Wednesday, January 31, 2007


At least I like to think so. I have tried (sometimes failing miserably) to participate in the virtual monthly wine tasting Wine Blogging Wednesday. Now comes the news from Stan over at Appelation Beer that he is going to start (hopefully) a monthly Beer tasting.
Here are the details: "not your father's Irish Stout". Do a tasting of any stout as long as its not Guiness, Murphy's or Beamish. Send Stan the link and/ or your tasting notes by March 2.
Easy huh!
I think this is a great idea for many reasons. It will open the door to many different beers from all over the world, many I probably have never had the opportunity to taste. Secondly I think it will bring the Beer Blogging world a bit closer, which I think is a good thing.
Check back on the 2nd of March for the results.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Schloesser Altbier

As I mentioned this past weekend, I was able to bring back an Altbier from my weekend trip to Dusseldorf. It was tonight that I decided to pop it open and give it a try. The beer weighed in at a nice 4.8%. It poured a rich copper brown, light carbonation, capped with a thick pillowy frothy white head. The nose was hoppy bitterness and copper notes. The mouth had hints of metallic flavor, brown surgar, caramel, and surprisingly low on the hop aroma. You could feel the hops, but they definitely weren't overpowering, in fact it was incredibly balanced with rich malty sweetness. Not a great beer, but a very good one.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My Trip to Dusseldorf

Three months ago, when I first said that I was coming to Cologne for work, Jay over at Hedonist Beer Jive implored me to head to Dusseldorf to taste their Altbier. This weekend I was able to do just that. Before I get in to my journey let me take a few minutes to explain Altbier.
Altbier, also called Dusseldorfer Alt since that is the primary city this particular beer is brewed in means Old, but not in the meaning of a British Stale ale, but meaning brewed in the traditional methods. While many in Germany took their dark beers and made them paler (as Cologne did to Kolsch) due to the popularity of Pilsners, Dusseldorf and the Alt brewer's stuck to their guns. Altbiers are top fermenting ales, that are then lagered for long periods of time. They have intense hop bitterness, but the hop flavor and aroma are mild. Usually full bodied, bitter, (instead of malty sweet), and range from reddish amber to a dark brown.
So back to my journey......a friend of mine took up to Dusseldorf, only an hour or so away for dinner and some Alt drinking. Since I was out, I didn't take tasting notes, but I will give my best impressions of the experience. We tasted three different Alt's: Uerige, Frankenheim, and the aformentioned Diebels. All were Von Fass or from the tap. The Uerige was tasted at the brewery and was by far my favorite. All had that nice hoppy bitterness, but surprising that the aroma and flavor was not overly hoppy, but instead elegantly well balanced between malty and hoppy, with hops winning by just a bit, creating a full bodied, refreshing beer. All were dark reddish amber, with a Start white head, and plenty of carbonation. These were beers that I would love to get to know better, so I am a little sad that I waited until the very end of my trip to try them. The good news for me was that I was able to bring a bottle of Alt back with me and plan to open it up and post my notes on it later this week.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Last of the Belgian Triplets

