Sunday, May 11, 2014

An afternoon of beer tasting (and some food consumption too!)

Think four beers are enough for a tasting session involving 
seven people, only one of whom is a bona fide beer geek?

 If so, you need to think again! ;b

The kind of hearty food we needed to imbibe
to make sure we wouldn't get wasted that afternoon!

It being a foodie gathering, the featured dessert
was on the fancy side though... ;b

I have a friend who told me more than once that "beer tastes like a burp".  Determined to prove her wrong, I decided to organize a beer tasting session -- one that finally took place at her place yesterday afternoon.  

With a number of foodie friends also present, this meant that we also had plenty to eat (including fried chicken wings, fried sweetbreads, a three cheese macaroni and cheese, a brussel sprouts dish to make sure we had some greens that day, and a dessert that involved cranberry juice and the kind of preparation that totally is beyond me!) along with enough people to make it so that we could try a fair number of beers -- though, in the end, we still fell two beers short of the total number of beers I had thought we would be able to sample!

Geek that I am, I had a definite idea of the order for which the beers I brought were to be sampled.  For the record, it went like this:-

1) Kagua Blanc - Designed in Japan, featuring Japanese ingredients (including yuzu), but brewed in Belgium. Tastes citrusy and refreshing, so it can be a shock to find out that it's an 8 ABV beer!  I had wanted to start the session with a bang -- and if there was one beer that I'd say was an unqualified hit among pretty much everybody present at the beer tasting, this would be it.  So... maybe sometimes the first is the best! ;b

2) Yards IPA (India Pale Ale) - The first microbrew I was introduced to after returning to the US (specifically Philadelphia) from Tanzania in the 1990s was the Yards ESA (Extra Special Ale).  This was my first taste of the Yards IPA -- and I expected a hoppier version of the ESA but one which still wasn't as hoppy as the West Coast IPAs; and that's what we did in fact get with this 7 ABV ale that was complex rather than predominantly bitter tasting.

3) Founders Centennial IPA (India Pale Ale) - This Michigan ale was another beer that I tasted for the first time yesterday afternoon.  Although brewed in the Midwest, I used it as an example of an aggressive West Coast (as opposed to milder East Coast) IPA -- because it's a pretty intimidating 65 IBU (i.e., is pretty heavily hopped!) as well as 7.2 ABV beer!  People were split on this beer -- something which confirmed for me that not everyone really wants their beers to be super-hoppy (and consequently bitter)! 

4) Fuller's Past Masters Old Burton Extra - Wanting the beer neophytes in the group to have a base ale to compare the IPAs and such with, I opted for an old school English ale -- so old school, in fact, that it's actually a revived style!  The second most expensive beer (at HK$40) among those sampled yesterday afternoon (with the Kagua Blanc topping the price list at HK$55), I have to say that I found it kinda boring.  Especially with a 7.3 ABV, I expected more bang for my buck but, instead, got something more solid than spectacular tasting.

5) Flying Fish Red Fish - Like with Yards' beers, I developed a taste for Flying Fish beers during my time in Philadelphia.  In the case of this brewery that originally was located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, it was their XPAs which I adored -- and still would be my number one choice of session beer, when available.  But for this tasting session, I went for the stronger tasting as well as more alcoholic (as in 7, as opposed to 5, ABV) red ale that is my favorite of the four English style ales tasted that afternoon.

6) Sierra Nevada Porter - This is another beer that's from an American -- in this case, Califronia -- brewery I've been long familiar with, but which I don't know as much as their signature beer (in this case, the very drinkable Pale Ale).  If truth be told, porter beers for me come across like a weak compromise -- specifically when you're pining for a stout but thinking you want something less strong on the day (maybe because it's too hot out -- that sort of thing), and this particular 5.6 ABV example of the style did little to change my mind about the matter!

7) North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout -- Until last week, I didn't know that this California beer was available in Hong Kong -- and until this week, when I finally allowed myself to sample it again, I had not tasted this beer for some 12 years... since the winter of 2002-2003, in fact!  Without exaggeration: I have to say that this is one of my favorite beers of all time -- if not the very one.  I love its complex taste, its succession of coffee, chocolately, malty and other notes.  Sadly though, I've found few fellow fans of this 9 ABV beer in Hong Kong. I think it's too heavy for many folks -- and I have to admit my surprise that what I knew as a seasonal (specifically winter) beer is now brewed and available all year round in its native US!

