Sunday, October 23, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #15

Always on the lookout for something new, I actually found myself a variety of sake served cold; and one I've been looking for for some time; Nigori. It is essentially unfiltered sake, which is intentionally left cloudy. I had a heck of a time trying to find any other details about this particular bottle, since it's all written in Japanese.

Takara Sho Chiku Bai Nigori Sake
240mL bottle at 10.5% ABV
Appearance: 6.5/10 (C)
Quite frankly, the appearance reminds me of watered down rice milk - a cloudy white with a strange, swirling oiliness on top. Works with the sake cup, but otherwise not so much.
Aroma/Nose: 5.5/10 (D+)
A scent very typical of sake, it's fruity and sweet, but also rather strong, with a hint of that 'paint thinner' smell coming through, which kind of kills it for me.
Mouthfeel: 8.5/10 (B+)
Smooth with a sleekness to it almost like silk, finishing with a soft powdery feeling, without being dry, this drink has a unique and rather amusingly pleasant texture, ending with a faint numbness.
Flavor: 6.5/10 (C)
Though it has a pleasant, ricy sweetness typical of sake, and a fruitiness I've never really had before, much like raisins but without being cloying, this wine finishes with a warmth and slight harshness to it, taking away from the overall flavor.
Overview: 7/10 (C+)
Though not unlike typical sake, it's also quite different, and certainly worth the try for the experience. Unlike most sake, it is served cold, and is definitely something I would get again, despite the small bottle.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Make It Yourself: Yogurt

Let's face it: I'm a little crazy when it comes to food. I go out of my way to try unusual things, I eat things most people wouldn't even touch, and I generally just have an absurdly curious appetite. Because of this, I find that one of the things I most often do is make my own food - And I don't mean just cooking up dinner and whatnot, but actually making things from scratch. Cheese, pasta, wine, I'll make it all myself if I've got the time and materials.

Now onto today's topic: Yogurt.

However you want to spell it, it's pretty much the same thing. There are, of course, many different kinds of yogurt, but the process is largely the same. I could go on and on about the different kinds of yogurt that you could make, but for now I'll just give you the basics so you can give it a go.

Yogurt is one of those things that a lot of people don't expect to be able to make at home, but really, it's quite easy. In fact, it's one of the easiest dairy-derived products you can make at home. Now, if you have a yogurt maker, that's all well and good, but I want you to forget about using the mixes to make your stuff. We're doing this from scratch (Well, no so far as in to milk the cow yourself, but you get the idea.).

If you don't have a yogurt maker, don't fret. All you need is a smaller container and a larger container, and either a hot water cupboard or a big cooler. Now, personally, for the smaller container, I find anything about four cups in size is best. For the larger container, just make sure that's it's big enough to fit the smaller container inside, with lots of space for a water bath.

Basically, the idea behind making yogurt is that you want to heat up the milk to just above body temperature and let it culture into yogurt. Of course, doing this straight off is a bad idea, since you never really know what you'll get. It could just be sour milk.

Before we start, you'll also need a couple other things:
• Milk - This is a must, of course. 2% fat or more is better; any less and your yogurt might end up really runny.
• Pot - You need this to heat the milk. It should be twice as large as the amount of milk you're using.
• Starter Culture - If you don't know where to get or simply can't get yogurt culture, the easiest thing to do is just to use some existing yogurt to start things going. Gourmet yogurt works best; I find that cheap tubs of yogurt will give you an extremely sour and unpleasant result which you will most likely end up having to toss.
• Candy Thermometer - While not completely required to make yogurt, it is a recommendation as it makes things easier. Any thermometer with a range from 40-100°C (100-220°F) will work just fine. Your finger also makes a decent substitute, but don't burn yourself.

Step One: The first step in making a good yogurt is to 'scald' the milk, which involves heating the milk to 80°C (176°F) for a couple minutes. In a large pot (At least twice the volume of the amount of milk you're using.), bring one liter of milk (Or however much you're using.) to near-boiling. It's okay if the milk bubbles, but don't let it burn. It's also not a good idea to cover the pot, since although it'll heat faster, once the milk boils it'll foam and overflow. Let it simmer for two minutes.

