Monday, May 30, 2011

Glenn's Beer Tour of the Rhine and the Danube

Good friends Glenn and Mary Ellen are currently floating up the Rhine; life's tough for some. To help Glenn in his travel preparations, I offered him a list of recommended beer venues up the Rhine and down the Danube, from Amsterdam to Budapest.  Sadly, these recommendations are not from my personal experience (yet), but from BeerAdvocate ratings.

But, I charged him with letting me know how he goes.  So here are some extracts from his first two reports.

Hi Michael,
Can finally report that we went to one of your suggested venues, the Päffgen Obergärige Hausbrauerei in Cologne, as well as a second one being Brauhause Sunner im Walfisch.
In both cases, Kolsch was the expected drink to have. They assumed in both places that Mary Ellen would also be drinking, and therefore always poured two glasses ... luckily for me Mary Ellen is not a beer fancier and therefore I consumed all. The beer is always poured into a glass called a Stang but sometimes referred to as a Reagenzglas (test tube).

So, an enviable start to Glenn's beer journalistic career. Cologne, as most of you will know, is the home of Kölsch, traditionally served by abrupt barmen (Köbes) who will keep doing so until one covers their glass with a drink coaster.  Ask not for anything else, as you will be advised in no uncertain terms where to go.....

Another edition from Glenn, a week later....

Hi Michael,
Had some spare time in Bamberg and therefore had time to get a taste of the Rauchbier from the Schlenkerla brewery. We were warned prior to tasting (from our cruise director) that it might not be to some peoples taste .... I think some people were put off by the thought of drinking liquid bacon, but I only found that from the head of the beer, past that it was an acceptable old style German beer.
Our next step Nuremberg, where they arranged for a beer tasting on board the boat .... and the following styles were presented.

Bright beer - Hartmann Hell, Hartmann brewery Wurgau

Pilsner - Rossdorfer Pils, Sauer brewery Rossdorf

Dark lager - Krug Brau Lager bier, Krug brewery Brietenlesau

Wheat beer - Eber-Weisse, Sonnenbrau brewery Ebermannstadt

Last stop for now was Regensburg, where I had a quick stop at Gaststätte Spitalgarten which was a popular drinking hole of the current pope whilst he was a professor at the Regensburg University.
At that's it so far .... next stop is Passau and Salzberg.
Cheers from Germany, Glenn

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Italians at the leading edge

Recently, I was approached by a friendly gentleman in Italy if I was willing to try a new range of beers from that country. "Sure", I said, with my usual disclaimer of independence & impartiality etc. etc.

The beers in question are from the 32 Via dei birrai brewery. I checked the website out; no expense spared in its design, and the message is strong: We are modern, we are innovative, and we are environmentally conscious.  It also suggested "we are expensive".

A handy carry-case
32 Via dei Birrai represents a new language in the boundless scenario of the brewery sector. It resets and redefines the usual. It takes the habitual concept of “beer” into another dimension. It becomes design in the form of a bottle.

This is beer we're talking about, yeah ?

Anyway, a package of 6 beers arrived yesterday. Oh, as a note to any budding beer bloggers, be on your guard when overseas breweries send you some samples. I got slugged $35 AU import duty, just for DHL to get them through customs. 6 x 750mL of beer. Crikey, the stuff better be good.

Cardboard in technicolour
I am absolutely gob-smacked at the packaging and promotional material. I received a flattened box with colour-printed inserts, some circular pieces of cardboard, a hard-covered folding brochure, and a handy cardboard carry case.
What the company is encouraging is reuse & recycle. The box has pre-cut circles in its sides, which can be punched out and used as drink-coasters. Further, those of us who have nothing to say to each other can remain entertained by linking said drink-coasters together (see my hard efforts below).

Safe-sex corks
The bottle itself has three barriers to pass before one gets anywhere near the beer. A plastic wrap, aluminium bottle top, and a very, very fancy cork, or Guala seal, to be more precise. As suggested in another blog, it looks like the corks come with their own prophylactic devices. The brewery suggests that these corks be kept, collected, and even turned into key rings or somesuch. Nice idea; it would be a shame to throw them out.

