This is a beer I’ve had on many occasions, and have a real fondness for. Its first Diary entry occurs here in April 2005 (also the first English listing) but even that mentions that it’s been enjoyed before. And the photo here comes from years after that, when I randomly spotted it in the fridge at the Malthouse. Saw it in a photo I’d taken the night before, in fact, and went straight back to have some.
I’d only just recently (at last!) gotten myself a nice digital camera (or a camera at all, if it comes to that), so the new-gadget enthusiasm coupled with the beer nostalgia made taking a photo irresistible, despite the funny looks that doing so drew. I liked how it turned out, and a habit was fairly instantly formed.
Verbatim: Badger Tangle Foot. 500ml, $5, 5.0%, 16/4/05. Loads of Brit stuff @ K&G’s. So the return of tangle foot. Love it. Amber ale. Quite distinctive, almost fruity. Mystery warmness to it. Can definately see how it was named. “Deceptively drinkable”, as they say. Badger was est’d 1777. Who knew? Coppery. Like the überhopped Macs, almost.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: The “überhopped Macs” I mention was their ‘Copperhop’, a now-retired IPA that I remember as being quite decent. A quick look at the reviews finds a decent amount of praise for its balance; malt and hops in harmonious presence. That could be what I’m on about, in my comparison.
Verbatim: Grimbergen Double. 330ml, $8, 6.5%, 3/4/05. Bless those Belgian monks. The Nobertines have made a great, accessable abbey beer. Dark red-brown, bubbly, but not overstrong. (Despite neat / freaky eagle on the label.)
Afterthoughts, October 2010: From this entry, and the previous, it appears I occasionally have trouble with spelling the word “accessible”. I’m also wrong to credit the monks; a lot of these Belgian “Abbey-style” beers are just Abbey-style, these days, with production done (as here, and with the Judas immediately prior) by giant commercial breweries who have either swallowed the original makers in the various waves of mergers and acquisitions that go on, or are just paying licenses for the name.
Verbatim: Judas. 330ml, $5, 8.6%, 19/3/05. Belgian Blonde. Cool, scary bottle; how could I resist? Nice golden cloudless blonde, bubbles don’t hang around much. Got a pleasant little fruitiness in it. Really very good, more accessable than you’d guess from its design.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Well, at least the ‘Duvel as lager’ fiasco from the previous Christmas seems to be behind me by this point. That’s a relief.
Trying to re-discover this one on RateBeer.com took me through two placeholders that said “this name is just an alias for…”, sending me somewhere else. Beer marketing is a funny thing, and brews often wind up existing under different names in different markets or at different times, or both.
Verbatim: Moling’s Traditional Celtic. St. Patrick’s Day, 17/3/05. 500ml. $5, 4.9%. Dark with a nice red touch. Bubbles hang around alright. Very tasty, though not too strong. I’d like it heavier, but still. Perfect with burgers. Luckily, I’ve got some.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: I still do these day-appropriate tastings of new things, whenever I can; something Irish on Paddy’s Day, something Australian on January 26, that sort of thing. Any excuse, right? But it’s nice to see I started early.
So. This is perhaps the best example why the decision to publish the ‘ancient’ Diary entries as-is was a bit of a Zen exercise. I like Duvel a lot, for inherent and circumstantial reasons. I have done so since I first had it, here on Christmas Day in 2004. But I clearly wasn’t a proper Beer Nerd at all, yet, because I just blithely call it a lager. The shame. The nearly-unutterable shame.
But hey, everyone starts ignorant, right? Ignorance is not a problem, what you do with it is. And you can’t really be blamed for mistakes like these, when some breweries go out of their freaking way to muddy the waters about beer styles and perpetuate the simple-but-wrong idea that golden is lager and non-golden is ale.
Verbatim: Duvel. 330ml, $5, at Wellington, on Christmas. It’s sunny, so a lager with lunch. Bubbles aplenty, nice cloudy gold. Full flavour, but not bitter. Malty, Dad says. Nicely complex smell and taste, but not at all too much. Goes brilliantly with timing and weather.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: “At Wellington” means at my family’s house; so many entries are just tagged “at home”, and sometimes that gets tricky to define — here I was at the house where I grew up and lived for twenty-something years, but I also had a permanent-enough place of my own that “home” became an ambiguous word. Which leads to wonderful sentences like “as soon as I get home I should make sure I buy a plane ticket home”. Huh?
The little “meanwhile” note is also evidence that my take-the-damn-notebook-with-you habit hadn’t yet properly formed. The next entry is from three months later; I must’ve remembered that I’d had those in the intervening time. I have no idea how many other entries fell through the gap between bad habits and bad memory. I suppose that’s why I should keep a Diary. (And why I do.)
