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 tag “beer tasting”

Christmas in (almost) July


Unlike some of the English pale ales, Czech pils and African lagers, Samichlaus is unquestionably a beer one must try before one dies. This 14% abv. Doppelbock is brewed every year before Christmas, on December 6th, aged 10 months before bottling, and delivered to the stores on time for Christmas. It ages beautifully, too. We held a vertical tasting of this beer back in 2011 in our Hebrew blog, with 2004 and 2010 bottles. I just started writing tasting notes then, and that session can be summed up as good and meh, respectively.

Last year The Beer Greek held bi-weekly tastings at work, to our colleagues who work with beer: the lovely product developer, the now deceased brewmaster, and the marketing crew. Being a part of the tasting panel of the brewery and generally someone who has a clue, I joined them. When it was time for the strong beer session, I donated a 2009 vintage bottle we had at home for comparison, cos The Secret Agent really doesn’t care about Samichlaus. This bottle was added to the 2011 and the then-newest 2013 bottle The Beer Greek brought.

Here are the tasting notes:

2013: Clear dark copper, small head. Cherry tomato, then raisins in the nose, very sweet, liquor-like taste. Smooth texture, full body and no carbonation. Long, raisins aftertaste.

2011: Same appearance. More raisins and chocolate aroma, deeper, more alcoholic taste, full-bodied, vinous finish.

2009: Deepr colour. Cherry tomato aroma again but also lots of chocolate. A little sour and a little sweet taste, vinous finish, smooth, no carbonation and long liquor and chocolate finish.

As I remembered, it gets deeper and sweeter as time goes by. I actually liked 2013 vintage the best in this tasting.

Samichlaus is Beer #433 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.

Dead Swedish Girl reaches 5555 ratings!


Above is a picture of the Dead Swedish Girl drinking The King of Beers, to celebrate my 200th beer from The Book and his 1000th American beer rated.

Not to discredit anybody, but Dead Swedish Girl is the reason why us local beergeeks taste and try so many brews; he is the one passionate about trades, obsessed about weekly tastings, beer travels, scoring shitty imported lagers from remote supermarkets and buying (sometimes shitty – I gotta admit) rare lambics and sharing with the rest of us. You want the proof? Stalk me on Ratebeer and see just how many of my notes begin with “Bottle sampled at a tasting at ___’s place. Thanks DSG”.

We decided to commemorate his 5000th rating in an honorable tasting with friends and admirers, but as he reached the number while attending CBC, 5555 was the next best number. T-shirts were printed, a large space located (thank you Evyatar Sadan from Sar Ha’Mashkaot/ Minister of Drinks store in Ramat Gan, for letting us use the second floor and the wine tasting table!). We checked his ratebeer progress, collected a bottles he has yet to rate and on Wednesday, June 18th, gathered around to surprise him, all wearing a t-shirt with a print of the image below:


What is Maran? Wikipedia can teach you that “[it] is a title for exceptionally respected rabbis. […] It is an Aramaic word used frequently in the Talmud which means ‘our master’ (מָרַן, māran, ‘our master’). Most often, as the translation indicates, it is given to rabbis who are considered influential teachers and leaders.

Kudos to The Secret Agent for coining this Term and to Rotem the Big Bear for the design. As a true Maran, DSG quickly overcame the shock and lack of control about the happening and organized the bottles according to the proper way of tasting: pale lagers first, the gose and IPA’s, followed by sour, and Belgian beers and finished with the heavy stuff. We had 21 ratable beers in that tasting – a record as far as I recall – followed by a couple of great homebrews. The Secret Agent and I shared a Rhodian pale lager a colleague brought me from a holiday, and two big beers listed in the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die book, that DSG hasn’t sampled yet.

the traditional pose, with the notebook and the bottle opener that doesn't ruin the caps.

the traditional pose, with the notebook and the bottle opener that doesn’t ruin the caps. photo taken by troubles and stolen from the secret Facebook chat about the 5555 celebration.

collaboration-not-litigationCollaboration Not Litigation by Avery Brewing Co. is a wonderful example of the spirit of craft beer business – the ideal spirit of craft beer business if you wish. When Avery and Russian River discovered that they both named their Belgian-style brews “Salvation”, they decided to blend the two brews. Collaboration… is therefore a mix of two recipes – brewed in Colorado with half of the ingredients shipped from Russian River. This 8.9% abv. Belgian Strong Ale is bronze in colour, smells of ripe fruit and then diluted date honey. It tastes sweet and very fruity, has full body, soft carbonation with long, sweet finish.

smuttynose-wheat_wineSmuttynose Wheat Wine Ale is an 11% abv. barley wine made with plenty of malted wheat too. That’s the beer that closed the ratable part of the tasting. Hazy amber in colour with a brown-beige head, candy, malt, a little dried apricot and old hops aroma are followed by a slightly bitter taste of stale hops and some chocolate. Body’s as full as you’d expect from barley wine – full and heavy. However, other than the apricot notes in the nose and probably the big head, I didn’t feel much wheat in it.


