Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cerveza Aguila - Colombia - 21/3/2014

The low down: 
Colombia. It's not famous for beer. Apologies for the open bottle, but I got this at the local hipster joint, and apparently the alcoholics of Newtown cannot be trusted to drink the beer on premise.

The first thing I noticed was that there was no high grade cocaine in the beer, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I spent the first 5 minutes while drinking this beer being lectured on the pronunciation of the Spanish word Aguila. Aguila means eagle, and there is an eagle on the bottle! If only it tasted remotely that interesting.

Packaging: 4/10The eagle, or Aguila, is a nice touch, but the yellow hurts my eyes.
Refreshment: 6/10
A good summer beer, easy to drink quickly and does what you need in the potentially devastating jungle heat of Colombia.
Flavour 4/10
Tastes like beer, smells like summer, in both the good and sweaty bodies way.
Alcohol Content: 3/10
4%. Disappointed.
Price: 2/10
$8.50. This was at the Newtown hotel, where a VB costs $6.50. Should have had a VB.
Total: 19/50

Colombia makes a lot of great things. Coffee, scenery, cocaine, but apparently not beer. I've heard that the micro breweries are starting to power up in Colombia, let's hope we get to see some of their produce soon. Drink this with a gourmet burger, you could do worse.

Barbican lemon - U.A.E. - 21-1-2014

The low down: 
OK, this is a cheat. U.A.E is a dry country, but this was on sale in the beer section of a convenience store in Budapest, so I say it counts.

I first tried this in Malaysia, by the banks of the Malacca river, and I was instantly a fan. Considering it is priced around the soft drink mark anywhere I have found it, it's actually a pretty good supplement for coca cola or other sodas and has the benefit of being wildly exotic to my palate.

Really though, it isn't a beer. Non-alcoholic malt drink is a strange beast, and while I don't love it, I don't hate it either.

Packaging: 4/10
Arabic and unreadable, once again green and blue....
Refreshment: 9/10
It's like a coca cola add from the 80's I am the guy having an ice bucket dumped on him.
Flavour 6/10
It's subtle, but the lemony goodness is very reasonable.
Alcohol Content: 0/10
As I said, U.A.E is a dry country.
Price: 5/10
$2.40. So about the same any soda from an Australian convenience store. This was actually not cheap for Hungary though!
Total: 24/50

I can never condone alcohol free beers, but if I had to choose one, this is likely to be it. I have tried the apple, peach and raspberry, and look forward to the pineapple and pomegranate.
But let's hope I never have to make that choice. Drink this with a shot of hard spirits.

Westvleteren 12 - Belgium - 28/1/2014

The low down: 
OK, I wasn't going to review this but what sort of beer blog would it be if I didn't take on the alleged world's best, the proverbial heavyweight champion of the world of beer.

Firstly, It's not as rare as you think. I saw it in 3 countries, but Belgium was by far the cheapest price on it. I've even seen it in Australia, at $50 plus per bottle.

Is it the best in the world? Probably not, but it is an experience to drink, and it is a remarkable beer. Rich and strong, full of flavour and boozy as hell. Everything you want from a beer, West V 12 has in spades.

Packaging: 10/10
There is something elegant about the bottle, I was lucky enough that the bar in which I sampled allowed me to open and pour my own.
Refreshment: 9/10
Here is the scary thing; given the alcohol content you would think it was un-session-able. If I was a millionaire, this would be my BBQ beer.
Flavour 10/10
It's hard to compete with the Belgian Trappists for flavour as all 6 are incredible.
Alcohol Content: 10/10
10.2% and you can't even taste it.
Price: 8/10
$22.50. Given that you can only buy a carton of the 12 per weekend, this beer is the proverbial hens teeth. Yes, it is expensive, but there are 900 years of Cistercian skill and history in every bottle.
Total: 47/50

I drank this at 10 AM then backed it up with 5 full pints of Belgium's best at the behest of my significant other. There would have been no better way to start this hilarious morning, and I finished with a bucket of 100 mussels. In Brussels.

