Notes from my tasting room, May 2000
Come try more than 20 beers from 7 countries
Don De Dieu, 9.0 per cent alcohol by volume. This "gift of God", named after an historic French sailing vessel, is the latest from the inventive Unibroue, of Chambly, Quebec. The brew is a wheat beer at the strength of a Triple. It contains coriander and other "secret" spices, and is bottle-conditioned. Aromatic and fruity, with a lemony sweetness in the middle, and a gingery crispness in the finish. Appetising, complex and very drinkable.
Cameron's Cream Ale, 5.0abv: Bright, pale gold. Delicate, lemony, hop aroma. Soft, smooth, perfumy. palate. Drying, spicy, lemony hop finish. A light but flavoursome, refreshing, appetising ale, from Cameron's, of Toronto.
Cameron's Auburn Ale, 5.0abv: Full auburn color. Pours with a dense head. Hint of toffeeish malt in the nose. Smooth. Lightly toffeeish, Again, some lemony hop in the finish. Pleasant, soothing.
In Fort Collins, Colorado, the New Belgium brewery is enjoying a popular success with an attempt to re-create a type of black beer once made in Brussels. An American at New Belgium first read a casual mention of such a beer in a book in the library of Colorado State University. Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert, himself Belgian, then traced a reference to a 1554 work in Flemish, and started to work on the beer. New Belgium had already decided upon the name, 1554 Brussels-Style Black Ale, and had labels designed and printed, when an earlier reference, from 1447, was found. New Belgium's interpretation has a grist containing more than 60 per cent speciality malts. The emphasis is on malts that are dark, but not necessarily rich or luscious. The beer is lightly hopped, but quite assertively spiced. A yeast that creates some sourness is used. The beer pours with a dense, rocky, head. It has mahogany-to-black color. The aroma is malty and slightly medicinal. The palate is dry and grainy at first, rolling into a syrupy, malty, middle. There is a lot of flavor development, with pronounced notes of licorice-toffee, becoming spicy, rooty and peppery. Finally comes a very late, lingering passion-fruit acidity. The beer has an alcohol content of 5.0 per cent by volume.
A heftier variation on this product has been blended with New Belgium's abbey and cherry brews, and matured in red wine casks for periods of between one and three years. Brettanomyces and other wild yeasts have been used, and the blend has been bottle-conditioned with a red-wine culture. The idea was to create an intentionally sour effect, though not as intense as that in the famous Belgian beer Rodenbach. (New Belgium's brewer Bouckaert used to work at Rodenbach). The finished beer, called La Folie, has a dark pinkish-amber color; a sustained bead; a slightly sulfury aroma; a toffee-like start; then apple and passion-fruit notes. The label suggests that the beer be left to breathe for ten minutes. During that period, firmness and acidity seems to come to the fore. Quite sour in finish, but a beautifully balanced beer.
Church Brew Works Belgian Tripel, 9.0abv. Soft, orangey, aroma. Golden bronze color. Teasing interplay of soft maltiness, citric spiciness, alcoholic warmth, and appetising light bitterness. Full of flavor A good example Of this complex style, from an excellent brewery in a former church in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Four beers under the Casta label, from Especialidades Cerveceras, a pioneering micro-brewery in Monterrey, Mexico. Astonishingly, it makes ales, all in excess of 5.0 abv:
Dorada: A golden ale in broadly the Canadian style. Sweetish. Big body for the style. Lightly hoppy in aroma and palate, developing a sweet maltiness. Lemony, attenuated finish.
Bruna: Made with four malts and English hops. Intended as an English-style ale. Perhaps more similar to some Belgian ales. Apricot color. Spritzy, peppery, attack. Malty middle. Some complexity of flavor, but lacking structure. Falls away. Some dryness in the finish.
Morena: A Brown Ale. Attractive, deep, reddish-brown, color. Malty. Nutty. Some pruney notes. Slight maple syrup. Quite long. The best of the four.
Triguera: Filtered wheat beer. Lightly spicy. Vanilla-ish. A hint of cilantro, or am I being suggestible?
Five mainstream lagers, each from a different brewer.
Cruzcampo Premium Lager (5.0 per cent abv), from Seville: Lightly malty aroma. Firm, biscuity, malt in the palate. Firm, hoppy, dry, finish. The least carbonic of the group.
