Saturday, 29 November 2008

Erdinger Weisbier Dunkel - Nescafe anyone?

Not that I've had many, but wheat beer and especially darker ones appeal to me. I spotted this in the supermarket so I decided that it should be a good one. Or at least that's what I thought.
This turned out to be quite mild tasting. An unassuming dunkel if there is such a thing!
The best I can describe is that it tasted of a slightly burnt, watery, instant coffee. The fact that it went flat quickly added to the idea.
I guess if you were having a tasting night you could start with this one and work up from there. At least it wouldn't turn you off the style.
The Verdict
A bit mild and uninspiring for me.
Erdinger Weisbeer Dunkel - 50cl - 5.6% alcohol - Germany

O'Hara's Irish Red Ale & a Tangent

Carlow Brewing Company are situated just a few minutes from where I live. Indeed, they are sited right beside my old secondary school in the old goods store by the train station.
In a previous existence I have used them for corporate events where we needed to demonstrate some of the delights of Carlow to visitors. We would hire equipment and get a few kegs from them and dished out their offerings to people from all over the world on one occasion. It always went down well.
Therefore I'm a bit biased as to their beer. I have only reviewed one of their beers here, their Celebration Stout, so biased or not I decided I'd better make amends.
O'Hara's Red, which was called Molings but was renamed a little while ago, poured a nice dark red colour with a big fizzy head that dissipated quickly. It had an acrid but not unpleasant smell, if that's not a contradiction.
Taste wise it has a burnt caramel flavour and a bitter hop taste with very little fragrance of anything else. Having said that it doesn't really need a whole lot else, it's not he most complex of beers. The only negative comment I could make is that perhaps it's a little watery? The taste, I guess, either suits your palate or it doesn't.
Yes, I know that I'm stating the obvious but the more I drink the more I appreciate that beer that suits me might not suit others. I have gotten really wary of suggesting beers to people unless I know their general taste. Even then I would only make general suggestions.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that this blog is about my tastes. I write it for myself and although I am more than delighted when people read or comment, don't take my word for things. Try them yourselves. (As I know ye do!)
Sorry. I've diverted from the plot!
The Verdict
A nice bitter red ale. Buy it, Carlow needs the money! (I'm not biased. No really!)
O'Haras Irish Red Ale - 50cl - 4.3% alcohol - Ireland

Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger - I Finally Got The Finger Out

 This was on special for two for €5 in Tesco so I grabbed it with Spitfire with my weekly shopping. I had put off trying this for no good reason really except, I guess, that it was everywhere I looked so I always tended to look for something different.
I was heading to a party that night so I brought it along. Hence the picture.
I have to say that once again this is a Shephern Neame that just doesn't do it for me. I know that others find it above average but I found it only ok at best.
The taste was a bit like burnt biscuits with a bitter aftertaste. I got very little fruit taste from it despite the promise of Seville oranges on the label. It went flat rather quickly too.
The Verdict
I am sure they're are many who this appeals to but it's not to my taste anyway. I can only hope the Spitfire is better.
Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger - 50cl - 5.4% alcohol - England

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Hilden Irish Ale

This was supposed to be a review of Rodenbach Gran Cru but when I opened the bottle it smelled of vinegar and was as flat as..............something really flat.
So, I rooted in my 'cellar' and found a bottle of Hilden Ale that I had picked up at Septemberfest and after giving it a light chill cracked it open.
It had a nice colour and a nice fine carbonation which seemed very promising. It had a slight hoppy smell of nothing in particular that I could really pick out. Taste wise, well........
It's not that there was anything wrong with it as such it's just that it seemed a bit on the light side. A bit boring perhaps. It's still a lot better than most of the 'normal' ales available in pubs but it seemed to me that perhaps they had dumbed down the flavour to appeal to a wider audience. Compared to similar offerings from Carlow Brewing or Whitewater it didn't seem to stack up but I wonder would it appeal more to non beer enthusiasts? I might do a test if I ever pick up another bottle.
Can't really so much more on it to be honest.
The Verdict
Nothing really wrong with this beer. It just didn't blow me away. Not even a little puff!
Hilden Irish Ale - 50cl - 4.6% alcohol - Northern Ireland

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Master Brew by Shepherd Neame - Fancy a cuppa?

My previous experience with Shepherd Neame brews didn't inspire me but I felt I should give them another shot. After all, they seem to have a decent pedigree, a good range of product and I have heard others speak highly of them.
Master Brew appealed to me as perhaps a nice hoppy beer. Perhaps it was the name playing with images of Kent and a brewer with a cloth cap dosing a brew with a summer ripened crop of hops. Wonderful.
The reality was different. A strange brew.
It looked good when poured but when I took a good sniff a got nothing. The taste took me by surprise, it reminded me of cold tea with a dash of lemon. I also tasted raisins and butterscotch  or burnt fudge. The light carbonation helped the flavours bounce around my mouth but as I say, very strange brew.
In one way it reminded me of a beer you would have with a dessert. Perhaps a fudge cake or apple and toffee crumble.
Nothing wrong with it really. I think.
The Verdict
I really can't make my mind up on this one. It was unlike anything I've had before.
Master Brew - 50cl - 4% alcohol - England

Delirium Tremens - The beer, not the condition.

