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 “Dunkel”

Stuff I drank in Prague – Day 1

In January 2014 – boy, that’s almost a year and a half ago! – The Secret Agent took me to Prague for my birthday. The one good thing about being a January kid, is that airfare and accommodation are rather cheap. In return, you get frozen ovaries, but hey, there are sales that compensate for that!

We spent a weekend in a suite in the posh Mamaison hotel, right by the river and a 10 seconds walk from the Hemingway Bar. To this day I hate myself for not visiting one of the  world’s best bars that was practically around the corner. We ate lots of amazing vegan food and of course, drank lots of beer. As usual, we created google maps using Happy Cow for food reference and Ratebeer for beer, but this time, we also watched the relevant Beer Hunter episode. 20+ years after it was first aired and some of the places are still standing.

It’s been a long time, but with the help of Ratebeer and Dear Diary, here’s a log of our beer adventures in Prague.

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First His&Hers of the trip

We landed on Friday morning. After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we entered the nearest beer place, U Tří Růží, or The Three Roses Brewpub.They serve their own beer, no guest beers on tap when we were there, that were traditional Czech brews. Nice place, but not a top priority, if your schedule is tight. Our next stop was U Medvídků, a brewpub known for their X33-Beer, a 12.6% abv. doppelbock, world’s strongest lager, they claim. It was probably true once. It was unavailable on Tap or bottled when we were there, as they brew it seasonally, so instead, I opted for Budweiser Budvar Dark Tmavý Ležák, that’s (Czech) Budweizer Dark for you. Because when in Prague you drink the classics – Tankova, of course.  Very dark brown with light beige head. A little roasty and caramel aroma, slightly bitter and a little dry taste. Full body, light carbonation, sweet – a little honey finish. It was good! As for X33-Beer – Armed with references and addresses, Metalhead Cousin and his girlfriend spent Passover in Prague, and brought us a bottle. Too strong and alcoholic for my taste: hazy, fizzy brown. A little spicy and caramel aroma and a little alcoholic. Alcoholic, sugary and sweet taste. Smooth and silky, very sugary and full-bodied.

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After a short nap in the hotel we headed out to U Fleků, perhaps Prague’s most famous pub. They serve food, cater to locals and tourists alike, with a band that’s playing. We weren’t there for the very carnist menu or for the music, but for the one beer they serve there, U Fleků Flekovský Tmavý Ležák, which is considered one of the best Dunkel beers in the world, and I must agree: very dark brown with a hard beige head that leaves a pretty lace. Grainy, caramel aroma but all in all rather faint. Sweet, roasty and a little nutty taste. Smooth, medium-bodied, slightly roasty finish.

Following Michael Jackson’s footsteps, we headed toPivovarský Dům- a 2-story place (street level and basement) not too far from the center that’s known for its creative, flavourful beers. The one I tolerated the most was their Nettle beer that had a neon-green colour and really tasted of nettle and sage. Dům Štěpán Český Klasický Ležák Světlý
is a pilsner and it’s also in the book – not very true-to-style though – hazy gold with a quick dissolving white head. Malt and butter aroma, lemon/ citrusy, butter and some salt in the mouth. Medium-bodied, salted butter finish, carbonated but a little creamy too.

We then crossed the street to Nota Bene, a basement bar with plenty of Czech craft beer that did good to our tasting buds and also some imports. Found Belgian beer Piraat there, that’s also in the book, but I already blogged about it.

Our first day in Prague ended with 3 hours of sleep the night before, a short nap and 19 different beers. Miraculously, no hangover the following morning.

Budweiser Budvar Dark Tmavý Ležák, U Medvídků X33-Beer, U Fleků Flekovský Tmavý Ležák 13°, Dům Štěpán Český Klasický Ležák Světlý are beers #428, #429, #430 and #431 I Must Try Before I Die.

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Not So Quiet on the Eastern Front

svyturys_baltas niksicko-tamno union_temno karlovacko-pivo Birra_Tirana Utenos_Porter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some (formerly) Eastern Block beers I tried and tasted – a few were traded, others were shared by good friends and some were bought here in Israel.

Birra Tirana from Albania is the first beer that appears in the country index. The woman who gave birth to the Dead Swedish Girl is a tour guide and provides us with plenty of pissy lagers and country ticks from her excursions. Birra Tirana is a European pale lager that smells like corn, wet paper and simple syrup and tastes sweet and papery – quite horrible, as you can guess.

A good trade with Marko, a Slovanian ratebeerian,  yielded a can of Karlovačko Pivo, second Croatian Beer in the book (first is Tomislav Pivo, which I blogged about exactly 2 years ago. Karlovačko Pivo smells of some hops, some butter and a little metal, tastes very oxidized and a little sweet. Light body, metallic finish. Not quite amazing, either.

Marko also sent me Union Temno Pivo and Nikšićko Tamno. The first is a great Dunkel from Slovenia. It pours Black with tan head, and has a little ash and slightly smoky aroma, with a smoked fish taste and just a little sweetness. Smooth, medium-bodied, faint, smoky finish. Very drinkable, smokey and surprisingly good. The second is a Schwartzbier from Montenegro. It smells of grain, very little roast and bread, tastes bitter, dusty and a little dry taste. Medium-going-light body and an unpleasing bitter finish. Not amazing, really.

