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 “Pale Lager”

Greetings from the Bygone Empire

trumer hadmar

Has it really been a month since the last time I wrote? An intense month it was, I guess. Some university stuff, the jobseeking, plenty of errands and a spontaneous trip to Austria and Hungary! while I ended up drinking plenty of beer, mainly due to bottlesharing and samples, I used my time in Central Europe to walking and relaxing. Some cemetery visits, strolling by the Danube and visiting Zentralfriedhof, Vienna’s largest cemetery. I believe that the best way to get familiar with a place is to visit its drinking joints and cemeteries. Both Hungary and Austria are experiencing a craft beer revolution, with the emergence of breweries, specialty shops, brewpubs and craft beer pubs. First published in 2008, The 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book which I’ve been following ever since starting this blog, has either overlooked the local scenes. They may have been too small to notice at that time, as far as I know. There was one Hungarian beer in the book, Dreher Bak that we drank in 2012, and 12 Austrian beers. We’ve already covered Urbock 23, Stiegl Goldbrau and only recently – Samichlaus which stands out, as most of the Austrian beers in the book are generic lagers, sort of. Yet, finding them was hard. Some are seasonal, other local. Out of the 9 remaining beers, I only got a hold on two.

I found Trumer Pils at the first bar I visited. The Krah Krah is a noisy, smoky (like everywhere in Vienna) old-school bar, not far from the Canal. At 16:45 in the afternoon it was full of men who were socializing after work. There are a bunch of taps of  mostly Austrian beers, and some bottles, with Leffe being pretty much the more exotic option. Trumer is served in a flute-like glass, thin and quite elegant. It pours clear gold with a big white head and has fine aroma of grass and grain. It tastes bitter and slightly buttery, but not in a way that really fucks up with the beer. Light-bodied and quaffable, perfect for that hot summer afternoon, in this unair-conditioned venue.

My friends and hosts Anna and Roey, had a bottle of Hadmar, an organic pale lager, and shared it with me. Clear and fizzy gold with a white head, cereal and grain aroma, light bitterness and malty with some grass. Medium body, with a mouthful bitterness and malt. It tasted great but I cannot help but wonder how a different ambiance would’ve affected my impression – colder weather, different people…

Trumer Pils and Hadmaer are beers #437 and #438 I Must Try Before I Die. Budapest and Vienna are great cities to visit: beer is good, people are friendly, prices are between reasonable to dirt cheap and food is awesome and surprisingly vegan-friendly. Head to ratebeer.com/places for beer and happycow.net for food. As for the rest of the Austrian beers on the book – I guess I’ll have to visit there again. Next time with The Secret Agent.

Pale as Hell

 

Got plenty of time now and plenty of beers to write about, including another intense beer trip, but meanwhile, I’ll do a short backlog, just because I feel like it. Here’s an account of several beers I sampled recently:

Tusker Malt Lager from Kenya, not to be confused with Tusker Lager – brought by Alexei, one of the Dancing Camel Brewpub frequent flyers, because of this 1001 challenge. Thank you for that! It smells like cardboard and tastes like cardboard and I’m once again left puzzled by the editors’ choice.

Gubernija Ekstra – another pale lager, from Lithuania this time, that Stas brought from his Christmas visit to the country. Thank you Stas for the dear suitcase space taken by this overly buttery beer. That’s the last of the 5 Lithuanian beers in the book, and certainly the worst.

We’re flying to Spain in a couple of weeks. I have already mapped the beer spots where we’re going and began hunting for beers from the book. Had 7 Spanish beers left, and some of them are quite obscure and local to Barcelona – we’ll be in the south. Anyway, the one beer I knew I’d be able to find for sure is Voll-Damm as it’s widely distributed. Apparently it just made its debut in Israel and we got to drink it at a small, spontaneous tasting at Dead Swedish Girl’s parents’ place in the north. Very alcoholic, metallic aftertaste.

These 3 horrible pale lagers, Tusker Malt Lager, Gubernija Ekstra and Voll-Damm are beers #385, #386 and #387 I Must Try Before I Die. I believe that the next entry will cover some better stuff – it’s hard not to.

 

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.

And Beer #350 I Must Try Before I Die is…

Red Stripe.
red stripe
Jamaica’s pale lager that looks old school and tastes older school. Nothing special about it, but it’s a milestone. Tasting notes, if you find this interesting: Pale, bubbly, clear gold. Slightly corny, slightly worty. Sweet, very DMS-y, pear drops. Light body, long, corny finish, fine fizz.

I love the bottle. It’s iconic. I love this commercial too. Thanks Gilad D. for sharing it with me.

