Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Latitud Cero Helles Export Lager - 2-5-17 - Ecuador

The Low Down: 
Latitude Zero; Middle of the world; I bet it gets hot there. This makes the production of exceptional lagers an effort in engineering and refrigeration. This brew comes courtesy of a project manager at my work, who recently took the trip to Ecuador exclusively to get me one of these beers*. I was terribly disappointed that it is brewed in Cuenca instead of somewhere actually on the equator but I guess it's pretty close, and it's still really warm. The beer is fruity as hell with lots of stone fruit esters which I can only attribute to the climate. Balanced hops are great in lagers, more breweries need this.

*My benefactor had legitimate real world reasons (I think).


Packaging: 8/10
I love this, from the embossing on the bottle to the colour scheme across the range, and the Spanish that I cannot read.
Refreshment: 6/10
It really is refreshing, like a tropical lager but with more stone fruit.
Flavour 8/10
Did I mention stone fruit? Because I don't feel like I mentioned it enough, it is really like a peach. I could eat a peach for hours.
Alcohol Content: 6/10
5.3% And well concealed by the grain bill and hops or maybe also the yeast esters?
Price: 9/10
$2.20 US Dollars. This is from a calculation on the website and is already a great deal. My deal was better.
Total: 37/50

Conclusion:
I liked this beer, it was more stone fruit than I have had in a lager, ever. This made it feel like much more than a simple helles. I've never been to Ecuador, but as part of my research for this article I discovered llapingachos, which are literally cheese stuffed hash browns served with satay sauce. I don't even know what life is for anymore.
Cheers



Khar Khorum Munich Dunkel - 17-8-2016 - Mongolia

The Low Down: 
First let me say the Blue Sky Tower with a Filipino cover band playing all the tracks that you love is a great place to experience the commercial beer of Mongolia. Model included for the glory of Chinggis Khan. We later visited the Chinggis Khan brewery, drank the salt tea and ate all of the trimmings and still this first night in Ulaanbaatar was hard to beat (although, horse riding across the steppe was literally like something from a movie). This beer was pretty damn good for a country I was scared would force me to survive solely on fermented horse milk.



Packaging: 7/10
Silver foil all up in there, pretty classy bottle.
Refreshment: 6/10
It will do. It's certainly better than salted milk tea
Flavour 7/10
Actually a lot. It's really grainy with a little bit of biscuit and char.
Alcohol Content: 4/10
5.3% It does feel like it could do with a touch more. It is still respectable for a commercial drop.
Price: 5/10
$6.00. I thought Mongolia would be cheaper, but this was in the roof lounge.
Total: 29/50



Conclusion:
KaraKorum was the capital of Mongolia between 1235 and 1260 when the great Khan and his horde dominated much of the known world. Khuushuur is a mince dumpling that is fricken delicious (probably my favorite Mongolian food) and is well matched to the dark Munich style of the beer. It's actually weird that they even understand hops and grain, especially since all major empires are agricultural, unless you're the Mongols
Cheers

Maxima Optima Linya "beer" - 15-8-2016 - Belarus


The Low Down: 
The screen cap above should go a fair way towards describing the difficulty I had finding this stuff. It's a screen cap from Google translate, in a supermarket in Vilnius, Lithuania, where I scanned every product for country of origin until I found this beauty. Oh what a beauty it is! The style is beer, which is hilarious in and of itself, but I can best describe it as fizzy sadness. We couldn't get guaranteed visas for Belarus, but the beer scene in Lithuania was off the hook so I'm not really that disappointed.


Packaging: 2/10
1L orange and white PET bottle with supermarket branding. It'll do.
Refreshment: 0/10
It is about as refreshing as soda water, but with a weird metallic after-taste that makes my lips and mouth and insides and eyes and emotions burn.
Flavour 0/10
A literal zero, apart from the acidic burny flavour which should be negative points if I am honest.
Alcohol Content: 4/10
5%. It's OK in 1L bottles I guess?
Price: 3/10
1 Euro for a litre, and yet that still feels over-priced.
Total: 9/50


Conclusion:
I drank this from the bottle, shirtless in a Riga hotel while my travelling buddy slept nearby. I had a hangover from drinking a bunch of Latvian craft beer and Riga Balsamic and had a flight 12 hours later to Moscow. I was later assured that this was only drunk by vagrants, university students and "confused tourists", though I'm not sure which I was being compared to. Drink this with a shot of Riga Balsamic; even the herbal medicine bomb improves this rubbish.
Cheers

Babylon Craft (and Vape Bar) - BV IPA - 30-7-2016 - Kazahkstan

Firstly, new layout. This is mainly due to the laziness setting in; maintaining the left right left structure on a default blogspot is serious business. This is more mobile friendly and easier. Now, to the beer.


