Tag Archives: Manzanilla

Epicurean Unbound: Five Ways to Expand Your Tasting Horizons

The year is no longer so new, and all those well-intended resolutions have long since faded in the rearview mirror. But it’s never too late for resolutions concerning your beer tasting abilities, whether you’re new to this whole craft beer thing or a seasoned veteran. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy good food and drink, tasting is an aptitude that only gets better with practice.IMG_4687While we’re drinking up, here are a few more resolutions aimed at satisfying your inner sybarite: Drink more coffee from different parts of the world. Drink Scotch more often. Learn about the wonderful world of sherry, from the dry Manzanilla with its whiff of the sea to the inky Pedro Ximenez sweet like molasses and redolent of dates, figs, and raisins. Try different kinds of honey, and eat more chocolate. Take time to smell the flowers –– and all those spices, herbs, perfumes, nuts, grains, and fruit. What sets lemon zest apart from lime zest? Tangerines apart from Meyer lemons or blood oranges?

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Now that you’ve visited your local farmers’ market, now that you’ve bought a variety of nuts and procured vanilla beans and bags of whole spices, and now that you’ve cut some herbs and flowers from your garden, it’s time to have some fun honing your tasting skills.IMG_4156Targeted Tasting

Pick a beer style or two, and then read up on what characterizes the aromas and flavours of these beers. Now head over to your well-stocked spice cabinet and fridge to find some of the spices, fruits, syrups, coffees, nuts, herbs, balsamic vinegar, honey, baker’s chocolate, cocoa, honey, and the like associated with those beer styles. If it’s a spice, grind it up fresh with your mortar and pestle; if it’s a citrus fruit, zest it or juice it. Add the contents to ramekins, jars, vials, or whatever you have on hand. If you plan far enough ahead, you can even infuse vodka with herbs, spices, fruit, chili peppers –– jalapeno’s a good one –– or flowers like lavender. (Bonus: If you’re a homebrewer, these infusions can yield interesting results. Add to taste at bottling or kegging.)

IMG_1833Say you’ve chosen Belgian-style Witbier. Buy a few different kinds of Witbier, and maybe throw in a Hefeweizen for comparison’s sake. Grind up some cloves and some coriander, and maybe some cinnamon, too. Zest some lemon or perhaps some orange. You could even include chamomile tea, crushed lavender, or honey. Invite a few friends over and pass around your various concoctions so that everyone can get a sense of what they’re about to smell and taste. Crack open the beer, and then see if you can identify particular aromas when they’re mixed in with other aromas. Once you’re all well into enjoying your beer, you can send the containers around again to see who can identify which aromas, this time blind.

Blinded by My Love of …

The reputations of some beers precede them, whether they’re venerable classics or the hyped brands of the moment. Anyone who has been drinking craft beer long enough has encountered the ubiquitous lists of the world’s best beers. Pliny the Elder scores a perfect 100 on Beer Advocate, as does Kentucky Breakfast Stout. But are these beers “perfect”? The absolute “best” example of a style you’ll ever drink?IMG_5198 Preconceptions about labels, packaging, and price points have an immense impact on our perceptions, to the point that ratings can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

But when the influence of a label is removed…

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard friends swear that XYZ IPA is their absolute favourite IPA, or that ABC Imperial Stout is the best beer anywhere around, only to see their surprise in a blind tasting when those assertions didn’t hold up in a blind tasting. At the same time, I’ve also been part of blind tastings where certain beers turn out to be worth every ounce of hype.

So try it at home. First, you’ll need to invest in enough uniform glassware that your friends can taste three to four beers side-by-side. Next, you’ll need to devise some way of identifying the glasses. I stick a small piece of masking tape on the bottom of each glass, and number them in series of 1 through 4. After that, one person needs to cover all the bottles with paper bags or (clean) socks and pour out the samples. Obviously, that person won’t be tasting that particular flight blind, but you can take turns. When all is said and done, you might find out that an occasionally overlooked but otherwise solid and reasonably priced beer is among your favourite of the lot.

Stump the Chump

If you’re a fan of the late, great Tom Magliozzi and his brother Ray, better known as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” on NPR’s Car Talk, you know about “Stump the Chumps.” One way to introduce an extra element of intrigue into your tastings is to play the craft beer version of “Stump the Chump.”IMG_4694 All you need to do is ask each of your friends to find a beer that’s easily confused with another beer style –– or a style that you and your friends might not drink much of. We’ve already touched on the influence that labels can have, but without any initial cues beyond the colour of the beer, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to guess a style “blind.” Is it a porter or a stout? A Tripel or a Belgian golden strong ale? A British ESB or a strong ale? A Scotch ale? A Doppelbock? Bonus points if you can guess the brewery.

Note: Needless to say, some of your craft beer-drinking friends may not react too kindly when you punk them with BMC. I once had a friend praise the merits of what he thought was a delicate Kölsch. Not Kölsch, I said. Coors. He wasn’t amused. Lest I come across as some sort of all-knowing beer sage in this post, I hasten to add that I’ve been hung out to dry on more than a few occasions myself.

