Monday 29 June 2009

Let Loose the Goose

Or, Goose: stepping into Germany.

Some time ago, my friend Mike sent me a six-pack of Goose Island IPA, one of my favourite beers it must be said, and in relation to which I have been accused of coining the call to "Let Loose the Goose!" in the Bull and Castle, Dublin, when I was introduced to the joys of GIIPA about three or four years ago. The six-pack Mike sent has been languishing in my cellar for about six months, waiting for an opportune moment. That moment came in two parts, last Thursday and this evening, combined with the unveiling of my very own Klosteiner Pale Ale, custom made for Markus who delighted in the citric stylings of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on a recent trip to Palm Springs.

I was curious as to how my German colleagues would take to the Goose, but also anxious about my own Chinook and Centennial-heavy Pale Ale; and with some C-hop virgins in the audience, it was going to be a tough crowd.

First, the Klosteiner. As a home brewer I'm quite happy with this. It hits the right level of citric hoppy aromas and has a crisp hop bite while having a reasonable malty body. Love that colour though! For some of my colleagues it was a culture shock, however, in general, the reception was positive. My colleague Rupert (from Franken) first commented that it was very different from the beers he was accustomed to, however after a few mouthfuls he thought it was something one could get used to and seemed to enjoy the play of the foreign hop flavours. The ultimate test was of course Markus, Mr. Klosteiner himself, and this evening it seems to have passed the test. Perhaps not with flying colours, as I don't think I have hit quite the same level as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but he did say it had the right level of Klostein. Rafael, out IT guru, seemed a little unsure first time, but today he explained that he hadn't tasted a beer that gave that amount of finish before. He said it was like a good red wine in the sense that it gave "two tastes", referring to a long finish, which I can only take as a compliment. He suggested it'd go great with fish, so that's something to try at the next BBQ. My old reliable, Ingo, appreciated it as ever.

Goose Island IPA is one of my favourite beers, and although some of that may be nostalgia -- I think it was the first really memorable American super hoppy beer I'd ever had, indeed it converted me to the joys of the hop -- I do think it stands on it's own with a wonderful combination of chewy, and I mean chewy, maltiness with a big slice of citric goodness pervading the taste. I can hardly describe the joy I get from the aroma of a fresh Goose Island IPA.

I think Rupert put it best when comparing it to my effort of a Pale ALe. He said, it tastes darker. And indeed, I love describing beers in shades and moods, but I try to avoid it as I think people might think I'm weird. But that chewiness presented in the rich mouthfeel of GIIPA does indeed make it feel dark and luxuriant. I often feel there's a chocolatiness to it. The bottles were 324 days past their bottling date, and the label proclaimed that it would be brewery-fresh for 110 days, so as expected, the wonderful aroma was more muted than I remembered. However, that rich caramel, toffee base remained and the orange-pith bitterness was not to be beaten my time.

Some people preferred the rich flavour of GIIPA, while some preferred the crispness of my fresh pale ale, but that's just fine. I was glad that, overall, my colleagues also enjoyed the beers I liked, and as a home brewer, that's all I can ask for.

Thursday evening's tasting session melded into an after-work BBQ that, for some of us, ended at 1:30am. I had bought the beers for the evening, and although I had intended on buying a 15 litre cask of Alt, there was none in stock so we had to make do with 5 litre mini-kegs of Frankenheim Alt and Hasserroeder Pils, a mixed crate of Pinkus Muller beers, a half-crate of Duckstein and some leftover bottles of Becks. All in all a great evening interspersed with several courses of wurst and schweinefleisch. Although I did run the risk of becoming a total beer bore as the remaining group gathered round a secret stash of my home brew that my former boss had accumulated and let loose towards the end of the night.

Saturday 27 June 2009

O'Hara's Celebration Stout

After trying Carlow Brewing Company's Leann Folláin during the week, I got a sudden desire tonight to open the bottle of their O'Hara's Celebration Stout which TheBeerNut very generously gave to me last May. Probably good timing too, as the best before says last month, not that these numbers usually affect my willingness to try something at least once.

A beer made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Carlow Brewing Company, it's an impressive package really. An elegant 750ml (25.3 oz. for those in imperial lands) swing-top bottle, and although the label looks a bit lost on it and doesn't look very celebratory, there's a kind of decadence about opening 750ml to drink on your own (apart from a sip for my darling wife of course).

The aroma is a bit of a party though, providing powerful, sweet chocolate-toffee, slight dark berries and a good dose of vanilla down the back. Reminds me of a country fudge on steroids laced with chocolate. The flavour isn't as sweet as the aroma suggests, as there's a lovely roastiness that dries things up while still allowing a rich, velvety mouthfeel with a vinous edge supporting a rich chocolate and malty juciness. A nice touch of bitterness lingers, suggesting dark chocolate and a twist of pepper. This is a rather nice beer. Thanks for the opportunity to try it TBN!

