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 category “Abbey Beer”

Bloggin Belgian Beer

As the washing machine’s doing its second weekend run, opened my laptop, with the following tasks in mind:
1. Catching up on Ratebeer
2. Booking hotel/ Air B&B rooms in Brussels and Ghent.

Being the ADD person that I am, as I was typing my ratings and updating my 1001 list, I started thinking about this blog and my Belgian beer 1001 status and decided to log in and continue catching up on this blog, with Belgian beer in mind. There are 118 Belgian beers listed in the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book. That’s 11.78% of the beers in the book and it kinda makes sense. Out of the 118 I drank 66, 55.9% of the beers listed, but reviewed 54. I have 12 beers to write about, then drink and review a few that are available in Israel and in my cellar until November, in order to clean the desk before the long, and much anticipated weekend in November*.

So in mostly alphabetical order, here we go. Since it’s a long list, # of Beer I Must Try Before I Die will appear on the side of the list:
#335: Achel 8 Blond – I drank it last November, I think. 8% abv, Belgian Strong Ale. It pours lear gold-yellow with white head. Some petrol, then spiciness, then yeasty bitter aroma. Yeasty bitterness in the mouth, that distinctive Belgian taste. Medium-to-full body, fruity yeasty finish.

#336, #337: Arabier and Oerbier, both by De Dolle, with naive and beautifully illustrated labels. Arabier is Strong Belgian Ale, 8% abv, drank in November. Pours hazy yellow golden with a big, white head. Sweet, dried apricot aroma, apricot in the mouth, then very bitter. Apricot aftertaste, medium-to-full body, carbonated. I shared Oerbier at the same tasting back in November. This Belgian Strong Ale goes to 9% abv. It pours deep brown and almost opaque, with a frothy, light tan head. Fruity aroma, dried fig. Tastes bitter and nice and again, of dried figs. Full body, fruity bitter finish, a little sour wine. I liked them both, with no particular preference between them.

oerbier arabier

#338: Brasserie Dupont‘sAvec les Bons Voeux – An Abbey-style tripel that The Laughing Buddha Beer crew brought from their beer and metal trip to Belgium earlier this year. 9.5% Abv. Clear white gold with a foamy white head. I smelled some sour notes, vinegar and hints of fruit aroma and the taste was sweet and very mildly sour. Light body for this high abv., soft carbonation, a little sour finish.

#339: Hercule Stout – one of my favourite beers from Belgium! The Secret Agent and I drank it for the first time when we traveled there 3 years ago, right before I began rating and blogging here. For the sake of my log, Skipper Tom shared a bottle of this goodness. It’s an imperial stout, with 9% abv. Pours black with beige head. Slightly vegetal aroma, a little smooth and sweet taste that then turns smoky. Dry, wood and roastiness in the mouth. medium-bodied, long, roasty finish. Again, really good.

#340 and #341 are both from Liefmans. The Secret Agent and I shared a bottle of Liefmans Cuvée Brut at home a couple of weeks ago, in a lazy, hot weekend afternoon. This is a Liefmans Oud Bruin-based kried that’s fermented with whole cherries for about 12 months and then blended with Oud Bruin and Goudenband from the same brewery. At 6% abv. it’s a complex, yet refreshing beer, with a very dark ruby-red colour, cherry, some oak and cinnamon buns aroma, and a tarty, cherry taste with a little sugar. Medium body, fruity aftertaste with a little peat. Tasty. Liefmans Goudanband was also a special purchase by the Laughing Buddha crew. They shared this beer with us at a tasting at Stas’ in one of the most frightening nights The Secret Agent and I have ever experienced. Beer tasting was a temporary relief from stress and fear. But I’m drifting away – blame it on the ADD. Goudanband pours murky brown with beige head and has a slightly sour aroma of grapes and cranberries. It tastes very, very sour! Not hostile, though. Medium-bodied, a little flat (but in a good way), and sourish finish.

liefmans-3

Are you still here?

#342 is Monk’s Cafe’ Flemish Sour Ale – don’t remember how I got it – Maybe my Excellent Little Brother bought it for me? Brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge for Monk’s Cafe’ in Philadelphia, its commercial description reads “We blend young and old beers to make this mildy tart sour ale. Light bodied with a lactic/sour nose and a bit of sweet and sour in the finish. Very refreshing!” It was a little too harsh for me. Not a heavy beer, only 5.5% abv, but with its wort, malt, date honey and a little sour aroma, sour, a little like cheap, sweet red wine,taste, light body, no carbonation and its slightly sourish finish, it wasn’t really to my taste.

