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 “Smoked”

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!


Schlenkerla, Meine Liebe!

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen is my all-time favourite beers. There are better tasting beers, and beers I’ve drank more times, but this Marzen from Bamberg, smoky heaven, is my fave, because of its no-nonsense pungent aroma that overwhelms newcomers and satisfies my cravings for a particular taste that I’ve been happily avoiding in 23 years of vegetarianism.

I first drank it several years ago in Israel. It was distributed here, then distribution stopped. Then another importer started marketing this beer and even brought Schlenkerla wheat beer for a while but then they stopped bringing it as well. Maybe there was no demand for it. I believe there wasn’t. I also believe that Schlenkerla is a classic acquired taste product and that both distributors failed to educate the market. There’s a small but dedicated fan-base for Laphroaig single malt, which is an even more challenging drink than Schlenkerla, so there’s something to work with.

The Secret Agent and I try to drink this brewery’s products whenever possible. Last Saturday Heavy Metal Cousin brought over bottles he bought in Prague. We organized a tasting, took Schlenkerla Eiche – doppelbock – out of the beer fridge – and tasted it, along with a fine collection of Slovanian, French,Scottish, Danish and English beers we’ve accumulated in our travels, and a few more that the other participants added.

smoked tasting

There were Beavertown and De Molen and Weyerbacher and Brewdog, but the crown jewel were the three Schlenkerla bottles, especially the Marzen – long time no drink, my love, and you’re as beautiful as I had remembered you. Smoky, meaty, bitter and complex, yet very sensible and drinkable, providing you’re prepared to the unusual taste.

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen is beer #407 I Must Try Before I Die (and try again and again and again…)

trois bières et de fumée*

(*blame Google Translate for any incoherence)

4 days after landing and I’m still in a holiday mode, that’s aided by Daylight Saving Time and the fact that the homework deadline is not until Sunday.

Uh, I guess the holiday mode ends this afternoon then.

Still haven’t digitized the tasting notes from Romania – been busy slutwalking, declaring that it won’t happen to me cos I’ll kill myself as soon as I start losing my cognitive abilities and/ or suffer from urinary incontinence after watching Amour and getting high on the smell of fresh garlic – I wish I could send you a link to this scent! I’ve been thinking about scent recording a lot during the trip to Romania. Every evening when we were out in the cold and smelled the smoke coming out of the chimneys I took a big sniff in attempt to observe this fiery scent in my mind.

this beer blog is powered by radical feminism.

this beer blog is powered by radical feminism.

I love those social-reject aromata. I can sniff my fingers for hours after cutting garlic and sometimes I go into phases of using Pine Tar Soap because of its bonfire aroma. I keep a stash of bars in the bathroom cupboard to satisfy this crave. Readers who are not new to the blog already know that a smokey aroma means an automatic beer-crush. Thus, I was so delighted when The Actuary brought a big bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter to a small tasting we had on Thursday. Big bottle + small tasting = more for me! Alascan Brewing smokes its own malt for this beer and releases it once a year. The bottle shared with us is from a 2012 vintage. It pours very black with a light brown head and has a hardcore smokey aroma, like a fire-pit. Smoke is present in the mouth as well and the beers bitterness reminds me more than anything eating a slightly burnt potato peel. Lag BaOmer’s around the corner. As an aware adult I am deeply angered by the air pollution this day brings but as a smoke-ash fiend I just wish I had somewhere to scam a burnt potato from. Anyone?  Anyway, back to the beer, it has the most perfect pallate! Medium-to-heavy body, round, slightly sweet finish, mild carbonation and a dry feel that leads to a smoky aftertaste. I’m in love!


We brought to the tasting a bottle of Unibroue Trois Pistoles that’s been laying in the fridge for quite some time. This 9% abv. liquid pours headless murky dark brown and unpretty sight that follow with a weird and unpredictable nutty aroma: walnut liquor, alcohol and nutmeg. That taste that follows is as spicy as it gets: sweet, candy, marzipan, tonka and hot spices were noted. The body is full and heavy, carbonation is delicate and a warm feeling follows. It’s a nice, warming winter beer that’s hard to drink on its own. It was wise sharing it.

terribleThe Dead Swedish Girl expressed her concern when I asked for a refill – in a previous tasting The Secret Agent and I brought another bottle of Unibroue, La Terrible, that got me terribly drunk. It was quite intentional, as I needed to unload some emotional burden caused by a certain (positive and blessed yet emotionally exhausting) project at work. Again, Belgian Strong Ale, high abv (10.5%), big bottle and lots of liquid to spare. Black, opaque with an off-white head that dissolves quickly, sweet, nutella chocolate spread aroma that’s also somewhat spiced and a sweet, spicy and slightly fruity taste. Terrible’s body is full and its finish is very sweet. Again, heavy, very spicy, very tasty and more suitable for dessert than for half-way through the tasting.

