Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Westvleteren Night - Westvleteren 12 alongside St Barnardus 12

Few beers in the world instil as much awe, mystery and possibly some downright stupidity in beer fans around the world. Westvleteren 12 is often said to be the best beer in the world due to its many awards and number one rating among beer reviewers. Add to that the fact that the only (official) way to get some is by pre registering your vehicle details at the brewery and ordering a case. If you happen to be driving by and want to pick some up, you will be disappointed. You are also asked not to resell the beer. There are places where you can get it but officially it is only available by dealing direct with the brewery this has fuelled the perception of this beer to a point where perhaps only Dark Lord Day beats it.

Is the beer worth all the hype? Well I had to find out and when a friend from Irish Craft Brewer came to my house with a bottle I was delighted. He had read that I missed out on getting some in Belgium.

The beer pours a murky brownish red with a lot of floating chunks of yeast.
The aroma is all dried fruit. Prunes, figs, raisins and alcohol.
The taste is very complex with brown sugar, lots of different dried fruits along with caramel. It is a little acidic and not all that carbonated and the best way to describe it is that it is a party in the mouth.

This beer is a truly wonderful experience but is it worth the hype? Personally I don't think it is. After drinking it I find that if I want a good Trappist beer I will buy one that is much easier to get such as the next one.
So for me, I say that if you can get your hands on one without paying inflated prices then do so but don't go in search or sell any limbs to get one as it is not that good.

To try beside the Westy I got a St Bernardus 12. The reason for this is that historically St Bernardus used to brew beer under license using the name St Sixtus which is the name of the Abbey where Westvleteren is brewed. This is not the case any more but it is said the beer is quite similar. At least this is what I gather but a history buff, especially beer history may correct me on this.

So how does it compare? Well the aroma is brown sugar and dried fruit but not as obvious as the Westvleteren.
It tastes similar to the Westvleteren but is not as complex and is a lot more carbonated with a little bubblegum. This beer is not as good as the Westvleteren 12 but for me, because it is more accessible I would rather buy this than go in search of Westvleteren 12.

My American friend also brought along a bottle of this beer from Avery called The Beast. The 16.31% ABV scared him quite frankly so we split the bottle. I have had Tokyo* before which is stronger so for me this was not the strongest beer I have had.
This American take on a Grand Cru was interesting. The aroma was dried fruit, alcohol, woody vanilla.
The taste was a smack in the face of oaky vanilla goodness, lots of burning alcohol and dried fruit.
The bottle we had was batch 6 2008.
There is plenty of malt in here too but the alcohol content is just too high and was achieved by adding sugar from various different sources. A little spice is evident as well.
A real sipper and I enjoyed it but drinking a bottle of this by yourself is a bad idea so share it with a friend. A little goes a long way with this sort of beer.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Brew # 19 (Hoppety Hop) and Brew #20 (Wheaty Goodness)

I did this double IPA two weeks ago. It is still in the primary and hopefully will be a monster.

Hoppety Hop

14-C Imperial IPA

Author: Reuben Gray (Saruman)

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 24.16 L

Efficiency: 75.0%

Attenuation: 75.0%

Calories: 261.37 kcal per 12.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.078 (1.070 - 1.090)


Terminal Gravity: 1.019 (1.010 - 1.020)


Color: 23.18 (15.76 - 29.55)


Alcohol: 7.73% (7.5% - 10.0%)


Bitterness: 106.2 (60.0 - 120.0)



7000 g Irish Spring Barley (pale malt)

600 g Light Crystal

500 g Wheat Malt

500 g Rye Malt

50 g Amarillo (9.5%) - added during boil, boiled 90 min

25 g Centennial (11.7%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min

25 g Cascade (7.6%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min

25 g Cascade (7.6%) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

20 g Cascade (7.6%) - added during boil, boiled 5 min

20 g Amarillo (9.5%) - steeped after boil

30 g Amarillo (9.5%) - added dry to primary fermenter

1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

0.0 ea Fermentis US-05 Safale US-05

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.8

Yesterday I did a simple wheat beer to show a friend from Irish Craft Brewer how to do an All grain batch. I have two concerns with this one.
1. My yeast expired in December and the rehydration produced an odd smell I could not place but could be quite normal as I have only ever pitched Munich dry before.

2. It is the first time I have used my converted keg fermenter and I know there is bound to be metallic (Stainless Steel) dust inside from the cutting. Hopefully if anything is left, it will settle to the bottom and the siphon will leave it there.

