Wednesday, 29 July 2015

EUROTRIP 2015 - SWITZERLAND

Beer O'Clock on Tour


From Milan we took the train to Geneva in Switzerland. I didn't know what to expect from the Swiss craft beer scene, but I did go armed with the knowledge that they have a craft beer store in the train station.

If you've read my Italy wrap up, you'd be aware I had a pretty big night out on my last night in Milan and so when buying beers was a little under the weather... The shop I visited had a quite a varied range, resulting in the macro lager reviews you've seen over the last week or so, as well as the beers I'm going to review here.

As I was still recovering I didn't get into any of the craft beers on my first night. I did howver brave a Cardinal Speciale with dinner. It was a sweetish lager but on the whole could have been a lot worse. Later that night I followed it up with my first ever Morrocan beer, Casablanca, which you can read about in more detail in the link provided here. 

The next day, feeling much better I must add, I sampled Calanda from a can after a hot morning of walking around. Alongside Cardinal and Feldschlossen this is one of the main macro lagers produced in Switzerland. Much like the Cardinal it was a bit sweet, but perfectly drinkable with a light astringency separating it from the pack.

With lunch I had an Ittinger Klosterbrau. It was an Amber Ale/Vienna Lager made by Heineken Switzerland. I found it to be quite enjoyable with good caramel malts. That afternoon we popped over to France and the beautiful village of Annecy. Naturally after a quick tour we had a beer; mine was the Brasseurs Savoyards BS Blonde. It wasn't anything special, but it did go down nicely in the heat.

Back in Geneva I tried the Chopfab Summer, which purported to be a White IPA. I hate to say this; but it wasn't. It was very middle of the road with not enough witbier characteristics nor enough hops to satisfy either element of this beer. I think more of either would have improved it, leaving it like this just left me wondering what might have been...

I had another Cardinal Speciale for dinner, seemingly the only Swiss beer served in Geneva restaurants - before jumping into Club Colombia, find that review here. La Nebuleuse made quite an impression on me with their Stirling, which they termed a California Common. It was definitely an American Pale Ale however, with great citrus hops and a lovely malt base. I enjoyed it so much that I went and bought another few of their beers, although that's a story for another day...

Ticino Brewery Company's Bad Attitude Hobo was the last beer of the day. I was not at all impressed with it! It was very malty and lacking in hops. I don't know if this was an old bottle, but if it was fresh stock it was a gross misunderstanding of the term IPA.

Switzerland's main lager is Feldschlossen Original. I sampled a can of it on our last day in Switzerland - a day Lizzie and I split many lagers! This one was perfectly acceptable. It wasn't too sweet, and had enough hops to keep me interested but not too much to put Lizzie off.,,

We went to this restaurant that only serves chicken for lunch, Chez ma Cousine - also one of the cheapest places to eat in Geneva. I have a Calvinus Blonde Bio. It was a Blonde Ale that had nice yeast characters and citrus flavours, but I thought a little hop bitterness could have added to it... For dinner I had a Calanda off tap, which was more inline with the canned Feldschlossen with a lot less abject sweetness and an almost bitter hop finish.

Docteur Gab's Houleuse was my favourite beer that I had in Switzerland. It was an impressive Witbier, packed full of coriander with this intriguing slightly sour finish that left me wanting more and more. I'm assuming the sourness was intentional, because I loved it, it seemed too perfect to be an infection, but I've been wrong in the past...

That night I tried three more lagers of the world, two of which were reviewed for your enjoyment. The first was Chinggis, named after Genghis Khan, from Mongolia. The second, which wasn't reviewed was Crocodile from Sweden which I found far too sweet. Finally Polar Pilsener a Venezuelan lager with a nice hoppy finish, which you can read more about here.

Last but not least I couldn't not try a German IPA when I saw it. Riedenburger Dolden Sud was the beer and it had quite interesting hops with restrained bitterness. The hop flavour through me a little, with my brain unable to decide if the fruitiness was apricot or melon. I did quite like it though, as it was quite different to most of the IPA's we get at home. 

I didn't manage to get through all the Swiss beer; I saved some of it for Liechtenstein, where I assumed my craft beer options would be restricted. Before catching our train from Geneva I popped back into Drinks of the World to grab a couple of reinforcement beers, with no idea on what my options would be like in or around Vaduz.


Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

EUROTRIP 2015 - ITALY

Beer O'Clock on Tour


It's time to smash out this monster Eurotrip report on Italy. This is one of the biggest countries for a number of reasons; I bought far too much at the bottle shop and I spent a day with a very old friend, in which we sampled far far too many of Italy's finest!

Rather than bore you with too much pre-text we'll jump straight into it. We were based in Milan and visited 4Sensi, the closest bottleshop to where we were staying. The guy spoke little English but was quite helpful pointing out a few simply cannot miss Italian beers. As usual I stuck to just Italian stuff.

Before I managed to get into the beers at the apartment, we stopped at a quaint little bar called Beerbacco. I had a Kamaleon from The Wall which was a disappointing American Pale Ale lacking in hops and tasting a little watery; whilst Lizzie's Trubes Weiss was a much better experience being a very bananaey Hefeweizen - which unfortunately she didn't share well...

Dinner that night was at a little local restaurant called Grand Italia. We'd been walking around for ages trying to find somewhere and from outside this seemed to fit the bill. Inside they had craft beer from Lambrate, an added bonus!