It’s here at entry eighteen and nearly a whole year since page one, that my Diary finds its first New Zealand brew. Shows what you get for being a New Zealander living in Melbourne when you start your Beer Diary.
I should add that even now, at the time of the Great Uploading in October 2010, it’s still a bit shameful how hard it is to get good beer from ‘the other side of the Tasman’ — whichever side you’re on. The situation is massively-improved, sure, but still pretty tragic.
Verbatim: Martinborough Brewing: Tora Dark. 330ml, 5%, $?, at home, 11/12/04. “Blerk,” says George. I think it’s great. Rich coffee taste, mild choc. (Goes brillo w/ advent calendar chocolates.) Darkish bubbles, some hanging around. Quite bitter, but in a good way. Mellows out after. (Their lager — which G.’s having — is perfectly decent, too. Heinek-ish.)
Afterthoughts, October 2010: This entire brewery has long since closed down, sadly. And it’s the first such casualty in my Diary (the aged Cooper’s stout was the first ‘retired’ individual beer in the book). A bit of research shows it was a dunkel (a black lager) so we can see that I’m still confused about how colours relate to styles, although that is about to get a whole lot more embarrassing with the next entry…
Verbatim: Liefmans Frambozenbier. $?, 37.5cl, 4.5%, neat champagne-cork, paper-wrapped bottle. Belgian. Best before end 2014! Darker than you’d think, rich bubbles, still around, fruit all over as poued. Smells just like cordial. Warm beeriness in the background. Just great. Gold medal @ Peterborough ’98. Perfect for “I don’t like beer” girls. It’s raspberry for grown ups.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: And finally, my first fruit beer in the book. Unlike seemingly-many Beer Nerds, I am very fond of the style, actually — for its inherent yumness, for its evangelistic potential, and for its messing-with-people ability. This was starting out right, too; very highly-regarded proper old-school authentic stuff.
Verbatim: Goose Island Honker’s Ale. $?, 12oz, @home, Nov 6. More West Wing, so a Chicago ale with burgers. Darkish, but hints of orange again. Bubbles not so enduring, no haze. Lighter taste + smell, still flat, muted ale-ish. More an afternoon beer. Perfectly respectable + tasty. Great everyday stuff; entry-level Liberty, almost.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Not that I knew it at the time, but Honker’s is styled as an American take on English pale ale, whereas the Liberty I’m evidently comparing-to is pure American pale ale — so the observed easier-ness makes a lot of sense.
I remember this one quite well, reaching for a legendary American ale after the re-election of GWB. It was a pretty freaking bleak day; I was in a genuine philosophical funk for days, even weeks. But I knew it wasn’t the fault of the entire country, so I did consciously reach out to known / suspected “good things”, so as to keep perspective. There really is a sense in which self-medicating with beer can be healthy. Very occasionally.
Verbatim: Anchor Brewing Co. Liberty Ale. $?, 12oz, @ home, Nov 4. Bush won again, but the West Wing is on. — Great bubbles, still around, very slightly cloudy, amber color. Even smells a bit orange-colored. Quite a strong muted-fruit flavour. Tasty. (5.9%) Bananas and orange peels, but flat notes where lagers would be sharp. Still bubbly. Well-made American. And then a big Hello Coriander at the end. The feel. Another fun thing about San Fran.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: It’s taken the Diary a while to get to its first pale ale, hasn’t it? The style hadn’t really hit its stride in the Australian microbrew scene, and the market definitely skewed (as you can see from these entries) towards European imports. I like the note that it “smells orange-colored” — and can’t help but notice that my occasional American-spelling habit was quite ingrained, at this point — that seems to be me noticing the classic American hoppy flavours. But then my brain got overloaded by the fruity / herby hoppy notes and seems to’ve retreated to the wheat beer genres it knew much better at the time when trying to pigeon-hole them.
Verbatim: O’Hara’s Celtic Stout. 12oz, 4.3%, <$5, 20/08/04, at home. Same brewery as above: Carlow, Ireland. Good n black, but broad, tan bubbles which went wandering too soon. More like uber-dark ale, really. Won a gold at BIIA, 2000. Goes just great with Futurama. G. flinches at the coffee-ness. I must be StoutMan.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: With all the bitter coffee flavour that’s apparently in there, I’m not sure where I thought the line between “uber-dark” and stout lay. I quite like the “less than” signs on the prices for these two Carlow beers, too. Always good to know that I can occasionally remember a ballpark, if the details do escape.