Hoegaarden Witbier 4.9%

9 06 2011

It has been a while since my last beer review but rest assured I haven’t been resting on my laurels sipping water, far from it, in fact I have been quaffing a ridiculous number of beers covering the whole spectrum; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

So without further ado I give you today’s offering:

Hoegaarden may not be the most adventurous or hard to find of the beers I have/will reviewed but it a far cry from most of the mass-produced tat you are likely to find being pumped out down your local and as such is well deserving of my time.

Hoegaarden is a Belgian Witbier  that has been around in one guise or another for a damn long time…it has been brewed in the village of Hoegaarden since 1445  to be precise.

The modern incarnation of this venerable beer came about in 1965 when Belgian milkman Pierre Celis recreated the traditional recipe in his hayloft following the closure of the last commercial brewery in Hoegaarden some ten years previous.

Now what a recipe it is;  water, yeast, wheat, hops, coriander and dried Curaçao orange peel.  Not quite what you get in your dull old Heineken!

Now as the sharp-eyed amongst you might have spotted from the picture this is a slightly cloudy pale beer with a good-sized white head that lasts reasonably well with plenty of lacing.

The aroma of the beer is great there are hints of citrus, freshly mown grass, a slight hint of yeastiness rather like freshly  baked bread  and a hunt of spice… a good start.

On drinking the beer there is a big burst of flavour right up front, cloves, coriander and citrus pretty much explode into your taste buds with a background fruitiness not dissimilar to banana and a slight touch of pepper.

This really is a great tasting beer and as much as there are a lot of seemingly strong flavours they are balance out well and there isn’t anything that ever threatens to overwhelm.

In short a really, really good beer.

4.5

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Duvel

3 12 2010

 So as to prove that I’m not some xenophobic “little Englander” I have decided to turn my attentions to the unsuspecting nation of Belgium.

 In particular I have in my sights their very good, indeed often excellent, selection of beers. I am starting with Duvel for no other reason than my own personal love of the stuff, even if too many bottles do result in the mother of all headaches.

 So where to begin, well Duvel is as I say a Belgian beer but it took its original inspiration from English ale of all things.

After WW1 English ales were getting fairly popular in Belgium and Moortgat decided to get in on the act so off they popped to Scotland and got their hands on some yeast and the rest is history…

I have seen Duvel listed as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale and this is probably the closest you will get to pinning a label on it, one thing is for certain at 8.5% it sure is strong, I have known more than one person snort at the diminutive 330ml bottle and knock it back only to find that it has knocked them out for the count – there is a reason it is called the Devil after all.

The aroma of Duvel is rather interesting you get strong citrus notes, some cider like apple, a bit of hay/grass and a strong clean alcohol element that comes through.

Normally I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the branded glasses that breweries knock out seeing them as a nice little collectible but nothing more, not so this time. 

To really enjoy Duvel at it’s best you need to get your hands on the correct glass, it is the perfect size for starters allowing you to pour the whole bottle in with ample room for the impressive frothy white head; not only that the embossed D on the base of the glass helps create effervescence which aids that head in sticking around. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason the rounded glass helps fully release the flavour and aroma of the beer.

In terms of looks the beer is a lovely clear golden colour that could almost be mistaken for a lager, the carbonation is clearly visible (aided by that aforementioned D) and the pure white head stands tall and lasts throughout with impressive lacing.

The taste of Duvel is to die for; the malt is clean and crisp and lasts from beginning to end, the alcohol is warming and combines with the bitterness of the hops to give a refreshing dry finish that leaves you begging for another sip. There  are hints of pepper and a really pleasant earthiness that are present throughout along with the same citrus notes that you can pick up in the aroma.

There really isn’t a single thing that I can fault about Duvel and trust me I can normally pick holes in anything and everything, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the absolute best beer in the world but it damn close

5/5





Greene King Hop (formerly The Beer To Dine For)

22 11 2010

 So we meet again Mr Bland….

 I was working at Greene King when The Beer to Dine For officially launched, unofficially it was the launch of butt plug beer but we wont go into that here…

Whatever it was called one thing is for certain it is still kicking around today, now under the interesting name “Greene King Hop”. The premise behind beer to dine for was that it would be the perfect accompaniment to food and would help win people over to real beer, particularly women.

The reality was a little different:

It looks fairly good, both in the bottle and when poured, having a nice clear honey gold colour with a fairly small head that quickly dissipates to nothing; I can well imagine it being poured into fancy glasses at some dinner party in suburbia and  fitting in well amongst the Blossom Hill and Jacob’s Creek.

The worry started to set in when I realised that there is no aroma, not just that it is faint but that there is quite literally nothing at all, not good.

The worrying lack of anything continues when you take a sip the best thing I can say about GK Hop/Beer to Dine for is that it is bland.  There isn’t really anything about it that jumps out and grabs your attention. There is some sweetness there and a slight amount of bitterness but being brutally honest there isn’t really much more flavour then you would find in Carlsberg or any other mass-produced lager.

Now correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the whole point of proper beer to steer people away from tasteless crap and onto something with a bit more going for it? Well you will never achieve that goal if the alternative is just as bland and unassuming.

The finish isn’t really anything you would be impressed by either it is thin and just helps contribute to the fact that this might as well be a bottle of fizzy syrup that has been allowed to go a bit skunky.

Oh yes did I mention the fact that due to the naff clear glass bottle 4 out of the 7 I tried had a nice skunky essence to them, just what I would want with my coq au vin!

I don’t go in for the idea of slagging off Greene King because they keep buying up smaller brewers but at the same time they really should know better than to put their name to this muck. It is marginally better with food but that is only because it is bland and inoffensive and doesn’t detract from what you are eating.

