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 “Blond Ale”

English Beer Recap #4 – The hidden Gems of Bradford

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As soon as we decided to take a beer trip to Northern England, we knew we’d stop at Bradford. A place known better for its curry, riots, and the 1989 burning of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Bradford is not a top-of-mind beer destination. However, it has a special place in my personal history. As far as beer history goes, this is the first place I learned about CAMRA. It was in 1997 and I was at the 1in12, where the punks and anarchists hung out. Didn’t know shit about beer and used to drink “lager” – that’s what my boyfriend used to order – and apple flavoured Hooch, a horrendous alco-pop. Not being a social animal, and that’s an understatement, I was happy to find a small zine, similar to any punk publication of the day – cut and paste, photocopied – with the tagline Campaign for Real Ale, whatever that was. The one thing I remember reading there – and that’s quite something, considering it’s been 18 years of booze and B12 deficiency and an OD of written material – is an op-ed against my drink de jour, aka Hooch and the likes – how they destroy the industry, ruin young people’s appreciation of real ale, whatever that was, and so on. It stuck with me.

This CAMRA publication is of course not a good reason to visit the city, but seeing the place where I lived, and walking in Lister Park, and eating a decent curry are, so after a short sightseeing tour and some beer in Manchester, we drove to Bradford. We opted to drive through towns, so instead of 30 minutes on the highway it took us about an hour to get there.

After a brief tour of the neighbourhood, which felt tamer than it was – is it distance and defamilarization or is it for real? – we went drinking. The Secret Agent picked 2 CAMRA-recommended pubs to visit before heading to a night in Huddersfield, old-school real-ale pubs that I must have seen before, but never went in, because the ex had his own local, Scruffs and Snobs. I looked for it online before our trip. It’s not there anymore. First place we visited was The New Beehive Inn, not far from the city center, as the area code BD1 indicates. The inn was built in 1901,  and has tons of features we love in a place, such as stained glass windows, a painted sign and all sorts of knick-knacks. We arrived quite early in the evening and it was quite dark inside. Apparently this pub is known for its use of gas-light and is recognized by CAMRA as one of Britain’s Real Heritage Pubs. The Beehive serves locally-brewed ales and we sampled two of them. Black Sheep Best Bitter was the first. Our itinerary was quite flexible and on the first day of the trip we didn’t know we’d make it to Masham, to visit Black Sheep and Theakston breweries, so we drank this one as soon as we saw it. The name Best Bitter is quite accurate – it is one of the best bitters I have ever tasted. Clear golden brown with white head. Toffee, nutty, earthy aroma, full, robust, toasty bitterness, medium body, long, bitter, earthy finish. Next comes Saltaire Blonde, from the nearby town Shipley, home of Shipley Glen, the location of many yesteryear adventures. 4% abv. blond ale that’s also available in bottles in the area. Clear blond with white head, Fruit, faint citrus, floral aroma, bitter, slightly hoppy finish. Soft, medium body, bitter, a little dry finish.

We had to make it to Huddersfield that night and satisfy the craving for curry before, so we left after a single round and headed to The Fighting Cock. Located in the Lister Hills neighbourhood, pretty much in between the area where my ex’s friends used to live and the 1in12 club where they used to hang out, I had to slap myself when entering the place. The 19-year-old me would’ve had it so much better had she hung out there! It’s in a street corner, near a discount supermarket, with 2 or 3 rooms (been a while, so I forgot), all bustling with decor and awards and people! Lots of them! It was busy and we couldn’t find a vacant table, but two locals who saw us wandering immediately invited us to sit with them. You can get foreign bottled beer there, but we were there for the real-ale, and as local as possible. We started off with a Book Beer – Timothy Taylor’s Landlord from Keighley. a 3.5% abv. bitter, it pours light gold with white head. Pumpkin seeds and jasmine aroma, very little butterish taste, a little burning and mildly bitter. Medium body, long, nettle-like finish. The burning sensation in the end is very untypical, that’s for sure.

