Archive for the ‘Beer’ Category

How It Is To Be A Wine Lover in Finland

September 29, 2019 7 comments

How it is to be a wine lover in Finland? I have to honestly tell you – I have no idea.

Okay, I have a very limited idea, based on my first trip to Finland and about a week spent in Helsinki and Kuopio.

So yes, keep that in mind – as I don’t live here, my whole claim for expertise is simply a fresh eye of a passionate wine lover, who treats wines stores as toy (candy) stores – one of my indulgences when traveling solo – I can spend an unlimited amount of time in the wine store, slowly walking from the shelf to a shelf.

As I spent half a day in Helsinki, staying in the downtown area, the small-ish wine store was my first find. At first sight, I thought that the prices in Helsinki were higher than in Kuopio, but I’m not sure this is correct as alcohol sales in Finland are government-controlled. I saw beer and a few types of wine in the supermarkets, but if you want to buy wine or liquor, you have to head over to Alko, state-owned stores.

In the downtown Helsinki store, French Champagne seemed to be quite expensive – at least 1.5 times or some even double of what you would typically pay in the USA. However, Spanish, Italian, Californian, and even Australian wines were priced rather reasonably, especially taking into account the current exchange rate for euro. That ’06 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva at €37 looked like a steal to me:

Somehow, the Australian wines attracted my attention first (maybe it is my subconscious trying to compensate for the years of neglect, or maybe it is related to happily drinking Shiraz just a few weeks ago). It was not easy to make a choice – but I settled for the 2015 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz Clare Valley. One of the reason was that Jim Barry McRae Wood is one of my most favorite Shiraz wines of all times. I like the wines from the Clare Valley, they are usually lean and focused – and 2015 was giving at least some age for it.

The wine didn’t disappoint at all. Dark fruit, blackberries and a touch of blueberry, subtle pepper note, perfectly firm texture – delicious wine all in all. And let’s not forget the view…

The next morning I flew to Kuopio, a small town up north from Helsinki. Before we talk about wine, we need to talk about a beer. We had a bit of free time on Sunday after arrival to Kuopio, and we took a nice hike to the observation tower. There, in addition to the beautiful nature views, I also found a delicious local beer. I generally prefer dark beers, such as stouts and porters, so I just pointed to the darkest bottle I saw on the display. That was a lucky strike, as Iso-Kalan Mestari Stout from Kuopio (we could see from the top the brewery buildings where it was produced) was just superb – yes, don’t forget that it is a wine drinker talking about beer – but this beer had a perfect balance of malt, dark chocolate, and coffee – had to slow myself down not to gulp it all in an instance.

As a small town (118,000 people live there), Kuopio probably serves as the best proof that Finns love the wines. The wine store which I found in the mall at the market square, was a complete standout. Just gobs and gobs of a great finds, with Champagne section, almost pushing me to ask if this house is for rent 🙂 I was happy to see Rosé, Bordeaux selection looked simply excellent, and some of the unique finds, such as Chinese Changyu looked ultra attractive too – if I would’ve stayed there for longer, that bottle wouldn’t escape my attention.

Once again, the Australian section looked mysteriously attractive. First, I saw the words “second pass” on the label of Australian Shiraz. Reading the back label confirmed that yes, it is by design similar to Valpolicella Ripasso, and that there is also a Shiraz made in Amarone style. Looking up one shelf, I was happy to see the words “Dried Grape Shiraz” – here we go, the Amarone-style Shiraz itself. Of course, I had to buy it.

The 2015 Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz Nugan Estate South Australia was delicious from the get-go. The wine is made in Amarone style, with the grapes drying out for a few months before they are pressed into the wine. The wine opened up with a touch of the dried fruit on the nose, dense and powerful on the palate, with the dark fruit medley and again a touch of dried fruit, full-bodied and smooth, with a long playful finish. In a blind tasting, Amarone would be definitely one of my strong guessing options. While it was good on the first day, it became literally amazing on the 3rd day with the last sip of blueberries, blueberry compote, sweet oak, and long finish.

