The Session # 15 – ¡puedes participar en español!

session-logo-r-sm.jpgEste mes tenemos el placer de organizar “The Session” – donde los beer-bloggers de todo el mundo escriben sobre el mismo tema en el primer viernes del mes. Queremos invitar a los hispano-hablantes a participar también.

Continuando nuestro tema de “Beervangelism”, queremos que escribas sobre el momento cuando “viste la luz”. ¿En qué momento te diste cuenta de que eres una entusiasta / un aficionado a la cerveza? ¿Qué cerveza (s) empezó la conversión? ¿Con quién descubriste la cerveza?

En pocas palabras, ¿cómo comenzó tu pasión por la cerveza buena?

Si puedes escribir sobre una cerveza específica, mejor, para que podamos ver si hay algunas tendencias.

¡Esperamos que te apuntes!

Notas

  1. Para participar, escribe tu post el viernes 2 de mayo, y nos envía el enlace, ya sea a través de un comentario, o por correo electrónico [boakandbailey@gmail.com].
  2. The Session comenzó como una idea en “Appellation Beer”, uno de nuestros favoritos. A veces el tema trata de un tipo específico de cerveza, en otras ocasiones el tema es más general. Para los enlaces y un resumen de todos las Sesiones anteriores, sigue este enlace.

 

Beer people

session-logo-r-sm.jpgThis month’s Session topic, chosen by Stonch, is “beer people”.

We puzzled over this one a bit. We’ve met the odd brewer and some pub landlords, but that’s about it when it comes to beer people. “Most of the people we know,” we thought, “aren’t that bothered about beer.”

And that’s the market most ale breweries are working in.

People like our mate Jack are where they make the bulk of their money. Jack drinks real ale by default — it’s in his blood and, these days, a cultural prejudice of the educated middle classes. But he won’t go out of his way to try new beers. If he goes to a pub and all the real ale is off, he’ll be disappointed, shrug, and order a Guinness. He’s not bothered enough about beer to walk to another pub.

On our visit to the Oakdale Arms on Sunday, we met another character who struck us as being a typical British real ale drinker. Charlie was a very chatty, friendly bloke who wandered over to say hello. He wanted to know if we were “tickers”, having seen our type before. We denied it hotly, of course. He then told us that his big problem was that the beer he’d been drinking was off, and he didn’t like to change. “I tend to find a beer I like and stick to it,” he said. “I’m not bothered about trying new things.” But he was adamant about one thing: he was a real ale drinker through and through.

How much money can a brewery make by appealing only to ‘beer people’? Or beer geeks, if you like. Not as much as it can by appealing to people who just want a weakish, refreshing pint of ale and becoming their default choice, perhaps.

The session: organic beer

session-logo-r-sm.jpgThis month’s Session is hosted by the Beer Activist blog, and features organic beer. Chris O’Brien asks everyone to publish a post related to organic beer and even allows us to decide what counts as organic — handy, as we’ve never really understood the rules in the UK!

We have to say that we’ve been somewhat sceptical about organic beer to date. We’re reasonably open to the idea of organic food, especially as it often (although not always!) means small-scale, local production with a bit more care for the quality of the product. But we don’t always buy organic, because there are other factors that are more important to us, like food miles. This is particularly relevant for beer, because there is an extremely limited supply of organic hops in the UK, and we know that at least one brewer imports their hops from New Zealand.

organic2.jpgAnd unlike with some products, like meat and cheese, where there is generally a discernably difference in quality, we can’t say we’ve ever noticed that organic hops or malt make for a more flavoursome beer. It’s not that organic beer is bad, it’s just that it’s rarely as special as you think it ought to be. The Beer Nut summarised it really well, when he said:

“…brewers seem content with their Soil Association certificate as a selling point rather than putting the graft into the flavour”

Continue reading “The session: organic beer”

The Session: Doppelbocks

session-logo-r-sm.jpgThis month’s session is hosted by Wilson at Brewvana, one of our favourite beer blogs. Wilson says:

I want to learn about doppelbocks, and so the sky’s the limit: write about doppelbocks however you see fit. History, reviews, pairings, pictures, poetry and experiences. All of it.

This time last year, we hadn’t heard of a doppelbock and didn’t really know what a bock was. A year on, and a two week trip to Germany later, we’re still not much wiser.

You get light, amber and dark bocks (and doppelbocks). The strengths vary (the “doubleness” is relative to the other beers in a particular brewery’s range, as far as we can tell). The same goes for bitterness — sometimes, it’s all sweet chocolate, and other times there are perceptible hops. Maltiness is key, in doppelbocks doubly so — but that’s about the only unifying feature, and it’s pretty broad as to what it allows you to do. It’s not so much a style as a state of mind and a way for the brewery to say: You’re getting something really special here.

Handily, most German breweries give their doppelbocks a name ending in -ator, as homage to the original Salvator (now produced by Paulaner).

Incidentally, Salvator is about the only doppelbock easily and regularly available in London (i.e. you can get it in a couple of pubs). It amazed us the first time we had it, but we’ve since come to find it rather on the sweet side.

Onto some doppelbocks we’ve enjoyed in the past year. “Alligator” is produced by brewpub Der Koenig von Flandern, in Augsburg (Bavaria). This is a lovely pub, with two other decent brews and good food. But the Alligator stood out; it was 7.2% and reminded us of chocolate liqueur. Great name, too. It also boasts “19% Stammwuerze”. Does anyone know what this means?

