Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Lager Challenge - Intro, Updated*

After the success of the IPA Challenge (so the voices in my head tell me, anyway), I have decided to attempt a larger (and lager) challenge.  This time things will be different. With the IPAs I bought pretty much every one  I could find, which wasn't that many, both cheap(ish) and dear. The problem with that method, however, was that the IPAs that won both Round 1 and Round 2 were expensive and not readily available in Supermarkets or Off Licences.

For this competition I decided to remove both the top-end and bottom-end of the spectrum. No craft lagers and no cheap muck. I intend that every lager in competition be fairly easily found, most, I hope are available in Supermarkets, which is where I think most people are buying their beer these days.

The other big wrinkle is that I am going to do initial rounds by country. So far it looks like this:
Note: all priced Beers from Molloys and are 500ml bottles unless otherwise stated.

Germany - 8 Lagers. There appears to be more decent quality German lagers about then from other territories. I picked 6 "premium" lagers and decided round out  the 8 with a couple from Lidl to mix it up a bit. The eight purchased to date are:

Spaten 5.2% abv
Veltins Pilsener 4.8% abv  €2.99
Warsteiner 4.8% abv 
Kromabcher  4.8% €2.95 (Dunnes)
Beck's 4.8% abv  €1.75 (can)
Holsten Pils 5.0% abv  €1.75 (can, 440ml) 
Grafenwalder 5% abv €1.09 (can, Lidl)
Finkbrau 4.9% abv €0.75 (33cl, Lidl)

Czech Republic - 4 Lagers. Already selected and purchased. The usual suspects I guess, and one beer from Slovakia as follows:

Pilsner Urquell 4.4% abv  €2.99 
Zlaty Bazant  5.0% abv  €2.19  (Slovak)
Budweiser Budvar 5.0% abv  €2.49 
Staropramen 5.0% abv  €2.49

Poland - 4 lagers. All four decided on now... 

Lech 5.2% abv
Tyskie 5.6% abv €1.65 (Lidl)
Zywiec 5.8% abv €1.65 (can, Lidl)
Warka 5.7% abv €1.84 (can, Dunnes)

Netherlands - 4 Lagers. Three* definites so far. The last one might be a bit dodgy...

Heineken 5% abv
Grolsch 5% abv   €1.89 (can)
Bavaria 4.3% €1.39 (can, Tesco)
Dutch Gold  4% €?.?? (can)

The idea is that one winner from each group will be blind tasted, in an ultimate final. This may take a while, so please be patient...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dial A for Aldi - and a sort of Liveblog. *Updated

A "new" Aldi opened a couple of years ago in Sandyford and I have been meaning to check out their booze for ages, but have been continually diverted by Dunnes at the Beacon and the nearby O'Briens wines, just around the corner. So yesterday, I girded my loins, and with my conscience in the back seat (Lil Bill), sallied forth to the aforementioned Aldi.

Things didn't start well. Their trolleys only take 2 Euro coins, rather than the standard one Euro coins (or tokens if you prefer) and they don't "do" baskets. I was about to leave in disgust when I managed to collar a helpful employee who sold me a token for a mere 89c. Perhaps I am not the target audience but would putting out a few baskets kill them?

Matters didn't improve. Lil Bill refused to pick out a breakfast cereal as he didn't fancy any of their copycat brands. I was only there for the booze so that's pretty much all we got. The booze purchased is pictured below...

Not pictured is a bottle of Aldi Old Hopking Gin, €12-99 for 70cl, which is very cheap. I had heard good things about it , see this. We tried it out in a G&T later and it was perfectly decent. I intend to test against an open bottle of standard Gordon's next weekend. (I try to only drink spirits on non"school" nights)
*Update - I set up a blind test for Herself and she preferred the Gordons, just. I knew which was which and I also just favoured the Gordons; there was a little botanical extra present. Still, the Aldi gin is great value as priced, especially if you are not a gin snob, like me.

On the beer front I got some of the following:
Spaten (not pictured) €1.79. A good price for this beer which I was co-incidentally drinking on Friday night at a Harvest (Neil young tribute band) gig at the Sugar Club. Great gig, although the Spaten was €6 a pop there, ouch.

Marston's Pedigree Pale Ale - €2.09 4.5% abv, Never seen this before but as I am an IPA junkie I got some. Report on this to follow. Per the Sindo today, liking craft IPAs, the more exclusive the better is a hipster trait. I think that's my only one, unless driving a Skoda and shopping in Penney's counts?
*Update - meh, nothing to see here.

Staroslav Czech Pilsner - €1.19 Another punt here. Although at 4%, it's not off to a good start.
*Update - This wasn't too bad. Not a huge amount of flavour but what was there was pleasant enough. One for those who like cheap weak lager, methinks. 

Rheinbacher Premium Pils - €6.99 for 6. More random German beer from the budget retailers. Most of the similar beer from Lidl is piss but the Grafenwalder & Finkbrau are OK, so long as you don't drink them after a "name" beer, at which point the cheapies tend to come off second best.
*Update - Ugh. I've had two of these now just to make sure the first one wasn't a fluke. In a nutshell, it's not very nice, its watery at first and then there's an unpleasant aftertaste. I'm regretting buying six as I'm not sure I can force myself to drink the remaining four, loathe as I am to pour beer down the sink.

On the wine front I picked 2 reds.