The purpose of scalding the milk is quite simple: By bringing the milk to near-boiling temperatures, proteins in the milk change shape in a process called 'denaturing'. Scalding the milk also removed any unwanted microorganisms that might be growing in there which could affect the yogurt. If yogurt is made from unscalded milk, you'll get a yogurt with a 'ropey' consistency; that is, the yogurt becomes stretchy beyond recognition, and is slimy on the palette. While similar to the Finnish yogurt viili, this is not the same. You don't want this, trust me.

Step Two: Once the milk is scalded, take it off the burner and cover it. Let it sit (With the thermometer in it, so you can check the temperature.) for an hour or so until it cools down to about 45°C (115°F). While 43°C (110°F) is the temperature you want, by the time you finish with the rest of the stuff it'll be there. Typically, this is the point when flavorings are added. Personally, though, I prefer to leave my yogurt plain so I can add whatever flavors I feel like at the time I eat it. It may be wise to add a little sugar to sweeten it though (NEVER add unpasteurized honey before the fermentation is complete, as it contains live microorganisms and will interfere with the yogurt making process, and can make you very, very sick.).

Step Three: Stir in the starter culture or yogurt into the warm milk until it's mixed through, and pour the mix into the smaller container. In the bigger container, pour in some hot water from the sink. Ideally, this water should be the same temperature as the milk; about 45°C (115°F). You can use your thermometer to check the temperature, or your finger; if it hurts, the water is too hot. With the small container in the large one, the water should be up to the brim, but not tipping over the edges (You don't want to water down your yogurt, or spill.). Cover with plastic wrap or a lid if possible, and store away in your cooler or hot water cupboard.

The culturing process is a neat one, if you're interested in that kind of stuff. Various lactobacillus bacteria (The good kind, of course!) feed on the lactose sugar present in the milk, and turn it into lactic acid. This, in turn, denatures the proteins further, causing them to bind together and turn the milk into a sort of gel. The more cultures present, the faster the process goes, until they finally run out of lactose.

Step Four: Now comes the easy part. Kick back, relax, and go forget about your yogurt entirely for the next four to twelve hours. A longer fermentation time will give you a thicker, creamier, and tangier yogurt, so make it short if you're not big on sour or want something runnier. Ultimately, however, what your yogurt tastes like will depend on what culture you started with. Once it's done, take it out store it in the fridge, and enjoy! Typically, homemade yogurt without preservatives will be good in the fridge for about ten days, after which it will start tasting a bit old (But it's still safe to eat, for the most part.).

To make things a bit easier, using the new yogurt you've made, you can spoon some yogurt into and ice cube tray and freeze it for later use as a starter culture. Just make sure to thaw it out slowly before using it. Don't subject it to temperatures above 50°C (122°F) or stick it in the microwave; doing this will kill the cultures.

If you want to make things even easier, instead of using fresh milk and scalding it, you can just mix some milk powder and warm water, and poof, it's ready to culture! You should also be able to make yogurt with ultra-pasteurized milk, which is essentially pre-scalded for you. Simply put: If it has lactose, you can turn it into yogurt.

For those of you concerned about the benefits of making your own yogurt, it really is worth the trouble. For one, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than buying the stuff. Second, your own yogurt often tastes better than the storebought stuff. Third, your yogurt is guaranteed to be free of whatever you don't put in it (Preservatives and gunk like that.). Fourth, your freshly made yogurt is a great source of probiotics, typically moreso than storebought yogurt. Five, because of the good bacteria present, which feed on lactose, yogurt is almost free of the stuff, and is safe for lactose intolerant people to consume. In fact, eating yogurt regularly can even improve your lactose tolerance! And... Well... I'd say more, but I'm not advertising the stuff here, just telling you how to make it.


My yogurt is stringy, ropey, stretchy, and slimy!
Remember that you need to scald the milk; that is, keep it at near-boiling for a couple minutes. If you're using milk powder, try switching to a different brand. Some milk powders freeze-dry their milk, and so are not suitable for making yogurt. If you don't have any other choice, you could mix the milk powder with boiling water, and let it cool down to temperature. And, if all else has failed, try sterilizing the containers you're using with boiling water.

My yogurt is really runny!
There's a few things that could cause this issue. If you're using something less than 2% milk, this could be the issue. I find 3% or 4% works best. It could also be that you're not letting the yogurt culture for long enough (But don't let it sit for more than 24 hours.). If it's cold around the house, try increasing the temperature of the water bath slightly. Alternately, if you add the culture to the milk while it's above 50°C (122°F) this will kill most of the cultures, which will also result in a runny yogurt, so that's a no-no. Also, try using a culture from a thick yogurt, rather than a runny one.

