Monday, March 28, 2011

Brewery Review: Brouwerij de Molen

Hello hello! How is everyone? Thank you for stopping by to have a look at my blog. Today's post will be a brewery review (my first since December). I am really excited about this one for a couple of reasons; one, when I first discovered this brewery I was stunned by the variety and ingenuity they were showing in their offerings. Secondly, I was also surprised to hear that they were located just an hour south of Amsterdam. So this past Wednesday (23rd of March) I mounted up and boarded a train heading south to Bodegraven and finally paid homage to Brouwerij de Molen (the recently named 5th best brewery in the world by

The train ride through the Dutch countryside was nice enough, and the weather was a stroke of pure luck. As the train slowed, I peered out the window and saw Molen de Arkduif standing out above the rest of the city and knew I had arrived in Bodegraven. Disembarking from the train I headed off through the small town to find the brewery (which is situated at the base of Molen de Arkduif). I think coming to Bodegraven for the day would be worth it as well, even If you're not a beer fanatic like me. Bodegraven retains that small-town feel very nicely, for one, the people actually smile at you, and you had the feeling that everyone knew each other. The weather was warm and sunny and I was even questioning my decision to wear pants instead of shorts. Upon arrival to the brewery I walked through a large patio to the entrance of the restaurant. I wasn't able to sample the menu items (I will definitely return and have lunch or dinner) but let's face it, that's not the reason I was there anyhow. I asked If they offered a sampler and they did in fact. I took a seat out on the patio and waited only a few minutes. The female server was more than accomodating, spoke excellent english, and wrote out each beer and the accompanying alcohol percentage on a sheet of paper. I sat on the patio in the sun undisturbed for the nearly 3 hours I was there, sipping, tasting, enjoying, photographing, and reviewing each beer at my own discretion. Only briefly did I have company. It was quite enjoyable and most likely due to the fact that I had arrived only 30 minutes after they opened. Needless to say it was an excellent day.

I sampled six of de Molen's wonderful beers. In order from left to right: Donder & Bliksem (Thunder & Lightning), Vuur & Vlam (Fire & Flames), Heen & Weer (Back & Forth), Ruig & Rood (Rough & Red), Mooi & Meedogenloos (Beautiful & Ruthless), and lastly, Moord & Doodslag (Murder & Manslaughter). Now I'll go through each beer, dissecting the flavors and analyzing the colors as if I were reviewing an individual beer. The descriptions increased in length as I went down the line, perhaps in direct correlation to the alcohol percentage (which increases by quite a lot from left to right).

Donder & Bliksem (Thunder & Lightning): The first beer on the list sits at a modest 4.2%. Classified as a Bohemian Pilsner, one would expect this beer to be light bodied and crisp with a slight hop bitterness. The color is golden orange, head is off-white, nice and fluffy, lacing is excellent. The nose is all orange and citrus, pulpy orange juice, some grassy hops and grain. Has a nice spicy bite, light carbonation and body, finish is slightly bitter. I rather like this one. A nice beer to open up with.

Vuur & Vlam (Fire & Flames): Vuur & Vlam weighs in at 6.2% and is classified as an American Style IPA. I'd had this one a few times in the past on draft at two different pubs in Amsterdam, but I was eager to try it straight from the source. The color is a cloudy amber brown. The head is creamy and thick. The nose is absolutely delicious...pine and caramel initially; reminiscent of a mild American IPA or hoppy pale ale. Body is light, lots of hops, floral, citrus and pine. The finish is moderately bitter and fades slowly. It is one of the better Dutch brewed IPA's I've had.

Heen & Weer (Back & Forth): Heen & Weer weighs in at a hefty 9.2% and I was intially unaware of its strength. It was a complex surprise and I was initially drawn to this beer because of the drastic difference between the nose of the first two beers and this one. It's classified as an Abbey Tripel, which means it will be strong and malty sweet with a noticeable hop presence. The color is clear golden amber, the head is thick and white, very nice lacing. The first thing I notice with this beer is the complex nose; spice, gingerbread, cinnamon, yeast, pumpkin and squash. Hints of caramel, and light toasted malt, quite sweet and malty. It is medium to full bodied; a bit of alcohol warmth and hop bitterness midway through and on the finish. I thought this one was complex and delicious. Definitely an above average brew.

