Sunday, 18 March 2012

De Molen Tsarina Extra Imperial Porter

Due to a trade with Jan, aka FoneFan on Rate and its highest recorded ticker of beers at this period of time, I was able to obtain a bottle of De Molen Tsarina Extra Imperial Porter from 2007. A limited bottled range from the windmill brewery in the Netherlands, not too far from the city of Utretch. The containing vessel is a 33cl bottle. Bottle number 53. Highly limited and highly collectable.

The bottle is brown and has a long neck. The label is white on top of an orange background. It has their logo and information recorded for export and domestic selling rights as well as technical information on the beer.

The beer is 93 on the EBU scale so I suspect it will be quite dark but also a shade of brown and not fully black as it is not on the extreme EBU side of over 100 units. EBU is the European method for measuring the colour of the beer. Americans use a different value and therefore have a different title. Theirs is SRM.

The beer was pooured into a goblet, a St Bernadus Watou glass, and it was left to decant over night. I hoped that the natural wild yeast would inject a new aspect of sour flavours and textures. I fell asleep whilst the magic of the live yeasts were working.

On the eye the beer is black and has a brown, sugar-like edge. I suspect sugar was used considerably for this beer as it is very sweet and quite potent on the OG scale. Sugar increases the OG scale, or abv as commonly registered, when it is mixed into the kettle during fermentation. Belgian brewers use a considerable amount for their traditional beers, especially saisons.

On the nose the beer is still quite hoppy for an imperial stout. They have clearly bottled this well. There is no sulphar or eggyness on the aroma which means there are little signs of bad bottling.

The taste is extreme. Loads of booze hits me like a juggernaut. There is thick velvet, dark chocolate, hot and burnt toast, massive chocolate malts, maybe some smoked malts from Bamberg, but definitely a smokey element.

The palate is sticky toffee pudding with a high chocolate malt factor. The burn from the alcohol in the finish is hot and long. The vinous port-like character is exemplary for this fine version of a classic Russian Imperial Stout. This is like the great old English imperial stouts which are now even harder to find and I am sure Menno used a vintage recipe from England. I will have to enquire when I see him next. Pretty positive that this beer has a high level of the Fuggles' hop variety.

I am staggered by the qualities of flaovur in this beer. It is a massive impy and perfect for a celebration. Perfect for my 30th birthday beer of choice. Menno is a master brewer and this has aged well. Five yeaars' old. No brett and funk textures or aromas which is unfortunate but I would love a version with added brett. It is not oxidised either but the flaovur is there. Superbly drinkable despite the hotness.

You can buy De Molen from English beer retailer Ales By Mail. I have linked an alternative which is available for retail. Also their festival in September is world class and well worth visiting.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise 2008 - 75cl Bomber

This is my review of Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise 2008. For transparency I feel it is important to note that I was not paid to review this and this was not a free sample and it was purchased at a store for £14.80 from my own money.

On the eye this beer is extremely pleasant. Extremely red on the side but if you hold it up to the light there is a lovely sunbeam golden red colour which is really stunning. It is very hazy and dark but the colour is still gorgeous. The aroma is strawberries; perfume, white wine grapes and very faint lemons. The taste is plenty of strawberries, a sweet and ripe texture, the acidic levels is quite sharp and dry, very tarty but not too aggressive.

The palate is sticky and almost lemon-tart like but very drinkable and an interesting taste of maybe elderflower combined with the strawberries. Really complex and challenging to describe. The sourness sticks to your mouth for quite some considerable time afterwords and this is no complaint. The finish is incredibly long; vinegary and woody. This beer is a bomber from 2008 and has evened out well. A classic lambic. Bought from Utobeer in Borough Market, London.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Camden Brewery and Kernel Brewery Visits

On Saturday, 3rd March 2011, following a few hectic and hasty Twitter correspondences with Mark Dredge, 'Pencil and Spoon' writer and Camden Brewery media mogul, I made my arangements to meet up with Andy of 'Graphed Beer' blogging at the Kernel Brewery and visit the Camden Brewery opening day. I was supposed to meet James, brewer of Sandstone Brewery, and blogger of 'Session Beer' but seeing as he had to experience a lengthy train journey from Wrexham I agreed to pick up his Kernels and meet him at 14:00 at Camden for the elusive opening day brewery tour.

