Thursday, 29 June 2006

Review: World Wide Stout

World Wide Stout from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Rating: A

Three year old WWS poured into a snifter at the Dogfish Head Alehouse Gaithersburg location...

Appearance: Opaque black with ruby/purple highlights. Miniscule head that disappeared quickly, no lacing. It looks like port in the glass. intriguing!

Smell: smells like... chocolate covered rum-soaked raisins...

Taste: In an airport duty free shop several weeks ago I bought a "rum raisin hazelnut" chocolate bar - that's what this reminds me of! Alcohol is very present, but not distracting. This is like drinking a liqueur or port, that just happens to be carbonated. Much less roast character than I expected from a double stout - more along the lines of what I'd expect from a quadrupel, especially with the raisin fruitiness.

Mouthfeel & Drinkability: Lighter than I expected from a stout. Also, carbontaion seemed too high at first, almost distracting from the flavor. The flavor here was so good, this could have been great completely uncarbonated! That said, improved as it sat... The only drawback to drinkability, honestly, is the incredible alcohol content. Goes down frighteningly easy.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-29-2006 04:48:06

Review: 90 Minute IPA

90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Rating: A-

Poured into a snifter at the Gaithersburg location of Dogfish Head Alehouse.

Appearance: an orange-tinted honey, smaller head than I expected (although so much of that depends on the pour...), moderate lacing. Slightly hazy. Nice looking beer.

Smell: Lots of fresh hops aroma with some pine notes, and a tantalizing dark-fruit sweetness in the background.

Taste: First impressions: I didn't expect it to be so sweet, but i guess this is a double IPA. Pretty much the same profile as the aroma: dominant hops with a strong sweet backbone, with some alcohol warming also present. Finishes on a dry note, surprising considering the sweetness here and very agreeable to my tastes.
Perhaps a touch undercarbonated in the mouthfeel department, otherwise what you'd expect. Overall, this was a very good beer but it didn't quite meet my expectations (granted they were too high). Too sweet to be a sessioner for me, personally.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 06-29-2006 04:21:15

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Review: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Samuel Adams Boston Lager from Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams)
Rating: B+

Can't believe it's taken me so long to get around to actually reviewing this one...

Appearance: Poured an appealing amber/copper color, moderate head, some lacing.

Smell: Earthy hop aroma, with a little bit of toasted malt.

Taste: Nice to see how big a role the hops have in this one. The flavors are very earthy - I think you could almost say there's a little bit of saltiness. Toasted (maybe a touch burnt?) grain backs up the hops. Finishes on very dry, which I find appealing.

Mouthfeel: fairly light, good level of carbonation. "creamy" is going too far, but it's slightly in that direction.

Drinkability: Very nice Vienna Lager: dry finish definitely helps drinkability, it's flavorful enough that you want to keep drinking, while light enough that you can. Where there aren't many other options, this is a great standby.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-28-2006 05:09:41

Review: Dos Equis Amber Lager

Dos Equis Amber Lager from Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, S.A. de C.V.
Rating: C+

Poured into a wide wine glass. The bottle was free, so no complaints. As far as presentation, the brown bottle is nice.

Appearance: Pours a brown-bronze color with little head and no lacing.

Smell: To be honest, not picking up a whole lot here. A little malt toastiness, I suppose - nothing objectionable at least. Keeping in mind the style here...

Taste: Some toastiness, bitter on the finish. A bit mineral-ly, perhaps. Moderately bittered, but not bad. Finishes dry, which is always a plus for me.

Mouthfeel: Pretty light mouthfeel, but good carbonation - adds to drinkability, I'd have to say.

Drinkability: This isn't a great beer, but for washing down some Mexican food it's not bad. As far as "what to order at a Mexican restaurant?" if the choice is between this and Corona, there's no contest. Nothing to seek out on its own merits either, though.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-28-2006 00:20:26

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Review: Guinness Draught

Guinness Draught from Guinness Ltd.
Rating: B-

Appearance: Poured out of a nitro bottle, it's opaque black, and thanks to the widget forms the familiar two-layered head. Doesn't leave lace so much as a tan film on the glass.

Smell: All I'm picking up is roast, but to be fair I've got a stuffy nose so it's likely I'm missing something.

Taste: roast, grain-bitterness, a little touch of chocolate and coffee, and a finish that's almost too-sweet (more like a sweet/milk stout), but the aftertaste is pleasant. Not as flavorful as the extra stout, to be sure.

