Abandoned buildings, right there in the center of Cluj. With maintenance costs probably astronomical and buyers not really flocking around, the view is not so unusual in Romania. The once called Hotel New York, lately known as Continental, was meant ten years ago to be revived as shopping center, then the crisis hit, again… Just across the terrace where I’m enjoying this cold one there’s another decayed beauty, which at least shows some intentions of restoration. So… I was talking about a cold witbier, brewed in Romania, Bucharest, by the aptly named Ninkasi brewery. The Sikaru Wit is actually good, very fizzy and not very strong yet still refreshing with banana, orange and other bittersweet spices. Yum.
After my flights are booked and meetings arranged, my next order of business is always meticulously researching good local restaurants and breweries in the cities I’m traveling to for work. I’ve been to Shanghai numerous times this past year, so thought I knew all the best places to go for great craft beer in this town. So imagine my surprise when I walked into the Kerry Hotel for a meeting only to find this…
It turns out that the lobby pub there, The BREW, makes all their own beer in house!!
Award winning beer at that…
How could I have missed this place?!
Anyway, I wasted no time getting acquainted with their full menu once my meetings had ended…
From left to right…
- Skinny Green American Light Lager
- PILS Pilsner
- White Ant Witbier
- India Panel Ale
- MASH Double IPA
- Dugite Vanilla Stout
The BREW is also where I had that wonderful Peking Duck Pizza…
My friend had their homemade Bangers & Mash which were excellent as well!
It’s a little bit of a trek out to The BREW in Pudong, but the fantastic food and drink made it well worth the trip, if you ask me.
Especially as they sell growlers of their beer for you to take home!
White Rascal is a Witbier (Belgian-style Wheat or White Ale) spiced with coriander and Curaçao orange peel. It’s belongs on Avery’s standard lineup, which means this is sold in increments of six, and offered in either cans or bottles. Aromas give a loud display of coriander, followed by lighter shades of clove and banana. Citrus elements resemble orange peel and lemon juice. Spicy notes are expressed as white pepper. Malts give touches of wheat with an impression of sourdough bread.
Reflecting the nose, the palate is guided by smooth wheat over a gentle body of white sugar sweetness. Pleasant fruity flavors percolate up as banana, kiwi, and pear. A tart element rises on the back-end like watered down lemonade. The yeast is exposed as a soft, black pepper spice that washes into flavors of coriander. Faint floral notes emerge for the aftertaste. The mouthfeel ushers in crisp, active carbonation that moves over a medium-light body.
In terms of style, I think this is quite flavorful, not too heavy or too light. The yeast does its job without going over the top. The sweet element is nicely balanced by a sour upswing. Drinkability is very good, and alcohol is of no concern. White Rascal tastes good and goes down smooth, so I recommend it if you’re looking for a light, domestic, Belgian-inspired ale.
#164: Allagash White – Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
Allagash Brewing Company was founded in 1995 by Rob Tod. Tod recognized the impact that British and German beer styles were beginning to have in America, and having sampled many Belgian beers through his travels, he felt that the beers of Belgium should have a place in the American market as well. So he started his brewery, designing a 15-barrel brewhouse and sold his first batch of beer in the summer of 1995. Allagash’s first release was Allagash White, today’s beer of interest, and is modeled after the traditional Belgian Witbier, which typically uses coriander, orange peel and a considerable dose of wheat. It quickly became the brewery’s flagship offering, and prompted Tod to further explore the range of Belgian beer styles. Today, the brewery offers six year-round brews, with a number of other specialty offerings. But to kick off our introduction to Allagash, we’ll look at their incomparable Allagash White, which is no stranger to awards and honors. Since 1998, the beer has won four medals (two gold) in the World Beer Cup, as well as three medals (two gold) in the Great American Beer Festival.
The beer poured with a foamy, modestly sized cap of white head, which maintained a pillow-like ring atop the beer. The color was a radiant, sparkling shade of pale gold, with gentle, tiny bubbles of carbonation streams emanating from the bottom and locking into one another on their way to the top. The aroma was quite bold for a witbier, exhibiting highly discernible scents of sweet grain and spices, with coriander and orange especially distinguishing themselves from the pack.
The boldness of the aroma trickles right onto the tongue. I’m quite accustomed to modest, delicate and very nuanced witbiers, displaying a somewhat hidden complexity of flavor. While there is plenty of mystery to this beer as drinking progresses, you wouldn’t think so judging from the first sip. It’s bold, assertive and relentless. The play between the grain and yeast is especially of interest, as it enables a blend of sweet and fruity flavors, provoking some mouth-puckering tartness. The wheat is certainly a large factor in the flavor. It provides a woodsy, earthy flavor, while laying a proper foundation for the beer. Orange, lemon and banana add the fruitiness, while pepper, clove and especially coriander account for the spiciness, and this all hits the palate quite strong. The creamy mouthfeel leads to a challenging finish, with a little bitterness lingering.
