17 November 2017

Amsterdam and company

Hello Amsterdam! This was the final stop on the ten-day bimble across Belgium and the Netherlands I did in September. We arrived in on a Sunday afternoon and headed straight to Beer Temple, meeting up with a friend who has recently moved to Den Haag and who joined us for the day's crawl.

I'd picked Beer Temple specifically because they had a Hill Farmstead on, and Hill Farmstead generally makes good beer. This was Florence, a saison. Except it's nothing like a saison, except maybe the cloudy pale yellow colour. It's tart, for one thing, almost like a young lambic but with extra fizz. With the tartness goes a gentle lemon zest, some dry straw and a pinch of farmyard funk, all beautifully balanced and complementary. It was hard to hold onto this one for long enough to write about it; suffice it to say it's highly enjoyable.

Also around the table there was King Gose from Hoppin' Frog. It's an especially nasty version of what should be a light and quenching style. This one is a murky orangey beige colour and smells of Jolly Rancher sweets, all artificial fruit and solvents. The texture is greasy which heightens the briny foretaste. This is followed by a worrying gastric acidity, harsh herbal aniseed, plastic and aspirin: all the wrong kinds of tang, all at once. The herbs make it taste like some Victorian medicine, like it should be good for you. It's a downright penitential beer and a travesty of gose.

Next it's X, an "extra pale ale" from California's Alesmith. It didn't have much going for it, being super sweet without any trace of bitterness. The hops bring an orange flavour which, without proper balance, make it taste like orange flavoured cake icing. At 5.25% ABV it probably thinks it's light and easy going but it's really surprisingly hard work.

Last one here before moving on is one of those dessertish confections from Evil Twin: Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break. It's definitely one of the better ones, managing to blend all the constituent parts into a single coherent piece. For reference, those parts include coffee, cinnamon, almonds, cocoa, vanilla, and habanero chilli. Phew! The aroma is both rich and spicy, its impact heightened by the 10.5% ABV. The texture is thick too. Obviously cinnamon is the loudest element, but its cookie sweetness is tempered by strongly bitter coffee, while the chilli is little more than a seasoning on top of this. It's still a silly novelty beer, but a silly novelty beer that's incredibly well made.

Gollem next, and a quickie Van Vollenhoven Princesse. It's a throwback wheat beer recipe, apparently, using a mix of lager and saison yeasts and flavoured with coriander and orange peel. Once extremely popular, it lost ground to pils in the late 19th century and the original Van Vollenhoven brewery stopped brewing it in 1900. I found it crisp and simple with a pleasant green celery hop flavour. Think weissbier without the banana esters or witbier minus the herbs and fruit. It's very refreshing even if the ABV is a smidge high for that at 5.5%.

Our meanderings brought us past De Brabantse Aap at one point, a pub which was on the shortlist of great Amsterdam beer destinations when I started coming here but which you hardly hear mentioned any more. I certainly hadn't been in in years.

It shares an owner with De Bekeerde Suster, the brewpub, so serves a few of its range. Auld Sister was new to me: 5.3% ABV and allegedly an attempt at an old fashioned IPA. The ABV holds true to that at 5.3%. I couldn't say if the rest of it does, however. It is massively dry, which is certainly part of the spec, largely achieved through the huge tannic flavours. This makes it taste of stewed black tea and I confess I always like that in a beer. There's a spicy saltpetre edge which reminded me of several homebrewed red ales I've tasted: I guess it's a yeast thing, and there's lots of roast as well -- not something I'd expect in an IPA. I doubt the dark red colour would fetch it much of a price on the docks of Calcutta either.