Next we had Geeve’s Smokey Joe. It’s a stout from Barnsley, and I couldn’t skip a beer with such a name, of course! Its aroma was great, with notes of chocolate, wood, old chocolate liquor and delicate smokiness. It’s a pretty good beer, however, despite the smoky notes in the mouth, neither the taste nor the body matched the awesomeness of the nose. Then, another local, Rat Against The Machine, an IPA from Rat Brewery from Huddersfield, yup, the following destination. Pretty good beer, with great citrus aroma and some grainy notes in the mouth. We continued with Bobs White Lion, an ok blond ale from Ossett, and since we had so much fun, we stayed for a third round. We had Copper Dragon Golden Pippin blond ale from Skipton – quite alright and very malty, and abother Book Beer – Pendle Witches Brew by Moorehouse’s. Coming from Burnley, Lancanshire, 26 miles south west of The Fighting Cock, this almost feels like a foreign beer. But I cannot blame the distance nor the pub for its poor performance. Judging from the 5 other pints and half-pints we had there, beer’s well-kept in that place; and 26 miles is practically around the corner, so the buttery, popcorn aroma and taste is, well, the beer. What a shame. We washed down the off flavour with delicious vegan portions at Punjab Sweet House, as recommended by our table buddies and headed to check out the pubs in Huddersfield.

 

Black Sheep Best Bitter, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Moorehouse’s Pendle Witches Brew are beers #404, #405 and #406 I Must Try Before I Die.

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Past Deadline

When I returned to work after the long Rosh HaShana weekend, The Beer Greek remarked that I flunked the deadline I gave myself. 300 ticks by Rosh Hashana, then by the end of the holiday. I know. I had life to attend to. What can I do?
It’s the morning of Yom Kippur now, time for me, non-observant, to catch up on all sorts of things, from laundry to travel plans to work (cos Paris and London and New York and Dublin don’t care much about Yom Kippur and neither does the tight schedule I’m on in real-life) – and to blog. So here it is – the 300 count-up!

Love this ad.

Love this ad.

Yesterday evening The Secret Agent’s metalhead cousin dropped by. Other than rum educational we opened our bottle of beer #289 – Estrella Damm Inedit. It’s a magnum bottle and we were looking for an opportunity to share it with someone. I fondly remembered this Belgian-style wheat beer, but last night’s bottle was a little oxidized. Hazy golden with a frothy white head – looks as elegant as the bottle – sweet, fruity aroma and sweet taste. Estrella Damm Inedit was created for El Bulli restaurant that was since closed but the beer is still in production. Sexy bottle, if there ever was one, but that’s it.

Then we opened another big-ish bottle, Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale, beer #290. I love Stone beer and so do the 1001 Beers book editors, as there are 4 beers from this brewery in the book. This American Strong Ale is both very hoppy, fruity AND chocolatey and no, it isn’t cacophonic at all.

this must be tattooed on more than one shoulder

this must be tattooed on more than one shoulder

Blixa and the first beer for the Jewish year

Blixa and the first beer for the Jewish year

Last week, in Rosh Hashana morning, right after I blogged, I opened a bottle of Fuller’s Honey Dew. Timing for beer #291 was perfect, as honey is a traditional new year food – for a sweet start. I try to avoid honey but beer is somewhat of an exception for everything in life.  The UK’s first organic beer pours honey-gold and smells like honey that was left standing and became sweeter and thicker. Honey also dominates the mouth but this is definitely a beer, and a good one, too, with nice maltiness, full body, and a lingering, honey-bitter finish.

Later that day we drank beer #292: Svyturys Ekstra – good-for-a-hot-day-on-the-beach kind of helles that smelled a little corny, even though it contains rice. The Secret Agent and I are not the target audience for beach beer .

Let’s move on – just before Rosh HaShana 4 of us gathered at the Dancing Camel Pub for a small tasting/ rating/ untapping/ ticking session. The Secret Agent didn’t join me, so I brought bottles that he could care less about, i.e. ‘exotic’ (i.e. nasty) lagers from Tahiti and Laos. Yup – after months of searching I finally found a bottle of Beerlao Lager – the light one, which is beer #293, another ricey beer. Hazy golden it poured – and I was expecting clear beer – corn and petrol aroma and unpleasing bitter sensation in the mouth. Ugh. Things got better when Dead Swedish Girl schlapped beer #294 – Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter. We’ll be in Yorkshire next week, but our beer sampling agenda is full already so I’m glad I got to taste this lovely roasty-smoky goodness. It tastes a little alcoholic and has these really cool hints of sausage that I’m a real sucker for – guilty pleasure for a 21 years vegetarian…  Beer #295 was a real tread – Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA from Eugene, OR. It’s a good one. Orange, clear-going-hazy with a big white head, faint hoppy aroma of onion peel and floral, oniony bitterness and a little dry – tasty and refreshing. Thank you Baseball Tom for getting your friend to bring it!

