Saturday, 16 May 2009

The best laid plans...

If there's one thing I inherited from my late Father, is an almost pathological need to be on time (yes, I'm aware that sentence looks odd). As a child, the morning of going on holidays was always the same routine, with everyone expected to be ready far too early, and my Dad driving my poor Mother mad. It was the way he was. My next eldest brother is the opposite. If he says he'll be there at a certain time, add an hour, minimum. Me, I like to be on time, and especially when travelling. I admit I get stressed if schedules seem to be slipping, but I usually plan well ahead.

Today was one of those days as we began our two week holiday back to Ireland, with a short break to Portugal in between. The tomtom said we'd need an hour and fifteen to get to Düsseldorf airport. I planned on us getting to the carpark one-and-a-half hours before the flight to give us some leeway, and not to be so early that we're trying to entertain a four-year-old in a boring departure lounge. We left the house 10 or 15 minutes late, but no big deal, we easily made that up by doing 180kmph on the autobahn until... until a traffic jam. On a Saturday morning. We lost the time we made up, and then lost another half hour. Ok, not a complete disaster, we were in the long term car park an hour ahead of the flight. We'd just need to hop on the sky train from the car park and we'd be at the terminal in 3 minutes. Ah, but no. The sky train is down for maintenance. We have to wait for a bus. It eventually comes, but instead of dropping us at Terminal C Departures it disgorges everyone at Arrivals somewhere between A and B. By the time we get to the check-in desk it is 40 minutes before the flight and there is nobody there. It takes another five to find out where we can talk to someone, but the insipid little man just says no, too late, the counters close 45 minutes before the flight and there's nothing he can do, despite my wife pleading, my son starting to cry because he won't see his Nana today and me developing a large throbbing vein on my temple. And of course, Saturday is the only day that Aer Lingus do not have a second, later flight from Düsseldorf to Dublin. Of course! But we can get on the same flight tomorrow, for €75 a head. What choice do I have? My son still hasn't stopped crying, and doesn't, until we suggest that we'll go into the countryside and find a place to stay so we're "on holiday".

We did half of that. The Ruhr area isn't exactly blessed with bounteous areas of nature, so we were more than halfway to Munster before we stopped for a massive feed (I actually wrapped up some of my ćevapčići and had them later on there were so many) and found a nice place to walk amongst fields of rye, find a dead deer, an asparagus graveyard (Mark, don't look!) and lots of interesting coloured beetles and jumpy things. We made the best of it really.

Now, I'm going to dry hop that bloody Klosteiner and have a beer.

Tomorrow we're going to leave 45 minutes earlier, just in case...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Rolinck Thunder

The Rolinck brewery, established in 1820, is based in Steinfurt, about 30km northwest of Münster, and is the local brewery to my colleague Christian (one of them). When I moved here last year, it wasn't so long after Krombacher had bought the local brewery, but I remember Christian telling me that production of the same beers was supposed to continue. Bizarrely, I've been here over a year now and this is the first time I have tasted any of their beers, and it's thanks to Christian from bringing me in a selection, along with a special edition Rolinck Christmas glass. Thanks Christian!

I was told that Rolinck Friedensreiter Bräu is not made any more, so I was very happy to receive a bottle. I was also happy to smell its rather nice, sweet biscuity malt aroma with hints of orange and a little spice. The sweet malt is also there in the flavour, but a little thin and sugary. The hops have an initial plasticy resinous effect -- that flavour that I sometimes associate with hop extract -- but fortunately, for me at least, this doesn't dominate and is easily overlooked. The finish is a lingering pine sap with a touch of spice. I would have enjoyed this more if it wasn't just that little bit too sugary, or maybe I should have served it colder.

Their Pilsener Premium is very pale, almost thin looking. The aroma has that plastic, resinous note, and yes, this does contain hop extract, and this would have put me off but for the slight lemon twist sitting beside it. The flavour actually reflects the appearance, being a little thin. There's a slight breadiness and a light carbonic note that lifts the hop bitterness. Grassy, with a touch of resin and apple juice, it's also highly carbonated. To be honest, the flavour is better than I expected from the aroma, and all in all it would make a fine lawn mower beer, but a bit too gassy to be able to drink lots of it. And actually, now that I think about it, that carbonic note I mentioned seems to increase to the point that my gums started to feel like they were getting a chemical peel. Not my favourite beer.

