Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Taybeh and Köstritzer beers

Among other things on Sunday night, we tasted two beers that were brought to me by different friends from Germany. The first was a few bottles of the extremely-hard-to-come-by lager "Golden", from Palestinian microbrewery Taybeh Beer (sold in many outlets in Palestine and Israel, but only three stores in the rest of the world, one of which is in Hamburg, Germany). The bottles we obtained from the Haus der 131 Biere were brewed in Germany under license; apparently the Japanese and Swedish distributors import the original beer, but I've yet to source a traveller to bring me either of those. Taybeh are still seeking distribution for their beers in the UK and USA, if anyone's interested. The second we tasted was a black lager from the venerable Köstritzer Schwarzbier (now owned by Bitburger) in eastern Germany between Leipzig and Jena. One bottle broke in our benefactor's suitcase on route from Germany, so this beer came at the cost of soiled souvenirs and a laundry bill as well as the store-price of the bottles.

Taybeh Beer (بيرة طيبة): Golden

This interesting little lager is an extremely pale yellow, almost as clear as water when held up to the light, with a faint, quickly disappearing head. The smell is strangely spicy, with sappy hints of roasted pine nuts, ripe golden rye, and the slightest tang of iron; on the tip of the tongue we tasted a wheaty lager, quiet heavily malty but a bit bland, with the slightest hint of lemon flesh and tropical pineapple further back in the mouth. There's definitely more malt than hops in the swallow, leaving an almost Stella-like aftertaste, making the whole rather more reminiscent of a lager-drunk than a refined ale-tasting, although there is some sweet and chewy malt that sticks around, blending with an interesting wood-smoke and syrup that lingers some. A little bitterness hovers behind it all, rescuing this beer in the final moments. On the whole, this is a lot less clean and inoffensive than something like Efes, but by the same token it's more interesting and creative than a kebab-shop lager. Certainly warrants another try (and I've yet to track down Taybeh's Dark variety, which may be more to my taste). To be fair, this beer got more thumbs up around the room than my description of it may suggest.

Köstritzer Schwarzbier

A classic Schwarzbier, this one is a very dark, almost completely opaque beer that proves to be red-brown on being held up to the window, with a bafflingly complex aroma: we picked up notes of grassy pollen, tobacco and green spinach, a slightly sickly sweetness and just a hint of old leather. (When Simona said, "This smells like my suitcase," I thought this was what she meant, but she was referring to the above-mentioned accident!) I thought I also picked up the aroma of the sea--the acrid beach smell, rather than the fresh salty wind. At first taste this is a fizzy and smoky lager, with some harsh coffee and charcoal further back on the tongue, as well as a hint of animal muskiness. There's some root vegetable, maybe parsnip juice, and woodsmoke in the gently bitter swallow, which lingers both hoppy and syrupy for a few seconds. This is an interesting lager, for sure, but it left me feeling less, "Mmmm, complex" than, "Meh, that's all over the place."

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