27 August 2006

Maltsville USA

Raiding a friend's fridge recently, I happened across some Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Americans of my acquaintance rave about this beer as one of the world's greats. I have to say I'm not wholly convinced of that. It's good, certainly, and leagues ahead of most American mass-market beers. What I like most is the distinctive maltiness on the palate: a soft, velvety smoothness - quite unlike any other lager I know. A world-beater, no. But classy stuff nonetheless.

17 August 2006

The Specialest Brew

Samichlaus Bier, from Austria, proclaims itself "The strongest lager beer in the world". At 14% I'm not going to argue. The gimmick continues with the statement that it is brewed but once a year, on December 6th, then aged a further ten months before bottling. So what does all this effort produce? Samichlaus fizzes violently out of the bottle, then settles immediately to a flat brown-red colour with a faint sparkle. On the nose it has a rich sugary character, somewhere between a fine Belgian dubbel and a nasty special brew. It tastes like a heavier version of the heaviest barley wine, heading into the dodgy liqueur or cough medicine end of the spectrum. The first sip is a shock, for sure. After a while, however, it does round out and become almost warming rather than creating the sickening overload I expected. It's a hard one to call. If you know your way around your Trappists and your barley wines then this as another one to add to the collection. If you didn't read further than the words "lager beer" on the label you can't say you weren't warned...

04 August 2006

Sour times

A La Bécasse in Brussels is one of my favourite bars in the world. Their Lambic Doux is a very fine beer, being a sweet version of Brussels's bitter local speciality. I happened across a kriek being sold under their brand recently and decided to give it a go. I'm a big fan of kriek, in its sweet to medium-sweet incarnations. Liefmans is the benchmark, with honourable mentions for Bellevue and Timmerman's. I was expecting something similar from La Bécasse. I was wrong. While there is no doubt that Bécasse kriek wears its ripe cherries up front, at heart it is an unreconstructed, down home sour Brussels gueuze. The contrast in the flavour is remarkable and is unique as far as I know. Despite being made by monster brewer InBev, this stuff couldn't be more Brussels if it tried and is well worth sampling if you can find it.