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 “Irish Beer”

4 in 1

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The night before I flew to my Austro-Hungarian holiday, we’ve been to a tasting at the training room in my old workplace. There were 4 Book Beers in this tasting, a rare thing these days because it’s harder to get a hold on the remaining several hundreds, and moreover, people are more thrilled looking for new and fancy beers than the ones in the book. Cannot blame them really. However, The Beer Greek was kind enough to buy a bottle of Timmermans Framboise Lambic, that everybody, including him, and probably including me, has already drank, as it was distributed in Israel in the past. It’s a lambic with some additives, that pours clear-to-hazy reddish-brown and smells  sugary and of raspberry syrup. Tastes sourish, lots of fruity sweetness. Light body, soft fizz, long sweet finish. Tastes like children’s syrup.

Sailor Tom, who’s been spending most of his time in Ireland now, and always brings cool stuff, shared a bottle of Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale and by that I finished all Irish beers from The Book. Yay! Not only that, but about a month early, Sailor Tom brought Northern Ireland’s representative – Clotworthy Dobbin. Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale is actually an APA, but the bottle was probably a wee bit old, and the main motif of my tasting notes was “old hops”. Not too bitter, on the fruity side of things. Clotworthy Dobbin, by Whitewater brewery, was a pretty decent porter. No novelty, no gimmicks, but tasty and balanced. Sweet and nutty aroma, with a little chocolate as well. Nutty taste, slightly bitter and toasty, then sweet. Lightish body, chocolate and nutty finish.

More from the British Isles, a bottle of Exmoor Gold, a golden ale from Somerset, regionally distributed, got it from a trade. Clear golden with a white head. Paper and a little moldy aroma, sweet and old taste. Light body, stale and sweet finish. Not too amazing.

I also shared a bottle of Smuttynose’s Doppelbock, S’muttonator, that my brother got for me in California, I think. Hazy brown with a beige head. Old grapes and dark fruit aroma, sweet, dark fruit taste. Full body, very fizzy and boozy finish.

When we finished the tasting we visited the new brewery. I worked there for almost 2 years and was always too busy or stressed out to go any further from the soft drink bottling line, that was a shortcut to the canteen. So I took a picture:

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Timmermans Framboise Lambic, Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, Clotworthy Dobbin,Exmoor Gold and Smuttynose S’muttonator, are beers #439, #440, #441, #442 and #443 I Must Try Before I Die.

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Agent Orange

Despite the hiatus, i still do follow the 1001 book. Ticking overseas, talking friends into scoring me stuff when they are overseas, maintaining a mail-order schedule – the lot. Everything’s documented in a google spreadsheet, shared with beer buddies and potential traders and everything’s colour-coded: pink-on its way to me; blue – a drinking buddy has a bottle; red – own it; light blue – drank it; green – blogged about it. And there’s another colour code, orange – available in Israel. I have always treated code orange beers, compiled with the help of the local crew, as something that’s simply here to stay and never rushed to blog about them.
My bad. My bad and I know it. Hell, Samuel Adams Double Bock’s been off the range for a couple of years now and it’s still orange-coded. I should be paying more attention to the domestic inventory and today I’ve learned my lesson. We were visiting Shachar of Beer and Beyond fame this afternoon. Don’t remember why but he opened the list. I explained the colours to him and his first comment was that soon there will be no O’hara’s in the unholy land. This declaration was followed by a brief update about the departure of Zatec (had we only known two weeks ago, while vacationing in Prague…), Voll Damm (had I known 2 months ago while in the Canary Islands 😦 ) and Wells Banana Bread Beer (if only we were aware of it in September, in our beer trip in Northern England (right. As if we would’ve bothered then…)).
From Shachar’s we went to visit my gradma. Distraught, i phoned Porter and Sons and inquired about the availability of O’Hara’s stout. They still had it on tap, so from savta’s we headed straight there, sat in  the corner, asked maybe they still had a stray bottle of Wells Banana Bread, got a no for an answer and ordered, a glassful of O’Hara’s Irish Stout, maybe for the last time ever. A little creamy, a little dry, smooth and bitter. Looking tjrough my Untapped account I had drank it a few times over the past year. It is just that the beer was so everywhere that I thought i could procrastinate.
So O’Hara’s Irish Stout is beer #310 i must try before i die and this entry was typed entirely on my cellphone. Forgive the typos, ignore the carpal tunnel syndrome.
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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.