The Lambrate Gaina was a traditional Amerian IPA, which I very much enjoyed. The better beer however was the Montestella from the same brewery. This is without a doubt one of the best Helles' I've had It was fantastically crisp and refreshing and is one that I hope makes it out our way in the future as it would really suit our summer.
 
A Grimbergen Blonde shower beer followed, and I'm pleased to report it's just as good out of the can! An odd beer from Birrificio Farnese was next called Calafuria. It had quite unusual hops with spicy apricots the dominant flavour I could pick up. The label artwork was cool, but the beer wasn't that far above average...

Our second full day in Milan was a big one; starting at Baladin Milano, at doors opening, I had a Fragus from Birra del Borgo as I was craving a sour (although strangely it didn't taste like strawberries...). Then I got stuck into the Baladin range, with their wonderfully light and refreshing Witbier, Isaac, first up.

Their Soraya ginger beer was next and it was everything I would ever want in a ginger beer, with plenty of raw ginger (not sweetened) and very refreshing. For those who like those things, it's excellent! Baladin's Nina was next off the handpump. It was wonderfully creamy and tasted brilliant! If all ESB's tasted like this I might not dislike them as much...
 
Still at Baladin I had their Super Bitter, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. I thought it was quite light on the Belgian side of things but it was bitter and had a big body. Last but not least I tried the (Gold Label) Xyauyu. I loved it! Words can't quite describe this barley wine; if you have the opportunity please try it!

Lizzie's cravings for sushi led us to a Brazilian/Japanese restaurant called Temakinho. The sushi was good, but most importantly I managed to sample the final two beers required to earn me the Suds Samba badge on Untappd - check out my Eurotrip badge wrap up in a few weeks for further details. Neither Bohemia or Skol were out of this world good though...

Birrificio Farnese's Chica was a blonde ale that was a little too bland for my liking, whilst Menabrea's 150th Anniversary lager was actually an excellent lager to pair with food. The night finished off with two Belgian inspired offerings; the first Baladin's Nazionale, a beer that showcased Italian produce (using only Italian grown things in the brewing process, if that wasn't obvious). It was a nice light beer with good Belgian characteristics.
 
The second was an excellent collaboration between Extraomnes and Stillwater from the United States. Naturally, as it involved Stillwater, the beer was a Saison. It was very easy drinking and had an unusual hop profile being quite spicy. It's one I hope to be able to try again in the future.

Then started an absolute monster day of drinking. I met up with an old friend and we proceeded to split the remaining beers of my haul and then proceed on a path of destruction around Milan. We drank solidly for about 15 hours, as such some of the tasting notes may be a little brief! I can't remember being quite as hungover as I was about dinner time the next day!

Birrificio Milano was first up with their Amber Ale, La Picchiata. It was nice to have an Amber Ale again, but this was a little too bland. The Trhibu IPA was second and had good bitterness and an apricotty flavour. Whilst unfortunately Robot Invader's great label was let down by the beer production. It was horribly infected and had to be drain poured. 

The Perfect Circle Azul Double IPA had great bitterness and was one of my favourite Italian beers, whilst the Blood IPA from Birrificio Farnese was a really solide Red IPA. Extraomnes popped up again with their wonderful Tripel and Hoerdum Moka, a coffee stout, rounded off the inside selection with a lovely body and good coffee hit.

From here things went down hill... We both knocked off 2 longnecks of Birra Moretti, which actually isn't too bad a lager, in the park. Before deciding it was too hot, it was close to 40, and retreating to an airconditioned Tabac for a couple more Peroni Reds. On the way back home we needed to take a piss, so stopped off at another Tabac and bought a few Beck's, before thinking we should grab some more longnecks of Birra Moretti for the hour and a half before places opened for dinner...

We both knocked off another two of them, before heading to Verger for some brilliant pasta that we were far too drunk to enjoy, where I had another Menabrea 150th Anniversary lager. After a quick cocktail interlude we hit up the local Irish pub after dinner, which also served craft beer, and had a lovely White IPA from Gagliarda that I would highly recommend. I also tried a Smuttynose IPA from the States which I have very little recollection of...

The guys at that bar recommended we head somewhere else afterwards and dutifully off we staggered to the train and subsequently BQ on the canal. I had one of the best beers I'd had in Italy there, after possibly the worst G&T I've ever had! The beer was the Gose from Birrificio Opera and it was wonderfully light and salty, as any good Gose should be!
 
After we had a few more drinks, went on a wild goose chase to find some club and then somehow made it back to the apartment by about 3:30am. It was a great day, but one I was certainly regretting on my train to Switzerland the next day. Drunken antics aside, Italy had a much wider selection of craft beer readily available than I was expecting. I wouldn't suggest it as a craft beer Mecca, but you could do worse than head here for a few beers.

 
Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Monday, 20 July 2015

REVIEW: LIECHTENSTEINER BRAUHAUS HELL'S

European Beer Challenge #51 Liechtenstein


STATS
  • Country: Liechtenstein
  • Style: Munich Helles Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Slightly Pricey
It's been over 2 years, but the European Beer Challenge on Beer O'Clock Australia is finally back! This review is coming to you live from our balcony in Vaduz, Liechtenstein's capital city. It may have taken ages to get here, but for this moment it was totally worth it!

The Principality of Liechtenstein is one of the world's smallest countries at only 160km2. Since 2007 they've had a craft brewery of some repute, with Liechtensteiner Brauhaus winning a number of awards in Germany. I've been waiting a few years to get my hands on this, so let's get into it!

