El Legado de Yuste – Spanish abbey beer

yuste.jpgBoak is on tour in France and Spain.

A few years back Heineken España brought out El Lega­do de Yuste, “the first span­ish abbey beer”, appar­ent­ly brewed in the tra­di­tion of the mas­ter brew­ers of Flan­ders. I picked some up yes­ter­day to give it a go.

It has a nice aro­ma – pos­si­bly slight­ly Bel­gian, def­i­nite­ly very malty. Ini­tial­ly a very good malt flavour but this quick­ly fades. It has an extreme­ly weak body and quite a watery after­taste. Some bit­ter­ness but no hop aro­ma or flavour. It´s too car­bon­at­ed for a Bel­gian abbey ale. My ini­tial reac­tion was that it was a watered-down Sal­va­tor (as in the Paulan­er dopple­bock – not that incon­ceiv­able – they are all part of the Heineken con­glom­er­ate). Because of its water­i­ness, it might be quite refresh­ing on a hot Span­ish day – except for the fact that at 6.5%, you´re not going to drink many in the sun before the “heat­stroke” sets in.

Ron Pat­tin­son has list­ed it in his Euro­pean beer guide and says that he´s not sure if it´s top or bot­tom fer­ment­ed. I´m none the wis­er from the bot­tle, it just says it´s made with “exclu­sive” yeasts (and vien­na malt and spe­cial­ly select­ed hops) . It strikes me more as an amber lager effort than a bel­gian ale, what­ev­er they use.

There is a web­site in Span­ish devot­ed to this prod­uct, if you´re real­ly inter­est­ed. Lots of “his­to­ry” of the prod­uct, sug­ges­tions on how to serve it (with game, appar­ent­ly) and even a com­pre­hen­sive guide to dif­fer­ent types of beer. So I­t´s obvi­ous­ly tar­get­ed at the would-be con­nois­seur. But it doesn´t do any­thing for this ama­teur. I´ll stick with Sal­va­tor – maybe over ice?


UK to stay with imperial and metric muddle

On the BBC, it´s been announced that there will no longer be pres­sure from the EU for the UK to stan­dard­ise its mea­sure­ments.

The impe­r­i­al v met­ric debate was always very impas­sioned, and I could nev­er work out why. I couldn´t under­stand why the EU thought it was worth the ener­gy to force us Brits out of our crazy sys­tem, nor could I under­stand why mar­ket traders and the like got so inflamed about chang­ing over. I´ve lived on the con­ti­nent and have no prob­lem what­so­ev­er with buy­ing half a kilo of apples instead of a pound. Nor a half litre of beer instead of a pint (though inter­est­ing­ly, this was one of the sacred mea­sure­ments that we were always going to be able to keep!)

On the one hand, I´m pleased this has come to an end of sorts. The debate always seemed to throw up the most pet­ty and igno­rant com­ments – like the idea that the met­ric sys­tem is some­thing John­ny For­eign­er cooked up to did­dle us, when actu­al­ly it was invent­ed by British sci­en­tists. Or the idea that it enables us to bet­ter trade with Amer­i­ca, when many of the US impe­r­i­al mea­sure­ments are dif­fer­ent from ours.

On the oth­er hand this leaves us with the same mud­dle we´ve had for the past thir­ty years. I know my weight in stones and my height in feet and inch­es, mea­sure short dis­tances in cen­time­tres and metres and long dis­tances in miles. I strug­gle to remem­ber how many ounces there are in a pound, or how many pounds there are in a stone, and I have absolute­ly no idea what an acre of land rep­re­sents. Some met­ric mea­sure­ments seen to have tak­en well – I reck­on most peo­ple mea­sure tem­per­a­ture in Cel­sius here – but oth­ers just refuse to stick.

Where´s the beer rel­e­vance? Try home­brew­ing when your ref­er­ences are Amer­i­can and your equip­ment is a mix­ture of British and Euro­pean. Work­ing out how many litres an Amer­i­can quart is to add to your pounds of grain and grams of spices. Or work­ing your way through the mash tem­per­a­ture debate but hav­ing to trans­late every­thing into Cel­sius so you under­stand it. Thank God for spread­sheets and inter­net ready-reck­on­ers.

Boak (in Spain, not strug­gling to cope with met­ric mea­sure­ment)

Boheme 1795

boheme1795.jpgI’m always intrigued by the “own-brand” Czech and Ger­man lagers that you see in super­mar­kets and cor­ner-shops in the UK. Some are rank, but oth­ers are real hid­den gems. Most are sold in the UK under pseu­do­nyms, but it’s easy enough to trace their true ori­gins online.