Wheaty Goodness

15-A Weizen/Weissbier

Author: Reuben Gray (Saruman)

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 25.12 L

Efficiency: 75.0%

Attenuation: 75.0%

Calories: 144.37 kcal per 12.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.044 (1.044 - 1.052)


Terminal Gravity: 1.011 (1.010 - 1.014)


Color: 18.72 (3.94 - 15.76)


Alcohol: 4.27% (4.3% - 5.6%)


Bitterness: 30.3 (8.0 - 15.0)



3017 g Irish Spring Barley (pale malt)

1004 g Wheat Malt

315 g CaraPils Malt (brupaks)

150 g Belgian Aromatic

500 g Light Crystal

19.0 g Northern Brewer-Hallertau Hersbruck (10.9%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min

13 g Rakau (12.0%) - added during boil, boiled 24 min

1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.8

Friday, 23 April 2010

A time to Celebrate

The Porterhouse have brought back their Celebration stout. I missed out on it last time so I was eager to try it. At €2.50 each (per 4) from Drinkstore I can't go wrong, especially when there is a deal like buy 7 and get the 8th free.

This Imperial stout is all about the vanilla and caramel but there is a hefty burnt bitterness to it as well. It is truly lovely. This is a different beer than the last one though. This is 7% as opposed to 10%. There is a little liquorice hiding among the roast grains as well as some wood character. Not much coffee and a sort of winey or port like finish.

More please.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

A woolpack glass that travelled a long way

You may remember I went to the Woolpack pub in Cumbria last year and had a great time. Anyway the other week I was in Cork for a Beer Festival and the next day I went to Bandon to stay with some friends and my friend gave me this little tiny glass from the Woolpack. Now my friend had actually come with me to the woolpack but that is not where he got this glass. I believe his mother got it through a sort of bric a brac type place so someone in Ireland apart from me has made the journey to arse of nowhere in Cumbria and gone to the Woolpack.
Certainly worth a journey but hard to imagine anyone who is not in to brewpubs making the journey on purpose unless I suppose they are walkers as it is beautiful walking country.

**See comments but it looks like this is actually a souvenir from the Woolpack that features in the UK soap Emmerdale**

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Don't Bother with Amsterdam....

My wife goes to Manila a lot and she tends to have a stopover in Amsterdam so this time I asked her to pick me up some beer at the airport. This was the best she could find and a quick google prepared me for the worst but I have to try it out. Amsterdam Speciality beers came in a box containing three beers.
Explorator 6.8% - strong
Navigator 8.4% - extra strong
Maximator 11.6% - super strong

The difference between these three beers? Nothing except how much syrup they added in to boost the alcohol and they get less drinkable as you move ahead.
I can't say for certain they are using corn syrup but one of the ingredients is simply "sugars" so that could mean anything but the beers taste like syrup.
I only got through half of Navigator before it went down the sink and I took a mouthful or two of Miximator before chucking it.

Perhaps there should be a rule of thumb that in you are in a different country, never drink a beer called after that country. In fact that practice should be made illegal. Imagine passing through Amsterdam and buying the Amsterdam Speciality beer and when you get home you find it so disgusting that you think all beer from said country is pathetic?

I know better and plan to go there some time as I know they make some of the best beer in the world.

My wife has promised that next time she will look a little harder but swears that was the most interesting looking beer she could find.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Franciscan Well EasterFest is a must for beer fans

This was my first time at the beer festival as I missed out last year for some reason. Last year I heard great reports but they did not do it justice as this year was jam packed with breweries with the exception of a few, most notably Whitewater which was a pity.

I arrived just before 2pm so there were a few people around but no beer being served as yet, though I am sure I would have been served if I had asked. I waited around till a few more people showed up and I saw some beer moving and I went to our hosts stand to try their new beer called Golden Otter.

Golden Otter came on cask which was perfect as this is an English style bitter. I got some grassy hops and a little caramel on the nose. The taste was interesting as there was a citrus bite and it was quite bitter which was nice as many bitters are not in fact very bitter at all. There was a nice malty sweetness in the background but it was certainly more in the bitter end of the scale rather than sweet or balanced. I enjoyed it a lot as it was not trying to be complicated and was simply a cracking pint of bitter.

Now I will have to apologise here because I forgot my camera. I only had my iphone to take pictures and notes on. I ended up only taking two pictures during the whole festival as I got so caught up in the beer. Thebeernut took a few more so go look at his.

The next beer of note was the White Gypsy blonde which was a very lager like and over carbonated blonde ale. One for lager drinkers for sure. My wife had this and she enjoyed it but preferred her Belfast Blonde.

I then went over to the Galway hooker stand to try their new pilsner. Aidan said it was not ready yet but said when I come back it was on the house. Well out of the corner of my eye was their DunkelWeisse but what was this? A hand pump? Surely the dark wheat is not on cask? Well it was and it was absolutely lovely I thought. The aroma was dried fruit and wheat and the taste was a lovely sour, roasted grains beer packed full of flavour. A little watery perhaps but that would be more down to the cask serving as many cask ales do not have the same body as their kegged counterparts. Anyway I will be on the lookout for more cask dunkel and suggested Aidan send some to The Bull & Castle.

