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last whispers

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It’s not a black beer, but bocks do have the heavier feel to them that I generally like. This is not famous Spaten, but it is an authentic German bock, from Weiherer of Bavaria. Maybe I cold have picked out some red ale or fruited sour for the coming holiday, or saved that Mahou rosé, but sometimes it’s nice to rest on a standard. Like many classic things, there are reasons why some styles remain popular for decades and centuries. Weiherer itself is not a traditional, centuries old brewery, only having about 30 years under its belt, but it does make some big claims about its sustainability and care with the environment. Sadly, that’s not very traditional at all. But in the future, it may be that those attitudes will be the ones that survive. Here’s to trying, Weiherer!

Clear, golden brew, just a thin sliver of head, and not terribly aromatic. It has kind of a sour grass smell, not exactly what I expect from a bock. Flavorwise, though, it does line up. It’s not as heavy as Spaten bock, but it has a dark maltiness and a certain solidness of body. There’s a flicker of sourness, but it’s much more clearly bitter. It’s not quite a light summery beer, although it doesn’t go down the path of darkness either. It eases up on the bitter, growing some grainy sweetness, fitting right in with the typical bock character. I feel like it could go with some little treat, tart apple or mild cheese, but even on its own it feels nourishing.

Supplier: Labirratorium
Price: €3.75

following instructions

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I almost passed over this porter, thinking it being “by the book” as a little too uninteresting. Am I getting to be too much of a beer snob to enjoy the simple things? No, but they do have to be particular things, like a black beer rather than not. In the end, I had to come back to a porter. Also, who am I kidding, I love things by the book. Those tentacles make me think the inspiration might have been 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea…did Captain Nemo have a homebrew kit on board? Maybe his roaming inspired nomad brewers La Quince and their collaborator of the moment Es Pop. Black, Bold & Bookish ahoy!

Dignified dark brown and a firm not-quite-beige head make the first impression. The aroma gives up mild coffee, fresh woodiness, the tiniest bit of winter wind. The flavor is much smokier than expected from a rule-following porter, although it isn’t as heavy as the average rauchbier. It takes a couple of sips for the coffee to make an appearance on the tongue, but it does amble up eventually. It’s a bitter and smoky beer, giving the impression of a traditional recipe, and has echoes of cold northern shores. A bit of coffee-drink sweetness develops over time, but with a heavy hand still on the medicinal or herbal fruit of the coffee tree. It’s pretty light, fairly easy to swallow, an easy-going drinking experience. With oddly warm temperatures, it’s a good choice for a dark beer for many, although I could always do with something heavier, lover of darkness that I am.

Supplier: Labirratorium
Price: €4.65

shielded

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As much as I love a beer, I am open to other choices. With the unseasonably warm days, something lighter and sweeter might be appetizing. Still, the nights get kinda-sorta cold, so the northern connections of a mead feel fitting. They come and go in the stores, with a disappearing act just before Christmas, but some have returned to populate Labirratorium’s shelves. This one seemed the most likely – semi-dry, unfiltered, stern looking label. I don’t think I’ve come across Guerrero before, but let’s see if Escudera, the simplest of the meads I saw, gives them a good introduction.

It does look very unfiltered, kind of like a glass of honey in fact. It has a tingly, tangy scent, a little bit like some of the melomels, that tickles the nose but zips away as soon as you put the glass down. It’s definitely bubbly, but not being a beer there’s no appreciable head. There are a few bubbles at the edge of the glass, so it has a more soda like appearance. Lightly sweet at first, it builds in honey character as the drink goes down, giving you some oddly sharp floral notes and a kind of whisper of wax. I haven’t tasted natural beeswax in a long time, so my first thoughts go to those old wax candies, but I imagine I’m supposed to picture the hive giving up its treasure for the delight of humans, with only the simplest of production to get it in the bottle. It scores high on all counts, although I’m looking forward to the possibility of a stout next week.

Supplier: Labirratorium
Price: €3.30

rosy gateway?

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What desperation is this, a Mahou beer? Are all the beer stores shuttered forever and the craft breweries wiped from the face of the earth? No, although I feel a little embarrassed. I guess my face can go with the beer – La Rosé de Mahou. It’s supposed to be a lager “with a fruity touch”, something for people who want to explore different flavors in beer. It feels like they’re trying to push their not-ABI/not-Heineken side, like when they picked up their share of Founders as a “family company”. Being the industrial beer that it is, I doubt there’s going to be any of the weirdness that fruity sours give off in scent, and I kind of doubt that the flavor is going to be that strong. It is a Mahou, after all. Although, most of the craft styles that the Spanish macros have made have been perfectly acceptable, so I might be in for a treat.