Over the course of the last few weeks I have cleared out my Belgian beer stash. It was a bitter sweet moment when I drank my last as I knew it was the end of a pretty good experience trying a lot of beers that I have never had, and probably won't have again, at least not until I am able to come back to Belgium. This triplet consists of an Abbey style ale, a brune, and a another Trappist Ale.
Grimburgen Tripple Abbey Beer: I have tasted aGrimburgen beer before in Belgium. This beer weighed in at a hefty 9.0% abv. It poured a honey golden yellow with a two inch head capped by a fluffy stark white head. The nose had some petrol and hop flavors with hints of citrus and honey. The mouth was tart and tangy, with notes of white raisins, brown sugar and a lot less of alcohol than I expected. The beer finishes beery smooth. Low carbonation and low effervescence, so the beer coats the mouth nicely. An above average beer.
Ciney Brune: I liked the Ciney Blonde I tried before and rather enjoyed it. The beer weighed in at 7%, and poured a nice dark chocolate, that was almost opaque, with a thin bubbling taupe head. The nose was choclatey, caramel, and raisins. Low carbonation. The mouth was smooth chocolatey, caramel and notes of raisins at the finish. Thick rich, comforting. Smooth as silk, a very nice beer.
Rochefort 8 Trappist Beer: One of the few Trappist breweries that still exist. I tried a trappist ale previously and it was great so I popped the top off this one, my last beer from my trip to Brussels eagerly. The beer weighed in at 9.2% the highest alcohol of the three. Poured a rich chocolate brown, with a thick pillowy taupe head. Nice carbonation. Loads of raisins, caramel, cocoa, roasted almonds, and molasses. Thick mouthfeel notes of chocolate, and ending in raisins, and figs. Smooth and thick, would make an awesome desert beer. The only thing that didn't make it a top notch beer was the bit of alcohol burn that showed up as the beer warmed up. Still an amazing beer, and not only my favorite of this trio, but also one of the top beers that I had from Belgium.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Fruit Beers

No, I am in no way shape or form talking about great traditional Belgian Lambics here. Nothing that elegant, instead I am talking about the decision of Michelob's announcement of their new Ultra Fruit beers. Under their line of relatively popular low Carb beers Ultra Light they have created a trio of different fruit beers: Cactus Lime, Tuscan Orange Grapefruit, and Pommegranite Raspberry, billed as Pilsners with natural fruit flavors. I am assuming they are using that term losely as its 'natural flavor' created through a chemical process instead of using actual fruit. This is as indicative as anything that the big brewers are losing ground and will do anything to get some of it back. Again instead of spending money on creating better beer, they go an do this. If you want a fruit beer, go out and get a Lambic, don't waste your hard earned money on this.

Monday, January 22, 2007

2003 S.A. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese

I love Riesling. As with many oenophiles, I find it to be the most food friendly wine there is outside of Champagne or other sparkling wines. Being in Germany has given me the opportunity to try some really great ones. As I mentioned a while back I had the opportunity to try some Alsatian versions. Tonight I tried a traditional German version.
The Wine: The wine weighed in at a surprisingly high 12.5%. It poured the color of fresh straw and smelled of apricots, honey, stone specifically granite, lime, peach and a tad bit of lychee. The mouth was more of the same with a vibrant but not bracing acidity, a bit of a tang, some tartness, and then a nice long smooth finish. A very nice wine and a good example of the sweeter version that is Spatlese. The sweetness was not overpowering, but just present underneath the acidity. I'd grade it a B+.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Quick Hits: Beer Business

A couple of notes from the world of Business, Beer Business that is. Beer has a HUGE market share in American and Global economic impact with such Business behemoths as InBev, A-B, SABMiller, so its only fair that from time to time I'll try and gather some relevant beer business news.

SABMiller profits up: SABMiller profits are up for the third quarter by an astounding 10%. Some of this is due to purchases of new breweries like the South American Bavaria brand. As the big brewers realize that their beer is not selling as well as they would like, instead of trying to create better beer, they have started a trend of buying up other import breweries or as with A-B setting up exclusive distribution deals as they have with Belgian InBev and Budvar.

Scottish and Newcastle losing their courage: British Brewing giant Scottish and Newcastle have sold their production, selling, and marketing rights of Courage Brewing to Wells and Young Brewing company. Courage produces Courage Best and Directors, not anything that I am familiar with, but I thought it was surprising since its an entity they have had for a while. They will continue to keep 17% interest, but as the article states are shifting focus onto their international brands such as Kronenburg out of Strasbourg, France.