Mouthfeel: Unfortunately, the creaminess of that nitro-layer of head dissipates all too quickly, and the rest of the glass doesn't have that same creaminess. I definitely have a soft spot for nitrogen-charged beers, though.

Drinkability: I've had something of an ongoing debate as to whether I prefer the draught or the extra stout, and the conclusion I think I've come ot is that the Extra Stout is a better beer, but I wish it had some nitro. I suppose the moral of the story is "just get it on tap."The sweet finish does hurt the drinkability a bit, though.

Serving type: nitro-bottle

Reviewed on: 06-13-2006 02:41:13

Review: Heineken Lager Beer

Heineken Lager Beer from Heineken Nederland B.V.
Rating: C-

Appearance: Gold/straw color with a big white head, very little lacing

Smell: minerally, otherwise typical lager, very neutral and clean. Pouring from a can, so no chance of sun-struck skunkiness here.

Taste: hard to believe this is considered premium beer by many. At first very neutral, but then there's a sulphury-vegetative flavor - is this the hops they use, or DMS from not being boiled properly? The finish is dry, at least, but the aftertaste is vaguely unpleasant.

Mouthfeel: carbonation is good for the style, light bodied but that fits the style too.

Drinkability: I guess since it's more expensive than American macros, shallow people might be impressed if you order one of these instead. Beyond that, hard to think of much use for this.

Serving type: can

Reviewed on: 06-13-2006 02:26:21

Review: Verboden Vrucht / Fruit Defendu (Forbidden Fruit)

Verboden Vrucht / Fruit Defendu (Forbidden Fruit) from Brouwerij van Hoegaarden
Rating: B

Appearance: dark honey, moderate white head, some lacing but not much, and lots of dark floaties.

Smell: lots of yeasty fruitiness, a hint of spice, sweet

Taste: not quite up to my expectations (granted, they were a little too high). Acidic, fruity, yeasty, a hint of caramel. The alcohol is detectable, but well-hidden considering this is a 9% ABV brew.

Mouthfeel: medium body, highly carbonated, perhaps more than necessary. The acidity contributes to a very nice crisp finish.

Drinkability: The flavor was a bit disappointing, but it still left me wanting more. Good beer, but not worth the price I paid for it in South Africa.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-13-2006 02:16:18

Review: Pauwel Kwak

Pauwel Kwak from Brouwerij Bosteels
Rating: B

I literally had to give up my left shoe to taste this beer. Sampled at Den Anker Belgian restaurant on the waterfront in Cape Town, the restaurant serves these in a Kwak mini-yard glass on a wooden stand. Because the glasses cost so much, they require you to forfeit your left shoe until you finish, which is hoisted above the bar in a basket. Makes for a good story, but not a real good air freshener.

Appearance: Pours a transparent red-orange, with a big head that looks like egg whites that have been beaten until they form stiff peaks - how is it so dense? Nice lacing as you get down the glass. A beautiful beer.

Smell: A touch of spicy fresh hops aroma here, which picqued my interest, but some candi sweetness too that I'm not a fan of.

Taste: sweet, as expected, but with a nice toastiness as well. Biscuit is well-defined. Alcohol is definitely noticeable.

Mouthfeel: syruppy, and gets old quickly. The label indicates otherwise, but it's hard to believe there's not some candi sugar in here.

Drinkability: suffers from being overly sweet. Unfortunately, the appearance was the best part of this one, and I think it may have set my expectations too high.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-13-2006 01:10:10

Review: Bush Ambrée

Bush Ambrée from Brasserie Dubuisson Frères sprl
Rating: B

Submitting this review, I'm amused to see that my notes are... well, scarcely legible. At least I had the presence of mind to be taking notes, considering the alcohol content on this beast.

Appearance: dark honey color, medium head, nice lacing. When the waiter brought this he called it the "wine of beers."

Smell: alcohol, of course, but some spiciness to it as well, and a touch of fresh hops aroma! A little surprising (in a good way) - I expected a quadrupel to smell sweeter.

Taste: very warming - no surprise, given the alcohol content. Slightly acidic, some fruitiness, with a candi finish. Slight diacetyl butteriness in there... Reminiscent of drinking barleywine.
Mouthfeel is slightly syrupy, but the carbonation is perfect and offsets it nicely. For drinkability, I scrawled something that looks like "gouof beirk!" but I think "good beer!" is what I was shooting for. Alcohol is a little high to be drank in quantity, obviously - best shared with a friend, this one - and not one who's going to be driving! Good one to finish out your night on. Of course, you'll pretty much have to, anyway.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-13-2006 00:34:56

Review: Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale

Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale from Smithwick's Brewery / Irish Ale Breweries Ltd
Rating: B

There's something about nitro cans that I just can't resist. Whenever I see one, I have to try it, so here goes.

