Monday, April 25, 2011

Heineken bottle to change

Although surprised to see the Portuguese offering on the doorstep, was doubly so when I received another package.

Courtesy of Heineken again, I received a perspex box, displaying a single bottle of Heineken lager, plus, wait for it, an iPod Touch (8GB version 4.2.1). I thought someone must have accidentally dropped theirs in the package, but no, turns out it's a gift. The public relations consultants Hill and Knowlton are responsible for this drive, as too the Sagres DraughtKeg campaign.  I was approached by one of their Account Executives for my details, as they wished to "send some product" my way. I had no idea what this entailed, and expected a couple of sample bottles and maybe some cheap merchandise.
So, in the last week,  from the Heineken group I have been the recipient of 5.33 litres of beer, a nice wooden box, a nice perspex box, an iPod Touch , and a couple of polite emails.

I feel somewhat obliged to pass some fair comment about the new bottle.  It's a sleek design, with clear plastic labelling as opposed to the traditional paper. It has embossed glass at the rear, making it arguably easier to hold on those slippery nights. Mind you, this is not ground-breaking: Cascade has been doing this for years.

Of interest is the commentary on the back stating The "A-YEAST" ensures every brew of Heineken has a consistent clean crisp taste, and is so precious it's been stored under guard in Holland since 1886. As others have commented (including BrewsNews), there must be some leniency here, as this yeast strain seems to have made its way to Australia. Yep, it's still a brewed-under-licence offering.

It's sleek, it's modern, it's trendy and fashionable. The short movie clip and pictures that came preloaded on the iPod are very trendy too. It says a lot about big brewing marketing strategy..... target the image-conscious young adult.

And what about the bottle content ? I'm leaving mine unopened as a bar curio, but have previously rated Heineken as  C+ / 3.15.  This is generous, as the overall average on the BeerAdvocate website for Heineken is C (from 1,189 reviews); my review is 11.7% above the average.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Beer Review: Cascade Blonde

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Cascade Blonde Krystalweizen 4.8%
A- / 4.15 look: 4 smell: 4 taste: 4 feel: 3.5 drink: 5

I keep forgetting how good this beer is, particularly for the price.

Copped some grief from my wife when I bought a slab of bottles "I can't believe you bought some blonde rubbish... you're always going on about how crap it is". I had to remind her that not all blondes are the same (looking at her hair)... anyway....

Pours a stable, 1cm white fluffy head, pale golden yellow. Lovely fruity wheaty aromas, more akin to wit than weizen.

Flavours very wheat-driven, sweet grain & husk flavours. I think this probably aligns more with American Wheat in style, than Krystalweizen, as there are no banana/clove esters in this.  Creamy medium body, crisp finish, a good drink

Easily knocked back a six-pack last night., after which my hosts plied me with Crown & Boags.... no contest really. I give it full marks for drinkability, considering its value.

This is arguably one of the best value beers in the country.

Serving type: bottle

Uma cerveja por favor

As an unexpected but appreciated side-effect of beer blogging is the occasional approach from beer marketers.

Upon return from holidays, was surprised to find at the front door a small wooden crate, with "Product of Portugal" emblazened on the side. Thinking that I may have acquired a dozen of the world's best vintage ports, I eagerly opened the crate.

I was somewhat taken aback by its contents, followed quickly by an out-loud laugh.  You see, the holiday from which we returned took us to Hervey Bay in Queensland, where the best bottleshop to be found is a Dan Murphy. Among other items, I picked up a 5 litre DraughtKeg of Sagres Lager.

Australian Brews News has some pictures, and a similar story, here. It was the same item that sat amongst my new collection of crate straw.

Sagres is the dominant beer of Portugal. It is owned by Heineken and suits the warm climate quite well. It's a fairly non-descript Euro lager, but when Libby and I visited Portugal in 2001, it was my go-to thirst quencher and palate cleanser, and well enjoyed from the Algarve in the south, to Bragan├ža in the north.

Heineken has been offering its ubiquitous Euro lager in the DraughtKeg system for a couple of years now. Evidently successful, other beers in the Heineken stable are making their way into the format. This system keeps the container air-tight, giving the beer some longevity after opening. "30 days" says the Sagres promo material, at a constant pressure of one bar.

