Sometimes I buy beer — and other things for that matter — for the wrong reasons. Last week, for example, I was in Ottawa, buying wine at the LCBO, when I noticed a display of cold, imported beers.
Some were familiar, some not. Then I noticed an array of tall 500ml cans with some writing under the rim. The word DORKMUNDER jumped out at me. It said THE REAL DORKMUNDER.
Huh? What the heck is a Dorkmunder? I had a mental image of a skinny dork in lederhosen, wool socks, and Birkenstock sandals, standing there with a big stein of beer.
I blinked and looked again. OK, it said DorTmunder, not DorKmunder. But like... that's any better? What the heck is a Dortmunder?
At that point I didn't really care. With a handle like "Blork" I obviously have a thing for silly "ork" words, and I think "ort" words are even sillier.
So I'm standing there, chuckling to myself, when my sweetie comes along and asks what's so funny. I hold up the can and say "say hello to The Real Dortmunder!"
She blinked a few times and could only stammer "Uh... huh?"
"It’s The Real Dortmunder!"
"What’s a dortmunder?"
"I don’t know, but apparently this is a real one."
She thought for a moment and then her eyes widened. "There's a character in the novel I'm reading called Dortmunder!"
"No way!" I said.
So I bought a couple of cans. How could I not?
The beer was DAB, a well known mass-produced German beer. DAB stands for "Dortmunder Actien Brauerei." It is brewed in Dortmund, Germany, which apparently is what makes it a Dortmunder.
Later, as we were sitting on my sweetie's brother's deck, under a hot July sun, admiring the nice view of the Rideau River, she showed me the Novel — An Answer From Limbo, by Brian Moore. Sure enough, there was Dortmunder, a dorky New York intellectual who liked to throw literary parties.
In my hand, at the time, was a chilled can of DAB. Since the novel was fiction, I was quite convinced that my beer, unlike the character, was The Real Dortmunder. For proof, I cracked it open and poured it into a glass. Then I took a long cool glug. Case closed.
This beer was just sitting there at the LCBO, 2.50 CND for 330 ml of 6.0% ale. Nice Dutch swing top. A homebrewer's delight. The lable says dubblegehopt bier or "double hopped beer". The brewery says the usual:
Blond has a full body, a very balanced taste and a beautiful bitterness due to a generous addition of fresh hop during the brewing-process. The aroma is fruity and Blond has a fresh taste with a pleasant, hoppy finish.A big white mousse head over lively light straw ale. Rich grainy malt under metallic hops around a little heat. Some fair bit like a higher test Heineken. Extremely nice for those that like stainless steel in their hoppiness.
The internet is fairly amazing and what better proof do you need than I now know this:
Baltika brewing company of Saint Petersburg has resumed supplies of its production to Georgia and Armenia, reported the company press service. The supplies to Georgia and Armenia were ceased in July 2004 due to causes not dependent on the company.It was elves. Big hairy elves.
Washington, Vermont, New York, Oregon,
Pennsylvania and California
Life is tough. Life needs little projects. I found all of these lovery little brown bottles at the excellent Finger Lakes Beverage Center in Ithaca, NY and was able to buy singles of each - though the Southern Tier Porter came in a mixed 12 pack I picked up. They represent parts of the range of dark ales above brown ale. There are two dark porters, a mocha porter, an organic oatmeal stout, an imperial oatmeal stout and the granddaddy of them all a Russian Imperial stout. Mmmmm...roasty malty goodness.
- Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout: certified organic from Middlebury, Vermont. Effervescent, dark brown ale under a smooth rich tan head. Lots of flavour and lots of flavours. Not a slave to the silky texture oats impart, this beer also has plenty of hops, roasty grain and yeasty goodness - all in one smooth balanced beer. The hops are not as minty as Guinness's norther brewer variety. I am thinking the citrus rind of Cascade. In the grain there is a bit of cocoa, a bit of coffee and a nice brown breadiness from the interaction with the creamy biscuity yeast. The finish goes dry, leaving the roast and then just the hops. A very fine complex medium weight example.
- Stoudt's Fat Dog Imperial Stout: from Adamstown, Pennsylvania. After my first contact with Stoudt through their Double IPA, I am going to need more than a moment with this brew. Darker brown with red notes under a mocha head that dissipated quickly. The sensation of this 9% ale's strength is a little like a black rum and coke - which is to be expected as 9% amounts to around one oz. shot of 80 proof being added to a regular beer or two shots to a pop/soda. But that is a side track, a red herring. When beers are like this you have to think of them more like great port or sherry as opposed to table wine. Expect the flavours to open up over time. The body is fairly hefty, though it is not overdone - there is no massive attack of roasted grains though they are there as a supporting cast. There is some chocolate but mainly a lot of rich dark malt, pumpernickle. The hops are also there but far further in the background than the Wolaver's. Underneath it all there is a rich double cream yeast that fills in gaps in concert with the smoothness of the oats. Quite extraordinary. And that was all from the first two sips. An hour later, two more flavours came out - licorice and some fruit which, surprisingly, I would not call dried fruit so much as plum and maybe apricot. Again complex and very worthy.
- Southern Tier Dark Porter: from Lakewood, New York. I like this porter a lot. A good honest roasty dark ale with body to match. Too often porters or the slightly lighter style called dark ale are just darkened versions of the brewer's pale ale. But this beer has a good amount of roasted grain, some coffee and a bit of bitter chocolate all over a nice rich biscuity yeast. Not as complex as the beers above but more of an everyday porter.