8) Lindemanns Pecheresse - There's no two ways about it: for me, this Belgian peach lambic is a chick beer -- and it's not just because it's a 2.5 ABV beer either.  Rather, this 30% peach juice infused beer is way too sweet for my liking.  On the other hand, I predicted that my (formerly?) anti-beer friend who said that "beer tastes like a burp" would like this best of all the beers she consented to taste yesterday afternoon -- and I was right!  ;D

35 comments:

peppylady (Dora) said...

Sure a lot of beers now. One of my cousin start making her own. a hobby of theirs.

Coffee is on

The Fragrant Harbour said...

Hi YTSL -- Glad to hear the tasting session went well! Want to try some of those mentioned!

Mike said...

Awesome! The only one I've had is the Rasputin. A local bar carries it.


Iowa Voice

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

9 ABV would be that much for us Wine buffs. But that being said, I really want to taste some Chimay Blue on tab now.....

Thanks & Best Regards,
T

YTSL said...

Hi peppylady --

Home brewing's getting popular here in Hong Kong but I think I'll stick to tasting. :)

Hi The Fragrant Harbour --

Which ones would you like to try? (Re the chick beer: think you've already had that -- at that Belgian bar near your place ;b)

Hi Mike --

Hope you like the Old Rasputin. If you have had it on draft, I so envy you!!

Hi T --

9 ABV shouldn't scare off wine buffs! Check out the following link to find out wine ABVs! ;b

http://www.alcoholcontents.com/wine/

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Yes, I was meant to type 'would't be that much' but I didn't realize until I submitted the piece.

Well, for Sake buffs as well, we don't usually give a damn for ABVs under 10%. :-P

T

Bill said...

Hi Yvonne,

This is the kind of imbibing social engagement I'm sure most people would be quite willing to participate in. I'm not familiar with most of these brews, but the Rasputin sounds like it would be worth a try...Being a former dark beer drinker myself (sometimes stout, and Old Peculier, a strong British Ale), I now drink light lagers because they're easier on the stomach.

I currently drink Yuengling Light, from America's oldest brewery (German), established 1829 in Pottsville, Pa...You being a former resident of Pa, I'm sure you've tried one of the beers in this line.

Bill

Mike said...

Nope. Only bottles!

YTSL said...

Hi again T --

Well... the difference is that I don't tend to drink as much sake in one sitting as I do beer! ;b

Hi Bill --

Yep, have had Yuenglings.

BTW, had a lot of lagers on my recent Japanese trip -- but I have to say I do prefer the taste of a good pale ale. ;)

Hi Mike --

Ah, we're in the same boat with regards to the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout then!

Anonymous said...

Hi There,

Same here. Good drinks are for sipping, over a period of time, instead of gulping it down in seconds.

Thanks & Best Regards,
T

YTSL said...

Hi once again T --

Agree re good drinks being meant to be sipped -- though I also have to say that the first few quick mouthfuls of cold beer or even just plain water when you're really parched can taste like the nectar of the gods! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I started making no knead bread with Beer and Cider a few weeks ago. I found this (https://www.brewdog.com/beer/amplified/libertine-black-ale) black ale in City Super and it tasted very nice. A lot of fruit with a dose of bitterness.

While baking the bread, the aroma is distinctive with a tang of beer in the air. The bread retained a bit of the bittter though, but still taste very nice.

Now I would like to get hold of a couple of bittles of that Rasputin Imperial Stout you mentioned and see if it works with bread.

T

YTSL said...

Hi once more T --

Wow re your making your own bread! Re making bread with the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout -- be aware that it has a very strong malty taste...

BTW, recently tried another Imperial stout -- German brewery Crew Republic's Roundhouse Kick. Think it's pretty good too! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I wonder how strong the Old Resputin would be. If we use Irish Black stuff as the rating of 1, is Old Resputin stronger than Guinness? The Brewdog Black Ale I tried the other day is already quite potent despite it is not a stout.

Hmm.... Maybe some vintage ale next time?

T

YTSL said...

Hi again T --

Guiness to me is a pretty weak stout. Imperial stouts, by definition, should be stronger than Guiness. So... if you consider Guiness -- that's what you mean by Irish black stuff, right? -- a 1, then the Old Rasputin is a 3 or even 4... ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Thanks for the tip. Guiness (the draught version) is sort of creamy and could be considered liquid food if one is hungry. I don't consider it strong though. Just mention it as it is widely available and easy to obtain and most beer drinkers knew how it feels.

