A mahogany ale under beige head that resolves to an edge. Soft water semi-moreish. This beer cross-references both the Chocolate Stout and Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale from Rogue. There is the dusky dry chocolate of the stout as well as the limey citrus and lighter body of the soba ale. The effect is very pleasant with some graininess and a decent finish of twig along with a moderate not overly sweet nut syrup in the middle.
I had the occassion to share a partnership of this ale with Drambuie - first one then the other - and was not disappointed. BAers approve.
In the area of Poperinge, which is a little town in the west of Belgium, harvesting hops is a main industry and art. In the local dialect hommel means hop and therefore we have used the dialect to give our product a name: Poperings hommelbier.I had to clean up their English a bit but you get the point. This is a fairly small operation paying respect to the local hop crop. The beer pours a merengue off-white head that collapses into the amber cloudy ale that reminds me (with its floaties) of that line on the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA 2-4 box: "New Chunky Style!" The aroma is lightly hopped but not hopped in either the English or German sense. A lighter version of what you would find hovering above a dubbel, say - antique lace comes to mind. Unlike Duval, there is much between you and the heat in this 7.5% brew. There is milky yeast, green grass and green apple notes and a slight bit of salt as well as a bright vegetative lemony salad greens aspect, too.
In order to brew this beer, we use a blend of 3 types of hops. In addition, the presence of hops in the beer are strong, enhancing its flavour and refreshing, slightly bitter taste. Hommelbier is a beer with secondary fermentation in the bottle. Therefore,a layer of ferment is still present at the bottom of the bottle. This beer has a unique distinction of being a completely natural beer.
The BAers are all pretty positive on this one. I am, too. This would go with a pot of steamed asparagus as well as sauvignon blanc and a fair bit better if they were steamed over as much of this as you could give up. Oysters and other shellfish, too. Good thing I know where to find this in Maine.
In other news, I am having a little difficulty figuring out the jobs assigned to different members of the cabinet in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia:
Georgian defense minister, Iraklii Okruashvili spoke in support to Russian beer imports.Georgia's Defence Minister is no stranger to the diplomatic language of beverages. More from Russia's Pravda which you know you can trust...and now J. Lo is apparently taking sides."Russian beer makes up 15% of all beer at Georgian market. Personally I would have supported the decision to ban Russian beers imports to Georgia, as it could bring more profits to Georgian companies, who produce beer of no lower quality," Okruashvili said. The defense minister was put in charge of Georgian wine exports abroad.However, agricultural ministry officials denied any possibility of banning Russian beer exports to Georgia. "Decision to ban Russian beer will only be made in case if it will be found harmful for health," the structural and economic reforms minister, Kahi Bendukidze told, Vzglyad reports.
This beer blog usually caters to the refined palate, but occasionally one finds oneself stranded on a desert island with little to choose from in the beer fridge. For that reason we occasionally "go slumming" and review mass produced brews. Or so says I, because it sounds like a good way to start this review of Alexander Keith's Red Amber Ale.
Full disclosure: I grew up in Nova Scotia, the home of Alexander Keith's Ale, and until recently the only place where it was available. According to the brewery, they've been making their IPA the same way since 1820, and their marketing centers around the idea that it is an old tradition and "those who like it, like it a lot." That was certainly true in my day -- Keith's was by far the most popular beer in Nova Scotia when I was growing up, but we only had about a dozen brands to choose from, and craft beers were unheard of except for stinky "kit" beers that people made in their basements to save money.
Keith's India Pale Ale, which our Good Beer Blog host Alan has famously referred to as "The IPA that isn't an IPA" has been marketed across Canada for the past eight years or so, and apparently the extra-Nova Scotia launch has been quite successful. The marketing wizards have transformed it into a high-end "specialty" beer, when in fact it is just another mass produced domestic along the lines of Labatt Blue and Molson Export.
In recent years, the Alexander Keith line has expanded, which is rather curious considering Mr. Keith has been dead for something like 150 years. This is particularly curious considering the appeal of Keith's is supposed to be its long tradition. So how are we supposed to interpret Keith's Light Ale, and Keith's Honey Brown Ale? Those are brand-spanking new, with no history. Yet the image persists, to the extent that Keith's official Web page refers to these brews as "his finest work."
The latest invented tradition in the house of Keith rides the red bandwagon in the form of a "red amber" ale. Is it red, or is it amber? Those marketing perverts will do anything to turn a buck.
I had to try it, out of a sense of loyalty to my roots. My expectations were not high, although I tried to keep an open mind. So today, in the yellow light of a spring afternoon, I pulled a cold Alexander Keith's Red Amber Ale out of the fridge, cracked it open, and poured it into a hefty ale glass.
Initial impressions were reasonably good. The head did not flare up too fast, so it isn't overly gassy. However, the head didn't really develop at all -- it turned into one of those loose and lazy heads like you get on any mass produced domestic beer.
The color is a bold dark orangey-red, fully transparent. A sniff revealed very little. A sip revealed little else. Regular domestic beer flavor but with an extra hint of caramel. Virtually no aftertaste, which is a bonus for people who don't actually like beer, but a disappointment for those of us who do.
In brief, as a mass produced domestic, it's actually pretty decent. The color, and the slightly developed amberness put it a knotch above many many standard yellow beers, but no better than any of the other mass produced so-called red ales that have hit the market in the past few years.
As a craft or specialty beer, it fails. It's just too safe and uninteresting. It has very little character for a beer with such a lovely color. It doesn't taste bad, it just doesn't taste particularly good.
