Freitag, 18. August 2017

Vagabund Brauerei, Berlin, Germany






Vagabund Brauerei

Berlin

When reading about craft beer and Berlin, I have been bombarded with a lot of self-confidence and proud. Generally, it is good. But statements like:” one could say that Berlin is a kind of a capital of Germanys craft beer revolution” make me want to laugh.
OK, they have a Stone Brewing hall opened in Berlin, and I have been there (…). Very impressive. Still, with all respect, it is not German craft beer. On contrary, based on my experience it was freaking hard to just go out and get a craft beer.

Pils? Yes.
Ale? No.

Where's the revolution
  Come on, people
  You're letting me down” (DM)

Thus, being in Berlin for a second time, I have directly headed to the best craft brewery in town – Vagabund.

Why the best? Well, high ranks on many tourist sites, articles in German beer magazines and 4 stars on Ratebeer suggest that the place is worth a look.

On top – the place is founded by Americans, who clearly haven’t had an easy life when starting to open a brewery in the land of Reinheitsgebot.

The taproom itself is a place worth a look. Located in Berlin Wedding, next to small park and beautiful church clearly is nice to see. Nice furniture with wooden tables and stylish decorations. I can imagine it to be a great place to meet for the whole family and friends. And, indeed, there we families coming during my stay.

Plus, for the atmosphere.

I have decided to take a sampler of everything they had on a tap, and then spend nice evening drinking one or two chosen ones.
The candidates were:
American Pale Ale
Double IPA
Berliner Weisse
Melon Wheat

Here is what I think:

I love American Pale Ale and Berliner Weisse. The first one is clearly very drinkable, fruity aroma, low bitterness. Good every day beer that beats most of what is sold in any German supermarket/Getränkemarkt nowadays. Also, Berliner Weisse is nice interpretation of the style, sour and aromatic. Refreshing.

I am somehow neutral about the Melon Wheat. Honestly – I simply do not like melon. Therefore, at a start I was quite negative about that one. But, since I could not detect any melon taste or aroma in it was OK. I think that it was a decent Weisse.

Where I clearly was disappointed is double IPA. Sorry guys, I do not take double/imperial version of IPA to find average beer. This level is reserved for Pale Ales. Doubles must knock me on my knees with aroma and IBU. Double must be an experience. This one isn’t. And clearly not an IPA that I expect from somebody with American roots.


Overall Vagabund Brauerei is a mixed bag of experience. Great atmosphere and ambience. Mixed experience with a beer. Still, I think that Vagabund is clearly on a positive side and worth visiting.

Mittwoch, 16. August 2017

Stary Kraków Brewery, Poland





















Exclusive view on the brewery. Not many people will be able to get the same photo...



Stary Kraków Brewery

Where:
Wronin (Kraków), Poland

Who:
Founder and Brewer: Tomasz Jabłoński. Tomek was infected with the brewing passion during his long-term stay in USA. After observing the uprising power of American craft, he has decided to implement the experience on Polish soil.

Head brewer: Andrzej Kuglin. Andrzej is an owner of the beer boutique – Huta Piwa (https://www.facebook.com/hutapiwa/) and a home brewer with more than 100 batches of experience.

Few Facts:
Browar Stary Kraków was one of the first (if not the first) Polish contract breweries ever. Original brewery was running between 2005-2007. Their original series of beers – Smocza Głowa (Dragon’s Head) have reached acclamation in Krakow area and above. Sadly, the initial brewery did not survive on the market, mostly due to a severe inability of the contractors to provide the same quality of each beer batch.
Now, almost 9 years after the initial start, Smocza Głowa is back. This time in a form of a physical nano-brewery located in Wronin close to Kraków.

Being in Kraków, I have decided to visit the brewery. Below I am sharing with you some impressions. 
As usual it is not a classic interview – it is a set of thoughts and things worth to remember.





















The brewer and a blogger...

The brewery


This may sound like a joke, but the brewery is placed in the building originally planned as a garage. At the early planning stage, Tomasz and his father have decided to build a large garage with a huge basement. This has paid off: the brewery is in the upper part, cooling unit and the lager located in a basement.