Finally, the Axel Rolinck Feines Lagerbier, with the R-Man on the label, apparently a device the brewery has used for ages. Christian told me that years back there was a big R-dude on the tower of the brewery, and when driving into the town it could be seen for miles, and people had a sense of coming home. Apparently Rolinck got rid of it, saying that it was old fashioned, and they were trying to modernise the image of the company. Clearly it didn't change their fortunes as Krombacher was able to make an offer they couldn't refuse, but Krombacher have since reintroduced this big R on the tower apparently, making the locals happy. But the beer, well, another one with a biscuity aroma and this time a delicate resinous hop aroma. The flavour is soft and a little bready with a touch of grass and a squeeze of lemon. Like the Pilsener, it's highly carbonated, but the effect is much softer, with a nice body. An altogether more satisfying beer than the Pilsener, this is an easy-going, unchallenging beer that would go well on a hot summers day in the garden.

The Friedensreiter, by the way, is a bit of a symbol around here of the end of the 30 Years War in 1648. These Peace Riders were the communication channels for the negotiating delegations in the cities of Münster and Osnabrück, and when, finally, the Peace of Westfalia was signed, they brought the news to the capitals of Europe. This participation in the ending of a horrendous war is something that is proudly remembered in both cities to this day. Here endeth the lesson...

Rolinck is another brewery that produces these bastardisations of cola and beer pre-mixed, and have done since 2001. At least they have the honesty to call theirs BASTARD Biercola.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


If you understand a bit of German, you'll be wondering what the hell kind of beer is named like toilet/urinal fresheners. Well, my beer of course. While in Palm Springs last March, I introduced some of my colleagues to the delights of American Pale Ale, with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale being the mainstay (there was a ready supply in the hotel). My colleague, Markus, said the aroma reminded him of Klostein, or toilet/urinal blocks, and every new pale ale he tried would be get a "Klostein" comment -- with a nod of approval I might add -- if it fell into the category of big, citrusy hop flavours. I began to agree! Anyway, as Markus and a few others have a preference for the paler, more hop-driven ales I make myself, I promised the next one I'd make would be pale, C-hop-driven and would have to be named Klosteiner. Classy!

I hadn't made a beer in three months after a glut of brewing while my wife was away in February, so even she said I should do a brew! It's fermenting away happily, and will be well finished by the time we return from our two week holiday in Ireland which begins on Saturday.

And for the brewing geeks, here's the very simple recipe.

Bitten Bullet Klosteiner
BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 22.5 L
Efficiency: 87.58%
Attenuation: 75.0%

Original Gravity: 1.055 (measured)
Terminal Gravity:
1.014 (estimated)
Color: 25.49 EBC
Alcohol: 5.41%
Bitterness: 39.3 IBU

4.4 kg Pale Ale Malt
500 g CaraCrystal
11 g Chinook (11.2%) - boiled 60 min
11 g Chinook (11.2%) - boiled 25 min
11 g Centennial (7.2%) - boiled 20 min
12 g Centennial (7.2%) - boiled 15 min
1 tsp Irish Moss - boiled 15 min
24 g Centennial (7.2%) - boiled 5 min
12 g Centennial (7.2%) - boiled 0 min
Safale US-05

Infusion mash at 66C for an hour, with a mashout/batch sparge at 78C. Done!

Considering dry hopping with some cascade in the primary just before we leave.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Brewdog Chaos Theory

Another sample from the box of delights sent by BrewDog, Chaos Theory, a "predictably random ipa", is an attractive clear amber with reddish notes. The aroma is quite grapefruity, but with a richness, like chocolate or toffee lending some support. In the mouth you are given generous hop flavours reminiscent of bitter orange, grapefruit, grass and pine all on a soft caramel body with fruity undertones. The body is full and smooth and there's a nice warming effect going down (which might have something to do with the 7.1% ABV, but maybe not). The finish is long and resinous with an orange-pith dryness.

