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 “Belgian Ale”

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!

Canadian beer – end of the easy stage.

There are 31 Canadian beers in the first edition of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die. I have already written about 7 of them, all under the Canadian Beer category in this blog and drank 4 more, which are reviewed in the following paragraphs:

The first three beers here hail from Quebec. Dernière Volonté and Rosée d’Hibiscus are brewed by Dieu du Ciel from Montreal – one of my favourite cities in the world, and Maudite is made by Unibroue in Chambly, which is a suburb of Montreal. All three bear strong Belgian influence.

Rosée d’Hibiscus is a wheat beer with hibiscus flowers added during brewing, that don’t only give the beer hibiscus tea aroma, but also the colour of blood orange. Pretty neat. It tastes tarty with fruity undertones. A nice and easy to drink beer with tea-like finish and light body.

Dernière Volonté – that’s French for Last Will – is a Belgian Ale with 7% abv. We shared our bottle at the tasting and got the very bottom of it, which was very yeasty. Ugh. Hence the murky greenish blond colour and the very yeasty aroma.  Beer tasted sweetish and rich. Medium body, smooth, fruity aftertaste ended our sample.

Maudite (“The Damned”) – a strong Belgian ale – Chilled honey, a little onion, then more honey honey – lots of honey – in the nose. Sweet, malty and heavily fruity taste. Full-bodied, mildly carbonated, long, red apple finish.

Of these three, my favourite is Dernière Volonté.

the 4th Canadian beer I drank and haven’t blogged about yet is King Pilsner. locally available in Ontario, my brother fetched a bottle for me in one of his maple tapping adventures. He also brought a mason jar filled with the most delicious maple syrups I have ever tasted, surely not a match to the beer, which may have a little aged by the time we opened the can. Hazy gold with white film. Grainy aroma with apparent saaz grassy hops. Grassy taste, delicate bitterness with hints of grainy sweetness that then disappears in favor of bitterness. Light body, delicate fizz, bitter finish.

Rosée d’Hibiscus, Dernière Volonté, Maudite and King Pilsner are Beers #415, #416, #417, #418 I Must Try Before I Die.  This is the end of the easy part of checking off Canadian beer. Any Canadian beergeeks reading this? I’ll be happy to trade locals for locals. Contact me and I’ll send you my list.

Rosée d’Hibiscus, Dernière Volonté

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.

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!

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.

Getting Things Done

I promised to myself I’d tick 300 beers by Rosh HaShana. Due to circumstances, aka long shifts at the coal mines, allow me to extend my deadline til Saturday. Got 19 more beers to write about so the upcoming posts are going to be as much down-to-earth lists as possible.

First is last – last night’s last drink at the last spot in the pub crawl we joined after the holiday dinner. Vova from Laughing Buddha beer was posting pictures on Facebook, we returned to town, I switched to flats and we hopped along to the last 3 pubs in their rounds. It was 3 a.m when we hit Florentin 10 in Florentin neighbourhood in Tel Aviv and the Murphy’s Irish Stout I ordered was decent than the previous rounds. Taps weren’t infested, keg was relatively fresh. Not big fan of commercial stouts, it was fine: less creamy than Guinness, caramel and faintly roasted.

We drank De Koninck for the first time in Antwerp a couple of years ago and then a couple of months back on a lazy Saturday afternoon at home, in front of an episode of Mad Men, before the mediocre 6th season hit us. Bottle.  Faint berry jam,sweet malty aroma, pleasing bitterness with a sweet notch and a biscuity finish make a nice, refreshing beer.

Het Kapittel Watou Prior is nice as well, but far from being refreshing and fun, with 9% abv. It is a full-bodied beer with dried fruit, burnt rubber and raisins aroma, bitter, fruity, yeasty, plastic-y and spicy taste,  and spicy finish.

Another Belgian beer we drank recently is Gulden Draak, 10.5% abv, Belgian, of course. Cookiedough, spices and a little alcohol in the nose, sweet, alcoholic, spicy but not offensive in the mouth. It was a rather pleasing beer and the high alcoholic volume wasn’t too apparent

going through my list of to-blog beers, I see that Adnams Broadside was neglected. Troubles shared it a long time ago. As we’re getting ready to our short English expedition, I’m getting all excited about ales and  such, but my notes say that this beer wasn’t that exciting: candy and black pepper aroma, sweet taste with bitter undertones, medium body and smooth texture. It was probably a little old when we tasted it.

Another one from a tasting of yore is Ringwood Old Thumper from Portland, Maine. I believe we had an old bottle, as its aroma, other than being floral and sweet was a little mold-ish. It tasted bitter and had some honey notes too, and a syrupy finish. Not good, again, probably old.

Let’s finish this entry with a German beer. Köstritzer Schwarzbier, the bottle that Tumblr Jenna brought us, was familiar. We first drank it with Jenna 10 years ago, when we first met her in Berlin. Can’t find anything symbolic about drinking it again in Israel, but whatever – it’s a good beer. Malt, some sugar, chocolate – like a fresh malt beverage –  and some grass in the nose. Taste is sweet and a little more bitter than malt beverage. Dryish malty finish, medium body. Easy to drink and quite nice.