Just to make it clear – everything was adapted for a brewery need and accepted by regulatory, Polish authorities. Since the brewery is running, no cars are allowed inside.

Some could laugh, but for me it is a proof for a power of a craft. If you know what to do, you can brew almost everywhere. And make profit on top.

Currently, production is restricted to 4 tanks (500 liter each). But the brewery will increase its capacity soon. Each tank is equipped with its own cooling water jacket, allowing brewers to regulate the temperature of each tank separately. All he produced beer is being directly packed in 30 liter kegs. Bottling of the beer is planned in the future, but for now there is nothing to bottle. They are sold out.



















Andrzej at work...


                     Beers and philosophy

After 40 matches of 500 liters of beer brewed and sold, Tomasz and Andrzej still believe in on simple truth - beer must be drinkable. Stary Kraków is all about a beer accessible to the broader publicity. And so were all the beers I have tested – I have tried: Młodosci, Urocze, Amber (dry hopped version) and Kolorowe and they all had something in common – they were all beers I could drink almost every day.

Tomek always wanted to base his beer solely on Polish materials, including hops. Both brewers have joined forces and home recipes and tested all Polish hops. Even if some results were quite interesting – market demand is clear – give us American hops. Thus, the current production is mostly American-hop based.

Good news is that if you want to try their beers you don’t have to travel to Wronin. You can easily get it from tap in Kraków. Just visit the “Pierwszy Lokal na Stolarskiej po lewej stronie, idąc of Małego Rynku” (https://www.facebook.com/PierwszyLokal/). The place is famous and close in the center of the city. If you ask for Amber Ale or Dark Ale you will get the beers from Stary Kraków.


Second option is to go to Nowa Huta, the easternmost district of Kraków. Even before Stary Kraków was reopened, Andrzej was brewing a series of beers dedicated to Nowa Huta areas. This kind of a local patriotism was well taken by local community and is important to both brewers and they continue the production of Nowa Huta beers even after joining forces.



LINKS

Tomasz Kopyra testing Smocza Glowa from the original Stary Kraków:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isuPjCni-xA

Ratebeer for:

Młodosci
https://www.ratebeer.com/beer/huta-piwa-m322odo347ci/518484/


Urocze
https://www.ratebeer.com/beer/huta-piwa-urocze/478896/



Montag, 14. August 2017

Hop-infused mineral water (or lemonade) - Nachmielona vs D.I.Y.


Hop-infused mineral water D.I.Y.


After years in being in the beer-tasting, I have finally realized that I am a hop-head. It is not always about beer, it never is about alcohol, but, it almost always is about hops.
Therefore, finding that a brewery would make a mineral water that is infused with hops was one of my personal highlights of last years. Moreover, the final product was really a blast and I enjoyed it a lot. Nachmielona, from the Nepomucen brewery (https://www.facebook.com/browarnepomucen/) had just two problems – price and availability.

Imagine a bottle of mineral water at a price of 1.10-1.20 for 500 ml. This may not sound a lot for a geeky drink like that, but for comparison – 6x1.5 liter pack of mineral water costs around €2 (Polish price). With all respect to the brewers, I can hardly imagine what magical process would increase the price of water 100 times.

Availability is also a problem, even the shops I know, will always have just few bottles.
Altogether, I was a bit annoyed by the overall experience and have decided to do it myself. Trial and error method. 

And in fact, it worked.

Here is how you can do a hop infused mineral water yourself*

Materials:

·       6 pack of mineral water. I prefer to use the light carbonated ones. Taste is better and they will not explode that easily (cost €2 – Poland or €4 Belgium)
·       Funnel
·       Strainer
·       Optional: sterile gauze; cost €1-2
·       Optional: few empty PET bottles
·       Kitchen scale able to weight 2 grams
·       Small pot


I will assume that every kitchen has funnel, strainer, scale and some pots. Therefore, overall costs of the materials do not exceed €7 (Poland) or €15 (Belgium). Also, note that Belgian price includes 3x more hops.




How to do it:

1.   Open all the bottles
2. Put approx. 2g of hops in each bottle. If working with hop cones - use them as they are. If working with pellets - mash them for a better effect.



