Travelling through Europe as a yo-yo for a few weeks, and I must tell you it is much more business than pleasure. But I am accumulating some interesting beers to try out during the summer - I'll just have to find somewhere to store them. First stop was Paris, where I had a very nice bottle of Pelforth Brune, which seems to be widely available both bottled and canned. A bit on the sweet side with a quite complex taste of toffee, coffee and toast among the elements. Some nice hops in there, too. What struck me is that the French seem to favour a high alcohol content, with for example Carlsberg Elephant available on tap everywhere. Some very strong Dutch beers as well as the most potent Belgian brews were also available. Maybe this nation of wine drinkers wants something with a punch?
This week brought me to Budapest, but that was very much touch and go. I flew Lufthansa and, while their in flight food was rather lousy, they had a quite pleasant pils on offer – Warsteiner. This is a soft and pleasant pilsener. The hops are there, but not intrusive. (I like them intrusive, but I don't expect that on a plane!) Flowery bouquet and smell. Transit at Munich airport, where there is supposed to be a brewpub, but I had no time to seek it out. A perfectly pleasant high glass of hefe or unfiltered Paulaner Weisse was an appropriate way to toast my few minutes on Bavarian soil. On then to Budapest, where most of the bars were closed at eleven at night. I found, however, a pub serving a pleasant bottle of Dreher Bak. A very nice bock. Dry and toasty, no toffee or cocoa in this one. 7,3 %, and of course you can taste that. Apart from Dreher, there seems to be lots of Austrian beer around, often with names referring to imperial times.
For some reason, I come across news about the Bulgarian beer trade more often than I expect. This one I find a bit odd:
Beer Consumption Reels in Bulgaria Bad WeatherI would be thinking that a 50% increase in taxes might have a little more to do with it than how sunny the sky is but then again I clearly have difficulties with Bulgarian beer trade issues.
Beer sales traditionally hit a mounting rate in the summer months. The delay in expected rise was caused this year by the pouring rains and poor weather over the last few weeks, brewers said. Beer consumption in Bulgaria has dropped by 8.3% for the first five months of this year, due to the cool weather and the 50% excise duty imposed since the beginning of 2005...The chairman of the Board of Directors of Kamenitza AD has been hopeful that in the summer months to come fans will re-discover their favorite drink and the brewery market will frame into sales typical for the hot season.
On the off chance that you find this blog for the first time say...ummm...Monday...for some reason...here are a few tips:
- Look around. Here are the archives by date and topic;
- As an FYI, I do spell poorly and find I don't much care, though I do share your pain;
- I have only recently put up Google ads so if you want to support the cause, click through a few. All funds, once the first cheque comes in, are allocated to blog-related research;
- this is a joint production of a number of authors around the world [Ed: have a look to the lower left of this page] though they are all somewhat slack and expect me to do much more than they do. I am always interested in new authors and am quite surprised by the number who ask if they can send me something but never do; and
- everything here is a matter of personal opinion and taste but we can be bought or, err, at least will accept examples of product for review. Our reviewers at this blog and a small confederacy of the like minded are carefully placed across the globe a certain number of paces from each other (except the two guys in China) and I would happy to provide addresses near you where samples may be sent.
It looks like Ithaca is making a go of it. The vaiety box has snazzy multi-coloured branding and the brewery has expanded its facility in the south-end of town allowing it to expand from 3,000 barrels in 2003 to 10,000 - and even moved into homebrewing supplies. Ithaca itself, home of Cornell University and its extensive agriculture department, is a wee bit back-to-the-landy, a bit hackysacky, so supporting homebrew may be a big thing for a micro to try. This April 2005 article from The Ithacan says this is the brewer's sixth year and that they have developed, in co-operation with Cornell, a Double IPA with NY state local hops. Must find it.
- Nut Brown Ale: When I tried this beer last year it was too frigid out of the fridge and, so, unbalanced. Now, at room temperature, there is all that limey hop and chalky hop but it is supported by a full palate of malts, well balanced. I like it much better at this temperature - which is a good lesson in ale. Each beer has its own logic. Even though a fairly moderate 5% and quite dry, it makes for a good sipping ale.
