Dienstag, 30. Januar 2018

Meet the brewer: TOTEM, hosted by Fermenthings, Brussels 27 Jan 2018


I very often complain about the lack of novelty in Belgian beer. Yes, there is a tradition and respect of the wide word. Yes, Belgians brew great traditional Belgian beer styles like sour.
However, when you look on development of the beer in the world in the last 5 years and compare it to the local Belgian situation, you realize that most of the Belgians did not know that there is some craft beer revolution going on.
I encounter almost weekly local beer lovers who Believe that Belgian beer is the best. The problem starts when I start to ask questions:
Why do you think it is the best?
How do you define the best – taste, quality?
This usually is over for a discussion, since they have no idea. If you insist you find out that they always drink a blonde brewed by the local brewery and may have tried a few other from the local supermarket. IPA – I have tried one and don’t like it. Which one did you have? Leffe…
No wonder, Leffe IPA is one of the worst beers I have ever had and by blind tasting I would never say its IPA.
One important thing to say – there is a significant difference between the south and the north of Belgium. South of Belgium is even more conservative what I have described above. North is way more open. Most of interesting Belgian beers in the last years came from Brussels or north of it. Best beer festivals are in the north.
There are some signs that the situation is changing also in the south. great Beer Market in La Louviere (www.beer-market.be) is building a local community around its variety of beer styles from different countries. I have recently tested a Barley Wine from the brewery in the south. Maybe, one-day Belgium will again be a beer country I have hoped for.
One more thing to add, the situation is not just a Belgian problem. It is a problem of many strong beer cultures. Germany, Czech Republic – those two countries suffer from the same problem. And I know what am I saying – I have lived in Germany for 16 years.

So far for the introduction.


I have met Totem almost exactly a year ago at the Brugges festival. All their beers were named with Aztec gods. Seeing the description of their brews I have red few obvious facts:
Sadly, during the whole year I have not really managed to get my hands on any more Totem beers. Totem simply does not have any distributors in the south of Belgium.
Recently in December, at Fermenthings I have spotted some Totem beers, this time named by the Viking gods and heroes. Used to be Aztecs. Intriguing.

Therefore, when I have heard that Totem is coming for a brewer evening at Fermenthings – there was no option. I just had to go. And with a support of the whole family I have managed. This was worth it – the pair running the brewery are fun and interesting to talk. Here is what I have learned.

  • They agree with my view on Belgian beer. Most people drink strong, alcohol boosted Triples.
  • Most of the innovation in European beer in the recent years comes from Poland and UK
  • Totem beer is brewed for fun. So far Totem have never brewed the same beer twice. And they have the freedom to do whatever they want and do not need to fit into the expectations of the everyday, boring market.
  • They are playful. In the first-year names were taken from Aztec gods, Recent wave is Vikings. Coming beers will be Chinese.
  • And finally, a blast. For now, Totem was an unusual contract brewer – why unusual? Because they have found a contract brewery that have let them go inside and really brew their beer. Nevertheless, Totem is opening the first physical brewery this year. They have a building and the gear is coming in few weeks. Wish you good luck guys!

Now to the beer! 
Sorted from the weakest one to the best!

everyday IPA

We start the evening with an everyday IPA. Huldra in the Norse Mythology was a seductive forest spirit. Is the beer from Totem seductive as well? With its 2.7% alcohol it clearly fits in the low alc market that its recently booming. Also, I could imagine that this is a beer for mass events - concerts, football games. It still keeps all the characteristics of the IPA with some bitterness and tropical fruit aromas, but I have the feeling that the low alcohol came with a price of generally diluting the aroma and taste. I my opinion 1:100 IPA from Kormoran did it better.

(collaboration with Tempel Brygghus)
hoppy sour

This time a sour beer. Very interesting from me, because it was brewed extra for brewed extra for Billies craft beer festival that I couldn’t attend. St Billie represents the dry sour kind that I do not enjoy too much. It is hoppy I admit, but it is mostly dry. Not everybody’s case. 
azacca double IPA

Hrmir (also known as Hrimnir) is a giant from the famous Volsunga saga of the Norse Mythology. And this IPA has gigantic potential as well. Almost a modern classic. Traditional, American IPA. Peachy and tangerine citrus aromas nicely complemented with pine notes. Good bitterness. Cloudy look and modest carbonation. One of the cases where beer smells and tastes awesome. Very good beer.

(collaboration with Pontus and CraftBeerShirts)
Red Stout

Red Stout? WTF. How do you do a red stout. The answer was simple – do a white stout and add beetroot juice. The effects are more than interesting. You know that the beer is red. With rather light body and medium carbonation. However, your nose and taste tells you that this is a real stout, with coffee, chocolate and smoked aromas. Very good one.

beechwood smoked stout

Fafnir was a son of dwarf king, affected by the curse and turned in the dragon. Slain at the end of the story. Still, I had some problem with connecting the name to the beer this time. The best I could come with is that dragons are fire animals and Fafnir is smoked stout. Anyway, that beer is amazing, black, thick, oily in consistence. Low carbonation. Nose is mocha and umami. Taste is light smoked, aromas of wood, chocolate and coffee. World class beer.