3.   Close the bottles and turn them upside down a few times



4.   Carefully open each bottle to release an excess of CO2


5.   Put bottles in a fridge (or any cool place) for 48 hours


6.  Take 20 g of hops and 600 ml water (or proportionally less) and warm them up together. Keep the temperature high but don’t cook. If you have a kitchen thermometer – keep the temp between 70-80OC. Keep it like that for 5-10 min, switch off the heating and cover the pot.



7.   Wait until it cools down

8.  Use strainer to separate hops from the extract. If you feel that there are too many hop rests in the extract – repeat the whole thing, but this time cover the strainer with the sterile gauze.



9.   Store in the fridge

 48 hours later

10.Use funnel-strainer-sterile gauze to remove the hops from  each bottle.

11. You can drink it as it is, or if you really like it bitter, you can infuse it with a hop extract prepared in the points 6-8. I usually use 10 ml of extract/1.5 liter of water.


Enjoy!


Additional comments:

Hop extract can be frozen using ice-forms of any kind. You can then hop any of your drinks on demand.
You can hop almost anything. You like hops and lemon? Use lemonade instead of water. Two things to remember – do not use anything that does contain artificial sweeteners. The overall effects are disgusting. Also, I haven’t got good effects trying to hop Fanta/Sprite or copies – probably because of the extremely high sugar content and way too heavy load of aromas – overall effect was never satisfactory.

*I am not saying that Nepomucen does it that way.



Mittwoch, 9. August 2017

Can Witbier go dry? A story of accidentally aged bottle...

Browar Kormoran (Poland)

WITBIER (accidentally aged)



Witbier, also known as a Belgian white is a traditional, Belgian beer style. Brewed from wheat and barley malt with an addition of orange peel and coriander, Witbiers are characterized by a cloudy appearance and spicy, citrus and floral aromas.
In fact, Witbiers, because of their aroma and a feeling of being an everyday beer are one of my favorite Belgian beer styles.  
So, here is the story – I was cleaning my beer basement recently and have found a forgotten bottle of Witbier. First I was devastated – that wasn’t a common Wit, that was Kormoran. This tells you nothing – well, look through the ratebeer – this is a second Witbier in the world (https://www.ratebeer.com/beerstyles/witbier/48/).

If you add that my bottle best to drink date passed in June 2016 and I have never heard of aged Witbier, I haven’t had high hopes for this one. Somehow reluctant I have decided to give it a sip, and see what will happen.

And the effects of aging are amazing. It is clearly not like any Witbier I have ever had before. From the appearance – it is still cloudy, golden colored wit. Carbonation got more moderate and sophisticated, leaving beer carbonated enough to enjoy. Spicy aromas were gone, exchanged by something that I could best explain a s a dryness. Overall effect was like drinking and excellent, semi-dry to dry sparkling wine. A bit sour and a tad little bitter at a tongue but clearly nothing that I would connect to its original style. It was possibly the best thirst quencher I have ever had.


For the ones, willing to try to repeat my experiment – my beer basement is a dry, cool place (temperatures below 18 degree Celcius) and the beer have a minimal exposition to any light. Have fun.

Freitag, 23. Juni 2017

Life is too short to drink bad beer - StFeuillien Belgian Coast IPA

StFeuillien

Belgian Coast IPA


My best guess is that this beer (or very similar) was previously brewed by a collaboration between St.Feuillien and American brewery Green Flash. My feeling is that at some point Belgians have decided that they can IPA themselves. So, they did it…wrong.

This time it is important to start from the content. Belgian Coast IPA was hopped with: Brewer’s Gold, Magnum, Fuggles, Nortern Brewer, Mosaic, Citra and Cascade.

Yes, 7 various types of hops!


On top, it was apparently dry hopped (even if it is not clear which hops were used when).  
I will try to start from the positive side – finally a bitter Belgian beer from one of the traditional breweries. A proof that even Belgian Brewing is not able to fully kill a combined power of 7 hops.

So much on the positive side. Rest is rather poor – Belgian Coast is very poor in aroma and taste. If fact, I am surprised that you can completely kill all the aromas coming from American hops. Congratulations to StFeuillien’s brewers. It is an achievement. Respect.

