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 “Traditional Ale”

I need a Midas Touch


This morning started bad, physically and emotionally. I’m running errands on the computer I wish I hadn’t, procrastinating more urgent matters. It is one of these days that shouldn’t have happened and I wish everything just turned to bright, soulless gold.

Chose to waste my time updating this blog. Opened the spreadsheet I’ve been using to track down my progress and my eyes fell on Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch, one of the brewery’s best known beers, of 9% and a story of it being made with ingredients found in 2,700-year-old drinking vessels from the tomb of King Midas. Don’t feel like getting into this right now anyway. Shared my bottle, brewed in 2012, in March 2014. Clear gold with white ring. Sweet, honey and saffron aroma, sweet honey taste with the slightest sourness. Thick, full-bodied, syrupy, flat and round. Good and complicated beer, almost as complicated as my current state.

Midas Touch is Beer #432 I Must Try Before I Die </end of self-pity>


I Can’t Believe It’s Weekend


all blurry after the tasting

Good company, yummy vegan pizza, hoppy tea and plenty of beer – even though Thursday was a work day and Friday-Saturday are far from being fun, with homework and gym task, Wednesday’s tasting felt like a grand opening for a fabulous weekend. It could’ve been a fab weekend, had I not dug my own career-driven grave with textbooks in lieu of a shovel.

Anyway, a great tasting it was. 20 beers, 5 of which are book material! Sagres Bohemia from Portugal. The book that accompanies this blog says that the best spot to drink this beer is Cervejaria Trindade in Lisbon. I wish. See, I list just about EVERYTHING and Portugal is listed in my Top 15 Countries to Visit. Sadly, it is not on The Secret Agent’s top-15 list (that’s basically constructed of the 16 German Bundesländer) so there are no plans to visit there anytime soon. The ambiance at out Tel Avivian tasting was great, but apparently not as great as Cervejaria Trindade’s. No reason to gush over this beer in Tel Aviv. Fruity, bready and a little metallic aroma and a sweet and nasty taste that I didn’t get. The Beer Greek says it tastes like vomit. I guess it’s  one of those beers that you need to drink in a specific location to enjoy.Cerveja Sagres BohemiaAllagash Tripel Reserve, on the other hand, was awesome. Our beer peers are mostly hop-heads and tend to be pretty jaded towards anything remotely Belgian. This surprised us all for the better. Hazy-to-cloudy amber with white head and this Belgian aroma of yeast, bubblegum, spices and chemicals. It tastes fruity, spicy and juicy and feels a little like wheat beer – very tasting and very fulfilling.


Then we had a Belgian Belgian beer: Malheur Dark Brut with its surprising 12% abv. is a nice and complex ‘digestif’ brew. Very dark, opaque brown, sand-coloured head and an interesting chocolate-mint aroma that’s accompanied with a little fruitiness. It tastes mildly sweet and fruity, there’s cherry in the mouth, but not in a sour-beer sort of way. After a moment comes pleasing chocolate sweetness. It has a full body, a little chocolate in the finish and an alright carbonation. Note that alcohol is not mentioned in the tasting notes – keep in mind the 12% abv!

Malheur Dark Brut

Hair of the Dog Adam is a 10% abv. Dortmunder from Portland, Oregon, that has an uncompromising, complex aroma: ink, squid, sugary-sweetness, prone and very faint smokiness and an edgy, very bitter taste that also has fruit and prune notes. Full body, smooth, fruity finish with raisins – a rich, interesting beer.


5th beer in this Tasting was Old Stock Ale by North Coast Brewing, vintage 2012 that Big Bear says is the lightest barley wine he has ever tasted. It’s a nice beer, but aging would have done good to it. Shame we didn’t wait. Clear reddish brown, with alcohol, honey and some chocolate in the nose – aroma which is sweet and bitter alike – Very sweet, slightly bitter and dry in the mouth, syrupy texture, medium-to-full body, mildly carbonated and an alcoholic finish.


So… Sagres Bohemia, Malheur Dark Brut, Allagash Tripel Reserve, Adam by Haid of the Dog and North Coast Old Stock Ale are beers #209, #210, #211, #212 and #213 I Must Try Before I Die. Off to bed to get some sleep!

Little Birds Sit On Your Shoulders


With the way SEO goes, there’s a good chance that the next person who’ll look for Kenneth Patchen’s haunting love poem will land here, in this geeky beer blog. The link is for that person, but hey, you are welcome to stay and read about beer too!

Today’s catching-up menu consists of Japanese beer that comes in the cutest packaging ever. So cute that when my Excellent Little Brother unwrapped/ unsocked them, his BFF, esteemed illustrator Shimrit Elkanati said that at first glance it looks like a bottle of pop,with its bright colours and owl, and that only the neck label indicates that there’s beer in the bottle. Yup, it’s Hitachino Nest beer I’m writing about today. A beer that its branding screams of kawaii; look at the website, it’s so, so pretty ^___^

The Excellent Little Brother brought 2 bottles from Wholefoods in New York and The Beer Greek shared a third at a tasting.