So, why would­n’t I grab six bot­tles of Tesco’s new Czech lager, “Boheme 1795”, for £4?

It looks, at first sight, like a cheap knock-off of Bud­var – white and red label, green bot­tles, and so on – but turns out to be the real deal: the orig­i­nal Bud­weis­er. The Ger­man-owned Mateske brew­ery was the first to make beer in Bud­weis in 1795, and made the first pil­sner there in 1802.

In the Czech Repub­lic, it’s sold as a Budweiser/Budvar (any beer from České Budějovice is enti­tled to the name) but in the UK, Tesco have chick­ened out, to avoid trou­ble with Anheuser-Busch.

What does it taste like? Bet­ter than I expect­ed – dri­er and more bit­ter than Bud­var, a sim­i­lar appeal­ing gold­en colour – but not mind­blow­ing.

But at 66p a bot­tle, or 50p a bot­tle if you buy a case of 20 for £10, it’s great val­ue, and def­i­nite­ly more than drink­able.

India Pale Ale in India

I stum­bled across the fas­ci­nat­ing India Brew blog yes­ter­day, and have been devour­ing their back­log of posts. This line in a post on the his­to­ry of brew­ing in India real­ly caught my eye:

Today no brew­er in India makes India Pale Ale. All Indi­an beers are either lagers (5 % alco­hol — such as Aus­tralian lager) or strong lagers (8 % alco­hol – such as the pop­u­lar MAX super strong beer). Inter­na­tion­al Brew­eries Pvt. Ltd. have recent­ly announced an inten­tion to work with Mohan Meakin to pro­duce and launch an India Pale Ale called Indi­an IPA from Indi­a’s first brew­ery at Solan.

A real Indi­an IPA would be inter­est­ing, and might (weird­ly) also increase the chances of see­ing IPA on the menu in cur­ry hous­es in the UK.

Bierfest by numbers in Don Quijote country

Boak is on tour in France and Spain.

I was extreme­ly sur­prised to see posters adver­tis­ing an Okto­ber­fest in Cuen­ca. Cuen­ca is a beau­ti­ful town in the Castille-La Man­cha region of Spain (the dry bit in the mid­dle), famous for cheese, hon­ey, cook­ing with strange bits of ani­mal… but not real­ly for its beer. A clos­er look revealed the event to be “spon­sored” (i.e. organ­ised) by Paulan­er, who have organ­ised sim­i­lar fes­ti­vals in oth­er Span­ish cities. The Cuen­ca local author­i­ties then tagged on a tapas fes­ti­val, where dif­fer­ent restau­rants and bars have stalls and offer a cou­ple of dish­es each.

Obvi­ous­ly I had to go along and have a look. It appeared to be in the car park of a hous­ing estate, with a huge Paulan­er tent dom­i­nat­ing the pro­ceed­ings (not in the pho­to). Inside was the req­ui­site oom­pah band, Paulan­er on tap, a mix­ture of Ger­man and Span­ish snacks and some tacky sou­venirs.

The out­side was def­i­nite­ly where it was at – I got the impres­sion the locals weren´t quite sure what they were sup­posed to do in the tent. They were cer­tain­ly slight­ly bemused by the band. That said, the tent was begin­ning to fill when I left, and no doubt it turned into a wild fies­ta after­wards. Per­haps.

Like the locals, I´m not sure what to make of it all. On the one hand, the com­bi­na­tion of good beer and tapas is a match made in heav­en. On the oth­er hand, this is not so much a gen­uine cul­tur­al exchange as a mass-mar­ket­ing tech­nique by Paulan­er. If you read Span­ish, here´s an arti­cle from Mar­ket­ing Mag­a­zine last year, which says that by pro­mot­ing these fes­ti­vals, Paulan­er want to devel­op the appre­ci­a­tion of beer in Spain. Well, that´s nice of them. Fun­ny that their gen­eros­i­ty doesn´t extend to pro­mot­ing beers from oth­er brew­eries. Here´s a link to the Lon­don Bier­fest, which looks iden­ti­cal.

Do we real­ly want these Iden­tik­it beer fes­ti­vals spring­ing up all over the place? Sure, I dream of a world where every town has a beer fes­ti­val – but not exact­ly the same fes­ti­val wher­ev­er you go.