I lengthy application process for a post grad diploma in Brewing and Distilling (it worked, wahoo!), a number of artistic projects, a busy work schedule and, perhaps most devastating of all, a long post-in-progress that I never saved and lost to the ether all conspired to keep me off this blog for quite some time. Indeed, I was glad to forget about it and consign it to the scrapheap for a while, such was my preoccupation.
But, there is a gap in that mess this morning and I am nothing if not persistent so here is the only collection of beer notes I am bothered to salvage from the many logged last year; after this, it's winter 16/17 onwards and no looking back.
We will look quite a ways back for now though, all the way to August of last year and a quick roundup of beers that were had out and about in Amsterdam.
We start, as ever, in 't Arendsnest, with Emelisse's Oak Aged Imperial Stout, the Ardbeg version. As a 9%er it's robust, dry and bitter but lacking any sign of that booze. Alas, it also lacks any sign of Islay. It is smoky, but in a rather more Irish, roasted barley kind of way. It's in no way bad, but you don't get a great return for the ABV or the cask.
My sweet tooth pulled me then towards Jopen's rye wine, Don't tRye This At Home. And yes, it sweet. It's murky, sugary but not cloying, offering a satisfying dessert beer thing along the lines of Schneider's Aventinus, minus some spice. Chewy toffee syrup-smothered malts form the main effect and the whole thing nicely scratched an itch.
Next up is Neerlands Wild from Klein Duimpje. It's dark and sour to start with, all pulped red berries. There are some really big woody tannins that elbow into the middle and dominate proceedings. What's worse is that this soon reveals itself to be some bourbon-barrel hamfistedness the likes of which Alltech have been perfecting over the years; shades of the good stuff - balsamic vinegar, juicy red fruit - are completely lost amidst coarse, bitter wood shavings. Tough going.
The only other bar I visited in Amsterdam itself was Craft and Draft on Overtoom. As it's part of the same empire as the Arendsnest and Bier Temple, there were a couple of overlaps on the tap list, but Craft and Draft had beer from absolutely everywhere. Still, I stayed Dutch with Noordtwaarts Saison, brewed for Morebeer at Noordt. It's dry if not bone dry, but has a decent peppery scrubbing effect, leaving it tasty, light and incredibly easy to drink. I'm not sure whether they were indicative of an actual spice addition or not but there's also some coriander and lemon in the otherwise caramel-toned finish. Pleasant stuff, if not quite Dupont territory.
When I ordered De Prael's Scotch Ale I thought I was getting something along the lines of Dirty Bastard or Scotch Silly - you know, a chewy, toffee malt number. Instead I'm presented with a pale, orangey, honey-nosed thing; there are sweet floral bouquets and an odd streak of meaty rauchbier smoke that I guess was a misguided approximation of Islay peat. It's a bit bloomy, mushroomy even, with flashes of what might be heather. Or maybe those are the quiet bagpipes looping in the back of my mind as I sip. Either way it's interesting and quite nice.
Still, I had been looking for a less sophisticated sugar-bomb and I came closer to the mark with The Big Fat 5, an 8% IPA that is also a Morebeer release, this time brewed by 't Uiltje. It oozes pungent, ripe fruit of the banana, mango and pineapple sort, with a sweetness reminiscent of similarly flavoured baby food. Ditto says the palate, a sweet tutti frutti mix that won't stand as classic DIPA stuff in my book, but is a fun and fruity change of pace all the same. The body remains surprisingly light, which helps with drinkability at first, but by the of even the wee glass I had, I'd seen enough of the beer.
Kompaan's Bloedbroeder is where I finished up and it's a particularly meaty, bloody and sharply smokey stout. At 9% it doesn't carry the usual trappings a big stout; no booze, no chew, no real body or depth. It plays like a porter of half its size and while it may be objectively interesting, it didn't quite do it for me.
Unsurprisingly, later in the week I found myself back by the canal - this time a much sunnier one - outside the Arendsnest. Inevitably, I had another Morebeer DIPA in my hand, this time Bald Eagle brewed at Kees. It's beautifully fresh and tropical fruit nose lasts about two minutes in the direct sunlight before it develops a streak of cardboardy skunk but, thankfully, this only affects the nose. It's smooth and full bodied and drinks way too easy for its 8%, but that juice has to go somewhere.
Oedipus were back on the menu with Frazzled, a farmhouse stout with blueberries. It's mainly dry and definitely blueberried, with a murky and muddy purple-capped appearance to show for its weird fermentation and fiddling processes. Light and slightly tart as it is, it's surprisingly easy to drink, with a small blackcurrant cordial sweetness hiding in the middle.
The penultimate beer to report is Archimedes Q, a porter (geddit?) from Amsterdam's own Butcher's Tears. Porter my arse, this is sour red stuff right out the gap, with a finish of those Caffé Noir biscuits that they should really stop making. A helping of woody tannins gives you a clue as to what's been going on, but this is beautiful stuff. The mixture of sour, juicy Flanders red and respectably roasty elements is a new one on me, but Butcher's Tears have made it work wonderfully.
Finally, and rather underwhelmingly, is All Black, a foreign stout from Stanislaus Brewskovitch. It's dry and beefed-up and all well and good, but ultimately nothing more than an average, roasty stout.