Right next to the Australian wine section in the store there were Austrian wines. The label with octopus instantly attracted my attention. The wine name was also intriguing – Beck Ink. Back label was suggesting that this is a “natural” wine – of course, this was the next wine I had to try.

2017 Beck Ink Austria (12% ABV, 80% Zweigelt, 20% St. Laurent) opened up with the punch of acidity. The first sip literally had the level of acidity which can make you cringe. There was a hint of underripe raspberries coming with it as well. As the wine was opening up, a little gaminess showed up, the acidity softened, letting more of dark berries to come into a play. The wine had a medium body and smooth, playful texture – if anything, it was really reminiscent of a very good Beaujolais Cru. While craving food, I kept adding from the bottle into the glass until I realized that it was already late – and I almost finished the bottle.

There you go, my friends. Based on what I saw, the wine is well regarded in Finland, and the wine lovers there have a very reasonable choice at very reasonable prices. Have fun peering through those pictures 🙂 Cheers!

Wine and Beer Lovers, Unite, or Marrying Hops and Grapes

April 9, 2016 4 comments

Sacrilege? Possible. Should I be ostracized by beer and wine aficionados alike, and this very blog been banned forever from their reading lists? I will leave it to aficionados to decide. I’m merely doing what I’ve always done in this blog – sharing my experiences, those which I deem worth sharing. That’s all there is to it.

When I got email from Andrew Jones, the winemaker behind one of my favorite labels, Field Recordings, advertising something called “Can Club”, the decision was quick – “yada, yada, yada – I have to do it” (the “yada” part is here to explain how much attention I was paying to the exact email content). Then I glanced over the following: “ Pure, free-run rose from a pair of our westside Paso Robles vineyard partners, mostly Grenache.  100% whole cone citra hops [sic] were added prior to canning.  The results, a super refreshing elixir, combining your love of Provence with a touch of Belgian brew.  I have a tough time explaining it because it isn’t like anything I have tried before.  It’s impossible for me to properly analyze.  I just want to drink it.“, and the next thought was “whatever. I have no idea what he is talking about, and I don’t care”. So yes, I signed up.

Few days ago, the door bell rung, and FedEx guy asked me to sign for something which rather resembled the set of engineering drawings – “hmmm, what is it” was my first thought. And then it downed on me (“this box contains alcohol” sign was a good cue) – aha, the can club?! I liked the unorthodox presentation so much that I even shared the puzzle on twitter, asking people to guess how the object in the picture can relate to the wine:

FedEx TubeThe most prevalent idea was “poster”, so I had to share an answer a few hours after:

Citra Rosé shipmentAnd then I opened the can. The liquid in the glass had an appeal of a perfect Rosé. Classic salmon pink color. On the nose, it was perfectly Provençal Rosé – touch of strawberries, hint of onion peel, refreshing minerality, touch of lemon. And the palate was, once again, perfectly Provençal – strawberries, touch of lemon, fresh, crispy. With the tiny beer bite on the finish. You know, the one which you get from the fruity, light Belgium beer. You don’t have to believe me, but I only read Andrew’s exact words when I sat down to write this post. “love of Provence with a touch of Belgian brew” – wow. It would be rare, very rare case that my take on the wine would match its description with such a precision . And then I have to fully agree with Andrew on one other thing – “ I just want to drink it“.

What can I tell you about this 2015 Field Recordings Citra Rosé Paso Robles (13.1% ABV, $14 retail/$10 club – 500ml can, 67% Grenache, 22% Picpoul Blanc, 8% Mourvédre, 3% Syrah)? It was delicious, perfectly combining the best of both beer and wine worlds – crisp, fresh, bright, thoughts provoking. Dangerous as well – as the wine comes in the can, you pretty much treat it as a single serving – while it actually contains more than 3 standard glasses of wine. But I think the taste is well worth that danger. And until you will get your hands on one of those cans, my words are all you got, so yes, take my word for it.

I want to raise my glass to never ending creativity and courage. Beer and wine lovers, rejoice! Cheers!

