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 “June, 2013”

Greetings From the Keller

sierra-nevada-brewing

With all  that’s been going on in Real-Life the blog, as well as its older sister, have gone quiet over the past few weeks. Let’s see: 2 crazy exams, one so crazy that I decided to skip altogether for the sake of my mental health; a physical condition that made sitting for three hours in a tasting session rather impossible; said physical condition that involved drugs that don’t really go hand-in-hand with alcohol consumption; and a new, demanding, challenging and very exciting job. Blogging – the last link in a chain that includes drinking, documenting and sometimes photographing – was put aside. However, all the while, the beer stash has been growing: The Excellent Little Brother is here with new bottles, our Berliner friends brought a couple of brews; my colleague shared his samples with me. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I feel like we’re about to lose control, that the bottles are soon gonna take over not only the fridge and the kitchen table and the cupboard, but our lives. It’s scary. We can always find room for more beer, but as opposed to Abbaye Des Rocs that was reviewed here last week, most brews don’t age gracefully, especially in the heat and humidity of Tel Aviv.

Enough is enough. Earlier this evening, between snacking on a chickpea pancake and playing yet another episode of Med Man, I asked The Secret Agent to grab our bottle of Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss Hefe. It’s been around for too long and I didn’t want it to go all bad. He dug it from the depths of the fridge and we shared. The bottle’s age – it wasn’t too old or expired but it definitely didn’t feel too fresh – sure didn’t help it flattering our taste buds. An almost opaque orange dark, the Kellerweiss smelled of apricot, citrus and some dried banana. It was very yeasty on the mouth, both sweet and a little bitter, the finish was bready and the body a little too light to our taste; more robustness would’ve done good to the beer. Still, this Californian  Bavarian wheat beer is better than many other ausländers’ attempt at this style.

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Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss Hefe is beer #258 I Must Try Before I Die. I swear I’m gonna reach 300 by Rosh HaShana. It’s doable.

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Rock On

Abbaye des Rocs (brune), one of the first beers in the 1001 book, used to be available in Israel. It is the 6th beer that Dead Swedish Girl ever rated on ratebeer back in 2007 (we’ll celebrate her 4000th rate this week, I think – that’s exciting!) and she liked it so much that she aged a bottle at her parents’ cellar up north, where the weather is slightly less scummy than Tel Aviv’s. Last month she dropped by with The Living Swedish Boy. We ate vegan cake we brought from Romania and shared the 75 cl bottle, with a 2008 best before date.

we tried to show the murkiness

we tried to show the murkiness

Unlike many other Belgian ales, this one has no added sugar but just like many other Abbey beers, this one wasn’t brewed in a monastery. Either way, it is one of the better Belgian Ales I have tasted recently. I am currently not very tolerant towards heavy, sweet beer, but this one is pretty decent actually. It pours kinda yucky, murky brown with tan ring and some floaties, but that’s expected, given its age. The aroma is nutty and very fruity and ripe; I sensed spices, old wine and prune. The taste that follows comes as no surprise – sweet, fruity and spicy alike. This is a smooth, full-bodied beer that is a little, just a little, carbonated. The finish is long and fruity. We all liked it.

Abbaye des Rocs is Beer #257 I Must Try Before I Die. I’d be happy to drink it fresh but vintage really kicks ass.

Romanian Beer Adventures Pt. II: Bear Hug

When Family Agent decided to tour Romania, I wrote down a small to-do list of stuff I wanna do, other than seeing where Papa Agent is from. The list contained three chapters that basically summed up everything I knew about the country:

  • Visit the Merry Cemetery
  • Buy bras in Marks & Spencer
  • Drink Ursus Black

I ticked all three: we drove all the way to Săpânţa in the northernmost corner of the country and immersed ourselves in stories of locals’  lives and deaths; I spent an hour at one of Bucharest’s malls and treated myself to some quality underwear; we drank Ursus Black, twice. In the land of cheap pale lager, this Schwarzbier shines above all, at least that’s what the editors of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die think.