Btw. It is not impossible to try a good American hops aroma in the Belgian classic. Just go for Duvel Triple Hop series.

With all that said – we are coming to a cardinal crime of the Belgian Coast IPA. And whoever had this idea should be ashamed till the end of this person’s life.
They have put it in GREEN bottles.

For some precision – most of the hop-related bitterness comes from the alpha amino acids. This is proven that they are sensitive to light. The effects of UV on green bottled beers are professionally described as “light-struck”. Less friendly depicted as a SKUNK. It the “pleasant” aroma that you get when you open Beck’s beer. 
Now imagine: if UV can do the skunk in the rather light hopped Pils, what happens if you UV a heavy hopped IPA?

Within an hour from opening Belgian Coast in my garden I was visited by military, police and a local health agency. Apparently, neighbors claimed that I am producing chemical weapons here. That said, next neighbor lives at least 20 meters apart.

I strongly believe that green bottles are partially responsible for the lack of aromas. They probably just screwed the hops.
This or that way, at least the bottled version of the Belgian Coast is bad beer and you should stay away from it.

Donnerstag, 15. Juni 2017

Can a celebrity chef brew? Jamie’s Italian Libertà.


Jamie’s Italian Libertà

Lager style

Bottle from Jamie’s Italian Greenwitch UK


Jamie Oliver has a special space in my heart. We have once prepared asparagus with oranges per his recipe, and this was the first time in my life I liked asparagus.
A Point for Jamie.
However, now, thanks to my wife and friends I have learned that Jamie has become a brewer. Why not, brewing is a kind of cooking and I haven’t seen anything wrong in it.
Bit sadly, the beer is brewed by Freedom brewery in the UK, and there is no information about Jamie’s involvement in the process.
Libertà pours nice, golden with small head. Aroma is rather mildly intensive and hard to define (maybe bit of sweet and cereal). First sip and…
It is clearly sweet. Not much, but clearly sweet, possibly honey… Honey and cereal aroma, medium carbonation. Brewery obviously saved on hops and the bitterness is very hard to detect. All together this is very drinkable beer, even if clearly not a world class one.
Now for the explanation – I rarely read the label of the beer before tasting. I don’t like to be biased. It is much more interesting to smell and taste first and read the label later.
So, I read the label and relaxed a bit. The beer is indeed brewed with an addition of acacia honey. This explains a lot.
After all that I have mixed feelings.
I was hoping on Jamie doing a beer – not clear if it is there.
I was hoping for a beer that would be a bit out of the box (like Jamie’s kitchen) – this is there.

Dienstag, 13. Juni 2017

Leuven Innovation Beer Festival 2017 (Part 2)


Leuven Innovation Beer Festival 2017 (Part 2)



Festival set:

Tasting glass.
Book.
Poster.
Bracelet (Ticket)
Water and Tokens already gone...






















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Coffee Dark Lager
Brevonov Monastery Brewery (Czech Republic)


Not sure what to tell about it. Problem is that coffee has killed the beer. The effect is like you would dilute a coffee with slightly sparkling water. No matter how I try, I am not able to find any beer here. No malt, no hops, slightly carbonated watery coffee. Horrible.



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Amburana Barley Wine
Way Beer (Brazil)

Smells a bit odd, spicy, fruits and maybe anise. Taste is close to wine, bit sweet maybe honey, dry plum. Low carbonation, thick texture. Bit odd, not close to any barley wine I know but very positive. If you like original things, it is worth trying.

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TEA 'N BISCUS
Meantime (UK)

A beer brewed with a hibiscus tea addition. Bright pink, with pinky-hibiscus head. Sour, herbal and spice., very light but no watery, light body and low carbonation. Only blunt acidic finish is a bit disappointing, overall a wonderful summer beer.

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BB10
Barley (Italy)

Believed to be barley wine. Almost black with a cream-colored head. Aroma rather flat, very delicate and not appealing. Taste is the same, bit grape, bit dark malts some small chocolate hints. Overall, way too flat and not enough interesting to be a great barley wine. 

