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 “Schwarzbier”

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!

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.

Switzerland On My Mind

Before we take off to a new adventure, a short recap of last winter’s Swiss beer loot. It’s past midnight already so yes, it’s last winter we’re talking about – welcome, spring!

Locher Appenzeller Hanfblüte is a nice, refreshing lager that’s brewed with hemp. It is a hazy beer that looks a little greenish. Not like Saint Patrick’s green beer, mind you; like greenish gold – quite fits its contents. Hemp oil, pine needles and lemon are apparent in the nose, followed by a fresh hempy-lemony taste. The beer is light-bodied, fizzy and has a malty finish. Based on Appenzeller stuff we had, we didn’t have high expectations, so this one surprise us.

We did, however, held high expectations from BFM La Meule, if only because of its name, as meu’lè in Hebrew means excellent. This is another herb-beer, this time top-fermented and brewed with sage. This beer is strongly influenced by Vallonian beer tradition. 6% abv., cloudy piss-colour with a frothy white head (and a flip top!) and strong herbal aromas: sage, that’s supposed to be the main attraction of this brew, hides underneath layers of nutmeg, olives and coriander.

However, it reveals itself in the mouth, along with delicate sweetness. Also, there’s something fruity about La Meule, that becomes more dominant in the finish. It feels chewy and has medium body. And it’s  a fine beer – a good deal, isn’t it?

Whereas these two spice-girls above are nice thirst-quenchers, Appenzeller Schwarzer Kristall is simply wonderful. You may ask, what there to be wonderful about dark beer. Well, based on previous tastings of Appenzeller beer, we weren’t hoping for much. However, that oily, opaque, black liquid bore great roasty, chocolate syrup (or maybe chocolate liquor?) aroma with hints of liquorice. It has rich, sweet flavour, faintly wooden, faintly dry. The body is full, there is hardly any carbonation and this makes sipping smooth and enjoyable. Other than the crafty Bad Attitude brews, Appenzeller Schwarzer Kristall is the best Swiss beer I have tasted up to date.

Appenzeller Hanfblüte, BFM La Meule and Appenzeller Schwarzer Kristall are beers #201, #202 and #203 I Must Try Before I Die.

Happy Spring!

Beers that Travel

empty bottles and bottle caps

empty bottles and bottle caps

After Wednesday’s Exam from Hell we headed to the Dancing Camel Brewpub for a beer tasting. Here are two of the beers we shared:

Hue Beer from Vietnam. Imported to Austin, bought in California, delivered to Tel Aviv. Xingu Black Lager is brewed Brazil, imported to Massachusetts, bought in New York and again, delivered to Tel Aviv.  The bottles had their share of mileage and we expected them to taste a little weary.

A little exotica and trivia: Hue Beer’s the first Vietnamese product to be exported to the US after the end of the embargo. I hope that in this case first does not mean the best, because this beer’s a rather turn off. It’s a pale lager that smells corny and tastes corny with that standard unexciting pale lager bitterness, has a thin, watery body and malty finish.

The story behind Xingu is a little more interesting: it’s a homage to pre-colonial beer brewed by the indigenous tribes of the Amazon. Whereas historically the indigenous beer was fermented with wild yeast, Xingu isn’t. There’s nothing special about this Schwarzbier. It’s sweet and malty both in the nose and in the mouth, has some hints of cocoa and really reminds me of malt beer. Now malt beer’s my favourite soft drink, but I look for different traits in fermented beer. The beer’s unamazingness  can be probably attributed to its age, but chances I’ll get to drink a new bottle in the foreseeable future are slimmer than slim.

Hue Beer and Xingu Black Lager are beers #171 and #172 I Must Try Before I Die. stay tuned for more excitement in the lager front.

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.

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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