My yogurt is really sour!
You probably shouldn't let it sit so long. If you like having thick, creamy yogurt, however, but hate the tanginess, you could try switching to a different starter culture. Greek yogurts tend to be tangier, so look for yogurt cultures containing acidophilus and bifidus, which help to thicken the yogurt before it reaches that sour stage. If it's still too tangy, you can try finding a culture containing L. bulgaricus, which is closer to a cheese culture than most others.

My yogurt didn't ferment at all!
If your yogurt isn't culturing and just turns into sour milk, you might want to try checking your culture. Some yogurts at the stores are pasteurized again, and so contain no live cultures. Other reasons could be that you've been adding the culture while the milk is too hot, or that your water bath and milk are simply too cold.

My yogurt is fuzzy!
Either you've somehow come across the exact culture required for Finnish viili, or you've got some serious contamination issues. THROW IT OUT. Then sterilize your equipment with boiling water.

My yogurt is all lumpy!
You probably let it ferment too long, or you used a Greek yogurt culture. It's still edible. If you want, you can mix it back together, or strain off the excess liquid with a cheesecloth and get yogurt cheese out of it.

My yogurt has separated in the fridge!
This is normal, especially if you dug a hole in your yogurt with a spoon. You can tip off the excess liquid into a cup and use it for making soup, toss the extra whey, or simply mix it back into the yogurt. Your choice. Oh, and you could probably just ignore it too. If your yogurt has completely separated, and looks like curdled milk, then you don't really have any choice but to strain the liquid off and get yogurt cheese as a result. You might also want to check that it's actually yogurt that you made, since this shouldn't happen under any normal circumstances, so try sterilizing your gear with boiling water.

My yogurt has curdled or is lumpy!
I had this one happen to me recently. If you're using a water bath as specified above, try decreasing the temperature down to about 42°C (110°F) or using less water in the bath, and see if it helps. If not, you could try decreasing the temperature lower, but I'm not sure if that would really help unless the ambient room temperature is really high. If the ambient room temperature is above body temperature (37.5°C or 98.5°F) then you probably don't need the water bath or cooler at all.

That's all, folks! If you have any queries, or run into any problems, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!

Well, shucks, this is embarrassing.

Not only did I forget to write my blog post for Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage, but I've also run out of drink reviews to post. I thought I had a bigger stash around here somewhere. Whoops. Ah well. Sorry folks, Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage will return next fortnight! Not like anyone really reads this crap anyway.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Daylight Savings, Starlight Shavings?

While it's nice to have a scapegoat, I admit that daylight saving time is a TERRIBLE idea. I mean, what the heck were George Vernon Hudson, William Willett, Robert Pearce, and the various governments of the world thinking? It's moronic. I mean, here's a simple solution that has existed since the dawn of sleep itself: Wake up earlier. Is it such an alien concept that they cannot wrap their minds around it?

Well, okay, in all honesty, there are some benefits to the apparently illogical warping of the time-space continuum as we know it. Sure, we might save a little bit of power on lighting. It'll be easier to be outdoors in the evening, given the daylight. But all in all, the effect is rather illusory. We don't actually get anymore daytime out of it than we normally would have. I believe a better compromise would be for those that it benefits to shift their timetables backwards an hour, rather than shifting the clock for the entire country forward an hour.

Given that the benefits do not outweigh the disadvantages, and in fact, the very opposite is ever so slightly true, it makes no sense to force an entire country to have to deal with something that is potential harmful to the economy. Unfortunately, being just a lowly citizen, I do not feel I am in such a position to make a difference in even something as insignificant as DST. The best I can hope for is to put my opinion out there and hope it gets heard (Or read, as the case might be.).

For posterity, I figured I'd list a few pros and cons of DST.
More daylight for retailers and other businesses.Less available worktime for farmers and other sun-dependent jobs.
Better daylight availability reduces traffic collisions and fatalities.Causes disruption of sleep patterns and thus health and safety concerns.
DST is a good time for maintenance of fire alarms, among other things.Maintenance of clocks is troublesome and can cause other issues.

