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 “Sour Ale”

6-months planning

A very intense week came to a sweet end with booking our plane tickets to the US. We’re only taking off in April, but the itinerary is pretty much set: Beer, cocktails and niece in Southern California, cocktails, beer and nephew in New York, deep south, cocktails, beer and bourbon in between. Early booking means low airfare and six months to dream and plan. Next thing I did after closing the Expedia tab was to google map Port Brewing (10 minutes from Escondido and the niece), and the Bruery (tap room is open til late – we can drop by on our way from the airport, if we’re not too knackered.) Both brew Book Beers, of course, only Orchard White by the latter is now retired. Another reason to live forever, or better, drop this mission. Or maybe, check out the second edition of this stupid publication.

Booking is a good excuse to recap Californian beers I drank and haven’t blogged about yet. Like Lost Abbey 10 Commandments, that’s brewed in the above-mentioned Port Brewing. I had it in late December 2013 (and I’m afraid that’s not the worst backlog in this blog), from friends who brought it back from a beer festival in Italy, if I’m not mistaken. 10% abv. of Belgian Strong Ale. My sample of this 2012 vintage bottle poured murky brown and had a dark tan head. I smelled raisins, hyssop and turmeric,and after a while – a little alcohol. It tasted very fruity, dark and heavy, with a little alcohol in the mouth too. Full-bodied, Belgian-like, deep, spicy finish. Very complex, heavy and difficult to drink.

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Another old one is Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale that we shared at a tasting at The Dancing Camel pub in Florentine, Tel Aviv, in December 2013. Wintery IPA with 6.8% abv. Last time I checked the empty bottle was still adorning the bathroom over there. Clear amber. Slightly spicy, christmas cake aroma, bitter, hoppy, fruity taste, medium-bodied, a little burnt finish. Nice. – these are my tasting notes for this beer.

REL, Dead Swedish Girl and The Actuary, that brought the 10 Commandments, also shared FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout – from FiftyFifty Brewing. Looking at the date it was sampled, they must have brought it back from Copenhagen Beer Celebration. Eclipse is an imperial stout that aged for ~7 months in oak barrels and  released once a year, in December. Our purple wax-sealed sample was aged in Elijah Craig barrels and was pretty awesome: black with tan head. A little vinous, wood, vanilla. Deep sweet taste and a little spicy. Smooth, syrupy, no carbonation, a little alcoholic aftertaste.

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Next, Green Flash Le Freak – 9.2% Belgian Strong Ale from San Diego. I loved this one. Hazy gold-amber with white head. Fresh, hoppy aroma, grapefruit and pine. Grassy, skunky green taste. Medium body, relatively carbonated, hoppy and floral finish.

Another Californian Imperial Stout is Moylans Ryan Sullivans. we bought the bottle in Høkeren, a cute bottle shop in Copenhagen, in January, because there is no better way to celebrate one’s birthday in a cold and windy city filled with beautiful people. We shared the bottle at Mikkeller & Friends with our ratebeer/untapped buddies Ruben and Dorthe. Black, with a big tan head. Dark chocolate and espresso aroma, rich bitterness, coffee and a hint of sourness in the mouth, full body, very bitter finish, no carbonation. Nothing experimental here, just a nice and solid imperial stout.

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It was Teva Boy who shared The Bruery Saison Rue in early 2014. Quite awesome and heavy on alcohol saison – 8.5% here. Cloudy amber with white head. Bretty, fruity, apple, some toffee and pepper aroma, mildly sour but very drinkable – a little alcoholic too. Full body, slightly alcoholic finish. Very good.

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I believe I had Russian River Supplication sour ale on more than one occasion, but my tasting notes are from a tasting at Teva Boy, of a bottle shared by Sparrow Brewery’s owner and brewmaster Dror, from February 2013(!) Pours clear-to-hazy rusty with white ring. Apple vinegar, air freshener, rose-water aroma, delicate sour taste. Medium body, very fizzy, ciderish finish. I gave it 3.3/5 – that’s around my average rating. I wonder how much I’d give it today.