I can understand why it is said (has it ever been confirmed?) that Leann Folláin was a batch of Celebration that went wild somehow, as there are some shared flavours deep down.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

O'Hara's Leann Folláin

Geoff of the Bull and Castle, in Dublin, gave me two bottles of Leann Folláin from the Carlow Brewing Company last time I was in Dublin. TheBeerNut and Mrs. BeerNut told me I should leave one behind to make more room in my luggage for decent beer (well, that's more or less what they said). I mentioned on Twitter tonight that I was about to open the bottle, and TheBeerNut commented that it was "Like watching a car crash in slow-motion, this is. Tell us more", so I did. This is what I tweeted in my first ever live (well, not really, as I've done tastings with real people physically present) online tasting. And for the blog/scrapbook record, here's what I said:

I like the aroma. Dark, plum jam, molasses, silage. A little farmyardy. A lick of licorice...
Flavour? First impression was cardboard and blackberries. Oxidised? Kinda thin vinous thing there too, which would be nice if increased.
Getting an ever so slight tart edge, but deep down. Again, would be nice if it was magnified. Overall flavour is thin and disappointing.
I think there's a good beer in there trying to get out., but the finish for me is of cardboard. Nice cardboard, but cardboard nonetheless.
For some reason though, I can't stop sipping this Leann Folláin. It tastes better in the mouth than after swallowing. Interesting.

Despite what I tweeted, there's something I like deep down in this beer, hence the sippage factor. There's a subtle sourness combined with the jamminess and a slight vanilla edge that I actually quite like, but it's spoiled somewhat by that slight cardboardy edge to the finish. HArd to call, but it's certainly interesting.

Rumours were that this was a batch that had gone wrong, so it simply got a new name and label so as not to be dumped, but as far as I am aware, this is just rumour.

A Pair of Classic Altbiers

I haven't been to Düsseldorf in years. Well, the airport doesn't count. Although I would love to get a day to myself to wander the Altsadt and do an Altbier pub crawl, it's not going to happen very soon, so I have to rely on bottles from the wonderful Trinkgut store.

Uerige Alt, a clear, deep reddish brown, is widely considered to be a characterful Altbier. I was approaching it carefully hoping my dreams would not be dashed. The flavour provides a toffee-like sweetness with slight salted butter undertones. With burnt caramel, wood and a slightly tannic/curacao bitterness combined with a slight wash of pears for good measure. It has a very smooth mouthfeel while drinking. This has a lot of interesting flavours that dart about while you drink, fading to a persistent dry bitterness that invokes that bitter orange that flashed through the flavour, mixed with a pine-like tannic quality. If this is how it is in the bottle, I have to try it from the cask. Complex and delicious.

Füchschen Alt shows a beaautiful, thick creamy-looking head on a burnished old-copper body. Te aroma suggests toast and almonds. The initial taste is interesting in that the mouthfeel is slightly oily and soft, while the body feels thin. Odd. It has a clean, pronounced hop bitterness with a herb-like character, and fruity, raisin-y elements with a touch of banana deep down. I got "that taste" that I don't like that I sometimes get with hop extract, and sure enough, they use hop extract. Why? I also thought it was interesting that the showed the bottled date and that the best before date was exactly a month after that. I had it a month and a week after the bottling date. I wasn't overly impressed with this, although I wouldn't have said no to another. I will of course try it again, and preferably fresher in the tavern. You really should visit their crazy website too.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Weissbiers from Kloster Andechs

I've been on somewhat of a Weissbier splurge the past few weeks, getting myself reacquainted with a type of beer I had fallen out with, and discovering some new friends. Of the selection I bought, there was a pair from Kloster Andechs.

The Andechser Weissbier has a really strong clove aroma. Quite strinking and mouthwatering really. It has a classic, sweet bubblegum aroma (reminiscent of juicyfruit really) underneath, but not much in the way of banana. The body is thinner than expected, but this is offset to a degree by a comforting, earthy flavour. Mild colves, warm spices, old hops, hay. All very subtle. The carbonation is also surprisingly low for this kind of beer. I wrote in my notes that it was OK, but not spicy enough.

Andechser Dunkles Weissbier is a lovely dark, murky brown. As with its sibling, it has a good dose of cloves in the aroma, but with some more bananas and a slight medicinal edge. The flavour is soft. As with the helles hefeweizen, the flavour is not as spicy as the nose suggests, having more of a sweetish, chocolatey undertone with green bananas. In fairness, there is a faint clove hit to the finish though. A silky-smooth easy drinker that's a bit juicy, but that's it.