I wanna be buried in a merry cemetery

I wanna be buried in a merry cemetery

We drank it twice. First in Berăria Ursus in Cluj Napoca, Romania’s second largest city and until 2010, home of Ursus Brewery. The historic building was demolished around the time of our visit and production moved to other parts of the country. However, a brewery-owned pub is an interesting addition to this university town. Is this a brewpub we’re talking about? I dunno. On one hand, there is no brewery around. One the other hand, the menu’s preface states that the place is owned by the brewery. Also – let’s pretend I’m an octopus and add another hand – other than Ursus taps – black, premium (pale lager), unfiltered and (bottled) pils – the place offers MORE light lagers: Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell. Guest taps are common sight in brewpubs but these feel like permanent residents…

douchebag-friendly advertising board.

douchebag-friendly advertising board.

Berăria Ursus is a pretty neat place – located in a historical building in the city center, split to halls and corridors, has non-smoking area (not something to be taken for granted in Romania, we learned) and an extensive menu with several vegan options that looked inviting but the waiters were slow, we were on a rush and thus had to cancel our vegan pizza and soup order.
pretty on the outside.

pretty on the outside.

We focused on beer: Ursus Nefiltratã was our favourite and Ursus Black was the major disappointment: awfully, awfully buttery taste! Something was definitely wrong with this beer. The Secret Agent thinks it must be dirty pipes or something. Diacetyl took over the rather aromatic fruit and the little roastyness we felt. We decided not to judge the country’s flagship beer based on this poor experience and drink it elsewhere. Worst case we’d buy a tall boy at the gas stop or something, we said. However, in the end we opted for the best case. Enter La Caru Cu Bere, probably Bucharest’s most famous restaurant and beer house, located in the heart of Old Town and caters to hundreds of  tourists who gush all over the painted glass windows, heavy wooden panels, golden panels and general exuberance daily.

so so pretty too!

so so pretty too!

[A] true living legend and also one of the oldest beerhouse in Bucharest, was opened for the first time in 1879 in the old Zlatari inn and, after 20 years it moved to Stavropoleos Street, where it can be found even today“, serves contract-brewed house beer and Ursus Black on better-maintained taps than the previous establishment. There we could enjoy the beer and justify its appearance in the book: malty, caramel, bittersweet chocolate aroma, roasty, sweet chocolate taste. Medium body, smooth texture, long, sweet and a little roasty finish.

Tasting and testing.

Tasting and testing.

We recommend visit both places. the pub in Cluj is the better of the two in the main square. If the taps and pipes were cleaned and you have the time to sit and enjoy a meal, this is a lively, casual place for hanging out.  Caru Cu Bere is simply too beautiful to skip. It’s touristy, priced accordingly and feels very impersonal but being a city landmark, it’s worth spending 20 RON and 30 minutes over there.
And of course, Ursus Black is beer #256 I Must Try Before I Die. Two more Romania-related entries to fo..

German Invasion

A bunch of German brews that’s been patiently waiting to be documented, and by patiently I mean months!

lammsbraeuNeumarkter Lammsbräu Urstoff is a Helles lager that has a faintly metallic aroma and not much more. After stirring the tasting glass, some sweetness appeared in my nostrils but really, that’s about it. This is a sweet and rather insignificant beer with soft fizz, light body and short finish. Let’s move on to happier beers, like Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel from the lovely Bavarian monastery Kloster Andechs. 7.1% abv. of sheer goodness: smells of raisins, malt and a little sugary alcohol, sweet, roasty and slightly grainy taste, full body and malty finish. We usually love Klosterbruerei Andechs beers and when we don’t it means that we drank an old bottle.andechser-doppelbock-dunkel

HackerPschorr-weisseHacker-Pschorr (Hefe) Weisse, is a neat Hefe Weizen from one of Munich’s 6 Oktoberfest breweries. It pours cloudy orange-golden with white film, has bubblegum, has banana-punch-ice-cream aroma with a little plastic and overall classic. Mildly bitter taste, a little clovey and spicy with a light-to-medium body and fizzy bubblegum finish. Enjoyable, communicative and fun.

kindl_weisseWe brought a bottle of Berliner Kindl Weisse from our weekend in Switzerland – that was 6 months ago! Berliner Weiße is a light, sour regional beer. Our sourhead friends like it, but we are still in the process of acquiring the taste. Its faint aroma reminded me a little of cream cheese and nutritional yeast flakes nuttiness. The taste is very sour, acidic and somewhat like cheese water. Medium body, smooth texture. Interesting but not something I’d drink on its own. Berliner Kindl Weisse is often mixed with a shot of fruit syrup – doubt I’d do it, though. I try to avoid commercial syrups in cocktails and can’t even imagine adding them to beer.

