Sonntag, 15. April 2018

Leuven Innovation Beer Festival , Leuven, April 14015, 2018








Before the full story is published online, I have decided to feature few beers that a must try at the festival. And you have a chance today!














MUST HAVE
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Puhaste DEKADENTS
Double Mashem Imperial Stout with raisins and rum soaked vanilla beans
This beers is amazing. Well balanced, not to alcoholic. Perfect aroma of roasted coffee complemented with raisins and vanilla. Taste is more on rum raisin side with a delicate roasted malt. Simply stunning,







Recraft MILKOLAK ICE
Ice Distilled Milk Stout

Milkolak is the flagship beer from Recraft. Well balanced and tasty light stout. Now they present an ice distilled version. And it is amazing. Like drinking nice thick coffee with milk. Simply great.







Red Button MERCI
Gose with rye and red caviar
A novelty from Russia. Combination of smoked-sour goose with salt and fish aroma from caviar is a blast. Rye give a smoothness. Perfect summer beer.















GOOD/SOLID
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WASTED POTENTIAL
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Samstag, 24. März 2018

The Place and The Beer 10: Golden Dog Brewery/Browar Zloty Pies, Wroclaw, Poland

Browar Złoty Pies/
Golden Dog Brewery
Wita Stwosza 1-2, 
11-400 Wrocław, Poland

Visit at the Browar Złoty Pies (Polish for Golden Dog Brewery) was on my list for a long time. As some other posts, it suffered from the speed of life and tendency not to look back too much.
But I still think that it is worth taking the time.

When visiting Wroclaw for a second time, I have found that getting good craft beer next to the city center is still not obvious. Luckily there was the Złoty Pies /Golden Dog.
Located next to the market square in a renovated old house, called Under the Golden Dog, this place is a must see for all beer geeks. Looking back, I have seen many wonderful places when visiting Wroclaw, but Golden Dog is still the one I memorize very well.

First of all – I simply love this style of the interior. The combination of brick, wood and copper brew gear is astonishing and I have never had enough yet. Steampunk pure. If you are a fan, you will be amazed. You may complain that many restaurant brewers look similar. Maybe, I still love it and never have enough.

Second – the master brewer is unusual. Łukasz Szwed is a real PhD. He has obtained his titel from the Wroclaw University of Life Sciences in 2012 and specializes in brewing technologies. For the ones interested, his thesis can be found here: http://www.dbc.wroc.pl/Content/18734/Szwed_L_doktor_062_DBC.pdf?handler=pdf
If you want to study and listen to Łukasz classes, he is still teaching at: https://www.upwr.edu.pl/studia/44732/technologia_piwowarstwa_2017_2018.html

Third reason I still remember the brewery, is the beer. I was surprised to see that they not only brew typical restaurant beers – light, dark and weizen. They dared to go beyond. Btw. all beers are named according to the dog races, therefore Golden means Golden Retriever.
Pit Bull IPA – dry hopped with New Zeeland hops was. Is surprisingly good for a restaurant beer. Very aromatic and very bitter for a restaurant beer (60 IBU). Pleasant surprise and worth trying.

Boxer Lager was simply OK. I personally don’t like this style; therefore, I will just say that I haven’t noticed any major mistakes and it is very drinkable.

Setter sweet stout – another surprise. Solid, light stout. Aromatic enough to make many beer-geeks happy. Not bone breaking but quite drinkable.

But the clear highlight is their Golden Weizen. Winner of a craft beer competition in Poland, but also Gold Medal on the World Beer Awards 2016.  And the beer is very good. Looking on the rating at the Ratebeer, you tend to underestimate it. But it has an impressive aroma of bananas and cloves. Fresh, bit lemony in taste. Well balanced, fresh and drinkable. Not sure what more I would like to get from the Weizen. Just perfect.
My summary is clear – a must for anybody visiting Wrclw at any time of the year.

Freitag, 16. März 2018

Craft beer in Verona, Italy. Romeo and Juliet would drink it!


Osteria La Mandorla
Via Alberto Mario 23

Verona, Italy 37121


When traveling for business, I do not always have time to go to the best beer places suggested by my colleagues and online guides. That was exactly the case in Verona. The only brewery was at least 40 minutes away, the bottle shop was closed and the bar was far and open only in the evening.

Looks difficult.

