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Friday, November 13, 2015

Greek to Me

Greek Beer? 

                                
If you were to make a list of countries you think of when you think about beer, in all likelihood Greece would not be on that list. Wine? Why not? Ouzo? Oh yeah. But beer? Not so much so. In fact even the most ardent of beer geeks would no doubt struggle to name a Greek beer, not to mention a Greek craft beer. So on a recent excursion to a couple of Greek Islands (Mykonos and Santorini) I was curious about Greek beers and if there was anything resembling the craft beer revolution we have experienced here in the states.

Fearing it might be a while before a truly tasty beer crossed my lips, I started our journey with a Wailing Wench from Middle Ages at the Syracuse airport. It's a delicious way to begin any journey
A Wench before flying.
At the Middle Ages
Pub - Syracuse airport.
and the main reason I don't complain when my wife insists on getting to the airport early.
                                                                                  
We flew Turkish Air out of Kennedy. I am so used to flying various American airlines where you pay an outrageous amount for lousy beer, that I forget that most foreign lines serve beer, wine and liquor for free. Anyhow, the beer on this flight was Tuborg, a Danish beer with a worldwide presence. It's a fairly typical German-style lager. I soon discovered that it was one of the more popular beers in Greece. Virtually every restaurant and taverna sold Tuborg as well as Heineken. Those two beers, along with Mythos and Alfa, two Greek mega-brews, are as omnipresent as Bud and Coors here, . Mythos Brewery is a subsidiary of  the Carlsberg Group which also owns Tuborg. Whereas Alfa is brewed by Athenian Brewery which contract brews Heineken and Amstel among others. All part of the tangled web woven by the various mega-brews out there (though, amazingly, neither InBev nor MillerCoors seem to have a piece of the action here, which would explain the welcome dearth of Bud Light).

I tried Mythos and found it drinkable. Essentially a German style Lager with a bit of a hop punch to it. Alfa, on the other hand, I found pretty much tasteless. Reminded me of an American mega-brew light beer. It was on tap at this one bar and I was trying to decide what Greek beer to try. The guy behind the bar said, "Alfa is a very good beer. I'd go with that." I did and realized the guy didn't really know what good beer was!

On the island of Mykonos I was resigned to drinking Mythos or wine, when I happened upon a taverna, along the shore on the outskirts of Mykonos Town, with a sign out front listing specials: Greek wine and CRAFT BEER! I had to stop in. The place was called Captains and about ninety percent of its seating was outside overlooking the shore. I went in and asked about their craft beers. The woman behind the bar thought I said "draft beer" and said, "Mythos."  As I was trying to explain what I meant, a guy named Apollo, apparently a manager there, intervened. He knew exactly what I wanted and enthusiastically ushered me over to a cooler filled with beer. Of course it contained Mythos, Alfa, Amstel, Heinekin - but he quickly dismissed all of these and pointed out some beers brewed by smaller craft breweries. I picked up a bottle of Marea Double Malt Ale from Elixi Brewery out of Attiki, Mary Rose Red Ale from Septem Microbreweries in Paleo Faliro, Athens, and Volkan from Santorini.

All three beers I liked. I felt they all had a sort of unique taste. I'm not sure if it is the water or what. Volkan may have been the most unique. Brewed with grape honey and citron leaves and water filtered in volcanic stones, it was really very refreshing. While not particularly hoppy, it - as well as the other two - was flavorful.    


Once we made it to the Island of Santorini, we had an opportunity to visit a craft brewery. Within easy walking distance from our hotel was the Santorini Brewing Company. They brew and bottle three (and sometimes four) beers. Their three main beers are Yellow Donkey, Red Donkey and Crazy Donkey IPA. They also brew a White Donkey, which is a wheat beer. They were out of it on the day we visited, which was alright by me. I enjoyed the other three beers. Yellow Donkey is a blonde ale with an ABV range of 5.0% to 5.2%. IBUs come in at 19, but with an exotic international mixture of hops - Aurora and Styrian Golding from Slovania, Cascade from Oregon, and Motueka from New Zealand - the beer comes across as a very refreshing, citrus-forward ale. 

Red Donkey (ABV 5.5 - 5.7%, IBUs 26) is a Belgian Pale Ale again utilizing Styrian Golding hops from Slovania, but this time paired with Citra from Oregon and Nelson Sauvin from New Zealand. The use of a Belgian-style yeast strain complements these hops nicely. The result is a fruity pale ale that is not an over-the-top Belgian style.

Crazy Donkey IPA (ABV 5.8 - 6%, IBUs 50) not surprisingly was my favorite of the three. It was the first and, as of 2012, the only IPA produced in Greece. Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops make this a very solid IPA. Very drinkable with nice hints of citrus and pine. Great beer to have while enjoying views like the one below.