Alaskan Smoked Porter and Trois Pistoles and Terrible by Unibroue are beers #206, #207 and #208 I Must Try Before I Die. Hope this weekend is as sunny and warm wherever you are!


Another recap, oh no!

It’s this time of the year again, the end of the semester and the realization that unless I wake up – literally – I’ve been developing narcolepsy, I swear! –  doomsday is near. Between sleep, work, procrastination and study, I get to drink beer but not to write about my imbibing adventures. Thus, here’s another long list of cool stuff I drank and ticked.

I’m glad I got to drink Stone Smoked Porter again. I actually tried it in a blind tasting that took place in the winter, but the listing in the 1001 book went under the radar. I have a thing for smoke and perhaps because I knew what I was drinking I liked it better. Context is a huge thing and it’s stupid to ignore or deny its existence. So, smoke, wood and a little peat aroma, soft smokey bitter taste, Bitter, alcoholic finish, medium body, soft carbonation. How can this go wrong? It can’t.

I tried to score a bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale from my colleague, The Witch from Zamość. She took her son on a trip to London last April and I provided her with a list of bottle I assumed are widely-distributed. She looked for Fuller’s Vintage, shopkeepers looked at her, puzzled, and her search was cut by a sprained ankle. Small batches of this beer have been produced annually since 2005, with the recipe slightly changing each time. A fine beer it was, that 2010 vintage.  Pours reddish nutmeg, cloudy with a white head. Berry, honey and cherry aroma and a bitter, somewhat dry taste. Body is medium, finish is malty and carbonation is soft. Perhaps next time  The Witch from Zamość visits the British capital I’ll get a newer batch (hint hint).

Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale comes in a can which is cool. An APA, it pours clear and golden and has a delicate peach, flower and citrus aroma. The beer is very bitter, but rather soft and not dry. Body is light and finish is strong and bitter. Not bad at all.

Pilsener is not what people seek after when shopping for beer in the US. We tend to look for IPA’s or heavy stuff like imperial stout or sour ales, but since I’m on a mission, I take what I can. Since the mission called for Stoudt’s Pils, I got a hold on a bottle and shared with the gang.  The beer pours murky pale golden with white film and barley, flowers, honeysuckle aroma. It’s a really, really light beer. So light that it hardly has any taste at all. Then, suddenly, it becomes toasty. Texture is smooth, finish is light. I liked this beer. I wonder whether I would’ve liked it if was shared by someone else. Our tasting buddies weren’t too crazy about it.

When the Beer Greek flew to a beer marketing conference in Copenhagen, I asked him to fetch some bottles from the book. And so he did, on the last few hours before the flight home. One of those beers was Little Korkny Ale from Nørrebro Brewery. Barley wine with a deep sweet heavy taste (and cherry), and aroma that bears wine, yeast, a little alcoholic, berry and dried figs. It’s a heavy beer, with a long finish  that ends with cherry. One bottle is sure to put you to sleep.

Back in May we drank Goose Island Sofie, a mildly-sour Saison. Matilda is a Belgian ale, Sofie’s sister. Matilda is also sour, but whereas Sofie leans towards sweetness, Matilda bears some bitterness instead.

Not only Belgian-style ales did we drink. We finally opened De Struise Black Albert, a bottle bought in a small, shady shoppe in Brugge last October. In fact, this is the beer that inspired my 1001 Project. Last year, while ticking beers in the Hebrew blog on an almost-daily basis, I stumbled upon this blog, an attempt to follow the book that apparently went on hiatus after 133 beers. I hope they get back to writing, though. Beer #125 was Black Albert, which label stunned me. I had it on my mind on our trip and without knowing anything about De Struise I bought a bottle, in case I’d embark on this journey. This is one great beer: black, opaque, alcoholic and somewhat burnt. Wood and sweetness in the mouth. I’m so glad there are more De Struise beers down the road. It’s a great to have an excuse to hunt them.

Bear Republic is another brewery we sampled two beers from within a month. Pete Brown Tribute Ale was rich and awesome, with a beige head, aroma that reminded me of soy sauce, plum and chocolate and overall sweetness in the mouth. Bear Republic Racer 5, the brewery’s IPA, is fun and bears both citrus and pine in the nose. It’s a bitter beer, of course, but its bitterness is soft, almost muddy. It has a citrus finish, and hoppy aftertaste.

