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 “Wheat Beer”

Quaffable and German

Veltins Pilsener is a harmless German beer. Pale in colour, slightly grassy aroma, mildly bitter and light-bodied. Augustiner Edelstoff, brought by Teva Boy to a bottleshare (only canned) is a light Helles beer, with a soft bread-grainy aroma, light body and a mildly bitter, yet grainy taste. This too is harmless and true-to-style for sure. Teva Boy also shared with us Andechser Weissbier Hell, which is a pretty amazing Hefeweizen. Cloudy yellow with white film. Classy aroma – banana and clove. Yeasty bittersweet taste. Medium-to-full body, slightly dried banana finish.

These 3 German beers, all suitable for summertime drinking but only the latter actually recommended, are Beers #425, #426 and #427 I Must Try Before I Die.

Not So Quiet on the Eastern Front

svyturys_baltas niksicko-tamno union_temno karlovacko-pivo Birra_Tirana Utenos_Porter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some (formerly) Eastern Block beers I tried and tasted – a few were traded, others were shared by good friends and some were bought here in Israel.

Birra Tirana from Albania is the first beer that appears in the country index. The woman who gave birth to the Dead Swedish Girl is a tour guide and provides us with plenty of pissy lagers and country ticks from her excursions. Birra Tirana is a European pale lager that smells like corn, wet paper and simple syrup and tastes sweet and papery – quite horrible, as you can guess.

A good trade with Marko, a Slovanian ratebeerian,  yielded a can of Karlovačko Pivo, second Croatian Beer in the book (first is Tomislav Pivo, which I blogged about exactly 2 years ago. Karlovačko Pivo smells of some hops, some butter and a little metal, tastes very oxidized and a little sweet. Light body, metallic finish. Not quite amazing, either.

Marko also sent me Union Temno Pivo and Nikšićko Tamno. The first is a great Dunkel from Slovenia. It pours Black with tan head, and has a little ash and slightly smoky aroma, with a smoked fish taste and just a little sweetness. Smooth, medium-bodied, faint, smoky finish. Very drinkable, smokey and surprisingly good. The second is a Schwartzbier from Montenegro. It smells of grain, very little roast and bread, tastes bitter, dusty and a little dry taste. Medium-going-light body and an unpleasing bitter finish. Not amazing, really.

And finally, two beers from Lithuania, that are available here in Israel, at some wine shops and supermarkets that cater to Russian consumers. Svyturys Baltas, a German-style wheat beer, pours cloudy blond with a frothy white head. It has peach and a little guava spicy aroma, and a taste that’s somewhat spicy, yeasty, bittersweet and a little tarty. Slightly light-bodied, a little too watery with some spices in the finish. There are better options for Hefe lovers here, but it’s not too bad.Utenos Porteris is Baltic Porter – a quite fine example of the style. Captain Tom shared it in the winter. It smells sweet and syrupy, like grade B maple syrup or maybe date honey. Sweetish maltiness and dried dark fruit greets the mouth. Medium-bodied, smooth-textured. Nice. A little too sweet but works just fine.


Birra Tirana, Karlovačko Pivo, Union Temno Pivo, Nikšićko Tamno, Svyturys Baltas and Utenos Porteris are Beers #370, #371, #372, #373, #374 and #375 I Must Try Before I Die. There are tons of Czech beers I need to write about, but they fall under the procrastination category.

Three Beers, One Tasting

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

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

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

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

 

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

Nothing’s rotten in the Rothaus.

rothaus_hefe

pretty!

Today’s post reviews 2 out of the 3 beers that Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus has in the book. Both bottles were bought in Berlin, some 600 kilometers from the southwestern location of the brewery. Teva Boy’s sister (in-law?) brought Rothaus Hefeweizen from her Berlin getaway. It pours cloudy light orange with a frothy white head and smells of banana, some peach, yeast, a little clove and bubblegum – quite predictable considering its kind -and it tastes sweet and a little sour, but mainly sweet. Chewy texture, full body, fruity finish. Nice and enjoyable, lovely springtime beer – and we drank it during springtime, it’s just that I’ve been postponing writing about it.

