OLD PALS, NEW ACQUAINTANCES, CASH REGISTER MAYHEM, LIFE, THE ZEN OF FROTH, AND THE SIX PACK DISCOUNT
Again, I’m revisiting a few previous sudly victims to see if they pan out the way I remembered them, and this time, I’ve thrown in a couple I hadn’t come across before.
A note on banknotes. Some of the small batch brews and others that are less commonly stumbled-over tend to the pricey, but if one of the ones I’m rabbiting on about is a real depth-charge in terms of $$, I’ll say so. I think all the ones here fell in the $4-$6 range.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here, or whatever it is they get up to with choirs these days – the newspapers have been running some fairly lurid stories over recent times, to be honest – but if you like to mix up a few different local and import beers of the less commonly-encountered persuasion when you hit a specialist bottle-o, (or one of those barn-like ones with a larger range), you ought to be hitting one which gives a six-pack discount, and I’m not talking about you raising your t-shirt and insistently pointing to your abdomen while emulating pro wrestling legend the Iron Sheik and yelling “Zoom it, cameraman – Zoom it!”
For eg, when I’m on the hunt for elegant ways to punctuate my liver, The House of 600 Beers in Acland St gives a six-pack discount for mixed sixers of imports, while the folks at Blackmore and Yarrow, that is, Blackhearth and Tarot – well, you know the chain concerned, and my one is on Punt Rd, right near St Kilda Junction – they’re even less fussy and will give you the six-pack beer deal on mixed imports, locals, or any combination thereof.
The amount you’re looking for is 10% off. If your preferred purveyor doesn’t come to this particular party, ask ’em if they might. And if they don’t, maybe you better start preferring another purveyor.
GRIMBERGEN DOUBLE (Belgium, 330ml, 6.5% alc/vol)
I mentioned this one before on the old Web-O-Leaps site, and I’m mentioning it again for the same reason – it’s a real, double-fermented, get darn serious and kick your tastebuds all over the continent for a field goal, Belgian ale, that for some reason, the “House of 600” aka Acland Cellars, runs out at $4 a 330ml “cheater” stubby.
I’ve had plenty worse Belgian beers than this at nearly double the price. Bear in mind that it IS one of those rich, complex “so chumpy you could carrrve it” type Belgian stayers, and also, that this one is pretty two-fisted about it and even a little raucous around the edges, in terms of not burying the extra alkyhol in a swirling, elegant-y, cream cake-like finish, like some of the better-known ones do. (Leffe varieties, Hoegaarden Grand Cru, etc, fall into this category.)
However I’ve come to like that rustic-feeling, brownish and browned-off slightly raw-knuckled approach that Grimbergen Dubbel, and others outside the previously mentioned type, take to rugged-up the sweetness and extra booze content, and Grimbergen’s a good example of it. (There’s one called Gavroche – maybe Fronch? – that comes to mind as vaguely working the same side of the street, but isn’t quite as Muay Thai knees & elbows about it.)
If I read the French language version of the screed on the label correctly, the abbey that produces this has been hanging around somewhere north of Brussels since 1128 AD. This product then deserves considerable extra goodwill as one of the 5% or less of European breweries that at no point claims on the label to be “The oldest brewery in the world”.
(An expression which, one gathers, as you approach the middle of Europe is considered about as commonplace, unremarkable and routine as sneezing.)
8 out of 10 on the TAYES scale (see previously posted BEEER item a couple of posts ago for explanation).
FORBIDDEN FRUIT (Belgium, 330ml, 8.5%)
Yeah, the last figure’s not a misprint. This is an example of the variant style mentioned above – the real, full-on, cream-cakey, sweet, rich, Belgian ale, that says “You won’t be sitting on this brew all night, or if you do, the night won’t last so long.”
It’s fabulous at what it is – maybe the best of its kind. (Although Leffe Red and Hoegaarden Grand Cru have their points – the latter, for example, is a little lighter-treading on the palate without sacrificing character, and has a different underlying style, and some might lean in its direction for those points. I don’t as it happens, although both are great beers.)
What’s different about FF? Well, the label mentions “aromatic spices” about 142 times, so maybe that’s got something to do with it. Maybe it’s the special “melange” of malts. Who knows?
I should probably point out, just for those even more multi-linguistically challenged than I am, that the words “Forbidden Fruit” don’t appear on the label, in case you’re looking for it.
Like a lot of Belgian beers the text on the label is in Flemish and French, so the name of the beer appears as both “De Verboden Vrucht” and “Le Fruit Defendu”.
