Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bières suisses de la montagne

I could swear we've reviewed beers from the Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes before—I've certainly drunk several of them over the years, since I was first introduced to the brand in 2006—but I don't see any reference to them here. It's a shame that all I had in for this tasting was two of their lightest, most French-tasting bottles; there are some great real ales in their range as well. I'll have to look out for more of these next time I'm in Switzerland, and keep better notes next time!

Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes, La Salamandre: this is a clear, light gold, fizzy beer with a gentle head, which has a lagery malt smell with a hint of orange and maybe even cider vinegar. On the tip of the tongue it's sweet and zesty, rather fruity, a little tart but more pithy than soured. It's a bit more lagery in the mouth, with classic Belgian malt but not much flavour; the swallow is better, with some peppery notes and lingering soft fruit: pear, maybe apple-blossom and even coriander. It's not bitter, but memorable, certainly not the generic lager or Weissbier it looked like coming out of the bottle.

Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes, La Meule: a watery yellow beer, again with a lagery fizz and brief foam; the odor is subtle, with candyfloss and vanilla, overlaid with bread flour and some savory herbs (maybe a seasonal sage and parsley stuffing?). Sparkling fruitiness in the first taste, with a cheeky zestiness behind the pert lager foreground, persists in the mouth, giving both orange and lemon. The tastes of zest and pith overcome a dull wheatiness, and lead to a herby finish without much bitterness but somehow leaving me with a lasting impression of well-seasoned steak. I probably wouldn't chose this blonde beer very often, but it wasn't bad at all, for its kind.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking Gift Beers in the Mouth

In one week in November, I received three different visitors from the USA, who between them brought me over a dozen bottles of American craft real ale. I promised I'd share my notes on them, and here are the first few. (I don't remember who gave me which bottle, now, but needless to say it was all massively appreciated, even the ones I may be snarky about below.)

Cosmic Ales, Cosmonaut California Blonde Ale (5%): this bottle has an absolutely adorable label with a way-over-the-top cartoon space scene, which always goes down well around here. It's a slightly cloudy golden beer with an ephemeral head of froth, and a cheeky aroma of orange, pollen and spring berries. A first taste of light fruit and flour is a bit sparkly, turning sour quite quickly in the mouth, but with a lovely sweet/hops balance. In fact it's very smooth all the way down; the pithy bitterness isn't very complex or lingering, but it was a very pleasant pint for a Fall evening.

Friday, December 13, 2013

German Real Ales

For the last few months some of us have been pissing and whining about the lack of real ales, or beer with much flavour or hops, in Germany. This is only slightly paradoxical: yes, Germany is the ancestral home of good, clean lagers, pilsners, wheat beers, Schwarzbier, and the like, but as a result it's very hard to track down any craft ales of the kind popular in Belgium or Britain anywhere in the Fatherland. It may seem parochial to lust after your local beverages when you're visiting a land with great drinking traditions of its own, and I can enjoy a Franziskaner or a Köstritzer while travelling, or happily experiment with a Bock or a Göse, but for our friends recently moved to Germany, it's a bit harder.

Luckily, we recently tracked down the Berlin Bier Shop run by Rainer Wallisser, on Kirchstrasse near Bellevue station (business card to right). An unassuming little shop, I forgot to take a photo even though I planned to blog about it, but you can't see much from outside anyway: shutters on the street and a sign that we missed three times while passing in the car. There is a generous section (pretty much a whole wall) of British beers, a large fridge full of American ales, a respectable Belgian section, and stacks of specialist wines, traditional German regional brews, and other drinks in racks and cases around the store.