My Berliner friend Jenna brought Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle when she was here on a holiday. I sent her a list of stuff I assumed has broader distribution and that’s one of the two she yielded. Apparently this is a Berliner hipster favourite – she told us so as well as the 1001 book that tells us  that the beer is a “[…] national cult brand” I dunno what it is – maybe the old fashioned label? whereas the Hefeweizen was pretty neat and fun to drink, the pils wasn’t. Wort and corn and straw/ dried grass in the nose and insignificant bitter and a little malty taste. Although the bottle was new, the beer lacked the crispiness and freshness the genre. Had I tried it in a blind taste I would’ve guessed it’s a cheap, contract-brewed pale lager.

not as pretty

not as pretty

The third rep. from the brewery is a Märzen – I’d be curious to taste it even if it didn’t star in the book.  Baden-Württemberg – we need to visit there. We’ll wait til the Israeli middle-class and its bratty offspring find another summer travel destination though.

Til we make it there, Rothaus Hefeweizen and Rothaus Pils Tannenzäpfle are beers #259 and #260 I Must Try Before I Die.

Greetings From the Keller

sierra-nevada-brewing

With all  that’s been going on in Real-Life the blog, as well as its older sister, have gone quiet over the past few weeks. Let’s see: 2 crazy exams, one so crazy that I decided to skip altogether for the sake of my mental health; a physical condition that made sitting for three hours in a tasting session rather impossible; said physical condition that involved drugs that don’t really go hand-in-hand with alcohol consumption; and a new, demanding, challenging and very exciting job. Blogging – the last link in a chain that includes drinking, documenting and sometimes photographing – was put aside. However, all the while, the beer stash has been growing: The Excellent Little Brother is here with new bottles, our Berliner friends brought a couple of brews; my colleague shared his samples with me. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, I feel like we’re about to lose control, that the bottles are soon gonna take over not only the fridge and the kitchen table and the cupboard, but our lives. It’s scary. We can always find room for more beer, but as opposed to Abbaye Des Rocs that was reviewed here last week, most brews don’t age gracefully, especially in the heat and humidity of Tel Aviv.

Enough is enough. Earlier this evening, between snacking on a chickpea pancake and playing yet another episode of Med Man, I asked The Secret Agent to grab our bottle of Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss Hefe. It’s been around for too long and I didn’t want it to go all bad. He dug it from the depths of the fridge and we shared. The bottle’s age – it wasn’t too old or expired but it definitely didn’t feel too fresh – sure didn’t help it flattering our taste buds. An almost opaque orange dark, the Kellerweiss smelled of apricot, citrus and some dried banana. It was very yeasty on the mouth, both sweet and a little bitter, the finish was bready and the body a little too light to our taste; more robustness would’ve done good to the beer. Still, this Californian  Bavarian wheat beer is better than many other ausländers’ attempt at this style.

sierra_nevada_keller

Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss Hefe is beer #258 I Must Try Before I Die. I swear I’m gonna reach 300 by Rosh HaShana. It’s doable.

German Invasion

A bunch of German brews that’s been patiently waiting to be documented, and by patiently I mean months!

lammsbraeuNeumarkter Lammsbräu Urstoff is a Helles lager that has a faintly metallic aroma and not much more. After stirring the tasting glass, some sweetness appeared in my nostrils but really, that’s about it. This is a sweet and rather insignificant beer with soft fizz, light body and short finish. Let’s move on to happier beers, like Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel from the lovely Bavarian monastery Kloster Andechs. 7.1% abv. of sheer goodness: smells of raisins, malt and a little sugary alcohol, sweet, roasty and slightly grainy taste, full body and malty finish. We usually love Klosterbruerei Andechs beers and when we don’t it means that we drank an old bottle.andechser-doppelbock-dunkel

HackerPschorr-weisseHacker-Pschorr (Hefe) Weisse, is a neat Hefe Weizen from one of Munich’s 6 Oktoberfest breweries. It pours cloudy orange-golden with white film, has bubblegum, has banana-punch-ice-cream aroma with a little plastic and overall classic. Mildly bitter taste, a little clovey and spicy with a light-to-medium body and fizzy bubblegum finish. Enjoyable, communicative and fun.

kindl_weisseWe brought a bottle of Berliner Kindl Weisse from our weekend in Switzerland – that was 6 months ago! Berliner Weiße is a light, sour regional beer. Our sourhead friends like it, but we are still in the process of acquiring the taste. Its faint aroma reminded me a little of cream cheese and nutritional yeast flakes nuttiness. The taste is very sour, acidic and somewhat like cheese water. Medium body, smooth texture. Interesting but not something I’d drink on its own. Berliner Kindl Weisse is often mixed with a shot of fruit syrup – doubt I’d do it, though. I try to avoid commercial syrups in cocktails and can’t even imagine adding them to beer.