This ends the Californian backlog. Lots more to drink from The Golden State – the ones from the book that are still available and hundreds more. We have only 5 or 6 days in SoCal before heading to Austin – we’re gonna work hard.

Lost Abbey 10 Commandments, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, FiftyFifty Imperial Eclipse Stout, Green Flash Le Freak,  Moylans Ryan Sullivans, The Bruery Saison Rue, Russian River Supplication, are beers #453, #454, #455, #456, #457, #458, and #459 I must Try Before I Die (and thank you Teva Boy!)

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Belgiana

Again, a month-long blog hiatus. Been busy doing, well, stuff. And drinking beer as usual. Beer like Saison de Pipaix by Belgium’s Brasserie à Vapeur that The Beer Greek brought from a recent business trip. It’s a whimsical saison with a complex aroma that contains honey, orange, ginger and candy along with a little rye, and a sweet taste, followed by hints of black pepper, honey and a little anise. Full body, a little anise aftertaste and spicy finish. I am usuallya little repulsed by anise, but here it worked fine.

Bellevaux Black, 6.3% abv. old ale style that I got in a face-to-face trade in Gent last November poured murky brown and ugly, but other than that was quite alright. Malt, cold coffee, mud and some roast in the nose, Roasty, malty, coffee and soft bitterness in the mouth. Medium-to-full body, roasty finish

I have drank Pauwel Kwak many times – it’s been distributed here for years – but only got to rate it last February, the night before we flew to Spain. Drank this Belgian Strong Ale from tap at the Porter and Sons in Tel Aviv. Had I bothered reviewing it when I started this blog, I’m sure I would’ve written a much more raving review, but now it’s just too alcoholic and acetic for my taste and the strong banana liquor taste didn’t amaze me.

Malheur 12 is another Belgian Strong Ale that I didn’t really enjoy. Murky dark brown with a beige head. Sugary, some burn caramel aroma, sugary and very sweet taste. I really only tasted sugar. Fuzzy, medium body, unpleasing alcoholic aftertaste.

I shared my bottle of De Ranke Guldenberg at the same tasting we had Malheur 12. Hazy orange-amber. Sweet, honey aroma, very sweet and a little oxidized taste, honey in the mouth. Smooth, medium body, sweet and heavy finish. Overly sweet and too heavy for me.

My Excellent Little Brother bought me a bottle of Corsendonk Angus from New York. It’s an Abbey Tripel that pours clear gold with a foamy white head. Light fruity aroma, a little red apple notes. Bitter, fruit bubblegum sweetness in the mouth. Medium body, sugary finish, fairly fizzed.

When I logged in to the CMS I thought I’d just wrote about Pipaix and Black but then I went up and down the list and just covered all the Belgian beers I drank in Israel and haven’t written about yet. There are plenty of Belgians I drank in my travels which will be covered some other time.

Saison de Pipaix, Bellevaux Black, Pauwel Kwak, Malheur 12, De Ranke Guldenberg, Corsendonk Angus are beers #409, #410, #411, #412, #413, #414 Beers I Must Try Before I Die.

Sour but Sweet

jolly_ichtegemRight after publishing the previous post, we rushed to a tasting with our fellow ratebeerians and untappers. It’s been a while since we all met – with The Secret Agent and I being sick, me having to study, us traveling to Spain and them – a whole bunch of them – traveling to the US for a hardcore West Coast beer tour.

For this tasting I grabbed whatever was in the fridge, taking into consideration bottle size (we were supposed to be 10 people at the tasting) and FIFO, and ended up sharing Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Ichtegems Grand Cru, American and Belgian sour red/brown ales, respectively. Apparently La Roja was one of the first beers shared in an Israeli Ratebeer tasting, way back in 2009. I joined the website in late 2011 and we started attending tastings around that time, I think. It feels like ages, so 2009 is pretty much ancient history. Anyway, I think that Dead Swedish Girl and The Actuary liked this beer even after all these years and the thousands of beers each of them has imbibed. This Flemish beer that’s brewed in Michgen pours murky brown, and smells sour, a little lactic and of cherry yogurt. It has a sour mouthfeel and yet, one can sure taste the grain, which is pretty cool. Body’s relatively light, there’s hardly any carbonation and finish is sour, though mild and tolerable.

