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 “Scandinavian 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!

Beergeek Love – 601 more beers to go

beerlove

First, apologies for yet another hiatus. I had that exam, then the flu, then Agent Family flew to Spain, to celebrate Mama Agent’s 70th birthday in Jerez Flamenco Festival. So these are the reasons for the latest absence – quite legit, right? Although I am in the middle of the British Beer Recap, I’m taking a detour, to celebrate Beer #400 I Must Try Before I Die. A round number is a reason to celebrate with something special; we had Harvistoun Ola Dubh 40 as #100 in August 2012; a rare, prestigious beer for #200 in March 2013; and Avery The Maharaja for #300, in September 2013.

Beer #400 is Finlandia Strong Sahti. Sahti is a traditional Finnish beer that like Altbier and Kolch has an area designation. It is made with Juniper berries along or instead of hops. Juniper twigs are used for filtering the mesh in a a hand-carved wooden trough called a kuurna. Much like Belgian Lambics, Sahti is also exposed to wild yeast and bacteria. Unlike so many generic third-world pale lagers that are scattered all over the gold and amber chapters of the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book, or really obscure one-off creations from nano-brewers that are available only in some hellhole in France, Finlandia Sahti Strong is rightfully there – unique and traditional on one hand, widely available throughout its country of origin on the other. So while Finland isn’t the most popular travel destination in the world, it is still relatively easy to get if you or your friends are there or if you trade with someone from there.

a classic in plastic

a classic in plastic

Mia, Stas’ partner, flew to Finland last summer. Having a beergeek as a partner, Mia was given a shopping list of all things Finnish, Leningrad Cowboys and terva excluded. Now Stas has an access to my 1001 beer list, but I’m not sure whether he had a look at my list or just ordered it because he wanted to. He opened the bottle at a group tasting in mid-August, only The Secret Agent and I were 300 kilometers away, in a mud hut desert getaway. Internet connection was fizzy at best and it was only after midnight and hut-tubbing under the starry Arava sky that I saw Dead Swedish Girl’s text, asking me if Finlandia Strong Sahti is in the book – way after the tasting was over. Bummer. As my beer peers sampled this beer, they won’t be motivated to hunt it again. However, soon another text arrived at the desert – the beer came in a PET bottle, and DSG saved us some and took the bottle with him. The evening we returned from the south DSG and his partner – the sweetest person to have sat on our couch and eaten generic crisps while playing with the cats – came over with the 3/4 empty bottle and shared.

Here are the tasting notes: Please note that oxidation may have occurred; bottle was opened on Wednesday and sampled on Friday, but Dead Swedish Girl said it was still OK. Headless cloudy brown. Pungent fruit syrup and spices, then some phenol in the nose. Estery, sweet, a little honey taste. No carbonation whatsoever, light-to-medium body, a little smoky aftertaste. The 10% abv. are not apparent at all.

Finlandia Strong Sahti is a special beer, but it’s not for its unique production, place of origin or ingredients that I picked it as beer #400 – for me, it demonstrates all that’s awesome about the world of beergeeks, hunters, gatherers, and the people who love us, or at least amused by our passion, or, if you insist, obsession  – taking the extra mile, making an effort, carrying a list, staying alert. Names and nicknames are scattered throughout all my ratebeer and blog entries and I appreciate each and every one of you. THANK YOU ALL for sharing.

In case you didn’t get it, Finlandia Strong Sahti is beer #400 I Must Try Before I Die. 601 more to go!

 

Three Beers, One Tasting

In the early days of the blog, I used to review a bunch of beers shared in one tasting. It’s an easy way to get a hold on things, really. Whereas it’s no longer a habit, I still sometimes take close-up shots of bottles that were shared at a single tasting that are also listed in The Book. Here’s one of these shots. ludwig-spezial-haand

Two German beers that come in reusable bottles – see the scratch marks above the label. The first is König Ludwig Weissbier, aka Prinzregent Luitpold Weissbier Hell. That’s a German Wheat beer that troubles bought in one of his recent business trips to Germany. It pours cloudy blond with white head and has a juicy aroma of grapefruit, bubblegum, apple juice with some notes of punch-banana ice cream. It tastes mild – a little tarty with light bitterness. Juicy, medium-bodied, light carbonation and apple nectar finish. Pretty good, but can do with some more carbonation and body.

Troubles also shared Tegernseer Spezial, Helles beer, a rather mediocre beer from, well, Tegensee in Bavaria. Clear pale gold-green with white head,  light hoppy bitter aroma, some grass and some phenol. Light citric taste, a little bitter and a little sweet. Light body, medium carbonation, long, mildly bitter finish. Meh.

Last is HaandBryggeriet Ardenne Blond that I got in a trade with a ratebeer buddy. It’s a really cool saison that hails from Norway. My bottle had weird floaties that swam in hazy blondliquid covered by white head. Sweet floral aroma with some white summer fruit graced my nostrils and a tarty taste, a little plastic-y, with some citrus that definitely didn’t feel hop-derived met my mouth. Smooth, medium-bodied with mild carbonation and long, bitter and tarty finish beer that’s both tasty and refreshing.

 

König Ludwig Weissbier, Tegernseer Spezialare and HaandBryggeriet Ardenne Blond are beers #366, #367 and #368 I Must Try Before I Die.

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).

duchesse

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.

shakespeare dark_force

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

Swedish Hasbeen

Relax, this is still a beer blog.

Relax, this is still a beer blog.