Next it was time to try one of the new breweries. Two newbies were present and both of them started life in our little Irish Craft Brewer community so we were quite proud.

Dungarvan brewing company had a fantastic beer called Helvick Gold. It was very drinkable, generously malty and one I seriously need to try again.
Not as impressive was copper Coast which was a red ale. It was pretty standard and perfectly fine but was just not as interesting as Helvick. Their Blackrock stout never made it though. I was told it will be at the Galway festival in May but I will be in France so will have to keep an eye out for it another time. The good news is that they will be bottling more than kegging so I should be able to pick up more of their beers.

Trouble Brewing were also present but only with one beer. Ór is a pale fruity, lightly hopped ale that is very drinkable. It is easier to drink than Helvick but it is not as flavoursome or interesting. This is a good session or BBQ beer. I look forward to more beer from Thom and co once they get in to the swing of things in the new brewery.

I returned for my free pint of Galway hooker Pilsner. Actually I only wanted and expected a half but Aidan seemed keen to give me a full pint so I accepted. Now I will point out that Aidan himself is not too impressed with his own beer. To him it is "just a lager" and as such "not very interesting". Well on the contrary that was a brilliant biscuity, bitter, refreshing pilsner and reminded me very much of proper Czech pilsners. I gave my wife a taste as she lived in Prague for a year and she gave it the thumbs up. It was somewhat citrus like and I am thinking lemon here. This was one of my favourites not only because it was free (always a bonus) but because it was better than I expected. It was also not as fizzy as some pilsners can be so that was good.
Shortly after we went back to Aidan to present him a first runner up in the beer of 2009 awards as selected by the Irish Craft Brewer community. The award was for their original Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale which is still one of my favourite beers. It lost first place this year to Carlow's Goods store IPA which is dry hopped and Cask conditioned. We suggested Aidan tries dry hopping Galway hooker. Oh and we got free Galway hooker T-Shirts which I proudly wore the next day.

White Gypsy has an IPA but I found this a little watery and not producing a lot of flavour so I was disappointed but White gypsy is still a pretty new brewery so I am sure it will improve with time.
At the other end of the scale, Cuilan from White Gypsy has brewed a magnificent oak aged imperial stout. It is called Raven and is a blend of two (I think) versions of the oak aged stout. One is a no oak and the other is from a French barrel. For me this was the beer of the festival. It was packed fool of wood and vanilla notes and I savoured this for a while. I loved the sourness in this beer. Cuilan also produced some bottles containing the different barrel aged versions. There was one from the Bushmills barrel, one from the American Oak and the other was French Oak. I think I got to try two of them as I had lost track of time and forgot about the double secret tasting but one of the guys gave me at least two versions to try. Both were fantastic but since they were not officially part of the festival, my favourite was the blend on tap and Raven came out on top for me.

Other beers worth mentioning are from the UCC brewery called Hansel and Gretel. Hansel was a decent fruity lager style beer but Gretel was a lovely German style Weisse that was brewed to perfection and would be at home at Octoberfest. These beers are not commercially available though and as far as I know you can only get them at the Franciscan Well Easterfest.

Barrelhead were there and they had a fantastic Pale ale but I never got a chance to taste it properly as it was the last beer I had before I decided I was finished with beer before I actually became drunk as opposed to nicely buzzed. I will have to look out for it again.

A very pleasant surprise was to see Cúl Dorcha there from Beoir Corca Dhuibhne Kerry. I was pleasantly surprised by this beer at Septemberfest so I was doubly surprised to see he had a second beer this time. Now it was a hand pump as they only use cask to serve but it was a simply hand written label on a white background that said "Easterfest Special" and I was immediately intrigued. This turned out to be like ordinary Cúl Dorcha but was a more pronounced chocolate flavour as well as a sourness that worked very well. They ran out of beer on the first day of Septemberfest last year so for Easterfest they made sure they had enough beer with him.

I was only there for the Saturday but I think that was enough. It would have been nice to go back Sunday and try what I had missed out and get some pictures but I spent Sunday with my friends in Bandon.

I look forward to next year and seeing how it comes along. If Irish craft breweries continue sprouting up there will be no room at The Well soon.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

It's a nice foggy morning in Westmeath and I am thinking about beer

I am sitting here dressed and ready to go to Cork because today the Franciscan Well holds it's EasterFest beer festival. I missed out on it last year so I made sure I was available this year.
The weather in Ireland recently has been quite bad after weeks of sunny warm spring weather. IT seems to be a little better since yesterday though.

