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 “Barley Wine”

Dead Swedish Girl reaches 5555 ratings!


Above is a picture of the Dead Swedish Girl drinking The King of Beers, to celebrate my 200th beer from The Book and his 1000th American beer rated.

Not to discredit anybody, but Dead Swedish Girl is the reason why us local beergeeks taste and try so many brews; he is the one passionate about trades, obsessed about weekly tastings, beer travels, scoring shitty imported lagers from remote supermarkets and buying (sometimes shitty – I gotta admit) rare lambics and sharing with the rest of us. You want the proof? Stalk me on Ratebeer and see just how many of my notes begin with “Bottle sampled at a tasting at ___’s place. Thanks DSG”.

We decided to commemorate his 5000th rating in an honorable tasting with friends and admirers, but as he reached the number while attending CBC, 5555 was the next best number. T-shirts were printed, a large space located (thank you Evyatar Sadan from Sar Ha’Mashkaot/ Minister of Drinks store in Ramat Gan, for letting us use the second floor and the wine tasting table!). We checked his ratebeer progress, collected a bottles he has yet to rate and on Wednesday, June 18th, gathered around to surprise him, all wearing a t-shirt with a print of the image below:


What is Maran? Wikipedia can teach you that “[it] is a title for exceptionally respected rabbis. […] It is an Aramaic word used frequently in the Talmud which means ‘our master’ (מָרַן, māran, ‘our master’). Most often, as the translation indicates, it is given to rabbis who are considered influential teachers and leaders.

Kudos to The Secret Agent for coining this Term and to Rotem the Big Bear for the design. As a true Maran, DSG quickly overcame the shock and lack of control about the happening and organized the bottles according to the proper way of tasting: pale lagers first, the gose and IPA’s, followed by sour, and Belgian beers and finished with the heavy stuff. We had 21 ratable beers in that tasting – a record as far as I recall – followed by a couple of great homebrews. The Secret Agent and I shared a Rhodian pale lager a colleague brought me from a holiday, and two big beers listed in the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book, that DSG hasn’t sampled yet.

the traditional pose, with the notebook and the bottle opener that doesn't ruin the caps.

the traditional pose, with the notebook and the bottle opener that doesn’t ruin the caps. photo taken by troubles and stolen from the secret Facebook chat about the 5555 celebration.

collaboration-not-litigationCollaboration Not Litigation by Avery Brewing Co. is a wonderful example of the spirit of craft beer business – the ideal spirit of craft beer business if you wish. When Avery and Russian River discovered that they both named their Belgian-style brews “Salvation”, they decided to blend the two brews. Collaboration… is therefore a mix of two recipes – brewed in Colorado with half of the ingredients shipped from Russian River. This 8.9% abv. Belgian Strong Ale is bronze in colour, smells of ripe fruit and then diluted date honey. It tastes sweet and very fruity, has full body, soft carbonation with long, sweet finish.

smuttynose-wheat_wineSmuttynose Wheat Wine Ale is an 11% abv. barley wine made with plenty of malted wheat too. That’s the beer that closed the ratable part of the tasting. Hazy amber in colour with a brown-beige head, candy, malt, a little dried apricot and old hops aroma are followed by a slightly bitter taste of stale hops and some chocolate. Body’s as full as you’d expect from barley wine – full and heavy. However, other than the apricot notes in the nose and probably the big head, I didn’t feel much wheat in it.


Collaboration Not Litigation are beers #331 and #332 I Must Try Before I Die. Many of the next 669 will be drunk with or thanks to Maran.

American Imperial Stout and Barley Wine Recap

Just a few US Imperial Stouts and Barley Wine I drank recently. “Recently” is kinda stretching it, as you’ll see.

blackchocolatestoutBrooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – poured from bottle, one night at home. Turns out I drank it like two days before starting this blog, so I had to drink it again in the 1001 Beers context. The Winter 13-14 edition that The Secret Agent and I shared had a slightly sour and cucumber aroma that beneath it some chocolate, soy and cherry can be found. It tastes a little roasty, rich bitterness, with some caramel. Full-bodied, burnt and sweetish finish. Pretty good winter beer and robustness and ABV (10%) that demands sharing.

