25 May 2012

Croocked Moon Zero and Fermentoren

The beer

Croocked Moon Zero is descibed as a 0 IBU American Pale Ale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Elemental swirls of fire and earth fight for dominance as it's poured. The sky doesn't really get a look in.

There's a slight hint of satsuma as you breathe in, but nothing more.

I'm expecting nothing but stark, malty sweetness.

However, this is bitter.

And not really sweet. At all.

Er, is this the right beer?

I'm a bit weirded out. Unsettled, even.

It slowly dawns on me that the closest thing I have tasted to this is Mikkeller 1000 IBU Light.

Okay, it doesn't have the ultra-brutal bitterness of that beer, but there is something similar in the flavour profile.

Maybe it's the Danish water.


The bar

Fermontoren is more or less just round the corner from the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen.

 



 

 




It doesn't quite match Mikkeller in the style stakes – it's more English-pub than Scandi-sophistication with its darts, board games and decrepit wooden furniture – but it is way more comfortable and relaxing.

I wasn't the only one who thought that either. No names mentioned, but I know a number of UK people hung out there and loved it as much as I did.

Oh, wait, I haven't really explained why I loved it.


The match

Well, one reason for the infatuation was the contrast against the crowded bar I'd just emerged from.

There's like two other people in here. Optimum.

The distribution of people per square metre is not my single criterion for judging how good a bar is though.

Wait, this isn't really a bar. Call a pub a pub.

A pub with a tight, focused tap list of exceptional beer.

De Struise, Cantillion, Girardin.

And dry-hopped Saison Dupont. Gimme.

The Croocked Moon beers on the blackboard intrigue me.

One, because that spelling disturbs something at the core of my being.

Two, because, Tony, an Englishman living in Copenhagen who's jamming at the bar sipping Pannepot 2008, tells me it's brewed by the guy that owns Fermentoren.

That means I must have it.

And as much as Zero is a bit of an oddball and I don't understand it, I enjoy drinking it.

Because it marks the moment I enter the trance-like perfect beer and life match state.

Lucid, calm, transcendental, centred, connected with the universe. Pure enigmatic pleasure.

No time or reality exists other than that I experience here and now.

The type of fleeting moment that you really only encounter in brilliant pubs.

Or bars. Whatever.

24 May 2012

3 Floyds Zombie Dust and Mikkeller Bar

The beer

Yes, I'm going to write about the same brewery's beer twice in a row.

Think of it as a appeal to those who move beer across oceans.

Because 3 Floyds Zombie Dust is every bit as jaw-droppingly spectacular as Powder Burns.





















Its dusky apricot hues nod towards the sun as the celestial body kisses the horizon.

A seductive whisper of delicate foam drifts lightly across the surface.

Piña Colada. Long Island Iced Tea. This smells so fruity and instantly appealing it needs an umbrella in it.

And maybe one of those monkeys cuddling a straw. I like those guys.

Have you ever eaten pink grapefruit for breakfast? Sprinkled with brown sugar?

If not, drink this, it's the liquid version of that. And is beer, so wins.

Cara malt smoothness adds a cream soda, root beer vibe somewhere in the mix.

The bitterness that exists somewhere within its anatomy is subtle; more a calming, drying feeling in your mouth that just adroitly takes the edge off all that citrus sweetness.

Please, someone, anyone, make the world a better place and ensure a steady flow of 3 Floyds beer down my throat.



The bar

Mikkeller Bar.





















Regularly featured in 'world's top 50 bestest bars ever' articles.

And for good reason.

The decor is all sexy Scandi style and pastel restraint.

That blackboard you see in the picture above has an intriguing selection of Mikkeller beers that you'll never have this fresh, alongside a few banging international rarities.

And you know, it's Mikkeller's bar. Even if you're not a massive fan of their beers you kinda have to admit it's cool they have a bar.



The match

The bar is less than ten minutes walk from my Copenhagen apartment. They have a 3 Floyds beer on.

'Can we go there now please?'