We’re told (by the brewery among others) that Weltenberger Klosterbrau Asam-Bock is also a doppelbock, despite not following the naming convention. We had this a couple of times during our last trip. I remember that we loved it, and my notes say “Rich, chocolatey, treacley with a bitter aftertaste. Like an imperial stout but not as heavy. Perhaps a cross between imperial stout and Salvator. Or a chocolate orange.”

Another great doppelbock from a great brewery was “Operator” by Herrnbrau in Ingolstadt. We think this was a seasonal special, as there’s no reference to it on the website. We don’t have particularly detailed notes on this one: “dark & sweet, bit chocolatey, strong, delicious”. Don’t think we’re going to win any beer-writing awards with that review, but we definitely enjoyed it a lot. Herrnbrau produce lots of great beer, with wheatbeers that are more bitter than those of their Bavarian competitors, and a number of seasonal specials. Pity you don’t seem to see them much outside Ingolstadt.

goosinator.jpgFinally, we got a bottle of Left Hand’s “Goosinator” especially for the Session. This is a smoked doppelbock, according to the label, and is bottle conditioned. They’ve made up some half-arsed story on the back of the bottle for the origin of the name, to disguise the fact that all the best -ator puns with real words have been taken.

Well, it’s an interesting creature. Bailey loved it, and I wasn’t so convinced. It has a slightly smoky and pleasant malty aroma, then a range of flavours as you taste: a hint of chocolate, then a whopping malt kick (soggy cornflakes?), then the smoke layer and then some smoke and hop bitterness. For me, the differing flavours didn’t quite hang together, but they floated Bailey’s boat.

Notes

Links to the breweries are embedded in the article. Most of the German ones are in German only, unfortunately.

The Session: Christmas beer

session-logo-r-sm.jpgThis month’s session is hosted by the Barley Vine, and bloggers were asked in this post here to pick a seasonal beer or two.

We thought we’d bend the rules slightly and pontificate on Christmas / “winter” beers, and possibly get round to drinking one later. It’s not through lack of choice – London’s pubs are full of various seasonal offerings, and at the Pig’s Ear beer festival in Hackney I counted around 50 beers described as “Christmas Ales” from Britain and a dozen or so foreign offerings. It’s just that it’s an interesting topic in its own right: what, if anything, makes a Christmas beer?

In Britain, Christmas ales tend to be dark (but not as dark as porters) and spicy. This no doubt is related to our Christmas foods, which tend to be dark and spicy. The spices used tend to be cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — all ingredients that shout “Christmas” at you. Unfortunately, these spices are quite difficult to get right. Too much and you end up with quite astringent flavours and “the wrong kind” of bitterness; too little and you may as well have not bothered — it’s just a gimmick to make the beer sound attractive. It’s quite rare to get a beer where you can taste the spice BUT without it being overpowering — like Dorset’s Advent-ageous which we tried at the Pig’s Ear festival.

Interestingly, Christmas ales in Britain are often not that strong. While some brewers see it as an excuse to whack up the malt and therefore the strength, most seem to stick to around the 5% mark. The evidence for this comes from the programme of the Pig’s Ear Beer festival, where there are plenty on offer at under 5%. Probably a good job given the amount we drink at Christmas in this country…

Belgian brewers are not ones for being constrained by styles or rules, and this applies to Christmas beers as well. Some are light, some are dark, but from the couple we’ve had, they don’t strike us as being more spicy than usual. They do tend to be stronger than usual though — e.g. Dolle Brouwers “Stille Nacht” at 12% (a nice drop, from what we remember, but that was a while back).

How about Christmas wheat beers? We’re not experts on the German brewing scene, but it was interesting to discover last time we were there that several breweries produce winter wheatbeers. We had an excellent beer called “Schneewaltzer” from the Herrnbrau brewery in Ingolstadt, described as a “Winterweisse”. It tasted incredibly Christmassy, even though we were drinking it in April… but then it’s not that surprising, given that one of the dominant flavours of many German wheatbeers is cloves, which we Brits always associate with Christmas.

belenos.jpgBut back to the Session topic! We tried a Christmas beer from Spain: Belenos de Navidá. I spotted it in El Corte Ingles, the legendary department store where you can get everything, including decent beer. It’s 9%, made in the Asturias region by “Exclusivas Tormas”, who seem to mostly be an importer / distributor. It says “we made this beer to celebrate Christmas 2006” in strange Castillian (archaic? regional? I wouldn’t dare say). I wonder whether that means they made it around Christmas 2006, or to sell over Christmas 2006? It’s best before November 2008, at any rate.

There’s no other information on the label. Is it bottle-conditioned, top or bottom fermented? The only source of further information on the internet is a web-forum about Spanish beer, from which I’ve been able to ascertain that:

  1. you can get it on tap in Oviedo (Asturias) but not many other places, though I don’t know if that would be the same as this “Christmas” beer;
  2. there’s rumours that it’s made in Belgium and only bottled in the Asturias, although these rumours are contested; and
  3. it reminds subscribers of this forum of a Belgium triple.

It pours a nice red colour and definitely has yeast suspended in it. It does indeed taste Belgium abbey / trappist through and through — good body, toffee-apple flavour, mild zestiness and spiciness. Extremely drinkable for its 9% and quite possibly the best beer in Spain.

Not that that’s saying much.

In conclusion, possibly the only thing that links Christmas beers is that they are an opportunity for brewers across the world to try something different, to experiment with their recipes and make something special.