Thursday, February 27, 2014

Return to the German Real Ale

Back in Germany for a flying visit last month, I had the chance to try one of the beers I left behind last time, and another bottle, the gift of a generous friend from Berlin. My tasting notes follow:

Hopfenstopfer, Citra: You can smell the fruit a mile away in this light, almost colorless but cloudy pale ale, brewed in Bad Rappenau, which pours with a frisky but ephemeral head. The aroma may be of lime and tangerine, the sweet rather than tangy fruit, but the first taste is surprisingly tart. Thereafter it's mildly sweet, almost to the extent of being watery. Ripe and bland orange leads to a brief pithy bitterness, but it doesn't really stick around or leave much of an impression. (I may be being unfair, because we were eating very spicy food when we tasted this.) Even if there was nothing to write home about on the evidence of this glass, the beer does have a delightful smell, and it would be a perfectly pleasant session ale if we discovered it in a pub in Baden-W├╝rttemberg one night.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Clown Shoes, Crunkle Sam

The last of the gift bottles of American craft ale, which I didn't drink during my tasting marathon over the vacation, because I was a bit scared and wanted someone to share it with. I'm not sure 22oz of barley wine in one sitting is a good idea for anyone! The following review includes the input of my co-conspirators/co-revelers.

Clown Shoes, Crunkle Sam Barley Wine (11% ABV): this potent ale from Ipswich, Massachusetts is somewhere between a ripe red and a dark amber (there was a bit of argument within the group over whether there was any red in there at all; others preferred to say it was just brown), with a creamy foam and a rich smell of cherry and dried fruit. On the tip of the tongue the beer is sickly sweet, with orange zest, burnt toffee and stewed currant; a lovely blend of hops combines with harsh sweetness further back in the mouth, making it hard to swallow in any quantity, but somehow comforting a sip at a time. There's a subtle but not particularly long-lasting aftertaste of citrus, sand and fruity yeast. It was really not bad at all, less brutal than some barley wines, but still far too sweet for my taste. Nobody was especially scathing about it, but I don't remember any great enthusiasm either (even among the cider drinkers who presumably don't mind cloying, fructose-filled drinks!).