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.

Stuff I drank in Prague – Day 1

In January 2014 – boy, that’s almost a year and a half ago! – The Secret Agent took me to Prague for my birthday. The one good thing about being a January kid, is that airfare and accommodation are rather cheap. In return, you get frozen ovaries, but hey, there are sales that compensate for that!

We spent a weekend in a suite in the posh Mamaison hotel, right by the river and a 10 seconds walk from the Hemingway Bar. To this day I hate myself for not visiting one of the  world’s best bars that was practically around the corner. We ate lots of amazing vegan food and of course, drank lots of beer. As usual, we created google maps using Happy Cow for food reference and Ratebeer for beer, but this time, we also watched the relevant Beer Hunter episode. 20+ years after it was first aired and some of the places are still standing.

It’s been a long time, but with the help of Ratebeer and Dear Diary, here’s a log of our beer adventures in Prague.

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First His&Hers of the trip

We landed on Friday morning. After leaving our luggage at the hotel, we entered the nearest beer place, U Tří Růží, or The Three Roses Brewpub.They serve their own beer, no guest beers on tap when we were there, that were traditional Czech brews. Nice place, but not a top priority, if your schedule is tight. Our next stop was U Medvídků, a brewpub known for their X33-Beer, a 12.6% abv. doppelbock, world’s strongest lager, they claim. It was probably true once. It was unavailable on Tap or bottled when we were there, as they brew it seasonally, so instead, I opted for Budweiser Budvar Dark Tmavý Ležák, that’s (Czech) Budweizer Dark for you. Because when in Prague you drink the classics – Tankova, of course.  Very dark brown with light beige head. A little roasty and caramel aroma, slightly bitter and a little dry taste. Full body, light carbonation, sweet – a little honey finish. It was good! As for X33-Beer – Armed with references and addresses, Metalhead Cousin and his girlfriend spent Passover in Prague, and brought us a bottle. Too strong and alcoholic for my taste: hazy, fizzy brown. A little spicy and caramel aroma and a little alcoholic. Alcoholic, sugary and sweet taste. Smooth and silky, very sugary and full-bodied.

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After a short nap in the hotel we headed out to U Fleků, perhaps Prague’s most famous pub. They serve food, cater to locals and tourists alike, with a band that’s playing. We weren’t there for the very carnist menu or for the music, but for the one beer they serve there, U Fleků Flekovský Tmavý Ležák, which is considered one of the best Dunkel beers in the world, and I must agree: very dark brown with a hard beige head that leaves a pretty lace. Grainy, caramel aroma but all in all rather faint. Sweet, roasty and a little nutty taste. Smooth, medium-bodied, slightly roasty finish.

Following Michael Jackson’s footsteps, we headed toPivovarský Dům- a 2-story place (street level and basement) not too far from the center that’s known for its creative, flavourful beers. The one I tolerated the most was their Nettle beer that had a neon-green colour and really tasted of nettle and sage. Dům Štěpán Český Klasický Ležák Světlý
is a pilsner and it’s also in the book – not very true-to-style though – hazy gold with a quick dissolving white head. Malt and butter aroma, lemon/ citrusy, butter and some salt in the mouth. Medium-bodied, salted butter finish, carbonated but a little creamy too.

We then crossed the street to Nota Bene, a basement bar with plenty of Czech craft beer that did good to our tasting buds and also some imports. Found Belgian beer Piraat there, that’s also in the book, but I already blogged about it.

Our first day in Prague ended with 3 hours of sleep the night before, a short nap and 19 different beers. Miraculously, no hangover the following morning.

Budweiser Budvar Dark Tmavý Ležák, U Medvídků X33-Beer, U Fleků Flekovský Tmavý Ležák 13°, Dům Štěpán Český Klasický Ležák Světlý are beers #428, #429, #430 and #431 I Must Try Before I Die.

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Das Boot

Been a while since I blogged about Italian beers. I like Italian beers and so does The Book. Both innovative in taste and design and with strong link to tradition (again – the design), there are no less than 47 beers from the Land of Pizza and Gucci in the first edition of the book. Some of them are naturally hard to get. With the help of this blog’s benefactors – friends, fellow beergeeks and my Excellent Little Brother who lives in New York, where you can find stuff from all over the place (except for Fat Tire, that is).

