I haven't checked the ranking hereabouts on Google for the one word search "beer". We had been in the 80s and 90s for a while. Today we are #22. Knut must be the reason.
I have a flaw — or perhaps it's a virtue — in that I feel unsettled around people or things that are indecisive. Don't get me wrong — I appreciate ambiguity, especially creative ambiguity that forces one to think and interpret. But there is ambiguity, and there is indecision.
I'm not entirely sure which description applies to Köstritzer Schwartzbier, the black lager of Köstritz, Germany. I really had no idea what to expect when I opened the can. After all... a black lager?
It poured with the consistency of a regular lager, with a big gassy head that dissipated fairly quickly, leaving behind a decent lace. On the way into the glass it looked like a cola, but with finer bubbles. It appeared black, but like a cola was in fact a deep rich red, almost purple. I held the glass up to the sun and barely a ray made its way through. Yet it didn't appear to be as thick in texture and consistency as a stout.
I gave it a sniff, but didn't detect much aroma — just a faint beery aroma with a remote toastiness. I let it settle for a minute and then sipped.
At times like this I wish I had the descriptive talents of our own Good Beer Blogger Alan, as the flavors I found in the Köstritzer were not easy to pin down. It had the texture and consistency of a lager, which is to be expected I suppose, but with a more lingering presence in the mouth. On the other hand, it looked like a stout, but did not have the earthy nose and weighty heft of a stout.
There was a sense of espresso, or perhaps it was bittersweet chocolate. I'm not sure, because it was not really the taste of those things, but more like the dry and bitter aftertase of them. Each sip left a slightly parched feeling in the mouth, making me wish for a sip of water.
It's not unusual to feel that effect from stouts or hoppy bitters, but in those cases it follows a burst of rich and robust malt and hop flavors. The Köstritzer had the feel and aftertaste of a robust brew, but without the primary flavors!
Lagers are, by their nature, light in flavor, but a good lager still has that hint of fullness to it — a roundness to the flavor, with a memory of yeast, that lingers after the initial sharpness of the hops. Perhaps Köstritzer has that too, but if so I didn't notice, because the dry toastiness of its stout-wannabe aspect barged in and got in the way of any delicate lager subleness that may have been there.
After a few sips I started to grow accustomed to this unusual and unexpected beer experience. Perhaps it had been too cold at first. Perhaps my tastebuds simply can't reconcile certain combinations. It didn't taste bad, but I never really got to love it.
I kept thinking of that awful movie Hollywood Homicide, which suffered from the indecision of not knowing if it was a crime movie or a comedy, so it never quite lived up to either. Same thing with Köstritzer — is it a lager, or is it a stout? It isn't really either, so where does that leave you?
I have written about Southern Tier's porter a couple of times and reviewed the IPA. All but the Hop Sun were in a variety twelve along with the porter that I picked up at the beginning of July - again obeying the golden rule of variety twelves (all ales and four styles please). I have enjoyed everything they have thrown at me and here are a few more:
- Phin and Matt's Extraordinary Ale: white rim over light amber brew. Quite fruity - apricot and peach - in the malt. Kind of like a bigger Magic Hat #9. It is also a bit unconventional in the taste structuring. The hops hit a wee bit early and the malt opens up after. A nice semi-sweet amber ale. The effect of the hops and yeast is creamy vegetative. Interesting for something of an everyday ale. Advocators say yay.
- Triple: white foam over deep straw with a sweet boozy nose. Smooth rich Belgian-style pale malt - a little less severe than most triples - if candy can be severe. It is sweet with flavours of candy floss and corn on the cob...yet still musty like a biere de garde. Very fine but the BAers have issues.
- IPA: I really like this beer as well. White rim over a really attractive medium brown, like antique patina of cherrywood. Isn't that just about the lamest thing I have ever written - except it is true...or at least trueish. The malt fruitiness is autumn apple over cream yeast. Not a hop bomb like, say, Ithaca Flower Power, but a rather nice balance of malt sweet, bit of heat and bitter greens. The effect is something like well oaked chardonnay - if chardonnay were made of grain and not grapes. I reviewed this last year at the same link as the Flower Power above and found it more spicy than green. As of today, ninety-nine advocates all say yes.