It does look a lot like a rosé, with a fluffy head on it. Very similar to some sours too. It’s an interesting aroma, slightly fruity, although that might be psychological, but mainly malty sweet. It’s lager sweet at first, but the taste deepens and develops a little bit of herbalness. It has the mouthfeel of a bock, although one that leans a little syrupy. I get a hint of licorice too, even kind of an artificial raspberry flavor. Although sweet, it’s probably too heavy to be one of the more refreshing hot weather beers, but that weight with its color could make it festive. It has the potential to be a gateway beer, one that people who don’t really like “real” beer can enjoy drinking, only graduating to the more bitter, less soda-y at a later time. I’m not sure who the target consumer is, to be honest. They might be trying to fool the more unsophisticated wine drinkers rather than rope in young beginner beer drinkers. Who knows? We have to take risks if we want to get stuff sold, I guess.

stubborn bastard

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OK, I skipped last Saturday, after more than a straight month of tasting and explaining. Call it a little holiday. It was, in fact, a holiday technically, if you’re a follower of Catholic tradition. Just imagine I was waiting for the Magi to bring me some beer for the new year. What I have today seems like something you would gift a special someone, as long as they liked beer. It’s Fábrica Maravillas’ 2023 La Cabrona Cuvée. The Cabrona they were making when they started a full decade ago was a Belgian quadruple, dark and meaty, and surprisingly strong for some. A couple of years ago, I first encountered their cuvée, but I was not especially enamored with it. I think passionfruit might have been involved and there was a distinct taste of bubblegum. Not so much to my liking. But, I have such fond memories of Cabrona, that I don’t think twice about giving it another chance, it is another recipe after all, and picked up this little can right from the brewpub. It also has an image you could argue is topical – never forget Disco Baphomet!

It’s a lighter brown than I remember the classic Cabrona being, more like a murky märzen than a Belgian quad. It has a pretty malty and even incense-like aroma, a little bit flowery and more like fruit scent than real fruit. The head is resistant and protective. It tastes very bready up front, not toasty even though there’s also a strong element of smoke. It’s a little bit like a mouthful of smoke from a grain barn fire. The grain part has sweetness, but it doesn’t reveal the expected fruit. It brings me back more to the Cabrona of my memories, a dark, strong beer, and I definitely like it better than the bubblegum result of a few years ago. Praise Disco Cabrona!

pumpkins

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On the twelfth day of Beermas I went and got for me
Twelve pumpkins smashing
A scene ripe for peeping
Ten space lords leaping
A third of nine dancers carefree
Eight spice rack maidens
A taste of one of seven seas
Six alarms a-ringing
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

Another Beermas at an end, and what do I have? A beer I probably should have had at Halloween! Well, better late than never, and things keep pretty well in cans. It’s Oso Brew’s Smashing Pumpkin Ale, with a decidedly autumnal look. How do we get from drumming to pumpkins? The smashing, obviously. Whatever connection you want to make for it, it’s a celebratory beer, one that has a little something special, something you just aren’t going to see every day. Or even every Beermas, probably.

It’s a cidery color with a not quite pumpkin pie aroma. Head is nice at first, but vanishes within a minute of pouring. It does smell more like natural pumpkin than pumpkin spice, although there is a tiny bit of clove or maybe allspice. It tastes like a märzen with a little pumpkin infused in it, something like Fabrica Maravillas’ märzen a few years ago. It’s a little dusty in texture, makes you think it just came in from the pumpkin patch. Is this the most appropriate beer to finish Beermas? Who knows? The fact is that this year it’s the grand finale, and it might not be Christmas-y or even New Year’s-y, but it has a definite holiday feel. My favorite holiday no less. Twelfth day down, Beermas complete!

peepers

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On the eleventh day of Beermas I went and got for me
A scene ripe for peeping
Ten space lords leaping
A third of nine dancers carefree
Eight spice rack maidens
A taste of one of seven seas
Six alarms a-ringing
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

Yeah, OK, peep not pipe, but it’s close. Also, the guy probably has some pipe he could show us if he was in the right mood. De Verboden Vrucht comes from (shudder) InBev, but it’s down to the wire for Beermas and I have to find something that fits. It’s something that comes more from InBev’s Belgian roots and while it doesn’t brandish the Hoegaarden label, that’s the origin. Somehow I imagine music came after the eyes of humanity were opened. Living in a pre-life paradise doesn’t seem like it would lend itself to instrument creation.

