Monday, September 16, 2013

The International Lager Challenge - Grand Final

So it's come to this - I've decided to blind taste the four lager finalists. A quick reminder of how the finalists got here.

Poland - The Zywiec had an easy Semi against the relatively unknown Warka and squeezed past the Tyskie in the regional final.

Germany -  The Krombacher had perhaps the hardest road to the final. I was able to find eight German lagers so the Krom had to win a quarter Final, a Semi Final and a Final. In the QF it handily beat the upstart Warsteiner. The Semi was a tougher affair, with the much fancied Veltins being narrowly dispatched. In the Final, I was tired and elected the winner more or less on a whim.

Czech Republic - The Budvar was always a favourite of mine so I never expected it to meet much opposition on the way to the final. Staropramen was defeated in the Semi and the Budvar came through in a tight contest against a resurgent Pilsner Urquell in the final.

Netherlands - The Grolsch - vanquished the surprisingly popular (in Amsterdam) Bavaria in the SF and then beat the southsiders fave Heineken 5% in the final.

So I asked Herself to pour the four finalists into identical glasses. I expected not to be able tell anything from the visuals - colour, head etc. and thus it proved. BTW I asked Herself to chime in also, she knew what the beers were but she wouldn't have the same prejudices, preconceptions and outright biases that I maintain. I know they aren't beer glasses but those were the only glasses I could find four of...

Lager #1
Herself said that she found it "gentle", I found it delicious and subtle, if I had to describe it, (and I guess I do, given that's the raison d'etre of the post). If I'm honest, it took until the second round of tastings that I really got this...
Guess - Krombacher.

Lager #2
Hey Mikey, she likes it!* I liked it too. Full falvoured and well balanced. I suspected it wasn't the Krom or the Bud so..
Guess - Zywiec

Lager #3
Herself preferred #2 and so did I. After the first two this came across as a bit bland.
Guess - Grolsch

Lager #4
Big, bold and beautiful.
Guess - It can only be the Budvar.

I'm batting .500 with 2 out of 4 correct. I mixed up the Grolsch and the Zywiec, speaking of which the Zywiec did not come across well. The Grolsch was pretty good, in third place, and surprised me by kicking some Polish ass.

Which leaves us with the Krom and the Bud, beauty and the beast, and I have to choose between them. Or Do I? Its my ball and I'll play with it as I see fit. In this case, I'm giving them joint first place.

If you want a delicious but subtle lager, Krombacher is for you. If, at another time, you need a big beefy, full strength lager lager then Budvar is your man.

Apologies for my equivocation, but when in doubt, do both.

* A very popular TV advertisement when I was growing up, on the "other side of the pond"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Netherlands - Final 4 (of 4)

Grolsch 5% abv
Heineken 5% abv

So back to the lagers. After drinking lots of lovely ales at the Craft Beer fest, I'm hoping these lagers don't seem underwhelming. It seems to me (and maybe this is just stating the bleedin' obvious) but there is much less variety in the world of lagers compared to ales.

I'm trying both of these from cans, for the record.  I've never seen the 5% Heino, in this country, in anything but cans and the fancy shmancy Grolsch bottles aren't that widely available, IMHO. I should say that in most of these rounds I've had a fair idea who was going to win. But here, no idea. Touch gloves and come out fighting...

I'm really digging this beer tonight. It's crisp and clean, refreshing, not a huge finish,but quite moreish. Maybe it's cos I haven't had a beer for 48 hours but this is yummy.

Heineken 5%
Hmmm, a little meh tonight. Smooth, with a decent finish, but not much else going on.

Winner - Grolsch.
To be cynical, it probably doesn't matter which I choose as I don't think either has a ghost of a chance in the final, but I'm going for Grolsch, it has marginally more cred than the much maligned Vitamin H, seeing as I've probably lost all my Ale cred doing all these mass produced lager posts.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Irish Craft Beer (and Cider) fest - report

This time last year I was in the middle of an ill advised beer-free (but not booze-free) period when I attended the Beer and Cider fest. That time, all I drank was cider. This time I wanted to drink all the beer. Alas, the only night I could go was Thursday, and I had work the next day and a stag in Killarney to deal with the following night, so moderation was required.

Me and m'colleague NP, arrived early at 5-30 and had the run of the place for a while. We  did a circuit of the stands and had lots of interesting chats with the various punters manning the pumps, apart from one, but more of that anon.

I kept a record of the ales sampled but not any tasting notes so the following is from memory...

1. McGraths IPA
Lovely hoppy ale, well balanced.

2.Galway Bay Voyager IPA
Tasty and strong as balls. Didn't try the Full Sail on draught unfortunately, as I love it in bottles.

3. Kentucky IPA
Had it once before on draught and it was super this time too. Tasted the bourbon ale but found it a little sweet for my palate.

4. Kinnegar Devil's Backbone Amber Ale
Had a nice chat with the lovely people here and decided on the amber ale as a break from the IPAs. Very smooth and easy drinking. NP had the Rustbucket Rye Ale, which I also sampled, and it was fantastic - I love this style of ale. 

5. Trouble Brewing Deception Golden Ale
An old favourite of mine, yummy on draught. They had various funky beers but I wimped out and played it safe. 

6. Franciscan Well IPA
A 7.5% beast, I left it 'til last on purpose. Big, hoppy, and the last nail in my coffin.

The only disappointment of the night was that we didn't manage to sample any of the 8 Degrees brewing beers. I particularly wanted to try the Cyclone IPA on draught and the limited edition Amber Ella. However, on our first circuit of the hall, we waited in vain to be noticed at the 8 Degrees taps for a few minutes and eventually left thirsty. We returned during the evening not once, not twice but three times. However on each occasion we were roundly ignored by the gentlemen behind the stand, who on at least two of the four visits appeared to be chatting idly with a single individual. Perhaps it was because he was on his own, or perhaps because he didn't like the look of us (he wouldn't be the first), who knows? At every other stand we were received graciously, and they patiently listened to my inane, and frequently ill-informed opinions on their proudly produced ales, and were offered many samples and tasters.

I thought perhaps I was being paranoid, but after I left NP stayed on and returned a fifth time to the 8 Degrees stand. Still no dice, (or beer). It's a pity, as I really like their beers and would have liked to sample them on draught.

Next year, I'm not going to plan any other events on this weekend and I'm going to literally drink all the beers.  By the way, I'm sure the ciders were fab, they were great last year but I had to narrow my focus.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Germany - Final 3 (of 4)

Final - Germany

Krombacher  4.8% abv
Beck's 4.8% abv

Ach - I'm tired of the format of these posts; I'm just gonna drink a half a glass of each and declare a winner. I'm too tired and lazy to try and be witty, informative or even accurate, about these beers. I'm just gonna taste, judge and decide, somewhat arbitrarily.

It's Krombacher - deal with it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Intl. Lager Challenge - Poland - Final 2 (of 4)

Final - Poland
Tyskie 5.6% abv
Zywiec 5.8% abv

The Polish Semi-Finals are here, by the way

In a change from our published program, this time out the Tyskie is in a can and the Zywiec is from a bottle. I should mention the other Polish beers I rejected to get to the four that competed in the semis. Karpackie - a bit cheap and cheerful;  Tatra - not bad, and nicely strong; Lomza Export - not great.

I've already said enough about these in the semis so let's see if anything has changed, my bet is on the barely pronounceable Zywiec.

I still like this, it's clean and well balanced.

Yep still very good. Well balanced, lots of malty goodness. Not as much fizz as from the can but

Winner -  Zywiec