Ichtegems Grand Cru comes from the Belgian family-run brewery Strubbe. It is the brewery’s Oud Bruin that’s matured in oak tanks. This one also pours murky brown and smells a little vinous – I sensed grapes and some cherries. Tastes sweetish and not sour at all; it actually tastes a little like sherry – pretty cool! The beer isn’t really carbonated, it is full-bodied and has a long, sherry finish. Really nice, delicate and inoffensive.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja and Ichtegems Grand Cru are beers #401 and #402 I Must Try Before I Die.

Bloggin Belgian Beer

As the washing machine’s doing its second weekend run, opened my laptop, with the following tasks in mind:
1. Catching up on Ratebeer
2. Booking hotel/ Air B&B rooms in Brussels and Ghent.

Being the ADD person that I am, as I was typing my ratings and updating my 1001 list, I started thinking about this blog and my Belgian beer 1001 status and decided to log in and continue catching up on this blog, with Belgian beer in mind. There are 118 Belgian beers listed in the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book. That’s 11.78% of the beers in the book and it kinda makes sense. Out of the 118 I drank 66, 55.9% of the beers listed, but reviewed 54. I have 12 beers to write about, then drink and review a few that are available in Israel and in my cellar until November, in order to clean the desk before the long, and much anticipated weekend in November*.

So in mostly alphabetical order, here we go. Since it’s a long list, # of Beer I Must Try Before I Die will appear on the side of the list:
#335: Achel 8 Blond – I drank it last November, I think. 8% abv, Belgian Strong Ale. It pours lear gold-yellow with white head. Some petrol, then spiciness, then yeasty bitter aroma. Yeasty bitterness in the mouth, that distinctive Belgian taste. Medium-to-full body, fruity yeasty finish.

#336, #337: Arabier and Oerbier, both by De Dolle, with naive and beautifully illustrated labels. Arabier is Strong Belgian Ale, 8% abv, drank in November. Pours hazy yellow golden with a big, white head. Sweet, dried apricot aroma, apricot in the mouth, then very bitter. Apricot aftertaste, medium-to-full body, carbonated. I shared Oerbier at the same tasting back in November. This Belgian Strong Ale goes to 9% abv. It pours deep brown and almost opaque, with a frothy, light tan head. Fruity aroma, dried fig. Tastes bitter and nice and again, of dried figs. Full body, fruity bitter finish, a little sour wine. I liked them both, with no particular preference between them.

oerbier arabier

#338: Brasserie Dupont‘sAvec les Bons Voeux – An Abbey-style tripel that The Laughing Buddha Beer crew brought from their beer and metal trip to Belgium earlier this year. 9.5% Abv. Clear white gold with a foamy white head. I smelled some sour notes, vinegar and hints of fruit aroma and the taste was sweet and very mildly sour. Light body for this high abv., soft carbonation, a little sour finish.

#339: Hercule Stout – one of my favourite beers from Belgium! The Secret Agent and I drank it for the first time when we traveled there 3 years ago, right before I began rating and blogging here. For the sake of my log, Skipper Tom shared a bottle of this goodness. It’s an imperial stout, with 9% abv. Pours black with beige head. Slightly vegetal aroma, a little smooth and sweet taste that then turns smoky. Dry, wood and roastiness in the mouth. medium-bodied, long, roasty finish. Again, really good.

#340 and #341 are both from Liefmans. The Secret Agent and I shared a bottle of Liefmans Cuvée Brut at home a couple of weeks ago, in a lazy, hot weekend afternoon. This is a Liefmans Oud Bruin-based kried that’s fermented with whole cherries for about 12 months and then blended with Oud Bruin and Goudenband from the same brewery. At 6% abv. it’s a complex, yet refreshing beer, with a very dark ruby-red colour, cherry, some oak and cinnamon buns aroma, and a tarty, cherry taste with a little sugar. Medium body, fruity aftertaste with a little peat. Tasty. Liefmans Goudanband was also a special purchase by the Laughing Buddha crew. They shared this beer with us at a tasting at Stas’ in one of the most frightening nights The Secret Agent and I have ever experienced. Beer tasting was a temporary relief from stress and fear. But I’m drifting away – blame it on the ADD. Goudanband pours murky brown with beige head and has a slightly sour aroma of grapes and cranberries. It tastes very, very sour! Not hostile, though. Medium-bodied, a little flat (but in a good way), and sourish finish.

