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 Strong Ale”

2 in Copenhagen

Last week I wrote a long recap of Californian beers imbibed over the past 3 years. One of them was Moylans Ryan Sullivans that we found and drank in Copenhagen, on my birthday-trip-turned-beer-pilgrimage sort of thing. 5 cold winter days, many many beers in all the hot spots in this compact city – Mikkeller, Mikkeller & Friends, Lord Nelson, Fermentoren, Søernes Ølbar, Høkeren, Nørrebro Bryghus, Taphouse to mention a few. We had a good listing of cocktail bars too, but after all this beer we only ended up having a couple at the Brass Monkey and then at Mikkeller’s mixology venture, Mikropolis. Will definitely visit the Ruby next time.

I have the first edition of The Book, from 2008, published right around the time of the great Danish craft beer boom.Only 12 Danish beers are there, two of them are Carlsberg’s crafty experiment Jacobsen. I believe that the second edition has a better and longer listing of Danish beer. Anyway, since Copenhagen is Mecca and friends travel there often, I had tried most of the Danish beers that are in The Book, and had only 3 left to try. Jacobsen Sommer Wit is no longer in production – if anyone who’s reading this has an old bottle to spare, I’ll be happy to trade. I’ll also happily trade for Søgaard Julebuk that’s as far as I know is still in production, but is seasonal, and we were in Denmark 2 weeks too late. However, we got to drink Amager IPA – fresh bottle at the brewery, thanks to the lovely  Henrik Papsø, head of communication at Amager Bryghus, an avid ratebeerian and a really nice guy, who gave us a tour at the premises, on a dark and stormy evening.

Amager IPA

This is an old school Amager beer. Still in the making, still good. Dark amber with yellowish head. Fruity hoppiness and a little sweet roll aroma, bitter, dry, some sweet maltiness in the mouth. Some minerals towards the end, medium body, mild bitter finish. but the brewery – a Danish brewery that owns and operates stainless steel tanks all by itself – is heavily into experimenting and collaborating and running small batches. They are worth checking out.

On our first or second night in Copenhagen we met fellow ratebeerian Desverger and his partner Dorthe at the Mikkeller bar, for tasting and trading. Desverger ordered a glass of  N’Ice Chouffe from draught, 2010 vintage. I was really surprised to find out that I’ve never rated this beer! Not only is it available in Israel, but there’s a Chouffe bar right in our neighbourhood, like a two minute walk from our flat! We were offered a taste of this wintery Nectar, that was pretty awesome: very dark red with a deep,  a little vinous aroma with notes of  ripe summer fruit like plum and date. Deep alcoholic taste, cherry and vinous. Full body, almost flat, rich, spicy, nutmeg finish. Quite amazing.

Just a random pic from Mikkeller Bar

Just a random pic from Mikkeller Bar

Had to try this limited edition of Four Roses Small Batch that was sitting on the shelf at the Mikkeller Bar.

Had to try this limited edition of Four Roses Small Batch that was sitting on the shelf at the Mikkeller Bar.

Amager IPA and N’Ice Chouffe are beers #460 and #461 I Must Try Before I Die. 540 more to go and thanks again Teva Boy, for doing the math!

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6-months planning

A very intense week came to a sweet end with booking our plane tickets to the US. We’re only taking off in April, but the itinerary is pretty much set: Beer, cocktails and niece in Southern California, cocktails, beer and nephew in New York, deep south, cocktails, beer and bourbon in between. Early booking means low airfare and six months to dream and plan. Next thing I did after closing the Expedia tab was to google map Port Brewing (10 minutes from Escondido and the niece), and the Bruery (tap room is open til late – we can drop by on our way from the airport, if we’re not too knackered.) Both brew Book Beers, of course, only Orchard White by the latter is now retired. Another reason to live forever, or better, drop this mission. Or maybe, check out the second edition of this stupid publication.

Booking is a good excuse to recap Californian beers I drank and haven’t blogged about yet. Like Lost Abbey 10 Commandments, that’s brewed in the above-mentioned Port Brewing. I had it in late December 2013 (and I’m afraid that’s not the worst backlog in this blog), from friends who brought it back from a beer festival in Italy, if I’m not mistaken. 10% abv. of Belgian Strong Ale. My sample of this 2012 vintage bottle poured murky brown and had a dark tan head. I smelled raisins, hyssop and turmeric,and after a while – a little alcohol. It tasted very fruity, dark and heavy, with a little alcohol in the mouth too. Full-bodied, Belgian-like, deep, spicy finish. Very complex, heavy and difficult to drink.