'But we haven't unpacked. Stop bouncing off the walls.'

Those of you who are stalking me will have noticed that I have screwed the chronological order of my Copenhagen posts.

There is a reason, and that reason is that I wasn't sure I was going to write about this bar.

And the reason (I'm a reasonable guy) for that is that I didn't have a great time here.

We went the night it was Keith Shore's private view type thing.

The week of the inaugral Copenhagen Beer Celebration.

And it was fucking rammed.

I am someone who deeply dislikes when crowds of people prevent me from drinking in the manner of my choosing.

The bar – the actual thing where you go and get your drinks from – was just not equipped to deal with the volume of humans requesting beer.

I can't really have that.

However, the reason (there it is again, no thesaurus for me) that I thought this match was worth writing about is the fact that even when I'm annoyed, frustrated and a little deflated, a beer of exceptional quality can still lift the occasion.

I would love to go to Mikkeller Bar when it's quiet, when it's me and like maybe four (max five) other people.

Either I'm some kind of anti-social misanthrope – bookies have stopped taking bets on that one – or I found another bar in Copenhagen that was quiet, had a great list, and on that day, suited my mood better.

More on that later...

23 May 2012

3 Floyds Powder Burns and Copenhagen Beer Celebration 2012

The beer

3 Floyds Powder Burns is an American IPA.

 












It glows hot orange like burning gunpowder. Which is apt.

I'd like to say the head is like smoke, but that would be lie.

Grand Marnier and Cointreau are not drinks I enjoy, but this has something of the orange liqueur about its aroma it pleases me, mixing as it does with a hint of the tropics.

Oh, go on then. Just one sip.

Bam.

The juciest, freshest mandarin oranges. Not too sharp. The right distance from overly sweet.

Then pepper. Freshly ground black pepper. This shouldn't work. It does.

Just as you're trying to work that one out, you're brushed lightly with the branch of a resinous, evergreen tree, providing the optimum level of dryness to trigger a repeat hand to mouth motion.


 
The festival

Listen, I don't want to rub it in, so I'm not going to bang on too much about the Copenhagen Beer Celebration.

 












I've even included a shot of the fairly souless sports arena it was held in to make you feel better.

I would advise not clicking the link I've included above. In fact, hopefully (for you), they've taken the site down.

Needless to say the list was incredible, the people were better and the vibes were immeasurable.

Mikkel Borg Bjergsø knows how to throw a beer-focused party.



The match

It's rare to be in a situation where there's so much hard-to-get, once-in-a-lifetime beer around you that your head spins.

You're pulled in different directions. All drinking tactics and strategies go out the window after ten minutes.

It's rarer still, when confronted with such exceptional variety, that one beer makes you think 'Christ, I want more of this. A lot more.'

Powder Burns was that beer.

Others, most notably Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale and Stillwater's Debauched Viking Saison were unbelievably good.

In fact, there were too many great beers to do them all justice here.

So for one to stand out, to stick its head above the parapet, really is something.

The fact that I'm unlikely to drink it again any time soon fills me with great sadness.

I'll always remember our brief time together.

We'll always have Copenhagen.

18 May 2012

Adnams Broadside and airports

The beer

Adnams Broadside is deep copper with a beige hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It smells like a brewery should: damp grain.

Initially, you believe that malty, sweet cereal (Frosted Shreddies?) flavours dominate, but if you engage your brain, and listen to what the beer is telling you, you'll notice a precise, delicate hop profile.

Orange marmalade.

Tang.

Broadside is in fact quite dry.

It's not quite as good as Adnams' stunning Southwold Bitter, which is easily in my top five bitters of all time list, but it is a great beer.

 

The aviation facility

Airports.

I quite like them really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, it takes fucking ages to get through the bastards, but I weirdly like the ritualistic processes.

Yes, that does make me some kind of masochist.

And that moment when you get through all the did-you-pack-this-yourselfing and shoe-taking-offing and emerge blinking into the glory of the departure gate, with all its resplendent shops and eating establishments, is golden.