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5 more til the 300th beer in this project and I’ll stick to American beers, that dominate the book. Widmer Brothers Hefe Weizen is beer #296 and it is a disappointment: tasteless, aroma-less. This is probably yet another case of getting old bottles to the beer desert we live in, because seriously, our bottle was like a homebrew gone wrong and it can’t be the case. Earlier this year we sampled their Reserve Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout that was wonderful, so I’m sure it’s not the beer or the batch, but rather shipping, storing and handling of this specific bottle. Next.

Great Lakes Brewing Company from Cleveland’s been caught our attention lately, with curious beers such as Elliot Ness and Rye of the Tiger. They have 2 beers in the book: Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold is beer #297 and the second helles/ Dortmunder in this entry. As opposed to the Lithuanian beer above, this stuff is good: A little pickle juice, sweet and a little plastic aroma, sweet  and then bitter taste, pickly too. Medium body, fizzy and yet smooth, bitter finish. Nothing too complex, but something I’d be happy to drink again. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald got its own entry in the best beer blog I’ve ever seen: Beer Labels in Motion on tumblr- whata wonderful homage to a wonderful porter, that is beer #298: very dark ruby-red with tan head. Slightly roasty aroma with a little wine and condensed coffee, tastes roasty and bitter with a little cucumber(!) Medium bodied, slightly roasty finish, robust.

Last two beers in this loooong entry/list are brewed by Avery Brewing Co. from Colorado: beer #299 is Ellie’s Brown Ale is nice and complex: chocolate and warm carrot juice aroma, chocolate and malt taste. Medium body, soft chocolate finish. Avery The Maharaja is the second Double IPA in this post and it is also the very random beer #300 I Must Try Before I Die. It’s a hoppy beer with pine, many flowers and lychee notes that tastes a little old, yet bitter and hoppy with some almond bitterness too. Full body, long and bitter finish.

And now what? 701 more beers to try before I die. Got a couple more that I drank and haven’t written about – hopefully I’ll get to it in the next holiday, around Tuesday-Wednesday, a bunch of bottle in the fridge, an upcoming trip to Northern England and a long journey ahead. At least The Beer Greek won’t scold me tomorrow at work.

The History of Beer in New England

Last month I got to drink Gearys Hampshire Special Ale that turned out to be a disappointment. My beer buddies, who have tasted the beet before claimed that the bottle I shared with them was old and that it’s actually an alright beer. Since that tasting I shared another bottle from  D. L. Geary Brewing who are based in the beautiful city of Portland, Maine that I haven’t got to write about yet and then, a couple of weeks ago, bottles of Hampshire Special Ale and Summer Ale arrived via Beer of the Month Club. All these bottles call for a more thorough entry about Geary’s beer.

Pretty pretty

Plenty of the beer I drink is uncontextualized. I have a Google Spreadsheet with an alphabetical list by country of all the beers in the 1001 book and when I look for beer to order/ scam from traveling friends, I usually just randomly schlepp whatever I haven’t yet drank. I don’t bother reading about the beer, look at reviews etc. I would have, but I just don’t have the time for it really. Also, we don’t get to choose what Clubs of America decides to send each month and that’s another surprise. But a couple of minutes ago I put a context to Gearys. According to their website, they are New England’s first microbrewery. To those who wonder whether Boston moved down south and parted with New England, D.L. Geary Brewing Company was incorporated in 1983, whereas Boston Brewing Company, that’s Samuel Adams for you, was founded in 1984. Yet, the first pints of Gearys were sold in December 10 1986, some two weeks before Status Quo took the #1 chart in the Israeli annual top 40 with In The Army Now. I’m not a historian and not the one to judge here. I’m a drinker. I drank Gearys Pale Ale and thought it was a nice beer. English Pale Ale in style,  Clear-to-hazy dark orange liquid with white head that smelled of pear, flowers and some alcohol and was delicately bitter.  It was lightly carbonated, had a soft, hoppy finish and a light body. The brewery states that Gearys Pale Ale is their flagship beer and out of the three I drank  it is indeed the best.

Whaaat? Here it says est. 1986. I’m puzzled.

The Secret Agent and I opened our bottle of  Gearys Summer Ale in a hot and muggy summer night, hoping for something light and refreshing. It started promising: clear golden-honey colour, small white head. It lightly smelled of  honey and also had apricot and bubblegum notes. Taste was sweet and somewhat alcoholic. Medium bodied, sleek texture, alcoholic finish. This is also a nice beer, but whereas the sweetness and alcohol may be suitable to summertime in Maine, it is just too heavy for Tel Aviv’s heat and humidity.

the label isn’t that pretty.

