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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Brasserie de Bourbon Blanche - Réunion - 30-06-15

The low down: 
So I'm pretty sure this beer is named for the Queen of Castille, Blanche of Bourbon. Castille was a nation state in the 13th and 14th century where most of Spain is today, and very far from Reunion, which is in the Indian ocean.

Castille went extinct, like the dodo on the bottle, before any people existed on Reunion.

Fun fact: There were no Dodos on Reunion but there was something called the Reunion Ibis. The French probably ate them all because 1. The French will eat anything, and 2. Ibis are allegedly delicious. Unlike this beer.

It's a wit beer without any substance, and only the scarcest hint of citrus or other fruit. Blanche of Bourbon was allegedly crossbowed through the neck by order of her husband Peter the Cruel which was probably only marginally less pleasant than this beer.

Packaging: 1/10
What even. Stubbie, blue, wrong bird, says Bourbon yet isn't Bourbon.
Refreshment: 2/10
It was one of the hottest summers on record in Paris, and this didn't help at all.
Flavour 2/10
Wit's are usually a safe bet when doing this challenge. Now that's all been thrown out the window.
Alcohol Content: 4/10
5% which is acceptable.
Price: 5/10
$5.50 Cheap considering the distance it traveled, but still upsetting given the quality.
Total: 14/50

I mean it has to be ibis right? Since they are now extinct and you will struggle to find one. I think the only logical choice is Tapas. Then you can have a little plate of food and take a sip, realise the beer you have is insipid, and take another little plate of food.

Cervesa Alpha Sant Corneli D'Ordino IPA - Andorra - 7-8-15

The low down: 

Getting to Andorra without a car was a chore, but it was worth it for the beer. I should explain; my girlfriend had ruined her feet a few days before, and I was at the onset of the worst stomach bug of my life. Despite this we went on a 3 countries in 1 day bus tour that I can only imagine would have been incredible under any other conditions.

The beer is delightful. I drank it after we returned to Australia and it has a great hop profile and solid malt backbone. A very good beer and more true to the English Style of IPA.

The beer is packed with big piney notes that indeed remind me of the forests of the Pyrenees.

Packaging: 7/10

Label was a little loose but the design is slick, encroaching on the new BrewDog range.
Refreshment: 8/10
In the way that only a resinous big aroma IPA can be.
Flavour 8/10
By no means a wold class IPA it can still hold its own.
Alcohol Content: 8/10
6.4% which is the only place this beer matches its U.S. west coast buddies.
Price: 8/10
$3.00 Did I mention there is no tax in Andorra, NONE, on ANYTHING!
Total: 39/50

In Andorra we ate pizza but I was so unwell that I probably didn't get any nutrients out of it. If I was to rematch this beer it would absolutely be a steak. Pub lunches all the way down.

Biere Lorraine Blonde - Martinique - 7-8-15

The low down: 
The next 2 posts will be single image affairs, as I lost my phone and was only able to recover the untapped images.

Now that the first disclaimer is out of the way here's the second "brewed under license by Heineken". Beer lovers the world over know that phrase well, and treat it with universal dismay.

This is with good reason, as the beer tastes kind of like a milder version of carbonated water. If you took what little flavour the minerals imparted to the water, and removed it. It is the absence of flavour. but I guess that makes it supremely smashable!

I know next to nothing about Martinique, and even the internet seems to write it off as that place where Napoleon went that one time.

Packaging: 6/10
Big Bold red and white flag on the 440ml can. points deducted for font madness.
Refreshment: 8/10
It's essentially spring water with bubbles.
Flavour 1/10
If there is one, my palette has trouble discerning it.
Alcohol Content: 5/10
5% is respectable, as there is no hint that it's there.
Price: 6/10
$4.50, cheap for an import in Paris where I picked it up.
Total: 26/50

How to even try and wrap this up? This is essentially the sneaky ninja of the beer world. If you told me it was soft drink, I would believe you, and I would consider it a terrible terrible soft drink. I think it's best served on a boat, in the heat, on the way to an exile on an island.