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 “Austrian Beer”

August Recap

Been quiet over the past couple of months. That’s because I’ve been posting more in my Hebrew blog and at the Sanedrink website (Hebrew alert: bar reviews and interviews with local brewers, as long as an MA thesis.) Actually, I’ve been lazying around for the better part of August, gathering energy for the new and exciting phase in my career, that is joining The Milk & Honey Distillery team – the first craft distillery in Israel.
I knew that joining the team was the right thing to do on my first day. I opened the fridge, wanted to see if they got soy milk by any chance – dunno why I did, cos no one else is vegan there – only to find out that the only thing in the fridge are a couple of dozen bottles of beers that Tomer, our head distiller, brewed for us to drink. Fun!

Then came September, with holidays that never ended, followed by the world’s most annoying exam that took place yesterday – keep your fingers crossed for me, so I won’t have to repeat that tedious Corporate Law course.

As usual, I continue my trip down the 1001 list, dedicated this entry to the month of August, which was quite fruitful, beer-wise. Teva Boy’s rare appearance at a tasting brought a bunch of bottles he brought from Italy, two of which were lagers: Ducato VIÆMILIA is a kellerbier, with a clear-to-hazy blond colour and a white head. Sweet and a little malty aroma, malt and grain and a little vegetal taste. Light-to-medium body, malty, grainy and warm finish. Lambrate Montestella is a lager from Milan, hazy blond with a thick white head. Grainy and toasty aroma, bitter, toasty, some minerals in the mouth. Medium body, slightly bitter finish, quite carbonated. Nice.

 

Next is 32 Via dei Birrai Oppale, an Italian Belgian ale that comes in a pretty bottle, and is surprisingly light and refreshing. Hazy-cloudy blond with a white head. Fruity, pear and peach aroma. Sweet, fruity, cantaloupe taste. Soft bitterness, soft carbonation, fruity finish. Brùton Stoner is Belgian Strong Ale with 7.5% abv. Hoppy, tropical, pineapple and mango aroma, sweet taste, a little oxidized, honey and fruit. Full, syrupy, mildly carbonated, somewhat bitter finish.

rokporterAt the same tasting we shared a bottle of Nils Oscar Rökporter, a smoked porter I got from a Summer Secret Santa Swap on Ratebeer. Very dark brown-black with a tan head. Smoky, sausage, chocolate and smoked keifli snack aroma, smoky, a little bitter, and roasty taste, followed by onion. Full body, long, roasty and smoky finish. Smoked is my favourite style, if you can call it a style, as smoky notes can be found in plenty of beer styles, and Rokporter is in my top 10 smoked beers, according to my stats.

A week later, at Max’s place, we shared a can I got in another trade, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils. This Pennsylvanian pilsener  must’ve been decent when it was fresh, but sadly my can wasn’t. Clear pale gold with a white head. Old grain and yellow grass aroma, old bitterness and some hay in the mouth. Light body, bitter and a little hay finish. Stas brought a bottle of Forstner Styrian Ale from his visit to Vienna, just two weeks or so before I got there – thanks for the bottle and for all the tips! Brown ale, 6.2% abv. that are a wee bit heavy for Tel Aviv’s August. Murky dark brown with a frothy beige head. Nutty aroma with a little caramel. Nutty and a little bitter taste. Medium body, fizzy,  bitter and nutty finish. Would’ve liked it more in October, for sure, but it was quite alright still.

 

Later in August, Tomer from Ratebeer hosted a tasting for his 50th birthday. Plenty of people, so we shared two big bottles: Jämtlands Heaven, that for a schwartzbier was quite heavenly, courtesy of the above-mentioned Secret Santa Swap. also from Sweden, it pours very dark brown, and topped with a beige film. Malty and a little dry toast notes in the nose lead to  dry, bitter, toasty and a little rye spiciness in the mouth. Medium body, fine fizz, dry, malty bitter finish. We also shared in that tasting a bottle of Montegioco Demon Hunter, an Italian Belgian Strong Ale that my Excellent Little Brother bought in New York when I was in Paris last year. It comes wrapped in a crepe’ paper, all fancy and stuff, but I really don’t understand why it’s in The Book, as there’s nothing remarkable or unusual here. Murky honey-brown with white film. Honeydew, yeast, a little spicy, perfume-like aroma, sweet and yeasty taste with some honey. Medium-to-full body, some plastic and soft fizz.