1/5





Man Walks into a Pub: A sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown

18 11 2010

Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of BeerMan Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few books on beer in the past and have found that typically they all have one thing in common: they are either monumentally dull or a total farce.

Weighty volumes that document the complete history of a particular brewery right down to what tiny changes were made to a particular recipe and when are all very well and good. No doubt they are of great interest to men with big bushy beards who wear cable knit jumpers and who carry note books around with them but they are a bit too serious and stodgy for the more casual reader.

On the flip side of the coin I don’t want to read a book written by some tracksuit wearing chav who just wants to brag about how he can drink 20 pints of Stella, fight some rival football fans and still drive his barely legal Vauxhall Nova that should have been scrapped before he was born.

That is where Pete Brown has got things bang on the money, he treats the subject seriously and manages to convey a lot of useful information whilst keeping things light and smattered with humour throughout.

By choosing to focus more on the social history of beer brewing and drinking he avoids bogging the reader down with some of the useless minutiae that a lot of the more serious beer books pride themselves on.

I am also very impressed with the way that Pete Brown handles the often tricky real ale vs. lager issue. A lot of writers fall heavily on one side of the fence or the other and as such we often hear lager being decried as tasteless or a children’s drink or ale being slagged off for being a drink for fat, bearded weirdos who need to get out more.

Whilst I have my own views on the matter I realise no one really wants to hear them, and in return I don’t really want to hear their views rehashed over and over again either.
So it was certainly pleasant to come across an author who wasn’t using their book as a soapbox to take pot shots at their target of choice.

If you have anything more than a passing interest in beer and have ever considered reading more about beer and drinking then you could do an awful lot worse than to take this book as a starting point.

View all my reviews





Theakston’s Old Peculier – 5.6% Old Ale

30 09 2010

Theakston’s Old Peculier is one of the most widely recognised real ales out there, not only that but it is also one of the oldest having been brewed since at least 1890 so it genuinely is an old ale!

The eagle eyed amongst you might notice the rather odd spelling of Peculier; well no it isnt a typo or an intentional misspelling it’s a totally different word in and of itself and one just as interesting as the beer it adorns.

The word peculier refers to a parish or place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the crown as opposed to the local diocese.

In the case of Old Peculier Theakstons are making reference to the Peculier of Masham in North Yorkshire where the beer is brewed; the town was declared a peculier after the archbishop of York Minster couldn’t be bothered to make the trip north to oversee it’s affairs.

When poured the beer is thick and viscous with an opaque dark brown colour and a nice frothy head, exactly what springs to mind if someone were to talk about an old ale.

The aroma of the beer is full and hearty, there are rich fruity notes of plum and raisin and a slightly yeasty bready undertone. I have often heard people say that they get a banana like smell off of Old Peculier but I will hand on heart admit to never having noticed it myself, or to at least having not identified it as banana.

Before I start on the taste of OP I am going to go ahead and give a little bit of advice, ideally don’t put this into the fridge at all or if you really must chill this beer then leave it to come to room temperature for a while before you dive in. The flavour really does develop better at a slightly warmer temperature and you will find it a far more enjoyable pint.

That said let me get on to how it is to drink; it is a good bit thicker then a lot of commercial beers but I find that just reinforces the Old Ale feeling for me. It is a fairly sweet with a nice plummy taste coming through this is perfectly balanced with a good solid bitterness and a nice amount of hoppiness that stops it from ever tasting too rich or cloying, you can also pick up the alcohol, not enough to be unpleasant but just enough to keep things dry and slightly spicy.

You can pick up lots of dark maltiness and fruit along with a hint of coffee and molasses, this is truly a complex beer and not something to try out on your unsuspecting guests who have only ever had a mass produced lager before.

I have been a big fan of Old Peculier ever since I first tried it many years ago, I think that it is a perfect example of what real ale is all about, flavourful, unique, slightly challenging and yet still incredibly accessible.

5/5





Beer anyone?

28 09 2010

A fair bit to report from my ongoing home brewing saga so far.

My second batch of beer has now been bottled, well about 6 days ago! So I am eagerly awaiting my first little taste in order to see how my IPA has turned out and whether playing with the choice of fermentables has backfired or not.

Meanwhile my lager is now into it’s third week since being bottled. My brother and I cracked a bottle open on Saturday evening and I think we were both quite pleasantly surprised at how it is coming along.

There is plenty of carbonation in the beer and it is developing a really good looking head, it is a little cloudy but that that will hopefully clear further and should definitely start to lessen when the lager is chucked in the fridge.

The taste is really rather good if I do say so myself, there is a nice bitterness to the beer and a pleasant slight sweetness coupled with a nice hint of maltiness. It isn’t dissimilar to something like an Erdinger in actual fact.

I will be honest enough to say that it has turned out better than I had hoped.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind I was fearing it would turn out to be like those brewbags that you used to be able to purchase at Boots, the ones that you just tipped water into and left on the back of the airing cupboard door for a month or so. As such the pleasant drinkable nature of the beer has bought a smile to my face





Week 1 taste test

20 09 2010

My lager was bottled over a week ago now. It has spent this week liberally swaddled in coats and sweat shirts to ensure that it has stayed within it’s optimum temperature bracket of 21-24 degrees and it seems that I have succeeded 🙂

On getting home yesterday afternoon I decided to give it a quick taste test to see how things are faring one week on…. well the results are positive indeed.

The beer is reasonably fizzy (but not there yet) is keeping a decent head, has a reasonable amount of lacing on the glass and actually tastes good.

Not just like a half decent store bought lager but actually properly good!

Somehow by some miracle I was drinking lager that had a taste other then just being a really cold fizzy liquid 😀

Now to leave it be for another week at room temperature before sticking half of it into the fridge and the rest under the floorboards.








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