This week will see some posts here at A Good Beer Blog focusing on the scene in Australia, that warmer other Canada, the place to which the smarter cousins immigrated. Australia might win the award as AGGB nation of the year except they would probably win every year with stats like this:
Australia has always been a nation of heavy drinkers, but a new study has finally attached a dollar value to our thirst for alcohol – about $80 out of a family's budget every week. The research by Victorian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre Odyssey House claims a family of four – two parents in their 40s, a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old girl – would spend an average of $4135 buying the equivalent of 37 litres of pure alcohol every year. The consumption equals 883 stubbies of medium/full strength beer, 171 stubbies of low alcohol beer, 77 bottles of wine, 311 bottles of pre-mixed spirits, 8.4 casks of wine and 13.9 bottles of neat spirits.Holy Aussie-moly!! Put another way, by the newspaper The Australian, "over a year, a family of four spends about $4135 on alcohol, guzzling on average 44 slabs of beer, 14 bottles of spirits and 77 bottles of wine." What is a "slab" of beer? Whatever it is, it is a great name for it. And seeing as there are still at least 4,000 members of the Australian Temperance Union, that is a slab or two more for the rest of Oz. In terms of beer consumption per capita, Canada ranks 16th in the world which is well behind Australia at 11th - no average Czech...but who is?
Coming up over the next few days we will have some reviews and other stories from correspondents on the front lines. In the meantime here are some Aussie homebrewers on the radio and here is my quick note on the only Aussie real ale available here in Ontario, Cooper's Sparking Ale.
I was reading the news this week about another health related claim for beer:
- Alcohol-free beer 'stops cancer' says the BBC
- Non-alcoholic beer could help mice fight cancer writes Reuters
- Non-alcoholic beer may protect against cancer says The Australian
...researcher Dr Sakae Arimoto- Kobayashi said the study did not mean alcoholic beer had the same effect. "The total benefits and risks of beer with alcohol are still under consideration."The BBC also includes a caption from Dame Helen Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation: "We would not encourage anyone to drink more beer with the aim of preventing cancer."
Seeing as the stuff given the mice as described in the abstract (a dried powder mixed with water) is as distant from grocery shelf non-alcoholic beer as it is from real ale from the wood, it is odd that the warnings against taking this news as a recommendation all relate to the intake of alcoholic beer as opposed to both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. Odd, too, given the indication in the abstract that the tests involved lager and stout style powder, that there is no support to the idea that maybe alcoholic beer is actually good for you...because I have never seen non-alcoholic stout.
In the end, these reports reveal the classic recourse to discomfort about science, health and beer (a 20th century phenomena) which is, sadly, much more about puritanism than science.
It's certainly a dilemma that I have, trying to record and describe the taste characteristics of beer objectively. Those familiar with British TV and with the wine journalist Jilly Goulden might be tempted to inject some of her spirit into the proceedings and use adjectives like 'rubber tyres' and 'sweaty socks' but for me such outlandish descriptions never quite work, so I was very glad to discover the Beer Academy's Beer Flavour Wheel. The Beer Academy, started by The Beer Education Trust, offers courses on a wide range of beer education topics:
"Beer is a wildly sensuous brew, but most drinkers fail to appreciate the massive range of colours, styles, flavours, textures, carbonations and abvs now available in Britain. This is something the Beer Academy is determined to help change.Over 100 different flavours, in beers from around the world, have been identified by flavour experts. These flavours have been arranged in the form of the Flavour Wheel. A sort of cross between a pie-chart and a list. I hope that, like me, you will find this a useful tool. The wheel can be found at the website of The Beer Academy.
These flavour terms are used by beer tasters internationally to describe the beer flavour and to control product consistency. In fact it was such a good idea that is has now been stolen by the wine and whisky industries who have developed their own flavour wheels!
Like rich earthy select late vintage riesling...but not. A triple fermentation leaves a bare and hot drink like a medium bodied cider...but not. These five bottles challenge the ability of a sipper to find a place in the beer pantheon for them. Rajotte describes the style in his book Belgian Ale as folllow:
It is pale in colour usually only made with only pale, Pils-type malt and a judicious addition (up to about 25 percent of the total extract) of either glucose or candi sugar in the brew kettle. Its alcholic strength will vary between 7 to 10 percent v/v...These beers have a light, malty nose that can at times be neutral or have a faint aroma of hops.
- La Fin Du Monde: 9%, 750 ml from Unibroue. The first impression this big beer gives is of candy floss and while pepper. A big snowy foam head fills the glass and falls back leaving tracks of foam. There is a slight empire biscuit suggestion of cherry in the heat - a hint of kirsch which could also be orange peel. Then the white pepper opens up to a nice white grape juiciness with castor sugar and a fresh french bread stick with the pale Belgian malt and the fine yeast. A swirl of the last pour of from the 750 ml gives a boost to citrus notes, lemony like witte. Beer Advocators call it a strong pale and praise.