#343 is Petrus Oud Bruin, Third in this listing from the Laughing Buddhas. This is a sour ale that I quite liked. It has clear dark brown with beige head, walnut, cinnamon aroma, mildly sour taste with cinnamon undertones, fair carbonation, medium body and a lingering, apricot-sourness finish. 5.5% abv. here too.

#344: guess who brought a bottle of Saison Dupont? Yup, it’s Ariel T., Stas and Vova again. I like Saisons and this is a good example for this type of beers. Clear gold with frothy white foam. Slightly sour aroma with notes of apricot and banana, very mildly sourness in the mouth and very drinkable. Medium body, smooth, creamy texture, long and a little ripe citrus finish.

#345: The Secret Agent and I shared a bottle of Piraat on my birthday weekend getaway to Prague last January. We were at the Nota Bene, a basement bar dedicated mostly to Belgian beers and a great relief from some horrendous fruity beers we drank nearby. Clear brown with a huuuuge, frothy white head. Oatmeal cookie, biscuit and warm spices aroma. Alcoholic, sweet, esteric fruitiness in the mouth. Medium-bodied, sweet, esteric finish. I liked it but may have not liked it that much in a different setting. 10.5% abv.

And finally, at #346 – Rodenbach Grand Cru, which we shared with my Big Brother-In-Law last March, during our family trip in Romania. We bought the bottle at the Beer O’Clock in Bucharest and opened it on the night Big Brother-In-Law, his wife and da niece arrived from California. I recall that we were all tired – the Californian branch from the long flight, us from the long ride back from Constanta. So, what did I think about the beer? Clear reddish brown with cream-coloured foam, Candy, pickle-juice, alcohol and sour wine aroma, rather delicate sourness and fruity taste. Light body, delicate fizz and relatively easy to drink.

Phew – washing machine went quiet a looong time ago and writing about all this beer made me tasty. Gonna get some cold soda from the fridge and find accommodation in Ghent.

*While I’ll be spending as much time as possible in cafe’s, the purpose of this trip is visiting WWI sites and attending Einstürzende Neubauten’s premiere concert in Diksmude. Still, looking for beer tips and recommendations, especially for Ieper and Diksmude. Please comment if you have any.

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Live Blogging

We just came back from an event hosted by Mr. Colin Scott, Master Blender of Chivas Regal, who is visiting Israel. Drank some cool Chivas-based cocktails, a nice portion of rich, condensed and a little smoky Chivas 25, Chivas 18 and water – diluted by the Master Blender himself and enjoyed meeting friends and colleagues off-hours. We munched on so many dried fruit that not only are we not tipsy, but we have some capacity for beer. This, and the lack of space in our fridge and the fact that tomorrow we’re hosting a session that requires some shelf space, are good enough reasons for a night cap or two. First is St, Bernardus Tripel – long time since we last drank this Abbey ale. I used to love these beers when I first started drinking, but my taste has shifted since. Anyway, I’m enjoying this one: It pours cloudy amber with a small foamy head. I smell peach, some clove, a little alcohol and maybe butterscotch candy. The taste is slightly bitter, rich and fruity – peach again, mostly sweet and very, very lightly sour – in a fruity sort of way. Full-bodied, carbonated, long, peach and apple finish. Not bad, I’d drink it again.

Next is Maredsous Bruin, or rather Maredsous 8, that pours dark brown with a pretty, big beige head. Pretty beer. I smell prune and some raisins and taste dried fruit and vanilla. It’s nice. There’s also some chocolate. Full-bodied, long, finish with hints of carob. Haven’t drank this beer for ages too, and I like it more than I thought I would.