Back in Black

Still the same excuse for slowing down: work, work, work. But I AM determined to reach 300 by Rosh HaShana, which is 2 weeks or so from today.
On today’s menu are three stouts, vary by style and country. First is Porterhouse Oyster Stout from Ireland. Breawed with fresh oysters, it smells a little salty, with notes of seaweed, ink and lots of sweet coffee. It’s bitter, slightly salty and bears hints of ash in the mouth. Full-bodied, smooth textured and weak carbonation. I loved it – well made.

Next is El Toro Negro Oatmeal Stout from California – black with a pretty tan head, rich aroma, oatmeal-ish with a little ash and roast. Rich, roasty, robust taste with this cool cocoa bittersweetness. Full body, some carbonation, long, cocoa finish and general awesomeness.

Last one for today is Carib Royal Extra Stout from Trinidad & Tobago. The bottle we sampled was quite old, but I’m not sure how good it is when fresh. Better, for sure, but doubt it bears any greatness. It’s a sweet beer. The definition of sweet beer, even. The aroma is faintly roasty but mainly smells of sweet chocolate drink, cardboard and sugar and it really tastes like sweet coffee. After the sweet coffee comes the sugar injection. Pretty intense and far from being great.

Porterhouse Oyster Stout, El Toro Negro Oatmeal Stout and Carib Royal Extra Stout are beers #279, #280 and #281 I Must Try Before I Die.

None More Black.

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There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

(Nigel Tufnel, This Is Spinal Tap)

The 1001 Beers book is filled with BS. We have finished around 25% of the book and in the 100+ entries bumped into quite a few mediocre brews and a bunch of beers that for lack of more powerful words can be only described as atrocities. Many of the beers that fall to the above-written adjectives are products of Big Breweries. The object of this post is a Diageo product, but one that doesn’t need a 1001 beers list: it belongs to *any* must-try beer list. Like it or not – Guinness is a classic, a must-try, which can’t be ignored. In fact, it is such an attention whore that it is listed 3 times in the book!

I am not a big Guinness fan. I usually like my stouts to be drier and roastier and Big Brewery stouts tend to feel too crowd-pleasing in my mouth. When I go out to a common bar that stocks the local duopoly’s products, I’d usually opt for a German wheat beer or the local, ever popular Goldstar (mental note: gotta write about Goldstar already!). But when I do crave Guinness I become a picky bitch: I’d only drink it in places known for their Guinness, where the pipes and taps are being taken care of and the kegs are replaced within a couple of days tops.

This is why The Secret Agent and I walked to Amiram’s Pub the other week. This small, homey, quiet public house is located in the northern part of the city, in a quiet corner just across the street from the busy clubbing area, Tel Aviv Port. I saw Amiram for the first time many years ago, before The Secret Agent and I moved to Tel Aviv – hell, it was even before we met really – the outer mural, lack of any sign and the fact that it was always closed when I passed by it on Friday nights misled me to think that it’s some sort of Guinness training/ marketing center. I tried to google pictures of the outside, but instead found many photos from our Hebrew blog, so you’ll have to trust me on that.

Anyway, Amiram is one of the city’s oldest existing pubs – it’s been around since the 1970’s, family owned and operated, sold a couple of years ago to a customer, and was recently sold back to the family.

trinkets and clutter!

trinkets and clutter!

The small space, not much bigger than a living room, is filled with souvenirs, old liquor bottles and beerchendise from days of yore. We sat on a wooden table, in front of the best promo shot Guinness ever did and drank our glasses of black gold. Amiram’s Guinness pours perfectly, with a finger-thick creamy tan head and no shamrock doodling. It starts with a delicate chocolate aroma followed by delicately bitter taste that my tongue that’s so used to hardcore-coffee-wooden stouts finds hard to grasp. The body is medium and the finish is delicate and smooth, a little watery even. With all the merchandise and dedication, Amiram Pub probably pours a perfect pint, but the beer itself is, well, Big-Brew stout.

Other than Guinness as we know it, the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die lists two other Guinnesses. The first is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout a %7.5 abv,  sold in bottles and marketed all over. Shachar shared it in a recent tasting and I liked it alot: wine, a little roast, a little fruit, a little sugar and coffee aroma and roasty, coffee, bitter taste. The beer has full body and roasty dry finish and is less creamy than the usual Guinness. It is not a nice beer and I like it for this.  In that tasting we also tried Guinness Special Export – Belgian version of the Foreign Extra Stout with 8% abv. that’s brewed in Ireland especially for Benelux. Its aroma is little milky and fruity with rich chocolate notes, and its taste is dry and reminds me of bittersweet chocolate. Chocolate is present in the finish and the body is lighter than the regular, slightly less alcoholic Foreign Extra Stout.