Ambar Especial (5.2), from Zaragoza: Gold, but slightly fuller shade. Hint of dark malt in aroma. Slightly syrupy palate. Firm, malty, finish, with a hint of perfumy hop. The most flavorsome of the group.
Star Alhambra Export Lager (5.4), from Granada: Flowery aroma. Smooth body. Very clean, sweetish, malty, palate. Light, rounded, dryness in finish. Delicate but pleasant.
San Miguel Premium Export Lager (5.4), from Barcelona: Fresh, lightly hoppy, aroma. Smooth, sweetish, rather carbonic.
Damm Estrella Special Pilsen (5.40, from Barcelona: Light, smooth, some malty sweetness, but rather neutral. Less characterful than I remember in past tastings.
Six mainstream lagers:
Sagres (5.1 per cent abv), from Central, of Lisbon: Dense head. Crisp, dry, clean, refreshing.
Cristal (5.2), from Uniao, of Porto: Very lively. Marginally maltier.
Imperial (5.3), from Central. Very crisp. Faintly grassy, hoppy, edge. Best head and lacework.
Super Bock (5.8), from Uniao: Smoother, sweeter, but well-balanced. Light in flavor and body for the alcohol.
Cristal Preta Dark Beer (4.2); Dark brown. Nutty, malt loaf, fresh bread.
Sagres Dark (4.3): Mahogany to dark brown. Lightly cocoa-ish, chocolate-toffee, caramel.
The Mash brewpubs in London and Manchester are now producing bottled beers at a free-standing micro called Meantime. This new brewery is in Greenwich, London. It was set up by consultant Alastair Hook, the original brewer at Mash, Freedom and elsewhere. Hook, who studied at Weihenstephan, near Munich, is one of the few British brewers to specialise in German-style lagers. His first beers at Meantime are two light-bodied but flavoursome lagers, both made with the traditional German decoction mash, and lagering periods of four to six weeks. The beers will initially be available at about 30 bars in different parts of Britain.
A product called simply Mash Beer (4.8 per cent alcohol by volume) is a golden lager closer to the German Helles style than the Dortmunder-ish version in the brewpubs. It is remarkably fresh and flowery in its hop character - in both aroma and palate. In the palate, the floweriness has a lively interplay with cookie-like maltiness. In the finish, the hop is dry and appetising. The beer is brewed from Pilsen and Munich malts, and hopped with Perle and Saaz.
A product called Tate Beer, at the same strength, is similar, but closer to the Pilsner style. It has a perfumy, fragrant, aroma; a smooth maltiness; and a clean, lemony, hop dryness, especially in its long finish. It is attenuated, dry, and very elegant. This beer will be available at the four Tate galleries in Britain. Its launch coincides with the heavily-publicised and highly-successful opening of the new Tate Modern gallery, in London. The first bottling is labelled with a painting called Ju-Jitsu (1913), by the British artist David Bomberg. This is the first in a series of labels featuring work from the museum.
Monty Python's Holy (Gr)ail, 4.7abv, from the Black Sheep Brewery. Peachy color. Earthy English hop aroma and palate; rich nutty, malt bakground; then sappy dryness in a quite bitter finish. Big flavours. Warming finish. This beer was brewed for the 30th anniversary of the TV show.
Kelpie, 4.4abv: A seaweed beer is the latest creation from the Heather Ale brewery, in Strathaven, Scotland. The new product has a mahogany color; a slightly ash-like aroma; and some sour-and-sweet seaweed notes over the fruitiness and maltiness of a Scotch Ale. The seaweed, harvested in the Western Highlands, is used in the mash tun. The idea is to replicate the flavors that might have arisen when island crofters used seaweed to renforce the soil in which they grew barley. The beer is not intended to have the medicinal, iodine-like, seaweed character of an Islay whisky like Laphroaig. Kelpie is currently available only on draft, but will soon be in the bottle. This product was developed on a smaller brewhouse at The Clockwork Beer Company, a respected pub known for experimental products (1153-55 Cathcart Rd, Glasgow). Good selection of malt whiskies, too. From Central Station, it's on the Blue Line, between Cathcart and Mount Florida.
Published: MAY 23, 2000
In: Beer Hunter Online
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