GooseIsland-BourbonCountyStout  A 2012 vintage Goose Island Bourbon County Stout was shared by The Beer Greek at a tasting in the winter. With 15% abv. it is no surprise that this beer felt really alcoholic, but after a few minutes of rest in the glass vanilla popped up. The finish showed some chocolate. It’s a very smooth and round imperial stout, ideal for aging. Goose Island experiments with this beer and in the tasting I reached 2K ratings on, Dead Swedish Girl opened a bottle of Proprietor’s 2013, aged in Templeton Rye barrels with toasted coconut. I liked this version even better: plum, a little alcohol, vanilla, a little roasty, chocolate and nuts aroma, smooth chocolatey taste and some Frangelico liquor. Full-bodied, smooth, a wee-bit alcoholic, long, sleek finish. Dead Swedish Girl shared his bottle of Backyard Rye in this tasting, too: deep aroma, a little ink and blueberries as well as cherries. Deep taste, a little sweet, some raisins and chocolate. Smooth, full-bodied, long maple finish with prune, berries and chocolate. Being the cocktail nerd that I am, I’d love to try the Manhattan Barrel version, “aged in a 2nd use Heaven Hill bourbon barrel (10-16 years) that was previously used to aged barrel-aged Manhattan cocktails (composed of Weller 107 Bourbon, Punt e Mes Italian Vermouth and Angostura bitters)”.

Foothills-Sexual-ChocolateI was almost certain that Foothills Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout would be one of the holy grails of this blog/ journey; it is brewed once a year and only a limited number of bottles are sold. Dead Swedish Girl scored the amazing  2012 vintage barrel aged version of this beer; soy, vanilla ice-cream and very rich in the nose, chocolate syrup, very dark and rich and a little alcoholic in the mouth, smooth, a little carbonated, full-bodied and cocoa-bourbon finish.


Next, Barley Wine. Only one American drank and not reviewed:

old foghorn

Anchor Old Foghorn – drunk and cherished at home one mild winter evening. Vinous, chestnuts, a little chocolate aroma, deep alcoholic sweetness and a little cocoa in the mouth. Full body, no carbonation, smooth texture, raisins finish.




Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Foothills Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout and Anchor Old Foghorn are beers #325, #326, #328, #329 I Must Try Before I Die.

Post Yom Kippur Post

Just a small gathering right after Yom Kippur. Baseball Tom drove from the ‘burbs. Dead Swedish Girl and Living Swedish Boy caught the first bus from the city’s seedy underbelly. As soon as he finished the weekly family trivia game REL took a cab to our northern neighbourhood. Post-fasting tasting. Intimate, familiar, relaxed, spontaneous. We drank 3 beers from the Book. Stone Ruination – we already covered here. Palm –  from Belgium’s largest family-owned brewery, says Dead Swedish Girl, is just a mediocre Belgian Ale. Mellow, simple, malty in the nose and sweet in the mouth. Some alcohol, some toffee, but everything’s rather faint. This beer’s the definition of mediocre, I wrote in my notebook.

Mad River John Barleycorn is a full and heavy barley wine which has been stored in our fridge for quite a while – I totally forgot it was there, really. With its hazy brown colour it is not the prettiest beer around but its rich chocolatey earthy taste and complex apple, alcoholic and chocolate aroma compensate for its look. It’s a good one.

Palm and John Barleycorn are beers #301 and #302 I Must Try Before I Die.

Have a good week y’all.

unfestive 100th post.

This is the 100th post in this blog. I intended to take a break from the 1001 countdown and write something about Israeli beer but after the turmoil we’ve been experiencing in the past week, I need a break. The increase on beer tax that was passed hastily, one night in late July, was finally put to discussion in the Knesset finances committee earlier this week. It was discussed on Monday, put to vote on Wednesday and became what now seems irreversible. Small brewers and entrepreneurs will think twice before getting a license, (most) bars will continue to be douchebags and sell small glasses of beer for a high price, doubling the actual price increase.