Unless the post-security area is a living hell. Geneva, I'm looking at you.

 

The match

Luckily, I'm at Gatwick Airport's South Terminal, which is a pleasant enough area to kill an hour or so in.

Especially when it has a Wetherspoon's.

Say what you like about this monolithic pub chain, but for me, the fact that there's one in almost every major UK airport is a great thing.

It means you are almost certainly guaranteed to be able to get a decent pint of something decent.

Hell, the Flying Horse here at the South Terminal even has a Cask Marque. If that still means something.

And Wetherspoon's were responsible for my best ever airport beer experience, the monumental day when I wandered in to a different Gatwick Wetherspoon's and discovered the utterly brilliant Ballast Point Calico Amber Ale to be on.

I didn't write about it because I couldn't possibly begin to describe the range of emotions I went through.

Needless to say, it was almost spiritual.

My worst ever airport beer experience was at LAX, where I got stung for $9 for a Samuel Adams Boston Lager in a shitty faux-Mexican bar – the only option at the time.

But even that was okay really.

Because, regardless of the specifics of the venue and the beer, the post-security / pre-flight limbo is a perfect time to sit down, relax and have a beer.

Heading off on holiday?

Well, time to get the party started.

Heading home from holiday?

One last huzzah before you return to normal life.

Heading away on business?

Well, screw them for making you go all that way, time for a beer.

Returning from a business trip?

You're not really going to get any more work done today, so, you know, may as well have a beer.

It just makes sense.

And when it's a great beer like Broadside, it would just be plain rude not to indulge.

Only one mind, being half cut on a plane is not cool. Although I do have a plane drink (not beer) that I only ever drink on planes. If you've ever caught a flight with me, you'll know what it is.

Unfortunately, this Wetherspoon's is rapidly filling up with proper mentals, and I have to drink up quicker than I would have liked, as I'm deeply intolerant.

Oh well, off to Dixons.

7 May 2012

De Ranke XX Bitter and Bong @ Roadburn 2012


The beer

De Ranke XX Bitter is a collision of influences.





















The British-sounding name and inclusion of Brewer’s Gold.

The pale pilsner malt and abundance of Hallertau hop flowers.

The legacy of its country of origin’s brewing tradition.

Each aspect is managed with care and reverence to create a beer I revisit time and again.

Today, at Biercafé Kandinsky in Tilburg, it’s looking beautiful in the rapidly fading sunlight.

Shimmering gold with a loose, fluffy head, it fizzes gently as I await further sensory stimulus.

Aromas of cut-grass, dried out by the heat of the summer sun, and a surprisingly appealing hint of soap, swirl and dance together.

The dryness hits your palate instantly and without apology.

But if you’re prepared to wait, to give it time, you can make out a light-hearted summer fruit sweetness as it skips across your field of vision. In a pretty dress.

Only then can you begin to appreciate just how clean and so very elegant this beer is.


The performance

Bong are the last band I’ll watch at Roadburn 2012.





















The following day I’ll return home to normality. Or at least attempt to.

It’s been four days of doing nothing but losing myself in captivating music.

Oh, and drinking beer.

Watching Bong at this stage of proceedings is almost like a punishment. No, that's not right – more of a test to see if I can cope with the situation and be rewarded with an exceptional experience.

Because I know what I’m going to be getting.

And that’s an hour plus of ritualistic, heavy, droning, unsettling, consciousness-altering transcendental jams.


The match

I realise the above makes it sound like I’m not looking forward to Bong, but I really, really am.

I’m just a bit scared. I’m not sure my fragile mind can take it.

I’ve seen some great bands at Roadburn – the two I’ve written about already, Agalloch and Ancient VVisdom, along with jaw-dropping performances from Yob, Barn Owl, The Obsessed, Sleep, Jucifer and more – but Bong are the band I’ve decided on as the final entry in this little beer and Roadburn diary.

Though I have drunk other beers closer in proximity to Bong’s performance, it’s De Ranke XX Bitter that’s on my mind as I take up a position worryingly close to the stage.