The above were beers #282, #283, #284, #285, #286, #287 and #288 I Must Try Before I Die. I really don’t have time to look for pictures and stuff because I have a beer trip to England to plan, so take it text-only this time.

Bye Bye.

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!

No Sleep Til Dunno When.

I always make an effort to Get Things Done on Saturday morning, before The Secret Agent wakes up, in the sense of catching up on personal emails, updating both blogs, reading books and magazines (if “reading books and magazines” is synonymous to scrolling down Facebook) and making time to further weekend activities and studying. But I was so exhausted last Saturday that I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the laptop. Instead, I was sitting on the couch for the better part of the day, slowly studying, doing something that has no relation to alcohol consumption, documentation or marketing – something different, for a change.

Writing during the week is difficult these days as well. New job, so much to learn, so many things to do. I come back home at dusk and just want to eat something and go to sleep, that is if nothing keeps me outside til midnight. Things aren’t gonna get easier anytime soon, but I believe that in a couple of months, when I get a better grip on work, quick updates during the week will come easier.

So what’s with this weekday update? Oh, I spent the day in the field, meeting our customers and learning what they need. Got to soak some sunlight, sat on the passenger’s seat, arrived early and now I’m all charged with energy to report last week’s tasting’s 1001 Beer Book’s samples.

???????????????????????????????It’s a bad picture, taken in the end of the session. First arrow to the right is Thirsty Dog’s Hoppus Maximus that is actually not in the book, but its label is so atrocious, it should be shared:

WTF Label of the Year Award

WTF Label of the Year Award

It’s a good beer though. Bottle was quite old but it still felt fresh and hoppy.

Next – Poperings Hommelbier from Belgium, 7.5% abv. of Belgian aleness, cloudy amber with a yeasty, somewhat medicinal-bitterness aroma and fun taste that reminds me of bubblegum and marzipan. It has a rather refreshing hoppy bitter finish and a light body, considering the alcohol volume – but it works well for this beer.

Meantime India Pale Ale came from a trade I did with a Kansas beergeek. Imagine the journey this bottle made! From the London Brewhouse to its US distributors in Texas, to the Sunflower State to the Land of Rape and Honey. That’s a way more radical journey than the England-Subcontinent route that IPA’s were designed for. The 1001 book tells us that brewery’s founder Alastair Hook’s first ambition was to recreate 19th century style IPA and porter. He conducted historical research, loaded the IPA with Fuggle and Goldings hops and recommends to age the beer in a cellar for a few years. I think this tri-continental journey is enough for one beer. It’s an unpretty cloudy orange with a bitter, leafy and grassy aroma that also had notes of the liquid used to store gherkin and it tastes bitter and rather stale. With a medium body, soft fizz for IPA’s as we usually know them and a long, bitter finish, this is an OK beer, but nothing more. Meantime Coffee Porter, however, was really good with a delicious ash-dry bitterness and coffee taste that has that nice sweet undertones. Its nose matches the mouth, with coffee, cocoa and ash. It has a medium-to-full body that’s easy to drink and smooth coffee texture – delicious!

Finally, Skull Splitter from Orkney Brewery that’s located in Orkney Island – a place that’s on our destination map because of the wind and the whisky and, well, the beer. Up to this date all the Orkney Brewery’s beers I’ve drank were in the awesome-amazing spectrum. Sadly, especially because of its name that gives the beer automatic awesomeness points, Skull Splitter is rather dull. Too sweet – cookie-candy in the nose, sweet, a little stale with alcoholic bitter undertones in the mouth. It’s drinkable – . 8.5% and goes down quickly, but there’s nothing amazing (or, ignoring the name, awesome) about this beer and it’s just too alcoholic. Maybe I just don’t get the Scotch Ale thing?

Poperings Hommelbier, Meantime India Pale Ale, Meantime Coffee Porter and Orkney Skull Splitter were beers #261, #262, #263 and #264 I must Try Before I Die

Water for Elephants

elephant_carlsberg

When O moved to London’s scummiest squat in the mid-90’s, she and her friends were all gushing over Special Brew, Carlsberg’s cheap, strong and nasty lager that did its job properly – got poor people drunk easily. When I moved to England a couple of months later, I tried this too. It WAS nasty, too nasty even to the old self-destructive moi, so I picked another, friendlier poison that is white cider.

Years passed. O is still rocking only now with a PhD on Bats in her tattooed hands, I’m not too keen on ciders – be them artificial and poisonous  or crafty ones. And once again, I’m up to drinking strong brew by Carlsberg. I’m told I must try this before I die, see?  Carlsberg Elephant Beer is not as strong as 9% abv. Special Brew, it’s only 7.2% alcohol. This fine drink was originally exported to West Africa but due to its popularity domestic marketing followed. The elephant on the label has nothing to do with Africa, though. Life- size statues of elephants adorn the entrance to the old brewery in Copenhagen, inspired by the Jacobsen’s family Subcontinental expeditions.

How’s the beer? Interesting. Interesting as in why the hell is it in the book whereas other mediocre commercial lagers are not.