Palo Santo wild ale

This beer was brewed extra for this evening. And it is amazing. Combination of wild ale and strong aromas of Palo Santo wood gave it really unique character. For the ones that has never heard the name before – Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens), also called a holly wood, is very often used in all kinds of scents, incenses, sticks and oils. There is a good chance you have already tested the smell, if your partner is interested in this kind of things. In case of beer Palo Santo gave pine and citrus aroma and strong vanilla flavor. The whole thing was so well balanced, that I considered a beer an IPA and a great one. Obviously not the first time that Totem brews out of the convention and they are good at it. Another World Class Beer.

Freitag, 26. Januar 2018

Barrel aging of home-made Porter

if you want to do it, try to be original...

Recently, I have brewed a porter. After finishing primary fermentation, I have released that it turned out to be very good.

And then, I had an Idea.
Barrel Age it!

Brilliant idea, with one constrain. The only wooden barrel at home was the rain water tank outside. Wrong choice, unless you want to do lambic…

OK, barrel age it for the poor. 
Oak chips from the local beer maniacs supplier.
First: short boil in the water and dried in the oven. I am quite sure that they are rather sterile now. But they are boring...

If I can do it, everybody can do it.
Life is too short to drink boring beer…
And then I had the idea. Recently, a friend on mine have gave me this aromatic alcohol his uncle is preparing at home. It is self-made Grape Juice/ aguardente /sugar mixture. Fermented and bottled. Amazing stuff, smells with sherry and grapes. Rather sweet. Probably 20% alc. And they call it Abafado!
Yes, aguardente.
And yes, I have never heard the name before. Its as Portuguese as my friend. The name defines a type of strong alcoholic beverage that can be distilled from wine or pomace. You may have stumbled upon it, as it is used to fortify port wines sometimes.
I spend an hour trying to imagine the aromas and notes from adding this to the oak aromas. My mouth watered, like Niagara Falls…
Yep that’s it. So, half of the chips was kept as they were, half was soaked in the amazing thing for a week.
At the end I expect to have 3 beers – original porter, barrel aged and barrel aged in the amazing stuff barrels. Hope that they all kick ass.

Samstag, 20. Januar 2018

Baltic Porter Day 2018 Day 0 - Imperator Baltycki - regular vs barrel aged

Imperator Bałtycki
Imperator Bałtycki Sherry 
Oloroso Barrel
Pinta Poland

Even if I really love Imperium Prunum, Imperator Bałtycki has one big advantage. First of all, it is almost as good as Imperium (ratebeer rank 3 and 4), but most importantly you can buy it almost any time you want.
Pitch black, aromatic, hopped with American hops. Very solid coffee, smoked note and thick rich texture. It is rare to get so much for your money.

Sherry Oloroso Barrel gave Imperator additional liquor and praline notes. Nice vanilla finish and very, very low carbonation. Clearly +1 to respect.

Freitag, 19. Januar 2018

Baltic Porter Day 2018 Day -1 - Imperium Prunum

Today a beer that is a legend.

Imperium Prunum from Kormoran Brewery

Imperial Baltic Porter aged with a specific dried plum with a smoky aroma called (Suska Szechlonska)

As an introduction let me cite Ratebeer:

At the moment Imperium Prunum has 292 ratings: 
Overall score 100/100; style 100/100

2016 – Ratebeer Best Award - gold medal – category – Best Beers in the world

If you look in the lists it’s the best Baltic Porter in the World and Polands #2 overall*.

I found it difficult to write about the beer that have been praised so much. There is a lot of hype and hate. But all professional reviewers were amazed when the first batch of Imperium Prunum hit the shelves in 2016. The brewery let us wait for the next one year. And this was the moment when I was also able to get a bottle.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed. Aroma of cocoa, chocolate and Belgian pralines. No alcohol detectable, Smoky notes in both aroma and taste. Rich, creamy texture with delicate and small carbonation. Roasted chocolate and small bitter ending. That beer is really a piece of art.

On top, there is this amazing bottle and the box. Just look at the photos. So far, one of the best beer packages I know.

Sadly, Imperium Prunum used to be one of the hardest beers in the world to get. Maybe not as hard as Pliny the Younger (released only in the San Francisco area once per year), but way harder to get than Westvleteren XII. Each batch of Imperium Prunum was about 8000 bottles, released just once per year. Guilty is process of aging (2 years). Whereas the basic price is quite OK (around 8 euro), online the beer got really crazy pricing going way beyond 10x of the original.

Having all these facts – you can imagine that getting a bottle of Imperium Prunum was very difficult in Poland and almost impossible outside.

Here, big thanks my friends from Browarium – Sklepy Piwne who kept a bottle of 2017 for me.

What I have learned this year is that the brewery has heard the clients. This year’s batch is doubled. Plus, they have also decreased the volume of the bottle. Now it is only 0.33. This will result in more bottles and better accessibility for a broader publicity.