Collaboration Not Litigation are beers #331 and #332 I Must Try Before I Die. Many of the next 669 will be drunk with or thanks to Maran.

Old Beers Don’t Die. They Don’t Kill You Either.


Marketed in Israel as Grolsch Premium Lager, Grolsch Premium Pilsner is listed in The Book,  perhaps because the editors share my weakness to this classy flip-top clear green bottle.

I must have seen and drank this beer for the first time when I lived in England in the 90’s, either in the city where I lived – a place with a fair share of CAMRA-certified pubs where I got drunk on Hooch and what my ex used to order at the pub – lager, any lager – or in our miserable, rainy trip to the continent in the summer of 1997.  I do remember buying bottles, 3 or 4 bottles for 10nis, in 1998. That’s 2.3 Euro in today’s currency, please don’t ask me for its price in Guilder at that time. I found it at a store in Tel Aviv’s central bus station, skid row then and now, on my way to visit my self-destruction peer who was recovering from a bad car accident he was involved in back in Minneapolis. Neither him nor me knew anything about beer, but we liked getting drunk and these embossed Grolsch bottles looked fancy and fun and they were really cheap for fancy import beer. Only at B’s parents’ place did I looked at the best before date and learned that the product is expired. We didn’t know much about beer but had the common sense to drink it anyway – a year old beer wouldn’t kill us, we thought, and indeed it didn’t.

Years later and drinking expired beer is a part of the routine. They die on their way to Israel from wherever, they die in storage while waiting to be consumed, they die because of less-than-optimal storage conditions, but nevertheless they are consumed, because rating and ticking is my thing and it has nothing to do with imbibing.

For this entry/ ticking I drank an unexpired bottle. I won’t bother sharing my tasting notes with you, my dear readers. Chances are you’ve quenched your thirst with this one before. Bottle’s nice and after cleaning it thoroughly it can be used to store all kinds of things, like simple syrup for your cocktails.

So Grolsch Premium Pilsner is beer #330 I must Try Before I Die.

An attempt to break the silence?

A month without blogging/ updating/ whatnot. I wish I could say that I’ve been having so much fun that I couldn’t find the time to write, but this is not the case. It’s work that keeps me away from the keyboard and the notebook and the pictures.
When weekend comes I run errands and do the obligatory family things that are sometimes pleasing and more often than not frustrating and then crash. Being in bed in 9p.m is my latest weekend pleasure, as well as avoiding people. Luckily, Lovely Niva is oblivious to my state of beer neglect. Several months ago, when she took her daughter to a family trip to Argentina, I asked her to bring back a bottle of Antares Imperial Stout, Argentina’s representative in the 1001 book. Niva happily obliged and since then the bottle’s been resting at her fridge. Today we finally drank it. Oblivious to my state she invited us to lunch at the moshav where she, her husband Chula and their three kids live, grow herbs, cook glorious food, collect mugs and brew their own MaiBEERovicz beer in an open garage.

As carnivorous as Argentinians get, we were treated with amazing vegan food and lots of beer. We had quite a varied tasting session, with beer from Ghana, Tanzania, Belgium, Spain, USA, Ireland and Israel that was concluded with that bottle of Antares Imperial Stout. Despite the months that have passed, the beer remained pretty awesome, with deep chocolate aroma and taste, roastiness and some ash. The body was on the light side, considering it’s a 8.5% Imperial Stout we’re talking about. Drinkable, fun and definitely worth the time and calories involved. Better than Quilmes, for sure!

post-tasting shot

post-tasting shot

Antares Imperial Stout is beer #309 I Must Try Before I die. I am actually some 50 beers behind. Less than 2 months til my birthday. Should I opt for a catching-up challenge?

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

Fear and Loathing in an Imperial Tasting

The mandatory post-tasting pic.

The (soon to be) Texan’s Texaness is getting closer and closer. He’s probably all excited about finally being entitled to a ten gallon hat and a lone star belt buckle, but us local beergeeks are less than thrilled. For once, who will treat us to guided tastings of beer that will never, ever be available in our neck of the woods?