I will of course be providing an account of the beer festival as will TheBeerNut and maybe a few other beer bloggers who will be attending so look out for those next week.

Last night I collected my wife from the airport as she was back from Manila and she always stops over in Amsterdam so this time I asked her to look for some beer at the airport for me if she had the time. She did find me a box containing 3 cans of Amsterdam Craft beer.
It is rare for craft beer to come in cans and they have a reputation for containing bad beer. I personally believe though that cans themselves are not the problem, it is the beer that is put in them. The large macro brewed breweries are the ones that usually can their beer and since most of them produce rather tasteless yellow fizzy stuff or nitrogenated, gloopy stout with magic balls floating in them then you can see why cans get a bad rep.

On the other hand, the only breweries capable of canning their beer are usually the large breweries because lets face it, putting beer in a can is not an easy process. Even I can bottle my beer at home with nothing more than a recycled bottle, some caps and a capper. There is no way I could produce beer in a can without a factory and lots of expensive equipment and Microbreweries simply do not have the resources to waste. They prefer to invest in quality ingredients and flavoursome recipes.

It is very likely that canned beer could be superior to bottled beer because no light whatsoever can get in to a can. Even brown bottles will let a certain amount of light in and light causes beer to skunk.
Also they are made of Aluminium (aluminum for those in the US) and this wonderful metal is used throughout the whole brewing process and beer normally ends up in a keg that is either made up Aluminium or stainless steel.

I suppose the point of this little rant is that beer in cans does not equal bad beer. I think more US craft breweries are switching to cans these days.

Anyway I will try the Amsterdam beer next week, yes it is simply called Amsterdam beer. Not to be confused with the Canadian one. Actually I will probably wish it was the one in Toronto judging from a quick google.......

Friday, 2 April 2010

Adnams brewery - An English brewery with an Irish brewer.

I heave heard a lot about beers from the Adnams brewery, namely from TheBeerNut so I decided I needed to try some for myself. I dropped in to Drinkstore to get some as I knew from their website that they had 4 of their beers.
Along with the Adnams I made use of a special offer in the store. Buy 6 Porterhouse beers and get one free and also a free Porterhouse glass which I make use of in this post.
I decided to use my own camera as recently I have been using my wife's pink one because it is small and handy but the image quality has been lacking.

I have decided to include a Cyclops report for each beer which I have not done in a while. I am not sure if people prefer a Cyclops or a more descriptive paragraph.

For those not sure what cyclops is, it is pretty simple.
Sight, Smell, Taste, Sweet, Bitter.

Lighthouse is incredibly refreshing and at 3.4% it makes a great session beer to enjoy especially in the garden on a sunny day with a BBQ going. It is a little on the thin side but that does not take much away from it.
S - Clear Golden beer, small non lasting head.
S - Toffee, earthy, slightly metallic, fruity
T - Earthy grassy hops, bitter, little thin, toffee like sweetness
S - 2/5
B - 3/5

Innovation is an American style IPA brewed with a mix of hops, none of which are American*. They still manage to get that American IPA citrus thing going with grapefruit standing out.
S - Golden straw with little white head
S - Grapefruit citrus,
T - YUM, Grapefruit/citrus, caramel, malty, dry, mandarin finish
S - 2.5/5
B - 3.5/5

*Thanks to Fergus for pointing out that in fact one of the hops is American. It contains Columbus hops.

Adnams Bitter is a little stronger in the bottle than on cask according to the website but having never had it on cask I can not compare the two.
S - Red/amber small head
S - earthy hops, some dry fruit
T - grassy, slightly metallic, dried fruit,
S - 2/5
B - 3/5

Explorer is an English style pale ale but in the bottle it is called Explorer Chilled and advises you drink it cold. So I did just that and left it in the fridge while I drank the others. The bottle claims grapefruit but I got nothing of the sort. Actually the bottle claims it has an aroma of a grapefruit grove so I can only assume a grapefruit grove smells nothing like the juice from the fruit and probably has a grassy smell from the trees and this would make sense. Perhaps it is different on cask.
S - Clear golden colour with white foamy head
S - malty, toffee, grassy
T - bitter, malty,
S - 2/5
B - 2.4/5

Innovation turned out to be my favourite. TheBeerNut has commented a few times that Adnams beers have a sort of mineral sulphur quality which he puts down to the water. I am not sure I get sulphur myself but to me sulphur smells like rotten eggs which is probably not correct. I do get the mineral quality to some degree but I probably would not have noticed it without TheBeerNuts preview.

I will be interested in trying some more of their beers. I am especially interested in trying the stouts. For one thing, brewer Fergus is from Cork so clearly has the Irish dry stout ingrained on his psyche.