KapuzinerLast beer on this list is another Weissbier – Kapuziner Weissbier. Bottle bought in April, consumed in late May, expired in mid. February. Funky bubblegum aroma with sweet challa bread, caramel and toffee notes. Tastes sweet, bubblegum and some spiciness but mostly sweet and peach-like. It wasn’t THAT bad but its age was apparent. I think it is no longer imported to Israel and as a woman on a mission, I couldn’t afford waiting.

This list contains beers #251, 252, 253, 254 and 255 I Must Try Before I Die. Doing fine so far.

And then there suddenly appeared before me…

...a six pack of Blue Moon...

…a six pack of Blue Moon…

Spotted: bottles of Blue Moon Belgian White Ale in that decent, cheap and underrated liquor store in Tel Aviv, posted one of the beergeeks in one of the beergeek Facebook pages. Yup, samples of Miller-Coors attempt at being crafty in the lines of Celis and Hoegaarden, arrived at the country. I was on a sick leave when the message was posted, recovering from a surgery, but didn’t think twice and hopped on a bus, wearing a coat over my PJ’s and got off after 3 stops. There they were, blue-labeled bottles, reasonably priced, relatively to Israel. 15 nis. per bottle ($4, which is, I believe, below the craft beer average here). I got a sixpack. One for The Secret Agent and myself to share, four for fellow Ratebeerians, one for Cousin Michele, who moved to Israel last year and misses her favourite beer.

I asked at check-out WTF and was told that one of the importers considers importing it. Now, I’m all for new beers in our small market, but if you go all the way to import West Coast stuff, why not opt for Sierra Nevada or Anchor that have the commercial appeal as well as variety and creativity? Haven’t seen the beer around since and I wonder what happened.

A few good months have passed between buying our bottle and pouring its content, but we did it a couple of weeks ago. Still it was far from the best before date. The smell was soft – tangerine-orange juice and a little sweet, apricot leather aroma. It was pretty nice and I wish it tasted just as nice but it didn’t: delicate, floral bitterness that does not compete or suit the aroma. The body too was incompetent – too light for a wheat beer. The carbonation was delicate and the finish – floral and fine. I drank slowly and after a while nice maltiness took over the aftertaste. Cool.

Let’s make it clear – this is not a bad beer. It’s nice, but it seems like factors such as marketability and sell-ability and drinkability are more important factors than making a good product. However, I am well aware that I cannot take Blue Moon from its context. Maybe a blind taste would have yielded a different impression and review.

Blue Moon is beer #225 I Must Try Before I Die. Happy dairy-free shavu’ot to those who celebrate.

unfestive 100th post.

This is the 100th post in this blog. I intended to take a break from the 1001 countdown and write something about Israeli beer but after the turmoil we’ve been experiencing in the past week, I need a break. The increase on beer tax that was passed hastily, one night in late July, was finally put to discussion in the Knesset finances committee earlier this week. It was discussed on Monday, put to vote on Wednesday and became what now seems irreversible. Small brewers and entrepreneurs will think twice before getting a license, (most) bars will continue to be douchebags and sell small glasses of beer for a high price, doubling the actual price increase.

These are troubled times for Israeli beer drinkers and brewers.