These are troubled times for Israeli beer drinkers and brewers.

We did make a lot of noise though. A few of us wrote and promoted an online petition that caught the media attention (Hebrew, but you can read the numbers) I was interviewed to a couple of major portals and on the radio and refused to be on TV, cos the camera gives you a beer belly, they say. Here’s a piece in English about the local scene:

Anyway, I’m just too exhausted and the Israeli beer spotlight will have to wait, so let’s just make it to beers #219 and #220 I Must Try Before I Die with In-Heat Wheat by Flying Dog, a nice German Hefeweizen from Maryland, that has a strong spicy bubblegum aroma with lots of banana and black pepper and tastes sweetish and fruity, and Lagunitas Brown Shugga, a complex, layered barley wine that smells of cucumber, sage, nettle and pine, tastes a little medicinal, bitter, even herbal and has a sticky, syrupy, feeling full-body and long and a little sweet finish.

a dog here

a dog here


and another dog here



I Can’t Believe It’s Weekend


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.


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.


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.


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!

Mission: Honeymoon.

My Excellent Little Brother and his lovely wife AKA The Pianist got married in a fever in July 2011. A month later The Pianist took off to New York, to pursue her DMA in Piano and in December my Excellent Little Brother joined her after promoting the album release of his übercool band Lo Dubim that plays Mediterranean-influenced power funk. Relocation and career got in their way and the couple didn’t get to go on a honeymoon until July. Good for them, they went to California – San Francisco and L.A. Good for The Pianist who flew straight to Israel, to a family visit and a recital straight afterwards. Good for me, because My Excellent Little Brother was sent to City Beer to fetch me some hard-to-find Californian bottles that got delivered by The Pianist.

My Excellent Little Brother is not a beergeek. He’s also not a tiki freak, craftaholic or a punk, but he’s curious, kind and seems to enjoy shopping for me as I do for him (a lyric book of Nirvana’s Bleach translated to Polish… oh, the joy of giving!). Of course I’d love to shop for beer myself, but outsourcing to him is second best.

Armed with a list composed by the Dead Swedish Girl and me, the young couple went on a mission and returned with some sought-after goodies that The Pianist delivered as soon as she got off the plane. What goodies? Such goodies that calling them goodies doesn’t do them justice.

The Lost Abbey’s  Angel’s Share aged in bourbon barrel, for once. 12.5% abv. makes this heavenly drink too strong to be called beer in accordance to regulators and legislators who probably didn’t have to deal with that Armageddon hype (please convince me that this beer is more than a buzz to promote a new, unknown, cred-less brewery) or any other strong but better-known beers and thus labeled “malt beverage aged in oak barrels”. Fear not, it’s just a fancy name for barley wine, but barley wine is just a simple name for the heavenly headless muddy brown liquid poured to the tasting glasses. First I smelled it. Alcohol. Then chocolately velvet. Then sweet children’s non-alcoholic wine. After smelling, I tasted: deep, sweet, slightly alcoholic, cherry and chocolate taste. Full-bodied, smooth, liquor-like texture. “Beer” may not be the most accurate description for this wonderful dessert drink. The angels must share the bottle because the drink is so rich that finishing it all by oneself is impossible (and sinful).

Last winter The Secret-Parents brought us a bottle of Alesmith IPA which I declared as one of the best IPA’s I have tasted so far. Alesmith Speedway Stout follows the greatness. It’s a brilliant imperial stout, full and heavy that poured beautifully. I wish I took a picture of its big tan head. Its great aroma contained roastiness, hints of raisins and, of course, coffee beans and it tasted dry and bitter and coffee like. With ash and roast in the finish, a full and heavy body and 12% abv. it was a surprisingly drinkable beer.