Ducato VIÆMILIA, Lambrate Montestella, 32 Via dei Birrai Oppale,  Brùton Stoner, Nils Oscar Rökporter, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils, Forstner Styrian Ale,  Jämtlands Heaven, Montegioco Demon Hunter are beers #444, #445, #446, #447, #448, #449, #450, #451, #452 I Must Try Before I Die. That’s 9 Book beers in the month of August. Not bad!

Greetings from the Bygone Empire

trumer hadmar

Has it really been a month since the last time I wrote? An intense month it was, I guess. Some university stuff, the jobseeking, plenty of errands and a spontaneous trip to Austria and Hungary! while I ended up drinking plenty of beer, mainly due to bottlesharing and samples, I used my time in Central Europe to walking and relaxing. Some cemetery visits, strolling by the Danube and visiting Zentralfriedhof, Vienna’s largest cemetery. I believe that the best way to get familiar with a place is to visit its drinking joints and cemeteries. Both Hungary and Austria are experiencing a craft beer revolution, with the emergence of breweries, specialty shops, brewpubs and craft beer pubs. First published in 2008, The 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book which I’ve been following ever since starting this blog, has either overlooked the local scenes. They may have been too small to notice at that time, as far as I know. There was one Hungarian beer in the book, Dreher Bak that we drank in 2012, and 12 Austrian beers. We’ve already covered Urbock 23, Stiegl Goldbrau and only recently – Samichlaus which stands out, as most of the Austrian beers in the book are generic lagers, sort of. Yet, finding them was hard. Some are seasonal, other local. Out of the 9 remaining beers, I only got a hold on two.

I found Trumer Pils at the first bar I visited. The Krah Krah is a noisy, smoky (like everywhere in Vienna) old-school bar, not far from the Canal. At 16:45 in the afternoon it was full of men who were socializing after work. There are a bunch of taps of  mostly Austrian beers, and some bottles, with Leffe being pretty much the more exotic option. Trumer is served in a flute-like glass, thin and quite elegant. It pours clear gold with a big white head and has fine aroma of grass and grain. It tastes bitter and slightly buttery, but not in a way that really fucks up with the beer. Light-bodied and quaffable, perfect for that hot summer afternoon, in this unair-conditioned venue.

My friends and hosts Anna and Roey, had a bottle of Hadmar, an organic pale lager, and shared it with me. Clear and fizzy gold with a white head, cereal and grain aroma, light bitterness and malty with some grass. Medium body, with a mouthful bitterness and malt. It tasted great but I cannot help but wonder how a different ambiance would’ve affected my impression – colder weather, different people…

Trumer Pils and Hadmaer are beers #437 and #438 I Must Try Before I Die. Budapest and Vienna are great cities to visit: beer is good, people are friendly, prices are between reasonable to dirt cheap and food is awesome and surprisingly vegan-friendly. Head to ratebeer.com/places for beer and happycow.net for food. As for the rest of the Austrian beers on the book – I guess I’ll have to visit there again. Next time with The Secret Agent.

Christmas in (almost) July

samichlaus

Unlike some of the English pale ales, Czech pils and African lagers, Samichlaus is unquestionably a beer one must try before one dies. This 14% abv. Doppelbock is brewed every year before Christmas, on December 6th, aged 10 months before bottling, and delivered to the stores on time for Christmas. It ages beautifully, too. We held a vertical tasting of this beer back in 2011 in our Hebrew blog, with 2004 and 2010 bottles. I just started writing tasting notes then, and that session can be summed up as good and meh, respectively.

Last year The Beer Greek held bi-weekly tastings at work, to our colleagues who work with beer: the lovely product developer, the now deceased brewmaster, and the marketing crew. Being a part of the tasting panel of the brewery and generally someone who has a clue, I joined them. When it was time for the strong beer session, I donated a 2009 vintage bottle we had at home for comparison, cos The Secret Agent really doesn’t care about Samichlaus. This bottle was added to the 2011 and the then-newest 2013 bottle The Beer Greek brought.

Here are the tasting notes:

2013: Clear dark copper, small head. Cherry tomato, then raisins in the nose, very sweet, liquor-like taste. Smooth texture, full body and no carbonation. Long, raisins aftertaste.

2011: Same appearance. More raisins and chocolate aroma, deeper, more alcoholic taste, full-bodied, vinous finish.

2009: Deepr colour. Cherry tomato aroma again but also lots of chocolate. A little sour and a little sweet taste, vinous finish, smooth, no carbonation and long liquor and chocolate finish.

As I remembered, it gets deeper and sweeter as time goes by. I actually liked 2013 vintage the best in this tasting.

Samichlaus is Beer #433 I must Try Before I Die.

Romanian Beer Adventures Pt. III: Craft Beer Bars in Bucharest

What's the time? Why, it's Beer O'clock!