Appearance: caramel color, pretty clear. Frothy white head atop a rapidly dissipating N2 creaminess. Forms a film on the glass as you drink, lot a lot of nitrogen beers tend to do.
The smell immediately reminds me of Boddingtons for some reason - it's not possible to smell nitrogen, is it? Nothing too distinguishable present in the nose, vaguely sweet.

Taste: some mild bitterness up front, toffee, finishes on a roast note. Finishes very well, not much in the way of aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: ahhh, the wonderful creaminess of a nitro. Of course, that disappears quickly, and this one was a little watery once the nitrogen had all worked its way out.

Drinkability: not bad! this one is pretty light, has nothing objectionable, and of course it's got the nitro going for it. Definitely a session candidate. Think of it as Boddingtons' Irish cousin.

Serving type: nitro-can

Reviewed on: 06-13-2006 00:22:45

Review: Windhoek Draught

Windhoek Draught from Namibia Breweries Limited
Rating: C

Appearance: huge white foamy head, some lacing. Yellow gold color in the glass.

Smell: lagery, very clean, but nothing notable.

Taste: not too impressive, some mild bitterness and malt, but very tame - surprisingly so, since I've been pretty impressed with Namibia Breweries, considering it's a big macro.

Mouthfeel: Light mouthfeel, finishes on a slightly sweet note, but the aftertaste is all a lingering bitterness. High carbonation. Good mouthfeel overall.

Drinkability: Highly sanitized and boring lager, no faults, just not much going on either. Think Budweiser without the corn. Very average.

Serving type: can

Reviewed on: 06-13-2006 00:06:13

Review: Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb

Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb from Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu AG
Rating: A-

Sampled at the Paulaner Brauhaus on the waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa.

Appearance: So cloudy it's opaque! Seems slightly yellow for a wheat, dense head looks like meringue. Very good lacing and head retention. A fine looking hefe weizen.

Smell: exactly what you'd expect - banana and clove

Taste: lots of clove, with banana in the background. No citrus or acid notes that I could detect, which was a little surprising. A friend had his mixed with 1/3 lemonade and said it was an excellent combination.
Mouthfeel is slightly sweet-ish, but remains light rather than syrupy. Carbonation is high, as it should be in a wheat, and it helps to mask the sweetness a bit. Aftertaste is definitely banana.

Drinkability: this is an excellent ambassador for the style. that said, it's a little intense to be a sessioner - I think you could think of this as the chardonnay of beers.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 23:56:42

Review: Westmalle Trappist Dubbel

Westmalle Trappist Dubbel from Brouwerij Westmalle (Adbij der Trappisten van Westmalle)
Rating: B+

Pours a brown-tinted garnet, moderate head, no lacing at all. Smells very sweet, definitely some fig aroma here, maybe a little caramel. Taste reminds me a bit of Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot Barleywine. Figs, some date maybe, a bit of alcohol warming. The level of bitterness seemed appropriate. In the mouthfeel department, seems a little undercarbonated to me. A touch syrupy, aftertaste is good. Overall a solid dubbel, but I'm not the biggest fan of the style - too much on the sweet side for my personal tastes. Funny how much it reminded me of Bigfoot, though.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 23:40:57

Review: Paulaner Original Münchner Dunkel

Paulaner Original Münchner Dunkel from Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu AG
Rating: B

Sampled at the Paulaner Brauhaus in Cape Town, South Africa.

Appearance: Pours a dark garnet, slightly purple actually. Exceptional head retention, off-white head, good lacing.

Smell: Sweet, toasty, but uncomplicated.

Taste: bitter at the front, then toast (good so far) but then finishes with a malt sweetness. Not what I like to go out on, personally. I think the bitterness might be a touch harsh, as well...

Mouthfeel: Carbonation is good. Body is medium.
Drinkability is pretty good, certainly a refreshing change from the lighter stuff available at the Brauhaus. Solid beer, but not extraordinary.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 23:35:47

Review: Orval Trappist Ale

Orval Trappist Ale from Brasserie d'Orval S.A.
Rating: A-

Sampled at a Belgian restaurant/bar in Cape Town, I think this one has become a new favorite.

