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 “Italian Beer”

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!

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Das Boot

Been a while since I blogged about Italian beers. I like Italian beers and so does The Book. Both innovative in taste and design and with strong link to tradition (again – the design), there are no less than 47 beers from the Land of Pizza and Gucci in the first edition of the book. Some of them are naturally hard to get. With the help of this blog’s benefactors – friends, fellow beergeeks and my Excellent Little Brother who lives in New York, where you can find stuff from all over the place (except for Fat Tire, that is).

Teva Boy was extremely helpful with Italian beers – he always is. He had a project near Milan and managed to grab some  bottles, like Birrificio Italiano Bibock, a 6.2% Hellr Bock. It pours a little hazy amber with a white head. Aroma of citrus and some honeysuckle as well as some minerals, mildly bitter taste, with diluted honey sweetness. Medium body, mildly carbonated and mild floral aftertaste. Feels a little old but that’s my fault for taking my sweet time meeting with Teva Boy.

Same goes with Farrotta, by Almond 22, that’s made of spelt grain. Also courtesy of Teva Boy. Hazy yellow-gold with a white head. Dry and dusty aroma, a little sugar and cookie as well. Tastes sweet, some candy, a little sourish and sugary. Full body, sweetish, bun-like finish.

Stas brought Verdi Imperial Stout by Ducato from one of his many beer holidays. We drank it in Haifa last winter – it’s been that long ago! Very dark brown with tan head. A little alcoholic and spur in the nose, some tomatoes, chocolate syrup and faint smokiness. Above the bitter taste – chili pepper hotness, the roast and again, faint smoke. Fulfilling, carbonated, very long chili-chipotle finish. Quite amazing, even more amazing than it reads!

I could go on, as there are other Italian beers waiting to be listed here, but it’s time to get prepared to bass lesson.

Birrificio Italiano Bibock, Almond 22 Farrotta, Ducato and Verdi Imperial Stout, #420, #421 and #422 I must Try Before I Die

Weekend in Switzerland Part IV: Innovation

Now that’s what we were really looking forward to in that Swiss weekend of ours 2 months ago: the promise that the border with Italy brings. New, challenging, hoppy brews like the ones our buddy troubles shares when he returns from business trips to Rome and Milan. It was a bottle of Bad Attitude he once brought that made me fantasizing about a funky beer paradise that has the best of both worlds: traditional German-style quality lagers and those contemporary ales. In fact, I’ve been drooling over the scrapbooky website for weeks before our departure date, fantasizing about Hobo and Bootlegger and Rudolph the winter warmer. Alas, their distribution map and also Ratebeer spotting revealed that in order to drink these sought-after brews we have to change our plans and head to the Southern, Italian cantons. Despite what it sounds, we weren’t planning a beer trip – it was The Young Gods’ show that brought us to Switzerland. Being quite persistant when it comes to beer, a couple of days before we took off I contacted Bad Attitude via their facebook page and asked if their beer is available anywhere in Basel. Turns out it does, but nowhere in Ratebeerville: All Bar One, centrally located in a pedestrian street in the city center. This smart, modern-looking bar serves top-quality alcohol, be it wine, liquors, cocktails (not sure about their quality, and I’m the world’s worst cocktail snob, but still…) and beer. Some from tap, some bottled, a bunch of international in the line of Sierra Nevada, Brewdog and Fuller’s. sounds dull but in a city dominated by local breweries and multinationals, this is a fresh change. Oh, and there were also the Swiss-Italian beers, the reason for our visit.

oh hops, oh joy!

oh hops, oh joy!

There were a bunch of BA brews on the menu, including the great Two Penny Porter which we drank before. Since we heard good things about The Dude Double IPA we ordered this one. There were other Swiss beers on the menu which we haven’t heard about before, so we opted to try one of them instead of another bottle of BA, which I have a feeling we’ll get to drink again in the future. The bartender recommended La Rossa by by Birra San Martino, that after a through investigation I learned that this is where BA contract-brews their beer. The dude was nothing short of awesome. Tropical aroma of mango, pineapple and lychee, fresh bitter taste with a little malt and biscuits and a fruity aftertaste. Quite the opposite of the other Swiss beers we sampled during that weekend. La Rossa is a strong amber ale, 6.7% abv. with more malty dominance: sweet biscuit, grain and yeasty fruitiness in the nose, bitter, dry and starchy in the mouth. Quite alright but nothing like The Dude. These two beers cost more than other domestic brews: we’re talking 8-9 chf per can/ bottle!