- Petrus Triple: From Bavik in Belgium. Massive candy floss smelling merange head collapses back. Not as finely beaded as the Fin Du Monde. The first taste is malt, hop and candied sugar and under it, where the Fin Du Monde had cherry, the one has pear. Not as hot and peppery. Balanced and sneaky. Light for the style at 7.5% in a 250 ml bottle, Michael Jackson notes that a very small amount of corriander is used in combination with Czech Saaz hops. Nice (often a curse): a good enough introduction to triples but not particularly profound. Advocatonians are not thrilled.
- Bornem Triple: 9%, 330 ml. This brew again surprises as it is better than the Bornem dubble which was much better than the Bornem amber. It is the most witte like triple I have had - even at this level of alcohol there is comparatively less heat and more spice and orange peel than the previous triples discussed above. Something of a dried peach note in the middle. It has fairly active carbonation and a nicely balanced bright mouthfeel. The finish has a very pronounced pale malt graininess which is no doubt enhanced by thoughtful hop selection. I appear to be at odds with the beer advocate consensus but I find this quite good, if perhaps a bit too flavourful and not candiflossy enough for the style. The brewery has a useful webpage on this brand of theirs which explains:
A 'triple' means that the brewer uses three times as much malt in the brew kettle as for a regular beer. A Triple used to be reserved for the Bishop or for Father Abbot. And you can bet they knew a good thing when they tasted it.Useful wisdom I had not picked up before.
- Augustijn: 8%, 330 ml. By the same brewer as Bornem which says that is has been brewed since 1295, taken over by this commercial brewer only in 1982 - "at which time the flavor was also adjusted"...oh, good. Why not jig a recipe that has lasted a mere 687 years? It may not quite qualify as a triple, though fairly favouring reviewers at the Beer Advocate classifies it as such.
So what is it? There is little candiflossiness that I would think required for being called a triple. There is a much bigger pale malty profile than in the other triples. It is, however, very moreish even at this strength. I suppose when your country requires an ale to be over 10% before it will be called "strong," this sort of beer is a bit light...ok - lighter. It is a really pleasant sip: quite actively carbonated, lemony, spicey and tart, dry and fruity pale malt core. The yeast is creamy but subordinate to the malt. Nicely laced glass.
- Chimay Blue: 9%, 330 ml. The error is entirely mine. Not a triple. I recall two years ago, in February 2003, after over 2000 km driving from the Maritimes to Kingston and half way back in about 48 hours, I had three small bottles of Chimay bought in the excellent Riviere du Loup SAQ: one red, one blue and one white. I had recalled wrongly that the blue was the triple. It is in fact a dark strong Belgians which I discussed a few weeks ago. I will add my notes there.
One of the cornerstones of my enthusiasm for brewing comes from the fact that I have brewed for years, though I am on a break from it now that I am a happy apartment dweller. One of the best ways to pick up some of the information that the homebrewer gets through hands on experience with the zymurgistic is to find a copy of J.S. Hough's short book The Biotechnology of Malting and Brewing a 1985 text by a University of Birmingham (England) professor. This is no laugh riot or a exciting romp but a lightish scientific work which tells you all you need to know to start understanding how a continuous fermentation brewery works, why one barley is better than or different from another, what happens when water is softened or hardened. Who can pass up a book with a figure 8.2 called "the tricarboxylic acid, or Krebs, cycle used for aerobic meabolism of the products of the glycolytic pathway". It's like Organic Chemistry for Dummies illustrated entirely in beer-related drawings, a crash course in that BSc nerd-world which you will again be assured was well worth skipping in favour of a drifter arts degree. It will make you smarter about your brew.
What a busy day or so. You come fourth in the blog awards and the world is your oyster:
- Two new authors have asked for admittance into the collegium that are the correspondents to this blog, Michael in Atlanta, USA and Matthew in Osaka, Japan. As always, the demands of correspondents are at their own leisure so we look forward to contributions when the moment is right.
- Word has been passed of the operations of Church Key Brewing of Campbellford, Ontario, about 125 km to the west-north-west of Kingston. This may bear investigations - especially of their their chocolate porter.
- The Spitfire Arms Alehouse of Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada has contacted us and we may be able to arrange a visitation by our man in Halifax, Mike. The Spitfire Arms has 17 lines in total, including two Handpumps featuring cask conditioned real ales from the Granite Brewery, Halifax and normally stocks 80-120 different beers from around the world. Look for reports in the next wee while.
- and one kind reader wrote just to tell us of three great pubs - two in Toronto and one in the UK. The first is C'est What in Toronto and their cask conditioned Best Bitter and County Ale by Wellington. The second is also in Toronto, the Rebel House which has a decent variety of micro brews. The third is the best pub for cask conditioned ale he's ever come across - the Wenlock Arms in London, England with its ever-changing list of Cask conditioned ales and farmhouse cider and really good salt-beef sandwiches.
A big thanks to all of you who voted for A Good Beer Blog which came fourth in the non-political blog category in the 2004 Canadian Blog Awards. Next year, the podium!