NO THEME, JUST BEER

This month we decided on a kind of "theme-less" transition into fall. There's just so many Octoberfest beers you can try and even fewer Pumpkin Ales we really want to try, so we just all brought some good beers we hadn't reviewed before. 

DIRTY PALE ALE
(Formerly Dirty Blonde Ale)
ADIRONDACK BREWERY



The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Adirondack Brewing, Lake George, NY; STYLE: American Pale Ale: ABV and IBUs: Unavailable; HOPS:  Cascade, Centennial.

What the Brewer Says: "Dirty Blonde Ale is a frisky, unfiltered, American hopped session ale, with a big-bubbled head and loads of character. Brewing with American ale yeast keeps her casual, flirty and never boring. Enormous Cascade and Centennial dry hops lend a strong grapefurit aroma and a pleasant citrus flavor - this is a great mouth-pleasing year-round beer."

Color: Cloudy, unfiltered straw or wheat

Pour: Decent, bubbly head

Aroma: Bready/yeasty

Body: Toward the light/thin end 

Taste: Balanced with hints of citrus and lemon

Overall Impression: I Could Drink This.

Comments: "Nice mouthfeel; Not heavy; Sessionable; Pleasant; Enough hoppiness to keep it interesting; Bitter on the end; I would actually buy this although I usually avoid Blondes, other than my wife; Nothing objectionable."

NOT YOUR FATHER'S ROOT BEER
SMALL TOWN BREWERY



The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Small Town Brewery, Wauconda, IL; STYLE: Ale brewed with spices; ABV: 5.9%.

What the Brewer Says:"Silky, smooth and satisfying finish is unmatched in flavor. It appeals to craft beer aficionados as well as those who don't typically drink beer but crave something unique."

Color: Mahogony

Pour: Creamy, impressive head. Full and bubbly but doesn't last. Disperses quickly.

Aroma: It smells like root beer. Vanilla.

Body: Between Medium and Full.

Taste: Sweet, vanilla, sarsaparilla, sugar.

Overall Impression: Doesn't fit the usual mode so we're going off chart on this one. We all said we wouldn't buy it as a beer. Dan tried it with ice cream for a root beer float and said it was great. As far as root beer is concerned, most of us agreed it was one of the better tasting root beers we've had. In fact we did a side-by-side comparison with a (non-alcoholic) boutique root beer and the general consensus was that Not Your Father's was superior.

Comments: "The alcohol is not really noticeable, maybe a bit at the end, but when you try it side-by-side with the soft drink, you can taste it; They make a 10% ABV version of this, I wonder how different that would taste; Better root beer than root beer; Just too sweet for me to take seriously; I'll bet this could get kids in a lot of trouble; It would be easy to overdo it with this if you really liked root beer."

HOP KNIFE
TROEGS BREWING



The Beer Facts: BREWER: Troegs Brewing, Hershey PA; STYLE: Harvest Ale; ABV: 6.2%; IBU: 87; MALTS: Crystal, Pilsner, Vienna; HOPS: Cascade, Chinook, El Dorado - DRY HOPS: Centennial, Citra, Columbus; YEAST: Ale

What the Brewer Says: "Hop Knife Harvest Ale recognizes the time-honored tradition of hand-harvesting at the peak of maturity. At the end of fermentation, the beer flows through our HopCyclone releasing a bounty of preserved citrus rind, crushed jungle and tropical aromas."


Color: Straw / honey

Pour: Somewhat less than Decent Head which didn't last.

Aroma: Pine

Body: Between Medium and Full

Taste: Hoppy with strong notes of grapefruit, pine and earthy flavors.

Overall Impression:. Between "I Could Drink This" and "Can't Get Enough"

Comments: "The surprise of the day for me so far; Strongly hopped; Hardly any malt to it; A big vehicle for the hops; Tastes as good as it smells; This and Perpetual are my favorite Troegs"



SCULPIN IPA
BALLAST POINT BREWING,COMPANY, SAN DIEGO, CA



The Beer Facts: STYLE: American IPA; ABVs: 7.0%; IBUs: 70; HOPS: Hopped at 5 separate stages; AWARDS: Multiple awards including a gold in the 2010 World Beer Cup.

What the Brewer Says: "Our Sculpin IPA is a great example of what got us into brewing in the first place. After years of experimenting, we knew hopping an ale at five separate stages would produce something special. The result ended up being this gold-medal winning IPA, whose inspired use of hops creates hints of apricot, peach, mango and lemon flavors, but still packs a bit of a sting, just like a Sculpin fish."

Color: Lightly filtered wheat

Pour: Decent off-white head

Aroma: Hoppy - grassy/fresh hay and pine

Body: Slightly more than Medium

Taste: Nice - tastefully bitter, not sharp, with citrus notes.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Tastes like a double; Full flavor; Fills all the senses / hits all the spots; This is s-o-o-o-o-o good; I'm thinking this is the best IPA on the planet; As a battle - maybe I'd like to put it up against Flower Power from Ithaca Brewing and see how it fared."