- Hop Sun Wheat: I noticed this beer rated highly with the Beer Beacon's column called "Beers of Summer" in the August/September issue of Great Lakes Brewing News, one of the excellent trade papers published by Brewing News of East Amherst, NY. The beer's head falls quickly back to a white rim over medium-light straw. The ale is crisp by which I mean the bitter green hops are a nicely balanced sharp taste at the front of your mouth. Blending with the green hops are some green grass notes from the biscuity core of wheat malt. Beyond these two there is a high note of lemon as well as deeper ones of green apple and maybe apricot. All bright lightly acidic flavours. So for summer sip, this is well structured and flavourful even if it is 4.3% and at the light end of mouthfeel that I can put up with. I hate wondering if I missed my mouth. All 40 at the BA like it.
Myrick in China has forwarded a very useful link to a Wall Street Journal blind test of lagers. I am no lover of lagers but there are some interesting results which I pretty much would agree with.
Update: Here is a bit of a surprise for a Friday morning. Not only did the good Myrick give me the heads up but apparently the Wall Street Journal itself did:
I handle free articles for WSJ.com, and thought you might enjoy this article, on a blind taste testing of lagers, including craft beers, imports and major domestics like Bud...Soon I will be invited to fancy parties.
A really nice seasonal hefeweizen from Smuttynose to add to the year of the hefes. I think this is my eleventh so far - nope, the worthy Paper City's makes twelve. While I do not have a side by side, I think this New Hampshire ale is up there for a state-side version ahead of the hefes of Rouge, Saranac, Harpoon and the Adirondack.
In the glass, lace-leaving white foam over bright clear yellow straw ale. For a summer weizen there is plenty of flavour, a nice rich banana roundness with some cloves as well as a good firm slash of twiggy hops. A german hefe would impose steely hops. This is warmer, less austire while still being true. Sweet label as well. Click below...and left as well.
"It's a shame," said Zhao Shouzhi, a peasant farmer from Linkou county who witnessed the rehearsal when she was in Harbin to visit her relatives. "Obviously they have no idea how hard it is to grow the grain that is used to brew the beer they squander."Sadly, the beer fountain at the Fourth Harbin International Beer Festival has been shut down by the government of the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin.
An interesting read in The Independent today:
For more than 160 years the Trappist monks at Saint Sixtus monastery in Flanders have been producing a rich, dark-brown, beer renowned for its exceptional flavour and strength. But an unexpected misfortune has befallen this reclusive community of 26 Cistercians: their beer has been named the best in the world.Read the whole story.
The results of a trip south are often a slowly decreasing but merry little stash of singles in the closet and the fridge for the best part of a month as reviews get written. Sweet 1978 Rawlings, too. I am pretty sure I have only had two of the bottles previously, the McEwans Export and the Smuttynose Hefe. The future is unknown and that is great. I see about new brewery reviews including those nine new bottles for me from Middle Ages, three from Wolavers, four from Southern Tier as well as a couple of new Wittes and my first Mackeson's XXX stout.
One other pick-up at FLBC was a variety 12-pack of Great Divide ales from Denver Colorado which has obeyed my two rules for variety twelve packs: give me four types, three bottles each, and no lager. If you like lager you likely won't like an ESB or IPA and if you like those the lager is likely just a waste of space. Saranac makes a largely lager 6x2 pack which is quite legitimate...though I don't think I would buy one with great anticipation.
Beer Rag is a great new beer blog written by two brothers in the New York area which I have come across through the comments page hereabouts. First, what is not to like with a blog that can come up with photoshoppery like this:
Second, it is sort of like Readers Digest with way more beer but not that "Humour in Uniform" page. Third, not a lot of swearing which is good or bad depending on how much swearing you like.