Old Rasputin is another story, I think. I'm yet to encounter bottle shops carrying it, except the one in Sai Kung. If they still have stock, thet is.

I'd probably go for a hike that way next month and take my chances.

One of my bread books also mentioned making Irish brown bread with Guinness. With the experience of using black ale and/or apple cider to make the dough, I guess the aroma might be more intense if Old Rasputin is being used. Seems like fun.

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

For years, I thought I didn't like stouts because Guiness was the only stout I was familiar with. But then I had a revelatory taste of a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout and, when living in Tanzania, developed a love for Castle Milk Stout. After that, I got to realizing that I love many stouts, especially imperial stouts, but also oatmeal stouts, etc.

Basically, I find Guiness rather one note whereas the stouts I like have more complex flavors. And yes, they also often are more alcoholic and generally stronger tasting too!

I usually get the Old Rasputin from HK Brewcraft in Central. The last time I was there, they didn't have it though - so I tried Crew Republic's Roundhouse Kick and found it to my liking too. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Here in HK we do not have much choice of Stouts in the past two decades. Guinness is the best well known one with a few Japanese Stouts (Asahi, Sapporo & Evisu, I think). I think Mackeson was here for decades, I did not pay much attention to it. All mass production brands.

I think even Tsingdao and local (then) San Miguel had one, but I have not tasted them.

It wasn't about five years ago before more adventurous importers began importing more lager/ale/stout alike from small brewers. The rest is history.

Oh well....

T

YTSL said...

Hi yet again T --

I don't think I saw an imperial stout on tap in Hong Kong until about 1 1/2 years ago. I remember it well...it was the Nogne O -- a beer from Norway -- at Dickens Bar! Liked it a lot, and ditto re such as Shanghai microbrewery Boxing Cat's King Louie Imperial Stout, which I found on tap at The Roundhouse.

More recently, have had the Renaissance Elemental Porter from New Zealand -- also at Dickens Bar. Despite its name, it tastes stronger than Guiness Stout to me!

Oh, and last night, shared a bottle with friends of the Samuel Smith Imperial Stout that I found in Yuen Long. It was a hit overall! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I seldom go to pups/bars so maybe that's what I missed.

Anyway..... just bought two bottles of 'Sevens' from HK Beer during lunch break. Should be good for my next bake this weekend.

I'll certainly try to get hold of one of those Imperial Stouts if I could.

T

YTSL said...

Hi one more time T --

Given a choice, I prefer draft beer to beer in bottles or cans, so I do frequent pubs/bars. But I've got to say that I do get better choices of beers in bottles these days in Hong Kong than in pubs/bars, so the bar that I most regularly go to is a sake bar rather than a beer specialist! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Finally found a bottle shop in Western District, Hong Kong Island selling 'Old Rasputin' at $30.- a bottle. That was a WOW! Very creamy with a caramel nose. In the pallet it is very smooth. The usual slight bitterness as expected from a Stout but also with a dark chocolate like flavour. Very complicated. Might be a bit too much for making bread as it might overcome the natural aroma of the yeast.... But I like it very much. Have to start paying attention of whether anybody is serving this by the tap in town......

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

I'm glad you finally found a bottle of Old Rasputin, and found it to your liking! HK$30 for a bottle is well worth it, to my mind.

If you EVER see it on tap in town, PLEASE let me know about it! Ditto re the Sam Smith Imperial Stout (which I still have great memories of finding on tap in Sam Smith owned pubs in England such as the Chandos near Trafalgar Square). :b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

No Old Rasputin on local Taps info yet. But I bumped into a sort of new bottle shop in TST East (www.craftissimo.hk) who is carrying some Samuel Smith stuffs.

They also some aged ale/imperial stout around (like this one http://www.craftissimo.hk/mikkeller-george-barrel-aged-bourbon-edition)

Things are a bit pricey there though.