Teva Boy was extremely helpful with Italian beers – he always is. He had a project near Milan and managed to grab some  bottles, like Birrificio Italiano Bibock, a 6.2% Hellr Bock. It pours a little hazy amber with a white head. Aroma of citrus and some honeysuckle as well as some minerals, mildly bitter taste, with diluted honey sweetness. Medium body, mildly carbonated and mild floral aftertaste. Feels a little old but that’s my fault for taking my sweet time meeting with Teva Boy.

Same goes with Farrotta, by Almond 22, that’s made of spelt grain. Also courtesy of Teva Boy. Hazy yellow-gold with a white head. Dry and dusty aroma, a little sugar and cookie as well. Tastes sweet, some candy, a little sourish and sugary. Full body, sweetish, bun-like finish.

Stas brought Verdi Imperial Stout by Ducato from one of his many beer holidays. We drank it in Haifa last winter – it’s been that long ago! Very dark brown with tan head. A little alcoholic and spur in the nose, some tomatoes, chocolate syrup and faint smokiness. Above the bitter taste – chili pepper hotness, the roast and again, faint smoke. Fulfilling, carbonated, very long chili-chipotle finish. Quite amazing, even more amazing than it reads!

I could go on, as there are other Italian beers waiting to be listed here, but it’s time to get prepared to bass lesson.

Birrificio Italiano Bibock, Almond 22 Farrotta, Ducato and Verdi Imperial Stout, #420, #421 and #422 I must Try Before I Die

A quick note – Tsingtao

Tsingtao

Tsingtao, China’s #1 Premium Beer – I’m sure this slogan is used somewhere – is available in Israel. The Secret In-Laws didn’t know that, and brought us two cans from their trip to China last September. We drank it, I did the mandatory check-in in Untapped, but my tasting notes date back to December 2011, a few days after starting this blog. It’s a generic lager that worked fine for me 3.5 years ago, but 3K beers later, I’m sure I would’ve rated it quite low. I mean, “premium lager”.

Tsingtao is Beer #419 I Must Try Before I Die. Now who’s fetching us a bottle/ can of Zhujiang?

Canadian beer – end of the easy stage.

There are 31 Canadian beers in the first edition of 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die. I have already written about 7 of them, all under the Canadian Beer category in this blog and drank 4 more, which are reviewed in the following paragraphs:

The first three beers here hail from Quebec. Dernière Volonté and Rosée d’Hibiscus are brewed by Dieu du Ciel from Montreal – one of my favourite cities in the world, and Maudite is made by Unibroue in Chambly, which is a suburb of Montreal. All three bear strong Belgian influence.

Rosée d’Hibiscus is a wheat beer with hibiscus flowers added during brewing, that don’t only give the beer hibiscus tea aroma, but also the colour of blood orange. Pretty neat. It tastes tarty with fruity undertones. A nice and easy to drink beer with tea-like finish and light body.

Dernière Volonté – that’s French for Last Will – is a Belgian Ale with 7% abv. We shared our bottle at the tasting and got the very bottom of it, which was very yeasty. Ugh. Hence the murky greenish blond colour and the very yeasty aroma.  Beer tasted sweetish and rich. Medium body, smooth, fruity aftertaste ended our sample.

Maudite (“The Damned”) – a strong Belgian ale – Chilled honey, a little onion, then more honey honey – lots of honey – in the nose. Sweet, malty and heavily fruity taste. Full-bodied, mildly carbonated, long, red apple finish.

Of these three, my favourite is Dernière Volonté.

the 4th Canadian beer I drank and haven’t blogged about yet is King Pilsner. locally available in Ontario, my brother fetched a bottle for me in one of his maple tapping adventures. He also brought a mason jar filled with the most delicious maple syrups I have ever tasted, surely not a match to the beer, which may have a little aged by the time we opened the can. Hazy gold with white film. Grainy aroma with apparent saaz grassy hops. Grassy taste, delicate bitterness with hints of grainy sweetness that then disappears in favor of bitterness. Light body, delicate fizz, bitter finish.