My own weissbier is not finished fermenting, which, after two weeks, is kind of odd. But the temperature here has been up and down like a hoors knickers, so I blame cool temps while we were away for a few days. I'm hoping it'll give me more of the flavours I want from a weissbier than these two did.

Monday 15 June 2009

Mosbacher Brauhaus

Mosbach, a small town of around 25,000 souls situated on the south side of the picturesque Odenwald region, and close to the river Neckar, with it's multitude of castles -- the so-called Burgenstraße -- within one of which, Burg Hornberg, we had our wedding reception a couple of years ago. Why? Well, Mosbach is my wife's home town. It's a nice place, very pretty and lively in the summer, but pretty dead in winter. It has a few entertaining watering holes, and the Mosbacher Brauhaus might well be one. In all honesty though, in over 13 years of visiting Mosbach, last weekend was only the third time I'd set foot in the place. My drinking companion all three times was the artist Peter Langguth, and he always claimed that the beer was too variable for his liking. So the last time we were there was about three years ago! I thought it was about time I popped in again.

Established in 1996, a little outside of the old town, and partially hidden from the street by buildings in front of it, the Mosbacher Brauhaus is a brewpub with an open and airy interior, a reasonably sized beer garden and a terrace on an upper floor. They do food, although on this occasion we didn't try any (I do not count the plate of pommes that Peter ordered later in the evening!).

Sitting outside initially, we were told that the choices were limited to their Hell and Weizen (I had to adjust to ordering a Weizen instead of a Weissbier) as the Dunkel was out. Bloody shame really. I settled for the Mosbacher Hell to begin with, an unfiltered, pale gold beer. With a soft mouthfeel, it's quite bready with a touch of citrus and an earthiness that works quite well. There's a splash of bitterness to the finish, but it doesn't linger. The lasting flavours are lemonade-like. I don't know if it was the end of a keg, but a second one ordered later in the evening had a different flavour profile, with a very prominent orange-pith flavour. This could be the variability Peter mentioned. Still, even he said it was alot better than he recalled, and both were certainly easy-drinking pale lagerbiers.

The Mosbacher Weizen, a turbid, orangish hue, doesn't present much in the way of the classic clove or banana aromas, but is quite bubblegummy with a very slight hint that is reminiscent of chocolate. Hey, that's what I got from it anyway! The flavour is also not really what you expect, giving more of a slight chocolate-toffee impression while being fairly zesty. Quite odd, but not bad. I preferred the Hell this time around, although if i went back and ordered another I'm sure I'd have a different experience.

There were certainly more breweries in Mosbach in the past; up to 13 in the 19th Century from some accounts. Many of the books my wife has about the local history of the town (she's an archaeologist) have photos of the small guesthouse breweries which existed in former times, and in the Mosbacher Brauhaus there is a photo of a group of brewers from 1905, all nicely dressed and posed. The largest of these old breweries was Privatbrauerei Hübner which existed from 1878 to 1981, and which my wife recalls because of the smell. The old brewery restaurant/guesthouse now houses the Ludwig bar, and my wife recalls that the brewery buildings are where a carpark now stands, right behind Ludwig. The old malt house, or Alten Mälzerei buildings are now a cultural and conference centre just across the road. But that's another story.

Monday 8 June 2009

BrewDog 77 Lager. What was I thinking?

My BrewDog selection box contained a bottle of their 77 Lager, and having read nothing about it, other than seeing the guys' VBlog on it (the one with them playing golf with bottles of Becks and the like) I reckoned that a blind tasting would be in order, just to see.

I lined up a choice of beers and asked my wife to choose two to go with the BrewDog 77, with her pouring it in secrecy and labelling the glasses A, B and C. For those of you who have tasted it already, you probably know where this is going, and I know you're shaking your head right now, but bear with me, for the sake of appearances at least!

Beer A (leftmost in the picture) was a honey-gold with medium carbonation leaving a thin head that didn't last long. The aroma was slightly resinous, with apple, bread and a touch of pineapple cubes about it. The body was a bit thin (being the first noticable thing when hitting the mouth) and the primary initial flavour was resinous. There's a sorbet-like tingle and a slightly sugary sweetness. Quite bitter, but in the resinous territory that least appeals to me. It's one that could grow on me, but the thinness was off-putting.