Liechtensteiner Brauhaus Hell's pours a light golden colour with a medium sized head of white, highly aerated foam. The bulk of the head fades quickly, but half a finger was left throughout the majority of drinking. It even laced the glass, which has been a rarity for lagers in recent days... This is also one of my favourite beer photo's I've ever taken, the one I'll take back home might not go ahead of it... You'll have to check back in two or three weeks and find out if it did.

Onto the nose and it's particularly enticing. The grain bill is slightly sweet, albeit expectant for a Helles, as well as having good fruitiness and a touch of lager yeast. The fruitiness of the hops in particular excited me, with clear signs that these guys knew what they were doing when they brewed this and didn't just do it on the cheap.

The taste lived up to the nose; it was an excellent example of a Munich Helles Lager. The malts were sweet, in a good way, and provided more than enough balance to the hops, which had grassy and fruity characteristics. The fruit was nowhere near as strong to taste as the aroma had indicated. Liechtensteiner Brauhaus Hell's was light and easy drinking and a beer I'm looking forward to trying again at home, when my bottle makes it back safely!

I don't think it's the euphoria, having now had 4 of these, I think this is a genuinely good beer! The capacity of the brewery is much larger than I expected so you may begin seeing these outside of the principality (apparently Switzerland and Germany already have some). Now that Liechtenstien is in the bag, we have just 3 countries to go to complete the European Beer Challenge! If anyone can help with the remaining three countries (Armenia, Faroe Islands & Kazakhstan) I would be eternally grateful! Please get in touch by email, twitter or comment below if you can,

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

REVIEW: ST GEORGES LAGER

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Ethiopia
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Ethiopia is probably the most exotic of the countries I've brought you in this unprecedented run of macro lager reviews. The beer is St Georges Beer and it's brewed by Kombolcha Brewery in the capital Addis Adaba.

For those who aren't sure where Ethiopia is; it's in the Horn of Africa bordered by Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan - right over on the Eastern side. It's landlocked and has a population in excess of 90 million people, making it far and away the most populous landlocked country. Going into this review I knew nothing about this beer, other than knowing that it existed.

The pour is a lovely deep golden colour with a thick, 3 finger high, white head. There's quite a lot of carbonation rising to this head, and getting stuck on the side of my glass... Which is particularly odd as I'd just cleaned it well. The head retention was good and there was still a solid ring of foam left at the end of drinking. I don't think there's much more you can ask of a lager than that.

Onto the nose and I immediately thought we were in trouble. The aroma was not particularly grainy and was mostly comprised of sweet smelling corn and some apples. As it warmed some floral hops became more prevalent but not enough to detract from the overall sweetness of the nose. This beer definitely didn't pass my lager rule!

St George Beer, the name still doesn't sound quite right to me (St Georges anyone?), thankfully tasted moderately better than nose indicated it would. It was sweet overall with corn being the most prominent flavour, but it wasn't appallingly so. The hops were floral and not particularly bitter but did just enough to hold the beer together.

All things considered St George Beer is a pretty poor lager. Towards the end of drinking it was a little cloying, not because of the flavour but more so the mouthfeel. It just sort of coated the tongue and wasn't a particularly nice experience. It's rare I say this but probably avoid this one unless you are in Ethiopia, in which case this might be your best bet!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

REVIEW: PRESIDENTE

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Dominican Republic
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti in the Caribbean. It has a population of over 10 million, a number that definitely surprised me, and bucked the trend of soccer being the national sport; with baseball being a run away favourite.

I'm not going to lie, I only knew of Presidente beer through the world of beer glasses. Back home I do have a Presidente glass and it's a shame that I'm saving my alcohol carrying limit for Belgium, otherwise I'd have brought one home with me. In saying that; I've got no idea if it's any good so lets get into it!

Presidente pours a middle golden colour. The head that tops the liquid if off white and quite thick, with the occasional large bubble. The head retention was excellent with at least a finger of foam hanging around throughout drinking. This one also laced the glass, often a sign of a well made lager. So far, so good for the Dominican Republic!

Onto the nose and it's still, somewhat surprisingly to me, good news. The malt bill smelt grainy and not sweet, as far as I could detect, with only the faintest hint of corn. There were also some hops present on the nose with floral and citrus flavours both present. They also seem reasonably bitter on the nose, so fingers crossed this will taste good!

It doesn't quite live up to the nose but Presidente is still pretty good. The malt base is mostly savoury grains with only faint hints of corn. What most impressed me was the hop profile of this beer, with grass being more prominent than floral upon tasting, and citrus also playing a major role. The beer finished nice and dry and went perfectly on a hot stormy afternoon in Vaduz.

I think I wrapped up Presidente pretty well in the taste section. It's a more than serviceable lager, I now know they have issues with skunking, but my bottle was perfectly acceptable. If you can get a fresh bottle this is a lager worth trying, with nice hope bitterness and minimal sweetness it shouldn't put too many people off.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

REVIEW: POLAR PILSEN

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Venezuela
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.5%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Polar Pilsen is the beer I have for you today. It comes from Venezuela, a South American country on the North of the continent. It's home to about 33 million people and they really like beer! With beer consumption hovering around 90-100 litres per capita per annum! Polar is the most popular brand so I'm interested to see what the Venezuelan's are drinking.