What’s the time? Why, it’s Beer O’clock!

Our good friend Shmupi is an avid Foursquare user. He is also a big fan of Belgian blond ales. And he is Romanian – born, raised and with grandparents in the homeland. His Facebook updates from Beer O’clock answered the first question we asked ourselves when Family Agent started planning the trip to Romania, which is, of course – the state of craft beer in the nation. Besides following Shmupi’s check-ins we visited Ratebeer.com and thus built a short but sweet beer itinerary for Bucharest: Beer O’clock, Beer O’clock 2 and La 100 de Beri. 3 bars, conveniently located within a few meters of each other, in the city’s old town, some 1o minutes walk from our hotel. The latter prides itself with 100 beers on the menu. The former’s website counts 165. Way more modest number than Delirium Cafe’s menu, much more extensive than any bar in Israel. We figured we’d find plenty of new things to drink there without being overwhelmed. Moreover, these places focused on being beer bars and not tourist attractions, or so it seemed from Shmupi’s check-ins and the reviews we read – suit us just fine.

My fave spot on the bar - behind the taps.

My fave spot on the bar – behind the taps.

The first bar we visited was La 100 de Beri. Just like everywhere else in Romania, the place is smokers-friendly and breathers’ enemy. No proper ventilation, but there’s a spacier room in the back that has more air and is more tolerable. Several beers on tap, including hand-pumped English ales and German and Czech representatives. The inventory does not necessarily corresponds with the menu – many beers were missing so after the 3rd attempt we just asked to look at the refrigerators, that stocked plenty of stuff that’s not on the menu, for example Engel Aloisius from Germany or Wychwood fruit beer. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable – they were nice enough to tolerate our beergeek idiosyncrasies: taking pictures, writing notes, peeling off labels and collecting caps. This is our favourite bar in Bucharest and after our initial visit on the first night of our trip we sat there twice more when we returned to Bucharest in the end of the trip. The staff recognized us on the third time; too bad we had to fly back just when we started to be regular customers. 3 visits, two heavy drinkers and one Californian Agent who joined us in our last session there – that means plenty of beer. In order to make this short and sweet, here are the beers that are listed in the 1001 book that we drank there:

 

Rychtar Premium 12 – a bottle of generic Czech pils; Stiegl Goldbrau – Austrian lager, fresh and bitter; Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger which was both beautiful and tasty; Orkney Dark Island – one of the few Orkney brews we sampled in the trip – robust, salty, roasty Old Ale with sausage, iodine and dried fruit taste; and König Ludwig Dunkel that obviously had gone bad (BB date April 2013) but tasted fine by me – grainy and chocolatey.

On the first night we headed to Beer O’clock after leaving La 100 de Beri. Bigger space, broader selection. The extensive menu includes rarities such as aged bottles of Trappist ales and Brewdog’s expensive editions such as Abstrakt and Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Despite the inviting menu we only stayed for one round: the place reeks of cigarette smoke in such a way that The Secret Agent’s eyes reddened and I had to go out to the cold street in order to smell my beer. I drank De Ranke XX Bitter, a fine Belgian Ale that we enjoyed a couple of years ago in Belgium and were happy to drink again and enjoy its toffee and citrus notes. We bought a bunch of bottles to drink in the following days and take home and left.

A fridge to die for

A fridge to die for

After traveling all over –  in pastoral villages, touristic cities, small towns where the family’s from – we returned to Bucharest. On the first afternoon The Secret Agent and I split from the family and checked out Beer O’clock II, which is located in a small alley, filled with cafe’s and shisha lounges. At 4 or 5 p.m. the door was closed but the place was just opening. Sleazy heavy metal in the background, same extensive menu but due to the early hour and the fact that we were the first customers – no smoke. This bar is smaller than the mother ship, with a bar on the first floor and tables in the gallery. Looks less shiny but we liked it better because of the cleaner air. We hung out for a few rounds and drank a couple of beers from the book: Oakham JHB from England, tropical hoppiness and bitter with nettle-like finish that I liked alot, liked enough to order Oakham Citra that didn’t disappoint either. La Caracole Nostradamus is a pretty good Belgian Strong Ale that is very fruity in the nose and and tastes sweet and spicy. We ordered a couple of German beers that we enjoyed and Primator Double 24, a nasty, 10.5% abv. Czech Doppelbock that I simply couldn’t finish; it tasted like overly sugared coffee and alcohol.

So, what have we got here, count-wise? The bold-marked ones are beers #270-#278 I Must Try Before I Die. Noroc!

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