Domaine Roussellet Pinot Noir "Vin De France" - No Vintage specified. - €6-99
We drink this last night  and it was just OK, just about drinkable. Even at this price I wouldn't recommend it, unless bargain, non-vintage, non-Burgundy, Pinot Noir is your thing.

Minarete Ribera del Duero Roble 2011 - €7-99
9pm: I opened and decanted this at 4pm before we headed out to our local gastropub The Wild Boar (where the service was a little random but the food was very, very good). Anyhoo, just tasted the wine and after the Pinot Noir yesterday, I wasn't hopeful. Surprise! This is quite nice. Some nice plummy fruit and a bit of depth to the flavour. Not bad for 8 notes.

10pm: It's still good. Not earth shattering, but solid. There's now the tiniest bit of astringency in the mix, along with some recently evolved tannins. All in all, its pretty decent and good value as priced.

I think I've gone on long enough, so I'll leave it at that. It's a mixed bag so far from Aldi. I'll probably blog or at least tweet on the various beers above at some stage over the next few days...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

(I)PA Challenge 2 - Final

Apologies for the delay, I'm finally in a position to stage the final of the second (I)PA Challenge. Some things to note:

1) As with the original (I)PA  Challenge, I decided to do it as a blind tasting, with the help of my lovely assistant, Herself.
2) I decided to skip the semi-final stage and go straight to the final four*
3) I decided to nix the Liberty IPA. As much as I liked it, it didn't qualify for the competition even under the very loose rules I'd specified.

The remaining finalists are:
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA 355ml 5.8% €4.99 [Baggot St Wines] link
Shepherd Neame IPA 50cl 6.1% €4.19 [Baggot St Wines] link
Flying Dog - Snake Dog IPA 355ml 7.1% €4.39 [Molloys] link

As before, I asked Herself to facilitate the blind tasting, and the results are below. Last time out all the beers were a similar colour so I had no external clues. This time number 3 was a bit of a giveaway.

My tasting notes are as follows:

1. Lots of hops - but nicely balanced and delicious.   Guess Rogue
2. Not so much hops - very well balanced.   Guess SnakeDog
3. Even less hops - not bad, but not at the races compared to numbers 1 and 2. Not a Guess, it's the Shepherd Neame (I can tell by the colour).

The results are as follows:

I was right, for once. The Rogue and the Snake Dog were not dissimilar, but the Rogue was a bit hoppier, better balanced and totally delicious. Funnily enough, it's also the most expensive, at €4.99 for 355ml.

Now that I have two competition winners I probably should run them off against each other, and maybe throw in something else into a blind test, to keep me honest. I recently had a Mikkeller Tomahawk IPA which was fantastic and which would fit the bill nicely.

I think I'm done with IPAs for now although I do have a yen to run off some of the more expensive IPAs against each other like Nogne, Mikkeller etc. I also have ideas for other competitions, Golden Ales, Red Les, German Lagers, Czech lagers, Polish Lagers; the list is seemingly endless.

By the way, here are the prices by volume. As before, the most expensive won:

Here are the links to the component posts...

Intro here
Quarter Final 1 here
Quarter Final 2 here

Monday, June 3, 2013

(I)PA Challenge 2 - Quarter Finals 3 & 4

Quarter Final 3
Thornbridge Kipling 5.3%  50cl  €3.99 [Molloys]  link
Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA 355ml 7.1% €4.39 [Molloys] link

The Kipling is a relatively new beer to me. I saw it when I was buying the Jaipur and figgered I'd add it to the mix for the (I)PA challenge Part deux. It's less alcoholic (and cheaper) so it's very much the little brother in the relationship. The Snake Dog is the opposite, being the bigger brother to the Doggy Style (5.5%) IPA that was beaten, co-incidentally, by the Jaipur last time out, so it's very much a revenge match, if beers were sentient and in fact, gave a toss about this sort of thing.

Thornbridge Kipling South Pacific Pale Ale
Lager colour in the glass, the first thing to notice here is the tropical fruit, very unusual in a beer. Not a huge amount of hops, I suspect your enjoyment will be determined by how much the tropical fruit work for you. I like it but do I like it enough?

Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA
Beefy and full-on. This is not dissimilar to the American IPAs from Goose Island and ODell that made the final in Series 1. Perhaps it lacks the finesse of its cousins though, there's a ghost of an aftertaste, that I'm not sure I like. This is gonna be a tough one to call.

Winner Flying Dog - Snake dog IPA

Quarter Final 4
Proper Job IPA 50cl 5.5% €2.99 [Tesco] link
Shepherd Neame IPA 50cl 6.1% €4.19 [Baggot St Wines] link

I've had the Proper Job a couple of times and it's been pretty decent so I reckoned it would be good value in this competition. The Shepherd Neame on the other hand I had never seen, before I saw it in Baggot St. I am a big fan of their Bishop's Finger (steady), so a good strong 6.1% IPA seemed like a good bet.
Proper Job IPA
Cloudy straw in the glass, this is...OK. It has some decent citrussy hoppiness but not much else. No malty sweetness to offset it. Not bad by any means but not brilliant.
Shepherd Neame IPA 
A deep  ruby colour, with a fine lingering head (chance would be a fine thing). This is the opposite of the Proper Job (sort of). Not much hops but lots of malty goodness. Totally different to the big hoppy IPAs I have been loving of late, but really tasty nonetheless.

Winner Shepherd Neame IPA