Appearance: pours a honey-amber color, good head, some lacing.

Smell: floral, fresh hops aromas - this isn't your typical Belgian! I'm surprised by how forward the hops are. There's some sweetness in here, too, but not overwhelming like some others I've had lately. Not so much else going on aroma-wise, though.

Taste: very nice and complex. Sweet at the front, then has a grassy fresh hops flavor before finishing on a fig note.

Mouthfeel: ahh, nice and dry - refreshing in a Belgian, and very unlike the others I've had recently. Carbonation is good, and the aftertaste is nice.

Drinkability: I liked this one a lot. Many Belgians are too sweet for me, but this one was dry, had a real hop presence, and was overall very drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 23:24:47

Review: Belle Vue Kriek

Belle Vue Kriek from Brasserie Belle-Vue
Rating: B

This is the first lambic I've had the opportunity to try, so I'll try to keep style in mind but I don't have another reference.

Appearance: Pours an attractive ruby/garnet color, nice offwhite head, beautiful lacing on the inside of the glass.
Smell is of cherry, perhaps black cherry specifically. Smells like it's going to be very sweet, which is worrying...

Taste: First a rush of cherry flavor, then the bitterness comes in, then it finishes sweet. I was expecting it to be sour, but I don't really get that here.

Mouthfeel: Aftertaste is, of course, cherry. The sourness comes in a little bit here, too - finally a little acidity, which I like. Carbonation is good. Mouthfeel a touch syrupy, but it works here.

Drinkability: This is more drinkable than I expected, very flavorful, but 375ml is more than enough cherry for me.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 23:18:26

Review: Leffe Blonde

Leffe Blonde from Abbaye de Leffe S.A.
Rating: B

Appearance: Attractive brown bottle, huge head, crystal clear, gold color in the glass, good head retention.

Smell: distinctive Belgian yeast scent, smells a little on the sweet side.

Taste: I've had a lot of Belgians lately, and it's possible I'm tiring of them, because for me this was "more of the same." Candi sweetness, followed by some fruit. Finishes on a bitter note, which I like.

Mouthfeel: very much to style. A bit creamy. Aftertaste is sweet and lingering.

Drinkability: suffers from being a little too sweet for my tastes, but this one has nothing objectionable about it, it's widely available, and the bitter finish does help a bit. Solid, but I drank it slow and didn't care to order another.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 23:10:42

Review: Das Pilsener

Das Pilsener from Namibia Breweries Limited
Rating: C+

Appearance: gold, nice head, very clear, good retention and lacing - a fine looking pilsener.

Smell: Sweet, hops, pretty clean, nothing objectionable despite the green bottle. Actually, looking more closely at the bottle, its "best by" date was 9 months ago. I'm amazed it doesn't smell skunked. Let's see how it tastes...

Taste: very reminiscent of Pilsener Urquell, which for the style I suppose is a good thing! Clean, slightly sweet, hops bitterness might be a tad low... Now that I've seen the best by date and I'm looking, I might be detecting the slightest bit of cardboard, but it's one of those situations that makes you wonder how much of tasting is psychological. I didn't taste it before I saw the date.

Mouthfeel: okay finish, lingers a bit. Good carbonation. Has some body to it.

Drinkability: this is a solid pilsener, but a little on the sweet side and/or underhopped. Pretty average, good alternative to Castle or even Windhoek. I wonder if its apparent durability is due to the fact that it only had to travel from Namibia to South Africa for me to taste it, rather than across the ocean.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 23:04:16

Monday, 12 June 2006

Review: Cobra

Cobra from United Breweries - UB Group
Rating: D+

Appearance: very interesting brown bottle with an Indian theme on the molded glass and the label. According to the label it's brewed and bottled in the EU (I was sampling it in South Africa). Pours a clear, pale gold, with a big head despite the "less gassy" claim on the label. Head disipated quickly.

Smell: ugh, very weak in this department. Corn, and something else vaguely objectionable. Not appealing at all.

Taste: again, very weak. The "Indian recipe" this was supposedly brewed with needs some work. Corn, with a harsh bitterness. Too-sweet at the front of the palate.

Mouthfeel: The label claims this is "extra smooth" - I'll buy that if they mean "goes down like water," because that's a good description of the mouthfeel. High carbonation - like seltzer water in this department. Hard to do better within the style, though.