Me and Maredsous

Me and Maredsous

 

As I’m writing this text, I’m also updating ratebeer and my Beer Gatherer Tracking list. It’s a colour-coded Google document, that’s so ahead of this blog it’s beyond embarrassing. While I’m at it, allow me to write about Hoegaarden Grand Cru, that I last drank in November or December. I love Belgian Witbier and I love Hoegaarden. Grand Cru, an 8.7% abv, is lethal: it’s a cloudy amber beer with white head that doesn’t look too suspicious. It has a dry apricot candy, orange, clementine and coriander aroma and yeasty juicy bitterness. Full-bodied, bubblegum finish, very drinkable and the 8.5%ABV aren’t too apparent. Quite an amazing beer it was, and if it was still available in Israel – the distribution stopped about 3 years ago – I’m sure I would’ve drank it when I had a chance. Anyway, it’s a live-blogging session, right? Let’s proceed to St. Bernardus Wit, cloudy blond ale and the last for tonight. Its dominant aroma is coriander, but it also has some dried apricot – quite a cool aroma! It tastes rather juicy – mildly bitter and just a little sour and – surprise! – a little malty, too. Unsurprisingly, it’s a full-bodied beer, carbonated, with slightly sour finish. Quite good.

We really didn’t expect to enjoy this little late-night tasting, but surprisingly, the beers appealed to our jaded palates.

St. Bernardus Tripel, Maredsous Bruin, Hoegaarden Grand Cru and St, Bernardus Wit are beers #311, #312, #313 and #314 I Must Try Before I Die.

See you next time!

I Can’t Believe It’s Weekend

tssting10.4

all blurry after the tasting

Good company, yummy vegan pizza, hoppy tea and plenty of beer – even though Thursday was a work day and Friday-Saturday are far from being fun, with homework and gym task, Wednesday’s tasting felt like a grand opening for a fabulous weekend. It could’ve been a fab weekend, had I not dug my own career-driven grave with textbooks in lieu of a shovel.

Anyway, a great tasting it was. 20 beers, 5 of which are book material! Sagres Bohemia from Portugal. The book that accompanies this blog says that the best spot to drink this beer is Cervejaria Trindade in Lisbon. I wish. See, I list just about EVERYTHING and Portugal is listed in my Top 15 Countries to Visit. Sadly, it is not on The Secret Agent’s top-15 list (that’s basically constructed of the 16 German Bundesländer) so there are no plans to visit there anytime soon. The ambiance at out Tel Avivian tasting was great, but apparently not as great as Cervejaria Trindade’s. No reason to gush over this beer in Tel Aviv. Fruity, bready and a little metallic aroma and a sweet and nasty taste that I didn’t get. The Beer Greek says it tastes like vomit. I guess it’s  one of those beers that you need to drink in a specific location to enjoy.Cerveja Sagres BohemiaAllagash Tripel Reserve, on the other hand, was awesome. Our beer peers are mostly hop-heads and tend to be pretty jaded towards anything remotely Belgian. This surprised us all for the better. Hazy-to-cloudy amber with white head and this Belgian aroma of yeast, bubblegum, spices and chemicals. It tastes fruity, spicy and juicy and feels a little like wheat beer – very tasting and very fulfilling.

allagash

Then we had a Belgian Belgian beer: Malheur Dark Brut with its surprising 12% abv. is a nice and complex ‘digestif’ brew. Very dark, opaque brown, sand-coloured head and an interesting chocolate-mint aroma that’s accompanied with a little fruitiness. It tastes mildly sweet and fruity, there’s cherry in the mouth, but not in a sour-beer sort of way. After a moment comes pleasing chocolate sweetness. It has a full body, a little chocolate in the finish and an alright carbonation. Note that alcohol is not mentioned in the tasting notes – keep in mind the 12% abv!

Malheur Dark Brut

Hair of the Dog Adam is a 10% abv. Dortmunder from Portland, Oregon, that has an uncompromising, complex aroma: ink, squid, sugary-sweetness, prone and very faint smokiness and an edgy, very bitter taste that also has fruit and prune notes. Full body, smooth, fruity finish with raisins – a rich, interesting beer.

adam

5th beer in this Tasting was Old Stock Ale by North Coast Brewing, vintage 2012 that Big Bear says is the lightest barley wine he has ever tasted. It’s a nice beer, but aging would have done good to it. Shame we didn’t wait. Clear reddish brown, with alcohol, honey and some chocolate in the nose – aroma which is sweet and bitter alike – Very sweet, slightly bitter and dry in the mouth, syrupy texture, medium-to-full body, mildly carbonated and an alcoholic finish.