Quite different in character to the Atlantic IPA, nevertheless, this is very satisfying and another one from the BrewDog kennel that I could have several of in one sitting.

Pop on over to see Velky Al's thoughts on BrewDog Chaos Theory at Fuggled. Some international synchronised tasting going on!

These bottles were sitting on a shelf in my office for a couple of days. That in itself is not unusual as sometimes my office looks like a beer store. But, the labels got several comments from the German colleagues. I like them too, including the "neck like a jocky's bollox" text that comes on most of them.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Svaneke Stouts

On my last trip to Denmark I bought some stouts. Being starved of portery, stouty things here in Germany, I thought why not. In fact, one of the guys I was working with in Copenhagen at the time knew one of the brewers of the stouts I bought from Svaneke Bryghus, based on the island of Bornholm, but I didn't know that till after I bought the things. I'm still pissed off that we didn't get the contract that would have seen me in Denmark very often. Gah!

Anyhoo, the stouts in question were the Stout, naturally, and the Choko Stout, just for kicks, both weighing in at a respectable 5.7% ABV. The Svaneke Stout, being unfiltered, lets very little light through, but does show a old-oaky brown around the edges. The aroma is redolent with plum jam, chocolate and a hint of coffee with burnt sugar. The flavour reflects this and also has a light, rounded, dried fruit effect with a dark chocolate bitterness to the finish. It actually feels lighter than one might think it should, slipping down very easily. It's quite sweet though, with a sugary, caramel note. Nice enough, but a little too sugary for my liking. Might be better colder.

The Svaneke Choko Stout looks just the same as it's chocless sibling, so much so that I didn't bother with a photo as the label just appends the word Choko in front of Stout. My wife said it has an aroma that feels loaded with dark cherries, and I agree. Like those jars of preserved cherries, with chocolate heaped on them of course. Sweet, melted milk chocolate. The flavour? Bizarrely, a bit like Ferrero "Mon Cheri" with coffee. I wasn't sure if I liked this really, but about halfway down I decided I did. I found it an odd combination of flavours, particularly because I kept getting cherries out of it. If you like cherries with chocolate I reckon you'll like it.

Monday, 4 May 2009

BrewDog Atlantic IPA

Those fine gentlemen over at BrewDog kindly sent me a mixed box of beer last week, and although I had thought to do a tasting session with my German colleagues, the bottles are too small. That's my excuse and I'm bloody well sticking to it! One of the bottles they sent had no label, so when I asked James what it was, he simply replied "The unmarked bottle is Atlantic IPA". Ah! The one that was matured in oak casks on a fishing trawler for two months during a makerel fishing season to simulate the maturation process an IPA would have received a couple of hundred years ago. Ok, that one. Hmmm... What to do? Drink it of course!

Brewdog Atlantic IPA is a rich, orange-tinted amber with a full, fluffy head, the aroma has a wonderful blend of slightly overdone toast spread with orange marmalade and vanilla. I have to say, on taking a mouthful, the mouthfeel was what first struck me. It's got a lovely soft, full body, feeling almost oily going down. The first flavours fizzle like sorbet, washing the mouth with an orange-ginger-like spiciness, a balanced sweetness and a rounded bitterness that for some reason reminded me of the bitterest Seville orange marmalade on toast. I love that stuff.

This has a warming, earthy finish, with the bitter orange, vanilla and slightly toasty notes lingering a long time, backed by a gentle biscuity sweetness. There's a subtle, tannic, woody undertone, and the whole thing blends into a big, juicy, moreish flavour that begs to be gulped down.

I don't know exactly how strong this is (no label, but some references on the web suggest 8%), but it's disgustingly easy to drink. Why disgusting? I only had one bottle and it disappeared sharpish. I could very happily drink this all night. Loved it.

It's a shame there no label, as it's a wonderful piece of art. But then my wife found the BrewDog labels are impossible to remove (and she's had practice!).

Strangely, it's not the first Atlantic IPA I've ever had, although it's a very different beast to the one from Brewpub København.