Look for a remarkably fit-looking Adam and Eve preserving their modesty with very little in the way of shamrocks and other greenery and toasting each other with beers (Eve’s getting right into it too) and you’ve come to the right receptacle.
(10 out of 10 on LLL’s TAYES spectrum)
YONA YONA ALE (Japan, 350ml, 5.5%)
From our dear friends at Yoho Brewing (not to be confused with our other chums at Toho Studios, who brought us Godzilla) comes this light-hitting but well-balanced and crafted variation on the US Pale Ale style. Which isn’t exactly to say it’s a deliberately toned-down and insipid version of the latter style, like, say, Fat Yak arguably is. This is heading towards something slightly different, which I’ve noticed a few examples of springing up – something that has a little of the coppery hopsy element of the US pales, but leans more on the malt as a key flavour influence and tends more, for want of a better description, to a lager-ish type of ready drinkability.
I’ve had a few, and while it’s a style in terms of a reasonably specific drinker right now – and I’m not sure I’m that drinker – it does basically work, as the Rose´ of beers, roughly speaking, and may yet find quite a market. (Coincidentally, the beer I opened to drink while writing this – Red Pig Mexican Ale – is another example of this sub-style.)
Where some people may have a greater block on Yona Yona isn’t so much on the style, as another slight trend in the fashion-beer market – some folks, including Yoohoo, err, Yoho, are starting to fire their boutiquey beers into cans. This one comes in a can that looks like it probably ought to house Passiona soft drink.
The wine and beer snob fraternity automatically chucks out a big “Computer says ‘No’” on canned product. I say, “Computer sez ‘Eh’”. If the product isn’t too superannuated, and “fresh” is even better than that, and you pour it into glass, you ought to do just fine in my experience. Also, throwing a few cans into the take-home mix is a mercy to old aching musculature.
The worst thing you could say about Yona Yona isn’t the can or the style – it’s that, allowing for both, it’s still just a little on the bland side, maybe.
(7.5 out of 10, TAYES)
INNIS & GUNN Canada Day 2012 (Edinburgh, Scotland, 330ml, 7.7%)
If crafting stuff within an inch of all our lives is a gimmick, the gimmick with Innis & Gunn beers that sets them apart is the wooden barrels deal, which is where they put them to mature for a month-and-a-half and up. What you end up with is kind of unusual if not unique on the craft-brew radar – the results are oaky-not-smoky. (i.e. Some folks fray a little around the edges dealing with “Smoked” type beers and this is something equally bizarre but fraying off in a different direction.)
From talking to others who enjoy a range of oddball beers, I’d tend to suggest that this isn’t exactly an acquired taste so much as something you either go for or you don’t.
I’m a complete mark for what they do. I like the I&G “original” flavour which throws handily-brewed beer in with vanilla flavours and a relatively light round of woodenising, and let’s them all fight it out and, as that Errol Brown guy once noted in another context, “Everyone’s a winner, baby”.
I like this one, which is matured in empty Canadian whiskey barrels, or however it goes. The “specialty” numbers this brewer does, which include this one, a US Independence Day version and others, are uniformly all more hardcore in depth and flavour (and wood) than the “original” version,
They are very distinctive beers, and not really like other established styles, and hard to describe, other than I’d suggest there’s a whisky-ish, or whiskey-ish, quality around the edges of them.
(9 out of 10 on the TAYES scale)
RED HILL Weizenbock (Mornington, VIC, 330ml, 7.9%)
Swampy, dark brown, storm in a bottle that has absolutely no compromise in it and sticks to a very distinctive style – something that’s probably a time of the year thing relating to hops or whatever it is.
Like the Mounties, it gets its man and/or woman in the end, although this may be via its winning ways, as in my case, or by sheer overpowerment-dom for those who get a little lost in the flavour-bayou.
Strange one, this. It’s not exactly a dark lager (well, not that at all, really but in some ways, here and there around the edges, it drinks like a heavier version thereof. It’s not a hefeweizen, or at least not like most of those I’ve had, but there’s elements of that as well. And there’s some rewardingly complicated action with a little more layering and power in the alcohol somewhere in there – some vague hints of a sweeter porter variation, but only vague – that emerges in the long haul.
Essentially, I guess, when you’re THAT uncompromising, you’re going to labour a little to find a lot of folks willing/able to compromise with you, but this is good enough that the more adamant craft brew hounds are going to stick the journey and come out impressed.
I don’t suppose I need to add that this isn’t your summer heat wave all-day cooler.
(8.5 out of 10, TAYES)