We did make a lot of noise though. A few of us wrote and promoted an online petition that caught the media attention (Hebrew, but you can read the numbers) I was interviewed to a couple of major portals and on the radio and refused to be on TV, cos the camera gives you a beer belly, they say. Here’s a piece in English about the local scene: http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israeli-beer-lovers-foaming-over-rising-brew-tax.premium-1.517233

Anyway, I’m just too exhausted and the Israeli beer spotlight will have to wait, so let’s just make it to beers #219 and #220 I Must Try Before I Die with In-Heat Wheat by Flying Dog, a nice German Hefeweizen from Maryland, that has a strong spicy bubblegum aroma with lots of banana and black pepper and tastes sweetish and fruity, and Lagunitas Brown Shugga, a complex, layered barley wine that smells of cucumber, sage, nettle and pine, tastes a little medicinal, bitter, even herbal and has a sticky, syrupy, feeling full-body and long and a little sweet finish.

a dog here

a dog here

flying-dog-in-heat-wheat-beer

and another dog here

 

 

A Weekend in Switzerland Part I: Beer on the Go

The Secret Agent and I spent the last weekend of November/ First weekend of December in Switzerland. Sort of an early birthday getaway and making my latest biggest wish come true: seeing The Young Gods Live. I wrote about going to Switzerland and returning from Switzerland before, but it’s about time I actually write about the trip. I’ve already written a detailed account about the trip in our Hebrew blog, focusing on date and location, providing travel and (vegan) food tips to the readers. Since the nature of The Beer Gatherer is more geeky, I decided on a different approach for this blog.

First, some background and disclaimer: We spent 4 days in Switzerland, in Basel and Zurich. With 12 Swiss beers in my book, we were also mission-oriented. Naturally, tourists tend to generalize and get a somewhat superficial impression of their travel destination, and despite doing the best research Ratebeer, Google and Bov’s website provide, there’s a good chance we missed stuff or just didn’t get the essence of things due to a language barrier and general cluelessness. Having written that and making this introduction useful in a way, let’s begin with some shopping tips

Actually, in order to get your beer fix to Switzerland, all you need is one tip: Drinks of the World. A small chain that carries, well, drinks from around the world. If the store’s called *Drinks* of the World, it probably means that you can get there all kinds of whine and rum and tequila and scotch, but the truth is, we didn’t notice, because the two branches we visited, in Basel and Zurich, are so loaded with beer that we were almost blinded by the choices we had to face. But first thing first. A small chain, right? It has 5 branches at the railway stations of Zurich, Basel, Bern, Luzern and Winterthur. Unlike other places in the world, Switzerland’s railway stations are well-lit, safe spaces with a thriving commercial space – quite the opposite of Tel Aviv’s Central Bus station, to those who are familiar with the lovely scenery.

We read mediocre reviews about the stores and its selection, but since we compare it to what we know from home, we were thrilled. Europeans, there’s a nice, small selection of American beerP Samuel Adams, Sierra Nevada, Kona, Anchor and Flying Dog (and also some Coors, Miller and Colt 45 if you insist). Americans – there’s a decent selection of European Beer. Good German stuff, Belgian ales, French stuff, English beer and also BrewDog. Everybody, there’s a vast selection of Swiss beer, including gift packs for the indecisive, and also a fair bunch of (mostly) pale lagers from “rare” countries: we couldn’t resist and despite being well aware that we’re taking room from good quality beer we bought bottles from Morocco, Mongolia and Cuba (did read this, Americans? Cuban beer).

Although we decided to leave beer shopping to the end of the trip, we bought a couple of bottles before getting on the Train from Basel to Zurich. We are target-oriented and used the 1 hour train ride to drink Schneider Weisse Original that we bought at the store in Basel. Cold from the fridge, this refreshing, full-bodied wheat beer was pleasing to drink, but since we had to look after our suitcase and share our seats with other passengers and, we decided to give up on the other bottle we bought, and take it home with us.

beer on the train

beer on the train

We visited the zurich store right before getting on the train back to Basel, the night before our flight back home. We bought a bunch of bottles to take home with us and since we had a night to kill at the airport before the morning departure, we decided to make the most of our free time and picked some beer to taste in the vacant airport. Here’s what we drank:

Ratebeerians are everywhere!

Ratebeerians are everywhere!

These were selected from the fridge. Vollmond is domestic, brewed only on full moon for mystical aura and promotional reasons, I guess. It’s a regular lager with a nice label and a nice story behind it, that’s all. It has funky piss-like as well as cooked-veggies aroma and that mediocre pale-lager bitterness, or in other words, almost tasteless. Why is it in the book? Probably because of the full-moon story. The other beers we drank in that nightly airport session were better, with Brewdog’s Dogma being the highlight of the tasting: rich tastes of wood and roast, bitter, a little sweet and a little coffee-like sourness and wood, espresso and acetone aroma.