2011 edition of Anchor Brewing Company  Our Special Ale was alright. I can’t compare it to earlier editions, but the bottle we shared contained murky brown liquid with a yellow-beige head, wintery aroma of sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and clove, and dry, sweet taste that wasn’t too amazing.

Who brought a bottle of Brewdog’s Paradox Jura? Isle of Arran and Smokehead has just been tasted not too long ago. Jura must be my favourite though. Smoke, peat, salt in the nose, woody, bitter, metallic in the mouth, oily texture and smokey finish. Doubt I could drink this regularly, but it’s a wonderful sipping beer for special occasions, and a good reminder that last time I’ve been to Scotland was 12 years ago. About time to return, isn’t it?

I’m reaching 1000 words so I’ll stop here. Racer 5, Our Special Ale, Black Albert, Stoudts Pils, Little Korkny Ale, Fuller’s Vintage, Stone Smoked Porter, Dale’s Pale Ale and Matilda are beers #76, #77, #78, #79, #80, #81, #82, #83 I must try before I die.


Smokey America

I spent the first day of Passover vacation studying statistics and reading blogs. Caught up on many months of my beloved The Lope – a must-read to anyone fond of Americana, read a tumblr about food sampled on a Route 66 road trip that took place in December 2010, browsed a motel postcards blog that sometimes also publishes transcriptions of the notes scribbled on the back of the cards and even paid a visit to the Tiki Forums I have neglected in the past year due to beer overtaking my free time. I was in my Great American Road Trip Mood, a mood that rose from the ashes as of late, since The Secret Agent and I have began discussing a trip to be taken place in Summer 2013. A short, 4-6 weeks one that will be focused on people – friends and family who are living the American Dream.

At the moment we are still in the talking stage, no real plans, just a very, very rough itinerary that includes Texas. The Secret Agent and his family visited the Lone Star State in the early 90’s; us two drove through the Panhandle when we did Route 66 in 2007, but (other than friends) we know that there’s more to Texas than what we’ve encountered so far.

what, more than Bradley Kiser 1930 66 Super Service Station in Alanreed?

We know that at least there’s some good beer brewed in San Antonio. Tonight, when the Secret Agent came home, we opened a bottle of Ranger Creek Mesquite Smoked Porter, that I got as a birthday present. I said it before, I’ll say it again – I  ♥ ♥ ♥ smoked beer!

Ranger Creek brews beer, distills whiskey and sells the products in some points in Texas. The Mesquite Smoked Porter is described – both on the label and on the website as influenced by the classic Bamberg rauchbiers. I drank Bamberg rauchbiers both in Bamberg and at home and rauch-wise this one is way more gentler than the German stuff. The beer is dark brown and opaque and pours an impressive big, foamy tan head. The aroma starts sweet and nutty and then smoke appears. Delicate smokiness, that is. Also, I sensed hops, grassy hops.

Mouth was interesting: wooden, smoky, bitter, hickory and a little bittersweet chocolate.

Hickory reminds me of Missouri Hicks in Cuba, Missouri. Being vegetarians, we satisfied our craving a month or so later, munching on vegan jerky in Eugene, OR.

It’s a full-bodied porter, carbonated-to-measure with some malty finish. One of the better beers I have tasted recently.

Oldest, Rarest, Fanciest Sams.

Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. The Secret Agent, The Dead Swedish Girl, currently-nickless Shachar and I have been planning to check out a pub in a kibbutz 50 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. A couple of days before Saturday Shachar texts and asks if we’re available to a tasting before driving to the north. Sure, if there’s time for the driver to chill out before hitting the road. A second text message soon follows: can it take place in our place? Only 5-6 people including The Secret Agent and I.

Fair enough.

A couple of hours before the tasting comes a third text: Is it possible to add another guest or two?

Uh, ok, I replied, thinking WTF. In the next message I was asked whom I think should be invited. Puzzled, I called and found out that the tasting that’s about to take place in my place in a couple of hours will contain lots of Samuel Adams bottles: seasonal, limited releases and other goodies that are both unavailable here and come in big bottles, so if it’s possible to share the love with others, it’d be cool. We succeeded recruiting one more participant and only when Shachar arrived I understood why more would be merrier: 11 bottles. Including 1997 Triple Bock and 2003 Utopias. Then Oren arrived with bottle #12 – Samuel Adams Utopias 2007. Yup, two bottles of Utopias on my IKEA glass table in one evening. WOW!

There were so many Sams on the table, we couldn't get a good group picture.