Ukraine losing its Beer Interests: Local Ukraine beer interest are more likely to lose out to Global Beer companies than ever before after Ukraine's fourth largest brewing group Samat announced they were looking into selling. One of the groups that seem interested is of course the above mentioned SABMiller. This is a scary time for national brewing groups as more and more are being bought out by HUGE global companies. Already SUN Interbrew (owned and operated by InBev) owns 37% of Ukraine's beer pie, if SABMiller comes in and obtains the 12% pie that Samat currently owns then you have almost 50% of Ukraine's beer business owned by outside interests, which is never an ideal situation.

New Beer business sight: As I was surfing around looking for information I came across this new website all about the Beer industry with some Market Analysis. It is run by Miller Brewing Company so you can expect some obvious slant, but I'll be checking it out from time to time.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More Belgian Beers

I finished my latest trio of beers that I brought back from Brussels. It was a little sad as I only have three more left, but I guess that's appropriate as I only have a couple of more weeks here in Germany before I come back to the good ole U.S. of A. Of the three beers, one was a trappist, the other was a pretty common beer from Belgium, the other a nice Tripel.
Palm: Palm is a pretty big brewery from Belgium. Its a top fermented beer, and came packed in a bright green can. The beer weighed in at 5.2% the weakest of the three beers. IT poured a nice clear amber with a three quarters of an inch head, and little carbonation. The nose was spicey, fruity oranges, a bit of petrol and hoppy bitterness. The mouth was surprisingly mild a bit metallic with just a bit of bitterness and malty sweetness. It was just there, nothing spectacular, and OK beer, but not one that I would go out of my way to try again.
Achel Blond Beer: Achel is one of the smaller of the Trappist Breweries. Along with Chimay, Rochefort, Westmalle, Orval, and Westvleteren. It is the newest member of the Trappist community. The beer came in a bottle and weighed in at 8.0%. It poured a cloudy hazy golden yellow with a THICK Duvel like head. Hops spices, oranges, petrol, white raisins were all in abundance in the nose. The mouth was fruity, full of hoppy bite and white grape sweetness, finishing off with just a bit of alcohol burn. A very nice blond indeed.
Karmeliet Tripel: Again this was a beer at 8%, and the final fermentation took place in the bottle. The beer's ingredients included the typical wheat, hops, and yest, but also oats. The beer poured a nice bright cloudy amber with a two inch frothy pillowy head. Sweet honey, hops, orange, brown sugar, cinnamon on the nose. The mouthfeel was robust, full of brown sugar, hoppy bitterness and twang. Very strong beer but smooth at the end. Low carbonation, but some natural effervescence due to the final fermentation. I picked this as my favorite beer from this group. It was excellent.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Diebels Altbier

Altbier or 'old beer' is indigenous to Germany and specifically to the city of Dusseldorf. It gets its name, not because its an old stale beer but because of the reverent way its brewers work on keeping with the traditional methods of Rhineland brewing. Altbiers are top fermented and have copious amounts of hops.
Diebels is probably Germany's best known brewer of Altbier and is one of the few that can be found on the import market (although not in the states).
The beer: Unfortunately not from a draft but the bottle, the beer weighs in at 4.9 %. The beer pours a nice bright amber color with a bubbling frothy tan head. On the nose hops show up but nicely balanced with the sweet smell of caramel malts. The mouth is full of hops biting the tongue with toasted caramel at the finish. The beer starts with a nice harsh bite then slowly mellows leaving a long soothing caramelly aftertaste. Very nice enjoyable beer.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Beer Quick Hits

Its a lazy Monday, so instead of doing some tasting or a long post on Beer or Wine, I thought I'd give my readers a couple of newsie bits. Enjoy as you will.

Saint Arnold's News: Their sales grew by a whopping 25% in the year 2006! How awesome is that! And if your around and a home brewer (or interested in it) on the 18th of Feb, the great Charlie Papazian will be at the brewery. Check out the AHA website for more details:

If we didn't like beer enough, now news comes out that a beer from Bulgaria will increase a woman's breast size. Nope I can't make this stuff up.