Old-Stock-2012

So… Sagres Bohemia, Malheur Dark Brut, Allagash Tripel Reserve, Adam by Haid of the Dog and North Coast Old Stock Ale are beers #209, #210, #211, #212 and #213 I Must Try Before I Die. Off to bed to get some sleep!

An Unexpected Surprise In The Fridge.

la trappe dubbel

That bottle of La Trappe Dubbel has been standing in our fridge for months and nobody wanted to touch it. Another Belgian-style, heavy beer. Unsuitable for the summer, no interesting enough for the rest of the year. We drank it before of course, and that’s how our beer-infested memory cells categorized it.

Boy were we wrong. One night I just took it out of the fridge – it was during another FIFO attempt – and poured it. Dark brown, nearly red colour that smells of plum and berries and has a balanced, fruity sweet and slightly tangy taste. The texture is smooth and the beer is drinkable despite being 7%abv. Medium-to-full body and a long, pleasing aftertaste. It is a great beer and quite different from the Trappist beers from across the border. If you like your ales heavy and sweet – you must try this one.

La Trappe Dubbel is beer #187 I Must Try Before I Die. Have a great Saturday y’all! We’re off to breakfast by the beach.

 

American Classics

Between now and the third week of March this blog will be all about Getting Things Done. I’ve written before that I drink more than I write – that’s the way it should be when it comes to beer blogging – but this results in an undesired lag of dozens of beers. Why the third week of March? Because we’re going on a holiday and when we return we might want to write about our holiday beer experience.

I’m starting with beers from three breweries that gained a fair coverage by the editors of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You die: Victory Golden Monkey is the 4th and last Victory beer in the book; There are 6 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. beers in the book. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the 4th I write about; Out of the 5 representatives of Anchor Brewing Co., this entry that records Liberty Ale tasting notes covers 80% of them. Also, besides what I blog about, I have drank a few more releases from each of these breweries. Their availability and credibility makes them perfect nominates for well-meaning friends and relatives who want to gift you with craft beer from their visit in the and that’s fine with me. Whereas these three breweries are not the first you turn to when searching for innovative, extreme drinks, they do what they do pretty well.

I had two bottles of Victory Golden Monkey. First one was weird-tasting. It was probably an old bottle. Second was much nicer. That’s a heavy, Belgian-style beer, 9.5% abv. heavily spiced with coriander, caraway and orange blossom and a little alcoholic.

The Beer Master brought us a can of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from his trip to GABF last fall. Ignoring aesthetics, cans do good to beer. They are lighter to pack and immune to sunlight and that’s important in a place like Israel. This is a hazy amber beer filled with hops: pine in the nose, soft bitter taste and a long lasting hoppy finish.

Heavily Cascaded Anchor Liberty Ale is another drinkable and fun APA. Citrus, mainly orange, in the nose (I also spotted sour bubblegum) and simple, crisp bitterness in the mouth. You don’t need more than that to enjoy beer, do you?

So… Victory Golden Monkey,  are beers #168, #169 and #170 I Must Try Before I Die. Will there be 200 by Mid March?

 

Multi-Taps in Israel

Despite the recent craft beer renaissance, With an annual beer consumption of 14L per capita Israel still has a long way to go until it truly becomes a beer country. Like in many other countries, the local industry is dominated by two multinationals: Heineken (represented by Tempo Industries) and Carlsberg (represented by Israeli Beer Breweries). Each markets a number of beers. The former has local icons such as Macabbee, Nesher and Goldstar as well as Murphy’s, Newcastle, Samuel Adams, Paulaner and of course, Heineken. The latter has Wheinstephan, Guinness, Carlsberg, Tuborg (and Israel’s own Tuborg Red), Stella Artois, Leffe and probably a bunch of others. The duopoly enjoys a market share estimated in 95%-98%, which means that until a serious shift in consumers’ taste occurs, importers and local craft breweries hold 2-5% of the market.