In the past couple of months The (soon to be) Texan held 3 themed tastings of mostly American beer, with some German and Belgian sidekicks. The first and the second tasting were seasonal: Christmas/ Winter ales and Springtime beers. The third and last tasting took place the Friday before Last and was imperial-themed: heavy brews, rich in aroma and flavor, that are meant to be shared, because drinking straight bottles of their content almost makes no sense.  We sampled seven beers, three of which are in the book and one was already ticked, Ommegang Abbey Ale.

Southampton Double White opened the event and poured cloudy pale golden with a nice frothy white head. It had a fine orange and bun aroma which sadly didn’t match the taste: soft, forgettable, watery bitterness. Medium body, short, yeasty finish and not quite imperial in my books.

However, Flying Dog Gonzo did the job. Nothing short of amazing it was, as the insane label predicts. Opaque, brown-black with a dark tan head, great aroma of coffee, cocoa and delicate roast, bitter and dry with a full body and roasty finish, it immediately became a favourite (mental note: find the time to re-read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Oh, retirement, when do we meet?).

We also tasted Mad River Steelhead Double IPA, Thirsty Dog Siberian Night that The Actuary brought to one of the recent tastings, Flying Dog’s Double Pale Ale and Augustiner Maximator. All were great, but Gonzo and Double White are beers #58 and #59 I must try before I die.

Temple of the Dog

I’ve been completing an Excel sheet to help me tracking down my progress through the 1001 book, and while transferring data I couldn’t help but notice the relative abundance of breweries that are either called Dog-Something, or have dogs on the label, or call specific beers after dogs.

In the world of Fat Dog, Alpha Dog and even Dogfish Head, there is one dog that makes beergeeks drool like a rabid British Bulldogs: Scotland’s favourite son, BrewDog, that is.

Tomer, owner of the Goose Pub in Kibbutz Ein Shemer, whiskey aficionado and also a BrewDog shareholder, mail ordered a stock of BD stuff. Shachar got a hold of a couple of other Scottish brews. Dagan donated his wife’s scrapbook store and bought bread and spreads, us laypeople schlepped the Geld and thus a tasting was born.

The bottles and our charming host Dagan. thanks DSG for the pics.

We started with a soon-to-be-marketed in Israel lager by Harviestoun, that carries the catchy name Schiehallion. Clear, golden bubbly liquid that bore crisp orange aroma and malt and has a bitter, fruity taste with a sweet finish. It’s a decent beer and one I’ll sure drink again once it’s commercially available here.

Some cases of Butcombe Brunel IPA made their way to Israel. We got to sample this decent clear copper liquid that has a sweet malty aroma that bore some hints of honey and rich, delicate bitter taste – malty and round.  Those nice, potentially everyday drinks, preceded the evening’s real deal, that started with a bottle of BrewDog 77 Lager, Equity for Punks version. Don’t think there’s a difference from the regular other than the EFP logo on the label. The Secret Agent and I drank it before and actually liked it much better before. Whereas in January I was raving about rich, fresh bitter taste, this time I sensed sour and mellower bitter. also, didn’t smell much besides some lemon. It’s a good beer, it was good in this tasting, just not awesomely amazing. We then shared another bottle, that smelled of sweet old malt and tasted better – no sourness this time, but still, far from being awesomely amazing.

Trashy Blonde was better. Cloudy, almost opaque golden in colour, I smelled marjoram and evergreen and tasted delicately bitter ale with a light body and lively fizz. 5 A.M Saint is another beer that I wish was commercially available here – a great beer for everyday drinking. Clear dark copper in colour, light tan head, with pineapple and evergreen aroma and sweet, pineapple undertones beneath the bitter taste. Light body, balanced with an abrupt bitter finish.

Alice Porter was the first BrewDog beer in this tasting we haven’t drank before. Dark purple-black in colour, dark tan head, it has a chocolate liquor with faint smoke aroma and a nice bitter taste. Its body is light, texture is sleek, carbonation is mild and was nice overall. After that, back to the familiar realms of Hardcore IPA, an old bottle, then new. I liked them both, but the new bottle was better: Clear copper in colour, as opposed to the cloudy honey of the old drink, green, hemp, evergreen aroma as opposed to apple cider notes I smelled in the old, better taste, sweet, then bitter, a little more carbonation and sweet finish.