Beer Versus Wine (And Don’t Forget The Cider) + Food

October 9, 2014 10 comments

I don’t know what you think based on the title, but the premise of this [short] post is simple. The Wondering Gourmand has a permanent monthly feature in his blog, called “Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge”. In that challenge, you are given a choice of a dish, and you are supposed to come up with the wine or beer (and don’t forget the cider!) pairing suggestion which then gets voted for.

As a lucky winner of the September challenge, I had an opportunity to come up with the new dish for the challenge, and my suggestion was … deviled eggs! So now you can suggest a choice of pairing, and may be then get a lucky challenge of coming up with the next dish suggestion. Here is the link to the official post – use the comments section in the Wondering Gourmand post for your beer versus wine recommendations.

Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge – Deviled Eggs


Bar Q – Good Beer, But The Food Can Be Improved

September 13, 2013 12 comments
Beer list at Bar Q

Beer list at Bar Q

It seems that one of the unwritten rules of the blogosphere is that everybody tends to share positive experiences, and for everything else – well, that is what critics are for. Yes, we rant from time to time, but more to discuss a general problem, and not for any particular reason. Thinking about it, having a true picture is important. If someone provides mediocre product or service, we often just “vote with our feet” – instead, providing some criticism could be the best thing to do, as this is the only way for someone to find out that improvements are needed. As you already got my point, this post is about experience which could’ve being better.

We went to the Bar Q BBQ & Grill in Stamford during the restaurant week (a couple of weeks ago). This was our second visit – we were there last year at about the same time (also during the restaurant week), and we had a very tasty experience, so we were very much looking forward to visiting the restaurant again.

As you can guess from the name, Bar Q is focused on serving the American barbecue. Their wine list is very limited, but the draft beer selection is excellent (and the beer is more appropriate for the BBQ anyway). Also, the menu offers to create a beer tasting flight – 3 oz of beer, 4 beers in the flight, all for $9.

Beer flight at Bar Q

Beer flight at Bar Q

Our flight included Allagash White, Belgian style wheat ale – perfectly refreshing, Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat – had a bit more weight compare to Allagash, still quite refreshing, Woodchuck Amber Draft Cider – very dangerous to have in the presence of kids, as in appearance it is not any different than Ginger Ale – light, fizzy taste with some sweet notes – perfectly quaffable. The last beer was Blue Point Toasted Lager, which is in the category of so called Red Lager – it had some bitter notes, medium weight on the palate – quite enjoyable as well.

So the beer flight was great, the service was also very good – friendly and prompt, but the food – not so much, unfortunately.

We always like to try different things, so we ordered 4 different appetizers.

Appetizers round at Bar Q

Appetizers round at Bar Q

Out of Truck Stop Queso Dip, Pig in a Blanket, Chipotle Meat Sliders and Potato Pig Skins, only Queso Dip was tasty, and the sliders were okay. The potato skins were mushy and had no taste, and the pig in the blanket was a tasting disaster.

Our “main course”, a variety of BBQ items, was not great either.

We took pretty much everything from the BBQ “small plates” menu which was not a poultry – St. Louis Cut Sticky Ribs, Classic Pulled Pork, Sliced Beef Brisket, Beef Burnt Ends, House Smoked Kielbasa Sausage, Grilled BBQ Shrimp, Smoked Pork Belly and Memphis Dry Rubbed Baby Back Ribs. Most of the dishes were okay, but none of them was at the “wow” level. “Burnt ends” dish was a disappointment by comparison – last year we couldn’t get enough of it – it was so flavorful and delicious. This time, it was only “well, okay”. And the smoked pork belly was a disaster – a blob of dribbling fat,  smothered in the BBQ sauce. Yes, it was cooked, but the piece itself was such that in my opinion it should be never served in the restaurant as a dish (may be only used as a cooking fat). The sides dishes were [unfortunately] the best part of the meal.

