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Advent-ures, Part II

The first full week of the Beer Advent Calendar samplings is complete (read the Introduction and Part One if you wish to get caught up), and it was an interesting week that potentially brings out some potential common threads across the beer. One general point arises in the single-digit phase of the project – some kind of notes about what the beer is supposed to be or a translation of the brewery’s bumpf would be very beneficial. A couple of times this week (and once last week) I simply couldn’t figure out what the brewers intended. Now this isn’t the end of the world, but it can be frustrating if you are trying to identify a flavour or character and don’t know the ingredients. A thought for next year. Age might also be playing a factor, as you will see below. So, on to reviews of the beer (which will be capsule-sized to keep this post from getting too long):

3. De Molen Nood & Deugd (Necessity and Virtue)

De Molen is a highly regarded Dutch brewery with a stunning lack of aesthetic sense (the most god-awful labels I have ever seen). Today’s beer is their schwarzbier. It is a dark deep brown with some haze and a monsterous tan head. Over-foaming is an issue. The aroma is subdued caramel, chocolate and hints of dark malt. Fairly quiet. The aromas translate in the initial taste alongside some hints of roast and burnt coffee. I may taste touches of wood and smoke in the background but could be reaching a bit on that. I also pick up an odd yeast character to it which creates a muddiness. Also some wet paper. Overall a decent beer that has me contemplating oxidation (the paper and over-foaming are clues). I wonder if it was just a bit sharper and cleaner when it was young (which is what I want from it) but is now a bit too old?

4. Bad Attitude  Dude Oat Soda

This is an IPA from Swiss brewer Birrificio Ticinese Sa. Pours dark amber, verging on light brown (seems a touch dark) underneath a huge off-white head. Big effervescence. A soft malt comes through, but the aroma is mostly about the the hops – grapefruit, pine, touches of grass and generic citrus. Same with the flavour, soft citrus hop, some pine and other rich hop notes. However, something is wrong with the malt. I get cardboard, flat sugars and a rough earthiness. It just feels like a beer that was better 3 months ago. I feel pretty confident this beer is oxidized. Too bad. Seems like it might have had potential.

5. Golser Weisbier

Our first trip to Austria. This hefeweizen is a deeply hazy dark yellow,. It has a moderate white head at first, which drops off quickly, surprisingly lifeless appearance for a hefe. It has, however, a big, rich aroma for one, with grainy malt, lots of banana and clove. Nice balance between them. In the taste upfront there is a soft wheat sweetness and bubblegum. Clove kicks in part way. Then banana in the finish makes it seem sweeter. I also get some touches of soapiness. A nice glass. Might be a touch too sweet to be considered a classic example, but it is soft and well-rounded. If it were plus-20, rather than minus-20, it would be quite refreshing and enjoyable.

6. MacQueen’s Nessie

Label says it is a “whisky malt red beer” from Eggenberg in Austria. Another example of not being quite sure what that means. Whisky malt is new to me. Or it could mean oak-aged or smoked. I am not sure (10 minutes of googling didn’t illuminate me). So on to the beer. First, it is not red. It is medium gold, with a thick blanket of white head. Quite effervescent. Aroma has sweet toffee, butterscotch, light vanilla. Hints of wood, but more suggestive than actual. Not dissimilar to I&G in its sweet tones. The flavour is soft toffee, some brown sugar, candy cane and butterscotch. Vanilla accents it like ice cream. A little earthy sweet. Finish is slightly toasty and balanced – dry enough to clear the palate but still enough sweet to prevent the beer from disappearing. A decent blonde/amber ale with subtle touches of rustic, earthy finish. Not sure what to make of this. A bit non-descript but I didn’t mind my glass. My brain tells me there is a touch of oak character, but it is so subdued I can’t be sure.

7. Freistadter Ratsherrn Premium

Third straight day of Austrian beer. This time a Helles. It is dark straw with a fluffy white head that drops into a thin coating. Bright clarity, quite bubbly. A sweet light pilsner malt aroma, some graininess, soft sugar, hints of corn (oddly). I also get a touch of sulphur around the edges. In the taste the start is softly sweet with pilsner malt, light grain and quite a bit of honey. Then the flavour shifts mid-way; it gets a bit metallic and musty. Finish is harsher than a helles should be. The linger is a bit dry and with a fruity hop bitterness. It just isn’t as smooth or crisp as it should be. The aroma is better than the taste. I want it softer and the hop leaves an odd bite to it. Not as melded as it should be, nor bitter enough to be a Dortmunder Export.