Schwaben Bräu Das Echte Märzen was quite alright too, malty and balanced, and Schlösser Alt was just great: simple, robust, very drinkable although a tad bit on the sour side. Meanwhile at home we already opened our bottle of Trois Dames IPA from Brasserie Trois Dames, one of Switzerland’s new microbreweries. It’s a huge difference from most of the beer we tastes on our weekend, and that’s a compliment. Murky amber in colour with dry and fruity aroma and dry, fresh bitter taste, it is a good, refreshing beer.

Suffice to say that being true beergeeks, we didn’t only rely on these two chain stores. Paul Ullrich in Basel is another good source for beer and drinks in general. There we also explored the other shelves and let me tell you, their rum section is to die for, with great editions from classic and contemporary distilleries alike. Beer Planet in Zurich has a smaller selection than Drinks of the World, but it’s worth mentioning, because sometimes you can get harder-to-find domestic brews over there. We got a bottle of Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien 2011 there, a beer I didn’t even imagine finding in the German canton.

Stay tuned for more Swiss musings. Meanwhile, Schneider Weisse Original, Vollmond and Trois Dames IPAare beers #155, #156 and #157 I Must Try Before I Die.

trois_dames_IPA

Four on the Go

For the first time in many weekends I can say I had a rest. Between high productivity and task-ticking and beer tasting and nuts going I had a blissful 10-hour sleep, ate a hearty breakfast, watched 2 episodes of Breaking Bad and snuggled with the cats. I still can’t upload our notes from the trip to Basel and Zürich because the photos haven’t been photoshopped yet. The Secret Agent’s been insanely busy since we came back, but it shall come. Meanwhile, to thin down the ever-growing beers to blog about list, here’s a bunch of beers we tasted recently. No particular order, no weird story, no anecdotes, just thinning down the list.

marston_pedigree   I rarely hit the stores these days as we’ve been getting our fix from deliveries and gifts, but last month I stopped by the neighbourhood alco shop on my way home from the bus or something and that’s where I bought a bottle of Marston’s Pedigree. As usual, when The Secret Agent is not around, I forgot to look at the best before date and thus got a bottle that in a normal country would have not been sold. Expired in May 2012, its presence on the shelf shouldn’t surprise those who are familiar with the players in the local industry, importers and merchants alike. It’s a country of scammers.

I can only blame myself: I was too lazy to go out and return the bottle (or just couldn’t bear listening once again to the local salespeople’s catchphrase used when faced with dated beer: “oh, it’s alcohol, it never goes bad”. Yeah, especially in the great storage condition, by your southernmost window). Anyway, we drank the beer that felt old indeed. Bready and fruity in the nose, soft bitterness in the mouth with hints of fruit, like suckling on a peach pit. No rich maltiness remained and that’s a shame. Although the beer wasn’t bad, it was clearly not what the brewmaster had in mind.

ohara_irish_redAnyway, the O’Hara’s Irish Red I bought at the same store was good, date-wise. It was also good beer-wise. A little on the light side, sweetish, with caramel aroma and flavour and also some wine. A decent beer that I enjoyed and The Secret Agent enjoyed less, because for him it was too sweet.

IPA Samuraj by Czech Brewery Kocour was poured (from a plastic bottle!) at a recent tasting. Shachar, who has a link to my list, brought it from Beer and Beyond’s latest trip to the Czech Republic. An American-style IPA, from a Czech brewery, poured from plastic bottle. The disastrous potential was gone as soon as my nose met its aroma, which was grassy and skunky, but in a good way. It tasted green and bitter and almost dry and had a delicate fizz and a long finish. Not the best IPA I have ever had and it probably would have not made it too the book had it not come from the Land of Saaz, but nevertheless it’s an OK brew.

IPA-Samurai

The last beer in this list is Sprecher Hefe Weiss from Wisconsin. What is supposed to be a German-style wheat beer ended up being too spicy and too bitter for a hefe. We didn’t like it in General and didn’t find anything German in it in particular. That’s quite disappointing. sprecher-hefeweiss

Marston’s Pedigree, O’Hara’s Irish Red, IPA Samuraj and Sprecher Hefe Weiss are beers #150, #151, #152 and #153 I Must Try Before I Die.

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