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Are you still here?

#342 is Monk’s Cafe’ Flemish Sour Ale – don’t remember how I got it – Maybe my Excellent Little Brother bought it for me? Brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge for Monk’s Cafe’ in Philadelphia, its commercial description reads “We blend young and old beers to make this mildy tart sour ale. Light bodied with a lactic/sour nose and a bit of sweet and sour in the finish. Very refreshing!” It was a little too harsh for me. Not a heavy beer, only 5.5% abv, but with its wort, malt, date honey and a little sour aroma, sour, a little like cheap, sweet red wine,taste, light body, no carbonation and its slightly sourish finish, it wasn’t really to my taste.

#343 is Petrus Oud Bruin, Third in this listing from the Laughing Buddhas. This is a sour ale that I quite liked. It has clear dark brown with beige head, walnut, cinnamon aroma, mildly sour taste with cinnamon undertones, fair carbonation, medium body and a lingering, apricot-sourness finish. 5.5% abv. here too.

#344: guess who brought a bottle of Saison Dupont? Yup, it’s Ariel T., Stas and Vova again. I like Saisons and this is a good example for this type of beers. Clear gold with frothy white foam. Slightly sour aroma with notes of apricot and banana, very mildly sourness in the mouth and very drinkable. Medium body, smooth, creamy texture, long and a little ripe citrus finish.

#345: The Secret Agent and I shared a bottle of Piraat on my birthday weekend getaway to Prague last January. We were at the Nota Bene, a basement bar dedicated mostly to Belgian beers and a great relief from some horrendous fruity beers we drank nearby. Clear brown with a huuuuge, frothy white head. Oatmeal cookie, biscuit and warm spices aroma. Alcoholic, sweet, esteric fruitiness in the mouth. Medium-bodied, sweet, esteric finish. I liked it but may have not liked it that much in a different setting. 10.5% abv.

And finally, at #346 – Rodenbach Grand Cru, which we shared with my Big Brother-In-Law last March, during our family trip in Romania. We bought the bottle at the Beer O’Clock in Bucharest and opened it on the night Big Brother-In-Law, his wife and da niece arrived from California. I recall that we were all tired – the Californian branch from the long flight, us from the long ride back from Constanta. So, what did I think about the beer? Clear reddish brown with cream-coloured foam, Candy, pickle-juice, alcohol and sour wine aroma, rather delicate sourness and fruity taste. Light body, delicate fizz and relatively easy to drink.

Phew – washing machine went quiet a looong time ago and writing about all this beer made me tasty. Gonna get some cold soda from the fridge and find accommodation in Ghent.

*While I’ll be spending as much time as possible in cafe’s, the purpose of this trip is visiting WWI sites and attending Einstürzende Neubauten’s premiere concert in Diksmude. Still, looking for beer tips and recommendations, especially for Ieper and Diksmude. Please comment if you have any.

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).

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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

Sourpuss

the ritualistic end-of-tasting pic

the ritualistic end-of-tasting pic

Last Sunday The Secret Agent and I joined a sour beer tasting at the Beer and Beyond shop in Tel Aviv. It was the first time that we actually participated in a sour beer tasting and not just crashing. We have not yet acquired the taste but we’ve been handling it quite well and religiously following the 1001 book, that commands us to  imbibe a handful of those pungent concoctions. Thus when we order, trade and pimp beer we make sure to include sour stuff to drink and tick and share in these special sessions.

We contributed two bottles to Sunday’s gathering. First is Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise, 2010 vintage that Shachar, owner of Beer and Beyond to whom I failed to find a permanent nick, carried from Belgium (knowing he’ll get a glass 🙂 ). 4th out of the five Cantillon reps. in the book. Old lambic with an addition of glucose, says The Holy Book, and more raspberries than Rosé de Gambrinus – the 5th Cantillon in the book, which we haven’t tasted yet so we cannot compare.