Bottles were organized, bread was sliced and off we started with coincidentally appropriate Samuel Adams Irish Red, one of the three Sam brews that are listed in the 1001 book. Clear red beer with sweet caramel and strawberry aroma and a sweet and sharp taste. It felt a little oily and had a long finish. A nice start. From Saint Patrick’s we regressed to Christmas, with Sam Adams Holiday Porter (2010 edition): dark, brown and muddy looking, with sweet chocolate aroma and smooth sweet chocolate taste. Medium body, long finish.

Samuel Adams Black and Brew coffee stout has the strangest label. I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but does it look like a Samuel Adams label to you? If this label is supposed to symbolize the content, I’m afraid that it’s not really working, either. I mean yes, the bottle contains coffee stout, the content is black, and coffee is apparent, at least in the aroma, but you don’t get fancy cappuccino here: that’s American drip coffee I smelled, and that’s exactly what I want to smell. I prefer my coffee Italian-style, but I’d rather drink drip from a cracked, heavy mug in a diner in Missouri. Other than American coffee I smelled chocolate and smoked pepper and tasted bitter, sweetish and rich brew with a long finish and smooth texture.

Following these “unrelated” were 6 bottles from 2011 limited releases. Each adorned with a beautiful illustration and a title that brought fantastic worlds, far away from the usual All-American Sam Adams look and feel, to mind. We started this part of the evening with Tasman Red, a very dark red-brown red ale, that has a big tan head and pine and moss aroma. It tasted bitter with hints of seaweed and bore a full body with an oily texture – very rich like most beers sampled that night. Dark Depths is cataloged as Baltic IPA by the brewery’s marketing department and as Black IPA by Ratebeer. It has an illustration of a steampunk-like diver, and an opaque, dark colour with a big, thick tan head. Smells of hops – evergreen and grapefruit and tastes softly bitter. The body is surprisingly light and the texture stiff. Finish was long and bitter. The Vixen is chocolate chili bock, black in colour, tan head. It has sweet, milk chocolate aroma with hints of chili, and tastes mildly bitter and a little sweet. Finish had some chili but not enough as far as I’m concerned, soft carbonation and medium body.

Third Voyage, a double IPA, has clear brown colour and a foamy white head, beneath which good, dry aroma of grapefruit and pine was hiding. Taste was appropriately bitter with a hint of sweetness,finish was dry, carbonation – soft, body – light. It was a good bear. Cinder Bock is the name of the smoked beer in this series. I absolutely adore smokiness in my brew, and I attribute it to two decades of meat-free diet; this must be some sort of compensation. Anyway, that Rauch Bock has clear dark ruby-brown colour and a yellowish head. It had faint smoke aroma, that also contained some metallic and alcoholic notes and sweet, smoky taste. There was smoke in the finish, oily texture and medium body. Again, I could do with more aggressive smoke, but that’s me.

Griffin’s Bow closed this part of the tasting. Barley Wine. Clear, orange-amber in colour and wooden sweet aroma opened for a bitter-sweet tasting brew that also bore hints of vanilla. It had a heavy body and buttery texture and was good. Dark Depths was my favourite in this part.

The rest of the bottles. Yes, that's a second Utopia!

The third part of the tasting would be considered by many as the crown jewels. Triple Bock was the brewery’s first attempt in extreme brewing, they say, and the beer sure stretches the limit of the definition. Last brewed in 1997, we opened a 15 years old bottle, which texture resembled soy sauce more than actual beer. Thick, black with no head, soy and chocolate liquor aroma and a rich but not very good taste of chocolate, salt and cherry. Body was thick and full and the beer itself was extreme indeed – too extreme for me.

Finally, Samuel Adams Utopias. Well, UtopiaseS. First is 2007 vintage, which fellow bottle from the same batch is currently available on ebay for $260 and 2003 that at time of writing is offered on ebay for $649. Those two on my table. Guinness Book of Records Strongest Beer in the World(since 2002, %25 abv.), star of any World’s Most Expensive Beers/ World’s Strangest Beer Bottles lists, on MY table. 2007 had a dark soy sauce colour, and soy sauce-alcoholic aroma. It tasted very sweet, liquor-like, and also had some wood. It had a sleek oily texture, obviously lacked carbonation, long, chocolate, burning aftertaste and a general “this is liquor, not beer” feeling. 2003 was brown and cloudy, smelled sweet and moldy, tasted sweet, chocolatey and alcoholic and had a thick, oily, really long finish.

The evening’s best beers were from the 2011 limited edition series, but how can a beer lover not be excited about the opportunity to sample these rare, old editions? I broke three records that night: Oldest, strongest and most expensive beer tasted up to date.

happy camper me (and Oren, too)

#30 (Irish Red) and #31 (Utopia) I must try before I die.

Then we went to the pub. I drank Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier that’s also in the book, but I’ll write about it some other time.

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