And lastly amongst the news that A-B and Budvar are burying the hatchet (kinda) and are coming together in a distribution deal that gives Budvar access to A-B distributors, comes the news that A-B can not sell their flagship brand as Budweiser in Portugal.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Another Trio of Belgian Beers

Since I have a good sized stash of Belgian Beers due to my trip to Brussels during the holidays I thought that I would just continue to put a few in one post instead of doing a single post on each beer. My first trio was early last week and this will be my second go around. Two Blonds and a Gueuze.
Belle Vue Gueuze: This one was my first gueuze that I ever tried so it was something I have been looking forward to since I got back. Now in an effort of full disclosure I am not the biggest fan of Lambic's so I had a bit of trepidation when opening up this beer. The beer weighed in at a nice 5.5 %. It poured a cloudy light brown with hints of orange streaking through the body. Capped by a cream colored stable foamy head. The nose was tart, tangy, citrusy, small notes of floral hos. The mouth had an amazing effervescence, fruity, tart. It reminded me of the Smartie candies I ate as a kid, but the super tart ones, maybe with a little granny smith sour apple taffy thrown in for good measure. It was quite good actually. Not something I could have a lot with, but a good beer none the less.
Cuvee Des Troll: This beer is produced by Dubuisson, the same brewer that puts out the Bush beers (I had the Bush Noel while in Brussels that was quite good). Their website calls this beer a 'Cloudy Blonde', I'll buy that. The beer weighs in at 7%. Pours a golden yellow (but light on the cloudiness) capped by a thin very dense looking white head. The nose was full of lemon zest, yeast, fresh baked bread. The mouth was lemony, with some bananas, a big of vanilla and ended with a taste of big doughy bread. Very nice, but I would put this more of a witbier than a traditional Blonde. A thoroughly enjoyable beer.
Gordon's Finest Gold - Strong Blonde Beer: They aren't kidding! I had tried the Gordon's Xmas beer in my last posting and had enjoyed it so I opened this super large Can (yes CAN!) with some excitement. The beer weighed in at a hefty 10%. Poured a bright orange with a thick pale cream head. Sweet malts and a lot of honey in the nose. Unfortunately the mouth was all petrol, and alcohol. Really almost overpowering initially. As I drank a bit, and my tongue I think somewhat became used to the alcohol, and the beer warmed, notes of honey and caramel began to show up. I think this is a beer that had some promise but it was just too much alcohol and not enough hops or malt to hide it. Disjointing.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Berliner Kindl Pilsner

A friend of mine picked this beer up while he was visiting his folks in Berlin for Christmas. He knows I like trying any kind of new new beer and this is one of the Pilsners he likes from Berlin. The ABV was 5.1% which when comparing to American Pils is quite high. The beer poured a bright straw yellow color, clear with no haze, and an amazing amount of tiny carbonated bubbles almost like Champagne. A nice foamy, frothy white head capped off the beer. The nose was full of minerals and lime zest. The mouthfeel was light, with the taste of sweet toasted pale malts finishing with some tart and tangy notes that gave the beer a nice zip. A very nice beer.
Its drinking beers like this that irritates me that there is nothing like this in the states. Made with no adjuncts its still amazing clear and crisp, somewhat light bodied, but amazingly tastey. Why can't we make this beer in the states?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Saint Arnold's

Thats right, its Saint Arnold of Metz, one of the Patron Saints of Brewing. While considered by many as the 'Real' Patron Saint of Brewing he is actually NOT recognized as such by the Church. However he was known to extol the healthy virtues of drinking beer instead of water. His famous saying is: "From man's sweat and God's love, beer came into the world." He also gave his congregation FREE BEER! His miracles came after his death. His body was being moved from Metz where he was Bishop to the location of his first Diocese. One of the bearers was overcome by exhaustion he prayed to God for beer to slake his thirst. No sooner than the prayer had been uttered when fresh beer poured forth from Saint Arnold's Casket.
The reason that Saint Arnold's has a special place for me is that it is the namesake of Saint Arnold's Brewery in Houston, one of my favorite breweries and by far my favorite in Texas. So when I visited Brussels recently and saw this statue I had to take a picture.