We found our favourite beer spot in Zürich where we least expected to find it: we googled it. Yup, it wasn’t listed on Ratebeer and wasn’t even reviewed by Bov. Desperate by finding nowt that resembles anything edgy in these sources I turned to Google and found Fork and Bottle. Opened in 2012 and located off the beaten path this lovely bistro (and beer garden in season) serves food, Italian wine and most importantly – Italian craft beer! Keep in mind that Zürichi s a relatively small town. Off center means a 10 minute train ride from the city center, then 3 minutes short walk under the freeway in a safe and quiet tunnel.

Before we asked about beer, we inquired if there’s anything to eat. I wasn’t too hungry myself and didn’t really count on stuffing myself there – my experience in omni eateries in Switzerland had so far left me with pretzels. However, there was a veggie burger on the menu which was actually vegan! and the brilliant, garlicky tomato soup was vegan too! The owner, an American, told us that there are plenty of VEGetariANs among the regular patrons and that when  ordered in advance, more vegan dishes are available – tres cool!

yummy!

yummy!

Anyway, we’re here for the beer, right? Get this: with the exception of Bad Attitude, Fork and Bottle curates around 30 Italian craft beers, selected by the owner, Mr. Mike Goguen, on his travels to Northern Italy. The beer menu is divided to sections that both beergeeks and newbies understand (session, light, semi-bitter, sweet, bitter, Belgian-style triple, hoppy and cask-aged). As strange as the  beers on the menu were to us, as much as we wanted to sample them all. Due to financial and temporal restrictions – we were on our way to the Rote Fabrik to see The Young Gods (remember? The reason for our trip to Switzerland on the first place), we planned to stay for one round only and asked Mike to help us choose from the menu.

IMG_2795Oh, of course I chose Elav‘s Punks Do It Bitter myself – can’t resist a brew with such a title! Luckily, this hazy golden English Pale Ale was just the right thing: pine, pineapple and that hoppy mango thingy in the nose and bitterness, slightly hoppy-fruity in the mouth. Light bodied, balanced and well made. Great name for a great beer.  Mike hit it right by recommending Grado Plato Sticher – a variation on Altbier that The Secret Agent was eying. An easy to drink beer with and aroma that hints of roast, some wood and cocoa beans  and a roasty bitter taste with, again, hints of cocoa. It’s a medium-bodied beer with a smooth and sweet finish – good choice here.

The clock was ticking but we were having such a good time at the Fork and Bottle, so we opted for a second, quick round. Mike picked another beer from Elav, Grunge IPA, and Stradaregina Imperial Hop. Grunge IPA is a clear ruby-bronze brew with a floral, grapefruit aroma and a bitter taste that isn’t dry and is just a little burning and alcoholic. It was pretty yummy, smooth and light-bodied. The Imperial Hop was the weakest link in this session, but only because the other 3 beers were so good. Clear to hazy ruby-brown colour with and and off-white head. Wooden aroma, some pine and cooked veggies as well and a very bitter, dry taste.

I’d drink any of these beers again.

IMG_2797

By far, the Fork and Bottle was the best beer experience we had in our short getaway to Switzerland. It was clear that the owners love their beer. A must stop for any beer lover who visits Zürich, especially to those who don’t make it to Italy or the Italian Swiss cantons.

beautiful display - I want them all.

beautiful display – I want them all.

It took us 2 months to complete this field report. We hope that readers and googlers who plan to visit Basel and Zürich find it useful. Our next destination seems to be Romania. It’s gonna be a family trip but we’re sure that we’ll find time for beer. The Secret In-Laws have already asked if we started looking around for beer locations in our itinerary. Til then I plan to do a major catch-up with project 1001. I’ve accumulated a few dozen beers and notes that have yet to make it to this blog for one reason or another, so February will be dedicated to clear the to-write list.