Ruig & Rood (Rough & Red): The Ruig & Rood was explained to me as a red Tripel. It was something I had never heard of before so right away I was intrigued. It weighs in at a burly 9.5% (as with Heen & Weer, I was unaware it was this strong until the end). The color of this beer is amazing (I hope it shows up well in the photo). It's a dark ruby crimson, with slight murkiness. Nose is all hops and malt. Slight metallic notes, quite sweet, caramel and toffee, slight roasted malt. A bit of cereal and bran, yam-like notes, sweet potatoes? Medium bodied, hop bitterness on the finish, carbonation is low. Very drinkable given its strength. Never would have guessed 9.5%.

Mooi & Meedogenloos (Beautiful & Ruthless): Mooi & Meedogenloos was also a nice surprise. Was one of the darker beers at the end of the selection (in the photo the one on the left). Any light passing through this one? I don't think so. I had been eyeing this glass the entire time; I do love my strong dark brews. In any case this one is classified as an Imperial Russian Stout and the alcohol percentage is massive to support this; 10.4%. It did look incredibly delicious. The head was creamy and light brown. Excellent retention and lacing. The nose caught me once again; I picked up notes of caramel and marshmellow. Chocolate cocoa, sweet and sugary, toasted malt. Smells creamy. Pie crust and graham crackers; smells kind of like my grandma's chocolate pie. Taste is on par with the nose; sweet, hop bitterness, lots of alcohol. Tastes like smores and roasted malt. I'm getting some alcoholic notes; maybe bourbon. Charred oak and a definite burnt roasted character shines through. Definite hop bitterness near the end. Thick and rich. This is a delicious offering indeed, just make sure you proceed with caution when enjoying this rich complex brew ;]

Moord & Doodslag (Murder & Manslaughter): Moord & Doodslag is the perfect name for this beer as it's quite brutal on the palate. I was only given a half pour on this sample, and the reason for that is because it takes the cake for strongest brew of the six; a whopping 12%. This is another Imperial Stout aged most likely in bourbon barrels. Wasn't sure what to expect from this one, it looked intimidating compared to the others, but I was eager to sample it. The pour is dark brown to black but it's tough to detect the true color; the sun through the glass cast dark brown reddish hues on the table so I'm going with that for a color. The head is dark tan, slight retention, lacing is virtually non-existent. The nose, wow, some kind of alcohol. Very boozy. Barrel-aged? Rum or bourbon would be my guess. Very sweet. Picking up some woody notes; oak perhaps? Carbonation is light, the body is full to the extreme! Filling. Alcohol warmth. More wood. Spicy black pepper and very rich. Hints of charcoal and caramel notes. Some kind of lingering bitterness, either roasted or hoppy; tough to discern between the two. Definite dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee characteristics. Wood, chocolate, and alcohol dominate this beer. You have to take your time with this one since it's such a gargantuan brew (I spent the most time working my way through this one). Dark, rich, and barrel-aged; it would be a lovely dessert beer :]

In retrospect, my first real taste of Brouwerij de Molen was great. Making the trip down south from Amsterdam is definitely worth it. Like I was saying earlier, even if you're not a beer fanatic like me, you can still come to Bodegraven and enjoy yourself. The staff from de Molen is accomodating and friendly. In addition to their own beers, they have a separate beer store where you can purchase beer from all over the world. The sun was shining, I was in a lovely small town, and I was enjoying some of the best beers in the world; it really doesn't get much better than that.

Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Augustijn - Grand Cru

And so I had to do it. My curiosity got the best of me. What is a Grand Cru? That is a question I have been asking for quite some time now and frankly, I don't know why I never sought the answer before this. But now that I am here in Holland, and the Grand Cru's that I have seen always tend to be synonomous with Belgian beer (and Belgian Style beer) what better place to start my quest for an answer than here in Amsterdam, less than two hours from the said country? So here I will start. I am sampling a Grand Cru from a Belgian brewer. Let's see if we can find a definitive answer to my question.