A trio of Belgian Beers

As promised I began this past weekend digging into the stash of beers I brought back from my recent trip to Brussels. They were random selections based on what I felt like that day. There are two blondes and a Christmas ale mized in for good measure. All are from different brewery's and one I can actually get in the states but have never picked it up (I will in the future):
La Chouffe Belgian Blond Beer: This is the one that can be picked up in the states, I've seen it as a pretty standard selection at my neighborhood Spec's. This was a big beer both in size (750 mL) and alcohol (8%). The beer poured a deep honey golden color with an inch or so head that quickly dissipated into a thin film topping the beer. Strong hoppy notes, flowers, honey, melon, citrus and some spice filled the nose. The same flavors filled the mouth with cinnimon and coriander adding to a full mouthfeel. The flavor profile ended with some yeasty bread notes that created a smooth brew that hid most of the alcohol. Very nice beer.
Ciney Blond: My fiance tried this beer while we are in Brussels, liked it so I picked it up. It was a single small beer that weighed in at 7%. The same color of golden honey with hints of orange streaks showing through. Capped by a strong thick white head. Hops, orange peel and spice filled the nose. Same flavors in the mouth, with a bit of alcohol warmth at the end. Amazingly different from the La Chouffe, but something that I liked more.
Gordon's Xmas Ale: Ahh a sad day as this will probably be my last holiday beer of the season. Gordon's is a pretty large commercial brewer in Belgium brewing everything from traditional Beglian beers, to Sweet Scotch Ales. This one is a Strong Brown Ale and it weighed in at 8.8%. The beer poured a dark rich coffee brown with a thick foamy taupe head. Roasted sweet caramel, a bit of toffee and a hint of floral hops on the nose. The mouthfeel was thick with coffee bitterness, light on the carbonation, a bit of chocolate and toffee. Right at the end there were notes of sweet figs. I didn't feel any warmth at the end either so the beer did a great job of hiding its robustness. A very nice beer.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Book Review: Beer: The Story of the Pint

Martyn Cornel’s book, Beer: The story of the pint is not a new novel, having been published in 2003, but it’s a book that I picked up before my trip to Germany. Something that I thought would help pass the time. Its quite an amazing book, with some really strong points, and some other things about the book that drive me crazy. Its an award winning book having won Beer Writer of the year the year it was published from the Britain guild of beer writers. The synopsis of the book is tracing the history of the pint from the beginnings of beer back in the days of Mesoptania, to current day Britain with pub’s that close at 11:00 pm. It’s a pretty big task, and Cornel makes a valiant effort and goes into minute detail on the history of beer in Britain..sometimes too much and I think that’s where a lot of the fault in this book lies. For instance he gives a lot of detail on the price of every type of beer to the point that its dizzying starting from the 1500’s until today. I’m an engineer and it was very difficult to keep track of the numbers and really there wasn’t much of a purpose to it. The other issue that I had with the book, is there are a lot of points that he jumps from topic to topic with zero transition. He will be discussing the history of Whitbread in one paragraph then goes directly into the history of CAMRA with no transition, and it was a bit disconcerting, like I flipped one too many pages. My last complaint with the book was that I felt he dealt too little with CAMRA. For stating (correctly) that CAMRA is probably the greatest example of Consumer Advocate groups ever he only discusses it for 3 pages then its never brought up again.

As for what I enjoyed the details that he went into, the historical perspectives, the stories about the men that created the breweries of yore and the brief story about the men that started CAMRA. One of the best parts of the book is at the end. The author ends hi novel with a series of appendices covering a fascinating range of information. The first appendix covers some popular myths. Basically the author debunks widely reported facts as myths picking them apart piece by piece. Its quite fascinating actually. The other appendices cover beer lexicon, as much of it is British in nature I found it rather useful. All in all a good book, with some very in-depth (maybe too much so) information that is put together in a very easy to read format.