To conclude, I wouldn’t put this as a “terrible experience” – it was an okay food experience, and drinks and service were excellent. But the problem is, this restaurant is no longer on my “I would love to do it again” list. No, I’m not asking for an absolute perfection – but, there should be at least one “wow” moment, an anchor which will pull us back – and this time around, Bar Q clearly didn’t have one. I hope it might be different in a future, and I will be glad to give Bar Q another try – but someone will have to convince me that it is well worth it.

Bar Q BBQ & Grill
261 Main St. (Behind Black Bear)
Stamford, CT 06901
PHONE: 203.316.0278

Bar Q BBQ on Urbanspoon

Cape Cod Chips and Cape Cod Beer

July 7, 2013 10 comments

What goes better together than potato chips and beer? This is definitely a winning combination, especially if it is a rainy day on Cape Cod, or you had too much sun and you just need to do something else.

Both Cape Cod Chips factory and Cape Cod Beer are located in a very close proximity from each other, in the area of Hyannis. We decided to start with the Cape Cod Chips factory tour, just to keep the kids happy (besides, they are open earlier in the morning than the Cape Cod Beer).

cape cod chips DSC_0044Cape Cod Chips factory tour is self-guided, where you walk along the glass wall and can see the whole process of potato chip making, starting from inspection of the potatoes, slicing, frying in the huge kettles and then packaging and sorting the packages. There is a lot of fun facts which you can read during the tour, but – photography is prohibited, and my son became super upset when I said that I will ignore it and still take pictures, so here is the only informational picture I was able to get:

cape code potato chip info

cape code potato chips info

It is a pity that the Cape Cod Chips web site doesn’t list any of the fun facts (for instance, they can only use the potatoes which have the least water content for making of the chips), and they only provide minimal general information (sigh). Anyway, if you are on Cape Cod, especially with the kids, this is a highly recommended attraction. At the end of the tour you visit the shop where you get two small bags of chips for free (few different flavors are available), but you can also buy a few different kinds of chips in the big bags.

Once you done with the potato chips, a short 5 minutes car ride will take you to Cape Cod Beer brewery:

cape cod beer DSC_0049

There is a once a day tour of the brewery, which takes place at 11 AM. But even if you will miss the tour, you can still do the best part – taste the beer! This is what was on the tasting list ( sorry for the picture quality : ( ):

Beer tasting list at Cape Cod Beer

Beer tasting list at Cape Cod Beer

Cape Cod Beach Blond was very good – light, citrusy and refreshing – this is the beer you can (or you think you can) consume by the gallon – perfect beer for the hot summer day. Cape Cod Red didn’t leave any lasting impressions, and Cape Cod Porter was… well, just another Porter. Porter is one of my favorite styles of beer in general, but again this particular Porter was not worse, but also not better than any others. Cape Cod IPA was good, with nice sweet undertones and not as bitter as many IPAs can get. My favorite beer was Cape Cod Summer – while it was retaining all the lightness and freshness of the Cape Cod Beach Blond, it also had substance and and very unique taste – you could clearly taste a fresh barley in this beer, almost like you are standing in the middle of barley field. Definitely a great beer.

I also enjoyed an opportunity to experience (read: smell) different types of hops and malts. I wish one day we will have an ability to record and then share tastes and smells – using words and images is clearly deficient for this purpose. Why am I saying that? Here is the Chocolate malt, which one actually have to smell to believe it (the smell of chocolate was unbelievable to me!):

picture doesn't do the justice. Just imagine how pure chocolate smells...

picture doesn’t do the justice. Just imagine how pure chocolate smells…

And here is the chart which shows you how different kids of malts and hops are used in the different beers:

Hops, malts and beers chart

Hops, malts and beers chart

Here are few pictures just to complete the experience:


Beers and hops

Beers and hops

There will be beer!

There will be beer!

Kegs are ready!

Kegs are ready!

