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.