That blandness means it will, with the right marketing, be a huge success. But for the rest of us, as long as we're not stuck on that desert island, there are many better beers to choose from.
"...L'ultima creazione di Renzo..."
The city of Parma is quite sleepy on this spring afternoon. Actually, so am I, I got up at half past in the morning to get there, but that is not the point. The bus stop in front of the train station is largely deserted, too, but a young man from Ghana helps me to find the right platform. The 02:12 bus is not appearing, and not the 02:20, either. I give up and walk across to the taxi stand, and a taxi driver quotes a rate that is quite acceptable for a 20 minute ride, so I get in.
My destination is the Panil Brewery, located in the countryside to the south of Parma, where the flat landscape of the Po plain gives way to small hills. It is a pleasant drive. The poppies are already in bloom at the roadside, and the leaves are a dozen shades of green. The fields smells of manure from the cows and sheep that produce the Parmesan and Parma ham. It turns out that this is a holiday, so that is the reason for the bus not turning up. On Liberation day most things shut down (and a fair portion of the population had turned out to heckle the mayor, according to reports). And I will not go into who they were liberated from. The Italians?
The brewery is in the countryside within view of the picturesque castle of Torrechiara. It sits in an idyllic setting with a few tables outside the shop, a dozen hens of various colours walking feely around the premises. The place is quite deserted when I arrive, although the doors are open. In addition to the brewing, they also make wine from grapes from the area, which I take note of trying out another time.
After some time spent walking around calling out for assistance, I get help from Aba, a lady fluent in English. She tells me that the brewery is run by her sister and her husband, but that they are not around at the moment. She presents the range of beers they have - very much inspired by Belgian styles. There is a pilsener, a blonde ale and a brown ale, and there is a stout in the making which is not bottled yet. The most interesting beers in the range, however, are two ales aged in oak barrels and then again fermented in the bottle – triple fermented. One of them is a sour version of their Barriquée ale, which I have tasted before, the other is the September ale, which is brewed with grape juice blended in - a sort of beer/wine hybrid. She tells me that these beers are mainly for export and sale directly from the brewery, the locals tend to find them too extreme!
I buy as many bottles I manage to carry with me, and I really look forward to trying them out. While I wait for my transport back to town I notice a small restaurant around the corner. The next time I will probably make a day trip out of it and make some time to see the castle, too!
[Ed.: Check here for the Beer Advocate's take on these brews. Check here for more of Knut's travels. Click here for Knut's own blog.]
I went to undergrad with Trevor so I am glad to report this, our quote of the week:
"Every week we see improvements in Trevor's recovery — sometimes big, sometimes little ..." Debbie blogged. She wrote that a nurse remarked to Greene: "Wow, you can sure suck back the water!"
"Having said nothing to her all night, he said, `You should see me drink beer!...'"
I picked up this beer while on the road and I was immediately in a fix, dealing with cultural confusion. As a son of Scots I know that Belhaven is a fine and reputable brewer of Scots ales bought last year by Greene King...yet I know IPA is not a Scots style. I have discussed this before in relation to Deuchars IPA but this beer - or more particularly the comparison between the two beers makes their labelling as IPAs a wee bit problematic.
Look - here is what I thought about Twisted Thistle. When I had it the other night I wrote:
Caramel ale under light tan foam and a thick cling and ring. A very fruity ale, berry fruity but mainly crusty sweet country loaf of bread. Rich with some smokiness and creamy yeast. Then it opens into light dry fruit apple and raisin with a note of honey. Grapefruity hops balance but in a recessed position, a subordinate role. Definitely more like a pale ale in the zzap-tastic north-east US scale. But richer.Then note what I concluded about Deuchars in October 2004, a year and a half ago:
This very light ale for an IPA has something of the Scots roast barley bite and a slight smokey yeast there as well as a very nice bright orangy flavour...As a brew from Scotland, it will not particularly introduce you to the ales of Scotland. As an IPA, it will not particulatly introduce you to India Pale Ales. But is it a very nice soft pint, a leaver of very lovely laces...You can see they are really different ales, Deuchars being is light and crisp while the Belhaven IPA was to my mind more like a Bombardier with a lighter touch on the same heavy elements, especially the dry fruit characteristics - dry apples and light raisin rather than, say, figs and dates but still dry fruit.
Don't get me wrong. Both are good bevvies you should try. My point is IPA is becoming a very broad term, so broad I am finding it a little meaningless as an indicator of what I will find when I pour the bottle. Terms like "stout" and "mild" or "dubble" do not generally pose this problem for the thoughtful buyer facing a new beer. It reminds me a bit of white wine and the labelling of them according to grape varieties which became popular in the early 1990s. People then came to say they like Chardonnay or Merlot but then were surprised when this Chardonnay or that Merlot was nothing like the wine they could they recongnized. Like with IPA, too much is due to the actual wine making techniques for the comfort of those wine drinkers relying on the label for guidance. Key terms then become the opposite of what they were meant to be - they come to deter rather than attract.
So try Twisted Thistle. It is not a Scots style /80 or wee heavy or an IPA or like Deuchars IPA. But it is really really pleasant.
Mmmmm...S'muttonator. This whalloping 9.8% dopplebock pours garnet tinged mohagany with beige foam and rim. Slightly dark chocolatey smokey with cherry juice and some graininess but this is mostly a big mellow malt bomb. A fine tobacco note from the heat and the twiggy hops. Rich and smooth with a drying finish from the tannic of the hops.