Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A kind of Polish Christmas

Beer fans are great. A few weeks ago we hosted an event at work for business partners, many of whom came from all over Europe. While setting this up, one of my Polish contacts asked me about breweries in Muenster, and so we discovered we had a common interest. A swap ensued, where Pawel managed to get some interesting-looking beers despite the really hard weather they were having which disrupted distribution. My experience with Polish beer till now has been, well, mediocre, to be kind. I was looking forward to trying the beers Pawel gave to me, but managed to hold back till this past week.

Brackie Pale Ale, brewed by Bracki Browar Zamkowy W Cieszynie (please check my spelling!), part of the Carlsberg Group, is, apparently, based on a home brew recipe. The word Belgijskie written under the Pale Ale on the label intrigued me, as I wasn't sure if this was going to be a pale ale with a Belgian twist. It certainly looks good, pouring a copper-amber with a thick, fluffy head, but is disappointingly light on the aroma with just a hint of oregano-like herbal hoppiness (although in fairness I served it a tad too cold). While looking rich and malty, it's a really clean-tasting beer, with a light touch of caramel that is minor compared to the crisp, clean bitterness. To be honest, I'd probably have mistaken it for a decent pils in a blind taste, not that that's a bad thing. With some fruity notes coming out as it warms, and finishing with a lightly tannic dryness, it's an interesting one for sure.

Miodne Piwo Ciemne from Browar Kormoranhas a lovely label with bees and honeycomb, a clear indication of what one should expect: a honeyed beer. And boy, does the honey leap out in the aroma, coupled with a raspberry fruitiness. Honey is the dominant flavour, so much so that it nearly made me wince on first taste, but it's a pleasant enough floral honey flavour, with soft fruits (raspberries again) bringing up the rear. Underpinning this is a solid caramel base, as if it wasn't sweet enough. Overall, for me, it was far too sweet, but no doubt honey freaks, like my Father-in-law, would love it.

When I was asked what types of beers I generally like, I usually have a problem, as I like pretty much everything, but when thinking of that part of Europe, I always want to try more dark beers. So, my wish was fulfilled in two bottles. The first was the Cornelius Baltic Porter from Browar Cornelius. With a tarry appearance, this is like Christmas pudding in a glass, with an outpouring of vinous fruitiness, cherries, vanilla and, as one might expect, a touch of chocolate. It's big-flavoured and boozy, sweet with raisins, chocolate and dark toffee, but cut with that vinous edge that kept me coming back for more. Yeah, I like this one.

I kept the Grand Imperial Porter from Browar Amber till last because, well, it sounded so grand! With it's dark ruby highlights, it's pleasing on the eye, although quite fizzy-looking on the pour, leaving a loose head that dies away quickly. Chocolatey really does describe the aroma, with caramel, vanilla and... Terry's Chocolate Orange? Must be the ghost of Christmas past catching up on me. Luscious would suffice. It's a choco-assault on the tongue too, with a body and soft carbonation that only amplifies that perception. Dancing around the edges are dried fruits, generous, warming vanilla, and a fudginess. Sounds too sweet? It's not. The finish surprisingly dry with a dark chocolate bitterness that lingers. All of this hides the 8% rather well, but it's still a sipper, perfect for sitting beside the fire on a cold Winter's night. Really good.

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