Beer B (center) was a rich straw gold with lazy carbonation making it look thick. Excellent retention of a thick, creamy head. The aroma is hard to find, possibly because of the head keep it all locked away, but there are slight, pleasant barnyardy aromas with a himt of lemon. The mouthfeel is soft and the flavour yields fresh bread. The bitterness is low, but it's there in a crisp, herb-like way. Really quite nice, although a resinous edge creeps in towards the finish.

Beer C (rightmost) is a light amber. Ok, one clue already. It looks like low carbonation, and the head is pretty thin. The aroma? Well, what the bloody hell was I thinking? If I had known there was Amarillo in there I wouldn't have started this bloody charade. Still, let's go thhrough the paces. Masses of orangey grapefruit. Bah! Lovely! The flavour actually reminded me of my beloved Galway Hooker in many ways, this, however, has a richer malt profile. While the hops definitely dominate with that wonderful dry grapefruit splash accross the tongue, leaving a persistant pithy bitterness in its wake, it's balanced by a vanilla toffe base, and although I would have preferred more carbonation to lift things up a bit, the flavours worked very well for me. Right up my alley.

So, the beers? A was Monchshoff Original Pils, B was Rothaus Pils from the Badische Staatsbrauerei and C was, of course, the BrewDog 77 Lager, just in case you hadn't noticed. Definitely not your average lager, and far from any pilsener I've ever had.

Velky Al over at has a synchronised comparison with Czech lagers, with similar results. 'tis a fine lager, English, but 'tis not a pilsener. Then again, styles are made to be broken.

I was proud that I identified the two German beers my wife chose, but I have to admit, I thought A was Rothaus and B Mönchshof (hence the wrong order in the photo above). The softness of B made me think it was Bavarian. I'll have to write a letter of apology to Rothaus...

Sunday 7 June 2009

My first home-brewed weissbier

It's kind of strange really. I've been brewing for a few years now, but I've never bothered making a weissbier. It's strange because at one stage I loved all things weissbier. It was my gateway beer you see. I got tired of it, though, and went flirting elsewhere. Sure, I've made some Belgian style wit beers; exciting, exotic, spicy wits that leave my first love looking frumpy. But I've been going through a range of weissbiers recently, and I started remembering why I liked weissbier in the first place. There's lots of bland crapness out there, but sometimes a weissbier just hits the spot. So I made one today (hoping that the weather will impove again!).

Oh, and while my son and I love chewing on malted barley, malted wheat is so much nicer as it has no sharp husk that can get stuck in your gums, Even my wife went through a bowl of the stuff last night! Prefect beer nibbles.

And for the homebrew geeks, here's my recipe:
  • 2.4 kg Wheat Malt
  • 1.2 kg Pilsener Malt
  • 1.2 kg Munich Malt
  • 36 g Hallertau Hersbruck (2.7%) - boiled 60 mins
  • Danstar Munich Wheat Beer
Size: 22.5 L
Efficiency: 80.48% (actual)
Attenuation: 75.0% (expected)

Original Gravity: 1.051
Terminal Gravity: 1.013 (expected)
Color: 15.03
Alcohol: 5.01%
Bitterness: 13.0 IBU

Gave the malted wheat a protein rest at 50C for 30 mins. Single infusion mash at 64C for an hour. Mashout at 75C. I doubt I'll be doing a protein rest again, as I'm not sure if it actually made the mash thinner, but it did keep me up later than I intended.

Friday 5 June 2009

My Holiday in Ireland

The other part of my recent holiday was split into two legs in Ireland. Going "home" always means trying to see as many people as you can in a sgort time, and while this was no different, it wasn't as frenetic as the last trip I made home in November. That time I was alone, this time I had the family with me. I still managed to get a few evenings of fine beer with fine friends of course.

My first port of call is usually the Bull and Castle, and this was no exception. After my beloved Galway Hooker (very strange tasting again after six months without) and a few old favourites, I got to try Speakeasy's Big Daddy IPA. It had a huge chocolatey orange aroma with a dash of grapefruit. Despite being served freezing cold, it had a rather nice mouthfeel and, surprisingly, I got a remarkably chocolatey sensation from it, definitely along the lines or Terry's Chocolate Orange. Not what I was expecting from an American IPA, but I quite enjoyed the lushness of it.

A bottle a McChouffe somehow appeared at the end of the night. I have a vague recollection that Geoff, the manager popped this and drank it with us before going home. Thanks Geoff. This had a bright, lemony nose with a flavour reminiscent of honey and banana on a light malty base. It certainly doesn't feel 8%. A pleasant drink, although I noted that it wasn't world changing. I guess it was late at that stage.