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in the pic: genuine quality and a bottle of guinness

The third Guinness in the book is also Guinness Foreign Extra – the Nigerian version. Same abv. as the regular Foreign Extra, but brewed locally since colonial times. Apparently Nigeria is the second largest market for Guinness in the world. Marketing strategy and campaigns over there are local – no Bloomsday or Saint Patrick, but rather football and local imagery. The Irish harp logo remains though. The Beer Greek brought a can of Nigerian Guinness from a business trip. It smells sweet, fruity, faintly alcoholic like cheap wine and has some blackcurrants too – a rather nice aroma actually. It tastes like sweet wine and thankfully its texture lacks the nitro-smoothness that I usually don’t like. Full-bodied, fizzy with a long, fruity finish and quite interesting.

Out of the four, the I think that the Irish Foreign Extra Stout is the best, but nothing beats Amiram’s ambiance.

All three Guinnesses have rightfully gained their pages in the book and Guinness, Guinness Foreign Extra (Ireland) and Guinness Foreign Extra (Nigeria) are beers #242, #243 and #244 I Must Try Before I Die.

Four on the Go

For the first time in many weekends I can say I had a rest. Between high productivity and task-ticking and beer tasting and nuts going I had a blissful 10-hour sleep, ate a hearty breakfast, watched 2 episodes of Breaking Bad and snuggled with the cats. I still can’t upload our notes from the trip to Basel and Zürich because the photos haven’t been photoshopped yet. The Secret Agent’s been insanely busy since we came back, but it shall come. Meanwhile, to thin down the ever-growing beers to blog about list, here’s a bunch of beers we tasted recently. No particular order, no weird story, no anecdotes, just thinning down the list.

marston_pedigree   I rarely hit the stores these days as we’ve been getting our fix from deliveries and gifts, but last month I stopped by the neighbourhood alco shop on my way home from the bus or something and that’s where I bought a bottle of Marston’s Pedigree. As usual, when The Secret Agent is not around, I forgot to look at the best before date and thus got a bottle that in a normal country would have not been sold. Expired in May 2012, its presence on the shelf shouldn’t surprise those who are familiar with the players in the local industry, importers and merchants alike. It’s a country of scammers.

I can only blame myself: I was too lazy to go out and return the bottle (or just couldn’t bear listening once again to the local salespeople’s catchphrase used when faced with dated beer: “oh, it’s alcohol, it never goes bad”. Yeah, especially in the great storage condition, by your southernmost window). Anyway, we drank the beer that felt old indeed. Bready and fruity in the nose, soft bitterness in the mouth with hints of fruit, like suckling on a peach pit. No rich maltiness remained and that’s a shame. Although the beer wasn’t bad, it was clearly not what the brewmaster had in mind.

ohara_irish_redAnyway, the O’Hara’s Irish Red I bought at the same store was good, date-wise. It was also good beer-wise. A little on the light side, sweetish, with caramel aroma and flavour and also some wine. A decent beer that I enjoyed and The Secret Agent enjoyed less, because for him it was too sweet.

IPA Samuraj by Czech Brewery Kocour was poured (from a plastic bottle!) at a recent tasting. Shachar, who has a link to my list, brought it from Beer and Beyond’s latest trip to the Czech Republic. An American-style IPA, from a Czech brewery, poured from plastic bottle. The disastrous potential was gone as soon as my nose met its aroma, which was grassy and skunky, but in a good way. It tasted green and bitter and almost dry and had a delicate fizz and a long finish. Not the best IPA I have ever had and it probably would have not made it too the book had it not come from the Land of Saaz, but nevertheless it’s an OK brew.

IPA-Samurai

The last beer in this list is Sprecher Hefe Weiss from Wisconsin. What is supposed to be a German-style wheat beer ended up being too spicy and too bitter for a hefe. We didn’t like it in General and didn’t find anything German in it in particular. That’s quite disappointing. sprecher-hefeweiss

Marston’s Pedigree, O’Hara’s Irish Red, IPA Samuraj and Sprecher Hefe Weiss are beers #150, #151, #152 and #153 I Must Try Before I Die.