Style of the Week

It’s time to reward yourself for all that hard work tasting beer blind and trying to identify the differences between coriander and cardamom. And what better way is there to find out what kinds of porters you like than sharing several of them with friends?IMG_5171 The BJCP Style Guidelines aren’t the most thrilling read in the world, but if you dip in from time to time while drinking, say, a series of Bocks and Doppelbocks, or the entire gamut of IPAs, you’ll get a better sense of what the brewer was trying to achieve, and what flavour and aroma characteristics you might encounter. You’ll also start to get a feel for the often subtle and sometimes radical differences within a particular style. If you’re a homebrewer, this is an excellent way to find out what makes a style tick.

Test Time!

You’ll be surprised at how much you actually learn when studying for the entry-level online BJCP or Cicerone exams. These tests are far from impossible (you can do it!), and they give you an excuse to hit the books (and beers) a few nights a week. Who knows? You might find that you enjoy the judging side of drinking beer … and beer competitions around the country could always use more judges.

Remember, though, it’s all about enhancing your enjoyment of what’s in the glass. If you find that the “practice” element of beer appreciation is eclipsing your enjoyment, just grab a beer out of your fridge or cellar and kick back. Now that I have finished writing this, I’m going to do the same.IMG_4917

Related Tempest Articles

A Taste of Oklahoma in Six Glasses

The Industry Series: Tasting Tips from Cornell Flavour Chemist, Gavin Sacks

Say No to Style Loyalty

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

Tasting Against the Craft Beer Grain

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Gose Gone Wild: Anderson Valley, Bayrischer Bahnhof, Choc, and Westbrook

Before reading along, head to your nearest bottle shop and pick up whatever bottles or cans of Gose you can find. If you haven’t had this citrusy-sour wheat beer spiced with salt and coriander yet, you’ll thank me. And then pour yourself a tall, slender glass of this refreshing beer and read Part I on the history of Gose and its rejuvenation, and Part II on the contemporary understanding of this beer closely associated with the city of Leipzig. What follows is a selection of tasting notes.  IMG_1580The Tasting Sessions

I tasted the following beers this past spring and summer under different circumstances each time. The 750mL bottles of 2012 and 2013 Choc Signature Series Gose (Oklahoma), along with the 330mL bottle of Bayrischer Bahnhof Gose (Leipzig) were tasted blind and in the company of an ever-reliable drinking compadre. I sampled the 12oz cans of Westbrook’s Gose (South Carolina) and Anderson Valley’s curiously named “The Kimmie, the Yink, and the Holy Gose Ale” (California) in a non-blind session.

And this just in: I managed to get my hands on a 500mL bottle of Original Ritterguts Gose and a 12-oz bottle of Boulevard’s Hibiscus Gose during a recent trip to Kansas City. Check out the end of this article for an indication of how these beers stacked up against the ones I tasted earlier in the season.

Anderson Valley and Westbrook

Into the glass, luminescently … Beer Foam (www-beer-universe-com)

Both the Westbrook and Anderson Valley beers were crowned with frothy ivory caps of foam, but the Westbrook was hazier, with a with a more burnished and deeper golden colour that contrasted with the Anderson Valley’s near crystalline clarity and less intense yellow-gold.

On the first approach, the beers exuded fairly similar aromas that took on quite different tones after opening up for a few minutes. The Westbrook was the more cheerful of the two beers. Candied orange peel laced itself together with lemon curd, while mild coriander and a suggestively floral note gave way slowly to hay, a suggestion of marzipan, and a briny minerality.Westbrook Logo (webpage) (Of note was a vaguely off-putting cooked asparagus aroma that was detectable only when going from Anderson Valley back to Westbrook.) On the palate, Westbrook’s wheat-citrus tang reminded me of lemon juice spiked with Orangina and the merest presence of salt. Light-bodied and highly carbonated, the beer finishes with the citrus out in full regalia. A touch of tangy nuttiness and a mild citrus-pith bitterness keeps the lingering sweetness in check.Westbrook Gose (westbrookbrewing-com)Alongside the Westbrook, the Anderson Valley was both more brooding and more complex. The panoply of aromas ranged from a flinty whiff of brimstone to a woody, sherry-like nuttiness pushing up against the threshold of oxidation. In excess concentrations, these aromas would constitute decided flaws. But in combination with an almost earthy doughiness laced with tart green apple, the dominant aroma profile combined the characteristics of an aged Chenin Blanc with those of the saline and herbal-vegetal Manzanilla sherries of Sanlúcar.Anderson Valley Gose (https-avbc-com) As a matter of fact, Manzanilla wouldn’t be an inappropriate descriptor at all, resolving the isolated “faults” into a more complex whole: slightly herbal-vegetal––some fennel bulb and some pear––with a distinct nutty, mineral-saline, and oxidized grape component. Next to the Westbrook, the Anderson Valley carries a few more grains of salt as ballast, and projects a shade more body. Just a tad less carbonated but still light-bodied and effervescent than its opposite number, the Anderson Valley is more tart (yet less lemony), bringing more malt presence to the tasting.

