Categories
homebrewing

How good are your tastebuds?

Hops
A hop flower (from Wikimedia Commons, photographed by LuckyStar).

Can you drink a beer and guess which hops are in it?

We are the first to admit that we are still learning our way around beer. One thing we’ve been working on is our ability to spot varieties of hops in beer — useful when you want to brew your own version of a particular beer, or borrow some element of its flavour or aroma. Or when you want to show off to other beer geeks.

So far, we’ve got the basic stuff sorted.

  • Citrusy American hops are easy to spot.
  • Goldings often make a beer smell of oranges.

But that’s about it as far as our own senses go.  We usually have to resort tog to scouring the internet for expert analysis and comments from loose-lipped brewers.

If you’ve got super tastebuds and or a super nose, were you born that way? Or did you train yourself? Any tips would be much appreciated…

Categories
Germany The Session

The Session #19 – German beer

The cap from a bottle of Rothaus Tanen Zapfle
The cap from a bottle of Rothaus Tannen-Zaepfle beer

This month’s Session has been set by Lootcorp 3.0 and is on the subject of German beer.

…the goal is to dig a little deeper and write about how German beers and beer culture have worked their way into your life (and hearts)…

We’ve already blogged about this — our conversion to good beer took place in Germany, so it’s a pretty key part of our beer-drinking lives. We try to go there at least once a year, and I’ve even started learning German so I can have all those fascinating conversations with Franconian brewers about their mashing schedules.

It’s a bit easier to get a regular dose of German beer culture in London, now that Zeitgeist has opened up. So to celebrate this month’s session, so we popped along there.

Zeitgeist is aimed at homesick Germans, so the beer list reflects what Germans actually drink. Therefore most of what’s on offer is the usual mass-produced, nationally available lagers — Bitburger, Warsteiner, Koenig Pils etc. In a shrewd move, reflecting the tendency of Germans to boast about their local beer, they also offer a number of big “regionals” – eg Gaffel Koelsch (on tap), Schloesser Alt and Tannen-Zaepfle, by the Baden-Wuerttenberg state-owned brewery.

Last night, we had a little virtual tour round Germany. We started in the former DDR, with Wernesgruener, before moving to the far north-east west for some Jever (seriously cheesy website, BTW). I don’t think we’ve actually blogged about this before, which is surprising, given how much we drink it. There’s just something about its bitter kick that makes us come back for more. Tastes a bit like hay, in a good way.

Gaffel Koelsch went down well. While it’s not our favourite koelsch, we prefer drinking this one fresh out of the barrel than drinking a tired bottle of a better one. It’s always refreshing, and drinking it next to Wernesgruener and Jever brings out the malty, fruity flavours.

Then down to Baden-Wuerttenburg, where we sampled Eichbaum and Rothaus Tannen-Zaepfle. The Eichbaum was pretty dull (too much hopfenekstrakt and no hops?) and the TZ was OK. When we were on holiday in Heidelberg, we drank it there and noted that it’s a lot fruitier than other pils. It’s drinkable enough, but really not terribly exciting, unless you’re from the area and feeling homesick.

Finally, into Bavaria for Schlenkerla Maerzen. Mmmmm. Frazzles and fruit. Does it for me every time.

Boak

Categories
beer reviews

Boozy birthday

The Brugse Zot jester clown gremlin thing grimaces from a beer glass
The Brugse Zot jester clown gremlin thing grimaces from a beer glass

It was my birthday recently and naturally I celebrated by consuming a lot of very nice beer at various venues, with various people. We didn’t take detailed tasting notes but here are some summarised thoughts:

  • Westmalle Triple is my current favourite trappist beer. I like the way it combines the interesting “horseblankety-ness” of something like Orval with a beautiful rounded malt sweetness and fruitness.
  • Or maybe Rochefort 10 is my favourite? Gloopy chocolate in a goblet.
  • Brugs Zot Bruin (currently on tap in the Dove) impressed with its heavy body and fruity flavour. And at 7.4% it’s a lot lighter than its impact might suggest.
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine doesn’t age that well, or perhaps we didn’t age it well. We’ve enjoyed it in the past, but we drank a bottle that’s been in the “cellar” for nine months, and the hops were just way too overpowering. Where did the malt go?
  • Similarly, an aged bottle of Cantillon Gueuze didn’t live up to expectations. We bought it this time last year when we visited the brewery, where we sampled the Gueuze and found it fabulous. It was nice enough, but just not as special as you want from something that’s come out of a dusty old corked bottle.
  • Crouch Vale Brewers Gold really is a wonderful drop. If we hadn’t excluded cask-conditioned beer from the selection, it would have been right in there in our beer tasting for beginners.
  • Estrella Damm is still our favourite mainstream Spanish lager, because you can actually taste the malt and hops. Estrella de Galicia is still too sweet for me (sorry, Chela).

Boak

Categories
bottled beer La Ronda

A virtual tasting for beer-beginners

Versión en español

Delirium, over at “De Cervezas y otras cosas”, has set a very interesting topic for this month’s “round” (the Session for Spanish-speaking beer-bloggers). It was so thought-provoking that we thought we’d post it in English as well.

The challenge was to come up with a “virtual” tasting session aimed at people who are not beer lovers. We had to pick between five and eight beers that we would put forward, avoiding obscure microbreweries, and explain why we’d selected them.

We like to beervangelise from time to time, so it’s a question we’ve thought about a lot in the past. After much pondering, we finally came up with some definite proposals, which we put forward here.

Categories
beer reviews

Hogs Back brewery — some of it our cup of T.E.A

Various Hogsback Brewery beers
Various Hogsback Brewery beers

Lots of people seem to rate T.E.A. (Traditional English Ale) by the Hogs Back* brewery. We’ve had it on a number of occasions (on cask and in bottle) and never really liked it. There’s just something a bit acrid about it. So we’ve never made much of a point about seeking their stuff out.

However, the other night we were in Stonch‘s pub, and he got out some of their OTT, a 6% old ale. As he says in his post, it had a “surprisingly sour, funky character”, tasting almost like an Oud Bruin. It worked extremely well and was very tasty, but we did wonder whether it was supposed to taste like that.

We’ve just drunk a bottle we’ve had stashed away for a while, and it’s a very different beer. There are elements of a dark Belgian beer like Ciney Brune in the nose and mouth. I suppose there’s a hint of sourness right at the end, but you would not call this a sour beer. It’s much more fruity. It’s very pleasant. I don’t know which I prefer — this version, or the potentially “off” bottle we had the other night!

Anyway, this made us keen to try the rest of the Hogs Back stash we’d accumulated over the years. Burma Star Ale is 4.2%, and a percentage of the revenue goes to the Burma Star Association. It’s a well-rounded, red ale, with spicy, fruity aroma. An almost creamy maltiness gives way to a nutty, dry finish. Nice.

Then came Wobble in a Bottle, which packs a powerful punch at 7.5%. It didn’t look all that great — the head vanished almost instantly — but this tasted like a good Belgian abbey brew. Similar sugary-fruity-chewiness. I really enjoyed this one.

Finally, we had to try T.E.A. again. I would love to say that the conversion process was complete, but it still didn’t work for us. But it made wonderful beer-rye bread.

Boak

*And there’s another lack of apostrophe to wind the Beer Nut up.