Venezuela's economy is intrinsically linked to the world price of oil. They boast the world's largest known oil reserves, however have fallen on hard times since the downturn in oil prices in 2012/13. The impact has been so bad that in recent years Venezuela has had shortages of essentials like flour and toilet paper! They've still been producing beer though, so lets see what the Polar Pilsen is like.

The beer pours a light yellow colour, a bad start, with a very thin but brilliantly white head. The head retention on this one was pretty poor, with barely a ring of foam left behind after even a few minutes... This was a pretty inauspicious start for a beer I didn't have particularly high hopes for heading in, let's hope I'm wrong!

This beer was close to the perfect example of my lager rule; there's was almost no aroma at all! As it warmed up there was a slight sweetness and the faintest hint of hops, but nothing major. I can't think of a lager that had less of an aroma that I've sampled. I always say the main aim of the lager nose is not to offend; and Polar Pilsen does this expertly.

Polar Pilsen really surprised me with how it tasted. This beer had no nose, but a reasonable malt base which was only a little on the sweet side. Then the hops come in, which are lightly grassy and floral, and provide above average bitterness for the style. It had little carbonation and finished particularly dry, simply perfect for the style!

After some inauspicious beginnings, Venezuela's national lager really impressed me in the end. The dry, bitter finish and more than adequate hopping really saved this beer. It's quite drinkable and I could see myself drinking quite a few of these on a hot day. Again it's not worth going to Venezuela for, but you could do worse than pick a 6-pack of these up if you saw them.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

EUROTRIP 2015 - FRANCE (PART 4)

Beer O'Clock on Tour


Lizzie and I left the Villa and took the bus just down the road to Nice for a couple more nights to finish off our time in France. We both thought we'd pull back on the beers a little, but that only lasted the first night...

After getting off the bus and dragging our bags up a couple of flights of stairs we were understandably hot and needed a beer. I wanted something other than a lager and ended up settling on a Hoegaarden. I really do enjoy Hoegaarden and was shocked to find I've never reviewed it! Witbier fan's I will rectify this after I get home!

The beer selection on offer at restaurants in Nice is pretty poor on the whole and so coming across Carlsberg on Tap at this Tapas bar we had dinner at was a nice surprise. This Carlsberg tasted like Carlsberg as well, all ways a positive with the tendency for some of these bars in France to have quite badly skunked lager. I haven't reviewed Carlsberg in full either, but surely you all know what Carlsberg tastes like?

We took a day trip to Monaco the next day and naturally stopped in at the brewery for lunch. Brasserie de Monaco is right on the water in the principality and is massive! The outside area has to seat at least 150 people and inside is large as well.

I ordered the paddle, as usual, which has 3 offerings on it. On the day we visited you could try the Blanche (a hefeweizen), Blonde (a pilsner) and their Cider. The hefeweizen was lovely, with plenty of citrus with orange the most prominent. The cider was also nice, despite be not really being a cider drinker. It was spritzy, with an awesome pink colour and not too sweet.
 
The pick of the beers was their Pils though. It was unfiltered and very flavoursome, with citrusy hops complimenting the slightly sweet malts very nicely. I liked my tasting glass so much that I ordered a full pint of it afterwards and it didn't let me down! It was the perfect accompaniment to the hot weather and great food at the brewery!

Koenigsbier was the first of the beers I had back at the Hotel that I cracked into. Straight out of the fridge I thought this wasn't that bad... As it warmed though, I had to admit I was wrong. It was too sweet with very little hop bitterness to balance it.

After the Koenigsbier we popped out for a bite to eat. The restaurant we went too had Affligem Blonde on tap, a beer I've really taken a shine to in France (read my earlier Eurotrip France reports). I actually don't think it's anything that special, but it does go down very easily. I think I'll go looking for some at home and see if it tastes as good there...

Rince Cochon is a beer I knew of before heading to Europe, not because the beers reputation proceeded it - but because they have an iconic beer glass with a pig at the base of the stem. The beer I had was appalling! I don't know if it was a bad can or something along those lines, but the ABV was far too high and it was tasted like I imagine a 8.5% Blonde Ale that's skunked would taste like... It was appalling! I would give it another try in the future as I do feel this can was ruined.

A beer that I bought with absolutely no expectations, but because Lizzie told me to, was 8.6 Absinthe from Bavaria Brouwerij in the Netherlands. As the name suggests it has Absinthe in it. It was actually much better than I thought, with the Absinthe providing a herbal quality and only a little heat. That said I couldn't finish the can...

Look at the photo on the left and tell me how I could turn it down. Lager was the name of the beer from another Dutch Brewery called H-West B.V.. It certainly wasn't a distinguished lager, but it was quite drinkable - with it only becoming a little sweet towards the backend of drinking as it warmed. I can see why people drink this at the price...

So guys, that's finally the end of France. I can't wait to get into the Italy trip wrap up for you, trust me it's a big one! There's also some more Macro Lager reviews coming for you and also a very special surprise, stay tuned over the next few days for that. In the meantime, email me - gus.norris7@gmail.com , hit me up of Twitter - @Beeroclockau , or simply comment below. Cheers guys!
 



Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

REVIEW: CHINGGIS

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Mongolia
  • Style: Euro Pale Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
The third of these rapid fire macro lager reviews is probably the one I was most interested to try. It's from Mongolia, a very scarcely populated country situated between Russia and China. It's quite a large country, although much of the country is close to uninhabitable - leading to be even less densely populated than Australia!