I’m not entirely sure why.

As Bong begin to produce their all-consuming swirl, drenched in an otherworldly purple-blue light, I feel slightly like my brain is melting away into nothingness.

Then things begin to move back into focus.

Bong are so drawn out, so slow, and so epically heavy, that their music suggests to me that bigger, slower things exist in the universe. Bigger and slower than anything I could ever hope to comprehend.

Cutting through the heaviness and power of their delivery is the whisper of something more, something obscured by the limitations of my own human existence.

And that’s kinda how I feel about XX Bitter, and beers that I believe to be great in general.

They are almost beyond my comprehension, with the complexity and subtle inferences in their flavours and aromas sending my mind spinning through the galaxies, searching for a handle on what’s happening, without any hope of truly being able to understand all that they mean.

Beyond Ancient Space.

'It's just beer'.

3 May 2012

La Trappe Isid’or and Ancient VVisdom @ Roadburn 2012


The beer

Created to celebrate the 125th anniversary of brewing at De Koningshoeven in 2009.

Named after Isidorus Laaber, the monk that went to Munich to learn the craft.

La Trappe Isid’or can be considered a ‘new’ Trappist beer.
















It’s vibrant amber-orange in colour, with a paint brush stroke of slightly off-white head.

The intensity of the body colour and the golden rim of the glass give it a deeply luxuriant look.

And a feeling of opulence in your hand.

Fairly atypical sweet malty notes dominate as you lift the goblet towards your face, but there’s an alluring hint of vanilla in there too.

Silky, smooth and subtly sweet, it buries that 7.5% ABV deep within the annals of a 125-year old brewing tradition.

A light, sophisticated bitterness ends proceedings. It’s almost not there unless you think about it.

Sublime.


The performance

Ancient VVisdom, at a very basic level, sound like Jar of Flies-era Alice in Chains singing about Lucifer.





















If that doesn’t appeal to you, I’d probably stop reading now.

They are one of the bands on my ‘must see’ Roadburn list, despite being roundly criticised in almost everything I’ve read about them.

Turns out some of them are in hardcore bands I’ve been into over the years, Integrity and Iron Age, but I didn’t know that before Roadburn.

I really dig A Godlike Inferno.

It’s late night music. It’s road trip music. It’s drinking music.


The match

I have some downtime between bands.

Friends are elsewhere.

Alone, I seek out a bar I’d read up on before coming to here: Biercafé Kandinsky.

It’s slightly off the main strip of bars in Tilburg.

As I walk through the door, take a seat at the bar and open up a beer menu, I consider punching myself in the face.

Why didn’t I do more preliminary beer research last year? This place has a great vibe, is not brutally-packed full of Roadburners, and has a banging list.

Obviously it’s primarily Belgian-focused (nowt wrong with that), but it’s 200+ deep!

This isn’t my first beer in Tilburg, but I ask the barman for something local on draft, as is my tradition.

He suggests the La Trappe.

Wait, I know La Trappe is the only Dutch Trappist beer, but just because it’s produced in this country doesn’t mean it's local.

I’m informed La Trappe is in fact brewed right here in Tilburg.

I did not know that.

Okay, so I’m at the world’s greatest music festival, killing time before seeing a band I probably won’t have the chance to catch ever again, and I’m drinking draft Trappist beer pretty much as fresh as it’s gonna get.

Life sucks.

The beer is great, especially when accompanied with the local cheese and meat board I order.

I gulp and scoff it all. Nom.

My friend joins me, we have another beer and then head to one of the smaller rooms at the festival to watch Ancient VVisdom.

Warm in the glow of the Isid’or, the performance is intense and captivating.

Spiritual beer, spiritual music.

Man.

There is a distinct suggestion of grunge – down to the guitarist that looks like he’s about to die from heroin overindulgence – that sends me spinning back to the early 90s.

The tinge of darkness from the occult content ups the forcefulness of the events unfolding on stage.

It’s going to take a lot to top this.