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Another old one is Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale that we shared at a tasting at The Dancing Camel pub in Florentine, Tel Aviv, in December 2013. Wintery IPA with 6.8% abv. Last time I checked the empty bottle was still adorning the bathroom over there. Clear amber. Slightly spicy, christmas cake aroma, bitter, hoppy, fruity taste, medium-bodied, a little burnt finish. Nice. – these are my tasting notes for this beer.

REL, Dead Swedish Girl and The Actuary, that brought the 10 Commandments, also shared FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout – from FiftyFifty Brewing. Looking at the date it was sampled, they must have brought it back from Copenhagen Beer Celebration. Eclipse is an imperial stout that aged for ~7 months in oak barrels and  released once a year, in December. Our purple wax-sealed sample was aged in Elijah Craig barrels and was pretty awesome: black with tan head. A little vinous, wood, vanilla. Deep sweet taste and a little spicy. Smooth, syrupy, no carbonation, a little alcoholic aftertaste.

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Next, Green Flash Le Freak – 9.2% Belgian Strong Ale from San Diego. I loved this one. Hazy gold-amber with white head. Fresh, hoppy aroma, grapefruit and pine. Grassy, skunky green taste. Medium body, relatively carbonated, hoppy and floral finish.

Another Californian Imperial Stout is Moylans Ryan Sullivans. we bought the bottle in Høkeren, a cute bottle shop in Copenhagen, in January, because there is no better way to celebrate one’s birthday in a cold and windy city filled with beautiful people. We shared the bottle at Mikkeller & Friends with our ratebeer/untapped buddies Ruben and Dorthe. Black, with a big tan head. Dark chocolate and espresso aroma, rich bitterness, coffee and a hint of sourness in the mouth, full body, very bitter finish, no carbonation. Nothing experimental here, just a nice and solid imperial stout.

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It was Teva Boy who shared The Bruery Saison Rue in early 2014. Quite awesome and heavy on alcohol saison – 8.5% here. Cloudy amber with white head. Bretty, fruity, apple, some toffee and pepper aroma, mildly sour but very drinkable – a little alcoholic too. Full body, slightly alcoholic finish. Very good.

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I believe I had Russian River Supplication sour ale on more than one occasion, but my tasting notes are from a tasting at Teva Boy, of a bottle shared by Sparrow Brewery’s owner and brewmaster Dror, from February 2013(!) Pours clear-to-hazy rusty with white ring. Apple vinegar, air freshener, rose-water aroma, delicate sour taste. Medium body, very fizzy, ciderish finish. I gave it 3.3/5 – that’s around my average rating. I wonder how much I’d give it today.

This ends the Californian backlog. Lots more to drink from The Golden State – the ones from the book that are still available and hundreds more. We have only 5 or 6 days in SoCal before heading to Austin – we’re gonna work hard.

Lost Abbey 10 Commandments, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout, Green Flash Le Freak,  Moylans Ryan Sullivans, The Bruery Saison Rue, Russian River Supplication, are beers #453, #454, #455, #456, #457, #458, and #459 I must Try Before I Die (and thank you Teva Boy!)

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

Belgiana

Again, a month-long blog hiatus. Been busy doing, well, stuff. And drinking beer as usual. Beer like Saison de Pipaix by Belgium’s Brasserie à Vapeur that The Beer Greek brought from a recent business trip. It’s a whimsical saison with a complex aroma that contains honey, orange, ginger and candy along with a little rye, and a sweet taste, followed by hints of black pepper, honey and a little anise. Full body, a little anise aftertaste and spicy finish. I am usuallya little repulsed by anise, but here it worked fine.

Bellevaux Black, 6.3% abv. old ale style that I got in a face-to-face trade in Gent last November poured murky brown and ugly, but other than that was quite alright. Malt, cold coffee, mud and some roast in the nose, Roasty, malty, coffee and soft bitterness in the mouth. Medium-to-full body, roasty finish

I have drank Pauwel Kwak many times – it’s been distributed here for years – but only got to rate it last February, the night before we flew to Spain. Drank this Belgian Strong Ale from tap at the Porter and Sons in Tel Aviv. Had I bothered reviewing it when I started this blog, I’m sure I would’ve written a much more raving review, but now it’s just too alcoholic and acetic for my taste and the strong banana liquor taste didn’t amaze me.