As if these two bottles  weren’t enough, the third was a true gem: Russian River Pliny the Elder. As soon as I posted on Facebook about the trio I got emails from fellow beer-buddies, asking us to share. Rated #19 on Ratebeer’s top 50 beers ever, 2 on the top-50 imperial IPA, and is currently#6 in the most wanted list.  A true gem I was given. No idea whether my Excellent Little Brother and The Pianist picked the bottles by themselves or asked for assistance at the store, but they sure scored. It pours murky amber with a thin white film and smelled of evergreen and fresh skunk in a good way. It tasted bitter, 100 IBU tends to cause bitterness, with some saltiness and nori seaweed. Pliny had a surprisingly light body and an unexpected hyssop finish. I truly enjoyed this beer. and I think everybody else did too, although remarks about it being overrated were heard around the tasting table.

Mission Honeymoon accomplished and Mission Business Trip’s already ahead, as my Excellent Little Brother is coming to Tel Aviv to do some work stuff later this month.

Pliny The Elder, Speedway Stout and Angel’s Share were beers #131, #132 and #133 I Must Try Before I Die. Having just being released from a surgery and completing this entry at the hospital bed, it’s a relief  I can go on with the next 868 beers. My liver’s fine 🙂

Another recap, oh no!

It’s this time of the year again, the end of the semester and the realization that unless I wake up – literally – I’ve been developing narcolepsy, I swear! –  doomsday is near. Between sleep, work, procrastination and study, I get to drink beer but not to write about my imbibing adventures. Thus, here’s another long list of cool stuff I drank and ticked.

I’m glad I got to drink Stone Smoked Porter again. I actually tried it in a blind tasting that took place in the winter, but the listing in the 1001 book went under the radar. I have a thing for smoke and perhaps because I knew what I was drinking I liked it better. Context is a huge thing and it’s stupid to ignore or deny its existence. So, smoke, wood and a little peat aroma, soft smokey bitter taste, Bitter, alcoholic finish, medium body, soft carbonation. How can this go wrong? It can’t.

I tried to score a bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale from my colleague, The Witch from Zamość. She took her son on a trip to London last April and I provided her with a list of bottle I assumed are widely-distributed. She looked for Fuller’s Vintage, shopkeepers looked at her, puzzled, and her search was cut by a sprained ankle. Small batches of this beer have been produced annually since 2005, with the recipe slightly changing each time. A fine beer it was, that 2010 vintage.  Pours reddish nutmeg, cloudy with a white head. Berry, honey and cherry aroma and a bitter, somewhat dry taste. Body is medium, finish is malty and carbonation is soft. Perhaps next time  The Witch from Zamość visits the British capital I’ll get a newer batch (hint hint).

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale comes in a can which is cool. An APA, it pours clear and golden and has a delicate peach, flower and citrus aroma. The beer is very bitter, but rather soft and not dry. Body is light and finish is strong and bitter. Not bad at all.

Pilsener is not what people seek after when shopping for beer in the US. We tend to look for IPA’s or heavy stuff like imperial stout or sour ales, but since I’m on a mission, I take what I can. Since the mission called for Stoudt’s Pils, I got a hold on a bottle and shared with the gang.  The beer pours murky pale golden with white film and barley, flowers, honeysuckle aroma. It’s a really, really light beer. So light that it hardly has any taste at all. Then, suddenly, it becomes toasty. Texture is smooth, finish is light. I liked this beer. I wonder whether I would’ve liked it if was shared by someone else. Our tasting buddies weren’t too crazy about it.

When the Beer Greek flew to a beer marketing conference in Copenhagen, I asked him to fetch some bottles from the book. And so he did, on the last few hours before the flight home. One of those beers was Little Korkny Ale from Nørrebro Brewery. Barley wine with a deep sweet heavy taste (and cherry), and aroma that bears wine, yeast, a little alcoholic, berry and dried figs. It’s a heavy beer, with a long finish  that ends with cherry. One bottle is sure to put you to sleep.

Back in May we drank Goose Island Sofie, a mildly-sour Saison. Matilda is a Belgian ale, Sofie’s sister. Matilda is also sour, but whereas Sofie leans towards sweetness, Matilda bears some bitterness instead.

