Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Beer Project

My mother the flight attendant has frequent trips to Europe and is kind enough to always bring back a nice supply of the local wares. A recent trip saw her return with so much beer from Belgium and Germany that it was like watching Ben Franklin unload a French clipper ship in the 18th century.

Some of these you can already find on American soil. Others may start appearing now that InBev has purchased Anheuser-Busch. Let's hope InBev focuses on variety more than increasing sales of Stella, the beer overrated by people who try too hard.

Looking at these bottles, I'm already trying to figure out how actual Belgians drink when they go out. They couldn't possibly stick to one beer for life, could they? But then what do you do when a bar has a beer list like the Cedar Rapids phonebook? Even if you live down the street from the bar and go twice a day, that's daunting.

I've rated each guzzle from 1-5 snobs. A one snob job, give it to your uncle who's been Bud Light for life even though he himself is older than Bud Light. A five snobber, only drink it with a friend who has chunky black glasses and a thick sweater.

So let's see what she brought back in order of hoist and quaff.

Oh, quick warning before we get started. no part of any label on these beers turns blue at any time, so you'll never know when they're cold. Even if you touch the bottle and it feels cold, you'll never be sure that it is cold. so proceed with caution.

Oh oh, second quick warning. I intentionally took bad photos so as to not seem like I'm engaging in any food porn. I know the conservative justice department is cracking down on such things as a final Bush legacy.

Timmermans Gueuze Lambic - Apple listed as the fruit, but it tasted like white grapes. A head like champagne, meaning you can pour it over the glass. The golden color is so clear you could pour two bottles and use them as sunglasses. Sweet at first, then sour right up to the point of making friends with bitter. In fact, it's both really sweet and really sour which is really odd. 2 snobs.

Cuvee des Trolls - The typical cloudy gold. Yeasty, not as peppery as some Belgians. Seemed like it wanted to have hints of lemon at times, but couldn't really commit to it. According to their very own website, dried orange peels are added to the wort, so that makes at least a little bit of sense. This beer is completely fine is every way, but that's about as far as I can go in my advocation. 1 snob.

Timmermans Lambicus Blanche - Never lost its head because it bubbled constantly. Watched the bubbles flow north the entire time like it was champagne sitting through a long wedding toast. Cloudy appearance, taste of apples and bananas. The ingredients listed sugar, sweetener and saccarhine, so either this is a weird translation or this beer is really sour at the start because it still has some tartness and bitterness to it. Nice and refreshing. 2 snobs.

St. Feuillien Blonde -Comes in the cutest li'l bottle you ever did see. If it was any breadier, I would've been eating a roll. Cloudy, like normal. A little dash of pepper. Bitter finish, like citrus pith. 2 snobs.

Grimbergen Dubbel - Held up to the light, the color is a beautiful reddish brown. Smelled like cherries and cranberries. Tasted like cherries and cranberries, with some nuts and spices added in. Malty. Man, i would drink it over and over. 4 snobs.

Grimbergen Goud Doree - Immediately takes over your entire mouth with creaminess and bubbles. A mouth feel like carbonated milk. And I mean that as a compliment, so take it as one. Taste of banana and a little citrus or coriander. Malty, not too hoppy. About the same clear gold as Budweiser. Putting those two in glasses next to each other and then alternating sips would be like driving a red Porsche three blocks, stopping and switching to a red Ford Focus. 3 snobs.

Vedett Extra Blond - I included a photo of the back of the bottle because I liked the picture. Like these guys are the Belgian version of Jones Soda Co. In fact, looking at their website, that's exactly what they are. If the color was any more pale, you'd think it was pinot grigio. Yes, I'm comparing my Belgian beer to pinot grigio. You may not be surprised to learn I'm voting for Obama. Anyway, not much flavor in this one. Kinda hoppy, but that's about it. My least favorite crack and sip so far. Vedett is made by the same people who make Duvel, and I like Duvel, so if it's coming from one tank into two bottles, won't I be quite the fool? The Duvel website says that the 64-year old Vedett is making a comeback in the trendy cafes of Brussels, so if the bottle is the Belgian Jones Soda, the contents are the Belgian PBR. 1 snob here, 4 in Brussels.

Franziskaner Weissbier Dunkel - Pro tasters spit in that little bucket so they don't get tippled. Well, I drank this the day of the tot's second birthday party and I was more interested in drinking than tasting. But I've had it before anyway. Great dunkel. Nutty, malty, smooth. 3 snobs.

Warsteiner Premium Verum - This is a beer. That's is about as much as I can say about it. The color is more yellow than gold, though when you tip it in a half-full mug, it's almost clear as water. The taste has a little malt, a little hops and a little bitterness. It's totally fine as a beer goes. Like pizza and sex, there is no such thing as bad German beer. Although there is bad German sex and probably indescribably bad German pizza. This would be a good beer for a party in that the fancy German label would impress people, but the plain American taste wouldn't offend anybody. 1 snob.