The way things are, it is a miracle that Israelis are actually in the business of making and marketing beer  in the first place and a wonder that there are bars that serve more than the taps offered to them by the big player they are connected to. There are a bunch of places that offer 10 or even 15 taps, but real multi-taps that operate a system consists of 50 taps or more are still a rare sight here. As far as I know there are three bars like that. All three are located in Central Israel.

porterandsonslogoThe first and oldest, i.e being in operation for 3 years or so is Porter and Sons in Tel Aviv city center. Opened by industry veterans, owners of Norma Jean bistro/ former owners of Norman bar/ the people behind Norman Premium who import brands such as Duvel Moortgat, Chimay, Brooklyn Brewery and Fuller’s. With 50 beers on tap, dozens of bottles and special keg-events in occasions such as Independence Day (Israeli craft beers), Oktoberfest and winter – time for heavy Belgian ales, this is a favourite spot and a must for beer lovers. We sit at the Porter and Sons quite alot and the place has been mentioned in the blog before. Recent visits yielded notes about Erdinger Dunkel on tap, that had sweet plastic, caramel, malt and raisin aroma and sweetish yet slightly bitter taste. Of all the German beer available in Israel, I think that Erdinger is our least favourite. It just isn’t as great as other, even commercial, German brands have.

hoegaarden

I also got to drink a couple of Belgian beers there lately: Hoegaarden is widely available and its jar-sized glass can be seen in plenty of bars, only The Secret Agent and I don’t frequent plenty of bars. Visit The Beer Gatherer’s Facebook page to see where we usually drink – we posted a link to DSG’s picture gallery that sums it up. Syncing my 1001 follow-up list  to my Andriod allowed me on our last visit to the bar to look up beers that need to be sampled, so Hoegaarden it was, and it was not bad at all – quite good even. Fresh, citrusy, chewy and as rich as Belgian wheat beer gets. We also ordered Tripel Karmeliet on tap. I used to love Karmeliet but now it’s just too sweet and heavy on my taste buds, with too much honey and too much flower.

2 more multi-tap bars joined the local scene last summer. Both are located in the monstrous suburb Rishon LeZion (which is actually the 4th largest city in the country). 55 Drafts & More is a corporate bar that is a part of a cinema multiplex in the western industrial area. Size matters, the owners think, and quantity counts more than quality. Mostly commercial beer, apathetic staff and high prices to captured audience or perhaps an audience that doesn’t really care about beer and is just happy to have another faceless, soulless night out option in the ‘burbs.

The Pirate Pub is the complete opposite. Located on the other side of town, in the old eastern industrial area in what used to  be a wedding hall and then a night club that caters to the Russian immigrant crowd, the Pirate is huge, filled with endless wooden boots and a great, rustic atmosphere. Despite the trilingual menu, it is clear that the target audience is Russian: the food served there is not your typical bar food but mostly Russian dishes, the beer in the 50 taps includes plenty of German and Czech brews that are popular among this crowd, the staff is Russian and so is the default language you’ll be approached to. The rustic atmosphere mentioned above is expressed in the relaxed, homey feeling on one hand, but on the other hand it is also apparent in the somewhat low-maintenance of the taps and some lack of knowledge among the friendly and willing staff.

The Pirate Pub. This goes on and on (note the ceiling)

The Pirate Pub. This goes on and on (note the ceiling)

Being Tel Avivians who don’t drink and drive but are also too busy to take the long bus ride to the suburb we don’t frequent the Pirat as much as we would have liked. Last time we visited was 3 months ago. They threw an Oktoberfest event with Bischoff Kellerbier, Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier and Tucher Bergkirchweih Festbier on tap. We drank them all and also took a mug of Gambrinus Premium that was a bit old but we drank it anyway because it’s a pretty hard to get pils. Its aroma was delicate and crispy and it tasted somewhat sweet and a little medicinal – not what you’d expect to taste. Old. The Pirate Pub is one of those places where it’s good to ask what’s popular or keg was recently replaced, but despite all its flaws, which might have been fixed since our visit, it’s one of the nicer places for beer in central Israel.

Erdinger Dunkel, Hoegaarden, Tripel Karmeliet and Gambrinus Premium are beers #163′ #164, #165 and #166 I Must Try Before I Die.

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.

A Night Out With The Belgians

I went out by myself last night. The Secret Agent was working and I visited my grandma after work. Dealing with my family would make a devoted Scientologist resume to psychiatric medication, but I just headed up the street from grandma, walked past  my beloved Little Prague, turned right in the alley and at the sight of the usual madding crowd at the Minzar kept walking. Don’t care much about that smokey hipster bar near Salon Berlin so I stopped at Norman’s.