WROUGHT IRON IPA

ABITA BREWING


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Abita Brewing, Abita Springs, LA; STYLE: India Pale Ale; ABV: 6.9%; IBU: 80; MALTS: Pale Ale; HOPS: Apollo, Equinox, Mosaic.

What the Brewer Says:"Abita Wrought Iron IPA embodies the resilient, indestructible nature of New Orleans. This India Pale Ale is forged with the intensity of Apollo, Equinox and Mosaic Hops. Brewed with pale ale malt for a golden color as bright as iron from a fiery forge."


Color: Cloudy golden

Pour: Better than decent head which dissipates quickly.

Aroma: Hoppy floral

Body:  Beyond Medium

Taste: Hoppy bitter bite with hint of cloves, toffee with a spicy citrus finish. Bready malt taste with some grapefruit.

Overall Impression:  Close to "Can't Get Enough" but not unanimous

Comments: "Well malted; Big malt backbone; Probably the biggest Abita I've ever had; Bitter on the end; Best Abita I've ever had; A little rough, not very smooth - some edges; Nice full-flavored beer, big taste, I like it."

TRICERAHOPS
NINKASI BREWING COMPANY



The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Ninkasi Brewing Company, Eugene, OR; STYLE: Double IPA; ABV: 8.0%; IBUs: 100; MALTS: 2-Row Pale, Munich, Carahell; HOPS: Chinook, Cascade, Summit, Centennial, Palisade.

What the Brewer Says: "Tricerahops is double everything you already love in an IPA. More hops, more malt body and a highter gravity define this Double India Pale Ale. Fiercely flavorful, guaranteed to satisfy."

Color: Cloudy buckwheat honey

Pour: Decent Head

Aroma: Sweet / malt, maybe a bit of hay

Body: Full

Taste: Strong hop bitterness, pine, grapefruit, earthy, floral, a bit of toffee malt for balance

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "If I were to drink this, I'd have to wear a chastity belt (?); Great flavor; I'm in heaven with this beer; Big, big taste; Hop bomb; Sneaky 8%; I may have a new favorite beer; Wow!; You'll want a driver after a few of these." 

PACIFIC GALAXY DIPA
SARANAC BREWING


The Beer Facts: BREWER: Saranac Brewing Company, FX Matt Brewing, Utica, NY, STYLE: Imperial IPA; HOPS: Galaxy, Pacific Jade, Vic Secret

What the Brewer Says: "Brewed with tropical and fruity hops of Australia and New Zealand...this Imperial IPA showcases big passion fruit, lychee and mango hop character with subtle notes of black pepper, herb and spice."


Color: Wheat

Pour: Beyond Decent Head

Aroma: Hay, grassy

Body: Full

Taste: Fruit and spice and everything nice. Hints of butterscotch.

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "Tastes like an 8.5% - the alcohol comes through - in a good way; Doesn't taste like most Saranacs; Orgasmic!; Really good beer - lots going on in there - a full range of flavors that just fill the mouth; Bravo, Saranac!"


PALATE SHIFTER
CAPTAIN LAWRENCE


The Beer Facts: BREWERY: Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., New York, NY; STYLE: American Double / Imperial IPA; ABV: 9.00%

What the Brewer Says: "Hops and lots of them. The aroma is bursting witht he classic citrus and pine aroma of American-grown hops. the flavor is dominated by a hoppy bitterness, with just enough malt to make you want to take another sip. (Formerly known as Captain's Reserve Imperial IPA.)"


Color: Unfiltered pale yellow, almost green.

Pour: Just shy of Decent Head

Aroma: Hay, grassy, clean

Body: Full

Taste: Toffee, caramel, alcohol, with grapefruit and citrus notes, bitter hop

Overall Impression: Can't Get Enough!

Comments: "You could put this in a shot glass; I would want to drink this in the comfort of my home surrounded by concubines; This beer will sneak up on you; Well balanced, especially with the alcohol content; Not as sophisticated, but a little slap in the face; Nice grapefruit/citrus flavor against a solid malt backing; Nice beer."


RESULTS

As you can see, the three big beers - Palate Shifter, Pacific Galaxy and Tricerahops - plus Sculpin were all hits with us. All four were right in our hop-bomb wheel house, delivering big hop taste in a complex full-bodied beer. 

Wrought Iron  we were split on. While most of us agreed it was the best Abita we've had, not all would seek it out. 

Troegs Hop Knife we all found to be a tasty, easy-drinking beer, while Adirondack's Dirty had just enough of a hop kick to place it in our "I could drink this" level of beer.

Not Your Father's Root Beer was an interesting change of pace. Most felt it was the best root beer they'd ever had and your enjoyment would be entirely based on whether or not you liked root beer.

Next month: Scary Beers.

Sláinte,
The BOTB Guys