Luckily, there somewhere I have found the Osteria La Mandorla as a destination. Very luckily. It is located maybe 2 minutes’ walk from the Arena of Verona, 3 minutes from my hotel and it is opened until late night.
The online description was encouraging – they are the wine bar, but would have 4 Italian craft beers on the tap.

Even if the description is not perfect (see below) I am still glad that it was there. Look at the photographs. It is not necessary a place where a tourist would step in, on top craft beers are very well hidden. The tap is covered by the bar. Neither the information on the microbrewery nor the tap are visible from the street. They also have a small fridge filled with various Italian and British craft beers – that one is even better hidden. If not the owner, I would never find it.

Given the overall great atmosphere and a climate of local bar I liked the place a lot, however, I would appreciate a bit of info visible from the outside.

One thing that is clear – that place won a lot of awards for Osteria (see photo).

All together – my tip for craft beer lovers visiting Verona.

Now the beer – it is important to mention that these guys own a microbrewery http://www.masoalto.com/), so 2 beers we could try – an IPA and golden ale were their own productions. This makes the place even more amazing to me.

If you need more - at the time I have visited, all guys at the bar spoke English.

Below, the beers you can get now

Maso Alto Selvatica
IPA

From the tap. Aroma is not the strongest here. Delicate tropical fruits, grass and some malt. But the valanced flavor of malt and hops with some decent bitter aftertaste beat the shit out of me. There is not too much to complain here, the whole thing is just drinkable. Just go for it!


Maso Alto Interpida
Golden Ale del Trentino


I was positively surprised ow much can bergamot and orange peel bring to the style Fresh, aromatic, earl grey like. At the same time light and multifaceted. Very good beer.

Freitag, 23. Februar 2018






Ice distilled IPA blind test.

To celebrate first 500 followers on Instagram, I have decided to finalize the first blind test ever.

Very unique beer style – Ice Distilled IPA – to keep the long story short – take a good IPA and start freezing it. Water freezes faster than alcohol. Therefore, you can separate both phases easily. The trick is to not lose too much taste of beer in the process. At least in Europe, not many breweries decide to try, but I have managed to get 3 candidates:

From Poland:
Spółdzielczy Lodołamacz (www.browarspoldzielczy.com). Ice distilled Imperial IPA. 11% of alcohol. Spółdzielczy belongs to my favorite breweries and I hope that they have done a good job here.

From the Netherlands:
Uiltje Old Enough to Drink (www.uiltjecraftbeer.com ). Scary 21% of alcohol. Considered by me one of the best IPAs I have ever had.

From Scotland
Brewdog Hop Shot (www.brewdog.com ). 22% of alcohol, West Coast IPA. I am very curious whether the godfathers of craft can redefine the ice distilled beer style.

Of course, I am aware that Lodołamacz alcohol content puts it in the different league than the other two beers, but I need to be pragmatic. Not like I can pick this kind of beers on the street.
Test is really blinded. All beers were cooled down to 14O Celsius and poured in glasses by my wife.

Let’s go



Visuals:

All three candidates are amber brown, #3 being a tad darker than the rest. #1 and #3 still try to for something like a head, #2 looks flat. There are no CO2 bubbles in none of the beers. In fact, I haven’t expected a lot.
Nose
#1 is quite positive surprise. Well preserved hops aroma – some tropical fruits, grass and citrusy notes. Resin and some alcohol.
#2 very strong alcohol aroma burning the nose, there are some leftovers of hop resin and malt, but in that case alcohol takes the most.
#3 balance of alcohol and fruity marmalade, caramel, pineapple. Alcohol is clear, but does not burn the nose like #2. Pleasant.

Taste:

#1 Peach and tropical fruits, caramel and bread. Bit sweet with a resin finish. Clear hop bitterness in the taste. Finish is bitter and a bit alcohol. Beer is full-bodied, sticky on the tongue but acceptable.
#2 As already suggested by the aroma, something went wrong here. Heavy alcohol is hard to beat. Some little notes of sweet malt and bread. Very thick on the tongue, no carbonation. Interestingly this one is very, very bitter. To tell you the truth – it is the only thing I like about it.
#3 Very well balanced tropical fruits, marmalade sweetness, floral aromas and alcohol. Bitter. Body is thick but not sticky, some carbonation is left. Overall looks like it is very balanced and alcohol is complemented by other assets.