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Jacobsen Saaz Blond is another story, though. While not a great beer, it is definitely a beer to try: Husbryggeriet Jacobsen is Carlsberg’s crafty branch. Lower volumes,  smaller distribution and more experimental than expected (see last entry about Blue Moon), all packed in a big, sharing-friendly and elegant bottle. The Dead Swedish Girl picked a Jacobsen Saaz Blond at the airport, on her way back from Copenhagen Beer Celebration.  This is an attempt at Belgian-style beer with plenty of Czech Saaz hop and angelica extract. All this info is taken from the book, but my tasting notebook tells me that the beer I had in my glass smelled of cleaning detergent and plastic blue and tasted bitter and weird, but I couldn’t point out the weirdness. It didn’t make much sense but nevertheless, it’s something to try. Jacobsen will be available in Israel soon and I’ll probably try the Saaz Blond again, as well as their Sommer Wit that’s also in the book.

Elephant Beer and Jacobsen Saaz Blond are apparently beers #226 and #227 I Must Try Before I Die

Thanks Hansen & Zita!

This entry’s title should ring a bell to those who are creepy/ lifeless enough to stalk The Actuary, the Dead Swedish Girl or Yours Truly on Ratebeer. Hansen & Zita, a couple in real life and two different members on Ratebeer. Being Danish, Zita and Hansen get *real* time off work, not just a couple of days that are wasted on Jewish holidays when work shuts down anyway or on studying to final exams. Yes, they have time for overseas travel and last August they came to Israel for a holiday. What did they do here? You know, what every tourist does, or should do: traded beer with the natives.

Several weeks prior to their arrival, The Dead Swedish Girl called The Actuary and me to order: the three of us schlepped money and The Girl collected as many Israeli brews as possible. She gathered together some 40+ bottles of Israeli micros, some are hard to find, others more common. Some beer the three of us vouch for, others, some of us probably can’t stand but all are novelty to those who drink Mikkeller for breakfast. We met Hansen and Zita on their first night in Tel Aviv and took them to our favourite brewpub, The Dancing Camel, but before that picked the bounty from their hotel room: cans and bottles of anything from Danish craft beer to Danish supermarket brand pale lager; beer from Faroe Islands and beer from Singapore; a bunch of Belgian stuff, some ciders – the rationale behind the beer they delivered is beyond me but hey, I just put the money and enjoyed the harvest – it’s DSG who did all the work! I wasn’t involved in coordinating the trade and cannot be held responsible to the 6 bottles from my 1001 mission that found their way to Zita and Hansen’s luggage:

Tiger Beer from Singapore that was as sweet, sticky and artificial smelling and tasting as pale lager gets made me happy, because no one I know travels to Singapore and I would have never thought of asking people to fetch me cheapo lager, even import lager, so that’s cool.

The other 5 from the list are Belgian and with 118 Belgian beers on my list, every bit helps. Scotch Silly is a beautiful clear dark red Scotch Ale, that smells like wine and caramel-candy. It tastes sweet and condensed, almost like wort, with a sweet, lingering alcoholic finish. Brasserie De La Senne’s Stouterik is another pretty beer: black with a big tan head and a weird aroma that I liked: fuel, mud and ripe fruit. The beer smells and looks better than it tastes: bitter but weird, with fuel echoing in the finish. It isn’t bad or wrong, just weird. Zinnebier, also from De La Senne, is a Belgian style ale that smells sweet, with hints of clove and orange peel. It tastes bitter, hoppy and a little fruity, has a medium body and a surprising finish that reminded me of caraway crackers. Malheur 10 – its name indicates its alcoholic volume – is too carbonated, tastes orangey and sweet and smells sweet as well: I noticed fruit, passion fruit syrup and plastic. Its carbonation produced a huge frothy head which is always cool, but was too much for my tummy.

The last beer Hansen & Zita brought from the list, to which they were unaware of but which granted them eternal fame in this blog and on more than 120 ratings is Urthel Samaranth, heavy quadrupel that pours clear deep bronze and is as alcoholic and fruity and sweet as you’d expect from 11.5% abv beer.

Zinnebier, Urthel, Tiger and other beers from the trade. Our place, September 2012

None of the above was too amazing. Scotch Silly and Brassarie De la Senne’s stuff were good, Tiger Beer was aweful and the rest OK, but that’s the nature of the trip down the book: lots of okayness between peaks of grateness and masses of WTFness. but the trading was worth it. Not only did we get a suitcaseful of beers we would have otherwise overlooked or wouldn’t be able to get or would have to make an effort to get (did I mention Faroe Island?), but making new friends and talking shop with people who share your passion and obsession over a glass (or glasses – like committed ratebeerians they ordered tastings) of beer is a true pleasure.

H&Z enjoying Dancing Camel brews Ratebeer style (note the notebooks).

I am always looking for trades so if you happen to visit Israel, feel free to contact me and we’ll work something out.

Thank you Hansen and Zita for providing beers #125, #126, #127, #128, #129 and #130 I Must Try Before I Die. Hope you enjoyed your end of the trade as much as I did.

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