My first taste of the Delirium brand was on my trip to Brussels where we ended up one night in the Delirium Cafe with it's 2,004 beers. We didn't try the Delirium beer there, I think it was the next day in another pub and I'm not sure who had it. It's a bit of a blur now and back then I didn't take notes.
So anyway, when a friend of mine got me a couple of bottles of it I eagerly anticipated giving it a shot on my home soil. This was a chance to remind myself of the trip and the good time we had, even if I didn't try DT there.
I cracked it open and poured it out. It seem to have a slightly viscous nature that meant it glooped into the glass. this could have been my imagination as it defies rational explanation!
The smell hit me as something peculiar. Slightly fruity but also, to my nose anyway, a slightly smokey Ranchero smell! Weird.! The taste was a fruity mix of citrus and banana with a bare hint of spiciness. It's somewhat sweet on first taste but after a few sipsI  got a slightly tart after taste. Maybe this was because of the high alcohol content?
This could also explain the tingle on the tongue too but I suspect that this has to do with the carbonation.
All of these features combine to make a fine and tasty beer and looking at the picture on the bottle reminded me of the cafe too! 
I must go back.
The Verdict.
A great little beer with plenty of flavour. Mind the alcohol content though!
Delerium Tremens - 33cl - 8.5% alcohol - Belgium

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Budweiser Budvar Dark Lager

I found this lurking in my fridge where I had put it a few weeks ago. I think I left it in there one night and forgot about it due to the fact that I put some leftovers on top of it. What this says about my fridge hygiene and cleanliness is pretty obvious but there you go. Look on the bright side, you don't have to live with me.
Anyway, back to the beer. I had tried and enjoyed Budvar on draught before so this seemed like a good choice.

The colour was certainly intense, being a beautiful dark amber shade and the sweet, intense malt smell wafted through my nostrils just before I took a gulp. It was beautifully smooth with a rich coffee bean taste. Not espresso coffee beans, something more subtle and less severe. I got a slight nutty taste too and a slightly sweet after taste as it went down.

As I drank more the taste mellowed slightly, or maybe it was me, and it seemed to get sweeter. I found myself drinking it a bit quicker than I had anticipated and got to the end of the bottle way too quickly. Damn!

I was looking at the bottle and I spotted that it was 2 months out of date. Mind you, that didn't seem to affect anything about it. I thought it was a fine beer and one I could drink one or two of easily, maybe even three.....

Incidentally, it also gives the malts used on the ingredients list on the bottle. (Pale, Munich, Caramel, Roasted.)

The Verdict

This is a great beer for my palate. Plenty going on in taste and smell with a lovely smooth texture.

Budweiser Budvar Dark Lager - 50cl - 4.7% alcohol - Czech Republic

Monday, 17 November 2008

Cantillon Brewery, Brussels

I started a piece on the Cantillon Brewery for the blog but it turned into a longish article so I asked the main men at the Irish Craft Brewer site if it would suit them for their article section. It did and they have posted it there. I would appreciate any comments.

Read it here.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Ayinger Weizen-Bock - Wait for the Cliche

With my taste buds reappearing after a slight hiatus I decided I'd better get back into the flow and dig into the reserves I've built up over the last couple of weeks.I picked this up on my last visit to Kilkenny even though the last Ayinger product I tried was not to my taste, to say the least. I hoped this was a different ball game and I usually find weizens are a safe bet for my palate.
I took a good big gulp, mainly because of greed. I hadn't tasted a beer in a while so I was a bit too eager. This didn't disappoint me. Unfortunately the cliched description of banana and clove are springing to mind at the moment as I sit here drinking it and I am trying to suppress it. It's too obvious, isn't it?
As I feel the alcohol tickle the back of my throat and the fumes help to clear what remains of my cold, I search for better words. Perhaps a little ginger? Definitely a trace of citrus, lime I think. It's perfectly carbonated by the way, the bubbles last well to the end of the glass and tingle away as it travels round my mouth and disappears down my throat.
This really is a good if not great winter weizen. I can see myself in front of a roaring fire with snow falling outside and a comely wench, if they still exist, serving me some of these. Only two or three mind, I need to be fresh in the morning for the boar hunting.
The Verdict
Great winter wheat beer. Cliched or not!
Ayinger Weizen-Bock - 33cl - 7.1% alcohol - Germany