Summary 1:

Before seeing the bottles
#1 is probably the Lodołamacz (Polish word for Icebreaker). Mostly because of clearly different alc. Content than #2 and #3. If I am right this also proves what I have said before – the process is the key, and the longer you distill, the more you may lose. #1 that one is more on the beer side, whereas #2 and 3 are on the side of degustation alcohols already.
#2 and #3. I hated #2 for its heavy alcohol, #3 for me is excellent drink. Heavy but perfectly balanced. Unless Het Uiltje screwed this lot, #2 is Brewdog and #3 is Het Uiltje.



Summary 2:

100% match.  

Comment – I am not saying who is the winner. I am saying who is the looser. In that case it is Brewdog. 1% alcohol difference between Hop Shot and Old Enough to Drink does not explain why Brewdog’s beer is so heavy of alcohol and simply distasteful.

Old Enough to Drink proves once again to be a world class beer. Heavy in alcohol, but still beer. Excellent.

Lodołamacz is simply very good beer. However, to compare it to Old Enough to Drink it would require additional double concentration.

Final notes on the bottles and availability.

Lodołamacz is impossible to get. You need to know people, who know people and a lot of begging is included (many thanks to www.ebrowarium.pl). This has a lot of to do with the costs of production and the policy of the brewery who likes to produce an exclusive beer from time to time.

Brewdog was (and still may be) available in many beer shops and Brewdog’s brewbars all around the Europe.

Het Uiltje was freely available over the internet and in various shops in Europe. Even in Poland.
Kudos goes to Het Uiltje, for making an excellent beer, and making it AVAILABLE to literally everybody who wants to try it. Everybody else – look and learn.

Now the bottle – here the situation is different. Brewdog sells the beer is shot, 150 ml bottles. Size fits the taste. Anyway, I couldn’t swallow more of this thing.
Het Uiltje, sells their beer in a classical bottle, with cartoon label. Nothing here suggests exclusivity. That’s a pity, because I would like to keep some of this beers for presents and they just lack the appearance.
Lodołamacz looks like the exclusive beer. Look at the label. It is not paper, it is fabric. Picture and letters are embroidered with a silver thread. Now this is something I could give to somebody.

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Mittwoch, 14. Februar 2018

Lithuanian craft beer weekend in Brussels, Dynamo - Bar de Soif, Brussels, Belgium

Lithuanian craft beer weekend in Brussels: 26 beers on Tap

February 9-11, 2018

Dynamo – Bar de Soif, Brussels

This was very difficult weekend for me as a beer lover. Not so often I have to choose between 3 events in the same evening. But a possibility of trying a craft beer from Lithuania was the most interesting one. First, because I have never had a Lithuanian craft beer before. Second, because just few days ago a colleague of mine (@gobeertrippin) have recommended Lithuanian IPA on a DM group.

For the introduction – event was organized by the Lithuanian community in Brussels. Based on what I have found there are currently around 3000 Lithuanians living in Belgium (half in Brussels). Interestingly, the story of the Lithuanian craft beer is very similar to Polish one. Both countries have a history of brewing. In both countries vodka was more prevalent in the communist times and bot lands have a gradual turn in the direction of beer. Good beer.

A place to beer was Dynamo bar, that is a place to craft beer in Saint-Gilles. They have already hosted Estonian and Scottish craft beer events and are constantly providing a solid selection of beers on tap and in bottles.







Lithuania was represented by 4 breweries:

  • Sakiškių alus (sakuskiualus.lt) @sakiskiugerimai
  • Braworas Apynys (apynysbrewing.lt) @braworasapynys
  • Kuro aparatūra (facebook.com/kabrews)
  • Dundulis (dundulis.lt) @dundulisbeer








If you consider 26 beers to try, you can imagine that the fact of not having a degustation size was really annoying. I could test only limited number of beers.

On plus was the price. 4.5/quite exotic beer is very fair.

On top, Lithuanian snacks, nice people and full house.

Now, it is beer time


Sakiškių alus Bloody Mary Gose

 

For what it was supposed to be it was disappointing. Delicately smoked gose with medium carbonation and light body. I don’t know where the Bloody Mary part went. 







Kuro Aparatura Ovejenias 
Caribbean Dubbel
Hazy brown with small head. Delicate aroma of Belgian yeast and malt. Taste is very classical malty dubbel, bit creamy. Not bad, but rather average. Two people tried and non-have realized why this is called Caribbean. There is no hint on any exotic addition in it. 