- Apricot Wheat: One of the ones I did not try last year, Ithaca's version is a very dry version of this now fairly common form of summer beer. It has lots of grassy sauvignon blanc flavours from the wheat and a nice unsweetened unsyrupy apricot. It is yellow and a bit cloudy under show white rim with a lot of bright effervescence to meet the demands of the acidity. The fruit and the hops merge very nicely giving structure. Unlike me, the BAs show some difference of opinion over this brew.
- Pale Ale: You know what? I now think I did not review this beer last year. What do you think of that? It's a shame as this ale is a classic example of what a good pale ale should be. It has a great dry grainy edge, honestly proud of the fact that this is a bread-like product. Next you hit some toffee crystal malt nutty sweetness framed by bitter and green hops in the middle. It is all enriched with a tangy and fruiy yeast strain that I would think is the same as the Nut Brown Ale, above. It is somewhat maltier than you average pale ale which would make me think that is is more like a low end ESB...but what do I know? All the advocates know one thing - they like it.
- Cascazilla Red Ale: Is this the Double IPA of myth and lore I mentioned above? Apparently not. It bills itself as a monstorously hopped red ale (nice label) but I would think it is a big US style IPA bomb. Can't we just agree? Anyway, it pours a deep amber with a tan head with a big flowery herbal hop nose. The big flavour is the hop with a weedy herby green zang in the front half of the mouth with only a slight bitter edge in your cheeks and and the back of the throat. It is supported but, let's be frank, no balanced by sweet malt and some pear fruity pale malt. The yeast adds a nice creamy richness. Good clean green end. Really quite swell at 6.5% - if you are mad for hops.
Once upon a time there was a very useful brewery in Suffolk called Lidstones. At beer festivals I visited, their beer always stood out as being consistently excellent. Then they upped sticks and moved to Yorkshire remaming itself Wensleydale. Reincarnation. Disaster I thought. Just over a week ago we put the Wensleydale Brewery's beer on our shelves. Their Poacher is the nearest thing to Lidstones Rawalpindi IPA, always one of my great favourites. Here is the brewery's description of the ale:
This Straw coloured beer uses the finest floor malted maris otter and crystal malts and Challenger and Styrian Goldings hops. Add the village's unique supply of spring water from its waterfalls, and you have an excellent clean and crisp ale with citrus notes making this a highly refreshing and drinkable India Pale Ale.I was afraid to try it, for fear that it would be a disappointment, but a few weekends ago I gave in and tried it. Poacher is absolutely wonderful, I've not so enjoyed a beer for quite a long time. It's light amber in colour with a slight head, its pungent 'nose' is hoppy and fruity. The initial taste is one of hops and grass which is then taken over by a slight bitter aftertaste and a biscuity finish. A good example of an IPA !
This brew provides a great education in the timing of hop additions. I know you were sitting there day after day wonder when I was going to mention the importance of the timing of hop additions. Well, this is the day because this brew provides a great education in the timing of hop additions.
Usually, pale ale brewing asks for three differing moments for adding hops: at the outset of the boil, at roughly the 3/4 point of the boil and at the end of the boil. These additions add bittering taste, hop flavour and aroma respectively so by balancing the relative quantity of each addition you set the hop profile of a beer - lots of bitter but low aroma or lots of green flavour and aroma but little bitter at the start. As we have recently learned the Dogfish Head brewery of Delaware has a line of ales with non-stop hop addition though the boil but that is not the norm, thought it is lovely. If you consider the 86 varieties of hop and hop packaging available through this homebrew supplier, you can see that there are about one bazillion ways that a beer's hop profile can play out. Just about. Yup.