Drinkability: Not one to seek out, unless it's to grab the cool brown bottle to homebrew with. Would probably have been better in an Indian restaurant with some atmosphere, but as it was, drinkability not very high.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 22:37:25

Review: Windhoek Light

Windhoek Light from Namibia Breweries Limited
Rating: D

Appearance: pale gold, moderate head, no lacing

Smell: almost nothing detectable.

Taste: watery! very mild, almost nothing to detect, but the usual suspects are here - very mild malt and hops.

Mouthfeel: watery, thin mouthfeel. Moderate carbonation, mild aftertaste.

Drinkability: nothing objectionable per se, especially considering it's a light lager. Not a good beer certainly, but still better than Miller Lite.

Serving type: can

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 11:18:40

Review: Erdinger Weissbier Kristallklar

Erdinger Weissbier Kristallklar from Erdinger Weissbräu
Rating: B

Appearance: served in a 500 ml bottle at an Italian restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa. Pours a pale gold, big head, very little lacing. "Crystal clear," as sold, but to be honest very average looking. According to my prejudices, any beer that smells and tastes like this one should be cloudy, but I understand this is a Kristal Weizen, not a Hefe. No yeast at the bottom of the bottle.

Smell: citrus fruit, but not particularly strong. Taste is fruity at first, then vinous with a touch of acidity, and finishes with a hint of bubblegum. The bitterness that shows up in the aftertaste reminds one that this is, indeed, beer, and I think that's the right place for hops in a wheat beer.

Mouthfeel: highly carbonated! I understand that Bavarian wheats are typically more carbonated, but this seemed excessive - it was hard to taste until it had sat in the glass for a bit. Mouthfeel is like semi-sweet white wine (carbonated).

Drinkability: This was a solid beer, with certainly nothing objectionable in the taste department, but the high carbonation and my preference for taking my wheats "hefe" detract a bit. That said, this could be an excellent gateway beer for someone accustomed to drinking highly carbonated, crystal clear AML's.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-12-2006 11:13:43

Friday, 9 June 2006

Review: Jolly Monk Rauchbier

Jolly Monk Rauchbier from Drayman's Brewery
Rating: B

Purchased at the brewery in Silverton, proud to be the first to review.

Appearance: Comes in a 1 liter brown plastic bottle. Dark brown, nearly opaque at the top of the glass but when tilted reveals some garnet - almost purple - tints, moderate head, some lacing.

Smell: First surprise, the smokiness is definitely present, but not overwhelming or overpowering - unlike the other smoked beer I've had (this being the second). Some sweetness present too.

Taste: Light smoke, then sweet. Finish is very mild, bitterness seems very low - too low, probably. Aftertaste is nice and smoky. Also, the smokiness here isn't artificial - someone didn't just dump liquid smoke into the brewpot - this is natural and it shows. The brewer told me his smoked malt is imported from Europe.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly light bodied, carbonation seemed too high at first such that it almost masked some flavor, but that improved halfway down the 1 liter bottle.

Drinkability: Smoked beers can be overwhelming or unnatural tasting, but this one isn't. The smokiness remains natural and pleasant. Drinkability suffers a bit from being underhopped, in my opinion, which made it seem a bit sweet for my tastes. One liter split two ways still seemed like a lot of beer - I wish Drayman's sold their wares in some smaller bottles!

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-09-2006 00:26:04

Review: Berghof

Berghof from Drayman's Brewery
Rating: B-

Bought at the brewery in Silverton, glad to be the first to review it.

Appearance: Comes in a 1 liter brown plastic bottle. Very lager looking in the glass - yellow gold color, very clear, good head and lacing. According to what I heard at the brewery, this is intended to be Drayman's most "accessible" offering, and the apperance fits.

Smell: Yeast fruitiness is the dominant scent - first hint this isn't a lager (the brewery doesn't have the cold rooms for lagering, so the Kolsch is an attempt to make something close-enough)

Taste: Simple, accessible. A touch of fruitiness and hops, but not very strongly flavored. Finishes on a strong malt note, which seems a little out of place.

Mouthfeel & Drinkability: Pretty light, slightly odd finish, good carbonation. As far as drinkability goes, it's definitely a thirst quencher, good alternative to Castle and Windhoek, but since it's trying to be accessible for loyal drinkers of those brands, it's not too interesting on its own. Not Drayman's best beer, but solid.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-09-2006 00:11:28

Review: Raven Stout

Raven Stout from Mitchell's Knysna Brewery
Rating: B+

Had this one at the Mitchell's pub on the waterfront in Cape Town - proud to be the first to review it:

Appearance: This one is as black as they come, completely opaque. Miniscule head that disappeared quickly, no lacing to speak of. Very striking appearance - "black as a raven's wing," true to advertising.

