Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Eighth Blackhurst Beer Festival (Part One)

For various reasons, this year's Blackhurst Beer Festival occured later in the season than previous sessions. There was plenty of beer to be had, however, and we offered our 'discerning guests' a selection of ten brews from nine different countries. This is what was said:

Beer Number One - Peroni Leggera (Italy, 3.5%)
From the people who brought you Nastro Azzuro (as tasted at BBF VI) comes a new (launched in Australia in 2009) lager with the same crisp taste but fewer calories and carbohydrates. Peroni’s chief brew master, Roberto Cavalli claims, ‘Peroni Leggera is like a flamboyant Italian socialite; stylish in design and impressive in taste.’

The marketing department confirms that it is targeted at ‘20-34 year-old premium beer drinkers’ and that it is ‘an easy-to-drink, non-filling, sociable beer’. It seems that you can drink as much of it as you want to without getting full, or pissed. Some might ask, what’s the point?

Very hoppy; light, tangy European lager
Light, kind of florally. If this were a perfume it would be CK One - Inoffensive
Good nose and dry finish (bit weasely piss)
Nice smell, I think it had a taste?! – Good with whitebait
Smooth, like my patter, with a kick in the balls to follow
Looks and tastes like sun-baked cat’s piss
Cheaply made from seawater imported from Japan
Need a lime or at least several more glasses
Very light colour and tatste; rather like sex in a canoe (you know the rest)
Weak, like a southern fell runner
Hoppy, like a sporty wee grasshopper
Smells edible, but I couldn’t eat a whole one
I think maybe this is a lite beer because it doesn’t taste of much
Fizzy and light on flavour
It’s a Weimaraner; a little scatty but good looking
Light coloured; quite bitter; very fizzy; lager
No, no, no, no, no – keep it away!

Interestingly, this was the most divisive beer of the evening with four people voting it their least favourite and two voting for it as their favourite. I guess it depends on your position on light lager; overall it beer came in equal last of the evening with a sum total of 58 points (out of a potential 140).

Beer Number Two - Quilmes (Argentina, 4.5%)
Quilmes is a province in the city of Buenos Aires. It is also an Argentinean lager ‘brewed from local barley and hops and purest Patagonian water’. The brewery (founded in 1888 by Otto Bemberg, a German immigrant) has 75% of the beer market share in Argentina. It sponsors the Argentinean national football team and polo team – the colours of its labels are Argentina’s light blue and white. With a pedigree like that, it’s probably good at hand ball and penalties too.

No colour, no aroma, a taste reminiscent of pencil sharpenings – are you sure this is a beer?
Very average; almost like beer but not quite
Yum! Another pint please
Good with blue cod
Fizzy; may cause gas
Euro style from the homeland
Rich in yeast and organic filtering matter
We know now why Mexicans drink tequila
Money’s on the honey
Smokey aftertaste; medium strength – like Paul Garvie
This tastes like the beer my parents forced me to drink when I was a teenager – no wonder I don’t like beer
Blonde and tasty and fresh like a sunflower dipped in jelly crystals
Honey coloured like an old tart’s backside
Not much on the nose; watery, bitter, squinty; Ivana Trump of beers – would not drink again
Light, fruity, easy drinking –very good

With a total of 77 points, this beer took the fifth spot of the night - it was the only beer that didn't rate as anyone's favourite.
Beer Number Three - Flying Dog Tire Bite Golden Ale (USA, 5%)
Being an American brew, this beer has pretty good (albeit overtly macho) marketing. The Flying Dog website quotes Hunter S. Thompson: ‘Good people drink good beer’, and features artwork by Ralph Steadman – the brilliant political and social artist and cartoonist. He blessed the brewery with the statement, ‘Good beer; no shit’, over which they waged a four-year long court battle with the Colorado Liquor Board over their attempted censorship of the phrase. (The slogan ‘If you’re lucky your bitch will look this sexy after twenty years’, referring to the twentieth anniversary of their Raging Bitch Belgian IPA passed without a murmur – see what I mean about the machismo?)

 The brewery was established in Aspen, Colorado in 1990 after a dozen ‘under-qualified and unprepared’ mates completed ‘an amateur mountaineering expedition’ up K2. Drinking beer after surviving this trek George Stranahan noticed a picture on the wall of a flying dog that had been drawn by a local artist. He writes, ‘Now, we all know dogs don’t fly, but nobody told this particular dog it couldn’t fly’ and so he adopted the symbol of the flying dog with the mantra, “it is amazing what you can achieve if nobody tells you that you can’t.”

The beer is brewed in ‘k├Âlsch’ style – this is unique to the Cologne area of Germany where they used wheat and lager yeast to lighten the colour and increase the dryness.

