Knut of Norway sent me an interesting email a few days ago:
When I was in Bavaria last year, I bought a bottle of Bierlikör at the brewery tap at Weienstephan. I have seen on the web site of other German breweries that they have similar liquors, and I wonder what kind of drink this really is. It is quite weak, at 30% alcohol. It is very sweet, tastes of malt and of aniseed. It reminds me of the Scandinavian sweets called "Kongen av Danmark" and of the Portugese Liqour Beirao. So, is this neutral alcohol mixed with malt extract and spices, or is it something else? Can anyone help? Is this exclusivly German?This is not quite the same as the thing I think called "double beer" I have come across referenced in Unger's Beer in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. With "double beer" your average medieval inventor brewer lady made a batch of beer starting with beer from an earlier batch rather than water. It was a basic technique of fortifying the brew and was outlawed fairly quickly where and when it popped up. No, what Knut is referring to is a distillation as no matter who is trying no one has yet made a beer over around 25% and no one has made one over around 14% using traditional methods. Whisky - and even whiskey - is really close to it if you think about it: distilled unhopped ale. When you make beer, before you throw in the yeast the liquid is called wort. Same for whisky. But when you pitch the yeast, whisky wort is now called wash while with beer the wort is now called green beer. [You know, between organic techniques and Irish celebrations, "green beer" is a pretty confused Google search but that is what it is called.]
But what if you distill green beer rather than wash? Is this what Knut's bierlikör is? Are there any other examples? I ask you, oh, people of the beer.
Here are two ales from the Elora Old Mill brand produced by Trafalgar Brewing Company at Oakville, Ontario. According to the ever useful Brewed in Canada by Allen Winn Sneath, in 1997:
Trafalgar Brewery of Oakville opens the Old Mill Brewery in Elora on the site of the defunct Taylor & Bate Breery. They closed down after two years.Despite that unhappy adventure, the Elora brands have been continued.
The beer to the left is Elora ESB or Extra Special Bitter. This beer pours a ruddy amber with a white rim that fades quickly, unsustained by the low carbonation. ESB is a notch above best bitter which, in turn, is above ordinary bitter. This take of the style is a little light, not in the range of Propeller ESB from Halifax, for example. And does this beer lack daring? I am reminded that I thought that Brooklyn East India Pale Ale was not to style but then it grew on me and I saw the intended sublty. I don't think this is the case here. But the level of risk taking is sort of par for the Canadian course if my inquiries into the national six-pack taught me anything. I wrote about this in relation to the other Trafalgar product I have reviewed, their Celtic Pure Irish Ale, but it is not an issue I only have with this craft brewer by any stretch. There also is a bit of what I do not like in Sleeman and Creeemore beers, too: maybe hard water or sourish notes or even a vegetative green pepperish angle. Or maybe it is a slight oakiness, drying rather tha enriching. These beers are from the same general region - maybe it's in the watertable. And the use of the Fuggles is good but, unlike Shipyard's use of that hop in their IPA, it is not pronounced or a signature note. In any event, that old Halifax tavern trick of a shake of salt into the beer did it a world of good. BAers not pleased.
The other beer is Elora Irish Ale. It poured a blackened amber with a tan head. Immediately I noticed more zip, a citrusiness to the hops but, then, past that tang it was again not as grainy as I expect a micro should be. Light - even vinious - and not at all unpleasant but it could be more. Nice bit of black pepper at the end from the roast barley. BAers a little more positive.
Both ales could do with a nudge of crytal malt and grainier profile. A bit clearer of an expression of the ingredients. If little wee Church-Key can, why doesn't every craft brewer?
Soba, eh? Buckwheat to most of you. Rogue, however, has made a celebrity chef beer out of it. Celebrity Iron Chef, that is. I don't know what to make of it, holding the beer in hand, cap unpopped...celebrity beer. The brewerys notes state:
Black Obi Soba is brewed with roasted buckwheat and malts (2-row pale, Minuch, C-15, c-60 and Weyermann) providing a rich nut-laced flavor, while the 3 hop varieties (Horizon. Sterling and Cascade) blend to provide a refreshing zest.The BAers say yes 99% to 1%. I have hope.
Deep deep garnet (but not as deep as Guinness) with mocha head and rim. Decidedly malty on the nose with something that strikes me like Rogue's Chipolte beer without the smoke. Clean and surprisingly light in body. Lots of bright citric hop with less than fully sweet brown sugary goodness. The buckwheat is there - sort of refined dry pumpernickle, sub-rye earthy grain. Quite lovery.
I thought I had this one over a year ago. How sad to be colour challenged or at least colour negligent, confusing blue cap for white. That was so 2005. I've grown so much since then.