Last night we drank the Hampshire Special Ale again. I’m glad to say that my buddies were right and the beer is alright, but with Sweet malt caramel, ripe fruit aroma and a medicinal, alcoholic bitterness with hints of acetone in the mouth, it’s nothing more than that.

Conclusions? Don’t have any. Those beers are OK to drink if they are available in your area. Unless you are on a mission, don’t waste too much time or energy hunting for them.

Geary’s Pale Ale is beer #86 I must try before I die.

The Twistier The Better

Harviestoun’s Bitter and Twisted is one of the coolest beers you can get here in Israel, if and when you can get it. Distributed by one Benny Krieger, a Glasgow Celtics fan who fell in love with Scottish beer and imports beer for self-consumption and pocket money for his trips to one of my top-3 favourite cities (together with Berlin and Montreal).

Like a few other beer importers in this country, Benny does it out of passion. It’s not his main business, supply is not always steady and after The Secret Agent drank the bottle of Bitter and Twister we had in our stash a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t find it at the shops. Hunting was easy, though. The Big Bear’s brewery, HaDubim, was pouring at Benny’s village, so he dropped by at Benny’s for a visit. I called the latter in the morning and got the Big Bear delivering me a couple of bottles. Thanks, guys!

Why do I like Bitter and Twisted so much (besides the obvious – the cute mouse on the label)? Because it tastes great when it’s fresh, bitter, grainy and malty, with matching grainy, biscuit and caramel aroma. It has a medium body and it’s super-easy and refreshing to drink, perfect for the summer. We drank Harviestoun’s lager, Schiehallion, at the BrewDog tasting not too long ago. I hope both become more available at stores and in pubs this summer.

Meanwhile, here’s beer #60 I must try before I die. And here, to your right, on the sidebar, is a link to The Beer Gatherer’s new Facebook page. If you like us, Like us.

Temple of the Dog

I’ve been completing an Excel sheet to help me tracking down my progress through the 1001 book, and while transferring data I couldn’t help but notice the relative abundance of breweries that are either called Dog-Something, or have dogs on the label, or call specific beers after dogs.

In the world of Fat Dog, Alpha Dog and even Dogfish Head, there is one dog that makes beergeeks drool like a rabid British Bulldogs: Scotland’s favourite son, BrewDog, that is.

Tomer, owner of the Goose Pub in Kibbutz Ein Shemer, whiskey aficionado and also a BrewDog shareholder, mail ordered a stock of BD stuff. Shachar got a hold of a couple of other Scottish brews. Dagan donated his wife’s scrapbook store and bought bread and spreads, us laypeople schlepped the Geld and thus a tasting was born.

The bottles and our charming host Dagan. thanks DSG for the pics.

We started with a soon-to-be-marketed in Israel lager by Harviestoun, that carries the catchy name Schiehallion. Clear, golden bubbly liquid that bore crisp orange aroma and malt and has a bitter, fruity taste with a sweet finish. It’s a decent beer and one I’ll sure drink again once it’s commercially available here.

Some cases of Butcombe Brunel IPA made their way to Israel. We got to sample this decent clear copper liquid that has a sweet malty aroma that bore some hints of honey and rich, delicate bitter taste – malty and round.  Those nice, potentially everyday drinks, preceded the evening’s real deal, that started with a bottle of BrewDog 77 Lager, Equity for Punks version. Don’t think there’s a difference from the regular other than the EFP logo on the label. The Secret Agent and I drank it before and actually liked it much better before. Whereas in January I was raving about rich, fresh bitter taste, this time I sensed sour and mellower bitter. also, didn’t smell much besides some lemon. It’s a good beer, it was good in this tasting, just not awesomely amazing. We then shared another bottle, that smelled of sweet old malt and tasted better – no sourness this time, but still, far from being awesomely amazing.

Trashy Blonde was better. Cloudy, almost opaque golden in colour, I smelled marjoram and evergreen and tasted delicately bitter ale with a light body and lively fizz. 5 A.M Saint is another beer that I wish was commercially available here – a great beer for everyday drinking. Clear dark copper in colour, light tan head, with pineapple and evergreen aroma and sweet, pineapple undertones beneath the bitter taste. Light body, balanced with an abrupt bitter finish.