Opened like 10 years ago by the people who run Norman Premium, probably the biggest marketers of craft beer in Israel,  the drinks that are poured and served at the bar are still mainly Norman products, even under the new ownership. We are not big fans of the place: the tiny space is claustrophobic, prices are high and the tap selection is pretty much limited to Belgian stuff and seems to never change. Anyway, it wasn’t as full or familiar as the other bars around and I just wanted a quiet drink. A quick look at the tables and I knew what to order: Bel Pils, light beer to lighten up my mood. That’s a Belgian Pilsener brewed by Duvel Moortgat that I first saw served in bars some 2 years ago. Guess that Norman Premium had to add a light lager to their line of products for the sake of the pubs that pour their stuff or something. This is a clear blond beer that has fresh grassy saaz hops aroma  and lacks the smell of lemon that so many pilseners have. As the beer sits in the glass malty aroma is released and does it good. Taste is bitter, lemony and tangy,  the body is light and carbonation is lively – a little too lively to my taste – and its finish rich for its kind.  To sum up, Bel Pils is a fun choice when you are surrounded by heavy Belgian ales and fancy something lighter. It cannot be compared to the Czech goodness that’s poured up the alley, though.

I was going to drink one glass and head home, but Ms. Dover responded to my FB check-in, saying she’s on her way there so I waited and ordered another glass, this time St. Bernardus Abt 12. When I started to mind what I drink, this used to be my favourite beer. Its complexity fascinated me and The Secret Agent and I bought it and ordered it whenever we could. I reviewed it last year in my Hebrew beer blog and it tasted a little strange to me. At that time I related the strangeness to a hoppy phase, but last night’s taste revealed that I just can’t stand this beer anymore. It smelled of raisins and spices and was heavy on my nose. I sniffed it for quite some time, making a fool of myself at the bar, scared to taste. Finally I closed my eyes and sipped. It’s been a long time since I last drank St. Bernardus, any St. Bernardus. I expected sweetness, but the alcoholic smack was a true surprise. Sweetness came afterwards but what I used to enjoy now feels too crude. Full body, carbonation, long bitter alcoholic finish and general WTF sensation.

a long time ago we used to be friends

Shocked, I left Ms. Dover and her friend and took the bus home. It happens to be that we live right by Chouffeland, a small street bar that pours Brassarie d’Achouffe ales from its 3 taps but mostly serves commercial bottled lagers to the d’Ouchebags of the neighbourhood. The Shmupis, two AVID fans of Belgian ales, such avid fans that calling them avid fans is belittling the phenomenon, had checked in there so I stopped by and called The Secret Agent, who just returned from work. In need of hop-infusion, I ordered Chouffe Houblon. The Secret Agent opted for Mc Chouffe which I’ve already written about. Mine was exactly what the doctor prescribed: Hazy golden blond liquid protected by a bright white frothy head that smells hoppy; some grass, some fruit and grapefruit, a little alcoholic too, but nothing to fuss about. It tasted bitter, hoppy and fun. With a light-to-medium body, long, bitter finish and a surprising balance, it was a fun beer for a summery night. Yup, late September, sun sets practically in the afternoon, thanks to the thoughtless arrogant bastards that run this country, but temperature is still in the upper 20’s (Celsius, right?).

How was the Mc Chouffe? It was good. Sweet, bun-like aroma, a little malt and some wine. It tasted sweet and malty and had a full body, mild carbonation and a long malty finish. Good beer. I was happy that I could enjoy a full dose of strong Belgian ale; during tastings we only sample beer and at home we share bottles and hardly ever drink Belgian beer these days. All in all it was a good experience.

With the Mc Chouffe and beers #113, #114 and #115 I Must Try Before I Die in my system, falling asleep and putting family shit behind, if only for a short while, was easy.

Famous Five

Not quite sure how we came to mention Enid Blyton‘s series, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven (my favourite) and The Adventurous Series at this week’s tasting that took place in our place, but the Famous Five opening theme has been stuck with me ever since. Not going to embed the clip here, mind you, but the association is clear: out of the 15  bottles shared in our small living room, 5 are on my list. There are always bottles from the list in the  group tastings, because The Secret Agent and I mind the list when we shop, order and share. We provided two out of the five, 2 coincidentally popped up and another one was shared by The Beer Greek who was list-minded on his business trip to Copenhagen a few months ago.
We opened our contribution quite early on the tasting, as they were significantly lighter than most of the stuff we had.