Smell: roasted malt, and a somewhat vegetative hop aroma

Taste: a well balanced sweet stout, hard to tell if more bitterness is being contributed by the dark malts or from the hops. That said, not very complex - a straightforward beer.

Mouthfeel & Drinkability: very smooth, full-bodied. good finish and aftertaste. This is a good session stout - not overdone in any way, you're not tired of it after one pint. Solid offering!

This was sampled at the Cape Town location on 5/31, review entered from notes.

Serving type: on-tap

Reviewed on: 06-08-2006 23:56:17

Wednesday, 7 June 2006

Review: Düssel Altbier

Düssel Altbier from Drayman's Brewery
Rating: B+

Proud to be the first to review this offering from Drayman's in Pretoria - I stopped by and talked to the brewer and purchased two liters of this one.

Appearance: comes in a one liter brown plastic bottle - interesting packaging choice, I'm curious whether it's for economic or transportation reasons. Pours brown with garnet-red hues, very clear (surprisingly so, actually) with a small head and not much retention. Some lacing.

Smell: malty, with a definite nuttiness and a touch of fruitiness at the end.

Taste: malt sweetness, then nutty, then resolves to a very nice bitter finish. It's Tettnanger hops in this one. The most bitter beer I had in South Africa to-date: very refreshing from the usual underhopped macro lagers!

Mouthfeel: Moderate body, carbonation is good, very crisp finish, very pleasant aftertaste.

Drinkability: Very good. Light enough to be refreshing and leave you wanting more, but flavorful enough to be worth drinking on its own. This is probably my favorite of the Drayman's offerings that I've had so far.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 14:59:24

Review: Tafel

Tafel from Hansa Brauerei / Namibia Breweries
Rating: B-

I'm a bit surprised this one doesn't have more reviews.

Appearance is golden, big head, exceptional head retention.

Smells clean and lagery, but with a hint of hops - more so than is usually present in the style.

Taste is well balanced. Bitterness is smooth, hint of malt sweetness at the back end, a touch of mineral.

Mouthfeel is very smooth, finish is crisp, but the aftertaste leaves a bit to be desired. Good body.

This is another Reinheitsgebot-compliant beer out of Namibia that reinforced my conjecture that Namibians brew better beer than South Africans. Like Windhoek, but a touch more interesting.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 14:45:53

Review: Gilroy Lager

Gilroy Lager from Gilroy's Brewery
Rating: B+

Wow, glad to be the first to review this one! It was definitely one of the most interesting beers I had in South Africa - ran across it randomly at a liquor store in Pretoria and I'm glad I did.

Appearance: looks like cloudy (unfiltered), pale apple juice. no head at all (the label indicates that it's "not artificially carbonated" - nor naturally carbonated in the bottle, apparently), obviously no lacing either.

Smell: yeasty, vaguely sweet, perhaps a bit vinous.

Taste: yes, vinous is a good description. slightly acid, fruity, sweet and yeasty finish. This much fruitiness in a lager surprised me, but when I spoke with a microbrewer in Pretoria who is friends with the brewer of Gilroy, and he indicated that this one is "not actually a lager" - I'm curious what yeast is used in this one and at what temperature.

Mouthfeel: very clean, finishing very well despite the lack of carbonation.

Drinkability: what an interesting beer! I only found one bottle, so I can't speak to how it would go as a sessioner, but it was definitely a delightful change from the ordinary. Very much like drinking a cloudy, low-alcohol white wine. Very unique.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 14:37:38

Review: Tsingtao

Tsingtao from Tsingtao Brewery Co., Ltd.
Rating: C-

I drank a lot of this while I was in China, but that was before I was a BA - I'm reviewing now a can I had at a Chinese restaurant in South Africa of all places.

Pours a light amber with a small head and no lacing. Smells like adjunct, with some lager yeast scent in there too.

Taste is a bit more bitter than your typical AML, but there's some adjunct flavors apparent too - is it rice? Slightly sweet.