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Barrel Aged Hickory Stout
Scratch Brewing Company (USA)

That is one piece of the art here. Imperial stout aged in hickory barrels. I admit that the word hickory was new for me, therefore an info from Wikipedia:

Hickories are deciduous trees with pinnately compound leaves and large nuts…” 

So basically, a far cousin of the walnut. Another new taste to add to the top 10 list. Aroma is vanilla, bit roast, maybe caramel and a bit alcohol. Medium body and soft, delicate carbonation. Flavor is marshmallow, roast and what I believe is hickory. Incredible, spicy, a bit like the effect you obtain when adding the leaves of walnut to a meal. Amazing stuff. 


---
PIMP
Tempel Brygghus (Sweden)

Let’s go the whole hog. I am quite sure the brewers of Tepmel Brygghius had this idea in the morning, therefore they have created the PIMP. It is not an ordinary Imperial Stout. No, this one has been brewed with Kalaspuffar, muscovado sugar and molasses added through the boil.

I had 3 questions:
1. WTF is Kalaspuffar?
2. Is muscovado sugar another invention of Elon Musk??
3. Why would you add all this in your beer?

The answers are:
1. Kalaspuffar is a cereal style, popular in Sweden. Basically a honey-flavored breakfast cereal made from wheat. In UK known as Honey Monster Puffs.
2. Muscovado sugar is unrefined cane sugar. Most of it originates from Mauritius.
    Mr. Musk is free of any charges here.
3. Because we can!

Pimp is dark brown with a small brown head. Aroma and taste of chocolate malts, honey, dark bread, cocoa. Tiny sweet and malty taste. Soft mouthfeel, bitterness comes out after third fourth sip. Very delicate though not a high IBU. Overall effect kicks ass and. After finishing tis post I will probably forget the name of Kalaspuffar instantly, but PIMP will always be this beer.



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SOUR ANDRE
Brouverij de Leite (Belgium)

Smoked triple. Smoked notes, bit sour, going in the direction of filles, but a tad waterier. Not too intense, but incredibly drinkable. Bit plums, and sour fruits, maybe redcurrant. One time brew extra for the festival. Positively weird.

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Happy Hoppy Viking 
Hornbeer (Denmark)

It is good to know that also Vikings love hops. If I meet any on the way, I would try to “hop” them to make them happy.

Whatever.

The beer could be presented in any beer-brewing class as a typical West-Coast IPA. Fully loaded with American hops, bitter enough to make every beer geek happy. Grassy floral in aroma and taste. Overall, very solid example. Good to remember I you are in Denmark and have a problem with choosing a beer. This is your fail-safe option.

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Lobotomy Dextral BA Brandy
(Лоботомия Правосторонняя)

AF Brew (Russia)

As the name, Russian Imperial Stout clearly states, these beers originate in the UK. But, these were Russians who apparently loved this style, so the at the end the beer got the name. If they loved it, there is a fair chance that a Russians will know how to make a solid RIS.  AF Brew is the only Russian brewery invited to LIBF2017. Even more important for me – it is the first Russian craft brewer I met.

And the first contact is very positive, because their barrel aged RIS is just brilliant. It is the whole load of plum in the rich, thick body. Slight notes of smoking, caramel. Strong but not alcoholic. Bit bitter after third sip. And the amazing barrel-aged, tickling feeling on the tongue. Clearly landing in my personal TOP10 of the best beers ever.


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DARK HOPFLER
Weird Beard (UK)
New interpretation of classical dark beer. Jet black, huge white-beige head. Aroma slightly roasted malt, bit fruits but mostly herbal hops. Taste is the same, but hops are even more dominant an it is good. Not too bitter, very refreshing and very drinkable. Great example of a fact that craft is not only for beer geeks. A beer for everybody. 

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Experimental RBKM 1.0
Art Cervesers (Spain)

It is supposed to be experimental rice saison. Not sure what is experimental here. Rice gives the overall feeling of smoothness and makes the beer a tad more delicate, probably adding some balance to Belgian hops. Overall not too bad, but not my primary choice.
















Clearly the end of LIBF2017 for me. Interesting observation is that the vast majority of the beers I liked are dark and strong, complex creations. Worth to see how this develops.