Alice Porter was the first BrewDog beer in this tasting we haven’t drank before. Dark purple-black in colour, dark tan head, it has a chocolate liquor with faint smoke aroma and a nice bitter taste. Its body is light, texture is sleek, carbonation is mild and was nice overall. After that, back to the familiar realms of Hardcore IPA, an old bottle, then new. I liked them both, but the new bottle was better: Clear copper in colour, as opposed to the cloudy honey of the old drink, green, hemp, evergreen aroma as opposed to apple cider notes I smelled in the old, better taste, sweet, then bitter, a little more carbonation and sweet finish.

At this point the tasting turned into the event we were all waiting for and the interesting bottles were popped open. Abstrakt 08, bottle #1081 out of 6500. Clear dark golden in colour, with sweet roast, bonfire, potato aroma and taste that alternates between alcoholic and sweet bonfire smokiness. Faint smoke aftertaste, oily texture and light body. Thoroughly enjoyable. Then we made another turn from BrewDog, this time to Belgium. Embrasse Peated Oak Aged (Whiskey-Cask) by De Dochter van de Korenaar comes wrapped in delicate pink-red paper wrap. that hides aggressive aromas and gentler tastes. Tasting notes are similar to those you’d read in anything related to Islay distilleries: fuel, peat, smoke, salt. Texture is smooth, carbonation – delicate. This beer made me happy.

I drank Paradox before. Don’t remember which, but do remember I loved it. In this tasting we had both Isle of Arran and Smokehead – collaborations with two distilleries, cask-aged beer. Arran reveals black, opaque, headless liquid with dry, somewhat smokey aroma and dry bitter taste with hints of wine and faint smokiness. Smooth, sweet finish, no carbonation and good, but not as amazing as Paradox Smokehead. The latter is opaque dark brown in colour, with a condensed tan head that smells of smoke and burnt tires and tastes bitter, like liquid smoke. It’s a smooth brew, with smokey finish and light carbonation. I know next-to-nothing about whiskey, but I’m easy to buy with beer that shares features with distilled barley.

Smokehead must have been my favourite in this session, but the tasting wasn’t over: Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Paradox’ hardcore, nasty cousin, was poured to our tasting glasses and goblets, after being aged, iced, bottled and shipped: Headless opaque beer with brutal tearing tar and miso aroma that brought tears in my eyes. Taste was umami more than anything else – sweet, salty, a little chocolatey, very alcoholic and weirdly amazing. Smooth, oily, very mild carbonation and so, so good.

It was a long tasting and quite a heavy one. Thank you Tomer for your generousity and for bringing me one step further to the finish line. Paradox and Schiehallion are both in the book. #46 and #47 beers I must try before I die.

Hangin’ Out With The Coopers

 

Y.D, one of the major Importers of beer and spirits, has recently began marketing Australia’s only major family-owned beer (and homebrewing products) makers, Cooper’s. That’s a weird beer to import, considering that their portfolio consists of macros, such as Estrella, Miller, Bass, Urquell and La Trappe as well as Australia’s own Foster’s. Rumors are that a family member drank this Cooper’s in a private holiday Down Under, got hooked up and a container dull of bottles followed his return. In a perfect world this person’s next holiday destination would be West Coast U.S.

Out of Cooper’s wide portfolio, three ales are available here. Out of the three Cooper ales that are listed in 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die, two are available here. One is the wonderful Cooper’s Best Extra Stout, that smells roasty with a hint of iodine, looks good – opaque and almost black in colour – and tastes bitter and rougher that most commercial stouts available; that’s how I like my stouts.

 

The second is the rather disappointing beer with the rather redundant name Cooper’s Sparkling Ale. English not being my first language, I must admit that the first association I had reading the beer’s name was, well, sparkles. As in glitter. Yup, not an average beer’s natural condition, but rather something that My Little Pony fans would think of (moi? of course not! The MLP I bought for our niece a few years back is an educational toy! It is!! I swear!!! [and she lives to far away for me to enjoy it, ok?]) It took a beer lover and a reminder of the literal translation for me to get the idea.

Anyway, Cooper’s Sparkling Ale pours sparkly smells sweet, light cookie dough and oranges and tastes like strawberry soda, childish taste that has no room in beer or in a beer-lover’s mouth. Light body, fizzy with a fruity and WTF question mark floating in the air as the taste is leaving the tongue.

But there’s a third beer, that may not be in the book, but is worth mentioning: Cooper’s Original Pale Ale is a well-balanced golden ale with grass and malt aroma (and also a little vegetable soup), bitter, lemon and grass taste that make room for roasty flavour and delicate bitter finish. This would be a great summer beer.

Cooper’s Best Extra Stout and Cooper’s Sparkly Ale are #44 and #45 beers I must try before I die.

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