Relative to other witbiers, Allagash White is bold, aggressive and very sweet, but the beer doesn’t win you over by merely beating you into submission. As you adjust, so does the beer, and a remarkable balance becomes apparent, which is impressive when you consider how much is going on here. It’s as well-crafted a beer as you can find, and a must-have if you even casually enjoy witbier.
Brew a strong wit, add kaffir lime leaf, age in used gin barrels, and make it sour: a recipe for delicious beer. The wheat makes the body full and pulpy. The lime is sharp and sour. Not like a squeeze of lime, like limeade. The gin barrels add botanical bitterness. Bellwether is greater than the sum of it’s parts. It may sound like a cocktail, yet it is anything but.
Under the Jurassic Alps, people must live in a real life drawing. Warm pastel colors peek through the sketched background of a half-dead
winter, making for a dream-like stroll on the streets of the
French-speaking Swiss town of Porrentruy. Would this atmosphere explain
the so few passersby - on the Alley of the Sighs along the overgrown
banks of the Allaine creek, or everywhere else in the old town? Saturday
afternoon is just not something for the locals I suppose. Somewhere
under the walls of that castle I won’t have the time to visit, an old
house was sporting the sign of a local brewery - and yay indeed, a
nearby shop was offering the whole range of local brews! Now quickly
back to the sports hall where kid was playing her first game in the
national basketball league. Which they won 66-32, and she even got over
10 minutes of play time (probably because of that generous score). Back
home later, celebrating the win meant also uncorking (some of) the
Porrentruy brews - unfortunately not something to my taste. One of the
best was this ghostly Dame Blanche, a light and moderately spicy witbier with a
definite hint of sweet-sour pickles which somehow defines all their
Yeah, I’ve posted about Boxing Cat before, but I always have such a good time here, I feel the need to promote them and their beers every time I go!
They had two new brews on tap the night I visited, Brawlin’ Belgian Witbier and Lemon Drop Single Hop. I thought the witbier was outstanding!
Oddly enough, I’d never eaten at Boxing Cat before, but they have a standard assortment of American/British pub fare for expats to enjoy. I tried the cajun chicken sandwich with Swiss and it wasn’t half bad…
The garlic aioli that comes with the fries is killer though, so don’t miss that!
I’d order food here only if you were starving. Have lunch or dinner elsewhere and come to Boxing Cat for what they’re best known for… their beer!!
#155: Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat – Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
There is something I desperately need to get to the bottom of with the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. It’s no secret that the two of us don’t get along very well, mainly because their beers seem to exhaust all of their resources into giving me wine cooler headaches whenever I have them. However, there are two Leinenkugel’s beers that I apparently once proclaimed to be “good:” Fireside Nut Brown and Sunset Wheat. The problem? I was very, very drunk when I had both, and I barely remember what each tastes like. So, not too long ago I had Fireside Nut Brown, and let’s just say that my drunken conclusion of it being a good beer was resoundingly incorrect. Now, onto Sunset Wheat.
The beer poured with a medium, bubbly, soapy white head, which receded to fizzy remnants after a few minutes. The color was a very hazy, heavily obstructed burnt orange, with amber/yellow accents throughout the body. Ok, honestly, how the hell does Leinenkugel’s get its beer to smell like this? I’m dumbfounded. It smells quite literally of Froot Loops. Or Fruity Pebbles. The sweetest wheat my nose has ever encountered drives most of the aroma, with sugary citrus scents also evident. It’s as if oranges, lemons, bananas and grapefruits have been dry rubbed with Splenda and put into this brew.
This is, easily, one of the sweetest beers I’ve ever had. Usually I’m not drawn to that sort of thing, but somehow I keep sipping this beer, afflicted by morbid fascination. At times I feel as if Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch were all put into a blender, liquefied and injected right into the heart of this beer. However, I love sugary cereal, so in an odd way this beer is agreeing with me. Sweet, sugar-coated wheat and malt consist of most of the body, with a touch of coriander and slightly peppery spice. Everything else is intensely sweet, taking on the impression of Aspartame-dunked blueberries, oranges and lemons, and it leaves things quite disjointed. The mouthfeel is light, with assertive carbonation and a surprisingly dry finish.
As usual with this brewery, this beer tastes incredibly odd, but for some reason I couldn’t force myself to put it down. A sugar-induced headache could very well be coming my way, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering me. I guess this beer is a guilty pleasure in the way that Hostess Snack Cakes are. You know what you’re consuming is bad, and it doesn’t even taste all that great, but you keep shoveling it down your throat.
When my mom was a girl, she knew all the families that grew hops. They were the rich farmers. One good contract with Anheuser-Busch and you had it made. They needed lots of hops and the Yakima Valley was the best place to grow them. A-B put out an order, and the farmers delivered. That changed drastically in 2008 when Anheuser-Busch merged with InBev.