Rosée d’Hibiscus, Dernière Volonté, Maudite and King Pilsner are Beers #415, #416, #417, #418 I Must Try Before I Die.  This is the end of the easy part of checking off Canadian beer. Any Canadian beergeeks reading this? I’ll be happy to trade locals for locals. Contact me and I’ll send you my list.

Rosée d’Hibiscus, Dernière Volonté

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.

Anniversary Ale Frantic

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I almost missed last week’s tasting. It was held at the Dancing Camel pub in Florentine neighbourhood and I rescheduled my bass lesson so I wouldn’t have to kill too much time between the lesson and the tasting. However, 3.5 hours before the tasting, 2 hours before the lesson, as my inner 16 year-old boy was practicing his Metallica, the alarm clock went off – I totally forgot I had a class that evening, at the university! Totally unprepared, I quickly printed out the material, cancelled the bass lesson and announced my abstinence from the tasting.

As I was sitting in my Business Strategy class, all restless, I decided to join the tasting, although an hour later than scheduled. A frantic run to the bus stop and a miraculously quick ride and there I was at the Dancing Camel, an hour later, but the guys saved us a couple of ounces to taste from the bottles already sampled.

It was worth coming, as by pure chance Stas and Vova brought a bottle of Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale – straight from The Book! They brought Firestone Walker XVIII edition, a blend of 9 of the brewery’s oak barrel-aged creations, 13% abv. American Strong Ale. Pretty big beer it is – Black, with a very boozy nose and soft spiciness of nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. Taste is velvety, chocolatey, a little boozy and a little sweet, and also a little woodsy. Full body, no carbonation, vanilla, coffee and a little black pepper finish. Quite amazing, I’m glad I didn’t miss this tasting!

Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale is Beer #408 I must Try Before I Die.

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…)

English Beer Recap #4 – The hidden Gems of Bradford

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As soon as we decided to take a beer trip to Northern England, we knew we’d stop at Bradford. A place known better for its curry, riots, and the 1989 burning of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Bradford is not a top-of-mind beer destination. However, it has a special place in my personal history. As far as beer history goes, this is the first place I learned about CAMRA. It was in 1997 and I was at the 1in12, where the punks and anarchists hung out. Didn’t know shit about beer and used to drink “lager” – that’s what my boyfriend used to order – and apple flavoured Hooch, a horrendous alco-pop. Not being a social animal, and that’s an understatement, I was happy to find a small zine, similar to any punk publication of the day – cut and paste, photocopied – with the tagline Campaign for Real Ale, whatever that was. The one thing I remember reading there – and that’s quite something, considering it’s been 18 years of booze and B12 deficiency and an OD of written material – is an op-ed against my drink de jour, aka Hooch and the likes – how they destroy the industry, ruin young people’s appreciation of real ale, whatever that was, and so on. It stuck with me.

This CAMRA publication is of course not a good reason to visit the city, but seeing the place where I lived, and walking in Lister Park, and eating a decent curry are, so after a short sightseeing tour and some beer in Manchester, we drove to Bradford. We opted to drive through towns, so instead of 30 minutes on the highway it took us about an hour to get there.