 

Polandia

This entry covers 25% of the Polish beers that were chosen to be listed in the 1001 beer book, this means two beers. Both beers arenamed Zywiec and belong to the Zywiec/ Heineken group, but whereas the first beer is from the Zywiec brewery, located in  a town aptly named Zywiec – or is it the other way round? – the second is from Bracki Browar Zamkowy in Cieszyn.  The first beer is Zywiec Jasne Pelne, the brewery’s pale lager which can I shared at a tasting back in February. Pours clear gold with white head. Sweet and slightly sugary aroma, sweet and slightly alcoholic taste. Light body, sweetish finish. Pale lager. Thirst quencher.

zywiec_lager_can

Zywiec Porter is a real treat and quite the opposite of the mediocrity of the pale lager. It’s a rich, robust Baltic Porter that smells woodsy and a little roasty with a little dark fruit too, tastes bitter, with a little dry and roasty sensation in the mouth. Body’s medium-full, texture’s a little syrupy and there’s a roasty aftertaste. All these make one fine brew that I’d be happy to drink again.

Zywiec Porter
Zywiec Jasne Pelne and  Zywiec Porter are beers #333 and #334 I Must Try Before I Die. Hey, the first third of this journey is covered!

Meet Me at the Castle

Dr. Troubles was sent to Johannesburg on an urgent mission – beer hunting, of course. He brought back 1/3 of the South African delegation to the 1001 Expedition, that contains 6 different beers. While there, he spotted other goodies from the book, but pubs over there are not allowed to sell for outside consumption. Oh well. We’ll have to send him there again.

Castle Lager and Castle Milk Stout is brewed by Castle brewery in Johannesburg. Castle merged with other South African Breweries to form SAB that later merged with Miller to form the SAB Miller conglomerate. I didn’t know all this until a couple of minutes ago, while conducting a quick research for this entry. Maybe that explains the shittiness of those beers.

castle lager

Legacy of Brutality

Castle Lager is very pale, has a piss-like, malty, with a little corn water aroma and a metallic, bland, slightly bitter and overall yucky aroma. It has a light body and corny finish and I wouldn’t drink it again.

prettier in real life

prettier in real life

Castle Milk Stout is a really strange beer. Less good and has more commercial appeal than other milk stouts we drank in this mission. It’s a pretty beer: very dark and opaque red with a dark yellow-light brown head. Aroma: sweet and milky. Taste: sweet, a little metallic (it’s the cans) and a little bitter. It’s a smooth beer with a milky finish. Better than the pale lager but still far from being amazing.

These two are beers #249 and #250 I Must Try Before I Die. Thank you Troubles for going through all this trouble.

Bye Bye Brewdoggie

Brewdog_tastin2013

This is the last mandatory Brewdog entry here in this beer blog. Over the past year+ this blog’s been online we drank stuff from this all-too-hyped, ever innovative Scottish brewery in many occasions, the most memorable of which was a thorough Brewdog tasting that included goodies such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Abstrakt 08. This brewery has 4 representatives in the book and in the first few months of this blog we drank 3 of them. Last October friends brought me the missing bottle and we kept it for the right opportunity. We returned from Romania with three bottles and decided to open all 4 in one meeting. When I shared my plan with The Beer Greek, he told me I should get in touch with Maor of Herzl Beer (who is in the process of opening a licensed, rebranded brewery in Jerusalem in like a month from now – yay!); he had some new bottles someone bought for him. Maor was kind enough to join our Brewdog-focused tasting and we were happy to have him over. Sadly, The Beer Greek’s kids were sick and we sure felt his absence.

Here are the beers we sampled:

Dead Pony Club is a pretty awesome American Pale Ale. Very aromatic and citrusy, in the mouth and the nose alike. It feels juicy and it kinda is, with only 3.8% abv. It’s a great summer beer, if Scotland even needs one.

El Dorado is from the brewery’s IPA Is Dead series of single hop brews. I both smelled and tasted mint, something quite unusual. Other than mint I sensed tropical aroma and piney taste. With a light, lager-like body, this also can be a summery thirst-quencher.

Barrel Aged 7.7 Lager is a 7.7% abv. that’s well, aged in barrels. Is this a version of the 77 Lager? Sounds like, although 77 is a standard 4.9% abv. beer and a really good one, too. The Barrel Aged one isn’t. Wine and raisins in the nose, sweetish petrol in the mouth. Medium body, very fizzy, long, white wine finish. It’s just not working, OK?

The Secret Agent and I drank Dogma in Basel last winter. It was good the first time we tried it and it was good on the second time around too.

Libertine Black Ale is a kick-ass name for a kick-ass beer, a rich, interesting black IPA. Dark purple with beige head, slightly smoky aroma and also bears liquor, chocolate and withered flowers. It tastes bitter, smoky and a little salty and has a smoky finish, full body and very mild carbonation. What more can one ask for?