Cantillon and fans

Cantillon and fans

Look at this beauty: hazy red with a pale pink head. I wish its aroma was as good as its looks: it smells acidic and a little like acrylic paint. As it sits in the glass the raspberries rise to the nostrils. It tastes faintly of raspberries, violently sour and somewhat rotten. No carbonation, medium body. Look at REL and The Dead Swedish Girl having the time of their lives.

boonThe Actuary (de jure and de facto!) brought Boon Oude Geuze and Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait. We had actually drank the former a couple of weeks ago with Nimrod from The Attic alcoholic empire but I haven’t got to write about that session yet. Oude Geuze smelled stinky and urinal at Beer and Beyond but 2 weeks ago in Haifa it was more like sour milk, rotten oranges left on the grove’s ground and baby shit – I shit you not. I rated the orange and milk (and baby shit) aroma higher.  Taste? Very sour. Carbonation? None. I liked it best when we drank it in Romania, but that’s for another entey that’s in the work. Mariage Parfait is like premium Oude Geuze, personally blended by the brewmaster. I like it better than the regular geuze. It was clearer in colour, solphuric in the nose and tastes more tolerable and delicate with every sip.

last, yeasty, drop

last, yeasty, drop

Finally – our crown jewel, one of these beers you think you’d never find and its unexpected appearance on the shelf fills you with joy: BFM L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien (2011 vintage): we found it in Beer Planet in Zürich during our Swiss Weekend. A blend of beers aged in oak casks that was the perfect finale to the tasting. It’s an ugly beer – orange, headless and filled with floaties – cloudy and yeasty in my glass, clear in DSG’s that got the first pour, that smells of nuts, bile and gherkin water. The taste is rather pleasing – very sour, of course, but reminds me of fruit soup – and becomes more tolerable and even sweeter as sips go by. The body is full and heavy, finish is slightly sour and carbonation is high. Like the other three mentioned here – not an easy drink.

There are plenty of other sour beers in the book. We drank a few that we haven’t got a chance to blog about and are already on the lookout for more. Glad that there are tastings – drinking lambics by ourselves would have been nearly impossible.

Cantillon Lou Pepe, Boon Oude Geuze, Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait and L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien are beers #265, #266, #267 and #268 I Must Try Before I Die.

Belgian Triplet

It’s too hot. Too hot and muggy to drink anything heavier than Helles, let alone write anything longer than a snarky Facebook status about the arbitrary and dangerous recent beer tax raise or the spin-war those who run this country are determined to launch. However, I still drink heavier stuff and still determined to go on with this blog and the 1001 project and beer writing in general, even if it means tasting Belgian ales in the middle of the Tel Avivian summer and then re-live the experience by looking at the tasting notes and typing.

The people we taste with rarely ever bring Belgian Ales to the sessions. Scandinavian stuff?Oh yeah! American beer? Bring ’em in! Italian brews? The more, the merrier. Belgian ales? Unless it’s Crazy Sour Sessions or true rarities, usually they won’t be found on the table*. It’s too heavy, too spiced and not too interesting to the seasoned drinker, I guess.  However, the Israeli market is quite fond of Belgian Ales with it’s high alcoholic percentage and sweetness. Maredsous, the Dwarf beer and Chimay are popular around here and beer importers always expand the selection of available Belgians. Besides the major players, every now and then the local beer hunters and gatherers bump into new bottles on the shelves, brought by unknown businesses that for one reason or another decide to get into the importing game, either because they read too many press releases about the raising popularity of beer or because they drank something fantastic they had to share with the world. I think that De Halve Maan beers that The Secret Agent and I spotted on the shelves of the local homebrew supply business Beer-D in the spring of 2011, is an example of the latter. Why else would a computer hardware company distribute beer from Bruges?

The three types of beer marketed by the computer company, Straffe Hendrik triple and quadruple as well as Brugse Zot, were a rare sight at the beer shops. Then it went on sale at the Ninkasi, Beer-D’s pub and pretty much disappeared from the market. We bought bottles at Beerandbeyond’s sale last spring. They seemed pretty old back then and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were from the same batch as the ones we bought at Beer-D’s a year before.