Sakiškių alus – Gin Tonic IPA


This was for me the best beer of the evening. Amazing combination of gin tonic aroma with juniper bitterness. Taste is spicy, orange and juniper. Overall effect like unique and deserves appraisal. Don’t mind people giving it low rating on Ratebeer. This is awesome beer. Kudos to the brewer.





Apynys – Mango Milkshake IPA


Milkshake IPA of world class. Aromas of exotic fruits, mostly pineapple and grapefruit. Pine on top. Delicate carbonation and amazing smoothness. Flavor is milky, exotic fruits and delicate bitterness. Not getting more bitter during drinking. Drinkable to the limit. Great beer.






Dundulis – Juodaragis 
Gruit ale


I have a very direct comparison with Belgian interpretation of gruit (https://beerlander.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-place-and-beer-9-gentse-gruut.html). And I like Lithuanian version more. Rich, thick dark ale. Must have something to do with kvass or bread addition. Taste is heavily herbal, bitter in aftertaste. Very original and very interesting.






Dundulis – Devyniaragis
Braggot

First non-polish braggot I have ever tried. Lithuanian interpretation is clearly on the “dry” side. Bit peppery, very dry honey, more in aroma than in taste. Almost not sweet at all. Nice malt finish and average carbonation. On plus side it is great balanced - 9% of alcohol are not detectable at all.





Taken together - great evening in a good company!

Finally - question to any Lithuanian that reads this - where in Brussels I can get some of this beers? Maybe more (Green monster IPA?)

Donnerstag, 8. Februar 2018

The Place and The Beer 9: Gentse Gruut Stadtsbrouwerij, Gent, Belgium



Stadsbrouwerij Gruut

Steendam 31, 9000 Gen

Not sure if you are aware but hops were not the only herbal addition given to beers. And I don’t mean current craft bee move, that make brewers to add every piece of flower/vegetable they can find on the local market.

And the name was Gruit/Gruyt/Gruut – depending on the region. The term was used on the territories of current Belgium, Netherlands and some parts of Germany and described herbal mixture used for spicing and bittering.

Before it was known as Gruut, the herbal-beer-addon exists under the name materia cervisiae. The name pops up first in Germany. Kaiser Otto II granted the rights to sell Gruut to the Church of Liège in the year 974. The name Gruut was first noted in the year 999, same Kaiser have granted similar rights to the church in Utrecht. Even if hops were making its way through the brewing scene of the middle age Europe, Gruut was popular in some regions till XIII century. There were monopolists selling and producing Gruut and they were less than happy to see hops coming. Also, past brewers had to pay taxes based on the content of Gruut in the beer (today it is based on alcohol content). Thus, many local governments that got good money from Gruut were not happy. This led to some trade wars and sometimes almost anecdotal situations

One of such stories is the story of Gent in Belgium. The city is divided by the river Leie in two parts, at some point of the history the right bank was ruled by Flemish and the left bank by French-speaking communities. Flemish brew with hops, whereas French brewed with Gruut. Full exclusivity apparently. At the end, hops became prevalent in the brewing, mostly because of their antibacterial and preserving abilities (and they were cheaper), but even today, the only brewery still using Gruut indicates on its labels: “brewed on the left side”.

Back to the Gruut – it is difficult to say what was exactly inside – based on the historical records people tend to believe that it was based on sweet gale, mugwort, yarrow and ground ivy. With a possible addition of spices including juniper or ginger (see Wikipedia for a complete list of possibilities). Very likely, there were multiple combinations and addition possible. What also is clear that each brew master would have its own secret recipe.

Now let’s go back to the left side of Gent and the one and only Gentse Gruut Stadtsbrouverij. Brewery doing beer only with Gruut. I went there last weekend, during Lichtfestival Gents  just to see what does the Gruut-beer taste like. There was too late for the brewery tour, but I may be back in summer. Still some photos of the taproom and tanks.




At the moment, they sell 5 beers on the regular basis. I have managed to taste the blonde and two were the take home message from this trip. 

Honestly – blonde was my first choice to taste. As stated here many times – blondes are almost as low aromatic as lagers. When usually it is a problem – this time it is an advantage. In blonde, you have a chance to get all the aroma of Gruut. And I was not disappointed – bit sweet, with a note of nutmeg, very herbal, but not in a citrus hop way, rather like one of your herbal teas. Bit in the direction of nettle. On top some herbal bitterness and not too heavy yeast. Very positive and a must try for every beer lover.