From the back of Dr. Troubles’ fridge came Bashah, a retired Brewdog-Stone collaboration that was bottled in 2009 and resulted in an American Strong Ale that’s blacker than black and smells of liquor and a little iodine.  It tastes very dry and bitter, has full and heavy body, and smooth texture that ends in a long, dry, liquor-like finish. I liked it, yes I did.

We opened a bottle of Paradox Smokehead that many if not all of us drank before but it is one of those beers I can never get tired of but the highlight of the evening, mission-wise at least was of course Brewdog Tokyo*, an Imperial Stout of 18.2% abv. With this high volume, drinking alone is not even an option. This brew, flavoured with jasmine and cranberry and aged on French toasted oak chips is a sipper. A sipper that after sipping I felt a slight regret for being impatient and not aging it for several years. This is a cloudy-to-opaque muddy brown beer with dark tan head. When I first sniffed my sample I smelled smoke and cranberry but then came lots of fruit, jasmine tea and then – ink. It is a heavy beer, sweet, a little alcoholic, liquor-like and perhaps a little soy tasting. Its texture is syrupy and smooth, full-bodied and non-carbonated. Complex and very digestif-y.  If you can get a hold on a bottle – buy it cos its worth it. Just be wiser and keep it for a few years, ok?

Tokyo* (spelled Tokio* in our edition) is beer #232 I Must Try Before I Die. Bye Bye Brewdog, til next time 🙂

Water for Elephants

elephant_carlsberg

When O moved to London’s scummiest squat in the mid-90’s, she and her friends were all gushing over Special Brew, Carlsberg’s cheap, strong and nasty lager that did its job properly – got poor people drunk easily. When I moved to England a couple of months later, I tried this too. It WAS nasty, too nasty even to the old self-destructive moi, so I picked another, friendlier poison that is white cider.

Years passed. O is still rocking only now with a PhD on Bats in her tattooed hands, I’m not too keen on ciders – be them artificial and poisonous  or crafty ones. And once again, I’m up to drinking strong brew by Carlsberg. I’m told I must try this before I die, see?  Carlsberg Elephant Beer is not as strong as 9% abv. Special Brew, it’s only 7.2% alcohol. This fine drink was originally exported to West Africa but due to its popularity domestic marketing followed. The elephant on the label has nothing to do with Africa, though. Life- size statues of elephants adorn the entrance to the old brewery in Copenhagen, inspired by the Jacobsen’s family Subcontinental expeditions.

How’s the beer? Interesting. Interesting as in why the hell is it in the book whereas other mediocre commercial lagers are not.

???????????????????????????????

Jacobsen Saaz Blond is another story, though. While not a great beer, it is definitely a beer to try: Husbryggeriet Jacobsen is Carlsberg’s crafty branch. Lower volumes,  smaller distribution and more experimental than expected (see last entry about Blue Moon), all packed in a big, sharing-friendly and elegant bottle. The Dead Swedish Girl picked a Jacobsen Saaz Blond at the airport, on her way back from Copenhagen Beer Celebration.  This is an attempt at Belgian-style beer with plenty of Czech Saaz hop and angelica extract. All this info is taken from the book, but my tasting notebook tells me that the beer I had in my glass smelled of cleaning detergent and plastic blue and tasted bitter and weird, but I couldn’t point out the weirdness. It didn’t make much sense but nevertheless, it’s something to try. Jacobsen will be available in Israel soon and I’ll probably try the Saaz Blond again, as well as their Sommer Wit that’s also in the book.

Elephant Beer and Jacobsen Saaz Blond are apparently beers #226 and #227 I Must Try Before I Die

200!

It’s 10 minutes past midnight. I’m a bit tipsy after a single-hop tasting followed by a visit to our local pub. Gotta wake up in a few hours in order to make it to a conference – work-related – and yet, I really want to cross the 200th mark in the book tonight, so here I am.

Why tonight? Because my “blog entries to be written” spreadsheet’s full of data that needs to make it to this blog, that’s why, and also, I really want to cross out the 200th beer.

pabstLet’s start with ber #199. That would be Pabst Blue Ribbon. Yes, this old-school-turned-hipster beer is listed in the book. Why is it there, this “[…] uninteresting, factory-made, corn-based lager?” for its retro status, of course! Unlike the beers mentioned in the last blog entry, but like most American beers, PBR is not imported to Israel. Why should it? We have our own share of bad lagers, domestic and imported alike. But our dear friend Oren, that if it’s up to us will be beatified while still gracing Planet Earth with his presence, brought a can from one of his business excursions. Surprise! There’s nothing interesting here. That usual metallic, apple and corny aroma, that faint synthetic bitterness and cornish taste, that light body and insignificant finish. Definitely a beer I could do without. Pabst Blue Ribbon is beer #199 I must Try Before I Die, and let’s move on to the crown jewel – here it goes:

Spending time with competitive drinkers, AKA Ratebeerians, milestones is a part of my beergeek routine, and when Dead Swedish Girl was about to hit 1000 American beers, we knew it’s an excuse to celebrate with something unique. The last blog entry pretty much summed up whatever there is to say about American beer in Israel, so we had to seek the celebratory beer outside the local shelves.