The Low Down: 
For the 3 days in Almaty we visited a lot of different bars. Most of the beer is Russian export lagers, the occasional heffeweizen and the very very rare anything else. What a discovery to find Babylon Craft. This bar was great and the IPA was exceptional. They also had a kriek and a lager and a weiss beer, but the IPA was special. The weirdest thing was that it was also a vape bar. Also have you eaten chechil? It's cheese, string cheese, kind of like mozzarella that is smoked. Chechil is the best beer food that exists, and it is everywhere in Kazakhstan. As for the beer, this is all hops all the way down. it is juicy and floral and packed with flavour.



Packaging: 7/10
So there's no packaging, it's all tap, but they have a PET bottle squealer fill system where the bottle screws straight into the tap! Innovation.
Refreshment: 9/10
Outstanding. After a couple of days of stale export lager this made me weep.
Flavour 8/10
This had all the right hops in sufficiently judicial applications.
Alcohol Content: 10/10
7.5%, which is phenomenal since we hadn't seen a beer in Almaty with more than 6%.
Price: 9/10
$4.00. The Most expensive beer we bought in the whole country.
Total: 43/50


Conclusion:
I mean, Kazahkstan probably isn't on too many people's list for beer and cheese tourism, but I urge you to reconsider. With the exception of the horse meat parasite we probably picked up and carried all over Europe for the next 3 weeks it was a culinary adventure worthy of song. Drink this beer with literal buckets of Chechil. Cheese is life.
Cheers


Monday, January 11, 2016

Rocquette XC Exceptional Cider - Guernsey - 28-7-15

The Low down:
OK, OK, I know this is kind of cheating, but I couldn't find a beer brewed in Guernsey for the life of me, and as I got on the ferry to France, this was behind the bar. So in the interest of completeness I decided to give it a whirl.

Its actually quite drinkable, in an 10:30 AM on a boat bouncing around in the ocean kind of way, It tastes of caramel, apples and just a hint of something I can only think of as the flavour of Champagne.

And boy is it carbonated like Champagne, I'm pretty sure opening a bottle of this is considered an act of eco-terrorism with the amount of CO2 it releases into the atmosphere.

XC apparently stands for Exceptional Cider, but exceptional is spelled with an E. Pretty sure Guernsey is part of the U.K. which invented English, try and get it right.




Packaging: 7/10
looks good, bonus points for the Best before on the lid.
Refreshment: 7/10
Cider is by definition refreshing, unless you get that scrumpy stuff. This one is just above par.
Flavour 7/10
the brutal carbonation detracts somewhat from the enjoyment, but it still tastes pretty good.
Alcohol Content: 5/10
4.5% which is a little more than your Swedish sugar waters, and a little less than your craft ciders.
Price: 5/10
$10.00 On a boat in the middle of the English Channel seems reasonable.
Total: 31/50





Not Pictured, girlfriend asleep on chair next to me because it was still pretty much the morning. The boat flopped about in the pretty big winds but we made it to France safe, where we found a good patisserie with amazing chaussons aux pommes, because it's probably worth comparing apples to apples.
Cheers.

Liberation Liberation Ale Golden Brew Ale - Jersey - 27-7-15

The low down: 
So I thought it would be a chore to find this one, but off the plane, down to the beach for lunch and the cafe had them ready to serve.

We missed out on visiting the fort because the wind was too high, but the beer was a partial substitute. It's pretty hoppy for a Golden Ale, and I'm putting that down to the truck load of noble hops that seem to be core to the flavour.

It's citrussy without being too bitter, and kind of unique among golden ales I have tried. Mine happened to be the 70th anniversary variant, so that potentially impacts the flavour.


Packaging: 8/10
It's very Jersey, everything about it screams patriotism.
Refreshment: 7/10
It's refreshing, but I had a mouth ulcer and it was freezing after a European heat wave, so I can't comment too much.
Flavour 8/10
Quite a lot of big flavours, citrus is right there, with biscuit on the end.
Alcohol Content: 4/10
It's not a huge beer, but the body doesn't suffer for it.
Price: 6/10
$8.00 considering the difficulty of this tick, I'm taking it.
Total: 33/50


There are tasting notes all over the web for this brew, but I had it with scones, jam and cream. really a golden ale is basically a cup of tea, so why should Devonshire have all the fun? from now on a Saint Helier tea will be scones with jam, cream and a Liberation Ale.
Cheers.

Kotayk Lager - Armenia - 4-7-15

The low down: 
Armenia has been around in one form or another for a long time, near enough to 3 millennia. Their written history of brewing merely clocks in at 2 and a half.

In the 5th century BC Xenophon (no not Nick the Australian politician) wrote:

"There were stores within of wheat and barley and vegetables, and wine made from barley in great big bowls; the grains of barley malt lay floating in the beverage up to the lip of the vessel, and reeds lay in them, some longer, some shorter, without joints; when you were thirsty you must take one of these into your mouth, and suck. The beverage without admixture of water was very strong, and of a delicious flavour to certain palates, but the taste must be acquired"

So basically ancient Armenians drank beer out of straws. That's weird. I think they still live by the idiom that the taste must be acquired, because this nutty pils is a taste I could not quite acquire.




