess I would’ve liked it better if it was very smoky and a little sweet. Light body, sticky, pipe finish and smooth carbonation.

Last for this entry is Gavroche which is another Bière de Garde brewed by St. Sylvestre, but gavrocheunlike 3 Monts, tasted pretty nasty. The Beer Greek tried to convince me to ignore what I tasted. He had tried the beer before and my bottle was clearly damaged during storage or shipping or something. I’m on a run and I have over 700 beers to complete my mission; no time to wait and no money to spend on another bottle :/ my sample smelled of spoiled cheesecake – an aroma that can’t be described as good or appropriate but it was nothing compared to the taste – sour, lemony and unpleasing. The beer must be old. The 1001 book tells stories about hop spice and roast and dark fruit but I don’t need a book and in this case a Beer Greek to tell me the beer’s off – it really stood out. I’m ticking this one and hope to bump into another, better bottle, though I can’t count on it.

These 7 French brews were beers #235, #236, #237, #238, #239, #240 and #241 I Must Try Before I Die.

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A and B in a Nutshell

I had zero expectations from Alhambra Negra. Brewed by a Carlsberg-owned Spanish brewery, commercial and Dunkel. I was glad to find out that it’s an easy-to-drink beer, raisin-smelling and fruity but still bitter in the mouth. Nothing outstanding but its light body and mild flavours make Alhambra Negra an alright alternative for summery pale lagers.

It’s definitely better than 3 Fonteinen Beersel Lager. The latter sure stands out compared to better known Belgian lagers such as Stella Artois and Jupiler (if you haven’t watched this gem brought to us by Swedish TV, please do. It’s quite amusing), but it’s still not very good or exciting. Cloudy golden with white head. Smelly peach, a little cardboard and perfumed sweetness. Bitter and rather watery taste. Medium-to-light body, mild fizz, bitter finish.

 

Alhambra Negra and Beersel Lager are beers #233 and #234 I Must Try Before I Die.

 

Bye Bye Brewdoggie

Brewdog_tastin2013

This is the last mandatory Brewdog entry here in this beer blog. Over the past year+ this blog’s been online we drank stuff from this all-too-hyped, ever innovative Scottish brewery in many occasions, the most memorable of which was a thorough Brewdog tasting that included goodies such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Abstrakt 08. This brewery has 4 representatives in the book and in the first few months of this blog we drank 3 of them. Last October friends brought me the missing bottle and we kept it for the right opportunity. We returned from Romania with three bottles and decided to open all 4 in one meeting. When I shared my plan with The Beer Greek, he told me I should get in touch with Maor of Herzl Beer (who is in the process of opening a licensed, rebranded brewery in Jerusalem in like a month from now – yay!); he had some new bottles someone bought for him. Maor was kind enough to join our Brewdog-focused tasting and we were happy to have him over. Sadly, The Beer Greek’s kids were sick and we sure felt his absence.

Here are the beers we sampled:

Dead Pony Club is a pretty awesome American Pale Ale. Very aromatic and citrusy, in the mouth and the nose alike. It feels juicy and it kinda is, with only 3.8% abv. It’s a great summer beer, if Scotland even needs one.

El Dorado is from the brewery’s IPA Is Dead series of single hop brews. I both smelled and tasted mint, something quite unusual. Other than mint I sensed tropical aroma and piney taste. With a light, lager-like body, this also can be a summery thirst-quencher.

Barrel Aged 7.7 Lager is a 7.7% abv. that’s well, aged in barrels. Is this a version of the 77 Lager? Sounds like, although 77 is a standard 4.9% abv. beer and a really good one, too. The Barrel Aged one isn’t. Wine and raisins in the nose, sweetish petrol in the mouth. Medium body, very fizzy, long, white wine finish. It’s just not working, OK?

The Secret Agent and I drank Dogma in Basel last winter. It was good the first time we tried it and it was good on the second time around too.

Libertine Black Ale is a kick-ass name for a kick-ass beer, a rich, interesting black IPA. Dark purple with beige head, slightly smoky aroma and also bears liquor, chocolate and withered flowers. It tastes bitter, smoky and a little salty and has a smoky finish, full body and very mild carbonation. What more can one ask for?

From the back of Dr. Troubles’ fridge came Bashah, a retired Brewdog-Stone collaboration that was bottled in 2009 and resulted in an American Strong Ale that’s blacker than black and smells of liquor and a little iodine.  It tastes very dry and bitter, has full and heavy body, and smooth texture that ends in a long, dry, liquor-like finish. I liked it, yes I did.