DSG is one of those ‘been there, done that’ gals. She’s tasted rarities and limited editions to no end; Three Floyds Dark Lord doesn’t even tickle her. We needed something hardcore, something festive to celebrate her 1000th American beer. Something that none of our beergeek friends would’ve thought of bringing it in their suitcase. It was time for desperate actions and thus I crossed a line I promised myself to never, ever cross; I sought a colleague’s help.

See, I work in a pharmaceutical marketing company. I’m an office/HR person, but the vast majority of the staff consists of marketing personnel. They always travel, them lucky bastards. From conference to kick-off, from stand-alone to congress, my colleagues are always somewhere where there’s good beer. Yet, I never ask them to get me anything; mixing business and pleasure still makes me feel a little awkward. However, desperate actions, right? As the Dead Swedish Girl was getting ready to drink her 1000th American, I looked at the corporate calendar and found out that we have people in Florida, at the Lysosomal World Symposium (trust me, you don’t wanna know what this is). One email to the nicest product manager in the organization, a short list of potential beers that can be brought from the Sunshine State and within a couple of days it landed on my desk. The King of Beers. Budweiser.

budweiser_bong

shotgun!

A tall-boy Budweiser it was and we shared it at a tasting.

Yeah, shoot me. In my circles American Budweiser is considered a novelty. How was it? Surprise! Budweiser pours clear, greenish pale-golden with white head. It has a sweet rice milk aroma and a sweet, apple-like taste and faint something that I cannot put my finger on, so let’s call it nothingness. Light body, too long finish. Pretty tasteless, very light and not too fulfilling. But hey, this is both a beer we never tasted AND it’s in the book – beer #200 I must Try Before I Die, so thank you Elad V. for being a beer angel.

So yeah, in the next entry we’ll pass %20. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Let’s hope that the next 800 – 801, actually – are better than these two fine American brews.

3 Continenets, 4 Beers, 1 entry

It is time for another random list of beers tasted in a number of occasions over the past few months. Other than basic ingredients the following don’t have much in common, but whatever.

Goose Island India Pale Ale is a pretty much ass-kickin’ IPA. It is amber in colour and has a smooth, peachy aroma with some hints of grass. The taste indicates that the bottle we shared with our friends was a little old but it was still tasty – fruity and mildly bitter. Medium-bodied, fruity finish and pleasing.

5 Barrel Pale Ale from Odell Brewery that resides in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado, is the first beer in the book. It has a beautiful label that looks a little like block-print. Sadly, the beer itself didn’t stand up to the beautiful label. I believe it’s due to age but it was rather stale and tasteless. The aroma was alright though, mango and asian persimmon (also known as sharon fruit) were dominant.

Dragon Stout hails from Jamaica, a country whose rum we love. This stout is high on alcohol, 7.5%, and its recipe includes both corn syrup and sugar. The result: sticky-sweet aroma and an indistinguishable fruity sweetness in the mouth. The beer is not good and its thin body adds to the disappointment.

Sinebrychoff Porter is one of the three Finnish representatives in the book, but the only one that’s actually available outside Finland. However, its source is a Finnish beergeek that traded with the Dead Swedish Girl and Troubles. This is a decent Baltic Porter, black-bodied and tan-headed with roast, raisins and a little wood in the nose. It tastes dry, wooden and bitter and finishes roasty too. It is a decent beer .

As usual, I save the best for last. Tusker Lager is one of the worst beers I have tasted up to date. Seriously. This Kenyan Pale Lager “is best drunk for refreshment – rather than taste” says the book. Writer Tim Hampson actually admits that there’s nothing to this beer, so why must I try it before I die? To witness how shitty it is? I can sure live well without trying yet another piss-looking liquid, especially one that smells like rotten fruit and has no taste at all yet still manages to be disgusting. It has a light body and a watery finish. Now, remember the rotten fruit aroma? Apparently it was a hint to the garbage juice aftertaste. It’s a disgusting beer, I’m telling you. There’s another Tusker beer in the book: Tusker Malt Lager. I’d like to say that I’m not looking forward to drink it but shamefully I do, because beergeekness sometimes equals masochism.

Indeed, Goose Island India Pale Ale, Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale, Dragon Stout, Sinerbrychoff Porter and Tusker Lager are beers #190, #191, #192, #193 and #194 I Must Try Before I Die.

Post Navigation