I arrived at the Kernel Brewery at around mid day after a brief stoppage at Tap East, Stratford City. There I sampled a rather dissapointingly earthy Oakham Brewery hop bomb and an oddly Sauvignon Blanc tasting Otley 008 which was a little too bitter and a ltitle too white wine esque for my palate. I cleared up with a half of a Summer Wine Brewery ale, a 4% Jericho. This is a sumpteous session golden ale, straw coloured and an abundance of floral hops. Then I exited the Stratford montropolis and headed back to the Underground for the Bermondsey connection and a short walk to the Kernel Brewery on London's Maltby Street and Druid Street.

Well for those whom don't know Maltby Street is a mecca of an artisanal craft beam right slap bang in the middle of railway arches and inbetween Borough Market and Bermondsey. The street is a haven for artisanal craft produce ranging from imported cheeses to cured ham; Monomouth coffee, Coleman's coffee, some outstanding oils and additional products. A lot to list including their own Polish deli shop and St John's Bakery!

I ordered a cuppacino from Coleman's and relaxed with the market hustle and bustle surrounding me. The cuppacino is one of the best which I've ever had. All emphasis is on quality not quantity and a 1950's Vienna made roaster is on hand to provide it! The artistic baristas know their game well and will time your coffee to perfection. I prefer to wait around 4 minutes for my coffee as this is what is required for a freshly grounded and perfectly brewed cuppacino. At a price of £2.30 this is fantasitc value. The serving is small in volume but the quality is very prominent, not just a mug of cream!

I walked accross the road to the opposite archway and greated Evin, The Kernel brewer and his team. I qued up for my dosage of hop medicine and ordered a Galaxy IPA at around £3 per unit. Galaxy is an Australian hop which I suspect was brewed to honour the departing of their former colleague, Nathan, to his homeland due to visa reasons.

The hop bite was punchy and fresh; light and poised. The yeast is superbly clean and not at all astringent; like a mix between a fine Dupont (yeast geeks) and an American double IPA such as Russian River Pilny The Younger or Ballast Point Sculpin. The hop bite is superbly fruity. Mango; peaches, tropics, well-balanced and very hazy. This is because it is unfined. This is a bonus if you ask me. Good beer doesn't always have to be clear!

I met Andy and his wife-to-be and promptly got stuck into some world-class mozerlla. This mozeralla is incredibly fresh and outsourced speciifcally and imported directly via plane from Italy. The cured meats are also a delight as they too are imported from various sources which is a time consuming process. Both cheeses and meats are in the same archway as The Kernel. Good ham can last for ages and they are supposed to be hung for aging. The brettanomyces work wonders with the ham and cause an extra level of intensity and flavour. Natural yeast works incredibly well with aged artisanal ham.

I tweeted James to discover his favourite hops and any requests. I made an order based on James' favourite hops and promptly paid Evin - the owener - before hitting the dreaded Northern Line to Camden Town and Camden Town Brewery.

I met James in a circle of friends and provided him with his beer. James was dresed in black metal attaire and sporting a Lucana Coil coat. Ironic that after eating Italian delicassy I am talking to a man with a passion for their leading metal outfit!

James informed me that Mark Dredge had put us aside for his 14:30 tour so once James had grabbed me an unfiltered lager hell we did not have too much time. I drunk this easy-quaffing hells (German for light) and reealised how strikingly similar it was to the joys of Pilzen and the Munchin beers which I drink on hot summer days. I explained this to Mark whom agreed and said they were aiming for a lager like that combination. Hats off to Cmaden for achieving this.

Mark promptly announced the tour would start so James and myself headed into the shiney and expensive brew house complete with state of the art equipment and modern, specifically imported computers. This was a well funded and well designed breweery tipped to capacity with tanks tightly knitted in a railway arch. The glass windows proudly and prominantly displayed the fermenting tanks which were visible quite some distance away. The brewery had clearly expanded conisderably as Mark explained. They had a tough delivery to negotiate with tanks rolling down a narrow road and encompasing a tight entrence. This he had pictured and uploaded to Camden Town brewery's Facebook page.