- Grant's Perfect Porter: from Yakima, Washington. I am quite surprised how much lighter this porter is compared to the southern tier. Its light tan head dissipates to a skim quickly over the mahogony ale. Chocolate mousse smelly. I would really call this a dark and not a porter but I should not as this is a Bert Grant's beer. Up front there is some roast but it fades away a little sooner than I would like revealing a bit of vanilla cream and then a bit of edgy vegetative hop and smoke. I recall the Burton Bridge porter I had in 2001 or so and its lack of balance to my mind - too thin, too sharp - which later learned that it was more historically accurate. This is like the same elements placed in more modern balance - a bit of sour in the yeast, a bit of sharp in the end but better balanced than the Burton. I don't know if I can call this tasty or attractive. At 4% a lower strength expression of the style.
- Rogue Mocha Porter: from Eugene, Oregon. A skim of tan head over deep brown ale. Big hop tang across the roof of my mouth - minty, lime rind - over the top of dusty chocolate and black malt. Not so much mocha beer as mug of joe beer. Somewhat discordant, a bit sharp here and a bit dry roasty there. I don't know if the yeast is really pulling its weight but, still all in all it's got full flavour and real flavour. Not as tough a call as the Grant's but there is a lot of thinking required with this beer.
- Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout: from Fort Bragg, California. Very nicely balanced for a 8.9% beer. Lots and lots of roasty-toasty roast barley imparting a garnet hue to the inky ale, its tan head quickly dissipating. The hops are not minty and the nose is actually floral with a fair bit of black rum Christmas cake dry fruitiness as well. There is a lot of heat with hoppy spicy over the roasted black malt and roast barley and with a creamy heart. A very nice example of a well layered beer - like a big red wine lots and lots of flavours that open up over time. It would be interesting to do a side by side with Freeminer Deep Shaft, my favorite stout since I began these notes.
I have had this bottle at the back of the fridge for a while. And I know the photo is not as sharp as it might be. But I like it. And I like this beer. This is the upgrade from High Falls Brewing of Rochester, (land of the garbage plate) the brewers for decades (or rather successors of brewers) of Genesee Cream, the infamous up state down home brew which has retained a certain audience for its like, slightly corny pale pale ale/lager hybrid. While the JWD APA (American Pale Ale for those of you who need a hint) is not the greatest APA I have had, it is also good value for money. There is flavour and balance: a bit of hops that go beyond Mt Hood, a bit of sweet crystal and even a touch of smoke that is maybe a tiny bit of black malt. A lot of beer advocates gave a thumbs up, too, especially at the price which is right between the discount and the micro.
Alcohol consumption is not entirely a problem, because those who love the bottle will tell you that even Jesus turned water into wine. But as we imbibe the frothy stuff, we should not forget the dangers that come with it. We all know drinking and driving is dangerous, but there are drunkards who claim that their cars know their way home. That's Ugandans for you.
Another variety pack from New York state, another reason to wonder why we organize our lives like we do in Canada. Saranac is the main brand of the Matt Brewing Company of Utica to the right of Syacuse about an hour and twenty minutes south then east from here. Last year I bought a mixed twelve of theirs and was diappointed by the focus on lagers - but no problem here. Look - a belgian white, a hefeweizen...a kölsch! Nutty. These guys are working hard for my dollar in the marketplace. I praised the Saranac IPA earlier this year and gave a bit of background that I won't repeat here. let's just get into the brews:
- Summer Ale: labelled as wheat with a little lemon and herb, this beer pours a clear amber with a white rim head. It has a light body, very little aroma to speak of. Its finish is a bit odd, a small bit of edge and a broad shadow of a lemon - not the sharp of lemon juice or the sweet of lemon drop. Oddly, when I had the second a few days later icy out of the fridge, it reminded me of 7up...in a good way.
- Hefeweizen: I am quite surprised by the quality of this beer. Not as creamy a yeast strain as the other hefes I have recently tried but much truer than the other US version of the style from Rogue in that set and Harpoon's version tasted in April. It would be worth comparing to Paper City's Cabot Street. White fine rocky head over cloudy straw coloured beer. Quite pronounced clove over banana. Worthy yet the label says limited edition.
- Kölsch: a very light ale with low hop bite. Clean but uncomplex. The edge of the hops is nicely subtly ever present - a deft touch. White skim over light straw brew. I wonder if this is the Summer Ale without the lemon and herbs. I realize I am ignorant of this style so really have a hard time knowing where this sits in the range - but I thought I would find a wee bit more malt.
- Belgian White: Not a bad attempt. Better than the confused Sam Adams White and definitely above the foul lolly-poppish Brussels White. White skim over cloudy light amber beer. Light almost watery ale with some honest grain and tangy spice. Some orange peel in the nose and on the palate.
- Mountain Ale: the beer formerly known as Mountain Berry Ale. This is getting repetitive. I think it is the Kölsh without the lemon and herb of the Summer Ale with generic berry syrup added instead. The sweet of the berry clashes with the herbs and the yeast. I am thinking of a thinner Belhaven Fruit Beer and that is not a good thought.
- Golden Lager: Again, very light and it is a lager so I am not expecting to find love - but this is working for me. It has a very good balance - which it good work when we are talking light. Starting with the bottom - the yeast is creamy and delicate. Right above it there is a slim edge which is a little bit like rye. Across the middle of the tongue there is graininess and in the front a bit of sweet. A nice clean flowery attractive hint of hops in the nose. A very likeable light lager.