Not only Belgian-style ales did we drink. We finally opened De Struise Black Albert, a bottle bought in a small, shady shoppe in Brugge last October. In fact, this is the beer that inspired my 1001 Project. Last year, while ticking beers in the Hebrew blog on an almost-daily basis, I stumbled upon this blog, an attempt to follow the book that apparently went on hiatus after 133 beers. I hope they get back to writing, though. Beer #125 was Black Albert, which label stunned me. I had it on my mind on our trip and without knowing anything about De Struise I bought a bottle, in case I’d embark on this journey. This is one great beer: black, opaque, alcoholic and somewhat burnt. Wood and sweetness in the mouth. I’m so glad there are more De Struise beers down the road. It’s a great to have an excuse to hunt them.

Bear Republic is another brewery we sampled two beers from within a month. Pete Brown Tribute Ale was rich and awesome, with a beige head, aroma that reminded me of soy sauce, plum and chocolate and overall sweetness in the mouth. Bear Republic Racer 5, the brewery’s IPA, is fun and bears both citrus and pine in the nose. It’s a bitter beer, of course, but its bitterness is soft, almost muddy. It has a citrus finish, and hoppy aftertaste.

2011 edition of Anchor Brewing Company  Our Special Ale was alright. I can’t compare it to earlier editions, but the bottle we shared contained murky brown liquid with a yellow-beige head, wintery aroma of sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and clove, and dry, sweet taste that wasn’t too amazing.

Who brought a bottle of Brewdog’s Paradox Jura? Isle of Arran and Smokehead has just been tasted not too long ago. Jura must be my favourite though. Smoke, peat, salt in the nose, woody, bitter, metallic in the mouth, oily texture and smokey finish. Doubt I could drink this regularly, but it’s a wonderful sipping beer for special occasions, and a good reminder that last time I’ve been to Scotland was 12 years ago. About time to return, isn’t it?

I’m reaching 1000 words so I’ll stop here. Racer 5, Our Special Ale, Black Albert, Stoudts Pils, Little Korkny Ale, Fuller’s Vintage, Stone Smoked Porter, Dale’s Pale Ale and Matilda are beers #76, #77, #78, #79, #80, #81, #82, #83 I must try before I die.


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.

Oldest, Rarest, Fanciest Sams.

Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. The Secret Agent, The Dead Swedish Girl, currently-nickless Shachar and I have been planning to check out a pub in a kibbutz 50 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. A couple of days before Saturday Shachar texts and asks if we’re available to a tasting before driving to the north. Sure, if there’s time for the driver to chill out before hitting the road. A second text message soon follows: can it take place in our place? Only 5-6 people including The Secret Agent and I.

Fair enough.

A couple of hours before the tasting comes a third text: Is it possible to add another guest or two?

Uh, ok, I replied, thinking WTF. In the next message I was asked whom I think should be invited. Puzzled, I called and found out that the tasting that’s about to take place in my place in a couple of hours will contain lots of Samuel Adams bottles: seasonal, limited releases and other goodies that are both unavailable here and come in big bottles, so if it’s possible to share the love with others, it’d be cool. We succeeded recruiting one more participant and only when Shachar arrived I understood why more would be merrier: 11 bottles. Including 1997 Triple Bock and 2003 Utopias. Then Oren arrived with bottle #12 – Samuel Adams Utopias 2007. Yup, two bottles of Utopias on my IKEA glass table in one evening. WOW!

There were so many Sams on the table, we couldn't get a good group picture.

Bottles were organized, bread was sliced and off we started with coincidentally appropriate Samuel Adams Irish Red, one of the three Sam brews that are listed in the 1001 book. Clear red beer with sweet caramel and strawberry aroma and a sweet and sharp taste. It felt a little oily and had a long finish. A nice start. From Saint Patrick’s we regressed to Christmas, with Sam Adams Holiday Porter (2010 edition): dark, brown and muddy looking, with sweet chocolate aroma and smooth sweet chocolate taste. Medium body, long finish.