The same cannot be said for other beers that are appearing in the 5 litre keg.  When at Dan Murphy, I had a choice of Heineken and Sagres in the DraughtKeg, or Franziskaner in the normal, pop-the-plug-in-and-go keg. Although the wheat beer would have been my preferred drink, there's no way I was going to go through 5 litres of hefe in a sitting, and didn't relish the thought of drinking flat, air-exposed beer the following day.

With Heineken having brewing interests all over the world, I hope the DraughtKeg system is used for more of their products. It's a good thing to have in fridge, allowing a couple of glasses a night for a week or so, or something to take to a party to share around.

As with other kegs, it is important that the DraughtKeg is well and truly chilled before opening; the blurb recommends 5 degress of less. Else the CO2 will escape too quickly, causing much froth & bubble.

As for my Portuguese abilities, all I could ever bring myself to ask was "one beer please".

A list of the stuff I have received free from brewers and marketers can be found by clicking the Disclaimers tab.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ekim's ales

A few months ago, I tasted and discussed Ekim's Viking IPA.

Last weekend, I picked up the latest release, After Battle Ale. This is an in-your-face pale ale, with a massive hit of late hops, and like its predecessor, a fine offering.

Ekim is the brewing vehicle of Mike Jorgensen, who enjoys expressing his Danish heritage through the beer's names and assertive characters. The beers are brewed in conjunction with the Happy Goblin brewery on Sydney's upper north shore, and like the Goblins, have varying alcohol levels with, as such, hand-written labels.

My 6-pack of After Battles was bottled on the 1st April; I was drinking it 8 days later. But I reckon you can drink beers too soon, and although I love this beer, think it could do with a couple more weeks in the fridge to smooth out and balance the beer.

I took the opportunity to email Mike about my thoughts. Unlike his larger brewing contemporaries, Mike had the decency to reply promptly, with warmth and consideration.

He suggests drinking both his ales within 3 months of bottling, as they have no preservatives. However, he also agrees that a couple of weeks "cold conditioning" won't hurt, although not essential.

Further, he advises that a third beer (an American brown ale) is in the barrel, but only available at Paddy's Hop Festival (April 30, 2011), and through Warner's at the Bay new growler filling station.

I picked up my Ekim ales (and Happy Goblins) from Brookvale Cellars in Sydney's Northern Beaches. A trip to Lake Macquarie looks on the cards, with a couple of empty growler bottles.

I recommend Ekim beers, and encourage supporting the little guys.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Beer Review: Hahn White

Yeah, yeah I know, I've currently got a Lion Nathan boycott going.  But as this august journal does provide a valuable community service, I occasionally need to set my petty principles aside and suffer for my esteemed readers.

This beer, Hahn White, is labelled as a Belgian-style white beer (i.e. "wit"), but also as low carbohydrate. Talk about hedging your bets. All brewers are conscious of the market's infatuation with low carb beers, so any move away from this attribute would spell disaster (to the marketers and accountants, at least).

But they're also conscious of the burgeoning craft brewing market, and in and effort to get ahead of the game, have managed to combine both a crafty element with the alleged slim(mer) wasteline.

How are they going to manage it ?  Wits are famous for their spice & citrus aromatics, the cloudy appearance, and nice, wheaty mouthfeel. So what do you think the Hahn brewers have sacrificed at the altars of low carb and mass market ? Let's see.....

Guide to review scoring is on the post Beeradvocate Ratings Systems
Unless otherwise specified, these reviews are my own.
Hahn White witbier 4.2%

D / 2.17 look: 3 smell: 3 taste: 1.5 feel: 1.5 overall: 3

An each-way bet from Lion Nathan... trying something new without scaring the low-carb market.

a) Clearish pale yellow/straw. White rocky head that lingers a little, light bubbling. Doesn't look like a wit... wheat haze has been well and truly filtered out of this one.

s) Big hit of coriander seed and citrus peel, ginger powder, some sulfur which, together, give the impression of a sandwich meat such as devon. No malt to discern.

t) Like home-made lemonade, maybe a hint of lime, falling away to a typical dry-style flavour like Toohey's Extra Dry. No hop or bitterness. All show on the nose, nothing to support on the palate.

m) Starts off spritzy, like soft drink, then disappears. Typical low-carb body.

d) Probably quite good on a hot day, when there's lttle else.

Perhaps this is a good entry point for the young & impressionable to discover the aromatics of the wit style.... after this they may head towards a real wit, and give this all-show-and-no-substance offering the flick.

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