Tuesday 22 January 2013

The Incredibles

I got wind of Thomas' latest Hopfenstopfer creation via Twitter a couple of months ago, and promptly ordered a crate of the stuff: Incredible Pale Ale. I've been sharing with friends, neighbours and the postman since then, though naturally keeping the lion's share for myself. Well, the last two disappeared down my throat last week.

Hopfenstopfer Incredible Pale Ale is described as quad-hopped, but I forgot to ask what hops. It opens well, with an aroma suggesting tangerine pith, a pinch of oregano, but a faint vegetal whiff I wasn't sure about. It's an interesting mix of flavours though, being malty-sweet, herbal and fruity It has a biscuit-like base topped with, well, it's almost like the lemony part of a lemon meringue, but with added grass, hay, slices of pear, oregano and shavings of grapefruit and orange pith. The latter are brought into sharp focus in the finish, with a slight carbonic bite that perhaps sharpens them a little too much. As it warms, this eases, leaving a pleasantly tingling orange/grapefruit/herbal bitterness behind. The best part is simply swirling it around your mouth, letting all that fruity, herbal goodness wash over your tongue.

I think it's brave to name a beer "Incredible", and although I'm a fan of Thomas' work (the Citra Pale Ale is simply delicious), and I'd happily buy another full crate-load, I'd say it's a very bloody good pale ale indeed, not quite incredible - but you have to admire the balls :)

Oh, and the verdict from the postman and neighbours: "this is a good beer!" Not the type they drink normally around here, so it was pleasing that they enjoyed the new flavour experience. Long may it continue!

Monday 7 January 2013

Triple What?

In 2009, as an impulse purchase, I stuck a bottle of Samuel Adams Triple Bock into my shopping cart. Since then, it's been stored in a cellar for a year, moved 420km, lived in another cellar for 8 months and was then moved again and lived in a cardboard box till recently. Between Christmas and New Year's, I decided it was time to pop the cork. In the back of my mind, i seemed to recall mixed reviews, to say the least, but i didn't want to spoil the moment looking anything up.

Incredibly oily, staining the glass like so much Castrol GTX after an oil change, and leaving thick encrustations on the inside (on the sides, mind) of the bottle, and literally oozing an aroma like port laced with soy sauce, musovado sugar, dark cherries and pflaumenmus. Phoar! I was almost afraid to taste it,and indeed, it's a bit of a whopper, as one might expect from a c.18% beer. But It left me conflicted, with some really compelling flavours, and some not so. On the one hand, it's pleasingly greasy on the tongue, with an initial high-molasses sweetness infused with concentrated prunes, dates, cherries and a smear of Seville orange marmalade, all of which is wonderful until ten seconds later, when a huge dose of medicinal bitterness washes over everything. Being generous, I'd say really high cocoa content chocolate, which combines nicely with the darkly sweet dried fruit precursor, but in the end, it jars, leaving an empty space after the rather pleasant umami/fruit thing it had going, replacing it with band aids and campari with soda.

It's an odd beer, and a bit like finding a dead animal in the woods, desperately interesting and almost repelling at the same time, so you just can't leave it alone.

A couple of days later, I brought the rest of the bottle over to a neighbour who was having a Schlachtfest. Basically, they start at 6 in the morning with half a pig, and by mid afternoon they have rows and rows of sausages, fine cuts of meat and 100s of tins of Bratwurst, Leberwurst, Blutwurst, you name it. Of course, it's thirsty work, so that's when I pop over (and stay till 3 or 4am). I think about eight or ten people tried it, and none liked it at all. Well, with one exception, Bastian, who is studying brewing in Weihenstephan found it really interesting from a brewing perspective, but not to his taste.

In the end, I think I like it, but am still not sure, so it's probably t most confusing beer I've had.

On an aside, I brought a bottle of BrewDog Tokyo* too. That went down better with the natives, though I got the lion's share.

Edit: Forgot to mention, this was the 1997 vintage.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Christmas Spirit

A while ago, I bought a stash of beers from Cologne's Freigeist Bierkultur, brewed at Braustelle. Freigeist make some interesting beers, some I had way back on 2010 at the Festival der Bierkulturen, some I tried at the Braukunst Live! festival last year, and some, like the Deutscher Porter, I have been sipping at for quite some time. I think I liked them all, very much, so during the holidays, when I had a little time to myself, I selfishly opened two that I hadn't tried before.

Freigssit Bierkultur Hoppeditz stands out as an Altbier brewed in Cologne, and named after a character from the Duesseldorfer Karneval, a jester-like character that opens the festivities, although from the label, he paints a slightly macabre figure. Hoppeditz pours a rather dirty, oily-looking, red-tinged brown with a persistent, rocky, tan foam. It has a fully-loaded toffee/caramel aroma laced with fruity overtones: baked apple and plums, marzipan and a suggestion of melting milk chocolate. Fairly promising, and it doesn't disappoint. With a soft carbonation and creamy body supporting a well-rounded but strong caramel base with burnt notes around the edges, it delights with flashes of flavours that are hard to pin down, being slightly vinous and roasty at turns, but with an underlying theme of raisins and chocolate, swiftly taken over on swallowing with a self-assured, earthy bitterness, invoking pine needles and orange pith. The whole concoction is remarkably easy to knock back, despite, or maybe because of the oily body, and 7.2% ABV, and really, it gives any Altbier from Duesseldorf I've tried a run for its money. Shame I only had the one left, but definitely one I'd buy again if I can get it.

Freigeist's R. Woodhouse is one I parked for a while, waiting to savour, as I knew it came from the same stable at their Rosmarie, which I really enjoyed back in 2010. Held to the light, it shows a dark strawberry juice red, with a thin, fine-bubbled head that doesn't hang around, R. Woodhouse delivers a distinctly medicinal aroma that may seem off-putting till you realise it is rosemary. It's sweet, like grenadine syrup, but with the added edge of dulled, fresh-crushed rosemary. The rosemary is more prominent on the taste, fresh and warming, with honey and lychee-like flavours coming right behind, while a light blackcurrent edge brings up the rear. The finish is predictably herbal, with a pine-like freshness and a lingering stickiness, without being cloying.While I really enjoyed their Rosmarie with sausages, and could have had a few in one go, a bottle of R.Woodhouse suffices, as near the end it began to overpower a tad. I suspect it might be better fresher, or at least shared, but nonetheless, it's a beer that keeps the interest, and I bet it'd be great with roast lamb or beef. Of course, the label and name is an homage to Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, referencing Mia Farrow's character, Rosemary Woodhouse of said movie, though with added rosemary sprigs. Worth trying, but perhaps with a meal.

Right after, I opened a '97 Samuel Adams Triple Bock, but that needs a post of its own!