Franziskaner Weissbier Kristallklar - As we all remember from history class, the kristallnacht was the Night of Broken Glass, the night the Nazis destroyed synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses in Germany. So if kristall means glass, klar must mean clear, because this is the palest beer I've ever seen in my life. Leave it to the Germans to try and go as blond as possible. Taste wise, this is a lot like the Grimbergen Goud Doree. Very carbonated, very creamy, malty with some banana sweetness in it. It's basically your standard tasty wheat beer with most of the color Photoshopped out. Perhaps after they heard about Crystal Pepsi and Zima, the Germans decided to see if they could make their own clear beer. They came close. Normally, I'd give this one 2 snobs, but the kristallklar color wash bumps it up to 3 snobs.

Henninger Kaiser Pilsner - With a name like that, you might think this beer is from Japan, but no, it's German. A refreshing light gold. Not quite kristallklar, but getting there. For a pilsner, it had a surprising amount of bitter hops flavor. 2 snobs.

Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel - Dunkels and dubbels. I lovel 'em! You know, I'm always confused when I read flowery wine reviews as the sipper runs down the list of flavors he encountered in a single sip. How in the goddamn does a grape taste like leather and tobacco? Well, Erdinger Dunkel can taste like chocolate, coffee, raisins or dark brown sugar depending on...I don't know what, actually. The angle of entry into your mouth, maybe. Or where the sun sits in the summer sky. A rich dark brown that has a tinge of red if you hold a flashlight up to it. And my god, if you're holding up a flashlight to your beer to inspect the color, you're either the brewmaster or some kind of ultrasnob. And I know you're not the brewmaster. 4 snobs.

Krombacher Pils - It's fine. A pilsener in color, head and flavor. And that's fine. Really, it is. Another good beer to put out at a party because it has European label snob factor without overbearing taste that will put off the Philistines in the crowd. Oh, you Philistines! Always keeping everything so simple. Kinda sweet and malty, that's about it. 2 snobs.

Flensburger Pilsener - I've now had enough of these golden German pilseners to realize something. Theyir pilseners, their easy I don't want to think I just want to guzzle beers, are just about in line with American pale ales. You know all of the standard color stuff by now, so I'll just remark that this is a surprisingly hoppy beer. 3 snobs.

Kulmbacher Monchshof Kellerbier - As it turns out, kellerbier is a style of beer. And Kulmbacher Monchsof is a delicious kellerbier. Somewhere between reddish and orange, it's a cloudy glass that cannot be peered through. Just so rich and lovely. A lot of caramel, a lot of malt, it's very much like Fat Tire, except with 22 more letters in the name. 4 snobs.

Tongerlo Bruin - Going from the beers of another country back to Belgian beers is like going from white wine to red. The flavor is just so much thicker and more pronounced. A huge, creamy head, pours a beautiful red. The classic sweet, malty taste you get from Belgians. I loved it, though I suspect actual Belgian people could not care less about Tongerlo. 4 snobs.

Hoegaarden Verboten Vrucht - As you can tell from the Eden label, this beer is 6,000 years old and was created in six days. With a name like Forbidden Fruit, I was expecting it to be almost a lambic. And maybe it is, except zombie yeast came back from the dead and took over this bottle. Yeast flecks were floating in this beer like it was Italian dressing. I assume bitter and dirty is not what Hoegaarden was shooting for here, so no snob ranking for this one.

Karmeliet Tripel - Smells like gold. And also bread. So creamy. Fills your mouth like creamy, golden bread. touch of bitter hops, a little bit of sweetness. so easy to drink, which is the danger zone where your beer is 8.4%. Lemme have two more, then I gotta drive home! Don't worry, it's all windy back roads!

Malheur - This name means bad hour in French. I don't want to be taunted by my beers, but with a 12% alcohol content, maybe they know what they're talking about. Dark, rich brown. Cola. Rich, heavy taste. The sweet pungency of caramelized onions, without actually tasting like onions. Like eating a meatloaf sandwich on the thickest, densest French bread, smothered in gravy, mashed potatoes. So, so heavy. Drinking this beer lets you know what your body would feel like on Neptune. The extra gravity makes you slow and sluggish. Malty, yeasty, tastes of slightly burned molasses. Did I mention it's heavy? As delicious as it is, I do not recommend drinking more than un Maleheur a month. If you are an insomniac considering suicide, try a Malheur. You'll be asleep in 20 minutes.

Orval - Let's not skirt the issue here. Orval is the finest beer I have ever gulleted. The flavor is more complex than the ramifications of Sarah Palin as President. You have to divert off into wine terms to describe the flavor of this beer. Raisins, apples, molasses, sure, you'll find them in a lot of Belgian beers. But oak? Pine needles? A dry feel like expensive cabernets. Let's stop wasting your time and mine. Mostly yours. Orval is the true king of beers. Viva le roi! 5 snobs.

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