Malheur 12 is another Belgian Strong Ale that I didn’t really enjoy. Murky dark brown with a beige head. Sugary, some burn caramel aroma, sugary and very sweet taste. I really only tasted sugar. Fuzzy, medium body, unpleasing alcoholic aftertaste.

I shared my bottle of De Ranke Guldenberg at the same tasting we had Malheur 12. Hazy orange-amber. Sweet, honey aroma, very sweet and a little oxidized taste, honey in the mouth. Smooth, medium body, sweet and heavy finish. Overly sweet and too heavy for me.

My Excellent Little Brother bought me a bottle of Corsendonk Angus from New York. It’s an Abbey Tripel that pours clear gold with a foamy white head. Light fruity aroma, a little red apple notes. Bitter, fruit bubblegum sweetness in the mouth. Medium body, sugary finish, fairly fizzed.

When I logged in to the CMS I thought I’d just wrote about Pipaix and Black but then I went up and down the list and just covered all the Belgian beers I drank in Israel and haven’t written about yet. There are plenty of Belgians I drank in my travels which will be covered some other time.

Saison de Pipaix, Bellevaux Black, Pauwel Kwak, Malheur 12, De Ranke Guldenberg, Corsendonk Angus are beers #409, #410, #411, #412, #413, #414 Beers I Must Try Before I Die.

la_chouffe

The other day we went for a drink in our neighbourhood bar – Chuffeland Street Bar. A small place with like 2 seats inside and plenty of tables on the sidewalk, where they serve Tuborg and Brasserie d’Achouffe’s beers on tap – 3 or 4 of them at any given time. Typical bar food, sports screen, lots of noise and a fun vibe from the owners and waitstaff that always makes me think that a beach bar that sells Corona suits them better than Belgium beer in the Old North quarter.

Anyway, I ordered La Chouffe, and I don’t think that this Belgian Strong Ale needs any introduction. This is one of the first beers I ever rated on Ratebeer, shortly before I started this blog, with 4.5 out of 5 – of, the days of innocence! These days I hardly ever rate anything over 3.5, even really awesome beers. La Chouffe is still a great beer though, but I definitely prefer Chouffe Houblon these days, although I rate it lower.

La Chouffe is Beer #376 I must Try Before I Die, and if you are in Tel Aviv, you are welcome to try it fresh from tap at Chouffeland.

 

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.

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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.

Dead Swedish Girl reaches 5555 ratings!

budweiser_bong

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:

maran5555

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.

Beers I drank in Spain

Did I mention the crazy backlog in this blog and list? Of course I did. There’s one beer missing from last year’s Romania Field Report, not a word was written about September’s Real Ale Trail in Yorkshire and Manchester and I kept silent about the Birthday Mayhem in Prague that took place in a sunny January weekend. Between these two beer-centric getaways there was a business trip to the Canary Islands – a long weekend of surfing lessons, shows, parties and so many glasses of Jameson ginger ale that it shows in Irish Distillers annual reports. But it was business, tough job and somebody had to do it. There are no direct flights from Tel Aviv to Lanzarote. I had to arrive at the island a day before my guests – ~90 bar and restaurant owners, bartenders, local celebrities and fellow employees – to watch the production. Thus an afternoon flight and an overnight stay in a hotel in Madrid were booked, and I logged in to Ratebeer.com, to do business. To make a long story short, I landed, checked in at the airport hotel, dropped my bags and rushed to the bus to the city center. By the time I arrived, 11p.m on Wednesday night, a casual hour in Tel Aviv, the bars I was aiming at were not admitting new patrons. Begging, saying I’m a beergeek who came all the way from Tel Aviv and that I just want to tick/ grab a takeaway,  didn’t help.

It was late, I was tired, but decided to take a walk around the block before hailing a taxi back to the city outskirts. Beer Karma came to work and I bumped into a corner bar, that bears the cheesy name La Casa De La Cerveza.