We’re back from a 12 days family trip to Romania, with stories, information and photos that when we have the time and the energy will find their way to this blog. Meanwhile, let’s continue with the Big Catching Up project and move to two Swedish beers we got to sample. First is Nils Oscar God Lager, a rather OK Helles, not far from good but definitely ungodly. Golden, clear with white head, malty/ caramel nose, bitter, metallic and a tad bit sweet in the mouth. Light-bodied, only a little fizzy, definitely drinkable, certainly not outstanding.

NilsOscar-God-lager

Second is D.Carnegie & Co Stark Porter, a bottle of which found its way to David, owner of the Dancing Camel. An Opaque, black Baltic Porter with fruity aroma, or maybe dried-fruit one: prune, date and carob spread. Its taste matches the aroma with deep sweetness and hints of chocolate. Smooth texture, medium body and a warming sensation that was oh, so suitable to that cold December night when we tasted it. Yes, we’re THAT behind.

Carnegie-Porter

Nils Oscar God Lager and D.Carnagie Porter are beers #204 and #205 I Must Try Before I Die.

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.

Caring is Sharing

Last Passover holiday I created a Google document to help me follow the 1001 beer list and be a little more organized, a challenge to ADD me. Other than crossing out the stuff I drank and wrote about, it helps me keeping tabs with our home-stash, orders and the state of the local beer market, all colour-coded. When cooperative  friends and family fly abroad or come to visit from overseas, I copy items from the list for guidance, lest they bring something we’ve already drank or worse – bottles that are available here.

When Teva Boy announced that he’s flying to Teva’s manufacturing plant in Croatia, he asked if there’s anything he should bring from the visit. That’s how I got to taste Tomislav Pivo, a 7.3% abv. Baltic Porter. It’s an ok beer, black in colour, aroma wine, raisins and those wine-filled chocolates that in our part of the world were a popular treat among older relatives in the early 80’s and a sweet, a little metallic, malty taste. Its mild carbonation and medium body made Tomislav rather easy to drink despite the high alcoholic content.

The local ratebeerians asked to see the list, rerardless of any particular travel plans so I shared the file with them. The file brought up some interesting finds, like Business travel was, I think, a one-time gig for Teva Boy, but for Troubles it’s a routine and a focal point for his (Hebrew) blog. His job sends him to places and he explores local beer cultures for the rest of us to drool over.  Last year he spent some time in Germany and of course, brought back bottles. Upon looking at the list his eyes met the words Störtebeker Schwarzbier – he was planning to drink the bottle on his own, assuming that there isn’t much interest among the tasters for yet another lager (that isn’t a nasty pale lager from an obscure country, that is. We looooove those!). It’s a decent beer from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a Northeastern Bundesland. Despite the name it’s colour is dark purple or so it seemed in the darkness of the pub where we sampled it and it smelled of raisins, ripe figs and some smoke. With a sweet, malty taste and a little dryness in the taste and finish it was a decent beer. Nothing unusual and definitely suitable to finish on one’s own, but I’m glad it was shared.

You can trust the Dead Swedish Girl, with her mighty beer obsession, to go over the list, pretty much memorize it and bring to my attention stuff that’s available here in Israel which I overlooked as well as bringing forth bottles from his personal stash. Last Sukkkot the Secret Agent and I hosted the closest thing to a dinner party we held in our 10 years of marriage. The innocent victims to the heaps of homemade vegan Mexican goodness were Dead Swedish Girl and her partner, The Living Swedish Boy, who, like the yuppies they are brought dessert (vegan Reese’s cake that rocked my world. Peanut butter and chocolate for dessert are like smoke and wood for beer!) and bottles of wine. A true yuppie would have never dared bringing the grape-based equivalent of Utenos Alus, a Lithuanian pale lager that’s on my list. I hope that the other Lithuanian representatives are better than the duller drink that reeked of sweet grape juice and rotten fruit and tasted more like commercial clear cider than beer. But hey, it’s not as if Corona would’ve matched dinner better.

some other goodies salvaged from DSG’s stuff are Speakeasy’s Big Daddy IPA that bore wonderful smells of pine and grass and some grapefruit and tasted bitter, on the verge of dry and green, as my tasting notes indicate. A real American IPA it was and quite a good one.

HandBryggeriet Norwegian Wood was an interesting find. I think she traded it with one of her Scandinavian beer pals. A homage to an old Norwegian brewing tradition, actually a law that required farm owners to produce their own ale, this honey-brown colour ale uses smoked malt and juniper leaves and branches, a combination that results in a wonderful fruity and at the same time smokey aroma and a pleasant bitter and a little roasty taste. A slightly burning sensation towards the finish makes it even better in my book.

In the last tasting she brought a bottle of Brewdog Rip Tide. Brewdog’s been featured in this blog more than once, because of the mission and also because it is one of everybody’s favourite breweries. It has 4 representatives in the book, and after Punk IPA and as many editions of Paradox as I could find, Rip Tide is the third I sample. It’s a 8% Imperial Stout with a pretty tan head on top of an opaque, black body, that smells a little metallic but also roasty and good, tastes very alcoholic, but the kind of bitter alcoholic, with hints of anise, has a full body and is softly carbonated. Definitely a good beer.

Now who’s sorting us out with a bottle of Tokyo*?

Our friends are awesome and we really try to reciprocate. There’s a tasting tonight and they’re in for an unpredictable treat.

Tomislav Pivo, Störtebeker Schwarzbier, Utenos Alos, Big Daddy IPA, Norwegian Wood and Rip Tide are beers #117, #118, #119, #120, #121 and #122 I Must Try Before I Die.

Post Navigation