Oh yes, and I fully endorse the message underneath (note that we can use “beer” interchangeably with “wine”, “scotch”, and other tasty concoctions):



Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay cool! Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Chardonnay Day, Wine Appellation Earth?, Best Blogging Tips and more

May 22, 2013 12 comments

Meritage Time!

wine quiz answers First and foremost, let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #57, Grape Trivia – Grenache. Below are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Name two grapes which are traditional blending partners of Grenache

A1: Yes, we are talking the famous GSM blends, and the blending partners of Grenache are Syrah (Shiraz in Australia) and Mourvèdre (known as Monastrell in Spain and often called Mataro in Australia).

Q2: Below is the list of countries which use Grenache in the winemaking. Sort the list by the area of Grenache plantings, from the highest acreage to the lowest:

A. Australia, B. France, C. Italy, D. Spain, E. United States

A2: The correct answer is France, Spain, Italy, US, Australia (so it will be BDCEA). The culprit here was Italy, in my opinion, there Grenache is known as Cannonau – I didn’t expect that Italy grows so much of it… Here is my source of data – an article at Wine Folly’s web site.

Q3: One winery in US is often credited with spearheading the success of  Grenache in US. Can you name that winery?

A3: Tablas Creek winery in California – they imported Grenache cuttings from France to the US in 1990, and it was the beginning of great Grenache wines in US. Here is an excellent article about Grenache on Tablas Creek’s web site.

Q4: A few centuries ago, Grenache was a popular blending addition in one of the regions in France, until it became illegal by the AOC rules. Do you know what region was that?

A4: Actually, it was Burgundy, where addition of Grenache was popular way to add body to otherwise finicky Pinot Noir wines. Of course it is illegal practice for the long time.

Q5: Same as for the number of other grapes, Grenache exists in three different grape variations – Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris. There is one wine where it is absolutely legal to use all three grapes as the part of the blend. Can you name that wine?

A5: Châteauneuf-du-Pape! Well, I should’ve post the question as “type of wine” – but in any case, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (CdP for short) AOC rules allow inclusion of all three different Grenache grapes into the same wine. I always thought that CdP allows 13 grapes to be blended together in production of CdP wines, but it appears that the rules has recently changed, and now there are 18 grapes which are all allowed for use as winemaker desires.

And the winner is…(drum roll)… The Drunken Cyclist with five correct answers! He is definitely on the winning streak for a while and once again he gets unlimited bragging rights. I want also to acknowledge The Winegetter, Red Wine Diva and Eat With Namie who all got 3 out of 5 questions right – definitely a commendable effort.

Now, to the interesting stuff around the web vine – boy, there is plenty to share!

First, sorry for the late notice, but tomorrow is 4th annual Chardonnay Day! Well, Chardonnay is not such a hard wine to get, right? You still got time to make sure you will celebrate in style, whatever your style is – Burgundy, Chablis, Big California, California-pretending-to-be-Chablis, I-am-unoaked-and-almost-like-Pinot-Grigio-chose-me  – anyway, any kind of Chardonnay goes. And if you want to officially assert your participation, here is a link to the event page where you can officially join the ranks of Chardonnay aficionados.

Next, I want to bring to your attention an interesting post by Mike Veseth of The Wine Economist fame. The post is titled Is This the Beginning of Juice Box Wine? and it is talking about true globalization of wine in terms of production – one of the new wines from Barefoot called Impression and it is produced from the juice sourced from all over the world, so the wine doesn’t state any appellation on the label. What do you think of such approach to winemaking? Will this be a fluke, or will we see more of the wines from appellation Earth?

As you know, I’m a big fun of Stéphane Gabart’s blog, My French Heaven. I find his food pictures as some of the most incredible I ever come across, in the blogs or on Pinterest. Now Stéphane was very kind to write a blog post called “20 tips for stunning food photography“, which definitely worth your attention if you want to master your food picture taking skills. Also, as this is not the first time I refer to some of the “best tips and practices”, I decided to create a dedicated page for the Best Blogging Tips, where I will be collecting all the references like this one. If you have any suggestions as to what should be included in that “Best Blogging Tips” collection, please let me know – I hope to make it into a very useful resource for all.