The beer highlight for me was, of course, the regular meet up, which also happened to be in the Bull and Castle the following night. As a home brewer and a co-founder of ICB, it's one of the things I really miss from Ireland. For one, how many pubs let people bring their own beers in every month for a big tasting session? It's great! And the opportunity to meet with fellow brewers and get real, honest feedback on your beers while having a great night out is priceless. Pictured to the left is Saruman, TheBeerNut and Geoff, the manager who also brews as it happens! Of course it nearly killed me as I was off to Portugal the next day, but I survived.

On returning to Ireland there was of course more nights out, without the notebook I might add, but a quick visit to TheBeerNut's kitchen of course warranted the (new) notebook to be brought along. As well as blagging a couple of bottles of Mr Nut's very own homebrew (looking forward to tasting his popped cherry) he produced a bottle of Estrella Damm's Inedit, a beer that has had much scorn poured over it from what we can tell, and probably rightly so considering it's being billed as a beer specifically designed to go with food. I guess we're lucky that all the other beer just accidentally goes very well with our tasty num nums. The Inedit has a faint lemony aroma, but quite a bit of yeastiness. This continues into the flavour with all I can describe asa thin, lemon washing up water. Lemony in a sort of artificial way. Essentially, it's like a watered down wit. I knew he should have served it in a white wine glass!

I'm not sure if Mr. Nut felt guilty (he shouldn't of course) but the next up was a Leffe 9. I have a slight fondness for their Bruin, and I'll take the Blonde, but hadn't tried this 9 yet. I thought it was slightly bock-like in its sweetness, but definitely leaning more towards a honey-like edge. Apple and pear come along at the leading edge, but I got a slight medicinal finish the left a bad taste in my mouth. Not one of my favourites.

Still, I can't complain. TheBeerNut very kindly gave me a bottle of O'Hara's Celebration Stout from the Carlow Brewing Company, and advice that I should leave behind one of the two bottles of their Leann Foláinn that Geoff had given me. Trusting TBN implicitly, I did so. But I did bring back some Guinness Foreign Extra which, along with some regular Guinness Extra Stout, I hope to compare to the Guinness 250 that may arrive with a couple of Beer Geeks in July.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

My Holiday in Portugal

Things have been quiet around here recently as I have been off on a well deserved holiday to Ireland and Portugal. Not only was Internet access like hens teeth at my mother's house, and non-existent in Portugal, but my mobile phone also broke, leaving my completely disconnected. It was great!

The first few days in Ireland were the usual running about trying to catch up with people, and a couple of trips into the Bull and Castle, one of which was for an tasting session. I really enjoyed this as it's one of the things I really miss since moving to Germany. I shouldn't have ended the night on so many Rodenbachs though, as it was rough going the next day which included the three hour flight to Faro. I'll come back to the Ireland leg of the holiday later, as that's where some new beers come into the story.

Portugal was relaxation city, staying at my brother's house there with his family, my mother and my niece. Despite a fullish schedule which included playing mini-golf, visiting markets in an inland town and a trip to visit Zoo Marine, where there was a fantastic dolphin display, even though I don't usually like such things, there was lots of time for sitting around eating and drinking, both in and out.

On the beer front, I tried a few beers that I hadn't had in about ten years (Super Bock and Sagres - not as bad as I remember, considering we used to complain of having a "bad dose of the Bock" last time I had it, but the Sagres had the edge I thought) while trying a couple that I hadn't had before (Sagres Bohemia - a little caramelly, slightly thin and not much of a finish, but at least not yellow, Tagus - Ehhh, yellow and fizzy?). The selection in the huge supermarket was amazingly limited, despite two full aisles of beer. Each aisle was literally a wall of Super Bock, or Sagres variants. I can't really complain about any of them though, as a good quantity of all of the above was consumed with no complaint.

The international seleciton in the supermarket was limited to Corona, Heineken, Leffe, a couple of bottles of Duvel and a handful of Chimay Blue (I bought a couple of the latter two). I have to admit I wasn't arsed keeping notes, as the evenings were spent sitting outside with the family, BBQing, swimming, drinking and stopping children hitting each other.

The best meals we had there had to be the BBQs outside the back of the house, if I do say so myself, being the nominated grillmeister and all that. I bought over 1.7kg (3.8lbs) of sirloin steak (in four thick steaks) that were seriously good pieces of well hung meat, and they only cost €35. That's not to mention the wild boar and chicken skewers, home-made stilton burgers, grilled potatoes and salads with BBQed bananas with chocolate or honey-glazed grilled pineapple to finish.

The best bit of the trip was probably my four-year-old son deciding that he didn't have to hang onto his Daddy in the swimming pool. Independence for the little fella with arm bands and a floaty vest. Great stuff.

I need another holiday soon...