At this point the tasting turned into the event we were all waiting for and the interesting bottles were popped open. Abstrakt 08, bottle #1081 out of 6500. Clear dark golden in colour, with sweet roast, bonfire, potato aroma and taste that alternates between alcoholic and sweet bonfire smokiness. Faint smoke aftertaste, oily texture and light body. Thoroughly enjoyable. Then we made another turn from BrewDog, this time to Belgium. Embrasse Peated Oak Aged (Whiskey-Cask) by De Dochter van de Korenaar comes wrapped in delicate pink-red paper wrap. that hides aggressive aromas and gentler tastes. Tasting notes are similar to those you’d read in anything related to Islay distilleries: fuel, peat, smoke, salt. Texture is smooth, carbonation – delicate. This beer made me happy.

I drank Paradox before. Don’t remember which, but do remember I loved it. In this tasting we had both Isle of Arran and Smokehead – collaborations with two distilleries, cask-aged beer. Arran reveals black, opaque, headless liquid with dry, somewhat smokey aroma and dry bitter taste with hints of wine and faint smokiness. Smooth, sweet finish, no carbonation and good, but not as amazing as Paradox Smokehead. The latter is opaque dark brown in colour, with a condensed tan head that smells of smoke and burnt tires and tastes bitter, like liquid smoke. It’s a smooth brew, with smokey finish and light carbonation. I know next-to-nothing about whiskey, but I’m easy to buy with beer that shares features with distilled barley.

Smokehead must have been my favourite in this session, but the tasting wasn’t over: Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Paradox’ hardcore, nasty cousin, was poured to our tasting glasses and goblets, after being aged, iced, bottled and shipped: Headless opaque beer with brutal tearing tar and miso aroma that brought tears in my eyes. Taste was umami more than anything else – sweet, salty, a little chocolatey, very alcoholic and weirdly amazing. Smooth, oily, very mild carbonation and so, so good.

It was a long tasting and quite a heavy one. Thank you Tomer for your generousity and for bringing me one step further to the finish line. Paradox and Schiehallion are both in the book. #46 and #47 beers I must try before I die.

Behind, again.

So many beers to write about, so little time. I just returned from a tasting. We sampled some 12-13 beers tonight.Had information about most of the beers prior to the tasting and was relieved to find out that none is listed in the 1001 Book. And yet, as soon as I came back, some 10 minutes ago, I had to check out the index to see maybe I missed something. Well, of course I did.

The Abyss by Deschutes Brewery from Oregon  is listed on page 616.  We sampled the 2011 Reserve edition of this awesome black concoction that is crowned with a dark yellow head. It has a rich dry wood, dark chocolate aroma and a heavenly wooden-coffee-smoke burning bitterness. It was the last but definitely the best beer we sampled tonight.

Victory Prima Pils was another beer we sampled tonight. A clear greenish blond liquid that bears a very faint aroma that becomes sweet and fruity after stirring. It’s a thin, watery brew that bears no distinctive taste.

Beer #29 was cool, beer #30 was rather insignificant.

There are at least 7 more beers in my notes that should be covered in this blog. Soon.

I drank that Mercedes Beer last night

After a spring-themed beer tasting hosted by Beerandbeyond at the Norma Jean – Israel’s pioneer whiskey and beer-focused bistro, we stayed for a light meal before driving back home.

Tasting was interesting, with 7 beers that were brought especially for the tasting: Southern Star Le Mort Vivant, Two Brothers Ebel’s Weiss, Abita Mardi Gras Bock, Heather Ales Alba, Ommegang Hennepin, Peak Organic IPA and Stoudt’s Double IPA. Most were nice, some were interesting (Alba, though I wouldn’t drink a bottle by myself), and one was good – Ommegang, of course. None of these beers are in the book.

I accompanied dinner with Maredsous 10. It is far from being my favourite beer but I haven’t rated it yet and also, there was a chance that it’d be listed in the book. With 10% alcohol, more than one bartender told us that this is one of the most popular beers around and Mercedes, Mardesu, Marsedo and simply That Beer With 10% alcohol are often sought after. I see it myself in the search engine terms that bring readers to Beerdrinking, my Hebrew blog: more spelling variations of Maredsous than the Benedictine monks that benefit from the sales could have wished for.

I can understand the appeal – with 10% abv. one doesn’t need to drink much in order to get the buzz; compared to other Belgian triples M10 has a light body and therefore it’s easier to drink; and let’s not forget the sweetness, that’s always easier to cope with than bitterness. I didn’t fall off my chair, despite the grainy aroma that I always enjoy and was surprised to find in this specific ale, but hey, you can’t beat the masses.

Beer #27 I must try before I die.


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