The Pilsner Urquell and Guinness signs in the streets, the name of the place and the beams are deceiving: behind the touristic facade there’s a nice bar with a decent menu that lists dozens of European and American brews: from Belgian ales to bigger export US craft beer, with a good amount of German and English stuff in between, and 7 taps as well. The bartender fixed me a vegan sandwich and I read the beer menu, picking stuff from the 1001 Beer book: Gouden Carolus Classic was imported to Israel in the past and used to be one of my favourite beers when I got into craft beer, but my palette has changed and it tasted too sweet and stuffy. Condensed fruit, lots of sugar and full body. It wasn’t the ideal beer for my tired body, apparently.  Duchesse de Bourgogne is a Belgian sour beer that The Secret Agent and I drank in Namur. I love the gothic  label, but the beer’s a little too sour to my taste. Its aroma begins sweet and then becomes pungently fruity-mango-yogurt-like. The tastes is sweet at first, then becomes  lactic. Full-bodied, yogurty finish and rather smooth texture, but not really my kind of brew. Despite the obsessiveness, I asked the bartender to recommend me something Spanish, and he opened a bottle of Copper Ale by VG Noster from Basque Country, a sweet, fruity amber ale. Not much to write about it. It was getting late, I was getting drunk, so I grabbed a bottle of Achel Bruin to drink later in the trip (7 months later and it’s still in our fridge. It’s a Trappist ale so I’m not worried).

duchesse

There is not much to write about beer in Lanzarote – bars pour macro lagers mostly and the supermarkets stocks them and they are really cheap and cater for those A Place In The Sun expats. I did grab a bottle of Mahou Negra, a popular Spanish dark beer from the Carlsberg group, that tastes sweet, like chocolate milk almost and is still rather light-bodied. It is now available in Israel and served on Tap in the Cervezeria, a Madrid-style Tapas bar in the heart of Tel Aviv. We go there for Gin and Tonic or Rum but draught Negra is our in-between rounds drink.

no beer to write home about, but look at the view!

On our way back home we had a 4 or 5 hours layover in Madrid Airport, that was going under renovation; they’ll have some fancy shops in the future, but for the time being, other than Cafeterias that sell San Miguel (yup, tried the non-alcoholic one on my way to Lanzarote), and an OK spirits section at the duty-free shop, the options are limited. However, daytime, metro to the city center, a map and mucho determination, brought me to Plaza Bilbao, where I landed several nights before, only to find it thriving. Grabbed a bag of chestnuts – a mandatory part of any visit in Europe in the fall or winter – and ran to Bar Animal, that was friendly and inviting. 10 taps, a fridge full of goodness and this fridge door:

Bar Animal Madrid

In a little over an hour I drank 6 beersm some with the help of two nice beergeeks that were sitting on the bar too. Two of these beers were from the book: Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout and Haandbryggeriet Dark Force. The former’s a pretty cool beer: slightly smoky, chocolate aroma, with chocolate sweetness and a little dry bitterness in the mouth. Bitter, chocolate finish, hops, full body, and smooth, very mild carbonation. The latter, that hails from Norway, pours black, opaque with a mocha colour head and smells amazing: slightly peaty, dry ash and prunes. It also tastes awesome:smoky, bitter, ashtray dryness in the mouth with a full body and slightly dry and ashy finish. I like my beer to be smoky/ peaty/ roasty/ burnt and Dark Force did the job just fine.

shakespeare dark_force

I also drank/ sampled De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey Barrel, Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2013 and To Øl Ridiculously Close To Sanity – all three great and from tap.

Following my drinking partners’ recommendations I ordered an APA by Spanish brewery Naparbier, that’s located near Pamplona. The 5 Titius Anniversary is quite alright – definitely better than most of the Spanish craft beer I’ve tried before or after, with fresh floral – jasmine – hoppy aroma, and hoppy bitterness. turns out that one of these guys illustrated a label for Naparbier, so I took a bottle of this beer and shared it at the airport with two members of our group – bar owners from Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion, before checking in. Naparbier The IV Beer Riders was piney and skunky but in a good way. Drank straight from the bottle and in a rush – I had to stop at the duty free to grab a bottle of rum for the home and that mandatory bag of candy for the office.

Rating Naparbier at Bar Animal

Rating Naparbier at the airport

Gouden Carolus Classic, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Mahou Negra, Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, Haandbryggeriet Dark Force are beers #318, #319, #320, #321, #322 I Must Try Before I die

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!

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