Doing a bit of researching, I have discovered that Grand Cru as we know it came into existence in France in 1855 among the various wine regions located there. It was used to denote specific vineyards known to or have the potential to produce grapes (and wine for that matter) of distinction. The usage and attachment of the Grand Cru classification has been strictly regulated for over 150 years. There are five levels within the classification ranging from Premier Cru to Cinquieme Cru. Taking note that this term originated in France, I used an online translator (my personal favorite: babelfish) to do a translation of the word from French into English. Not surprisingly I found the literal translation to be: great wine. I typed Cru and it returned with: vintage. And so it would seem that in French the term means: "great wine" or "great vintage."

So the next question is how was this term transferred to beer? Grand Cru is not only used to denote wine or beers of distinction, but also chocolate, cognac and whiskey. I've been looking for awhile and can't find any definitive answers on when the term was first attached to beer. But it is obviously used to let people know that in some way the beer is special, that it is the cream of the crop so to speak. I also found nothing that suggested Grand Cru is an actual style of beer; it is simply used to denote that more care and effort was put forth when producing the beer. The term is used quite liberally (at least in the US) and the brewer himself will attach the name to his beer. In other parts of the world the name seems to carry some weight (the Grand Cru beers I know of from Belgium really are top notch). I know some breweries in my home state of Washington are using this term in the names of their beers (Snoqualmie Falls, Anacortes, and Dick's). And I know of a couple of other bigger named breweries using the term as well (Blue Moon). In any case it would seem the research done to find out more about this term has left me with a wealth of information to form my own opinion. The one thing that is true is that when you see: Grand Cru in the name of a beer, the brewery feels the offering is in some way special (this may or may not be true). This Grand Cru offering is one from Belgium, so let's see if this claim that Belgian Grand Cru's really are great...

Name: Augustijn Grand Cru
Category/Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 9%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: None
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 330 mL
Location Purchased: De Bierkoning, Amsterdam

The Pour:Strictly golden yellow, bubbly lively carbonation on the bottom of the glass. The head is off-white and clings to the glass nicely. Nice retention, quite a nice amount of lacing.
The Nose:All belgian yeast, white bread crust, bubblegum, dish soap, alcohol, smells heavy, slightly musty, sugary and candylike, a bit of caramel corn and toffee, slightly fruity characteristics. I think I know just how it will taste.
The Taste:The mouthfeel is not as heavy as I would have predicted. It's 9% after all. Slightly bitter. A little spice? Hints of bitter orange peel? A bit thin on the mouthfeel. Much more bitterness than I would have predicted, I quite
like it because of that. Warming on the back of the throat. The nose is on par with other bottle conditioned Belgian's I've had. A bit of malt, and quite dry on the finish. It's all there, however; soap and hops, bubblegum, yeast, and bread.
The Verdict:Rarely do I attach a number rating to a beer but with this one I feel the need to do so. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would place this brew at about a 7. It's a good beer and definitely holds up when compared to other examples of the style, but considering it's a Grand Cru, I should expect something more. I wasn't disappointed with my purchase, like I said it's a good example of the style, but I was definitely hoping for something a bit different...

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nethergate Brewery - Old Growler

Hello all! As promised, the review of Old Growler English Porter is here. I have finally beaten my cold and as a result I am back sampling beer from all over the world (still have a pretty nasty cough though). So, Old Growler, a robust superior Porter, so says the side of the bottle. We'll see about that. If memory serves me correctly I believe I have only reviewed two other Porters, one was the Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter from Midnight Sun, and the other was the Baltic Porter from Alaskan Brewing (so those don't really count). I don't know why I haven't reviewed a standard Porter in the past, they are one of my favorite styles of beer. This one however, is an English Style Porter.

Before I get started on the explanation and history of the Porter, let me first shed a little bit of light on the brewery this beer is coming from: Nethergate Brewery. Nethergate Brewery is located in Pentlow, England. The brewery was founded in 1986 and they offer 10 core brews ranging from Mild Ales to Bitters and IPA's to Porters and a Specialty Ale utilizing toasted Coriander in place of hops. The beer I am reviewing: Old Growler has won a smattering of awards, most recently in 2004 where it took the award for Supreme Champion for Porter's at the Chicago Int'l Beer Fest.