Smells like horse urine; tastes like water from a school swimming pool – Blurgh!
First taste – eek! But it grows on you, like a fungus – nice finish
Hint of something – I will think of it
If Toblerone were a beer, this is it
Suspiciously cloudy quickly followed up by an earthy sub-taste; pleasantly palatable – a beer developed for all classes with a slightly nutty undertone
Mmmm, wants a curry
That’s more like it – liquid honey
Slight sharpness; easy on the eye; amber gold
Fresh and summer; hint of something citrusy
A hint of oranges on the nose and a suggestion of yeast
Cloudy like my mind – delicious honey tones
Whoever peed this has been eating asparagus with a side of slightly rotten apples

With a total of 89 points, this was the third favourite beer of the evening.

Beer Number Four - Coopers Sparkling Ale (Australia, 5.8%)
Thomas Cooper was a stonemason in Adelaide in 1862 when his wife asked him to brew up a batch of ale from an old (Yorkshire) family recipe to help cure an illness. Like a good husband, he did so and, due to the fact that his beer was made from pure ingredients (malt, hops and water), the doctors were soon recommending it to all their patients – this could explain a lot about South Australians. Coopers is now the sole remaining family-owned brewery in Australia.

Coopers Sparkling Ale is apparently ‘the pinnacle of the brewer’s craft – The ale by which all others should be measured’. It is an English-style golden ale and it doesn’t sparkle at all – in fact it has a distinctive cloudy appearance due to the sediment being left in the bottle. Coopers use no preservatives or additives during the beer making process; they use the top fermentation method, meaning that during fermentation the yeast interacts on the beer’s surface. The secondary fermentation process (which occurs in the bottle) is what gives it the cloudy appearance; little clumps of yeast suspended and swimming in the bottle ‘like a snow globe, but more fun.’

According to beer reviewer, Syrie Wongkaew (she of the snow-globe comment), ‘The initial taste is fruity without being sweet. The aftertaste is very bitter and dry. The beer has a good, full body. Although it is an ale, it has the light colour and intensity of a lager. However the beer's fruity aroma and cloudiness gives away its ale heritage.’

Either this is very cloudy or Spaz hasn’t washed the glass properly
Cloudy, heavy, strong pale ale
Very nice – fruity, hoppy, bit premature on the finish (needs Viagra)
I think if I had a night on this my mouth would taste like I had eaten a dead possum
As sharp as a fly landing on a razor blade using its balls for brakes
Is the cloud actually from a mushroom via Japan?
Aftertaste like a quick-moving pale mass as the chicory base lingers more than the cement
Slightly dubious cloudiness
Sickly sweet, ugly aftertaste, like Paul Garvie
Wheat – made by the monks up on a hill above the city of Munich
Everyone will love this, cause I don’t
A little bitter bugger, and smelly like my sons after a game of footy
Not much of a smell – blackcurrant flavours
Hoppy, but lacking on the follow-through; might drink again but would depend on what else was in the fridge

71 points placed this beer in 6th place overall.

Beer Number Five - Charles Wells Bombardier (England, 5.2%)
Wells & Young’s advertise their Bombardier as the drink of England; ‘the quintessentially English pint’, brewed with ‘the ripest hops and more malt per pint than other premium beers’ – which sounds like marketing flim-flam to me. They use ‘pure natural mineral water’ from their own well, sunk by Charles Wells himself and claim ‘this water is so good we could bottle it and sell it for the table but we choose to save it for the beer itself’.

 Their other beers are a golden ale (Burning Gold) and a porter (Satanic Mills), and they are the official beer of English Heritage. I bet Al Murray’s pub landlord would drink this if he weren’t a lager drinker. (Apparently he ‘flirted with bitter but came back to the gold stuff after about four months of gastric complications’.) Wells & Young's have been campaigning to have St George’s Day declared a national holiday for the past 15 years. So far they have had no luck, but their beer is still quite nice.

Blackcurrant – is there a dash of Ribena in this?
Darker, cocoa aroma
Malty smooth – nice finish; would drink again
Smells like raw cake mixture or kahlua – still a bit bitter – ok with cheese sticks
Meaty, like a meat pie in meat pastry with a side of meat
Like my wife: splendid confirmation; great body; light sweet smell; fab lingering aftertaste; an arm wrestling beer
Smart little number; I’d call it Spaz – zippy with a winning finish
Distilled by virgins, poured from the vat over a virgin’s thigh, bottled by virgins, pure as the driven snow
Hops galore – I’m gonna grow long ears and a small tail – and malty, but not too sweet
No smell – easy to drink – cut grass with no aftertaste – weird!
Butterscotchy – yummy, yummy in my tummy
Dark bitter
Bitter finish with residual sugars; might drink again, but only after finishing everything else

This racked up 91 points to make it the second favourite beer of the evening.

To be continued in another post...

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