At any rate, I'll let you folks decide for yourselves while I mourn the loss of my precious night hours. Daylight might be saved, but moonlight and starlight become lost! (And no, that's not because I made this post in the middle of the night. I'm just a regular night owl.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #14

I'm a big fan of country wines, probably due to getting... How to put this... BORED with grape wines... So here's one made with kiwifruit! Oh, and I should probably mention that this wine, unlike Redwood Cellars' other variety, is still, not sparkling.

Redwood Cellars Kiwifruit Wine
750mL bottle at 12.0% ABV
Appearance: 6/10 (C-)
With all the color of an ice wine but the thickness of a sauvignon blanc, I really don't know what to make of this wine's appearance. I guess maybe I expected it to be... Greener.
Aroma/Nose: 6.5/10 (C)
Incredibly sharp and piquant, this wine has an unusually bizarre aroma, not unlike strong white vinegar, though not painful, if you get my meaning.
Mouthfeel: 8.5/10 (B+)
Incredibly smooth and with a tingly sensation on the tongue, this is very unlike any other drink I've ever had. I do not, however, recommend gargling. That hurts. And was completely unintentional.
Flavor: 9/10 (A-)
With a medium sweetness and a ticklish taste of young, green kiwifruit, this wine is very light on the palate, and finishes clean and dry, with yet another flavor I cannot describe.
Overview: 7.5/10 (B-)
A light, crisp wine that would go well with almost any meal, but is more suited to light but flavorsome foods, such as chicken parmigiana. Redwood Cellars delivers once again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #13

Figured I'd go for another imported beer, from the same brand that makes my favorite. Not quite what I expected, considering Aventinus, but interesting nonetheless.

Schneider Weisse Original Weissbier
500mL bottle at 5.4% ABV
Appearance: 5/10 (D)
A very cloudy beer with an unusually dark color, especially for a wheat beer. A nice, fine head with even lacing, though it doesn't last.
Aroma/Nose: 7/10 (C+)
A lovely roasted smell, with just a hint of hops and a subtle yeastiness to it. It has overtones of allspice and a vague smokiness to it.
Mouthfeel: 7.5/10 (B-)
A incredibly smooth beer, though perhaps a little on the fizzy side. A very refreshing drink on a hot summer day.
Flavor: 6/10 (C-)
Soft and subtle, this beer is definitely a true weissbier, though with a subtle take on the malt flavor. A developed hoppy flavor with an aftertaste of bitter citrus.
Overview: 6.5/10 (C)
Roundabout a typical beer, this one is lighter and probably a good substitute if you can't get your hands on a summer beer. Otherwise, it doesn't stand out that much.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #12

I've been curious about foreign wines, and so decided to pick up something cheap the other day. It happened to be a chianti. I wasn't really sure what to do with it, so I served it as I would any other red wine. In my taste-testing, I paired it with Dutch goat's milk Gouda, which was perhaps not the best idea. It brought out the acidity and tannins in the wine, while masking the other flavors.

Fontella 2009 Chianti
750mL bottle at 13.0% ABV
Appearance: 7/10 (C+)
An extremely dark wine, so much so that at first I thought it wasn't clear - but it is; crystal. Lacing indicates a medium sugar content, which is consistent, and so I'm happy to give this wine a reasonable score.
Aroma/Nose: 6.5/10 (C)
A predominantly acidic wine, this chianti has the scent of cherry and oak, with an underlying tone of what appears to be a tannery. Not unusual for a chianti, but perhaps not acceptable for most drinkers.
Mouthfeel: 6/10 (C-)
Smooth and plain, this wine isn't particularly impressive, though it does have a nice tingliness in the mouth, with just a bit too much dryness. There is a very faint, albeit very long lasting tail, too.
Flavor: 5.5/10 (D+)
Though mildly sweet, this wine has a strong tannin flavor to it and is only for those that enjoy dry wines. The blend of flavors is decent, matching with the aroma, but including the undertones.
Overview: 6.5/10 (C)
An above average wine, and its profile means it can be matched best with red meats. For general drinking, however, it may be a bit too coarse. Given that it was also very cheap, I would recommend it as a good cooking wine.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #11

Last fortnight we took a look at a local brew. So this time, I'm bringing in something imported; a popular Austrian brew known as Gösser. It's so dark, that I was actually surprised to find out that it's actually a lager.