The Big Recap

Over the past few weeks we have accumulated dozens of tasting notes. The thought of turning all of them into an entry makes me cringe, so here’s the dozen that’s also in the book. Chronology makes no sense in this sort of entry, so stuff is sorted out according to the 1001 Beers You Must Try  Before You Die chapters: Amber, Blond, Dark and Special. Arbitrary, sort of, but if it works, it works.

We got our bottle of Alesmith IPA from The Secret Agent’s parents, who visited the Californian branch back in February. We loved this beer. Pours hazy amber  with a frothy white head, papaya, lime and hemp aroma and an extremely, bitter, green taste. Medium body, soft carbonation and a nice bitter finish close one of the best IPA’s I’ve tasted to date.

Before the start

Left Hand Sawtooth Ale has one of the ugliest labels I’ve seen in a long while. Like a scary number of fellow beergeeks I am a left-handed and thus have a soft spot for the brewery’s name. My default sympathy didn’t really help the beer, which was ok, but not too thrilling. Orangy copper colour, hazy, little light tan head. Hoppy aroma – light evergreen, flowery. Delicate bitterness in the mouth. Smooth texture, medium body, delicate finish.

The (very soon to be) Texan got his bottle of Grottenbier in the strangest trade of all: beer for mini copies of Hebrew-printed Psalms book. Yes he did. Was it worth it? In my opinion it was. A pretty decent beer for some useless pieces of paper. It’s a decent beer that  poured dark brown and had a cloudy, off-white head. Sweet spicy aroma – clove and nutmeg, Mildly sweet and spicy taste, a little anise. Heavy-medium body, lively carbonation, long, tangy finish.

Gearys Hampshire Special Ale was quite a disappointment. We all agreed that there was something wrong with the bottle. Murky honey colour, aroma that reminded me of pink Bazooka Joe bubblegum and band-aid. It tasted sweet, then weirdly bitter. Pretty ugh.

The Actuary’s wife went to Cyprus with her work, and brought back a bottle of Leon, a shitty Cyprian beer, and three bottles of Brasserie Du Bocq’s La Gauloise.  La Gauloise Blonde, so I have discovered while flipping through the book, is there, surprisingly enough in the Blond category. Cloudy pale golden, bubbly white foam. Candy, caramel, conserved peach aroma and bitter-sweet taste. Light body, smooth finish. Drank better Belgian ales in my life, but fair enough.

The BeerGreek, before the tasting and just before becoming a dad for the second time,

I have recently created a Google Docs spreadsheet to help me follow the mission. The Dead Swedish Girl asked me to share the list with him. He went through and spotted Birra Moretti Baffo D’Oro that The big Bear’s dad brought from Italy. We drank it at a beer tasting I have already written about, but overlooked it on my list. Not much to write about. It’s a generic pale lager. You drank one, you drank most.

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale is another story though. A little skunky aroma and overall hoppy bitterness in the mouth and finish, this one was decent beer.

We drank a bunch of cool dark beers, too: Porterhouse Wrasslers XXXX Stout was one of the better bottles opened in a small, homey tasting The Secret Agent and I hosted last week. Rich smokey, peaty aroma accompanied by berries and a smokey, acetic, bitter taste. I live for smoked beer.

Saranac Black Forest was quite disappointing as well. I like Schwarzbier but this one wasn’t more than fair: Velvety wine-grapes aroma, grainy, somewhat sweet malt taste.

But I loved, loved Victory Storm King! Black liquid, frothy tan head, soft, bitter taste and a rich wine and chocolate liquor aroma. Well-carbonated, pretty easy to drink despite the 9.1%abv. My only complaint is the too-short finish.

I think it was Middie Bear who fixed us with a bottle of Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout. Don’t know how this HopHead put his paws on this one, but I sure don’t complain; roast was everywhere: in the nose (along with some alcohol and liquor), in the mouth (accompanied by bitterness) and in the finish. Texture was oily, beer was great.

one of the cutest beer-label dogs around 🙂

How does AriHell find people who deliver him exotic and obscure beer is beyond my comprehension, but that’s a skill I’d like to learn. He is the one who brought Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere to the table (along with another dog-endorsed label).  It’s a mild-tasting Saison, sour in the mouth and  pissful litter-box aroma. Pretty hardcore with complementary cloudy golden colour.

So that’s it for now. Attended a festive tasting last night and again crashing into a sour tasting tonight, so more posts are on their way. Meanwhile, those were 12 more beers I Must Try Before I Die: 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73.

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