Next subject is … beer! Yes, even in the wine blog there is a place for a beer. When you hear about the beer called Nuclear Tactical Penguin – is that the beer you would want to try? Well, okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely interested. But turns out that this beer is practically impossible to get in US, so the best thing one can do is to enjoy it vicariously. This is what I did when I read this post at Wayward Wine blog. Outside of just great description of the beer, you can also learn about Frozen Beer category and how those beers are made – I think this reading will be well worth the time. Also, while looking for another beer from BrewDog company, this one called Sink the Bismark, I came across the list of 10 most expensive beers in the world! Now I want to try BrewDog’s The End Of History (55% ABV and still a beer!), but considering that it costs $765 for 330 ml, I will need a sponsor… anyone?

And last, but not the least subject for today – Wine Blog Awards finalists are finally announced. No, I didn’t make it to the list of finalists (sigh). But I would like to congratulate Jeff a.k.a. The Drunken Cyclist as he got into the finals in the Best Writing category. Anyway, this week is the public voting week, so you can cast your vote for the best blog here.

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. The glass is empty – but more wine is coming. Cheers!

Even in the Wine Blog There is a Place for a Little Beer

February 16, 2013 18 comments

While all the wine lovers agree (feel free to smack me if you disagree) that we are currently living through the wine revolution, where more and better wines are available from and in more place around the world, the same sentiment applies to the beer lovers. More and better and different beers are available to the beer aficionados throughout the world, coming from everywhere in the world. There are many liquor stores advertising the fact that they have multiple thousands of different beers in stock – no questions that the beer revolution is here.

Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to catch a glimpse of that beer revolution myself – my friend Zak had to taste a bunch of new beers for his Cost Less Wines store, and I happened to be around at the same time (lucky occasion). We tasted through a dozen of beers, one literally better than the other – and below you will find pictures and my notes. Here is also a disclaimer – while I can describe the wine in words to some degree, I can’t describe beer – at all. So below are mostly pictures, with some minimal words – but I will at least tell you whether I liked the beer or not.

Our full ine of beers for tasting

Our full line of beers for tasting

I will give you my notes to match the pictures – but no, we didn’t taste the beers in that order – sweet ginger beer at the beginning of tasting is a bit much… I also made an effort to give you links for additional information for every beer. Here we go:


Full Sail Nut Brown Ale, Full Sail Brewing, Hood River, Oregon – excellent, very round, smooth.

Pandora’s Bock, Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado – beautiful color in the glass, touch of caramel on the palate.

Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, Crabbie’s, Scotland – ginger candy, very soft, smooth, refreshing, pretty much a ginger ale with alcohol.


Agave Wheat, Breckenridge Brewery, Colorado – sweet, light, similar to Belgium beer, refreshing, touch nutty.

West Coast IPA™ India Pale Ale, Green Flash Brewery, San Diego, CA – (99 out of 100 points by RateBeer) hoppy, touch bitter at the end, very round.


Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster, England – there was four of us, four guys tasting this beer – you should’ve heard a simultaneous foodgasm (moan, scream, whatever) coming from all four guys! This was a pure chocolate on the nose, and liquid chocolate on the palate. I don’t know why this is called beer – this is just something else. Perfect!

Russian Imperial Stout, Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury, Vermont – in the glass, looks like motor oil. On the palate – this is coffee, not beer! A wow beer ( if you like coffee)!


Session Premium Lager, Full Sail Brewing, Hood River, Oregon – excellent beer – light, refreshing, wheat style

Session Black Lager, Full Sail Brewing, Hood River, Oregon– tobacco on the nose, light, hint of coffee  and chocolate on the palate. One of the lightest lagers I ever had, excellent.


Bengali Tiger, Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn, New York – very perfumy, with orange and spices on the palate. Very elegant.

The Crisp, Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn, New York – excellent beer. A touch of citrus, light, creamy.

Sweet Action, Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn, New York – touch of sweetness, simple, orange zest, hint of anise at the finish.

3Beans, Sixpoint Brewery, Brooklyn, New York – Perfectly delicate coffee drink. Just wow.