The new company slashed hop contracts and farmers were left in the lurch. The only way to remain profitable was to attract new clients, and with a booming craft market, they weren’t hard to find, especially if you had special hops to offer.
Meridian was first introduced in 2011 with the help of Indie Hops. It’s a uniquely lemony hop, sort of sweet and sour. In the Lost Meridian Wit it almost tastes like pie. Base Camp paired these fruity Meridian hops with a rich wheat base, sweet but crisp – think graham crackers. The finish has a little spice to keep the beer interesting and just a hint of sourness. With hops like these, it won’t be long until the Yakima valley is again covered in trellises.
The alleys of Chiavenna might be like the alleys of every other Italian burgo: narrow, intricate, dark, medieval in a word… but at the same time impressive, impressive, or in a word, impressive. I could walk them without ever having enough of those hidden balconies, enigmatic statues or just plain stonework, even more so under the blue dusk of the Lombardy. Back at the hotel the only glass I could find was a plastic thing, so plastic had to do it. The Italian wit beer La BiaNcHina of the Birrificio DuLac was still great: orange zest and bitter spices, perfume and thick head, salute!
This Belgian-style white beer (witbier) is a new spring release from the brewers at Great Divide. Aromas touch on some characteristically Belgian notes like coriander, orange peel, and lemon zest. An herbal hoppy side is equally matched by malted oats and wheat. The palate enters in with sweet wheat over a creamy feel, then quickly transitions into a crisp, semi-tart, lightly bitter herbal (grassy) hopping. A delicate use of spices are interwoven with a leveled out Belgian twist. It leaves with a lingering flavor of carbonated water and lemon held with careful sustain, finishing off with a dry feel. My overall impression is that this is a light and floral beer designed for easy drinking, but with a high compatibility to different drinking situations and foods.
I think this is a pretty good spring beer choice, especially when compared to other more mundane spring offerings. However, this is a classic style that’s incredibly difficult to get right in respect to those age-old European recipes that have had a history of trial and error in their quest for perfection. Great Divide wins my respect in their endeavor to conquer each style with their own unique touch, but I feel their European beers require more attention and tweaking and that these recipes should not be so set in stone, but should instead be evolving toward a more desirable product. In the end, if you’re looking for an affordable American Belgian-style option that drinks easy, this is a decent choice. I suppose it would appeal to most, but it’s also simultaneously likely to disappoint a more seasoned beer drinker such as yourself. Considering there are much better witbier options out there, I simply cannot recommend this.
Today’s brew is from a new brewery in the Bay Area, and even more specifically, the Peninsula area, which is not very common. They are called Strike Brewing and recently their first four brews into the area, all part of what they are calling their Session Series. Being into the local beer scene I knew that I had to see what they are all about. So here is the first beer I am trying from their Session Series, a Belgian witbier they simply call Wit.
First, taking a quick look at the label, I find myself not having too much to say. It was enough to catch my eye while I was looking for it on the shelf, but at the same time I felt it was a bit simple and generic. But I guess there is something to be said about a simple but clean label. Anyways, moving on to the beer, it pours a super hazy golden orange color with a finger of frothy and fluffy white head atop. The head fades down at a fairly slow pace leaving behind some lace in the process. The aroma is full of Belgian yeast smells with a bit of banana and clove with some strong orange and lemon, and some lighter coriander and wheat coming through.
The beer hits the tongue with a mix of light yeast spices, wheat, and orange and lemon zest. Through the middle, the coriander flavor grows with some more sweet cheat coming through along with some clove. The finish is a mix of sweet wheat, lemon zest with just a touch of tartness, coriander, Belgian yeast, and a touch of chamomile. The beer feels a touch lighter than medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It is smooth and crisp with a sweet and lightly spicy finish.
While I was not blown away with this beer, I like what they are doing with it. It is a nice session Witbier that is smooth and refreshing without breaking the budget. There is quite a bit of Belgian elements coming through, but they stay mild and controlled to retain drinkability. Definitely a beer you can have a few of in a night.
This is the second part of the tie-dye series and the last in the series (for now), for this one there is another summer seasonal, but this time by Boulevard (so should fair quite a bit better in taste)
Boulevard ZŌN pours a hazy gold color, with a small head that is soon replaced by tiny bubbles.
The aroma is coriander mixed with orange juice, a bit of clove along with some other spices. A treat to smell.
Great body starts off with the feel of orange juice then has some carbonation that builds up.
Must say taste is not as impressive. Nice blend of coriander, banana, spices, and some of that Boulevard Wheat, but all is a bit muted.
So we finally reached the hotel. Yay. Nice view and nice ambience, it was designed by the guy working for the Desigual fashion label. Expensive too, eh, I guess have to pay for the view to the Notre Dame cathedral. On my way I picked a can of Hoegaarden, THE witbier. Also that Edelweiss was one -in the theory, making it the day of white beers… I guess Hoegaarden is not something I have to describe, I just love it wholeheartedly. I have also some stories about it but some other time.