So the Porter. Where does this beer begin? Research tells me its' origins are in 18th century Central London. It was widely popular at Train Stations in the 1700's with railroad workers and train Porters (people who assisted passengers with bags and luggage), this is where the name "Porter" comes from. But what is a traditional Porter? Good question. Traditionally Porters were engineered by brewers using three component ales. The first component was an old ale (soured or stale) a new ale (either Brown or Pale) and a weak ale (Mild Ale). How people come up with these ideas is beyond me, but I am sure glad they did. Now the flavour profile on these original pioneers of the English Porter was an interesting combination that tasted neither old or new. The brewer was able to customize the flavour by combining various amounts of the component ales. Early versions of the Porter were strong (by English standards) falling above the 6.0% abv mark. Over the years, due to the various wars (the Napoleonic, and the two World Wars) and various taxations of malt, the Porter experienced many changes in strength and ingredients. Around 1940 the Porter fell out of production altogether and would not be revived for nearly 40 years.

And the revival would took place in England around 1979. Now there are numerous breweries in England and America producing their versions of the style. The strength of Porters seems to run between 4 to 7.0% with many examples falling above that mark. You can find many different kinds on the market; some brewed with Smoked Malt, some aged in Bourbon Barrels, some brewed with vanilla or coffee, the options are seemingly endless. Typically a Porter will be red brown to black in color and the flavour will be chocolate, earth, coffee, smoke, toffee or caramel-like. The hoppiness will be light to moderate and the carbonation should not be too prevalent. The body will be light to medium. And so now let's get to the beer...

Name: Old Growler Porter
Category/Style: English Porter
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Types: Unknown
Hop Types: Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: Unknown
Bottled: Unknown
Bottle Size: 500 mL
Location Purchased: Nelson's Wines, Merton, England

The Pour: Much lighter in color than I would have expected. It pours a clear reddish dark brown, the head is cream colored, not very thick, but lacing is nice.
The Nose: The aroma is a lovely mix of chocolate, caramel, butter toffee, lightly toasted grain, molasses, faint hint of coffee, but mostly sweet and malty. Swirling the glass reveals a bit of grassy hops in there. A slight hint of stale bread, tobacco, straw, slightly musty. Smells delicious.
The Taste: Hmm the mouthfeel is heavier than I would have anticipated. It's delicious. Dry on the finish. Definitely bready. Medium bodied. Slight roasted flavour, notes of caramel and coffee, a bit of dark chocolate, molasses, cocoa powder, has a nice spicy bite, a little bitterness and earth midway through. The finish is slight toasted grains, a little smokiness, faint hop bitterness, butterscotch and earth. Wow I am really liking this. Quite different from the Porters I know and love back home. The carbonation is low and spot on. Strangely refreshing. This one is really drinkable. Could probably drink this one all night long. Wish I had more of it ;]
The Verdict: This one really threw me. After pouring it into the glass, I expected it to be thin and watery, but it was the complete opposite in every way. Full flavored, perfect carbonation, and the nose is incredible; makes you want to dive back in for another sip. The flavour is just so delicious it's not even funny. Wow I am definitely glad I waited to have this one. The wait was definitely worth it. I have no idea if you can find it in the US but you should definitely try and track this one down, it will not disappoint. If you want a darker beer, very drinkable and flavourful, maybe looking for something midway between a darker heavier stout or typical American Style Porter this is your beer. If I had to pick just one word to describe this beer it would be: amazing. Now go try and find your own bottle ;]

Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Brouwerij de Molen - Zak & As

Heya! Before I get started with this review, I just wanted to let you know that I had intended to post the review of another English Ale, unfortunately I have become rather sick, and well, it is not well-advised to drink beer given my current state. So I will post a previously consumed and reviewed beer known as Zak & As. Just know that the next beer will be the Old Growler English Porter.