Chinggis has been brewed since 1997 and is brewed adhering to the laws of the Reinheitsgebot (the German Purity Law). It's named after the most famous Mongol of all; Genghis Khan, whose name is known as Chinggis Khaan in Mongolian. I'm going into this with quite low expectations, so hopefully I'm not too disappointed...

This lager poured a nice golden colour, with a large off-white head. The head retention is not brilliant, as you can see in the photo, however it does eventually settle at about half a finger of foam. It even laced the glass a little! Normally I don't comment on a beers label, however I quite like this one. It was simple, yet still stood out on the shelf. It's a good looking beer.

The nose surprised me, and also managed to pass my lager test. Firstly the aroma is very minimal, so it gets a tick from me. The surprising part was; what aroma there was wasn't sweet! It was grainy and had this light peppery aroma at the back end, which became more prominent as the beer warmed. I'm not sure where this aroma is coming from, potentially the hops? It's not an aroma I can remember smelling in a lager.

Chinggis Mongolian Lager tasted sweeter than the aroma indicated it would. Although, that said, it still wasn't sweet on the lager scale. The malts were light and slightly sweet, but were mostly grainy. The hops were not distinguished but provided more than enough bitterness. It was only lightly carbonated and quite refreshing. It's not a world class lager, but it is a drinkable lager.

I actually quite liked Chinggis, whether this is the low expectations I went in with or not, I'm not sure. However there are much worse lagers out there than this one from Mongolia. Like Club Colombia yesterday, I wouldn't be booking a flight to go try this beer - but if you end up in Mongolia, or run into it somewhere, it's certainly worth trying.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Friday, 17 July 2015

REVIEW: CLUB COLOMBIA DORADA

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Colombia
  • Style: American Adjunct Lager
  • ABV: 4.7%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
Today I'm bringing you a lager from South America; Colombia to be exact. It's made by Cerveceria Bavaria, which was acquired by SAB Miller in 2005. Before the merger Cerveceria Bavaria was the second largest brewery in South America and it's parent company in the top 10 beer producers world wide! If I'm being honest, those numbers surprised me.

Colombia isn't known for it's beer, it's far more known for cocaine production. I was surprised to read that Colombia hasn't been the world's largest cocaine producer since the early 2000's - shows how reputations stick... Club Colombia is not the brewery's flagship beer; that honour belongs to Aguila. I've never seen Colombian beer in Australia, although I have heard that Aguila is available at a few restaurants. Anyway onto one of the beers that keep their almost 50 million strong population happy.

The beer pours a deep golden colour with a small, one finger, head of white foam. I was really impressed by the colour of the lager, it's not that light yellow colour that so many cheap lagers are. The head is very short lived, probably lasting under a minute. It left not a trace of lacing behind, this is not necessarily a bad thing but aesthetically I do like so lacing.

Onto the nose and it's actually quite strong for a lager. There's a good grain aroma, which is both sweet and not sweet at the same time. I can smell hops! They don't smell particularly bitter, but they are definitely there and there's some floral and citrus elements. There is also some sweet almost fruitiness that I can't place as well, which will hopefully become more apparent when I taste it!

Club Colombia is a point of difference in macro lagers; there's quite a bit of flavour here. It's mostly good; the grains are not too sweet and the hops provide enough bitterness and some nice citrus flavours, particularly lemon. The bad you ask? I worked out that fruity sweetness; it was corn. It wasn't huge flavour, but it certainly was there and once I'd tasted it I was aware of it more so throughout the rest of drinking.

I certainly wouldn't be rushing out to buy tickets to Colombia to drink this beer, but there are much worse options available. It's flavour was a bit different to your standard macro lager, which was welcome and Club Colombia should be commended. It's a lager that I would drink again if it became available at home, but not one I'd go actively seeking out. I think Matt, who emails me regularly, may like this one.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

REVIEW: CASABLANCA

Macro Lager


STATS
  • Country: Morocco
  • Style: Euro Pale Lager
  • ABV: 5.0%
  • Serving Type: 330ml Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive
As I mentioned the other day I don't tend to do full reviews whilst I'm on holidays. Today, and for the next few days, I'm going to make an exception. It's not everyday you come across 6 (yes SIX!) new countries to check off my list and add to the Macro Lager segment.

Morocco is the first cab off the ranks with their biggest selling beer Casablanca, named after their largest city. Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country in North-West Africa with a population of around 34 million people. Beer has been brewed in Morocco since the early 20th Century after the French arrived. Brasserie de Maroc, who make Casablanca, are owned by Heineken and have breweries in most of the major Moroccan cities.

The beer pours a clear, light golden colour with a head of small white bubbles on top. The head is about 2.5 fingers high in the Teku glass, but fades quickly to only a small layer of film on top of the beer. There is no lacing left behind to let you know there was once a beer in your glass. On the whole it's a slightly below average looking lager.

Thankfully the nose passes my lager test, it's not offensive. It's actually quite a weak nose with some light graininess and a hint of apples the only things I can detect. The main thing is that it doesn't smell awful, that it doesn't smell of anything much at all is almost a bonus. Hopefully the taste is as successful!

If I'm being honest, it tasted better than I thought it would. Casablanca is quite a light bodied lager, which suits the quite light flavour profile well. There were some relatively boring grains at first with just a hint of astringency. The hops were used sparingly but there is a little bit of citrus and floral hops at the back end. The finish is crisp and dry.