Gösser Dark Beer
500mL bottle at 4.5% ABV
Appearance: 9/10 (A-)
An unusually deep ruby color, or perhaps garnet, so dark that you almost can't tell that it's also crystal clear. With an even, light tan head, it's almost a perfect score.
Aroma/Nose: 7.5/10 (B-)
A little yeasty, but with an excellent malty coffee finish that is rather enticing, and distinct in and of itself.
Mouthfeel: 6/10 (C-)
A little thinner than I honestly expected, but still somewhat smooth. It does, however, have a harsh prickle on the tongue, which is just a little overbearing.
Flavor: 8.5/10 (B+)
With a good balance between sweet and bitter, this beer is exquisite, and under the soft tones of coffee, it finishes with a mild, lingering tang.
Overview: 8/10 (B)
One of Austria's best, this export-quality beer is sure to be a hit amongst the crowd, and is surprisingly light for a dark beer, making it a good choice for extended drinking sessions.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #10

Usually a brewery sticks to one particular group of drinks and that's that. However, recently there's been a trend where the local beer breweries decide to make ciders as well. So, here's one.

Monteith's Crushed Apple Cider
330mL bottle at 4.5% ABV
Appearance: 6.5/10 (C)
A pale and light cider, with an exceptional clarity to it, common to most commercial beers.
Aroma/Nose: 4/10 (E+)
Although it has a nice scent of apples to it, it is particularly vinegary for a cider and not the least bit yeasty. Not so appealing.
Mouthfeel: 7/10 (C+)
A surprisingly bubbly finish, though despite this it isn't a painful experience, and follows down smoothly.
Flavor: 5.5/10 (D+)
Though mildly sweet, this cider comes off as dry compared to most, with a tartness to it, that while pleasing, is not terribly refreshing, and seems rather weak at that.
Overview: 6/10 (C-)
Though not bad for something that's mass-produced, it's not as good as I would have expected from Monteith's. Their rival's cider is better.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #9

Well, I figured it's about time I posted up a review on my drink of choice, so here it is! Produced in Bavaria by G. Schneider & Sohn, otherwise known as Schneider Weisse, and bottle fermented until perfect. This particular brew has a different flavor depending upon how long it's been sitting in the bottle - For optimum taste, I prefer to let it sit around for about three to four months from the bottling date before I drink it. The younger beer has a sharper palette, while the aged beer is more mellow and smooth. Letting it sit for more than six months past the bottling date is not ideal, though. If not kept under optimal conditions, it tends to develop odd flavors by that time. Anyway, here's the review, which was done with a four-month-old beer.

Schneider Weisse Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock
500mL bottle at 8.2% ABV
Appearance: 7.5/10 (B-)
A nice, cloudy ale with a dark toffee color and a surprisingly white head, this beer stands out as a traditional style German brew, forming that delightfully lopsided foam that all great ales have.
Aroma/Nose: 9/10 (A-)
A strong, yeasty aroma not unlike fresh cooked bread, with a definite hint of malt and fruity tones of banana. May be a little on the sour side for some people, though.
Mouthfeel: 8.5/10 (B+)
A brilliantly thick beer, very deserving of the name liquid bread, with a soft prickle to it and a gentle numbness that follows it down the throat.
Flavor: 8.5/10 (B+)
With a good balance, this beer is sweet and sharp at the same time, with a wholeness to it that's rather unique. A particularly malty brew, with a aftertaste of cloves.
Overview: 8.5/10 (B+)
Hands down one of the best ales I've had, this traditional twist on the doppelbock is and always will be a favorite of mine. A real treat for those that like their brews wholesome and heavy.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #8

Seeing as I haven't put up any reviews on spirits, I reckoned I'd put up one on the very first bottle I ever bought. Irish whiskey is the way to go here!

Bushmills Original Irish Whiskey
750mL bottle at 40% ABV
Appearance: 4/10 (E+)
While it is certainly clear, this whiskey is a rather pale tone and doesn't cling to the sides of the glass well.
Aroma/Nose: 6/10 (C-)
While whiskey isn't normally something you're supposed to smell, this one is actually not too bad. Though it's a tad harsh to the nose as suspected, it's got an unusual tanginess to its scent.
Mouthfeel: 8/10 (B+)
Smoother and harsher than most, this whiskey has an unusual texture. Though strong, it can still be held in the mouth with relative ease, and doesn't shoot through the nose like some spirits. Particularly nice is the warm tail, which extends all the way down the throat, and lasts.
Flavor: 4.5/10 (D-)
While mildly sweet, and with a faint hint of that whiskey flavor, this whiskey doesn't really do anything to stand out.
Overview: 5.5/10 (D+)
It's hard to really judge a whiskey from all standards, since it's really mostly about the mouthfeel, but Bushmills Original is a modest liquor at any rate. Good enough to simply sit and sip.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #7