Anyway, it's better late than never, so here is the triple from the Trappists at Scourmont Abbey in Belgium. The pour billows up into a rocky merengue of a head, a sniff fills your head with booze, juiciness and rough grainy burlap. The sip is also hot - to be expected at 8% - but also pear juicey, a touch of icing sugar and a touch of the crust of rustic country bread. Dry from the antique slightly lavander herby hops with also a bit of sugar stick in the finish. None over the top but well balanced with a good set of distinct flavours.
Really swell. You could imagine having this with a big whopping pile of coconut cream pie...but what can't you have with that?
On the 21st of March, after a day of eating chocolates and other Hershey candies, I was slumped in a chair in a room at the Hershey Lodge in Pennsylvania sipping a Winter Warmer from the Lancaster Brewing Company. What else would a person drink on the first day of spring? Especially when the forecast for that evening was for sub-freezing temperatures and snow. But it was warm inside and a Winter Warmer seems an appropriate way to welcome spring. I thought my last Winter Warmer of the season would be the Blue Point Winter Warmer. Two weeks ago I stopped into Painters' for lunch with a couple of friends and saw that a keg of Blue Point Winter Warmer was still on. Always a welcome sight to see the Blue Point Winter Warmer on tap.
The Lancaster Brewing Company Winter Warmer is different than the Blue Point; it's big mix of sweet and bitter capped with a thick dollop of mocha colored foam. A pleasant caramel and a touch of molasses come through adding dimension to the maltiness. The beer is dark with a reddish tint when held to the light. According to the brewer's web site this Winter Warmer is an Olde Ale with a blend of British and American hops. At first I thought this bottle might not be a perfect specimen of Lancaster Brewing Company's Winter Warmer, because I detected slight oxidation and a little lactic sourness. However, according to the style guidelines for Old Ale these aspects are not defects, but part of the beer's flavor profile. So here's an example where taste and expectation clash---and a reminder to drink the beer in the glass.
This story is only breaking in India and South Africa so far according to Google News:
Spokesperson An Frankie said she was given beer at school as a child and called for a return to the old ways.Ah, the old ways...the 1606 ways...kids in the factory ways...
The Punjab in India, conversely, has discovered a better way to relive the olden goldies - a cut in beer prices by half via government regulation.
While researching Irish beers and Irish pubs prior to St Patrick's Day, I started to think of this holiday not as just a day but a season. Then I noticed that in the beer company advertising for St Patrick's Day that the corporations too appear to have adopted this notion of the week prior to the day itself as the time to start focusing on Irish beverages.
On Long Island it's not only the week before March 17th, but the week after that the Irish Saint is celebrated with parades and pints of beer. The day I left Long Island (March 12th) for a brewpub tour of Baltimore and Pennsylvania there was St Patrick's Day parade running through my town. Two weeks later (March 26th), when I returned there was another St Patrick's Day parade, this one running through the town of Patchogue, home to Blue Point Brewery and the Brickhouse Brewery.
My plan was to meet a friend at the Brickhouse for a quiet Sunday afternoon pint. The Sunday afternoon "happy hour" at the Brickhouse is a good opportunity to sample the fine craft brewed beers there at discount prices, but yesterday there was no such thing as a quiet Sunday afternoon pint. When I arrived at the Brickhouse, the St Patrick's Day parade was just winding up and guess where the post-parade festivities were being held---that's right, at the Brickhouse.
I managed to squeeze in just ahead of the Patchogue Fire Department's drum and pipe corps. I had to shout my order of Crop Circle Ale to the bar tender over the deafening hammering of ten drummers pounding away inside the pub.
I managed to find my friend in the crowd and we escaped the madhouse and finished our pints of Crop Circle on the sidewalk in front of the Brickhouse so that we could hear each other speak. Fortunately, the Patchogue police were turning a blind eye to open containers on account of the parade I presume.
For our second pint, we went over to the Half Penny Pub in Sayville, New York (220 N. Main St, Sayville, NY 11782; 631-567-1948). The Half Penny Pub is an Irish Pub, but they were far enough away from the parade route that we figured it wouldn't be totally nuts inside. We were right. We had the place to ourselves, aside from a couple sipping Irish Coffee.
The Half Penny Pub is a good place to go for Blue Point. They always have the Toasted Lager. They have a second Blue Point tap that rotates. The first time I went to the Half Penny they had the excellently smooth Blue Point Oatmeal Stout. Yesterday, they had the Blue Point Blueberry Ale. (According to Ale Street News, Blue Point will start bottling their Blueberry Ale soon.)
In addition to Blue Point, the Half Penny Pub has a number of other taps devoted to serving up the major players. I didn't count, but there were at least 15 taps. They have a decent selection of bottled beer. The bar maid told us that the new Heineken light beer was a big seller.
Usually, the Half Penny Pub has a menu of pub fare available, but yesterday the cook was having car trouble, so instead of corned beef with our Blue Point, we had a bowl of popcorn that they bar maid kindly procured for us. On Tuesday nights, you can get dollar burgers (these are regular sized burgers according to the bar maid). And the place is usually hopping after 8 pm if you like crowds.