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Tasteless Stuff

Poor me.
I've had a cold for the last week or so, which isn't an issue in its self. The problem is I've lost my sense of taste. Now many would say I had very little taste anyway but it's no laughing matter.
No Really.
I have a stack of beer to taste and review that I have been looking forward to for ages now and I dare not try them. Worst of all my own first homebrew is ready and I have waited patiently for 6 weeks plus as recommended and now I can't try it! I sampled it not long after it was bottled but I wanted to leave it a while before doing a proper tasting and review.
Who would have thought a bit of a cold would be such a disaster to my new hobby/lifestyle/way-of-life.
When I say I can't taste anything, I mean ANYTHING. I made a mustard and sausage sambo today to try to get it going and I could not taste the mustard. I tried chili and all I got was a stinging in the back of my throat. Nothing else. 
Pickled ginger you say? No joy.
I'm really pi**ed about it!
I was meant to be going to Bruges this weekend for a beer festival but changed my mind thank god. Imagine being there in this state!
I am off to Dusseldorf in early December so I hope I'm OK by then. Looking forward to trying the Alt!
Any ideas on what to do about the taste thing?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 6

Some final thoughts.

On Galway
Galway seems to me to be a city of contrasts. A mixture of old and new both in the buildings and the people. New shopping centres stand beside medieval buildings and old men sit drinking Guinness at the bar while the youth of the city, and other countries, drink lattes in the trendy bistros. Parts of the city are covered in litter and graffiti while most areas are clean and tidy. The locals go about their daily business as the foreigners buy Oirish souvenirs from other foreigners behind the tills. You are as likely to hear a strong mid-western American accent as hear a west of Ireland one. Perhaps more likely.

All this tourism is obviously good for the community in economic terms but I can't help feeling it's a bit like selling out to the lowest common denominator.

Did I fall in love with Galway? Well, no. It's a nice city no doubt but it seemed to lack a heart or a soul, I'm not sure how to describe it. It's like many Irish tourist conscious cities, Kilkenny is similar, there's something missing.

I feel that most cities I've visited in Europe still have that soul, that inner beat, that feeling that grips your heart and mind. Maybe it's just because I am a real tourist there where as I was just a semi-tourist in Galway. It will take a brighter mind than me to figure it out.

I'd still go back to Galway, just to see if I was wrong. In a way, I hope I am.

On The Great Irish Beer Festival
The debate could go on forever as to whether it deserves the word 'Irish' in the title. One side of me says that there should have been a better selection of beers from Ireland. Galway Hooker and Whitewater via Bierhaus were the only ones I saw. From what I've heard, this is because of the charges for a stand plus percentage of turnover the organisers wanted but I've only heard one side of the argument so it's a bit unfair of me to comment. I guess it depends on whether you attach the word 'Irish' to the 'Festival' or the 'Beer'. After all, The Wexford Opera Festival probably didn't have many operas written in Wexford. Syntax can be a deceiving thing.

Anyway, no matter what way you look at it, anything that pulls people away from mainstream, poor quality beers can only be good in the long term so I think it's a positive thing. It was relatively well organised (apart from the seating). For a novice like me it was a good way of trying beer without having to go to a many different places, not to mention the fact that we could share bottles and not appear like cheapos. We also got a chance to talk to some of the suppliers, which helps with understanding the beers and beer trade.

Would I go again? I'm not sure. It would depend on the beers available next year but I would recommend anyone who's starting down the beer journey that I'm on to go to it.

On Drinking
It's no fun drinking and appreciating beer on your own. Well I guess what I mean is that it's better with a few like minded individuals. You can debate about the taste of the beer as well as the usual banter that beer drinking stimulates. Then again that's true of many things in life.

Another lesson I learned was not to judge a pub by the amount of beer it stocks. Sheridan's was my favourite pub by far and it probably had the smallest selection of the three 'beer' pubs we visited. (It still had a great selection though!)

Life's to short to listen to s**t from bar staff and be deafened. I can get that anywhere.

Surround yourself with good friends that will put up with you when you're blathering on about something they have no interest in, because they know you will do likewise. Good people will always be more important than good beer.

Here endeth the lesson.

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 5

We arrived at the Bierhaus and again the joint was jumping. It was fairly full but not packed so there was plenty of room to move about. We split up a bit and ordered our drinks. I had a Weissbier which I was told I couldn’t have on draught as it would take too long so I was given a bottle instead! Strange, the place wasn’t that busy but I didn’t grumble.

We wandered around to find a place to chat without getting our heads blown off by the DJ. It was quite loud no matter where we went so one of our group asked if they could turn down the music a tad as everyone was shouting and trying to be heard above the din, not just our group. The guy behind the bar suggested that, and I quote, ‘If you don’t like the music you can go somewhere else’ and gave us a dismissive gesture. I was a bit shocked by this, although I don’t know why, poor service and surly behaviour seems to be the norm in many places now. He could have just said that it was out of his control, it was up to the DJ, suggest a quieter corner, whatever.