The tour was brief but informative and purposely prepared for the general public instead of the beer geeks such as myself and James. This was in order to create a clever balance to increase the public's awarness without overdoing it and showing too much technical nature. This was a great strategy as people receied the tour extremely well and there was a nice standing ovation at the end. I thought this was an ideal approach for increasing general awareness. As I have been on brewery visits domestically and abroad I knew of what to expect. This time I was not bombarded by technicalities and long speaches which is a great way to conduct a tour to people whom may have not visited a brewery before and want to know snippets.

The day was finished off wih a few visits to random pubs and enjoying fantastic beers from the likes of Buxton; Moor and Brewdog. I had a most enjoyable tour and regretted not bringing a camera. Camden are clearly pushing bounderies for lager drinking and want to keep things authentic to the tune of importing the ingrediants directly from the best sources in the famous brewing town of Bamberg. To know that a North London brewery cares that much in reproduction of fine German beers is fantastic. They certainly know how to keep it authentic so we can have a true clean and unpastuerised lager. I'll drink to that. In summer or winter.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Top Ten UK Beers For 2011

1. BrewWharf VS The Danko

Loads of strawberry; massive fruity vibe, sticky and sugary in the mouth but one amazing mind-meld. Off the scale og and authenticly-styled to the Dupont factor. It is fantastic that two great guys with little brewing experience can churn out something this unique yet this authentic. It doesn't get better than that. Given the added circumstances of BrewWharf problems and exploding casks adding extra pressure then this is one amazing venture. Danko come back and brew another beer.

2. The Kernel Citra Single Hop

Stunning fruit blend; tropical storm in a glass, a bit hazy (unfined!) and bittery but flavoursome in all the right aspects. A stunning take on the classic Citra hop which has been my hop for 2011.

3. Oakham Citra - Merton Winter Beer Festival

Golden colour and excellent lacing, conditioning is stunning and a superb take on the citra hop. I really can’t complain and would love to compare this with the Kernel Citra. I love this hop and the grapefruit bounce and frutiy vibe is so flavoursome and drinkable and enjoyable. No overtly aggressive hopping but balanced; poised and stunning.

4 Thornbridge Geminus

This beer was the highlight of GBBF and the evening. It gave me a huge headache yet it is the most fantastic rye beer which I've ever had. The hops were insane and just perfect really. I was too happy to make notes but wow wow wow.

5 Steel City - Shadow Play

Really pleased with how this turned out at the festival but traveling with the take out and the beer definitely regressed by the time it got to London which was a shame. This is my 600th scoop chosen beer! Excellent oaky-coffee-bittery espresso aroma; similar to Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti. also dark raw chocolate, hint of vanilla and LOADS of good hops! Yes HOPS! Taste is shit loads of velvet; bitter espresso, raw chocolate, maybe a hint of vanilla bean, tad edge of sourness, balanced and incredibly drinkable. Can drink this all year round. fantastic work.

6 Green Jack Baltic Trader

Now we’re talking. A huge impy; death black appearance, good lacing, looking very promising. Aroma is liquorish, coffee, smoke and chocolate by the bucket. Taste is sweet malts; Swiss milk chocolate, coffee, smoke, some lovely sour note which has me gasping for more, faint raspberry, treacle and toffee. Hits hard and delivers. Excellent.

7 Crouch Vale Pioneer

Lovely golden-yellow colour below lacing and strong gold appearance through the body; similar to the classic Brewer's Gold. Aroma is straw; hey, raspberries and floral hops. Taste is raspberries; floral hops, so succulent through the body, excellent bitterness, can session this all day long. Just drink it and bask.

8 Hopshackle Caskadia

Appearance is copper-yellow with thin, off-white lacing. The nose is lime; grapefruit, honey and nectar. Taste is grapefruit; honey, lime, fresh bread, gorgeous hop-bite and thirst quenching. Would LOVE to have this in the summer with a steak meal. Such a quaffable beer. Hats off to Hopshackle for another great gem.

9 Harwich Town The Suffolk

Aroma is nectar; blackcurrant, cherries, taste is roasted malts, chocolate, coffee, syrup, toffee, sweet honey, Ace drrinkability Just super.

10 Windsor and Eton Conqueror

Off-white lacing, opaque black red appearance, aroma is oak, cherry, coffee, black licorish taste is coffee, chocolate, herry, oak, nice bitterness, good drinking. Would like to see more of this. I really love Black IPA I do.

