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 “March, 2015”

Sour but Sweet

jolly_ichtegemRight after publishing the previous post, we rushed to a tasting with our fellow ratebeerians and untappers. It’s been a while since we all met – with The Secret Agent and I being sick, me having to study, us traveling to Spain and them – a whole bunch of them – traveling to the US for a hardcore West Coast beer tour.

For this tasting I grabbed whatever was in the fridge, taking into consideration bottle size (we were supposed to be 10 people at the tasting) and FIFO, and ended up sharing Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Ichtegems Grand Cru, American and Belgian sour red/brown ales, respectively. Apparently La Roja was one of the first beers shared in an Israeli Ratebeer tasting, way back in 2009. I joined the website in late 2011 and we started attending tastings around that time, I think. It feels like ages, so 2009 is pretty much ancient history. Anyway, I think that Dead Swedish Girl and The Actuary liked this beer even after all these years and the thousands of beers each of them has imbibed. This Flemish beer that’s brewed in Michgen pours murky brown, and smells sour, a little lactic and of cherry yogurt. It has a sour mouthfeel and yet, one can sure taste the grain, which is pretty cool. Body’s relatively light, there’s hardly any carbonation and finish is sour, though mild and tolerable.

Ichtegems Grand Cru comes from the Belgian family-run brewery Strubbe. It is the brewery’s Oud Bruin that’s matured in oak tanks. This one also pours murky brown and smells a little vinous – I sensed grapes and some cherries. Tastes sweetish and not sour at all; it actually tastes a little like sherry – pretty cool! The beer isn’t really carbonated, it is full-bodied and has a long, sherry finish. Really nice, delicate and inoffensive.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Ichtegems Grand Cru are beers #401 and #402 I Must Try Before I Die.

Beergeek Love – 601 more beers to go


First, apologies for yet another hiatus. I had that exam, then the flu, then Agent Family flew to Spain, to celebrate Mama Agent’s 70th birthday in Jerez Flamenco Festival. So these are the reasons for the latest absence – quite legit, right? Although I am in the middle of the British Beer Recap, I’m taking a detour, to celebrate Beer #400 I Must Try Before I Die. A round number is a reason to celebrate with something special; we had Harvistoun Ola Dubh 40 as #100 in August 2012; a rare, prestigious beer for #200 in March 2013; and Avery The Maharaja for #300, in September 2013.

Beer #400 is Finlandia Strong Sahti. Sahti is a traditional Finnish beer that like Altbier and Kolch has an area designation. It is made with Juniper berries along or instead of hops. Juniper twigs are used for filtering the mesh in a a hand-carved wooden trough called a kuurna. Much like Belgian Lambics, Sahti is also exposed to wild yeast and bacteria. Unlike so many generic third-world pale lagers that are scattered all over the gold and amber chapters of the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book, or really obscure one-off creations from nano-brewers that are available only in some hellhole in France, Finlandia Sahti Strong is rightfully there – unique and traditional on one hand, widely available throughout its country of origin on the other. So while Finland isn’t the most popular travel destination in the world, it is still relatively easy to get if you or your friends are there or if you trade with someone from there.

a classic in plastic

a classic in plastic

Mia, Stas’ partner, flew to Finland last summer. Having a beergeek as a partner, Mia was given a shopping list of all things Finnish, Leningrad Cowboys and terva excluded. Now Stas has an access to my 1001 beer list, but I’m not sure whether he had a look at my list or just ordered it because he wanted to. He opened the bottle at a group tasting in mid-August, only The Secret Agent and I were 300 kilometers away, in a mud hut desert getaway. Internet connection was fizzy at best and it was only after midnight and hut-tubbing under the starry Arava sky that I saw Dead Swedish Girl’s text, asking me if Finlandia Strong Sahti is in the book – way after the tasting was over. Bummer. As my beer peers sampled this beer, they won’t be motivated to hunt it again. However, soon another text arrived at the desert – the beer came in a PET bottle, and DSG saved us some and took the bottle with him. The evening we returned from the south DSG and his partner – the sweetest person to have sat on our couch and eaten generic crisps while playing with the cats – came over with the 3/4 empty bottle and shared.

Here are the tasting notes: Please note that oxidation may have occurred; bottle was opened on Wednesday and sampled on Friday, but Dead Swedish Girl said it was still OK. Headless cloudy brown. Pungent fruit syrup and spices, then some phenol in the nose. Estery, sweet, a little honey taste. No carbonation whatsoever, light-to-medium body, a little smoky aftertaste. The 10% abv. are not apparent at all.

Finlandia Strong Sahti is a special beer, but it’s not for its unique production, place of origin or ingredients that I picked it as beer #400 – for me, it demonstrates all that’s awesome about the world of beergeeks, hunters, gatherers, and the people who love us, or at least amused by our passion, or, if you insist, obsession  – taking the extra mile, making an effort, carrying a list, staying alert. Names and nicknames are scattered throughout all my ratebeer and blog entries and I appreciate each and every one of you. THANK YOU ALL for sharing.

In case you didn’t get it, Finlandia Strong Sahti is beer #400 I Must Try Before I Die. 601 more to go!


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