8. Hubertus Festbock

Okay, the Austria thing is becoming a trend – 4 in a row! Today we get a Maibock (sometimes called a Helles Bock). It is  clear light gold with not much of a head and a hint of lacing. In the aroma I detect bread, toast, honey, and melanoidin, as well as some crisper grainy character. Overall not so much sweet as malty. Upfront a quiet breadiness, toast, toffee and honey to the flavour. Graininess comes through as well – some sharp stalk character and other edgy sweetness. The middle finds some bread and toast. The finish is a combination of bready melanoidins and a sharp graininesss. Overall my impression is a decent example of a maibock. The body seems a bit light for the style, but the malt character is dead on. An interesting beer. Not sure I would order multiple of it, but it does have an attraction.

9. Frastanzer S’honig

This beer encapsulates some of the early Advent themes. First, we have another Austrian beer (the box did tell us to expect a lot). Second, some assistance in figuring out what the beer is supposed to be would be helpful. Third, another interesting, provocative beer that I can’t quite decide its value. My guess is that this is a honey beer. It pours hazy gold with a big white head defined by its mountainous top. Aroma is honey, light pilsner malt, some generic floral and earthy backdrops. I get a big floral honey sweetness upfront, some soft grain, and a hard to pin-down earthiness. The finish is quite sweet, almost cloying. I pick up some lemon, and some slight menthol character. It has a waxiness as well. I think the issue here is the base beer might be a bit too light. The honey character is interesting and dominates the overall impression. Another beer that I rather enjoyed, but it just didn’t really stand out for me.

Well, that is the week in review. Another round of seven beer to come next Monday.

 

12 comments to Advent-ures, Part II

  • i am the man with no name

    Great reviews!

    I think you are off by one, S’honig was day 9 and you skipped day 3.

    • beerguy

      Sorry, that was just a numbering error (I think some weird auto-numbering snafu). Thanks for the catch.

      I have edited the post to correct the numbers – it should all be in alignment now.

  • Chris

    Check out the Craft Beer Advent Calendar Facebook page each day for the descriptions you yearn for. Also, you say you googled for 10 minutes and couldn’t figure out what Whisky Malt meant. A quick visit to Eggenberg website and you would have found out that Nessie is brewed with four-row winter barley grown in Scotland instead of the usual two-row summer barley.

    • beerguy

      Chris,

      Thanks for the Facebook tip. Alas, I am not on Facebook, so that is not an option for me. Which suggests my point stands – a beer fan shouldn’t have to go searching for basic information about the beer they are drinking.

      As for the Whisky Malt, I did find that reference, but to be frank that does not explain it. Four-row winter barley does not explain the use of the term “whisky malt”. Maybe they meant it to equate, but I, honestly, don’t buy it. If it is real, I could have found a site outside their website that explained it. Who malted it? Why is it connected to whisky (even mis-spelled)? I didn’t mention their website because – as a rule – I try to find outside sources for information of this nature. The Oxford Guide to Beer makes no mention, either, BTW. So, in my opinion the mystery still stands until I find a third party source. Maybe someone has found it, but I haven’t.

      Jason

  • Sam

    Re: De Molen labels – you mean the really classy, spare designs with the nice 18th-century font? I like those! :)

  • Thought Whisky malt was the same as smoked malt just smoked over peat opposed to wood. They use the similar malt in Unibroue’s Raftman.

    • beerguy

      Mike,

      Indeed that is possible. I did find references to malt smoked over peat, but not from sources that I trust completely enough to resolve the question.

      Hopefully the very intelligent readers of this site will clarify things.

      Jason

  • What is to clarify took me all of five seconds to find sure there are bags of this kicking around Alley Kat. http://www.midwestsupplies.com/peated-malt-simpson-s.html

    • beerguy

      You may misunderstand me, Mike. I know all about peated malt – what I am trying to figure out is if peated malt and “whisky malt” are the same thing. I haven’t found a reliable resource that demonstrates to me that they are.

  • Whisky malt is the same two row they use in beer, peated or in this case translating German to English whisky malt is two row that has been smoked over malt. I have talked to Scottish distillers about this. I also have a whole funny speal about this that drives whisky people crazy that will get published some day.

    Brian and Chase will give you the definitive answer if you have any more questions after all they both are Heriot Watt grads.

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