As for the beer ? I received 6 bottles, 2 each of the Curmi (wheat ale, 5.8%), Audace (Belgian strong ale, 8.4%), and Oppale (Belgian style hopped beer, 5.5%).  There are 4 others in the range, a Scottish red, brown ale, amber ale, and honey beer. No bland Euro lagers here.

Drink-coaster creativity
Although I will review these more formally at a later date, my initial impressions were fairly positive. There is a nod to the original style, but with a modern twist. For instance the Oppale has Belgian yeastiness, but a hop assertiveness that is more American than Belgian. And the Audace gives all the indication of a Tripel, but warms into the maltiness of a German strong lager. Interesting, to say the least.

Thanks to Leopoldo for the samples. I'd be interested to learn how much they will cost in Australia, because there is no expense spared in the packaging and promotion of these beers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cascade - The Brewer's Nose iPhone App

The first thing I did after accepting a new iPod Touch was to search for free beer apps. There are many available: some good, some so-so. Over time I will take a deeper look into the wonderful world of beer apps and let you know my findings.

One app with a distinctive Australian focus is The Brewer's Nose. As a Cascade-branded application, the user is in no doubt as to who the sponsor is, and the reason for a particular bias in content. But that's fair in today's virtual world: to receive something for free usually carries with it an obligation to receive some marketing materials as well.  I have no problem with that.

The particular appeal of this app is the convenience with which one can log beers tasted. As long as you have a camera (which my iPod doesn't), you can scan the bar code from the bottle, which in all likelihood will match one of the 600 beers on its growing database.

If you don't have a camera, you can still look up the beer via keyword search, and log it manually.  Both courses of action will allow your tasting notes to be entered, and then shared with other app users if you choose.

Every beer in the database has supporting information, including a short video on the style, and one on food matching - heavily Cascade branded of course, but useful nonetheless.

Other Cascade-specific functions include a map interface to finding Cascade beers, a loyalty reward program (soon to come), and a food-matching feature that defaults to a particular Cascade offering.

The only gripe I have with the app is the inability to change my reviews, including deleting mistaken entries. As such there are a couple of Anonymous entries out there with no content, due to me.

If you're a casual reviewer - and by this I mean not a beer-geek hung up on scoring look, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, drinkability - then this is the ideal tool for collecting your notes.

It's a good app, and the price is right. I recommend downloading it, and having a bit of fun the next time you crack a tinnie or knock a lid off.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

1st Anniversary, 100th Issue

Well, this my 100th post, and 363 days since my first post. That's about two posts a week, although during my employment hiatus, the rate was much higher, of course.

Thanks everyone for taking an interest, and particularly those who have posted comments and/or abused me later for my self-indulgence :-)

Thanks also to those who sent me samples and other gratuities for my consideration and comment. It was an unexpected benefit of blogging; I think my independence remains relatively intact, however.

Some interesting statistics.

  • Page views are growing at an average of 18% per month. Would be good if I got some pay-per-view revenue, yeah ?
  • The most popular entries to date are those pertaining newly released Australian macro beers.

    Specifically, XXXX Summer Bright Lager (comment blog, and review blog), which together amount to 9% of all page views.  Although only a recent entry, my review of Hahn White is following a similar pattern.

    While I would prefer the highest hits to be on the smaller, micro beers, and maybe my homebrewing ponderings, this indicates how much the beer-drinking public is still firmly anchored in the big brewing companies.

    But on the upside, it at least shows they're taking an interest in newly-released beers a little different to what they're used to.  And, ideally, while in the blog they might stroll around and learn that there's more to the eye (tongue) than what's available at the local boozer.
  • 57% of my audienced is Australian, 23% American, 5% Russian, 3% British.
    I even got 12 hits from Iran last month.  ‘as-salaamu ‘alaykum
  • Other than from Google, I get a good amount of traffic from The Bok and Roo Blog, and Slowbeer. Thanks for the support, guys.

With a sardonic nod to sitcoms where the writers run out of ideas, I might reflect on a couple of my favourite posts. Feel free to comment.

Thanks all, again.

I ain't done yet.... plenty more to come.

Aussie Beer Blog

Aussie Beer Blog