Saturday, 18 November 2017

#343: Amsterdam

It's taken me six years of regular Amsterdam visits to finally get to Biercafe Gollem and when I landed there on a sunny and mild October afternoon I found the perfect beer to mark the occasion; another surprising absence from my book of ticks, regular old Boon Oude Geuze.

It's simple and workmanlike, the kind of farmhouse beer that one can actually imagine coming from and belonging in a Belgian farmhouse of old, quenching a labourer's thirst. It did mine, and all I did was get up at 4am to catch a flight to a bar across the sea. There's a decent amount of acidity, lower than the Mariage Parfait or Black Label, but strong enough to give the tongue a good scouring and the palate a welcome jolt. Behind it comes a rather watery wheaty body, lacking the fulsome satisfaction of its older siblings but doing a solid job throughout. 

Something more local next, and the season and setting surely dictates a bokbier. This is Château Akkerman Bokbier from Oedipus, and it's characteristically dark red-brown with a worryingly dull appearance. This whisper of homebrewish amateurism continues in the taste; it works like a disappointingly average beer I'd make at home - something I had high hopes for and, while it didn't mutate horribly into phenolic or acidic doom, just fails to taste alive. In other words, it's muddy yet thin and has unwelcome tannins even though the red berry and toffee characteristics try their level best to keep things cheerful. I left quite a bit of it at my table and went off. 

On a later visit, I stuck with what I know; the wonderful Oerbier.

Northern Farm Eagle
All of the rest of the drinking about town (bar one bottle-read on) happened in the Arendsnest. This time it was properly warmish in the sun so we settled in to our canalside seating and I settled in to De Natte Gijt's 7e Gijtje. This is a session rye saison of just 2.5% and I am pleased to say it is fabulous. It comes bright orange and gives wafts of properly grassy hops, fresh bread and very soft spice of the typical peppery sort. It is by far and way the best beer of this strength or similar that I've tried, the rye being refreshing and bright yet padding out the tiny body admirably. Impressive and delicious, though absolutely sinful to serve in such low quantities. 

Sparked up and in the mood I went for more saison, this a hoppy one named Northern Farm Eagle and, yes, it's a Nordt/Morebeer thing. There's yet more spice in this one in the form of a slightly Dupont-y nose. The body, though, is sweeter than the 7e Gijtje at 5.5%. Again it's got fresh and leafy hops in spades to go with a touch of caramel in its body. More lovely refreshing stuff.

De Prael RIS
By now I was almost too refreshed, so I went for De Prael's R.I.S. It's a good, robust stout of 8.7%, something a more old-fashioned brewer may have called an extra stout, at least in flavour. There is none of the concentration of malt flavour veined with alcohol that many imperial stouts might give you; just solid roast, coffee, tobacco leaf and light milk chocolate on a slick and light body. Decent and uncomplicated.

The next day I returned and commenced my own personal Bokbierfest (not affiliated with the actual PINT Bokbierfest that I always conspire to miss).

First, though, was Uiltje's Commissaris Rex, because its the first time I've seen anything pouring from cask on one of my visits. It's billed as a doppel sticke, so is an altbier of sorts, and arrives a foamy mohogany colour and suggests plenty of bock-like chewy toffee and raisin on the nose. There's a robust bitterness that does great work in balancing that slick, smooth dark malt core, as well as a slight suggestion of booze somewhere in the middle in spite of its inherent drinkability. This is gloriously hearty and satisfying and is truly flourishing on cask, though I'd be happy to find it again in any form possible.

On to bock then with Slot Oostende's Schorrebock. Things take a turn for the sweeter here, showing red berries and marzipan before the finish does its best to dry up, leaving behind forest fruits and caramel. After the fun I had with Rex, it's an unmistakable step down, but serviceable all the same.

SNAB Ezelenbok
Staff here are always thar barr and my server on the day nursed me through my bokbierfest FOMO by offering me samples of the other bocks on offer, her favourite being Kees! Indian Summer Doppelbock. It should be heavy for 8.5% but plays quite light, except there's a light string of hammy smoke running through the pale caramel chewy body. Smoke is something I rarely crave in a beer, and when I do, I find it difficult to see past Schlenkerla. Call me a philistine, I don't care. I passed. 

I didn't pass on SNAB's Ezelenbok 2016, another red-brown number with a big doppelbock-like nose of toffee and orange peel. Beyond that it's rather simple, sweet stuff. 

Also quite simple but in a less enjoyable manner is Leckere's Rode Toren, which is redder and meatier than the Ezelenbok. There's some coarse cereal stuff too, on a powdery milk chocolate base. 

There weren't as many sneaky bottles in accommodation this time around, but I couldn't pass on an Oude Mûre à l'Ancienne from Tilquin. It's murky and flat and an unappealing pink-brown colour. Acid is to the fore here , with the fruit relegated to the latter stages. There's almost no fizz to carry this, making it harder work than I'd like from a Tilquin, but the eye-watering price tag you soldier on.

Much easier going was Datisandere Koekoek from Amsterdammers Bird Brewery, though this was brewed at Jopen. It's a saison and it's actuaslly quite delightful, with white pepper playing off lemongrass effervescence to make for a simple, easy drinker that packs in all the essential saison bits rather neatly. 

There was no rest for the liver thereafter as the following weekend had the Franciscan Well's oft-maligned (by me) October beer festival, but that's for another time.

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