Saturday, November 17, 2012

christmas beer, the media and the frenzy

The time is here, Christmas beers are out and people are flocking into the wine stores like ants to a Doritos chip. Everything is completely crazy this weekend, people are buying them by the case and every newspaper and media in town has a section devoted to them.
I was lucky enough to be on the panel for Vínótek and I think we did a pretty good job off being fair to everybody. That is not something that applies to everybody but more on that later.
This year I thought there were two domestic standouts. The obvious winner is of course Borg´s triumphant Barley Wine, Giljagaur. A massive hop monster weighing in at about 10% abv, it´s not a beer for weak palates. Like every Borg seasonal, it´s released maybe a tad too early but still, at this fresh level it is still a massive massive beer and incredibly tasty. Dry hoppy finish with tons of dried fruits. It´s something to savior, and something to enjoy slowly by the fireplace.
The other one is slightly more devoted to the average palate but still very tasty and Christmas-y. It´s the first new beer from Ölvisholt (Iceland´s first micro in my opinion and the one that has stayed close to the concept since it´s start) in I think over 2 years and a really good one. It does not demand much, it´s quite easy but ticks all the boxes for a seasonal Christmas brew. Spices dominate the palate, with cloves and orange bark being the stand outs. It´s a bit lacking in the hop department but still the First Gold hops are obvious in the finish. It is maybe the only thing that this beer is lacking, more bitterness to compliment the spices. But still, an easy choice for the mass as this year´s Christmas beer.

The other Icelandic beers are nothing to rave about, but I was a bit impressed by the Steðji Christmas Lager. A well balanced lager, blended with liquorice. A very foul concept but still easily drinkable.

And now to the media debate. Nonsence like the one picture above is ridiculous. A long time ago writers for the Icelandic newspapers forget the number one rule of journalism, to stay neutral and write an honest opinion about things.

If you´re only intent is to score free beer and keep everybody happy, you should not be writing about beer. Everybody has their opinion but an article like this that is so biased is not only unfair but also incredibly unprofessional. The panel behind this reviews were a group of homebrewers and journalists for this particular newspaper. I refuse to believe that the result was something that everybody agreed on.

I think I know plenty about beer, taste and I know my palate pretty well. In my opinion the Víking Jólabock was incredibly foul, and has nothing to do with christmas or craft brew. The doppelbock pictured in this picture (from the same brewery) was better but in no means something that deserves 93 points. A friend from the craft beer community here once told me that this newspaper adds extra 50 points to every rate and is maybe not doing the sampling session as a blind rating session. If that is true, why the hell write an article? You could just have a whole page with an add from the Víking brewery if you want to make them happy and promote them. I´m not a fan of Kaldi either, the beer that is in this picture elected as the "crowd´s favorite", but each to their own. Other papers have same kind of review, with a panel of people that are famous but know nothing about beer or good taste.

This is not me being bitter, but simply saying my opinion on what a review should be like. I am very proud of my reviews for Vínotek and the panel that rated for them. I think that the final review was very fair to everybody. We did not slate beers but also we did not say they were something that they are not. We did a blind tasting of about 14 beers. Some were very surprising. Icelandic brewing industry is still focusing on the idea that a Christmas beer is something for the binge drinkers. I do not agree and by the look of things, Borg and Ölvisholt have the same idea as me.

And if this particular newspaper do not agree with my opinion and want me to take this picture down, then fine.

But do drink responsibly people, and think more of Christmas beer as something to enjoy and not something to abuse!

Friday, November 9, 2012

international stout day

here in the background is also an amazing barley wine, more on that later

Oh, fun! International Stout day was yesterday, and I visited the dark side of course.

First all, I have a weird relationship with stouts and porters. I like them, I like them a lot. They are, if well made, very rich of flavors, and incredibly satisfying. But every time I visit a liquor store I always head towards the bitter and funky stuff.

Things are on and upwards at Borg as usual. Their latest brew just hit the shelves and it is a rich and robust porter. It´s not a stout per se but we all know just how vague the line between a stout and a porter is. And it´s a discussion I will not go into in this post. Added to all richness of a base porter, Borg have added specially roasted coffee beans to this ale, imported from Colombia. It adds more depths of flavors and the final product is incredibly tasty and holds up well compared to the signature porters of both England and the USA. I have had this brew with a nice steak and it was truly awesome!


The second beer of the night was more true to what the day was all about. A crazy imperial stout! De Molen are one of those brewers that have incredible hype around them. They are brewing 100´s of beers (a la Mikkeller) and the beer nerds are going crazy. I was so lucky to have a visitor from Holland (Hi Martinus!) that brought along a few De Molen bottles for me to sample. I sampled the "regular" Hel & Verdoemenis a few nights ago and it was a bit of an anti climax. Sure it was good but a bit unbalanced. So my hopes for the 666 version had dampened a bit I still knew that I was in for a really special beer. And boy, what a beer, what a beer experience and what nirvana of beer gods! Massive complex aroma, where the cognac truly shines, along with some funk, dust and oak. First a bit acidic on the tongue but then you are brutally hit by the fist of this beer. It slaps you around and calls you "Susan" again and again and by the time you finish the glass you have no clue what just hit you. What hit me was an almost perfect imperial stout.

I hope you all did wonder outside your tiny little box and sampled some stouts and dark beers yesterday. It´s an awesome day, and it is always fun to have an excuse to try something new.