Posts Tagged ‘beer’

tropical beer notes #41

April 3, 2015

Right back to the oddities of Asian beers

Bali Hai Premium Beer East Java 4.78%. So made in East Java then. I suppose East Java Hai doesn’t have quite the same sense of joue de vivre. And an award winner at our old friends the Australian Beer Awards! (remember them, everyone wins an award). I like the precise booze % too a far cry from the Thai Chang roulette.

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Exotic locations and 100% humidity do wonders for any beer. How often do you find a dusty bottle of had on holiday lager and hope to remember that time on the shores of the Bosporus, only to taste thin tinny chemical alcohol. I struggle on.

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Beer Notes #39

April 26, 2012

Duvel Groen Belgium 7.5%

Only in Belgium* could a 7% 255ml beer be seen as sessional. Dry, sating and pretty good, it knocked the edge off my hangover nicely. There was a marathon going on outside, but I belong in here with my people. It’s quite rare, apparently not often seen outside Belgium.

The friendly barman in Utrecht told me that this is known as little sister of big brother normal Duvel. It’s great stuff, a lot cleaner than the usual mighty Belgians but somehow it pulls it off. Beers with this light straw colour and this level of alcohol are normally terrible but here it gives a nice structure and no boozy chemical taste. Fun thing about being Euroside is trying the lesser known stable mates of big, well-known beers. Clearly this satisfies my apparent need to only blog about the obscure and not so good. 14/20

beer notes #36

December 22, 2010

The blog has lost its chronology, but try to stick with us while we put things right.

Goldstar Dark Lager Beer Israel   4.9%

Bluestar Beer would be more correct, don’t you think? Perhaps sacrilegious or, at the very least, in poor taste. That could link in though if you get my crummy pun.

Israelis aren’t really big drinkers but you can get beer everywhere, even in Jerusalem during Shabbat – although not without a few quirks. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, we and a few other die-hards were enjoying a quiet Goldstar in a mostly deserted area in the “new” (you know, post-Jesus) part of town,  when we were booed at by a group of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews. They were a good 30 metres away, but it was still a little disconcerting. I thought of shouting “It’s OK! We’re Catholic!” but that probably wouldn’t have calmed the situation.

But back to the stars: this beer doesn’t rate any although it is purportedly better than Maccabee, which I was forbidden to drink by our lovely host Michaella who, along with boyfriend Niv, was a willing imbiber. The beer colour is the most interesting thing about it (albeit brown = hardly ground-breaking), but doesn’t follow with any distinguishing taste. It’s worth having a look at their funny if, on reflection, misogynist advertising.

beer notes #35

September 1, 2010

Taybeh Beer Golden  Palestine  5%
Taybeh Beer Amber  Palestine  5.5%

Not unlike Chateau Musar, the story of the Taybeh Brewing Company is one of passion for family, place and quality product. Despite tremendous adversity, the Khoury family have been brewing in the West Bank since the mid-nineties. “The finest beer in the Middle East” is their slogan – one that is very easy to agree with. The Master Brewer, Nadim Khoury, an engineer by trade, returned to Palestine from the US with his young family and brother, David, after the Oslo Accords with the stated aim of contributing to a successful, independent Palestine. Nadim told us how he first got the idea of a Palestinian microbrewery as a college student in the 70s when he’d bring back various bits of home brewing equipment from Boston for his father who was unable to get any decent beer locally.

 
Taybeh Beer is named after the village that it is located in, the ancestral home of the Khoury family. It sits high above Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. In a happy coincidence, the word “taybeh” means “delicious” in Arabic; the town was renamed by Saladin, having been formerly known as Ephra, meaning “unpleasant” – probably for the best as far as marketing is concerned. Taybeh is the only remaining Christian town in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories; like everything in these parts, it’s got an incredible, long history, even cracking a mention in John’s gospel. If you’re interested, there’s a great history section on the town’s webpage. 