The Secret Agent and I remembered liking those beers, but lowered our expectations because of the age of the bottles and more importantly the shift in our particular taste, that’s been less tolerant towards Belgian stuff. The floating particles that were pretty apparent while pouring the clear amber liquid kinda turned me off. It also tasted and smelled old and cider-like with dominant yeast and toffee in the nose and sour in the mouth. I recall it was much better last time we had it.

Last May The Not-Yet Nicked brought us 2 25cl bottles from the beer tour he guided in Belgium. I sent him a list of 80+ items and told him to grab whatever. Didn’t look for rarities (and at that point preferred not to spend money on them anyway), just for stuff that’s unavailable here. He returned with  bottles of Rodenbach and Dupont Biolégère, both we shared at tastings.

Biolégère is an organic Saison by the creators of Saison Dupont which we fondly remember from our trip to Belgium last October, but like too many other organic beers we got to sample, this one wasn’t satisfying. Dry aroma with some yeast and limestone and a little sour, a little sweet taste.  It has light body and fruity finish and I won’t regret never drinking it again.  Rodenbach is a Flemish sour ale. I’m becoming more and more tolerant towards sour beer so drinking it wasn’t too shocking. Sourness and cherry in the nose, malt, sour, sweet undertones in the mouth and a medium body with hops that pop up towards the finish.

These were beers #95, #96, #97 I must try before I die. 3 more to the 100.

*The above sentence is based on gut feelings and not on real statistics.

Sour Crasher

For the third time I crashed into a sour tasting held at the Peaceful CEO’s office. I arrived late, as I only joined for the last two bottles on the list. This was a paid tasting and I didn’t have the money nor the time to participate in the entire event.  By the time I arrived the small gang of sourheads was already pissed-drunk. I couldn’t follow their conversation but nevertheless, enjoyed and was amused by the company.

Before heading to the tasting notes I must say that I’m getting used to the extremity of sour beers and that every now and then I even like them. Not that I’d drink a bottle by myself, mind you, but I can sip and enjoy a tasting goblet all the way through.

First beer I sampled was a beer now known as New Belgium La Folie, but we opened a bottle from 2011, when the beer was still called Lips of Faith La Folie. It pours dark brown, with a hazy yellowish off white head and  smells of soda, grape juice, some cherry and plum aroma. Tastes sour and fruity – I could also taste tomatoes (does it consider fruity?).  It has a medium body and acidic aftertaste and it’s not bad at all.

The second beer I tasted, the last in the tasting, is Russian River Consecration. Russian River Temptation was poured in a previous sour tasting and I liked it much better than this one. We sampled a bottle from a batch bottled in December 2008 that pours murky nut brown with foamy off white head. I smelled sweet blackcurrants aroma and tasted something sour, alcoholic and oily. Medium body and short finish – thank goodness. This one wasn’t as good as the first.

Highlight of the tasting was homemade sourkraut brought by The Long Distance Runner. I hope that by writing this I won’t be expelled from future sour tasting because they are fun, in their own twisted way.

Those were beers #74 and #75 I Must Try Before I Die

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

It is not a bottle pic if there's no beergeek in the back. Thanks DSG for the photo.

Pardon my absence.  In the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a sick leave and was more on the mood of exploiting the wonders of streaming, something I’ve never done before than into blogging.  Drinking and tasting? Yes, moderately, but been too caught up with liver-unrelated health conditions. But I feel better now, busy emptying the fridge before another beer batch arrives. I also have the time to catch up and finally write about the second Sour Beer tasting I invited myself to.

It started the same as the first sour beer tasting crashing: I heard about the plan and asked DSG to look at the beer list. Only this time 5 out of the 12 bottles were on my list. DSG said it would be stupid not to stay for the entire tasting and thus, on Sunday evening before Passover, I stopped by at a small but great Tel Avivian bakery and bought fresh, crisp loaves of sourdough bread, in lieu of the bottles that I could not contribute to the tasting.