KapuzinerLast beer on this list is another Weissbier – Kapuziner Weissbier. Bottle bought in April, consumed in late May, expired in mid. February. Funky bubblegum aroma with sweet challa bread, caramel and toffee notes. Tastes sweet, bubblegum and some spiciness but mostly sweet and peach-like. It wasn’t THAT bad but its age was apparent. I think it is no longer imported to Israel and as a woman on a mission, I couldn’t afford waiting.

This list contains beers #251, 252, 253, 254 and 255 I Must Try Before I Die. Doing fine so far.

Meet Me at the Castle

Dr. Troubles was sent to Johannesburg on an urgent mission – beer hunting, of course. He brought back 1/3 of the South African delegation to the 1001 Expedition, that contains 6 different beers. While there, he spotted other goodies from the book, but pubs over there are not allowed to sell for outside consumption. Oh well. We’ll have to send him there again.

Castle Lager and Castle Milk Stout is brewed by Castle brewery in Johannesburg. Castle merged with other South African Breweries to form SAB that later merged with Miller to form the SAB Miller conglomerate. I didn’t know all this until a couple of minutes ago, while conducting a quick research for this entry. Maybe that explains the shittiness of those beers.

castle lager

Legacy of Brutality

Castle Lager is very pale, has a piss-like, malty, with a little corn water aroma and a metallic, bland, slightly bitter and overall yucky aroma. It has a light body and corny finish and I wouldn’t drink it again.

prettier in real life

prettier in real life

Castle Milk Stout is a really strange beer. Less good and has more commercial appeal than other milk stouts we drank in this mission. It’s a pretty beer: very dark and opaque red with a dark yellow-light brown head. Aroma: sweet and milky. Taste: sweet, a little metallic (it’s the cans) and a little bitter. It’s a smooth beer with a milky finish. Better than the pale lager but still far from being amazing.

These two are beers #249 and #250 I Must Try Before I Die. Thank you Troubles for going through all this trouble.

10 minutes catching up – 4 beers

I’m always, always behind with this blog. Got no choice but jot down laconic entries like this one.

Rogue Juniper Pale Ale is an APA that’s brewed with an addition of whole juniper berries. It is cloudy blond in colour and smells of juniper, honey and some nuts. The taste is pleasingly bitter with notes of nettle. This is a smooth, mildly carbonated and medium-bodied beer. Our bottle was a little ’tired’, but the drink was still nice.

Small Craft Warning, brewed by Clipper City and marketed under the brand Heavy Seas Beer is a high-volume lager/pils  that holds 7%abv and marketed as “Uber Pils – a pilsner style bock lager.” It has a faint floral-honey aroma, s well as a little tropical fruit that I can’t name. The taste is alcoholic and sweet with a little honey. It has a syrupy texture for a lager, medium body and an alcoholic finish. Not a great beer.

Great Divide Hibernation Ale is one of my favourite beer names. Ideally we would have tasted it in the dead of winter in front of an episode of Game of Thrones, but in real life we tasted it in the end of the short Israeli spring. This Old Ale style beer has a beautiful ruby red colour, wine, deep berry and caramel aroma, sweet taste in an alcoholic sort of way, full body, no carbonation and an alcoholic finish. Other than the name, the best think about this beer is its looks. Too bad. I loved Great Divid’s Oak Aged Yeti.

Last beer for today is Zonker Stout by Snake River from Wyoming: sweet chocolate raisins aroma, and a taste that begins roasty and then becomes rich, chocolate drink-like that’s followed by more roastiness. Full body, mild carbonation, roasty finish and very enjoyable.

Of the 4 beers in this short list – I recommend Zonker Stout. The rest are passable.

These were beers #245, #246, #247 and #248 I Must Try Before I Die. Gonna cross the 25% line soon!

None More Black.