 
These days much of the brewing process is managed by Nadim’s delightful daughter, Madees. About our age, she was onsite the day we visited and we had a great hour or so chatting away, despite occasional visits from tightfisted, septuagenarian Italian tour groups and a working day that had kicked off at 4:30am. She poured us a wonderfully fresh Golden from the keg. It was refreshing and subtle – everything you want from this style of beer. A quality sessional, it has slightly sweet malts and some hops. My little notebook insightfully records: “It tastes like good beer.” 14/20. I brought some of the Amber back to Jerusalem (along with a poster, two stickers, postcards and a Tshirt, being the sucker for merch that I am); it’s more complex; not as successful as the Golden, but still very drinkable. 12/20. There’s simply no other amber or dark beer in the Middle East, so the fact that Taybeh is even attempting to turn people onto it is a victory for good beer.

 
The beers are available thoughtout Europe and the Middle East and are even brewed under licence in Germany. Despite some enquiries, it’s not been profitable to send it to Perthland just yet. Israel has signed a free trade agreement with the United States that covers the West Bank and would allow for the export of Taybeh, but so far the beer’s export has been blocked because of a labeling issue: the family don’t want to change “Made in Palestine” to the mandatory “Made in Israel”. 
 
A little part of me was worried about going out to Taybeh – would it be depressing? Good people with a good idea, going slowly broke under the stresses and vagaries of occupation? But we found a vibrant and happy family courageously working against the slow burn of the occupation and, seemingly, every wrongheaded stereotype of the Palestinians. But things are very hard. As I walked out of the microbrewery, I picked up a pamphlet advertising Taybeh’s annual Oktoberfest, which attracts thousands. I was stunned by the power of its closing words written by Dr Maria Khoury, David’s wife;
Taybeh Beer means everything right now. It means that we want to work for a modern Palestine where democracy, freedom, and human rights would encourage all to thrive. It means that we are just craving to be “normal”.

beer notes #33

July 6, 2010

Al-Shark Beer & Barada Beer Syria

To blog or not to blog? Here we have to weigh up the sheer nothing-to-say-ness of Al-Shark and fellow traveller, Barada, against their somewhat exotic appellation. In light of my failure to track down any Iraqi beer, I’ve decided to forge ahead.

Al-Shark poured completely flat and verged on undrinkable. Likewise, quality control was a bit of an issue with Barada; the can was only 2/3 full (perhaps 1/3 empty is more appropriate here) but the contents were OK. Well, relatively OK. A guy in a bar tried to sell Barada to me on the basis that “every can is a surprise”, but I don’t think I’ll be suggesting they adopt this as an official marketing strategy.

tropical beer notes #8 – clash of the thai-tans

June 5, 2009

Singha Lager Thailand 5%

Chang Beer Thailand 6.4%

We’ve drunk our way from Hat Yai to Mae Sariang so it’s time to report in on the two most famous and frequently savoured Thai beers. Thailand is a beer drinker’s paradise. There is nowhere you can’t find a life-giving ale: street corners; temple gates; internet cafes; deserted beaches. A steward offered me an icy bottle seconds after our train crossed the border from Malaysia. What a lovely country.

Chang and Singha (pronounced ‘sing’) divide the Thai beer market between them; there is no third.. It’s like the olden days in Perthland when Swan and Emu where the beginning and end of choice. “Dodd’s been on the birds”, as they’d have said.

Chang is the young Turk of the two. Only launched in ’95, it has successfully chipped away at Singha’s long-held dominance so it now controls 60% of the Thai beer market. Chang’s rise and rise has been largely thanks to aggressive marketing, comparative cheapness and very high alcohol content. It’s made by the giant Thai Beverage Public Company Limited – listed in Singapore it has a market cap of about USD$4 billion. Rumor has it that Heineken taught them how to make the stuff before the Thais broke off the relationship.

