Krusovice schwarzbier

krusovice.jpg Last night, I real­ly want­ed to drink a beer I hadn’t tried before, so I rum­maged about in the “cel­lar” (garage) and found a bot­tle of Czech Kruso­vice  schwarz­bier some­one had left after a par­ty.

It’s a very gen­tle 3.8% (per­fect for a school night). In the glass, as you can see from the pho­to, it was very dark, but still trans­par­ent, with a nice off-white head. The taste, how­ev­er, was dis­ap­point­ing at first.

I’m one of those suck­ers who expects dark beer to taste stronger than lighter coloured beers – even though I’ve done blind taste tests on glass­es of helles and dunkel and not been able to tell the dif­fer­ence! This beer was very light bod­ied and light­ly flavoured, despite its colour.

After the ini­tial let down, though, I decid­ed this beer was in the sub­tle cat­e­go­ry, rather than being bland. Or per­haps “mild” is the right word because, yes, this looked and tast­ed not unlike a dark Eng­lish mild. Not much in the way of hop flavour, aro­ma or bit­ter­ness – just some sweet, choco­late-like malt and a refresh­ing water­i­ness. I know water­i­ness is not some­thing peo­ple gen­er­al­ly praise in a beer, but I don’t always want goop.

With hind­sight, I wish I’d drunk it with a desert, or per­haps just with a juicy orange, rather than a big salty piz­za, which might have brought out some bit­ter­ness, but I enjoyed it any­way. Worth a go if you see it about.

San Sebastian postscript – Keler lager

I got quite excit­ed to see that San Sebas­t­ian had a “local” lager, Kel­er, with basque on the labels and all. The bot­tles tell a sto­ry about some Ger­man brew­ers who set up in San Sebas­t­ian in the 1890s, yada yada yada.

How­ev­er, I was dis­ap­point­ed. Not so much by the fact it´s the usu­al yel­low fizz – that I was expect­ing – but to find out that it was now brewed by Damm in Barcelona. I thought that at least I´d be able to rec­om­mend it on envi­ron­men­tal grounds.

Still, at least it´s not Heineken, who real­ly do dom­i­nate San Seb (although they tend to hide under the Cruz­cam­po brand).


Sam Smith’s Extra Stout – a good beer, all of a sudden?

ssbadge.gifI occa­sion­al­ly drink Sam Smith’s Extra Stout (the one on the pumps) when I just want a half of some­thing, and don’t fan­cy a “pure-brewed lager”. Usu­al­ly, it’s a black and fluffy white Guin­ness clone, albeit one with mar­gin­al­ly more flavour. But yes­ter­day, I had a half in the Fitzroy which knocked my socks off.

1. It didn’t seem to have been nitro smooth-flowed to death – it was still creamy, but not like some­one had put shav­ing foam on top.
2. The head was that pleas­ing tan you get on good stouts, instead of the usu­al glacial white.
3. It was warmer than usu­al (that is, sev­er­al degrees above freez­ing).
4. The body wasn’t a scary, opaque, arti­fi­cial black – it was dark red, and clear.
4. It was deli­cious: cof­fee, choco­late, a lit­tle note of sour­ness, and some salt – just per­fect, to my mind.

What’s going on? Is there a cask vari­ant which some pubs have and oth­ers don’t? (As is the case with some of Sam Smith’s bit­ters.) Or have they changed the recipe?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it’s hard to find out. The brewery’s aver­sion to “mod­ern ways” means they’re not online and don’t real­ly do press releas­es. The bar staff in the pub were none the wis­er, either. Hmm.

Pagoa post script – Zunbeltz (and style nazis)

In my post two days ago, I reviewed two Pagoa beers – now the third, “Zun­beltz”, which describes itself as a stout.

Again, this seems to get real bad reviews on Rate­beer, and I can’t real­ly see why.  It’s got bags of flavour, toast­ed malt, cof­fee and choco­late notes and a love­ly long fin­ish. This is eas­i­ly one of the tasti­est beers in Spain and would stand up very well against a British mild like Oscar Wilde.

And per­haps this style “con­fu­sion” explains the bad reviews - it hasn’t real­ly got the body to be a stout, which is what the reviews seem to focus on.

While I can’t get as worked up as some blog­gers about over­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of beer – I think it’s quite use­ful for home­brew­ing if you’re try­ing to copy a par­tic­u­lar favourite – I think in this case, it has result­ed in a good beer get­ting some very bad reviews because it’s not “true to type”.

Or alter­na­tive­ly I’ve had a taste lobot­o­my since being out here…

Any­way, it is def­i­nite­ly worth try­ing, and I won’t even qual­i­fy that with “if you’re in Spain”. 


M&S get real

norfolk_bitter.jpgIn 2006, we wrote to British super­mar­ket chain Marks and Spencers to tell them how impressed we were that they’d start­ed stock­ing some decent beer, name­ly their OK IPA and excel­lent Irish Stout.

But we also had some sug­ges­tions:

1. Real ale bores, just like seri­ous food­ies, like to know who is mak­ing their beer. The stan­dard M&S prac­tice of con­ceal­ing their sup­pli­ers didn’t enhance the appeal of the prod­uct but rather seri­ous­ly reduced it. Couldn’t they tell us who was mak­ing their booze for them, as ASDA, Sains­burys and oth­ers do?

2. Giv­en that every­thing else in their range is sup­pos­ed­ly of the finest qual­i­ty, why weren’t these beers bot­tle con­di­tioned? It seemed odd to us that they would sell hand-reared, free-range, 21-day aged beef next to pas­teurised, fil­tered beer.

I’m delight­ed to see (in the lat­est issue of What’s Brew­ing) that CAMRA were also pur­su­ing the same line of enquiry – as I’m sure were many oth­er indi­vid­ual con­sumers – and that it’s paid off. M&S are now to stock four new bot­tle-con­di­tioned beers from around the UK, each attrib­uted very clear­ly to its home brew­ery (Woodforde’s, Vale, Crop­ton and Black Hills).

Last night, I tried their Nor­folk Bit­ter (Woodforde’s) and was very impressed. Tons of cit­rusy hop flavour and aro­ma, and a love­ly thick, per­sis­tent head

Nice one, M&S, and nice one CAMRA! Now to get that fan­tas­tic Irish Stout bot­tle con­di­tioned too…