Casablanca is certainly not the best lager you're ever going to have - nor however will it be the worst. It actually has a certain charm to it, with it's very light body perfect for Summer. In Morocco there are 3 beers produced locally, this, Stork and Speciale Flag. If you're in Morocco I would try the other two first and then if they are not great, this would be a reasonable fall back position; it'd be perfectly enjoyable lying on a beach in Morocco in blazing sunshine.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

EUROTRIP 2015 - FRANCE (PART 3)

Beer O'Clock on Tour


Day 5 at the Villa rolled around and there was still plenty of good beers to keep me happy. We'd even added a few more local ones that we'd found around the traps.

La Frappadingue has cool label artwork and an equally interesting name. The beer was basically an Imperial Blonde Ale, why anyone thought to make this I'm not sure. In any case it was interesting, with spicy hops that I didn't recognise. The ABV was just a touch hot though...

Next I knocked off my two Witbiers, both from the Cote d'Azur region. The first was the La Trop Blanch from St. Tropez. It was a perfectly acceptable light Wit, that I would drink again. The other came from Marseile's Biere de la Plaine. It was also called Blanch but wasn't up to the same standard as it's namesake; with far too much floral flavour and being overcarbed.

The next day we took a day trip to Nice. At lunch, after walking up to the top of the hills to get a view of the Bay of Angels (well worth doing, but possibly a bad idea when it's 40 degrees...), I had a couple of Saint-Omer's. It's quite a light bodied lager, but has good flavour and is very easy to put away. Interestingly it's a beer produced in the very North of France but I've only ever come across it south of Paris...

Later that afternoon, I had a Heineken at Le Maori. It was the worst Heineken I've ever tasted! I don't know how these guys have been treating their kegs, but it was awful! Skunked beyond recognition and disgustingly sweet, I didn't even finish it... Avoid this place like the plague!
 
Back at the Villa and the disappointments continued with the Sulauze Oai, a French IPA, lacking in hops and tasting pretty ordinary as a result. The run of bad beers was ended by La Vermontoise; a collaboration beer between America's Hill Farmstead and Belgium's Brasserie de Blaugies. This was a true example of how a farmhouse ales (Saisons) should be produced. It had great yeast characteristics and that unmistakeable horse blanket aroma and taste.

Lupulus Hopera was a Belgian style IPA from Belgium. It was quite a good example of the style without being outstanding. It had nice sweet malts with enough hop bite and just the right amount of Belgian yeast. It's a beer that I would drink again if I came across it. La Piste Noire from Cimes was an Amber Ale I had with dinner that night. Again it was highly serviceable and had great caramel malts. It's a beer I'd look out for in France to provide that bit of variety.

My final beer of the night was Reve d'Etoiles from Brasserie Bendorf. It was actually an impressive Black IPA with good pine hop flavours and roasty chocolate come together beautifully. I love a Black IPA so it was very welcome to find a good one in France. It's one I'll be definitely be looking out for next time.

Pietra is a beer that I have got half a draft review written, at some point it might turn into a full one but we'll have to see... It's a beer from Corsica, a large French island close to Italy. Anyway it's a Vienna Lager/Amber Ale, has good albeit light flavour and is still very drinkable. It's another one to keep your eye out for if you like a bit more malt...

I've already written about the O'Clock Brewing IPA, which you can read about here. As I intimated in the review, I thought the American Pale Ale they produce is a superior beer. It had nice fruity and citrus hops that really suited the malt base. This is the closest American Pale Ale I've had on this trip to something that we would drink at home. It's a very impressive beer.
 
Biere de la Plaine let me down again with their Triplette; first and foremost it wasn't a Tripel! That aside it wasn't a bad blonde ale and was probably the best of the three beers I tried from them, although the bar wasn't set particularly high by the other two...

My second beer from St. Tropez's La Trop was their Ambree. It had quite a thin body for an Amber Ale but had excellent flavour! Nice to Meet You was an Imperial IPA which also had an awesome label. It had really good bitterness but was just lacking that little something that would have made it exceptional, although what that is I can't quite put my finger on...

Last but not least in the Villa was Sous les Paves. I didn't know until I sampled it, but this beer was actually a Porter, and a pretty good one at that! I would recommend this to stout lovers. I would also advise them not to go to the South of France in Summer and expect to find any stouts... The French apparently make some quite nice ones, but very few are produced year round and subsequently there aren't that many around come Summer.

So that was my whole journey at the Villa guys, hope you enjoyed it. I'll hopefully get my last few days in France up soon before we get onto Italy - possibly the biggest country yet! Keep all your questions coming in on the email - I have read them and will get back to you all soon.
 


Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

EUROTRIP 2015 - FRANCE (PART 2)

Beer O'Clock on Tour


A very long, hot bus trip later we arrived at the villa we would be staying at for the best part of the next week in the hills behind Saint Paul-de-Vence. I felt comfortable that I had enough beer to last the week, but with the nearest craft beer store a couple of hours drive away, slightly nervous... My nerves were eased somewhat when I saw the pool, thinking that the pool could cool me down not just beer. That was before I worked out that pools with views of the TV were great places to drink...

Being American Independence Day I had to have an American beer to start. The only one I had was not particularly weather appropriate though; Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale. It was a nice roasty porter, but I needed something lighter... This is where Get Radical's Feathers of Angels came in. Sitting in that grey area between American Pale Ale and IPA - it was light and full of tropical fruit flavours. It was an impressive beer.

