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 “African Beer”

Pale as Hell

 

Got plenty of time now and plenty of beers to write about, including another intense beer trip, but meanwhile, I’ll do a short backlog, just because I feel like it. Here’s an account of several beers I sampled recently:

Tusker Malt Lager from Kenya, not to be confused with Tusker Lager – brought by Alexei, one of the Dancing Camel Brewpub frequent flyers, because of this 1001 challenge. Thank you for that! It smells like cardboard and tastes like cardboard and I’m once again left puzzled by the editors’ choice.

Gubernija Ekstra – another pale lager, from Lithuania this time, that Stas brought from his Christmas visit to the country. Thank you Stas for the dear suitcase space taken by this overly buttery beer. That’s the last of the 5 Lithuanian beers in the book, and certainly the worst.

We’re flying to Spain in a couple of weeks. I have already mapped the beer spots where we’re going and began hunting for beers from the book. Had 7 Spanish beers left, and some of them are quite obscure and local to Barcelona – we’ll be in the south. Anyway, the one beer I knew I’d be able to find for sure is Voll-Damm as it’s widely distributed. Apparently it just made its debut in Israel and we got to drink it at a small, spontaneous tasting at Dead Swedish Girl’s parents’ place in the north. Very alcoholic, metallic aftertaste.

These 3 horrible pale lagers, Tusker Malt Lager, Gubernija Ekstra and Voll-Damm are beers #385, #386 and #387 I Must Try Before I Die. I believe that the next entry will cover some better stuff – it’s hard not to.

 

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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.

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.

3 Continenets, 4 Beers, 1 entry

It is time for another random list of beers tasted in a number of occasions over the past few months. Other than basic ingredients the following don’t have much in common, but whatever.

Goose Island India Pale Ale is a pretty much ass-kickin’ IPA. It is amber in colour and has a smooth, peachy aroma with some hints of grass. The taste indicates that the bottle we shared with our friends was a little old but it was still tasty – fruity and mildly bitter. Medium-bodied, fruity finish and pleasing.

5 Barrel Pale Ale from Odell Brewery that resides in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado, is the first beer in the book. It has a beautiful label that looks a little like block-print. Sadly, the beer itself didn’t stand up to the beautiful label. I believe it’s due to age but it was rather stale and tasteless. The aroma was alright though, mango and asian persimmon (also known as sharon fruit) were dominant.

Dragon Stout hails from Jamaica, a country whose rum we love. This stout is high on alcohol, 7.5%, and its recipe includes both corn syrup and sugar. The result: sticky-sweet aroma and an indistinguishable fruity sweetness in the mouth. The beer is not good and its thin body adds to the disappointment.

Sinebrychoff Porter is one of the three Finnish representatives in the book, but the only one that’s actually available outside Finland. However, its source is a Finnish beergeek that traded with the Dead Swedish Girl and Troubles. This is a decent Baltic Porter, black-bodied and tan-headed with roast, raisins and a little wood in the nose. It tastes dry, wooden and bitter and finishes roasty too. It is a decent beer .

As usual, I save the best for last. Tusker Lager is one of the worst beers I have tasted up to date. Seriously. This Kenyan Pale Lager “is best drunk for refreshment – rather than taste” says the book. Writer Tim Hampson actually admits that there’s nothing to this beer, so why must I try it before I die? To witness how shitty it is? I can sure live well without trying yet another piss-looking liquid, especially one that smells like rotten fruit and has no taste at all yet still manages to be disgusting. It has a light body and a watery finish. Now, remember the rotten fruit aroma? Apparently it was a hint to the garbage juice aftertaste. It’s a disgusting beer, I’m telling you. There’s another Tusker beer in the book: Tusker Malt Lager. I’d like to say that I’m not looking forward to drink it but shamefully I do, because beergeekness sometimes equals masochism.

Indeed, Goose Island India Pale Ale, Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Dragon Stout, Sinerbrychoff Porter and Tusker Lager are beers #190, #191, #192, #193 and #194 I Must Try Before I Die.

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