The first beer I tried is Hitachino Nest White Ale – probably the brewery’s most popular beer. This is a Belgian Witbier  that pours murky light blond  and smells of ripe apricot – typical of Belgian wheat beer – but also of roses and nutmeg; all nice and aromatic. It tastes lightly sweet with a hint of apricot sourness. A delicate, tasty and juicy beer and the best of the three.


Hitachino Nest XH is another Belgian ale of the strong kind (eXtra Heavy?) that is distilled in sake barrels. The sake is apparent in the nose, along with grapes and summer fruit. It tastes sweet, like dessert wine, has a delicate fizz and is a rather satisfying beer with a light body despite the 8% abv.

The Beer Greek brought a bottle of Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale, also from New York. We began cooking red rice only recently and I love its taste, texture and flexibility, on top of its nutritional values. The bottle was probably infected, with a weird aroma of olives and paprika – two things that go well with red rice, but probably weren’t supposed to go with this beer – and slight bitterness with hints of black pepper. Again, the beer was probably spoiled.

Still, my curiosity about the other beers from the brewery remains, as well as the desire to collect their merchandise.

Hitachino Nest White Ale and Hitachino Nest XH are beers #179 and #180 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.

Drink Historically.

This is how  I often preferred my music, circa 1997: Slowish, heavier, grinding vocals with heavy accent that overshadows the words, pressed on vinyl packed in sleeves loaded with Pictish imagery and complex Celtic knot-work.

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Beer-wise, back then I drank mostly alco-pops (I lived in England and Hooch just came into the market and made getting drunk less painful) and cheap lager. Couldn’t tell lager from ale, but that’s what my ex always ordered at the pub; a pint of lager. When we felt like splurging we paid for perfection and got a six-pack of Stella Artois.
Meanwhile in Scotland, Williams Brothers Brewing Company released Heather Ales historic beer series,  sharing common ground with the records I was playing: pride in the regional history and myth and fascinating knotwork. I can’t recall seeing the bottles back then, definitely not in the offy where we got our booze; there’s a difference between being into beer and being into drinking, see? I would’ve probably not buy the bottles had I seen them anyway. I was skint and, let’s face it, cheap, and there’s no way I’d have spent my thinning budget on fancy beer.

That was then, this is now. Knotwork is still beautiful, Celtic punk still rules (tho I rarely listen to it), but my fascination with Scotland has drifted to new shores – just look at the fat Scottish Beer category tab to the right of this blog entry.

Heather Ales are recreated from old Highlands ale recipes. Traditionally bitterness and preservation were achieved using local herbs and plants, not hops, but because commercial bottled beer has to hold up for a few months at least, minimal amount of hops is added to the beer. There are five different beers in the series, sold either individually or in a 4-pack titled Historic Ales from Scotland which is a variety pack of 4 out of the 5. The Secret Agent and I tasted 3 of them so far,and here are the tasting notes.

Heather Ales Ebulum is the first we tried, courtesy of the Dead Swedish Girl who shared it at a tasting last spring. That’s a recreation of a 16th century domestic recipe where elderberries are added to the brew during fermentation. It’s a tasty beer. Black and opaque with heavy berry and chocolate aroma, heavy body, and roast, a little smoke and some coffee in the mouth. So many of my favourite traits in one beer – an addition of wood would’ve made it perfect.

Next we tried Heather Ales Alba. Introduced to the Scottish Highlanders by the Vikings, this is a 7.5% abv. drink with pine and spruce shoots. We sampled it twice, first at a spring beer tasting organized by Beer and Beyond and then at Nimrod’s. After sampling Beerlao. My tasting notes date back to march, that’s six months ago and testify that I had hard time dealing with this beer. Its colour is hazy reddish amber and its aroma contains moss, mold and some bubblegum (where did this come from? weird…) It has weird bitterness and jellybeans – so much for traditional beer!In March I remarked that I wouldn’t taste it again but then in May I did but didn’t take any notes. What’s also weird is that between uploading the notes and writing this entry I didn’t look at them and was quite surprised to read them; I recall liking Alba and really feeling the pine. Maybe it’s the result of drinking literally dozens of Simcoe and Chinook-dominated IPA’s.

The latest we tried is Heather Ales Fraoch, the label of which is so beautiful it can easily compete with Scatha’s album covers! I think that’s the first one that was brewed in the series. Heather flowers are added to the boiling malt and another batch of flowers is added right before fermentation. This is thought to be the oldest style of ale still produced in the world. The beer pours greenish and pale and smells flowery and melon-like. Taste reminds me of light summer fruit and its body is light. Despite the name and the serious label, the beer was surprisingly delicate, really delicate and quite nice.

Heather Ales Fraoch is listed in the book and therefore it’s beer #112 I Must Try Before I Die. though not listed in the book, I’d also love to try Kelpie – the seaweed beer that’s also in the historic ales collection –  before I die.

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