Thanks & Best Regards,
T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

I've heard of craftissimo but haven't been yet. Have been contenting myself for the most part with HK Brewcraft. Do root around other stores when I'm in the area though. E.g., I found some Samuel Smith beers in a store in Yuen Long located on the same stretch of road as the B-chai dessert place! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I found the bear list of Beertopia 2015 online earlier. That is quite a list:

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0893/8664/files/Beertopia_2015_-_Beer_List.pdf?4758751202967430626

The event would probably be much too crowded of my liking.....

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

It's quite the list, with some beers I'm definitely looking forward to drinking (hopefully in draft form)! Sad to not see Minoh Beer -- and, this time around, any Flying Fish beers, particularly the XPA, and those from Shanghai's Boxing Cat Brewery -- on there though... :S

And I do worry too about the event being over-crowded this year, now that it'll be back on Hong Kong Island. But Beertopia was fine last year (especially during the afternoon session), so I am hopeful it won't be a zoo...

http://webs-of-significance.blogspot.hk/2014/03/my-inner-beer-geek-unleashed-at.html

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I just checked out the website of Evil Twin. It would seem they have quite a few Imperial Stouts. Some of them with AVB over 10% (http://eviltwin.dk/)

T

YTSL said...

Hi T --

I've tried one of the Evil Twin imperial stouts but have to say I wasn't too impressed. (Yes, there ARE imperial stouts that I don't love...!)

BTW, are you going to Beertopia? I definitely am planning to... to the Saturday day session -- which I hope will be less insane than the night ones -- at the very least! ;b

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I don't think I'm going. I'm not too fond of crowded places. I might go to the Bottle Shop in Sai Kung and see what do they have in stock after hiking that way instead.

I am tempted to try that extremely expensive barrel aged stout listed in Craftissimo (for a 330 ml bottle, that is). (http://www.craftissimo.hk/mikkeller-george-barrel-aged-bourbon-edition) But elsewhere there are vintages Ales having a price tag of just $50 and they come in wine bottle size..... They also listed Old Rasputin at $38 a bottle, eight bucks more expensive than that bottle shop on Centre Street.

Anyway......

Thanks & Best Regards,
T

YTSL said...

Hi once more T --

Too bad re your deciding to give Beertopia a miss. I'd have suggested that we meet up there if you also were amenable to giving it a try during the day part of Saturday.

I finally checked out Craftissimo last week. Had a look and chat with the friendly owner (who told me that they're opening a branch in Sheung Wan soon) but didn't end up with anything as I found the prices a bit higher than at HK Brewcraft.

The Bottle Shop seems to favor more Australian and New Zealand beers than the other craft beer shops I've seen. BTW, the City Super in Times Square has a pretty decent selection too these days!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Yes, City Super is the primarily location that I purchase 'Sevens' Stout produced by HK Beers. have to try it by the tap for this one as it is locally made. It is not an Imperiod Stout and it is not as potent as Old Rasputin. For a local stout under $20.- it taste just as good to me.

I used 'Sevens' for bread making too and is one of my favourites. Its 'bitterness' would not come out if I mix a bottle of it into the dough and would only accentuate the aroma of oat. Tried to use a Black Ale from Brewdog and its bitterness was too much for bread.

I may try a dough with Old Rasputin one day and see how it goes.

Thanks & Best Regards,
T

YTSL said...

Hi once again T --

I've not had HK Beer's Sevens Stout for a while. Remember it as tasting okay but being a bit "thin" and less complex compared to the Imperial Stouts I love. Have you tried any oatmeal stouts or milk stouts? (I remember loving Castle milk stout from South Africa a lot when I lived in Tanzania.) Perhaps they'd work better for your bread baking?

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Found a piece of sort of old news about new local bars and brewers to be opened this year:

http://hk.dining.asiatatler.com/features/beer-bulletin-the-bars-and-breweries-opening-soon-in-hong-kong#slide-6

You might like to take a look.

T

YTSL said...

Hi once more T --

Yeah, I've read that article.

FYI, The Coedo Taproom has opened. Unfortunately, when I went there to try it last week, I was told that they were having problems with the pumps, so I left and went somewhere else for beer instead!

Beer and Fish has opened too but I have yet to give it a try. Also, I tried a pale ale by Black Kite just this week but, sadly, wasn't too impressed by it. Honestly, haven't been too enamored by the local craft beers I've tried -- so am still debating whether to give Gweilo's beers a try some time.

BTW, wrote a blog entry yesterday about looking forward to this year's Beertopia. Maybe we could continue our beer discussion on that post? ;b