I'm a big fan of Belgian beers, and La Trappe is one of the more interesting brands I've seen. In fact, rather than just coming in your typical glass bottle, La Trappe packages their brews in fancy little ceramic crocks. Sadly, though, I no longer have mine.

La Trappe Trappistenbier Dubbel
500mL bottle at 7.0% ABV
Appearance: 9/10 (A-)
A frothy beer, with an excellent mahogany color and a light tan head. Unfortunately, the head barely lasts at all, quickly reducing to a thin layer. Excellent lacing.
Aroma/Nose: 6/10 (C-)
Definitely a very strong beer, with a smell that matches. It is, however, very pleasant to the nose, with fruity aromas of citrus coming through.
Mouthfeel: 7.5/10 (B-)
A very creamy beer, to say the least, with a very smooth texture and a warm feeling. It is, however, just a hint too fizzy.
Flavor: 8/10 (B)
Though the beer has problems covering up the flavor of the alcohol, it is nonetheless outstanding and strong, with a malty, citrusy flavor and a slight sweetness to finish it off.
Overview: 7.5 (B-)
A typical Belgian beer, standing out amongst most as a fine brew. Worth the ten dollars simply for the neat little crock it comes in. I'd like to try the blonde version of this beer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #6

I always like a good mulled wine, especially if it's made with something other than grapes. This particular brew, made with boysenberry and apple, is no exception. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, mulled wine is a method of serving wine by heating it with spices and sometimes sweetening it. It was traditionally done as a way to extend the usable life of wine, and tended to be done with wine that was on it's way to becoming vinegar.

Redwood Cellars Mountain Thunder Apple-Berry Glühwein
1250mL bottle at 12.0% ABV
Appearance: 6.5/10 (C)
Dark and opaque, but not cloudy, this wine is definitely a strong one, and is unusually clear for a mulled wine. Of course, it's also bottled, so that's to be expected.
Aroma/Nose: 8/10 (B)
With hefty tones of crisp apple and sweet boysenberries, contrasted by soft tones of cinnamon and cloves, this wine also packs a punch. It's not something you want to sniff too much though, since it's hot.
Mouthfeel: 7/10 (C+)
With a certain spice and a definite warmth to it, this wine flows down smoothly and heats you from the inside out. It can go up your nose a little, though.
Flavor: 5.5/10 (D+)
Definitively sharp apple flavors and tones of boysenberry dominate this wine, complemented by a spiciness throughout, and a tail of what is perhaps nutmeg. Though medium to sweet, it's also rather tart, and may not be to everyone's tastes.
Overview: 7/10 (C+)
Definitely worth the bang for the buck, since it comes in a big bottle, and it's definitely a winter warmer to enjoy 'round the fireplace or out on the field watching winter sports.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #5

Austrian beer... Yep. That's good stuff. In fact, there's this alpine variety of beer that I once tried, with some spices and herbs added to it during the brewing process. I've got to say, it's quite an interesting concept. Almost like a gruit beer. Except with hops.

Edelweiss Snowfresh Weissbier
330mL bottle at 5.0% ABV
Appearance: 6/10 (C-)
As a light beer, a pale color is expected, and it delivers. However, it's a tad cloudy, perhaps for style or to show the herbs used in flavoring. Of course, the main downfall is the weakness of the golden color.
Aroma/Nose: 6.5/10 (C)
Lightly pungent with the smell of a few herbs I barely recognize, this beer could smell a little more pleasant. It's not too bad, though, with soft undertones of malt.
Mouthfeel: 8/10 (B)
A very rich feeling, smooth and somehow prickly and sharp at the same time. Despite the fizziness, however, this beer doesn't hurt the tongue like some do.
Flavor: 7.5/10 (B-)
With an intense sweetness not usually associated with beers, and a faint flavor of hops and a flowery tail, this beer delivers unexpectedly. The herbs are a good addition.
Overview: 7/10 (C+)
Though it delivers in flavor and texture, this beer is lacking in other aesthetics. A good casual beer, but not something I'd drink to be fancy.