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There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

(Nigel Tufnel, This Is Spinal Tap)

The 1001 Beers book is filled with BS. We have finished around 25% of the book and in the 100+ entries bumped into quite a few mediocre brews and a bunch of beers that for lack of more powerful words can be only described as atrocities. Many of the beers that fall to the above-written adjectives are products of Big Breweries. The object of this post is a Diageo product, but one that doesn’t need a 1001 beers list: it belongs to *any* must-try beer list. Like it or not – Guinness is a classic, a must-try, which can’t be ignored. In fact, it is such an attention whore that it is listed 3 times in the book!

I am not a big Guinness fan. I usually like my stouts to be drier and roastier and Big Brewery stouts tend to feel too crowd-pleasing in my mouth. When I go out to a common bar that stocks the local duopoly’s products, I’d usually opt for a German wheat beer or the local, ever popular Goldstar (mental note: gotta write about Goldstar already!). But when I do crave Guinness I become a picky bitch: I’d only drink it in places known for their Guinness, where the pipes and taps are being taken care of and the kegs are replaced within a couple of days tops.

This is why The Secret Agent and I walked to Amiram’s Pub the other week. This small, homey, quiet public house is located in the northern part of the city, in a quiet corner just across the street from the busy clubbing area, Tel Aviv Port. I saw Amiram for the first time many years ago, before The Secret Agent and I moved to Tel Aviv – hell, it was even before we met really – the outer mural, lack of any sign and the fact that it was always closed when I passed by it on Friday nights misled me to think that it’s some sort of Guinness training/ marketing center. I tried to google pictures of the outside, but instead found many photos from our Hebrew blog, so you’ll have to trust me on that.

Anyway, Amiram is one of the city’s oldest existing pubs – it’s been around since the 1970’s, family owned and operated, sold a couple of years ago to a customer, and was recently sold back to the family.

trinkets and clutter!

trinkets and clutter!

The small space, not much bigger than a living room, is filled with souvenirs, old liquor bottles and beerchendise from days of yore. We sat on a wooden table, in front of the best promo shot Guinness ever did and drank our glasses of black gold. Amiram’s Guinness pours perfectly, with a finger-thick creamy tan head and no shamrock doodling. It starts with a delicate chocolate aroma followed by delicately bitter taste that my tongue that’s so used to hardcore-coffee-wooden stouts finds hard to grasp. The body is medium and the finish is delicate and smooth, a little watery even. With all the merchandise and dedication, Amiram Pub probably pours a perfect pint, but the beer itself is, well, Big-Brew stout.

Other than Guinness as we know it, the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die lists two other Guinnesses. The first is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout a %7.5 abv,  sold in bottles and marketed all over. Shachar shared it in a recent tasting and I liked it alot: wine, a little roast, a little fruit, a little sugar and coffee aroma and roasty, coffee, bitter taste. The beer has full body and roasty dry finish and is less creamy than the usual Guinness. It is not a nice beer and I like it for this.  In that tasting we also tried Guinness Special Export – Belgian version of the Foreign Extra Stout with 8% abv. that’s brewed in Ireland especially for Benelux. Its aroma is little milky and fruity with rich chocolate notes, and its taste is dry and reminds me of bittersweet chocolate. Chocolate is present in the finish and the body is lighter than the regular, slightly less alcoholic Foreign Extra Stout.

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in the pic: genuine quality and a bottle of guinness

The third Guinness in the book is also Guinness Foreign Extra – the Nigerian version. Same abv. as the regular Foreign Extra, but brewed locally since colonial times. Apparently Nigeria is the second largest market for Guinness in the world. Marketing strategy and campaigns over there are local – no Bloomsday or Saint Patrick, but rather football and local imagery. The Irish harp logo remains though. The Beer Greek brought a can of Nigerian Guinness from a business trip. It smells sweet, fruity, faintly alcoholic like cheap wine and has some blackcurrants too – a rather nice aroma actually. It tastes like sweet wine and thankfully its texture lacks the nitro-smoothness that I usually don’t like. Full-bodied, fizzy with a long, fruity finish and quite interesting.

Out of the four, the I think that the Irish Foreign Extra Stout is the best, but nothing beats Amiram’s ambiance.

All three Guinnesses have rightfully gained their pages in the book and Guinness, Guinness Foreign Extra (Ireland) and Guinness Foreign Extra (Nigeria) are beers #242, #243 and #244 I Must Try Before I Die.

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