Anyhow, the latest beer up for review as I said, is Zak & As (Sack & Ash), and it comes to us straight from Holland. It is brewed by Brouwerij de Molen (The Windmill Brewery) and they are located south of Amsterdam, in Bodegraven (90 minutes or so by train). I first discoverd Brouwerij de Molen while browsing a specialty beer store here in Amsterdam (The Cracked Kettle) and was amazed by the stunning variety de Molen was offering. Their trademark seems to be labeling each bottle by hand with a rather plain (but quite informative) white label. Each label provides a suggested serving temperature, a consume by date (sometimes in excess of 20 years), ABV, hop types, original and final gravities, special ingredients, bottle number from the specific batch, as well as brewed-on and bottled-on dates; transparent brewing, that's another reason I love this brewery. Why not give all this information? Often it is difficult to find the percentage of alcohol in a beer on the label, but with this brewery everything you could ever want to know about the beer you're about to consume is right on the front of the label. Brouwerij de Molen brews beers ranging from American to Belgian Styles, German to English Styles, with a selection of Seasonal Releases and Special Releases. You can find IPA's, Bocks, Smoked Beers, Pilseners, Stouts, Porters, Tripels, Dubbels, and Witbiers. With this brewery it is more or less take your pick (you can find anything). They will frequently add off the wall ingredients and brew beers with combinations not frequently seen elsewhere (at least in my experience).

The beer I am reviewing for you tonight (Zak & As) is a smoked blonde ale. Yes, that's right. A smoked blonde ale. Sounds quite interesting eh? I thought so too. The only deviation from the normal blonde ale is the fact they brew the beer with Bamberg Smoked Malt (Rauchmalt). The same malt used in german Rauchbier. For information on the flavour profile of this malt refer to this review here. The blonde ale will be slightly sweet, slightly bitter, with an intense upfront carbonation; now imagine this combined with the flavour of Rauchmalt which is very distinct. It promises for an intriguing combo, and let me tell you it was. Here's the review...

Name: Zak & As (Sack & Ash)
Category/Style: Smoked Blonde Ale
ABV: 7%
IBU: 39.1
OG: 1.070
FG: 1.018
Malt Types: Rauchmalt
Hop Types: Premiant, Saaz
Yeast Type: British Ale yeast
Special Additives: None
Bottled: 24th November, 2010
Bottle Size: 330 mL
Location Purchased: De Bierköning, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Pour: Dark yellow slightly copper colored, fluffy off-white head, decent retention, a little lacing
The Nose: Strawberry jam, blackberries, beechwood smoke, peanut butter, ash, dish soap, some citrusy hops, candy sugar, fresh baked biscuits and yeast.
The Taste: Carbonation is tingly and explosive but fades quickly to reveal some soapy citrusy hops, strawberries, sweet candy sugar, detecting a bit of spice, smoke midway through, finish is bitter and sweet with campfire-like notes and a mild bitterness lingering on the tongue.
The Verdict: Quite an interesting beer. When I read: Rook blond bier "Smoked blonde beer" on the side of the bottle (and also that it contained my name in the name of the beer) I was obligated to purchase a bottle. I was surprised, and intrigued; a smoked blonde ale? Seriously? Get out! This beer was so far out there I had no idea what to expect. Combining a deliciously sweet blonde ale with smoked malt was something I had never seen or even considered. When I first cracked the bottle open I was surprised by the sweet strawberry jam-like notes. The smoke was hard to detect initially, but after a few sniffs and a few sips I was able to detect it through everything else; smoke, peanut butter, strawberries, blackberries, citrus hops, dish soap, ash and fresh baked biscuits? A ridiculous ramshackle of a combination, but I really enjoyed it. As far as beers go this one was really out there, but it all somehow works well together. Where can you find a bottle of something brewed by De Molen in the US of A? I have no idea. Maybe for now they are just distributing here in Holland and Belgium. It is definitely worth it on your end to do a bit of research and see if anyone is carrying this brand, you won't be disappointed by the selection, or the quality. For now I am glad to be able to find these beers here in Amsterdam, and at such a great price, I might add ;]

Thanks for reading!