This is our interpretation of a classic pale ale. Our "XP" (exceptional pale) has a golden color, and is very light bodied with a noticeable hop aroma and bittering element that just teases the hopheads but satisfies the newest of microbrewed ale drinkers. This beer is brewed with American Two Row, English wheat, Belgian, and Dextrin malts. Mix this with just the right amounts of Cascade and Centennial hops and you've got a winner!! 2003 Real Ale Festival, Chicago, Bronze Medal Winner; 2001 North American Brewers' Awards, Gold Medal Winner; 2000 California State Fair, Bronze Medal Winner; 1997 Beerfest Invitational, Bronze Medal Winner - og 1.052, ABV 5.4%, IBU 55.See that little bit of info at the end? That means 55 International Bitterness Units. I have known people who rated on the IBU scale but that is entirely another matter.
The beer pours a nice orange cream head over a very orangey amber brew. As the brewer notes the body is light for a real ale but frankly nothing like what most would call a real ale. But unlike, say, a big hoppy bomb like Stone's Ruination IPA the first sip is inviting rather than intimidating. Also unlike a lot of pale ales, other flavours of green and twiggy bitter start only jumping in mid-mouth ending with a further nice bit of spice in the swallow. It is a sort of back-ended ale and that is all due to the focus on adding hops later in the boil. Certainly there are some of the early bittering hops as these are needed to cut out the cloy of maltiness. The malt in this case is very fruity with a lean towards pear and even orange rather than the appley notes you often get with pale malt. In the malt there is a good measure of English wheat giving a nod to what would be called a Yorkshire style of pale ale. The wheat is not grassy as you get with many European styles of wheat beer. It is sort of fresh cut sweet hardwoody there in the middle. Lots of yeast in the glass at the end. Yeast good.
As you can see, there is a lot to take from this beer and if there are others by the brewer next time I am down at Galeville, I may try and grab some. $4.39 for a 22 oz bomb so not cheap but worth it...and the advocates agree.
More than a few years ago I was in a pub and saw on the chalkboard "Special: liver and onions 12.99". When the waiter arrived I asked what was so special?
I have only disliked one beer so much I was quite confused and frustrated and that was a jalopena beer made long ago - but thankfully no more - by Garrison of Halifax. It burned the front of the mouth sharply leaving you no interest in having another sip. If you took a sip to make the taste go away, as one might out of instinct, the burn got worse.
Rogue's Chipotle Ale is no where near that bad. It is however, the only ale by Rogue I can imagine needing a special price to move off the shelf. The first taste was canned okra followed by the same smokey chipotle in Tabasco Chipotle sauce, a favorite of mine, followed by some sharp heat. The malt's sweetness does balance the rich hot pepper but the beer still asks the question "why?". It might make a good marinade for ribs but I am a bit lost as to why you would spend this much for that. What are you supposed to eat with this?
Brooklyn Pennant Ale '55
I knew that the Dodgers win in the 1955 World Series was a big thing but I had no idea how it was celebrated in Brooklyn with a bigger parade than VE Day, due in large part to the dramatics of the catch. This bottling by the Brooklyn Brewery of their Pale Ale celebrates the 50th anniversary of that great event.
My first impression of the ale is of its sweetness. This is a fairly elemental ale, nothing an average working joe would not appreciate. The sweetness is slightly on the caramel side but well below tacky ot cloying. It is braced by some pale malt graininess underneath as well as edgy hops to the sides. It is soft to the mouth enriched by a creamy yeast. There is perhaps some smokiness within the sweet as well. The brewer says this:
A tribute to Brooklyn’s 1955 World Champion baseball team, Brooklyn Pennant Ale is a chestnut-colored pale ale with a hearty, toffeeish malt palate and a finely balanced hop finish. Pennant is a traditional English-style pale ale...Brooklyn Pennant Ale is brewed from Scottish Maris Otter malt, which is justly prized for its toasty, biscuity flavor and the smoothness it imparts to beer. Pennant is hopped with Willamette, Fuggle and Cascade, and top-fermented at warm temperatures for a rich, fruity flavor and aroma.Very pleasant summer beer. The advocates agree.