After a brief tour of the neighbourhood, which felt tamer than it was – is it distance and defamilarization or is it for real? – we went drinking. The Secret Agent picked 2 CAMRA-recommended pubs to visit before heading to a night in Huddersfield, old-school real-ale pubs that I must have seen before, but never went in, because the ex had his own local, Scruffs and Snobs. I looked for it online before our trip. It’s not there anymore. First place we visited was The New Beehive Inn, not far from the city center, as the area code BD1 indicates. The inn was built in 1901,  and has tons of features we love in a place, such as stained glass windows, a painted sign and all sorts of knick-knacks. We arrived quite early in the evening and it was quite dark inside. Apparently this pub is known for its use of gas-light and is recognized by CAMRA as one of Britain’s Real Heritage Pubs. The Beehive serves locally-brewed ales and we sampled two of them. Black Sheep Best Bitter was the first. Our itinerary was quite flexible and on the first day of the trip we didn’t know we’d make it to Masham, to visit Black Sheep and Theakston breweries, so we drank this one as soon as we saw it. The name Best Bitter is quite accurate – it is one of the best bitters I have ever tasted. Clear golden brown with white head. Toffee, nutty, earthy aroma, full, robust, toasty bitterness, medium body, long, bitter, earthy finish. Next comes Saltaire Blonde, from the nearby town Shipley, home of Shipley Glen, the location of many yesteryear adventures. 4% abv. blond ale that’s also available in bottles in the area. Clear blond with white head, Fruit, faint citrus, floral aroma, bitter, slightly hoppy finish. Soft, medium body, bitter, a little dry finish.

We had to make it to Huddersfield that night and satisfy the craving for curry before, so we left after a single round and headed to The Fighting Cock. Located in the Lister Hills neighbourhood, pretty much in between the area where my ex’s friends used to live and the 1in12 club where they used to hang out, I had to slap myself when entering the place. The 19-year-old me would’ve had it so much better had she hung out there! It’s in a street corner, near a discount supermarket, with 2 or 3 rooms (been a while, so I forgot), all bustling with decor and awards and people! Lots of them! It was busy and we couldn’t find a vacant table, but two locals who saw us wandering immediately invited us to sit with them. You can get foreign bottled beer there, but we were there for the real-ale, and as local as possible. We started off with a Book Beer – Timothy Taylor’s Landlord from Keighley. a 3.5% abv. bitter, it pours light gold with white head. Pumpkin seeds and jasmine aroma, very little butterish taste, a little burning and mildly bitter. Medium body, long, nettle-like finish. The burning sensation in the end is very untypical, that’s for sure.

Next we had Geeve’s Smokey Joe. It’s a stout from Barnsley, and I couldn’t skip a beer with such a name, of course! Its aroma was great, with notes of chocolate, wood, old chocolate liquor and delicate smokiness. It’s a pretty good beer, however, despite the smoky notes in the mouth, neither the taste nor the body matched the awesomeness of the nose. Then, another local, Rat Against The Machine, an IPA from Rat Brewery from Huddersfield, yup, the following destination. Pretty good beer, with great citrus aroma and some grainy notes in the mouth. We continued with Bobs White Lion, an ok blond ale from Ossett, and since we had so much fun, we stayed for a third round. We had Copper Dragon Golden Pippin blond ale from Skipton – quite alright and very malty, and abother Book Beer – Pendle Witches Brew by Moorehouse’s. Coming from Burnley, Lancanshire, 26 miles south west of The Fighting Cock, this almost feels like a foreign beer. But I cannot blame the distance nor the pub for its poor performance. Judging from the 5 other pints and half-pints we had there, beer’s well-kept in that place; and 26 miles is practically around the corner, so the buttery, popcorn aroma and taste is, well, the beer. What a shame. We washed down the off flavour with delicious vegan portions at Punjab Sweet House, as recommended by our table buddies and headed to check out the pubs in Huddersfield.

 

Black Sheep Best Bitter, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Moorehouse’s Pendle Witches Brew are beers #404, #405 and #406 I Must Try Before I Die.

Beer Label Galore – Wailing Wench

Just a quick note now. I’m composing a fairly detailed entry as a part of the British Beer Recap, but we kinda wanna get back to binge-watch Broadchurch Season 2, so for the time being – Middle Ages Wailing Wench, from Syracuse, New York. Had a big bottle, probably quite old by the time it reached me, shared it with friends last year. An old-school 8% abv. double IPA, that pours hazy copper with a yellowish head. Smells sweet, a little spicy, tastes sweet, with hints of bitterness. Smooth, full-body, long, sweet finish. What struck me was the label. A year later and I still cannot decide whether it’s more sexist or more tasteless or equally both.

Here, look:

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Wailing Wench is beer #403 I Must Try Before I Die. We’ll get back to real-ale fun soon. Promise.

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.

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