Here’s to upgrades.

When you more often than not drink your beer  in tasting sessions that on average contain 18 bottles/ cans, you are bound to bump into beers that are on your 1001 beer list.

Such was the tasting at REL’s, several weeks ago. He shared with us a big bottle of Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout his sister brought him. The book lists the regular version, i.e the one without cocoa nibs, but special versions count, don’t they? They do, in my book. It is a really, really great beer. It came late in the tasting – the last beer out of 14-15 beers and according to my tasting notes, my senses weren’t tuned: stale aroma with faint ash, taste of blackk pepper, ash and wood and in the finish, guess what – ash, along with full body and soft carbonation. Don’t let these weird notes turn you off, as I truly  enjoyed this beer: it’s currently #9 out of more than 750 beers I’ve rated in the past year. My more experienced friend, The Dead Swedish Girl, also liked the beer and actually noted the chocolate and the espresso one would expect to find.

Another special edition of a beer that appears in the book was sampled a couple of months ago at a tasting we hosted. Troubles, a seasoned beer traveler who spent many a days in Italy over the past year, brought Birra del Borgo ReAle 7 Anniversario, which once again I can’t compare to the original ReAle. This one has the aroma of tropical fruit such as mango and also of some paper, the bitter taste of hops and also  fruit and sweetness, medium body and a long fruity finish.

Back to the tasting at REL’s, New Kid also brought a version of ReAle. This time the ReAle Extra that pours hazy amber with white head and hoppy aroma that also contains roses and faint fruit. It tastes fruity, a little sweet and really nice and has a peachy finish. My tasting notes say that I like the latter better, but I wish I could try them head to head, along with the original ReAle, of course.

Before any smartass purist  says that it’s not the beer The Book means that I’d drink: shut up. It’s my journey, and as far as I’m concerned, (Chocolate) Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout and these two variation of ReAle are beers #134 and #135 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.

Recap Madness #1: Last Saturday

Last Saturday the tasters and raters gathered at the Big Bear’s place for what was initially announced as Georgia vs. Italy tasting, a result of Big Bear’s dad’s trip to Italy and Dead Swedish Girl’s mom’s excursion to Georgia. Meanwhile most of the Georgian beer had already been sampled in previous tastings and we all brought bottles and cans from our stashes. The Secret Agent and I contributed beer from the book, but The (soon to be) Texan and  DSG also shared helpful stuff.

Cantillon Iris is  one of the 5 different brews from Cantillon that appear in the 1001 book and the third we’ve sampled so far. It’s good to have Sour lovers around. Drinking Cantillon in a regular tasting was not as intense and challenging as it was during the sour tasting. It probably was for the hopheads in the room, but for me it went OK. Cider vinegar and limestone aroma, extremely pickle juice-like taste (you know, the water that preserve gherkins), medium body and thankfully short finish. I still consider those lambics weird (blended, unblended, I still can’t tell the difference), but it was strangely fine.

DSG said that Tipopils by Birrificio Italiano is the best pilsner he has ever tasted. Having just rated his 3000th beer, he has had his share of pilsner. I’d vouch for some fresh Czech draught pils myself, but Tipopils was more than decent. Clear to hazy golden with white foam, green, hemp-like aroma, fresh bitterness and a crisp finish – a beer to drink all by yourself, had it been distributed locally.

We also brought pilsner, Lagunitas Pils. We’ve drank the brewery’s great Olde GnarlyWine (with a dog on the label – another dog beer!) last month and thoroughly enjoyed it. The pils was so-so. Sweet, flowery aroma, some cookie dough even and delicate bitterness with light body and quick finish. Not bad but really, nothing unusual.

Two Brothers Cane and Ebel was a beer I was looking forward to drink and I wasn’t disappointed. Amber coloured American Strong Ale with a light body, the beer has a strong hoppy aroma with evergreen, flowers and hints of citrus and a delicate, just slightly dry taste. Smooth texture, soft carbonation and fruity-bitter finish.

We tasted many other beers, some were good, others were not, but time’s short. Lots of catching up to do and we need to get out to the beer fest taking place in town.

These were beers #54, 55, 56 and 57 I Must Try Before I Die.

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