First we had Unibroue Éphémère Apple, which is Unibroue’s summer fruit beer, followed by cassis, cranberry and peach – a fruit beer for each season. That’s the only one in the series that appears in the book but one out of the five that are represented in the 1001 Beers book. The label shows a fantastic drawing of a faery goddess that I find fascinating and at the same time cheesy. This is a white ale that’s brewed with apple must. It’s hazy greenish gold in colour and its white head dissolves quickly. I smelled ripe apple, oranges, blue cheese and something green and fruity and tasted sweet fruitiness and bubblegum. The beer had a medium body and sweet and sticky finish. It was quite alright and I’m tempted to get my hold on the other three seasonal fruit beers, although it means getting distracted from my mission.

Our bottle of Rogue Mocha Porter has been cooling in the fridge for a couple of months now. It got shoved to the back and I’m glad we found it and got to share it with the crew. With a label portrays a blue collar, mullet-sporting guy. The mocha porter is the love child between his morning diner drink and his after-work drink at the bar. Ugh, how’s that for a Bruce Springsteen cliche’? The beer pours reddish black with a small tan head and definitely smells of mocha. Other than mocha I sensed roastiness, chocolate sweetness and hints of sherry. Taste-wise the Rogue Mocha Porter is bitter and hoppy, but not too heavy and towards the end of the sip the malt is revealed. It has a medium body and a slightly dry finish. Quite a success.

The Covert Beer Tycoon (we’ll see if this nick works) brought an old bottle of Trappist Rochefort 10. That’s the second beer The Secret Agent and I drank on Belgian ground last October, at Le Bouffon Du Roi in Namur (the only place in our trip that served us glasses of tap water free of charge, kudos to them!). According to the notes in my travel journal we smellled chocolate and yeast and tasted an almost-winey sweetness. We prefered the first beer we had there, which was Trappist Rochefort 8. Back then, less than a year ago, we weren’t used to taking tasting notes, hence the lack of details. This week’s Rochefort 10 poured cloudy brown with a bubbly light tan head. and smelled of chocolate liquor. It tasted like sweet and heavy wine and had a full body and sweet aftertaste. Although it’s an expired bottle I pretty much enjoyed it. The crew agreed that aging beer is pretty much impossible in Israel coastal line. Well, comparing this week’s notes with lines written in a busy bar in the brewery’s proximity, it seems that the beer kept its basic traits despite its age and location.

Midtfyns Imperial Stout is probably the last bottle that the Beer Greek got from the list I sent him. I loved it. how can I not like a beer that pours black? Most of them are good. This one also had a tan film on top. The creamy chocolate aroma with the hints of cherry and wood was great and so was the taste: sweet, a little wood and cherry, deep and complicated. The beer has  full body and a very soft carbonation. I could have finished half a bottle by myself but there were 8 other tasters around the table and I was the last in the round anyway.

Fifth and last for this entry was De Molen Hemel & Aarde Bruichladdich Barrel. There was a controversy as to whether I should cross it off my list. Dead Swedish Girl, who is more conservative said I shouldn’t. She believes I should hunt the classic Hemel and Arade and list it. Others based their decisions on previous entries, like the *rum cask* Innis and Gunn, Ola Dubh *40* and Brewdog Paradox *whichever*. Naturally, I took the others’ side, hoping to drink the original version one day. This one was shared by The 9th, who brought it from Amsterdam, I think. It pours opaque, almost black with a tan film and bears an amazing smoke, burnt, iodine aroma. It tastes sweet, burnt-ash-dry with soft hints of vanilla. It’s a heavy beer. No carbonation. no need for them either. Texture is sleek and its finish bears wood and is slightly burning. This is the bottle that closed the session. I could’ve spent an evening with this bottle all by myself, it is THAT amazing.

Those were beers #101, 102, 103, 104, 105 I Must Try Before I Die. Hey, That’s past 10%!

Midi Bear and Troubles doing the Kelly and Brenda thing.

 

The Big Recap

Over the past few weeks we have accumulated dozens of tasting notes. The thought of turning all of them into an entry makes me cringe, so here’s the dozen that’s also in the book. Chronology makes no sense in this sort of entry, so stuff is sorted out according to the 1001 Beers You Must Try  Before You Die chapters: Amber, Blond, Dark and Special. Arbitrary, sort of, but if it works, it works.

