April 8, 2017

Old dark and new light

New beers are constantly soft-landing on my table (although some of them are just new to me).  And that's a good thing.  The local craft beer fellowship has reached a maturity where new beers are appearing quite regularly.  I try to taste them and report to you in a timely manner, but sometimes I am unavoidably delayed.  Here are two more or less recent.

Lynx Imperial Stout

This beer won the Best-in-Show award in the B'tsisa home-brewers competition almost a year ago.  I wrote then [read it here] that I would try to get a bottle and report back to my readers.  I wasn't sure how I was going to do this.

Zeev Stein (left) and Yaron Rachamim
of Lynx Brewery, receive their
B'tsisa award last year.
Then, at last summer's Tel Aviv Beer Festival, I bumped into Lynx brewers Zeev Stein and Yaron Rachamim.  "Wait right here," said Zeev.  "I want to bring you a bottle of our Imperial Stout."  One of the great perks of being a beer blogger!  Zeev actually ran out to his car and came back with a precious bottle of the dark liquid.  I promised I would drink it and report back.    

It strikes me that Lynx Imperial Stout is sui generis.  (Thanks to Mr. Hugh O'Donnell, my high school Latin teacher.)  It's made with two types of coffee and whisky-steeped vanilla beans, and aged for one year in the bottle.      

The result is a 12% ABV beer the color of dark brown ink with a thin foam.  My drinking partner Moshe pulled back his head when he took his first whiff.  What an intense aroma of burnt espresso coffee, perhaps some carob and, of course, the alcohol.    

The taste was a very enjoyable bitterness from the roasted malt, rather than from hops.  Also some summer fruits.  The powerful alcohol was also in the taste, but was not intrusive like a stranger.  Rather, it blended in very nicely with the malt.

The distinctive stout taste was much more weighted to coffee than to chocolate, prompting Moshe to exclaim, "It's almost like drinking a coffee liqueur!"

I agreed with Moshe.  This is an extreme stout, but in a good way.  You can't so much drink this beer as sip it.  It's a beautiful tasting experience, and I can understand why the B'tsisa judges thought so highly of it.

But I couldn't help thinking that this Imperial Stout was brewed for other beer brewers, or connoisseurs, or beer geeks, or whatever you want to call the "in crowd."  The taste is too extreme for the general beer-drinking public, and since this was a very limited home-brew, it will never reach the public anyway.  But I'm sure that the talented brewing duo of Zeev and Yaron can make excellent beers more attuned to popular tastes, and we should all be hoping that these eventually become commercially available to all of us.

Buster's Pils

Going from dark to light, I also tasted the new Buster's Pils, the second commercial beer from the Buster's Beverage Company in Beit Shemesh.  (The first was their Oak-Aged Stout, which was reviewed here.)  The beer is contract brewed at the Alexander Brewery in Emek Hefer.

Pilsner was originally brewed in Plzen in what is today the Czech Republic, and we even know the exact year -- 1842, the year gold was discovered in California!  Pilsner quickly became one of the most popular beer styles in the world, and it still is.  It's the "universal donor" of beer styles: it goes well with almost any food.

Pilsner is a clean and simple beer with simple ingredients: light malted barley, Noble hops (imparting more aroma and flavor than bitterness), lager yeast and soft water.  Brewing skill, however, is the one extra ingredient needed to achieve an excellent Pilsner.

Master brewer Denny Neilson displays this skill with his light (4.8% ABV) Pils lager.  Denny revealed that this Pilsner is the only Israeli beer made with 20% corn in the grain bill.  Now, of course, corn has a very bad press as an "adjunct" used by mega-brewers in their pale lagers.  Craft beer aficionados have been known to turn up their noses to any beer made with adjuncts such as corn or rice.  Yet, when used correctly, corn can actually lighten up the color and body of a beer, and maybe add a smooth sweetness, without changing its flavor much.  This is what Denny tries to do with his Pils.      

Buster's Pils pours out the color of ginger ale, pale as straw and a little hazy.  The aroma is floral hops, some fresh grain and grass.  The taste has a satisfying balance between the bitter and sweet, with some hop spice, fruit and citrus.  The beer's finish -- the taste that hangs on your tongue after you swallow -- is dry, bitter and refreshing.  That's what makes you want to continue drinking, and why Pilsner is so good with almost any cheese, as well as dishes light, fried or spicy.

Denny says that he hopes that Israeli beer drinkers will now be able to enjoy Pilsner beer without having to buy it from Europe.  I concur.  Buster's Pils is a credit to the style, and an excellent way to introduce yourself to Pilsner beer.                  

1 comment:

  1. Your descriptions are so poetic. Can't wait until after Pesach to try some new local beers.


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