Maybe we ARE getting old.

Needless to say we took his advice. We wandered down to Salt House to check it out and we were pleasantly surprised. It’s a smallish place but they seemed to have as good a range of beers as the Bierhaus. It was much quieter and the staff certainly had less attitude. By this stage I was a bit too worn out to take note of the beer list but my draught Budvar was excellent. 

We finished the night there and headed back to the hotel, regretting the fact that Sheridan’s was closed.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Galway and The Great Irish Beer Festival - Part 4

I was up early on Sunday so I took a walk along the dock and up along the river. The weather had certainly improved and there were a fair few people with the same idea. I was feeling a little muggy from my shenanigans the previous night so I walked for ages and stopped for a coffee before meeting up with Beer Goggles down the town.

The plan was to go to Sheridan’s for food and a pint again and then to collect Beer Mat before heading to the festival. We headed down towards the dock and turned the corner only to find Sheridan’s closed!

Disaster. Seemingly they don’t have a Sunday licence, which I found a bit strange. Not to mention disappointing. This also meant no nightcap here tonight. I guess we were going to have to go to plan B.

We picked up BM and headed to Naughton’s instead. They had Hooker, a wheat beer and the usuals on draught and a small selection of bottles. It was a nice place, very traditional. I’d say the yanks love it. There seemed to serve only soup or full dinners so we decided to hold off on food until the Festival. We did have a couple of Hookers and a wheat beer though before heading on to The Black Box.

We got caught in a downpour on the way in and arrived like drowned rats at the Speakeasy beer stand. We tried Untouchable pale ale first and it was very smooth and tasty. Fresh tasting with plenty of malt and hops with a nice touch of orange. An excellent beer. Next up was Prohibition ale which was good but not as good as Untouchable. Perhaps a little to bitter for my taste. Big Daddy IPA was the last of the trio. I thought I would really like this but again only found it ok. It was full of flavour no doubt but it tasted a little sharp to me. For me the stars from these guys were Untouchable and the Gordon Bierschs we had yesterday. Give me more!

The place was much quieter today so we got a picnic bench and sat down. BG went off for our next beer and we were joined at the table by Mick. He was from Australia via Oughterard and was a mine of information on wine making and beer brewing. He worked as the former and had completed a course on the latter. We ended up chatting for most of the day on all kinds of beer and wine topics and we really enjoyed his input. In the mean time, BG had arrived back with a bottle of Wells Bombardier. I had heard about the beer before so I was looking forward to it. Strangely, it seemed bland to us. A poor smell I thought, BG piped in with ‘No length’ and Mick thought it thin tasting. Very disappointing, for us anyway.
I was milking Mick for more brewing information when MB arrived with a Youngs Double Chocolate Stout. I tried a little and I have to say it was kind of nice. I mean it is exactly what it says on label. No danger of being disappointed or surprised I guess.

At this stage I had to head back to the Weihenstephan guys with their decent glassware and great beer. I picked the Tradition Bayrisch Dunkel. It was ok. Quite bitter and burnt with a malty taste. My notes say, and I quote, ‘Like Burnt Water’? Figure that one out!

Next was Mac’s Gold lager which we felt was ok if nothing special. A sweet malty flavour but a little insipid. Very inoffensive really.

At this stage I remembered that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so went off for a bite. I picked up a few bites from a Spanish themed place. Lovely Serrano ham, olives, bread, peppers with goats cheese, anchovies and another cheese I can’t remember the name of. Very tasty.

I wandered back over to the Weihenstephan stand to see what else we could try. I spotted a colourful bottle with the name Korbinian on it. I asked one of the guys serving who told me that there was only 2 or 3 bottles of this in the country! Hmmmmm, yeah, right, sure. I brought it back to the table along with 2 of their decent glasses and poured it out for BG and I. Mick had left at this stage and BM was on the lighter stuff, chatting with a nice couple we were sharing the table with now.

Holy mackerel this was suberb!
There was a heavenly scent and taste of molasses or burnt syrup, a little spice and a bit of citrus too. It had so much going on but everything seemed to gel. It was smooth and full of flavour with a nice finish. I really had trouble describing it. A great end to the festival.

As we made our way back in to town , with another bottle of Korbinian to bring home (only one left now!!!)that BM got for me for free and a Weihenstephan glass I borrowed til next year, I reflected on what my favourite beers of the festival were. I liked all the Gordon Biersch that I tried and most of the Weihenstephan. The Speakeasy Untouchable was good too. I would find it hard to pick my top 3.

But I will anyway.

1 – Korbinian

2 – Marzen

3 – GB Hefeweizen W Vitus Untouchable. I think it’s a tie.

With that we decided to head to the Bierhaus.