We got our bottle of Alesmith IPA from The Secret Agent’s parents, who visited the Californian branch back in February. We loved this beer. Pours hazy amber  with a frothy white head, papaya, lime and hemp aroma and an extremely, bitter, green taste. Medium body, soft carbonation and a nice bitter finish close one of the best IPA’s I’ve tasted to date.

Before the start

Left Hand Sawtooth Ale has one of the ugliest labels I’ve seen in a long while. Like a scary number of fellow beergeeks I am a left-handed and thus have a soft spot for the brewery’s name. My default sympathy didn’t really help the beer, which was ok, but not too thrilling. Orangy copper colour, hazy, little light tan head. Hoppy aroma – light evergreen, flowery. Delicate bitterness in the mouth. Smooth texture, medium body, delicate finish.

The (very soon to be) Texan got his bottle of Grottenbier in the strangest trade of all: beer for mini copies of Hebrew-printed Psalms book. Yes he did. Was it worth it? In my opinion it was. A pretty decent beer for some useless pieces of paper. It’s a decent beer that  poured dark brown and had a cloudy, off-white head. Sweet spicy aroma – clove and nutmeg, Mildly sweet and spicy taste, a little anise. Heavy-medium body, lively carbonation, long, tangy finish.

Gearys Hampshire Special Ale was quite a disappointment. We all agreed that there was something wrong with the bottle. Murky honey colour, aroma that reminded me of pink Bazooka Joe bubblegum and band-aid. It tasted sweet, then weirdly bitter. Pretty ugh.

The Actuary’s wife went to Cyprus with her work, and brought back a bottle of Leon, a shitty Cyprian beer, and three bottles of Brasserie Du Bocq’s La Gauloise.  La Gauloise Blonde, so I have discovered while flipping through the book, is there, surprisingly enough in the Blond category. Cloudy pale golden, bubbly white foam. Candy, caramel, conserved peach aroma and bitter-sweet taste. Light body, smooth finish. Drank better Belgian ales in my life, but fair enough.

The BeerGreek, before the tasting and just before becoming a dad for the second time,

I have recently created a Google Docs spreadsheet to help me follow the mission. The Dead Swedish Girl asked me to share the list with him. He went through and spotted Birra Moretti Baffo D’Oro that The big Bear’s dad brought from Italy. We drank it at a beer tasting I have already written about, but overlooked it on my list. Not much to write about. It’s a generic pale lager. You drank one, you drank most.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale is another story though. A little skunky aroma and overall hoppy bitterness in the mouth and finish, this one was decent beer.

We drank a bunch of cool dark beers, too: Porterhouse Wrasslers XXXX Stout was one of the better bottles opened in a small, homey tasting The Secret Agent and I hosted last week. Rich smokey, peaty aroma accompanied by berries and a smokey, acetic, bitter taste. I live for smoked beer.

Saranac Black Forest was quite disappointing as well. I like Schwarzbier but this one wasn’t more than fair: Velvety wine-grapes aroma, grainy, somewhat sweet malt taste.

But I loved, loved Victory Storm King! Black liquid, frothy tan head, soft, bitter taste and a rich wine and chocolate liquor aroma. Well-carbonated, pretty easy to drink despite the 9.1%abv. My only complaint is the too-short finish.

I think it was Middie Bear who fixed us with a bottle of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout. Don’t know how this HopHead put his paws on this one, but I sure don’t complain; roast was everywhere: in the nose (along with some alcohol and liquor), in the mouth (accompanied by bitterness) and in the finish. Texture was oily, beer was great.

one of the cutest beer-label dogs around 🙂

How does AriHell find people who deliver him exotic and obscure beer is beyond my comprehension, but that’s a skill I’d like to learn. He is the one who brought Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere to the table (along with another dog-endorsed label).  It’s a mild-tasting Saison, sour in the mouth and  pissful litter-box aroma. Pretty hardcore with complementary cloudy golden colour.

So that’s it for now. Attended a festive tasting last night and again crashing into a sour tasting tonight, so more posts are on their way. Meanwhile, those were 12 more beers I Must Try Before I Die: 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73.

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