For those of those who don't know what gruit is... Well, it's essentially what humanity used to preserve their beer before the discovery of hops. Generally a mixture of herbs and spices to give flavor or ward off unwanted bacterial and fungal growth. And bugs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #4

So, there's a local British shop around here. They sell British stuff... Not like I needed to say that. But at any rate, while looking around for unusual imported or 'traditional' goods, such as black pudding, mushy peas, or whatever, I came across this unusually marked brew. Fascinating, really. I have had beers brewed with fruit, but those were Belgian, and very unlike this here product. It even has a little blurb written on it, describing it's aspiration to be liquid bread; liquid banana bread, in fact.

Heck, the label itself was enough to make me go bananas for it. Pun most definitely intended. (Don't hit me!)

Wells' Banana Bread Beer
500mL bottle at 5.2% ABV
Appearance: 7/10 (C+)
A strong toffee color beer with a good clarity. Unfortunately, the head doesn't last, nor does it look good, and there's no lacing to speak of without shaking the bottle excessively.
Aroma/Nose: 5/10 (D)
Ugh. I hate it when beers turn skunky. People should really learn to put anything with hops in it into brown or red bottles. Ignoring that, there's a sweet caramel-banana flavor hidden underneath the typical malt of the beer. I'd give it 8/10 (B) if it wasn't for the skunk.
Mouthfeel: 6.5/10 (C)
Though at first thin and with the fizziness too coarse to be truly pleasant, this beer has an unusual slickness to it and seems thicker than it first did. Not bad.
Flavor: 9/10 (A-)
This one is sure a surprise. Even considering the slight skunk the beer currently has, both the overtones and undertones of this beer are delightfully rich in flavor, with a banana flavor that hits the spot perfectly - Nothing artificial tasting there. The hint of bitterness left over by the hops makes it seem much like a rye bread, too.
Overview: 7/10 (C+)
For such a light colored beer, this brew actually surprised me in pretty much qualifying for the term 'liquid bread'. Even if it's not your kind of brew, worth it simply for the great flavor and novelty. If it hadn't been a bit skunked, this beer would've scored 7.5/10 (B-). If I can get my hands on a fresh bottle, I'd probably do the review again and re-rate it. Unfortunately, this particular bottle was imported from the UK to the southern hemisphere, and has sat in less-than-ideal conditions for an extended period of time.

On another note, this beer actually lists the ingredients (Probably because a lot of people are allergic to bananas.). I wonder if there's any beers out there that list the nutritional information too? (Light beers don't count!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #3

Sorry for the short post here, folks. Not up to writing a bunch right now. At any rate, I came across this once, and thought it sounded interesting. I mean, it's the closest thing I can get to a braggot. So, I figured I'd try it. Mind you, even after trying it, I'm still not sure if it's a braggot or not, but it's pretty damned good.

Fuller's Organic Honey Dew
500mL bottle at 5.0% ABV
Appearance: 8/10 (B)
A light beer with a rich amber color, reminiscent of a clear honey, though lacking in clarity somewhat. The lacing is very white, even and unexpectedly clean.
Aroma/Nose: 9/10 (A-)
A delightfully rich and flavorful aroma, smelling of just the perfect blend of honey and hops. It comes on a little strong, though.
Mouthfeel: 6.5/10 (C)
A smooth and heavy beer, for a lager, with a rather slick finish and just the right amount of carbonation.
Flavor: 8/10 (B)
A rich blast honey flavor without the overwhelming sweetness, though sweeter than your typical beer. It has malty hops in the undertones, and a pleasantly heavy aftertaste.
Overview: 8/10 (B)
Hands down one of the best lagers I've ever had, and the honey is a pleasant addition to what would otherwise be an ordinary beer, and it's at a good price of only five dollars.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #2

Personally, I'm a big fan of mead. Unfortunately, the stuff is almost unheard of in this country here, quaint little New Zealand. So, I usually brew my own stuff. However, I was pleasantly surprised during a trip through the store when I found this particular bottle. So, I figured I'd try it out.

You might want to know that meads are particularly touchy when it comes to brewing them, though, pretty much like wines. Very subtle differences in the brewing methods can cause entirely different flavors, and so to get a really good mead is difficult. While it's not a bad drink in itself, I'm rather turned off from it by the off-flavors present.