Packaging: 8/10
Very strong design, and embossing on the bottle!
Refreshment: 2/10
Not so much, it's hard to get past the mouth feel of straw.
Flavour 3/10
the yeast esters are strong, I'm wondering if it was bottle conditioned and left for too long.
Alcohol Content: 5/10
5.2% which is about right for a Pils style.
Price: 6/10
$4.00 which seems about right for the quality.
Total: 24/50








I know that I usually talk more about the beer but how good is that quote from 500BC? History is amazing. Drink this with a warm fuzzy feeling about the persistence of culture and the resilience of man.
Cheers.

St Louis Lager - Botswana - 15-4-15


The low down:
I didn't even know where Botswana was when I started this beer, I mean I assumed Africa, probably near the bottom, but I didn't have a concept of the country in my mind.

Turns out it's a land locked nation just north of South Africa, and famous for safari, and being one of the only countries in Africa to hold consistent democratic elections.

Their beer is also pretty nice, when approached from the comparative mess that is African macro brewing.

For example, did you know that there are hops in beer? apparently most African breweries don't, but they are in St Louis, you can actually taste them! It's let down a little bit because you can tell there's something other than barley, and not in the rye or wheat way.


Packaging: 4/10
Pretty ordinary can, a little shorter than I am use to.
Refreshment: 7/10
I reckon that Africa is pretty warm, everywhere. This will sort you out.
Flavour 8/10
Surprisingly flavourful for a macro African beer.
Alcohol Content: 4/10
3.5% Sessionable, but could stand to be a little bigger.
Price: 9/10
$2.00 I didn't ask as it was a gift, but the internet tells me they can be had for around this

Total: 32/50






Well It's not a Single hop IPA from the West coast of the USA, but I'd suggest it is on par with Windhoek from Namibia, which is the gold standard I measure African lagers against. Drink this with boerwors, because sausage might be the ultimate beer food.
Cheers.

Société Frigorifique et Brasserie de Tunis Celtia Pale Lager - Tunisia - 4-7-15

The low down: 
Celtia, The North African answer to VB and Carling.

Imagine you fed a skunk nothing but hops and honey malt for a year, and then let it spray all over your brewing equipment before each batch.

This is nigh on undrinkable, which really sucks given the huge resurgence of craft options in the pale lager market.

This is basically the reason people think beer tastes like crap. If I didn't know better and this was early in my beer career, I might have ended it right there.

Tunisia is 90% desert, they need good beer. Unfortunately this beer sits a solid 4/7 on their Best beers list on rate beer. Imagine what the beers below it taste like?



Packaging: 4/10
OK it's no shining tribute to design thinking. but its alright.
Refreshment: 1/10
Essentially makes you thirstier.
Flavour 2/10
Skunky Butt and a hint of what used to be biscuits or something.
Alcohol Content: 3/10
5% as expected.
Price: 5/10
$2.00 But is it worth it?
Total: 15/50




An absolute shame, because have you seen the food from Tunisia? It's incredible! full of garlic and sausage and chick peas and aromatic spices form the desert regions. Unfortunately my suggestion is to drink this with a bottle of Listerine.
Cheers.

Brasserie de Monaco Blanche 4.5° - Monaco - 4-7-15

The low down: 
Not available in bottles except at special events, but fresh as can be from the taps at the brewery. Monte Carlo is all about celebrities, Formula 1, oceanography, and excess, but it should be about beer as well.

Picture the sunniest day in history, now picture spending that day on the bay of one of the most luxurious cities on the planet, with a paddle of craft beer that hasn't moved more than 6 metres in its entire life.

The Brew is no slouch, I picked the heff to review because it was the most distinct of the paddle, but I could equally recommend the cider or the blonde. It was gone as fast as the cars that were driving over the top of me, as the brewery is kind of situated on pit lane.

Mmmmmm fresh.


Packaging: 5/10
Good glassware I  guess, and I saw the growlers which I neglected to procure.
Refreshment: 10/10
Instantly refreshing. We had come from Nice in the morning and it was 38 degrees (Celsius) by midday.
Flavour 9/10
Perfect Heff profile, with nice big banana esters while still providing a slick citrus punch.
Alcohol Content: 6/10
4.5% which is right on par.
Price: 5/10
$7.75 for a 200 which is steep, but it's Monte Carlo. Everything costs more here.
Total: 35/50


We stopped off for lunch at the brewery, where the offering is burgers, salad and not much else. The national dish is Barbagiuan, a kind of stuffed spinach roll and I can see that working, but there's nothing wrong with a tasty tasty burger.
Cheers.