We opened a bottle of Paradox Smokehead that many if not all of us drank before but it is one of those beers I can never get tired of but the highlight of the evening, mission-wise at least was of course Brewdog Tokyo*, an Imperial Stout of 18.2% abv. With this high volume, drinking alone is not even an option. This brew, flavoured with jasmine and cranberry and aged on French toasted oak chips is a sipper. A sipper that after sipping I felt a slight regret for being impatient and not aging it for several years. This is a cloudy-to-opaque muddy brown beer with dark tan head. When I first sniffed my sample I smelled smoke and cranberry but then came lots of fruit, jasmine tea and then – ink. It is a heavy beer, sweet, a little alcoholic, liquor-like and perhaps a little soy tasting. Its texture is syrupy and smooth, full-bodied and non-carbonated. Complex and very digestif-y.  If you can get a hold on a bottle – buy it cos its worth it. Just be wiser and keep it for a few years, ok?

Tokyo* (spelled Tokio* in our edition) is beer #232 I Must Try Before I Die. Bye Bye Brewdog, til next time 🙂

Duel

budweiser_budvar ???????????????????????????????

Pardon the cliche’, but I just had to write about the following two beers in one entry.

Czech Budweiser Budvar Světlý Ležák and Slovak Zlatý Bažant, both pilsners, both available in Israel and sold for rather cheap. Also the rating I gave to both beers are pretty similar, with a slight, almost insignificant preference to the former.  Without further ado, here are my tasting notes:

Budweiser Budvar is clear and golden fizzy, with minimal white head. Its aroma reminds me of straw, faint malt,flowers and lemon but it also has this typical mineral thingy.The taste is refreshing and bitter, body’s light and carbonation is fair. Poured from a can, Zlaty Bazant is also clear and gold-coloured and has a nice, frothy white head. Its aroma too has minerals but other than that I smelled apple juice concentrate and honey. The taste is bitter too, but I noted sweet, caramel undertones. Compared to other Czech pilsners, Zlaty Baznat’s body is a little heavier than Budvar’s and it has malty finish.

Both are alright beer and relatively cheap for import. Which one wins? I think that the Slovak one because of the maltiness and the body.

Budvar Světlý Ležák and Slovak Zlatý Bažant are beers #230 and #231 I Must Try Before I Die.

Two for Two

2 drafts are on the work but until I complete them, here are two more beers I can put together under one banner – American Beer. That’s broad enough and covers both Two Brothers Domain DuPage and Tröegs Troegenator. Hey, they have another thing in common! They are both European style, one’s a biere de garde, the other is doppelbock. Yup, I’m stretching it…

Domaine DuPage pours cloudy amber and smells of chocolate praline and jam. It tastes somewhat watery at first and then caramelish, a little butterscotch sweetness appears. Medium-bodied, sweetish finish, smooth texture. Not bad at all.

The Troegenator pours clear reddish brown with a quickly dissolving head. It has cola and faint raisins aroma, tastes very sweet and a little winy. Smooth texture, soft carbonation, long finish. There’s nothing new or innovative about this beer but nonetheless it is  tasty and nice.

Here’s another something common about these beers – they are OK. Nothing brilliant but compared to some of the wonders we wrote about, OK is just OK.

Domaine DuPage and Troegenator are beers #228 and #229 I must Try Before I Die.

Water for Elephants

elephant_carlsberg

When O moved to London’s scummiest squat in the mid-90’s, she and her friends were all gushing over Special Brew, Carlsberg’s cheap, strong and nasty lager that did its job properly – got poor people drunk easily. When I moved to England a couple of months later, I tried this too. It WAS nasty, too nasty even to the old self-destructive moi, so I picked another, friendlier poison that is white cider.

Years passed. O is still rocking only now with a PhD on Bats in her tattooed hands, I’m not too keen on ciders – be them artificial and poisonous  or crafty ones. And once again, I’m up to drinking strong brew by Carlsberg. I’m told I must try this before I die, see?  Carlsberg Elephant Beer is not as strong as 9% abv. Special Brew, it’s only 7.2% alcohol. This fine drink was originally exported to West Africa but due to its popularity domestic marketing followed. The elephant on the label has nothing to do with Africa, though. Life- size statues of elephants adorn the entrance to the old brewery in Copenhagen, inspired by the Jacobsen’s family Subcontinental expeditions.

How’s the beer? Interesting. Interesting as in why the hell is it in the book whereas other mediocre commercial lagers are not.

???????????????????????????????

