Montag, 28. August 2017

Autumn is coming - more barley wine to warm you

Żywot Barley’a (Life of Barley)

Browar Maryensztadt (Poland)

Give me your barley wine and I will tell you how good you can brew. This may be a harsh statement, but I find it a kind a mastery to hide 9-12% of alcohol behind aromas and facture of the beer. Honestly, this is the level that separates the craftsman from the master.

And it is clearly visible here. The beer is 3 months after its best-to-drink date. In case of the strong beer, this promises rich taste and well balanced alcohol. Not in that case. Of course, there are some fruity aromas and malt and so on, but there is an overwhelming alcohol, hitting the nose, burning the throat. Very strong, too strong, unacceptable.

Freitag, 25. August 2017

Barley wine fight - Maldita vs Maldita/Doctor Brew

Maldita (Portugal)


             Doctor Brew (Poland)/Gonzalo Faustino                      (Maldita/Portugal)

How to you top something that is close to perfection? This could be a question Maldita had to ask them at some point. Or at least after brewing their English Barley Wine. Broadly appraised and competition winning. Certainly, one of the power horses of this Portugal brewery. It would be challenging to anybody to top it.
But, there is something special about the craft breweries – If you can’t do it better, you do it with a little help of your friends. Yes, collaboration is one of the biggest powers of craft. Craft brewers are artists and if two work together interesting things happen.
Can you imagine e.g.: American Budweiser and Becks brewing a great beer together?
But two craft brewers can.
Therefore, Maldita joined forces with Doctor Brew. Polish brewery, one of the first propagators of craft beer in Poland and pillars of the revolution.
After some effort, I could get both beers. Is one clearly better? Would I prefer one over the other?
Both candidates are a heavy weight class beers. Collaboration brew has 27.5 BLG and 12 % alc. Extract of the original English Barley Wine is a mystery, but it has 9% alc.  
Photo above is a good comparison of the two beers. Where original EBW is very low carbonated, almost flat; collaboration brew is clearly more carbonated and probably filtered on top. Good thing is that it is not too much CO2 just enough to give you overall refreshing feeling.
Original EBW points in aroma, it is much more rich and malty. Collaboration brew is still fruity and raisins. But the original is way more complex.
Taste is also quite different. The original is sweet (but not sticky), thick, dry fruits and burnt toffee. Collaboration brew is a bit lighter, and smoother to drink, but it points with small bitterness coming out after few sips. What is also interesting is a sophisticated, menthol-like refreshing effect of the collaboration brew (coming probably from Polaris hops).
Overall, I am unable to say which one I prefer. I see the collaboration brew as more easy to drink. I would certainly choose this one when trying to introduce a barley wine style to a friend. And I am sure that I could convert many pils, wine and strong alcohol lovers with that one.
Original barley wine would be my choice for winter evening, snow outside, sitting at a fireplace and reading a book. Level priceless.

Freitag, 18. August 2017

The Place and The Beer 7: Vagabund Brauerei, Berlin, Germany

Vagabund Brauerei


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

Wronin (Kraków), Poland

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 ( 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” ( 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.


Tomasz Kopyra testing Smocza Glowa from the original Stary Kraków:

Ratebeer for:



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 ( 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*


·       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.


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 (

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.