I've mainly been drinking The Kernel all year but I thought I'd give a nice diverse range and focusing on important breweries for 2011 and ones which I think will make great strides in 2012. There has been a lot of problems at some breweries in 2011 but many have excelled and only improved from their set backs.

I hope with 2012 we will see a huge surge in craft beer and the uprising will continue. It doesn't have to be keg. It doesn't have to be cask. It has to be good; bold, flavoursome and appealing. We have to branch out to other sectors and defend ourselves.

Also the Government's constant attack on beer and their huge ignorance on beer is something which has to change. Tied pub cos and crap chemically-fuelled beer at so many locations is a huge problem. We want and we deserve a level playing field where we can go out to just a random pub and get the real craft produce instead of something tied or a bought out pub by a huge firm with a massive wallet.

Appreciation of what goes into the beer and how it is made is another personal journey for me in 2012 for I hope to expand on my first assistant brew day and do my first proper brew.

Here is to 2012 and all the great beers we will consume.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Top Ten Foreign Beers of 2011

Ok I guess it's time for this.

I have been drinking a fair amount during 2011. I have been fortunate to visit a few gatherings where copious amounts of small quantities of beer has been thrusted onto my eager hands.

1 Ballast Point Sculpin.

2 Alvinne Beer Geek Wedding in London City.

3. De Dolle Dulle Teve 10º (Mad Bitch).

The aroma is loads of candi sugar; fudge, marzepan, hey and toffee and caramel. Taste is burnt toast; caramel, toffee, fudge cake, some bubblegum, really nice balance

4. De Molen Hemel & Aarde (Heaven & Earth) Bruichladdich Barrel.

Pitch black opaque on appearance with a nice mocha lacing, a little patchy but very nice. Aroma is pure whiskey; smoke, peat, wood, oak, some moderate grains, chocolate and coffee. Taste is rich dark raw chocolate; cream, vanilla, oak, single malt whiskey, coffee, stunning blending, stunning biterness, roasted malts, extremely balanced and drinkable.

5 De Struise Black Messy - 39% and drinkable.

6 Mikkeller 黑 / Black (Whisky Edition) (White wax).

Taste is a rich big bad malty affair; maybe not the best balance but definitely rich, bold, aggressive, intimidating, well pumped of booze, whiskey, smoke, wood, oak, lots of wood chip, slight grainial element, leather, earthyness, bitterness is fantastic, so so mourish and drinkability is not bad for something this potent!

7 Lost Abbey The Angels Share (Bourbon Barrel).

FULL on candi sugar; marzepan, barely, black currents, figgs, raisins, chocolate, oak, leathery goodness and some citrus hidden gently. Taste is striking; exhaustingly complicated, the senses lit up devinely. I am knocked out. Thick velvet; rich Belgian truffle chocolate, marzepan, candi-sugar, treacle oozes down my throat like a juggernaut, STUNNING blending, balance is superb. The malt is stunning, loads of nice booze and whiskey but the descent stuff, wood, oak, cherries, soy source, leather, could really do with some coffee.

8 Stoudts Fat Dog Stout (Vintages 2004 and later).

I love the oatmeal aroma. Pure stunning. Held up incredibly well after a year’s worth of aging. Loads of chocolate and cream and oatmeal and rye on aroma. Some coffee too. Taste is oatmeal; cream, chocolate, good bitterness, stunning blending, balanced soo well, really great beer.

9 Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout.

Aroma is espresso; vanilla, oak, burnt toast, marzepan and chocolate. Taste is chocolate, Belgian truffles, Devonshire cream, sharp penetrating velvet, big bourbon, oak, wood chips, roasted malts, sticky toffee pudding and big booze but so well measured and balanced. Damn this is a world class beer!

10 Founders' Breakfast Stout

Chocolate; coffee, roasted malts, vanilla, leather, bitterness is really strong but such a fantastic bitterness I am reeling, why can’t other beers have this kind of bitterness? Wow. This is an extreme shot of coffee; like a double of your favourite Americana coffee in one glass, some smoke, some really tough complex Swiss dark chocolate, some Devonshire cream and a full whack of character which is balanced, poised and extreme.

Honourable mentions:

Mikkeller Black Tie
Alesmith Speedway
Alesmith Speedway Barrel Aged