Jacobsen Saaz Blond is another story, though. While not a great beer, it is definitely a beer to try: Husbryggeriet Jacobsen is Carlsberg’s crafty branch. Lower volumes,  smaller distribution and more experimental than expected (see last entry about Blue Moon), all packed in a big, sharing-friendly and elegant bottle. The Dead Swedish Girl picked a Jacobsen Saaz Blond at the airport, on her way back from Copenhagen Beer Celebration.  This is an attempt at Belgian-style beer with plenty of Czech Saaz hop and angelica extract. All this info is taken from the book, but my tasting notebook tells me that the beer I had in my glass smelled of cleaning detergent and plastic blue and tasted bitter and weird, but I couldn’t point out the weirdness. It didn’t make much sense but nevertheless, it’s something to try. Jacobsen will be available in Israel soon and I’ll probably try the Saaz Blond again, as well as their Sommer Wit that’s also in the book.

Elephant Beer and Jacobsen Saaz Blond are apparently beers #226 and #227 I Must Try Before I Die

And then there suddenly appeared before me…

...a six pack of Blue Moon...

…a six pack of Blue Moon…

Spotted: bottles of Blue Moon Belgian White Ale in that decent, cheap and underrated liquor store in Tel Aviv, posted one of the beergeeks in one of the beergeek Facebook pages. Yup, samples of Miller-Coors attempt at being crafty in the lines of Celis and Hoegaarden, arrived at the country. I was on a sick leave when the message was posted, recovering from a surgery, but didn’t think twice and hopped on a bus, wearing a coat over my PJ’s and got off after 3 stops. There they were, blue-labeled bottles, reasonably priced, relatively to Israel. 15 nis. per bottle ($4, which is, I believe, below the craft beer average here). I got a sixpack. One for The Secret Agent and myself to share, four for fellow Ratebeerians, one for Cousin Michele, who moved to Israel last year and misses her favourite beer.

I asked at check-out WTF and was told that one of the importers considers importing it. Now, I’m all for new beers in our small market, but if you go all the way to import West Coast stuff, why not opt for Sierra Nevada or Anchor that have the commercial appeal as well as variety and creativity? Haven’t seen the beer around since and I wonder what happened.

A few good months have passed between buying our bottle and pouring its content, but we did it a couple of weeks ago. Still it was far from the best before date. The smell was soft – tangerine-orange juice and a little sweet, apricot leather aroma. It was pretty nice and I wish it tasted just as nice but it didn’t: delicate, floral bitterness that does not compete or suit the aroma. The body too was incompetent – too light for a wheat beer. The carbonation was delicate and the finish – floral and fine. I drank slowly and after a while nice maltiness took over the aftertaste. Cool.

Let’s make it clear – this is not a bad beer. It’s nice, but it seems like factors such as marketability and sell-ability and drinkability are more important factors than making a good product. However, I am well aware that I cannot take Blue Moon from its context. Maybe a blind taste would have yielded a different impression and review.

Blue Moon is beer #225 I Must Try Before I Die. Happy dairy-free shavu’ot to those who celebrate.

Sinning again.

LeftHand.MilkStout duck-rabbit-milk-stout

This is an entry about milk stout. I’m vegan. milk stout contains lactose, which is cow-stuff and thus isn’t vegan. There is no way to play around – mea culpa. However, of the two beers I’m reviewing in this entry, one was sipped from a bottle that a friend shared. The other arrived in a package that I had no say about its contents.

So, why adding lactose to beer? It adds sweetness and body to the beer, they say. We sampled the nitro version of Left Hand Milk Stout, that gives the beer an extra creaminess. The 1001 book tells that “brewmaster Dick Doore had to carefully explain that [Left Hand Milk Stout] included no dairy products” –  well, it has lactose. This beer has a creamy, milky aroma and the taste is a little sour but also sweet and the texture is smooth and really soft. I hate to write that it’s a good beer.

The Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout hails from Farmville(!), North Carolina and is so lactic that the allergic among us actually had to call-in sick the day after we shared a bottle. It is black, opaque and has a tan head. The aroma has this chocolate-milk sweetness and something that reminds us of cornflakes, with a hint of roastiness, too. It tastes sweet, chocolatey, a little sweetened coffee with hints of milky sourness. The body’s heavy, and despite the heaviness and the fizz, it is an easy-to-drink beer, with a long-lasting chocolate aftertaste.

Left Hand Milk Stout and The Duck Rabbit Milk Stout are beers #223 and #224 I Must Try Before I Die.

Breakfast. Stout.

breakfast-stout

No breakfast for me this morning. Fasting before a blood test that, knowing my body, will probably result in low volume for Folic Acid or something. Breakfast that includes coffee that will hopefully restore my blood pressure, will be consumed later today. All this reminded me of Founders Breakfast Stout that The Actuary brought to a tasting not too long ago. This high-volume black Imperial Stout (8.3%) is not something to start the morning with; too rich, too complex to drink before the first coffee, though it smells like coffee. Dry, rich aroma, with some cherry too. It tastes complex, too, with lots of wood and coffee sourness – this is actually brewed with coffee beans so it makes sense – ans a little chocolate to make it all very yummy. Full body, smooth texture and a long, roasty finish. One of the best beers I have drank in the past few months. Superb.