Mouthfeel is watery, finish is crisp, but the aftertaste lingers... Carbonation is fine. Despite its flaws (or perhaps because of them) it's pretty drinkable, especially when washing down some Chinese food, but doesn't have a whole lot of appeal on its own.

Serving type: can

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 14:30:52

Review: Castle Milk Stout

Castle Milk Stout from South African Breweries plc
Rating: B-

What a refreshing change from the widely distributed beers you see everywhere in South Africa! Yes, it's an SAB product, but it's solid and such a relief when you're tired of drinking AML.

Appearance: interestingly, I had two cans of this in one sitting (and many bottles later), but each can was a different color. I'm not sure if this is marketing, or that one can was older than the other. Pours an opaque black, small tan head. Garnet highlights at the bottom of the glass and good lacing.

Smell & Taste: roasty, with a hint of sweetness. Tastes pretty good, according to the label there's maize in here but I can't pick it up on my palate. Roast, a bit of lactose sweetness, and a hint of coffee at the finish.

Mouthfeel & Drinkability: Finishes well, mouthfeel is a little light for the style, appropriately mildly carbonated, though, which helps. Drinkable stuff, and a welcome alternative to the macro lagers that are much more widely available. It's a shame this one doesn't have a wider distribution.

Serving type: can

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 14:16:52

Review: Carling Black Label

Carling Black Label from South African Breweries plc
Rating: D

Probably the worst beer I had while in South Africa. Here goes:

Appearance is light honey, with a tiny head and no lacing at all. At least it's clear? Smell is nearly nonexistent. Tastes like corn, corn and more corn. Bitterness is very light, you can taste the alcohol. To its credit, the mouthfeel is smooth and there's no harshness to it, but probably because it's simply so light and watery. I drank this one slow - there are better alternatives available, no reason to ever pick this one, even if it has the "man-sized can" going for it.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 14:10:59

Review: Hansa Pilsener

Hansa Pilsener from South African Breweries plc
Rating: C

Appearance: pale gold, good head, no lacing. I love that it says on the bottle "Kiss of the Saaz" - always nice to know which hop it is you're tasting. Very clear.

Smell: clean lager, hint of hops... corn is indicated as an ingredient on the label, but I can't pick it up in the nose.

Taste: ahh, there's the corn. not too bad, though, much less than Castle - bitterness is also much smoother - noble hops at work.

Mouthfeel: a little thick - surprisingly so, actually. Finishes smooth, good carbonation.

Drinkability: somehow a little heavy feeling to be too drinkable. not much to object to in this one, though. nice alternative to some of the other widely distributed beers in SA, though.

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 14:04:56

Review: Windhoek Lager

Windhoek Lager from Namibia Breweries Limited
Rating: B-

Appearance: well, the bottles I got looked a lot different from the one in the picture here, I wonder if it's different in Namibia than in South Africa where I was drinking it. Pours a yellowish tinted straw, big head, little lacing - very macro looking.

Smell: no corn, thank goodness! an improvement over Castle already. Label says it respects the German purity laws - makes sense, Namibia being a former German colony. Clean lager scent, hint of hops and malt.

Taste & Mouthfeel: very typical for the style: malt, some light bitterness, but pretty mellow. Mouthfeel is light, and the finish is a touch harsh. Carbonation is fine.

Drinkability: This is a good standby in Southern Africa if the only other choices are Castle, Black Label and light beers. It's solid for its style, very little objectionable. Goes down good!

Serving type: bottle

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 13:55:48

Review: Castle Lager

Castle Lager from South African Breweries plc
Rating: D

Spent the last three weeks in South Africa and had quite a few of these - the most widely distributed beer in SA by far.

Pours with a big head, a wet straw (almost orange tinted) color, some lacing... Cans seem extra heavy in South Africa, almost universally - I kept thinking there was some more left in the bottom.

Aroma is of corn (it's listed as the second ingredient on the label), with a bit of alcohol present too...

Taste isn't anything to write home about. Slightly astringent, bitterness is harsh, a mild malt sweetness. I have to say it grew on me, though, the bottle I had the next day wasn't quite as bad.

As for mouthfeel, high carbonation, which fits for the style, very thin... I don't think it finishes particularly well either.

Drinkability is low! Not the worst beer I had in South Africa, but close. In my experience, it tasted better out of a bottle, but I don't know how universal that might prove. Windhoek is almost as widely available and much better - if you're in South Africa, I'd suggest choosing it over Castle at every opportunity.

Serving type: can

Reviewed on: 06-07-2006 13:49:31