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Christmas Vaction Part II

While the first part of my vacation was Beer-centric, the second part is much heavier on the vine than the barley. My Fiance, best friend, and his wife headed down to Strassbourg France for a couple of days in the Alsace region. Great food, great wine, and great company was a fine way to spend the second part of my vaction. Between walking around the city, eating some tart flambe's and drinking Riesling, and Pinot Noir, we went on a tour of the Alsace Wine Trail. While I didn't get to stop at many wineries since it was the off season, we were able to go to 2 tastings.
The first was at Klipfel Wine Cave. Klipfel is a pretty nice winery with a wide selection of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. We were able to taste all of the above, but the highight by far was a 7 year old Grand Cru Riesling and a 5 year old late harvest Gewurztraminer. Both were absolutely amazing, with the Riesling still showing some of their characteristic sweetness, pear and apricots, but with many more notes of mineraliness and a bit of petrol. The gewurztraminer was amazing especially noting that it would be a few more years before reaching its peak of approachiblity.
The second winery we went to was a small tiny place run by an old French couple outside the town of Barr. We sat around their dining room table tasting some of their wines. While none were as complex as the best of the Klipfel's they were all amazing especially their Pinot Gris. Over the next few weeks I will be opening some of the bottles I purchased at both of those places and tasting them to make sure that I like them now as much as I did back then. For some of the late harvest ones...well those notes may take a couple of years.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Christmas Vacation

Well I am back at home (my German home that is) from a fun filled Holiday of traveling. I went to two very different places so over the next day or so I will cover both of my trips. The first was to Brussels, the home of mussels and some of the most unique beers around. I went with my fiance and had an incredible time. Our first stop in Brussels was to the Brewers guild in the Grand Place and the beer museum. Very cool and I got my picture taking with a statue of Saint Arnold's of Metz the Patron Saint of Beer and the namesake of my favorite Texas brewery. (I'll post the picture when I get them all downloaded). As we toured the city we of course stopped for a few beers. Here are my down and dirty quick notes on them:
Grimburgen Brune: Weighs in at a nice 6.5%. Draught in a 33cL glass. Reddish brown with a thin taupe colored head. Lots of lacing. Sweet malt with some light caramel flavors. In the mouth there was some good caramel, chocolate and coca. Very nice first Belgium ale.
T Kelderke House Flanders Brown: Our first dinner we went our for mussels and the restaurant made their own beer so of course I had to try it. The beer weighed in at the same 6.5% alcohol. Thin head with minimal lacing, but the beer was thick looking, cloudy and unfiltered. The nose was fruity and hoppy, citrusy even. The mouth had a nice taste of brown sugar, citrus, and a lot of bitterness rounded out by some yeasty and bready notes. Very nice.
Kasteel Blonde: Draught. Poured a nice bright gold with a giant pillowy almost cotton like head. Floral hops and a citrus nose. Notes of lime, lemon, and copious hop bitterness at the end of the taste. Very little malt balance but that was OK with this beer. It would make a great summer beer. There was some banana flavor at the finish to round out the flavor along with a bit of burning from what I believe was a good amount of alcohol.
Bush Noel: Ahh yes a Belgium Christmas ale, love it! The beer poured a deep dark chocolate brown with almost no head. Malty sweetness was abundant, loads of caramel and even a bit of chocolate notes. The same in the mouth with a nice level of hop bitterness to go along with the flavors. A great winter beer, low carbonation it sits, coating the mouth, very nice.
Gordon Scotch Ale: Weighed in at 8.6 %. This is a Belgian beer company that makes Scottish ales. A reddish Amber color with a thick tawny head. Thick malt sweetness and heavy bitterness throughout. As it warmed notes of caramel began to show up. The alcohol definitely showed through as well which was a bit of a disappointment on this otherwise very nice sweet ale.

Well that was all for my beer tasting notes. I did come home with a nice large stash of Belgian ales and over the course of the next few weeks I'll do my best to drink as many of them as I can and share the experience.