Both of these beers make great summer sippers, but when you spend a bit of time with them, you begin to notice a few of the discordant notes that give the respective beers their character. The Anderson Valley grew on me, replete as it was with a nuttiness hinting at oxidization and the salinity of a light sherry. And despite the canned veggie notes that occasionally broke the surface of Westbrook’s aroma profile, the beer was an admirable foil for the heat of the day on which I drank it. Tough call. A virtual tie, with the Anderson Valley pulling ahead with its complexity, and the Westbrook making up ground as a straightforwardly refreshing summer drink. Advantage: Anderson Valley.

But there’s better Gose to be had, and not all of it involves airfare to Leipzig.

Choc and Bayrischer Bahnhof

As it turns out, some of these beers do develop with age, if treated well.

Unfortunatelty, the Bayrischer Bahnhof Gose was not one of those beers that had been treated well, arriving in our glasses much the worse for wear.Gose Glass (www-bayrischer-bahnhof-de) But under a heavy off-note of cardboard-like oxidation, the burnished deep-golden beer featured a mélange of pleasant floral-herbal chamomile, coriander seed, jasmine and honeysuckle floating on top of a solid bed of malt. Raw almond combined well with the effervescent carbonation and tingly saline character to keep the beer dry. What was striking about this beer in relation to all of the others was the robustness of its malt profile: citrusy wheat cut by grainy-sweet Pilsener malt and the rich bready and cherry-plum “malt-fruit” character of toasted malts.

The two vintages of Choc from Krebs, Oklahoma, on the other hand, were wonderful renditions of the style, the only drawback being the steep price of each 750mL bottle. The 2013 vintage was apricot-hued and hazy gold, with lemon grass, coriander, and an almond nuttiness accenting stone fruit, a steely, slate-like minerality, and a fleeting trace of “horse barn-like” Brettanomyces yeast.Choc - Logo II (beerpulse-com) Palate-cleansing and refreshing, the light-bodied ale offered up zesty lime, lemon-pepper piquancy, a peach-like richness, and the merest sensation of salt.

As compelling as Choc’s 2013 Gose was, the 2012 vintage was all the more intriguing. Murky golden orange, the beer was beginning to exhibit some of the “diesel-papaya” character of an older German Riesling. The citrus character in the bouquet had mellowed to orange blossom and peach marmalade complemented by a faint exhale of herbal-spicy noble hops, a baguette-like yeastiness, and a sweet honey-grain note suggestive of Pilsener malt. But nothing in the aromas hinted at what was to come: the 2012 had bulked up its body somewhat, yet was more lively, zippy, and sour-tangy than the 2013, exhibiting a grapefruit juice-like sourness and a hint of salinity, along with a champagne yeast-like breadiness, pepper, and orange zest. A fine example of the style, and an excellent case for experimenting with moderate durations of cellaring.Choc - Beer Glass (www-petes-org)If the Westbrook and the Anderson Valley were too close to call, the 2012 Choc comes out on top.

But none of these renditions bested my memory of the Gose I drank back in Leipzig in 2009 on that breezy spring day on the terrace of that repurposed 1842 terminus of the train line from Bavaria. And we all know how infallible memory is … .

In place of a hearty Prost, I lift my stein and say Goseanna to you all!

Post-Script

Now for the Original Ritterguts Gose and the Boulevard Hibiscus Gose.

Sipping on a hibiscus iced-tea, the Boulevard arrived at the table bearing a bouquet of fruity aromas (rhubarb, tart cherry and cranberry) folded together with a mild slate-like minerality, briny coriander, tarragon, and a delicate undercurrent of flowers.IMG_1473 Crisp and refreshing on the palate, Boulevard’s Hibiscus Gose was slightly lighter in body than the Ritterguts Gose, delivering appetizing sea salt, geranium flower, papaya, and citrusy cream of wheat through the finish.

Every bit as appetizing and quaffable as the Ritterguts Gose, the Boulevard, with its floral tart-cherry signature, might just edge out the Westbrook and the Anderson Valley in a blind tasting.

And the Original Ritterguts Gose? No contest. This three-tankard beer is Gose nirvana. I’ll have an in-depth profile of this beer ready for 9 November. Why 9 November? Check back then.Rittergute Gose Labels

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*Goseanna, incidentally, is the toast that Leipzigers use in place of the more common Prost or zum Wohl.

Related Tempest Articles

Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt (on the history and revitalization of this style)

Tempest Gose to Leipzig

 

Images

A Dash of Salt: F.D. Hofer

Luminescence: www.beerpulse.com

Westbrook logo and label: www.westbrookbrewing.com

The Kimmie, the Yink, and the Holy Gose: https://avbc.com

Glass of Gose: www.bayrischer-bahnhof.de

Choc logo and Signature Series glassware: www.petes.org

Boulevard: F.D. Hofer

Original Ritterguts Gose: www.sheltonbrothers.com

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.