Singha does things differently. It was first first brewed in 1933 and is still made by Boon Rawd Brewery, a private family company on its fourth generation of management. The Singha website devotes as much space to production promotion as their community work. I especially like the can – it’s charmingly retro and kind of reminds me of Dad’s Swan Light back in the America’s Cup days. The bottom is painted white – how cool is that?! Yeah, yeah, but when did you last see a can with a painted underside? Anyhow, obviously this is not a company that is interested in fashion.

Singha did drop the alcohol content back a few years ago from 6%  to 5% which makes it a better drop. The late great beer hunter Michael Jackson never believed that it was that strong anyhow, but you have to wonder if Singha did a “new Coke” as the change has pretty much coincided with its demise.

When it comes to taste they are both pretty standard lagers. Chang has slight bitterness with a sweet finish; it’s too strong and the alcohol overwhelms the already weakish flavours (plus consumption of more than three tends to lead to early morning “Chang dry horrors”, as Catie and I have dubbed them). The Thais often mix it with ice, which does weirdly improve things. I give it 10/20. I prefer Singha: it tastes simply like beer, a bit of malt and hops; a nicely balanced commercial style lager. It wins by a (ruddy) nose: 11/20.

Just as a final note – it’s worth mentioning that the Chang being consumed outside of Thailand is technically a different beer with an alcohol content of 5%. A savvy move to avoid tax overseas and keep the punters at home happy.

By far the best ever photo anyone has ever taken of a Chang:

Pic courtesy of Rob and Critter

sunrise in a singaporean gutter

January 31, 2009

0600 singapore … only 8 hours till check in

It is a truth universally known that there isn’t much to do in Singapore except shopping and eating. And only the latter can be done cheaply.

So eat we did. And we have continued to do so. Not entirely surprising, really. We’ve already discussed renaming this blog “Linds and Catie eat their way overland”.

Not being ones to pussyfoot around, our first meal was a breakfast of fishball soup. And it just got better from there: a never-before-sampled Indian dish of murtabak; roti prata; char shu soup and dumplings of every variety.

The hands-down highlight of our time in Singapore was a surprise treat from Linds’ old school buddy, Ryan, who, apart from being an incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide and soon-to-be board game tycoon, works part-time in his family’s awesome restaurant. According to Ryan, Peranakan culture and cuisine is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance and we were treated to a delicious spread of specialty dishes, including ayam buah keluak: a chicken curry featuring a large, wild nut that is first baked in volcanic ash. Thanks again Ryan! We visited the neighbouring Peranakan museum a few days later, which is beautifully put together.

A close second place in the highlights stakes was fortuitously catching up with Margo and Craig, who were stopping over on the way home from their African adventure. We enjoyed several overpriced beers together at a string of waterside bars frequented by the city’s b(w)ankers and battled through the insanely packed streets of Chinatown to sup on handmade noodles.

Wandering around a city is not only a great way to see stuff and shed extra beer kilos – it’s also free! So we stumbled across some pretty spectacular architecture and decided Perth could definitely learn a thing or two from some of the bold designs, including Parkview Square (or “Gotham City”, as we dubbed it).

Although being in Singapore for Chinese New Year was another highlight, it also proved to be a bit of a hindrance in finding a ticket out of town. We finally managed to board a train at the magnificent socialist-realist train station and chug our way to Melaka.

What can we say about Melaka? Sadly, it’s a cheesy tourist trap. Home to numerous museums both spurious in subject and dubious in quality (think an endless procession of bad 70s dioramas). But we found a kindred spirit in our guest house owner, Tony, who is a fellow devotee of Little Creatures pale ale following a trip to Perth to visit his brother last year. And the food didn’t disappoint either, with spicy laksa, herbal eggs and lei cha on the menu.

So we’re now beachward-bound, overnighting in the innocuous city of Kuantan before heading to Cherating tomorrow. It’s overcast, so here’s hoping for some sunny days to come.

Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy Chinese New Year)!