Samuel Adams Black and Brew coffee stout has the strangest label. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but does it look like a Samuel Adams label to you? If this label is supposed to symbolize the content, I’m afraid that it’s not really working, either. I mean yes, the bottle contains coffee stout, the content is black, and coffee is apparent, at least in the aroma, but you don’t get fancy cappuccino here: that’s American drip coffee I smelled, and that’s exactly what I want to smell. I prefer my coffee Italian-style, but I’d rather drink drip from a cracked, heavy mug in a diner in Missouri. Other than American coffee I smelled chocolate and smoked pepper and tasted bitter, sweetish and rich brew with a long finish and smooth texture.

Following these “unrelated” were 6 bottles from 2011 limited releases. Each adorned with a beautiful illustration and a title that brought fantastic worlds, far away from the usual All-American Sam Adams look and feel, to mind. We started this part of the evening with Tasman Red, a very dark red-brown red ale, that has a big tan head and pine and moss aroma. It tasted bitter with hints of seaweed and bore a full body with an oily texture – very rich like most beers sampled that night. Dark Depths is cataloged as Baltic IPA by the brewery’s marketing department and as Black IPA by Ratebeer. It has an illustration of a steampunk-like diver, and an opaque, dark colour with a big, thick tan head. Smells of hops – evergreen and grapefruit and tastes softly bitter. The body is surprisingly light and the texture stiff. Finish was long and bitter. The Vixen is chocolate chili bock, black in colour, tan head. It has sweet, milk chocolate aroma with hints of chili, and tastes mildly bitter and a little sweet. Finish had some chili but not enough as far as I’m concerned, soft carbonation and medium body.

Third Voyage, a double IPA, has clear brown colour and a foamy white head, beneath which good, dry aroma of grapefruit and pine was hiding. Taste was appropriately bitter with a hint of sweetness,finish was dry, carbonation – soft, body – light. It was a good bear. Cinder Bock is the name of the smoked beer in this series. I absolutely adore smokiness in my brew, and I attribute it to two decades of meat-free diet; this must be some sort of compensation. Anyway, that Rauch Bock has clear dark ruby-brown colour and a yellowish head. It had faint smoke aroma, that also contained some metallic and alcoholic notes and sweet, smoky taste. There was smoke in the finish, oily texture and medium body. Again, I could do with more aggressive smoke, but that’s me.

Griffin’s Bow closed this part of the tasting. Barley Wine. Clear, orange-amber in colour and wooden sweet aroma opened for a bitter-sweet tasting brew that also bore hints of vanilla. It had a heavy body and buttery texture and was good. Dark Depths was my favourite in this part.

The rest of the bottles. Yes, that's a second Utopia!

The third part of the tasting would be considered by many as the crown jewels. Triple Bock was the brewery’s first attempt in extreme brewing, they say, and the beer sure stretches the limit of the definition. Last brewed in 1997, we opened a 15 years old bottle, which texture resembled soy sauce more than actual beer. Thick, black with no head, soy and chocolate liquor aroma and a rich but not very good taste of chocolate, salt and cherry. Body was thick and full and the beer itself was extreme indeed – too extreme for me.

Finally, Samuel Adams Utopias. Well, UtopiaseS. First is 2007 vintage, which fellow bottle from the same batch is currently available on ebay for $260 and 2003 that at time of writing is offered on ebay for $649. Those two on my table. Guinness Book of Records Strongest Beer in the World(since 2002, %25 abv.), star of any World’s Most Expensive Beers/ World’s Strangest Beer Bottles lists, on MY table. 2007 had a dark soy sauce colour, and soy sauce-alcoholic aroma. It tasted very sweet, liquor-like, and also had some wood. It had a sleek oily texture, obviously lacked carbonation, long, chocolate, burning aftertaste and a general “this is liquor, not beer” feeling. 2003 was brown and cloudy, smelled sweet and moldy, tasted sweet, chocolatey and alcoholic and had a thick, oily, really long finish.

The evening’s best beers were from the 2011 limited edition series, but how can a beer lover not be excited about the opportunity to sample these rare, old editions? I broke three records that night: Oldest, strongest and most expensive beer tasted up to date.

happy camper me (and Oren, too)

#30 (Irish Red) and #31 (Utopia) I must try before I die.

Then we went to the pub. I drank Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier that’s also in the book, but I’ll write about it some other time.

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