Huvila E.S.B. - Finland - 2/2/2014

The low down: 
What does extra special/strong bitter even mean? Disregard the fact that to some it's strong and to some it's special. Wikipedia provides some insight, but really it seems, special/strong is really quite subjective.

I've decided this one is special, as this beer was kind of special, not least of all because it was a magically snowy afternoon in Stockholm when I was lucky enough to stumble across it.

Beautifully bitter and floral hops, this would make for a spectacular summer beer, if Scandinavia even has summer.

Packaging: 8/10
This is a crisp design, it looks flash and modern. This score could move up or down if i was able to decipher the Finnish.
Refreshment: 8/10
Despite the hops, this would be really, really easy to session.
Flavour 8/10
Tasty. This is a great example of a bitter, special, strong, or otherwise.
Alcohol Content: 6/10
5.2% Seems higher than you would expect.
Price: 8/10
$16.00. God damn Swedish prices. I've been assured it is much cheaper in Finland and Estonia.
Total: 38/50

Finland was one of the 4 countries we skipped but had originally wanted to visit as we only had so much leave and so much money. Finland ranks highly on the next winter vacation we will take, not least of all because of the craft brewing scene. The most common meat dish in Finland is pork sausage. I can see a match.

Pripps Blå - Sweden - 1/2/2014

The low down: 
The Swedes have a recent reputation for the most sugary cider in all the land. It's strange then that their macro produced beer is sour and bitter. I drank this at the world famous Vasa museum, and while it isn't a terrible beer, you should probably save your funds for important things, like food and accommodation.

Sweden is expensive, it was the second most expensive country we visited (only beaten by Norway which was just ridiculous) so when you pay 12 dollars for what is effectively a not quite so crap Fosters, you can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow.

Packaging: 5/10
While I like the boat, someone told me that blue and green should never be seen, except with another colour in between.
Refreshment: 6/10
I was wearing full snow gear, and I was indoors. The -2 degrees out was all well and good, but you need a beer every time you set foot inside.
Flavour 5/10
Less dishwater than your average macro pale ale.
Alcohol Content: 5/10
5.2% a reasonable showing, but....
Price: 2/10
$12.00. yeah Sweden is expensive.
Total: 23/50

So in Sweden, drink mead. You occasionally find some dynamite Swedish craft brews, like Pistonhead or Monks, but the macro stuff, it's almost American and costs twice as much. Dink this with meatballs. Everything is better with meatballs.

European Wrap up 2014

The Low Down:
A meteoric update here. I recently returned from 6 weeks in Europe.

During that time I drank 135 different beers from dozens of breweries across 15 countries.

I was lucky enough to drink Westvleteren 12 in Belgium, spend 2 nights winding my way through the craft brew bars of Rome, and sit in a tiny ruin pub in Budapest drinking Mikkeller, Brewdog and Anderson Valley staples. I figured that rather than list all 135 I would list the true standout and just give them a summary score out of 50.

Černá Hora Borůvka: A Czech Blueberry Beer: 44/50
Szent András Könnye: A Hungarian Black Lager: 45/50
Bastarda Nera: An Italian Chestnut Stout: 48/50
Donker Vader: An Italian Black IPA: 45/50
Trappist Westvleteren 12: A Belgian Quadruppel: 46/50
Mikkeller Black Hole Barrel Aged Peat Whisky: A Danish Imperial Stout. 46/50

I'll write up reviews of the 4 new countries I collected as well but I need to make a quick recommendation for a bar you have to visit. Pictured to the right is Open Baladin, my new favorite bar in Europe. With 45 taps and 600 bottles, all craft, it's incredibly magical.

Whether it was Drinking steins at the Hofbrauhaus (Hitlers local), Franziskaner on a German train, Forsters in a tiny English pub, wild mead in a viking long house, or a Mack at the worlds most northern brewery, there are a million beer experiences to have in Europe. I'll be heading back next year, hopefully for 135 more.