The first beer that I had in the pool was an absolute stunner! Oude Geuze Boon A L'anciene Vat 77. This is a beer for true sour lovers, with big oak and citrus flavours pairing nicely with at times extreme tartness. There's plenty of Brett there for true sour fans. I would not suggest this one to anyone new to sours, it will be lost on you.

My first Swiss beer for a very long time arrived after a quiet morning the next day recovering from the trip the day before. La Salamandre was a Saison which was very drinkable. It had excellent floral, citrus and yeast characteristics. Brasserie PBC's Mine de Rien is an American Pale Ale brewed with pine twigs (if my French is correct). It was lightly piney, so it may well be, and was nice enough. It was also the first beer I've had to add on Untappd for ages...

Falsbourg was a perfectly acceptable lager, for 40 Euro cents! It was drinkable and bought purely because I had to buy a beer that cheap. My first experience with a Biere de la Plaine (the only craft brewery in Marseile) was not a particularly good one. The IPA, poured a very murky, unappealing brown colour and was not that hoppy - worrying considering I have two more of their beers to come...

My second beer from Get Radical was their Mars Needs Women. It's a refermented version of their Train to Mars Saison, which had honey and brettanomyces added and was then left in oak barrels for 7 months. It tasted as you'd expect, with plenty of honey sweetness, some floral and citrus characteristics and finally some sourness. It could have easily had more sourness, but I quite liked the level it was at.

It's quite rare for me to get my hand on some German craft beer so when I saw Hopf White I jumped all over it. It was still a very German style, being a Hefeweizen, and I very much enjoyed it. Deck & Donohue's Mission Pale Ale was the first beer the next day after Lizzie's Birthday lunch. It wasn't a particularly distinguished Pale Ale but got the job done. Whilst the Brasserie de la Goutte d'Or La Chapelle - a Chai infused Pale Ale was appaling! Sort of a mix between Chai and Corona...
 
Having contuinually passed it up back home, I finally bought myself a Cuvee de Ranke. I will not be passing them up anymore! The is a special beer, packed full of sourness and a brilliant dry finish. Dad brought back a La Chouffe Blonde from the supermarket and so we shared that. It was light and Belgianny and was really nice in the pool.

I think the French must almost love Citra hops as much as I do, such is the prevalence of them in their craft beer. Another French brewery producing an IPA with Citra hops was the Brasserie Correzzene. Their HopHopHop range is definitely a Single Hop Series and this Citra was nice. The hops shone through really well, with a malt base designed to let them show off their stuff.

A visit to Cannes the next day meant a day back on the macro lagers, and after walking around the town in the blazing sunshine a couple of Stella Artois' really hit the spot (never thought I'd say that!). A hoppy Saison called Super 8 from Brasserie Thirez and Brasserie Outland was my first back in the pool for the conclusion of the Tour de France stage. It was what I wished most Saisons were like, with hops allowed to play a part without taking away from the yeast characteristcs.  
 
Cantillon's Iris is one of the great sours. It's so good, with it's luscious floral body. I love this beer beyond words. Alt Sept 65 was far and away my favourite French IPA to this point. It had excellent bitterness and more than enough body for it's 8.3% ABV. After having this I really regretted not buying more from Brasserie de la Valle du Giffre.

So that is France Part 2 done and dusted... We are now looking like 4 parts will be most effective so stay tuned for much more French beer over the next few days, keep the Italian suggestions rolling in. I've sampled a couple of your suggestions recently and have been pretty impressed. France Part 3 is hopefully not too far away...
 

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

REVIEW: O'CLOCK BREWING MOUNTAIN PROLOGUE IPA

Et Cetebeer


STATS
  • Country: France
  • Style: American IPA 
  • ABV: 6.5%
  • Serving Type: 330 Bottle
  • Price: Inexpensive 
Normally whilst "On Tour" I avoid doing full reviews, but this beers name alone meant I had to! O'clock Brewing (initially sold to me as Beer O'clock Brewing) are a brand new French craft brewery, currently brewing out of the existing Brasserie Galibier while they launch their own brewery near Paris.

I mean, how could I not review something from (Beer) O'clock Brewing? I decided to sample this one whilst watching the end of stage 6 of the Tour de France, the day Tony Martin crashed out, which is quite a different experience in French and without the wondrous wordsmith that is Phil Liggett. It was only about 35, a relatively cool day by our standards whilst in the south of France. Anyway without further ado, let's crack into it!

Firstly I would like everyone to acknowledge my brilliant photography, I think I've finally mastered the camera after however many years it's been. The pour was a slightly red tinged, golden colour with an off white head sitting atop the liquid. The head had good retention and laced the glass quite nicely. The colour of this beer is more reminiscent of an American Pale Ale than an IPA, but it's still a nice looking beer.

The nose was good with signs that a reasonable malt base was present, which was lightly caramelly, combining nicely with the hop aromas. I got both citrus and pine characteristics as well as a little earthiness. Judging by the French love of American hops I'm guessing there's some Simcoe in here - but can't find any information anywhere to back this up.

Whilst tasting the citrus overtook the pine as the clearly dominant hop flavour, with grapefruit being the most prominent. The caramel malt base was not overly noticeable flavour wise, but balanced out the hop bitterness well and provided the right amount of body to the beer. I would say that the bitterness was on the lower end for an IPA (would love to know the IBU's) and this would suit someone trying to transition from Pale Ale's to IPA's. It's got all the right parts in place, it just doesn't quite bring it together as a cohesive unit at the end.