That’s all I have for you for today. This was a great tasting, with many wow beers, but what is even better, there was not a single dull beer in the group, which is very impressive. Welcome to the beer revolution. Cheers!

Something Is Strange In This Picture

June 3, 2012 3 comments

So it is a picture of Blue Moon beer label. Okay, it is a vintage beer. 2012 vintage to be precise. It is interesting, but not necessarily strange. I believe vintage beer can age – however, I never tried aging beer before. But – never mind the vintage part. There is something a lot more peculiar about this beer label, something which I never saw before. Do you see what I see?

 Comment if you see the strange part! Happy Sunday, everyone! Cheers!

Beer Experience For The Wine Lovers

November 7, 2010 2 comments

Does beer belongs to mostly a wine blog? You bet – anything which gives you a tasty experience does, and beer is no exception. It is interesting to observe feuds between beer and wine drinkers. Allegiance to one kind of drink can be almost religious, and then nobody is sparred during the “ahh, you are a [that other nasty beverage] drinker” encounters.

Yes, I would admit that beer is not a typical drink for me. One one side, I know how to preserve the leftover wine in the bottle ( vacuum pump, argon,…), and I’m really not sure what to so with the beer leftovers. Another issue for me is that once beer goes into the bottle, it doesn’t evolve anymore. The beer is valued for its freshness, and effectively for the “sameness” of the taste – any bottle of Samuel Adams Lager is expected to taste the same. Wine is a living thing, including in the bottle, so while you have an expectation of the taste, there is always an element of mystery when the wine bottle is opened.

I have to admit that the beer tasting experience we had last weekend made me think that I actually have to pay more attention to the beers! Many years ago (1993/1994, if I’m not mistaken), I was a member of “Beer Across America” club, where I was getting 2 6-packs of micro-brewed beers every month. It was very enjoyable experience for about year and a half, and then it became boring, so I stopped the membership (I wonder if this is the story with most of those “monthly clubs”). Tasting the four beers last weekend reminded me of that excitement – and I want to share the experience.

We had total of 4 different beers. The word “different” doesn’t even come close to explain how diversely those beers tasted. The most “standard” (only in terms of previous experience) was beer called La Chouffe, unfiltered Blond Ale, produced by Brasserie D’Achouffe from Belgium. Very fruity and pleasant beer, with lots of sweet notes on the palate. This was a very good example of Belgium Blonde Ale, completely adhering to its distinct style.

The next one was beer called Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer from Scotland. I would highly recommend this beer for any scotch-lover, as after smooth and round palate comes perfect finish with hint of single malt scotch (Highland or Speyside in style). Oak also imparts some interesting honey and vanilla notes on the palate, all in all making Innis & Gunn a very enjoyable beer.

The next beer should really be designated as “wine, masquerading as beer”. Rodenbach Grand Cru, another beer from Belgium, had probably the most unexpected taste from this group (polarizing too, as my friends Kfir and Hadas didn’t like it at all, so it is two against one). To make wine parallel even more visible, you have to know that this beer undergoes double fermentation and resulting beer is produced as a mix of one-third of young beer and two-thirds of the beer aged in the oak casks for two ( Sic!) years! Therefore it is no wonder that liquid in your glass tastes “vinous” and has a great balance of acidity and fruits, with acidity being extremely noticeable, quite similar to any good wine. This beer should be experienced in order to truly believe it…

Now last, but not least – Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, the original smokebeer from Germany. Not sure if I should be ashamed or not, but I definitely missed whole group of smoke beers – I discovered Belgium beers long time ago, but never heard of the smoke beers, which seems to be a category with good amount of offerings, considering that Wine Enthusiast has the whole section covering them. This particular beer which is called Schlenkerla, is brewed over the smoke of the burning beechwood logs, and then matured in the cellars. The resulting beer offers smooth taste with pronounced smokiness, which all together creates very delicious experience.

That’s all the experience I wanted to share, but if I can give you an advice – go find those beers and experience them for yourself. If you think you don’t like beer, give one of those a try – you might learn something new about yourself…

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