Founders Breakfast Stout is beer #222 I Must Try Before I Die (only 444 beers til the magic number 666!)

Romanian Beer Adventures Pt. I: Beer Hall Putsch

An introduction of sorts:

In March 2013 the different branches of Family Agent went on a heritage tour in Romania, where Papa Agent is from. 12 days, 8 family members and one resourceful driver, one minibus, great (vegan) food, beautiful landscape and and opportunity to drink new beers. Other than learning about the availability of vegan food in the country, The Secret Agent and I had nothing to take care of; accommodation,   itinerary and schedule were all set-up for us. All we asked was some free time to taste and drink beer (two completely different things, as any Ratebeerian can tell you). Relying on google and Ratebeer we mapped beer destinations in the country. Most of the beer places that caught our attention were located in Bucharest, Romania’s capital city, but it was as clear as a glass full pale lager that we’re gonna spend an evening in Constanta’s Bier Haus.

Romania’s popular Black Sea resort town was the last sight Papa Agent saw before getting on board of the ship that sailed him and his parents to Israel, back in the early 1950’s. In late March it didn’t look much different than other beach towns we visited off-season, be it Antalya’s city center, Cyprus’ Larnaca or places like Nahariya and Bat Yam at home: a little backward, a little neglected, somewhat deserted. Potential ruined by poor development. A deserted casino by the sea, Roman ruins filled with pop cans and plastic bags, a poorly-curated museum…

the abandoned casino, before sleazy development ruins it.

the abandoned casino, before sleazy development ruins it.

…and a place called Bier-Haus Constanta.

We’ve all been let down by deceiving resort pub names. Our Metal-head cousin is still traumatized by the English Pub in Cancun that served Corona, and only Corona and we still laugh about the English Pub we bumped into in our honeymoon in Agia Napa, that served canned KEO and you probably have your own horror tourist pub stories. Alas, Bier-Haus Constanta is as real as it gets east of the Bundesrepublik. Ceilings are a little low for conducting a proper putsch if you ask me, but we were served by lederhosen-clad waiters, the menu consisted of traditional Bavarian dishes along with Romanian grub, and the decor was quite proper – antlers, wood and even locked mugs, though they look unused.

a bit too tidy to be authentic, isn't it?

a bit too tidy to be authentic, isn’t it?

Most important, this Black Sea Beer Pearl actually pours German beer – Hofbräuhaus Traunstein‘s creations. I have no idea how the 401 years-old South-Bavarian brewery made it to this godforsaken Romanian town, but why ask questions when one can simply enjoy 5 different brews on tap? Helles, Dunkel, Weissbier, Weissbier Dunkel and the crown jewel, 1612 Zwickelbier that I was happy to discover is in the 1001 book. This traditional zwickel/ keller beer that’s named after the brewery’s birth year, poured hazy golden in colour with white head and lace. The dominant aroma was smoky, but this has nothing to do with the beer but rather with the cigarette smoke that filled the air and everybody’s lungs (instead of souvenirs and big-name scotch they should sell Avastin at the airport or just ban smoking from public places).

IMG_3443

We somehow managed to neutralize the stench and smelled malt and minerals. Taste was bitter, filled with German hops. I read that HB Traunstein grows its own hops which is pretty cool. Light body, light carbonation and a delicate bitter finish makes it a nice summer drink. In late March we were fully dressed with coats and sweaters (that every night were aired on the windowsill in attempt to get rid of the ashtray stink), but Constanta gets really hot in the summer and the 1612 is a decent alternative to the local pale lagers.

look at the blue-and-white checkers - Oktoberfest in March :)

look at the blue-and-white checkers – Oktoberfest in March 🙂

All the five beers we shared in Bier-Haus Constanta were good, but my favourite was the Dunkel that smelled of raisins and tasted woody and roasty. Before writing this entry The Secret Agent and I visited HB Traunstein’s website, watched the too long yet so sweet promotional video that made us want to visit the town and the brewery when we finally make it to Austria (Traunstein is only 30 km. away from Salzburg). They celebrate Oktoberfest in Traunstein too, and there must be a band that plays oom-pah music. There was a musical trio  playing in Bier-Haus Constanta when we visited, but the music they were playing would have been banned had the Germans won the war.

Alas, the Germans lost and this wonder was recorded in Bavaria, West Germany.

Hofbräuhaus Traunstein 1612 Zwickelbier is beer #221 I must Try Before I Die. We drank around 40 beers in this non-beer trip and quite a few of them are in the book. More about this trip soon.

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