Whereas, I appreciate the double batch, I believe that the 0.33 size is bullshit. I will anyway be able to get one bottle max and I will share my bottle with somebody. 0.33 size for sharing a beer is such a nonsense.

Now and important point – is it a great beer or is this a hype.

Why asking?

Because some of the very exclusive beers are more hype than the quality.

You ask where are the high ratings coming from then?

It is simple. Would you dare to give a bad rating, knowing that you had to go to the monastery on a certain day, directly after they call you to pick up the beer? All the effort travel etc. to give a bad rating?

Well, I would.
That is why Westvleteren XII is not the best beer I have ever tried. No doubt, this is a very good quad, but in my opinion, it needs to age. I have been tasting a few freshly from the brewery and the ones that were a year in my basement.
The fresh one is clearly more hype than greatness. Only aged Westvleteren lives up to the expectations.

On contrary Imperium Prunum is clearly the quality over the hype.

Finally – Batch 2018 is being released today. Run, run, run.

* In case you are interested number one is Polish Quad – Buba Extreme, also considered to be the 3 best Quadruple in the world
** yeah, I know all about only being able to get Westvleteren XII from the monks directly from the monastery in limited amounts, and one car cannot come to pick the beer more than once in every 3 months – the truth is that a willing tourist will find more than enough places to get Westvleteren XII in Belgium and online. I even have a bottle of Westvleteren XII in a bar in Toronto area. Price will be high, but you can get it.

Donnerstag, 18. Januar 2018

First review of my home brewed IPA ever - featuring DareQ from Beerstudio (berstudio.blog.pl)

As most of you have noticed, I have recently restarted my brewing activities. Going through my notices and historical recipes I have realized that one of my original beer actually got reviewed on a beer blog.


I started searching for the blog and the review, and have found that the blogging platform will be closed at the end of the January. Holly cow, this was the last moment to save it.

On top, I have contacted the author – DareQ and got his permission to re-use the text on the blog.

Last problem was that the original review was in Polish. After a few thoughts I have decided to let google translate to do the job and paste the text below WITHOUT any changes.

It is readable and translates the message of the author and then, nobody can tell that I have made the review better.

To put the reviewed beer in the context – the recipe for Pliny the Eldest was originally designed to be a heavy West Coast Imperial IPA in the style of Russian Rivers legendary Pliny the Elder. I really loved the effects and decided to work on it. I have made some fine-tuning and the beer have become – “Double Dare You”. No more a tribute, its separate entity now. You could enjoy the bottle and the label on my Instagram (@beerlander.blogspot)

Below you will find:

English translation
Screenshot from the blog


Today in "Beerstudio" in a sense, "special stage". It is rare that I never write about home beer to say nothing. Beers brewed by breweries have the advantage that they can be easier or harder to get from here, the review may encourage or discourage the purchase of a particular beer or be a contributor to polemics if someone has already done so and picked up the beer differently (and it certainly happens and I think that for completely normal). In the case of this beer, I decided to make an exception, because the history of how it hit me is also unique. Pliny the Eldest is a beer by Beerlander - a blogger whom I met during a beer trip to Amsterdam. One of the conference points was the so-called 'bottleshare session', in other words simple tasting of beers brought by participants. These were usually craft brewing beers, but among various inventions unearthed from the cellars of companions there were also 2 bottles of home-made specimen which can be described as borrowed from the world of music as tritune Beer of the legendary Pliny the Elder from Russian River. How to inspire, it's the best! The first bottle was spilled in a dozen or so of the most persistent participants on the 2nd day of the conference, while the second bottle, to my great joy, was given to me as a gift, for which I thank you very much! I mark out the original Pliny from above, I have not yet had the opportunity to try, that's why there will simply be no links to this inspiration in this tasting.

Beer from the beginning intrigue suspiciously with dark colors. The deep amber color and turbidity combined with the little abundant foam give it the appearance of strong tea and suggest that it may be a 'very imperial IPA'. The feeling did not disappoint! From the first nose very clear tropical notes. Very ripe papaya and mango fruits do the job here. The aroma is really solid, intense and powerful, slightly broken with an alcohol note, but in the end it's not just a nice peanut. The aged Pliny comes with a blow in taste. There is power! The beer is full, with lots of mango and tropical fruit. You can also feel caramel (maybe a bit too much) and the sweetness that breaks the most at the finish. While the smell of alcohol was a bit noticeable in the aroma, the beer is incredibly well-arranged and smooth in taste. For a beer with this power is a big plus. This element was able to support quite a long time before drinking - in the Netherlands I drank it fresh, at home after almost 3 months but it was still great. From a small mouthful in Amsterdam, I knew it would be my fairy tale and the effect did not diminish at all with the whole bottle.

And finally a real firecracker. I assumed that beer on this level is a specific experience and a minimum of a few dozen brews on the account. It turns out that it was one of the first attempts of self-brewing which, given the result, raises really great respect. If it was 3 batch, then the 30th may lack the scale. Thanks to Beerlander! Good luck and keep it up!


Bye Bye Pliny the Eldest, long live 

Double Dare You.