All in all I think that this is a beer with a bit of potential. These guys can clearly brew; I also sampled their American Pale Ale, which I thought was a step above this beer. If you're in France and after an IPA that tastes like an IPA - I would recommend you try and hunt this one down. It's a solid, if not exceptional beer, that will fill that hop void that you're trying to fill. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes out for these beers next time I'm in France.

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

EUROTRIP 2015 - FRANCE (PART 1)

Beer O'Clock on Tour


After a few hectic drinking days in Budapest I gave my liver a little bit of time to recover in France. Don't worry though - I'm here for over two weeks and I've got more than enough French beers to report on for you.

So many in fact that France will be split into at least 2, possibly 3 or 4, reviews! As I would be spending much of my time in France in the, to my knowledge, relatively barren craft beer location that is the south of France I had to stock up before I left Paris...

That's where Caves a Bulles comes in; my first visit proved fruitless with the store closed for the owner to go brew a beer at a local brewery. My second was much more fruitful with Simon (apologies if I got your name wrong!) taking quite a while and helping to guide me through the French craft beer world. I can't recommend this store highly enough! If you are after craft beer in Paris hit these guys up.

Before I got to drink my haul, I sampled the usual suspects that I drink in Paris. Pelforth Brune was again the pick of the bunch, whilst I still am not a huge Kronenbourg 1664 fan. A couple of Belgian Blondes took my fancy in Affligem and Grimbergen, whilst canned Hoegaarden is pretty good in close to 40 degree heat as well.

I didn't think it was possible but after leaving Paris the weather seemed to get even hotter! Our first stop in Aix-en-Provence was disgustingly hot & humid - so much so that after 1 night I realised I was going to need more beer... Page 24 Double IPA was the first of craft French craft beers I cracked into - it had nice chewy malts and bitterness, but was strangely lacking in any flavour coming from the hops.


I gave the Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc a run at lunch, and almost immediately regretted it. I don't quite know how they've acheived it, but they've managed to skunk a witbier... There as some lemoniness, although I feel that this was most likely coming from the slice of lemon served in the glass... Save yourself the trouble, do not try 1664 Blanc - even for the cool blue bottle - it's not worth it!

A collaboration between Brasserie Thirez, one of the big guys in the French craft beer scene, and Jester King was next; La Petite Princesse. As the name suggests this is quite a small beer, clocking in at just 2.9%, and is called a table beer - attempting to imitate what French farmers would have drunk back in the day. I was impressed, with good straw flavours combining with Belgian yeast and a touch of grassy bitterness at the end. A lovely beer if light Saison's are something you can handle.

Cuvee des Jonquilles was sold to me as the "quintessentially French" beer. Basically it was a spritzy, less funky Saison. It would be a great gateway beer for people looking to get into full blown Saisons, whilst it's light body makes it ideal for very hot weather! I also had a ginger beer, which I believe was a Saison infused with ginger. It was a lovely beer, with good ginger flavour and was quite effervescent. It was called Triple Hot from Brasserie des Garrigues.

One of my favourite French beers was the IPA Citra Galactique from Les Brasseurs du Grand Paris. It was a brilliant IPA, packed with tropical fruit and pine flavours. Galaxy and Citra were the two main hops, hence the name. I finished the night off with a Perle Hops Citra. I think it was a single hop IPA, but can't be sure. The hops didn't distinctly taste of Citra, so if it was a single hop it wasn't a good one! As a beer, it was a reasonably nice IPA just not what I was expecting.
 
The best Bouilliabaise of my life was had a Chez Michel in Marseille, yet was paired with Heineken. The Heineken is fine, but restaurants of this calibre should be looking at embracing beer the way in which they do wine. I had this exact conversation with the guy at Caves a Fietje, the bottleshop in Marseille I went to to restock. It's a good shop with a good range and he explained to me the problem with French craft breweries wanting to sell in such large volumes that not even they can stock them - one of the biggest craft beer stores in France.

After lugging far more beer than I should of, Caves a Fietje have a great range, back to Aix-en-Provence I thought I'd earned myself a beer. One of my favourites was what I settled on, Cantillon's Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio. It's brilliantly tart and refreshing, it's a favourite of mine for a reason!


I briefly moved away from trying to buy local(ish), Belgium is almost France..., beers when I noticed the last bottle of BrewDog's Born to Die 04.07.15 in Marseille. I hadn't even heard about this line from BrewDog, but assumed it be along the same lines as the Stone Enjoy By range. Being the 3rd when I bought it, straight in the fridge it went and was enjoyed later that night. It was an extremely bitter IPA, packed with grapefruit and pine flavours and one that I'm very pleased to have got to try.
 
My last beer in Aix-en-Provence was the Dalva Millesime 2012. From what I understand, this was an Imperial IPA that was put in barrels to age. Whats evolved is this excellent sour, which is particularly tart and has hints of white wine, leading me to believe that the barrels it was aged in may have been white wine barrels. I was surprised to find that there were still signs of the hops, even being at least 2.5 years since it was brewed.
 
So that's France (Part 1) guys, hopefully I'll also get Part 2 written on the train to Milan - but no guarantees. In the meantime let me know what you think via the usual chanels; email, Twitter or comment below. Have you had any of these French craft beers? Or do you have suggestions for Italian or Swiss beers? In the meantime...

 
Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!