It’s a warm nutty brown beer, this one, with a fluffy off-white cap. The aroma is quite vegetal, fresh carrots, canned peas. Canned corn usually isn’t a good sign, but that’s not quite what I’m getting. The taste is gingerbread at first, although there’s a little bit of metallic aftertaste. It’s a little tangy, but without the extra hanging around that so many Belgian beers have, it is a much cleaner and silkier feel. A little bit of apple starts to make an appearance after a good few minutes on the table, which is fitting. It does have a certain seasonal essence to it, a touch of Christmas spice. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a truly forbidden fruit, but it feels like it came off a tree of pleasure. Eleventh day down!

astronauts

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On the tenth day of Beermas I went and got for me
Ten space lords leaping
A third of nine dancers carefree
Eight spice rack maidens
A taste of one of seven seas
Six alarms a-ringing
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

At least the label has a clear connection to the song, although there’s only one guy on there. It’s kind of a lonely image, but maybe there are some other crew members hiding in or controlling things from the shuttle. It wouldn’t be that much of a surprise that beer, or at least alcohol, is one of the items that space explorers make damn sure they have around. After all, the pilgrims built a brewery at Plymouth for anything else, they say. Península and their Galactic Sunrise would have been an unknown in the early 17th century, but they might have gained fans then as quickly as they have today. Probably would have had a hell of a time finding suitable hops for a double dry hopped beer, though.

Sort of a peach-honey color, juicy looking, thick. Not excessive head. There is a little of the orangey citrus that modern IPAs can’t do without, but there’s also a swaddling of musk perfume. The taste is sharp, grassy, a stab of mint. There is citrus, but it’s a bitter citrus, not even the odd balance of a grapefruit. It feels wild and a little untamed, in spite of the typical standard beer’s bitterness, maybe because a little influence from the label comes in. It’s an unearthly drink, one that comes from a brand new setting. It’s a discovery of the similarities in unexpected places and differences that surprise you. It’s a stronger IPA at 7%, but the flavor is delicate as well as attention-grabbing, and you get the feeling that it wouldn’t interfere too much with a space walk. Tenth day down!

monks

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On the ninth day of Beermas I went and got for me
A third of nine dancers carefree
Eight spice rack maidens
A taste of one of seven seas
Six alarms a-ringing
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

Here’s a conundrum, are three dancing monks better for day three or day nine? I guess nine, three times three, and so clearly connected to the day’s activity, so that’s where you go Espíritu Triple. Yakka has created this beer with its playful and evocative label, probably intending to emphasize the connection to the religious brewers of other parts of Europe.

On a more somber note, I found out (some time ago when this gets published) that Hop Hop Hurrah will be closing it’s doors at the end of December. The owner is having a baby and the store just doesn’t make up for being away from family obligations. Who knows, maybe he’ll be able to get back into it later on. Life just keeps changing, one way or another.

Typical Belgian appearance, golden but slightly cloudy, not a lot of head. The Belgian aroma is also present, tangy, slightly bready. It’s very bitter at first, but quickly backs into a sweet and sour kind of flavor, with a little bit of a dusty feeling. It grows in sweetness, but never gets sticky, although I find it to be more refreshing after some time to warm up. It gets smoother and less cloudy, easy to drink and calling a little for some extras – cheese, fruit, probably not something very salty. It’s not an “authentic” Belgian, just a Spanish-made Belgian style, so maybe that’s why I don’t get the usual aftertaste. It’s very clean and perfect for a quiet conversation. Ninth day down!

herbs

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On the eighth day of Beermas I went and got for me
Eight spice rack maidens
A taste of one of seven seas
Six alarms a-ringing
A high-powered ring of fire
Four silent moths
Three frisky parrots
A bottle but not two cans
And more than half a liter of perry

The maids a-milking are also a little hard to come up with, although there’s always the cop-out of the milk stout. In this case, we can focus on the maid, the woman who works in an outdoor setting, more or less, engaged in food production. So this is the fruit of a different animal’s labor, with a little addition from the field or garden, but you still need people to collect and process it. The honeycomb makes Rosemary sound like a mead more than a beer, but it is a petite saison. Well, there is some honey in there…maybe the “True History of Beer” guy would see this as evidence that mead and beer get lumped in together. Let’s see what Dúa is going to do for us.

Very light straw color, pleasant amount of head, vaguely saline-honey aroma. The flavor has a much deeper sense of honey and flowers, and in fact rosemary. There’s the subtle perfume that you might get with a saison, but the taste is very heavy on the herbal and meadowy. It has a “natural” candy quality, some kind of sugared flower that you might get in an old timey candy store or pastry shop. It takes on a little more vinaigrette character, with just a touch of sourness coming up, once you get about halfway through the can. The flowers wilt away a bit, but the honey stays front and center. It feels like a springtime or early summer beer, something you’d have on a picnic, enjoying the first day you don’t need a jacket or something. Eighth day down!

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