Despite my instinctive disliking of sour beers, I tried to be as open-minded as possible, and even managed to enjoy a couple of the brews.

The highlight of the tasting, at least for me, was Liefmans Glühkriek, that we first sampled cold and then heated. I love Christmas wine (spiced wine is one of the few forms that I enjoy this drink) and whereas Cherry beer is far from being my favourite, it worked well here. When cold, cherry dominated the aroma and the taste was sweet, spicy and tangy. Warming the liquid brought out winy, spicy-allspice aroma and soft, deep, just a little sour taste. No carbonation and wine-like finish.

Lindeman’s Faro Lambic was also not the hardcore beer I expected: smells like champagne, tastes rather sweet and delicate with some sourness in the back and an oily texture.. I think I kinda like it.

Next we proceeded to an unrateable bottle: Achziv, spontaneously-fermented beer brewed by my buddy Captain Nimrod at his home, in the very heart of Tel Aviv. Hazy golden in colour, no head, dominant smoke due to the malt used (and not to the fact that Dizengoff 100‘s beers are brewed in 100 Dizengoff st, where you eat smog and bus fumes for breakfast, lunch and dinner). It tasted a little sour but not in a lambic-y way and was quite weird altogether.

New Belgium Lips of Faith’s Beer de Mars was not to my liking. Cloudy orange in colour, orange and clove in the nose and white orange peel in the mouth, it is a light beer, rather flat and unimpressive. The label was pretty though, and that’s a statement you’d never hear or read about Orval, the next in line. You’d think that a trappist beer has no place in a sour tasting session, but had this bottle been a human being, it’d be a 4th grader now. Bottled in March 14th 2002, it poured cloudy with particles floating and sinking, and minimal foam. It smelled yeasty, stinky and limestone-like and tasted poisonously sour. A little burning finish, flat, heavy body and hard to drink, Orval doesn’t age gracefully, although there was something I liked in the taste and the smell.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is not a beer tasting if there’s no Mikkeller in line. This time, Spontancranberry: violent, raw sourness, hard to swallow and rather flat, with cloudy orange colour and cranberry aroma. I didn’t detect the manure aroma that others have sensed. Not sure if I’m glad about missing it or not.

Oude Beersel Oude Geuze is listed in the book and was one of my least favourite in this session. Cloudy piss colour with white head, with a delicate dust and grease aroma, it tasted sour and stingy and had a salty finish. Girardin Gueuze Black Label smelled of garlic (one of my favourite aromas in the whole world, just not in beer) and piss and was hardcorely sour: burning sensation, green olives in the mouth and a sweetish finish that was left in my mouth when the flat liquid went down my esophagus.

Like Mikkeller and beer tasting, it seems like it is not a sour beer tasting if there is no Cantillon on the table. The Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio is blond, almost flat and cloudy, that sports dairy aroma (brie in particular) and some apple. It tasted hot and, well, sour and had a light body and dry, flat finish. 3 Fonteinen Zwet.Be was pretty cool: dark porter brewed with lambic yeast. It poured dark opaque brown, had tan head and smelled like marmite and grapes. Zwet.Be had a hint of sour, but unlike the other drinks sampled this one reminded me of beer with its slight bitterness. Light body, light carbonation and pretty decent.

Russian River Temptation was one of the better parts in this tasting: Clear blond with a slim white film of foam, it sported  a condensed pungent aroma and while there was a little bitterness, sour dominated the taste buds. Light body, oily with light carbonation, it was a little like wine.

We finished the tasting with De Dolle Special Reserva Oerbier, 2008 edition. Cloudy brown in colour, muddy, then alcoholic, then cherry aroma, unpleasant hot, sour and acidic  taste and fizzy body.

It was an interesting tasting and I am glad I was welcomed. 6 beers were crossed off my list: Orval, which I’ll probably taste again in a fresher mode, Oude Beersel Oude Geuze, Girardin Gueuze Black Label Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio, Russian River Temptation and De Dolle Special Reserva Oerbier are beers # 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42  to try before I die.

Where’s #43, you ask? Well, I made a mistake earlier  and Young Double Chocolate Stout is NOT in the book, so there.

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