And finally, two beers from Lithuania, that are available here in Israel, at some wine shops and supermarkets that cater to Russian consumers. Svyturys Baltas, a German-style wheat beer, pours cloudy blond with a frothy white head. It has peach and a little guava spicy aroma, and a taste that’s somewhat spicy, yeasty, bittersweet and a little tarty. Slightly light-bodied, a little too watery with some spices in the finish. There are better options for Hefe lovers here, but it’s not too bad.Utenos Porteris is Baltic Porter – a quite fine example of the style. Captain Tom shared it in the winter. It smells sweet and syrupy, like grade B maple syrup or maybe date honey. Sweetish maltiness and dried dark fruit greets the mouth. Medium-bodied, smooth-textured. Nice. A little too sweet but works just fine.


Birra Tirana, Karlovačko Pivo, Union Temno Pivo, Nikšićko Tamno, Svyturys Baltas and Utenos Porteris are Beers #370, #371, #372, #373, #374 and #375 I Must Try Before I Die. There are tons of Czech beers I need to write about, but they fall under the procrastination category.

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).

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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.

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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

A and B in a Nutshell

I had zero expectations from Alhambra Negra. Brewed by a Carlsberg-owned Spanish brewery, commercial and Dunkel. I was glad to find out that it’s an easy-to-drink beer, raisin-smelling and fruity but still bitter in the mouth. Nothing outstanding but its light body and mild flavours make Alhambra Negra an alright alternative for summery pale lagers.

It’s definitely better than 3 Fonteinen Beersel Lager. The latter sure stands out compared to better known Belgian lagers such as Stella Artois and Jupiler (if you haven’t watched this gem brought to us by Swedish TV, please do. It’s quite amusing), but it’s still not very good or exciting. Cloudy golden with white head. Smelly peach, a little cardboard and perfumed sweetness. Bitter and rather watery taste. Medium-to-light body, mild fizz, bitter finish.

 

Alhambra Negra and Beersel Lager are beers #233 and #234 I Must Try Before I Die.

 

I Can’t Believe It’s Weekend

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all blurry after the tasting

Good company, yummy vegan pizza, hoppy tea and plenty of beer – even though Thursday was a work day and Friday-Saturday are far from being fun, with homework and gym task, Wednesday’s tasting felt like a grand opening for a fabulous weekend. It could’ve been a fab weekend, had I not dug my own career-driven grave with textbooks in lieu of a shovel.

Anyway, a great tasting it was. 20 beers, 5 of which are book material! Sagres Bohemia from Portugal. The book that accompanies this blog says that the best spot to drink this beer is Cervejaria Trindade in Lisbon. I wish. See, I list just about EVERYTHING and Portugal is listed in my Top 15 Countries to Visit. Sadly, it is not on The Secret Agent’s top-15 list (that’s basically constructed of the 16 German Bundesländer) so there are no plans to visit there anytime soon. The ambiance at out Tel Avivian tasting was great, but apparently not as great as Cervejaria Trindade’s. No reason to gush over this beer in Tel Aviv. Fruity, bready and a little metallic aroma and a sweet and nasty taste that I didn’t get. The Beer Greek says it tastes like vomit. I guess it’s  one of those beers that you need to drink in a specific location to enjoy.Cerveja Sagres BohemiaAllagash Tripel Reserve, on the other hand, was awesome. Our beer peers are mostly hop-heads and tend to be pretty jaded towards anything remotely Belgian. This surprised us all for the better. Hazy-to-cloudy amber with white head and this Belgian aroma of yeast, bubblegum, spices and chemicals. It tastes fruity, spicy and juicy and feels a little like wheat beer – very tasting and very fulfilling.

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Then we had a Belgian Belgian beer: Malheur Dark Brut with its surprising 12% abv. is a nice and complex ‘digestif’ brew. Very dark, opaque brown, sand-coloured head and an interesting chocolate-mint aroma that’s accompanied with a little fruitiness. It tastes mildly sweet and fruity, there’s cherry in the mouth, but not in a sour-beer sort of way. After a moment comes pleasing chocolate sweetness. It has a full body, a little chocolate in the finish and an alright carbonation. Note that alcohol is not mentioned in the tasting notes – keep in mind the 12% abv!

Malheur Dark Brut

Hair of the Dog Adam is a 10% abv. Dortmunder from Portland, Oregon, that has an uncompromising, complex aroma: ink, squid, sugary-sweetness, prone and very faint smokiness and an edgy, very bitter taste that also has fruit and prune notes. Full body, smooth, fruity finish with raisins – a rich, interesting beer.

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5th beer in this Tasting was Old Stock Ale by North Coast Brewing, vintage 2012 that Big Bear says is the lightest barley wine he has ever tasted. It’s a nice beer, but aging would have done good to it. Shame we didn’t wait. Clear reddish brown, with alcohol, honey and some chocolate in the nose – aroma which is sweet and bitter alike – Very sweet, slightly bitter and dry in the mouth, syrupy texture, medium-to-full body, mildly carbonated and an alcoholic finish.

Old-Stock-2012

So… Sagres Bohemia, Malheur Dark Brut, Allagash Tripel Reserve, Adam by Haid of the Dog and North Coast Old Stock Ale are beers #209, #210, #211, #212 and #213 I Must Try Before I Die. Off to bed to get some sleep!

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