Alchemy 1st Night Manuka 'Honey Wine' (Actually a mead)
750mL bottle at 11.5% ABV
Appearance: 7.5/10 (B-)
Though rich and golden in color, this mead is perhaps a little darker than is expected for such a drink. I expect it to be quite sweet, from the way it clings to the glass.
Aroma/Nose: 6.5/10 (C)
Though mild and thoroughly pleasant, this drink has an unusual smell that is difficult to pick up, of honeycomb and oak. It's a smell that I can only truly describe as being like sweet honeycomb stuffed into a dirty sock.
Mouthfeel: 7/10 (C+)
A little prickly and rather thin for something so sweet, the sensation of this drink on the tongue is mediocre, at best. It gains a bonus for a nice, throat-warming tail, though, without being harsh.
Flavor: 7/10 (C+)
Though sweeter than most dessert wines, this drink is still much less cloying than expected from a product made of honey, even with a hint of tanginess, and has the particularly unique flavor of manuka over the surface with fruity hints of apricot and cherry, underlined with a woody aftertone. I am unsure if I like it or not.
Overview: 7/10 (C+)
I suppose for a country that's never had any other experience with mead, it's surprisingly good for a first time product. It may not, however, be to everyone's tastes. From the flavors, I'm guessing they used a yeast strain intended for grape wine. Mead usually turns out better with an ale yeast, though.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just A Dash Of Liquid Courage: #1

Well, since this here is a new post, I figure I'll explain a few things. As you've undoubtedly noticed, I have a penchant for flavors. There's surprisingly little true reviews of booze on the 'net, so I figured I'd fill the gap a little. I try to judge this as objectively as I possibly can, but you gotta remember, I'm only human! Okay, well, I have my tastes and preferences, but try not to let them get in the way.

If you're worried I might be bending the results in favor of the drinks I personally like, then you might want to know my tastes. I'm an ale kind of guy when it comes to beers, preferring my drink to be like liquid bread with plenty of body. When it comes to wines, I'm more of a dessert wine fan, and also of that spicy Pinot Noir, though I tend to get bored of grapes (So you won't see too many grape wines listed here.). When it comes to spirits, I'm relatively neutral, though I do tend towards brandy, whiskey, and gin. For liquors, I generally dislike chocolate/coffee flavors, but that's about it.

Right, well, now that that's covered, I'll be putting out a post every week or so (Maybe every two weeks, who knows) with a review on a new drink. I'll have four factors taken into consideration: Appearance, aroma, texture, and flavor. Each aspect gets a grading from 0 to 10, with 0 being the worst and 10 being the best, and 5 about average. There's also an alternate grading, ranging from U (Ungraded, absolutely terrible.) and F- to A+, each corresponding to a numerical value. With each aspect, I'll give a sentence or two describing the characteristics at hand, and finish with an overview averaging the four aspects, and my own opinion on the drink. Bottle size and ABV are also listed, but I'm leaving out prices since they're prone to change and don't really reflect well on the quality of the drink. If it's exorbitantly priced, though, I'll mention it.

At any rate, first thing's first!

I happened to come across this unusual brew one day in the supermarket - the fact that a beer could be brewed with the addition of chocolate intrigued me so, and so I decided to give it a go.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout
500mL bottle at 5.2% ABV
Appearance: 7/10 (C+)
Very dark, typical of stout, with a shade similar to cola, but more opaque. Lacing is clean but somewhat uneven, and head, while not very aggressive, doesn't last long either.
Aroma/Nose: 9/10 (A-)
Incredibly chocolatey smell, almost like roasted coffee, with undertones of fruit. Pleasant, but very unlike most beers you'll find.
Mouthfeel: 3/10 (E-)
Very sharp and prickly - overly carbonated, but otherwise considerably light on the tongue for a stout.
Flavor: 3/10 (E-)
At first fruity, but then bitterness overflows all else - tastes slightly burnt, with the chocolate being mild. Aftertaste is similar, but persistent. For me, it could be a good beer, if it didn't have the burnt flavor.
Overview: 5.5/10 (D+)
Definitely not a beer I'd buy again, but certainly worth a try for the curious. For those who love their coffee black and their chocolate without sugar, it's a brew born in Heaven. Personally, I'd rather smell it than drink it.