Piraat (9%, 33 cl, overaged)

Cleaning out the closetCleaning out the closet, I found some (but not a lot) Beers well beyond their best before dates. Most can be, and should be aged like most Trappist and some Abbey beers. This Piraat (Pirate) is a heavy blonde beer with refermentation in the bottle, isn’t one of them though. Yesterday I poured two beers into the sink, clear examples that you shouldn’t age everything. Those two were Kasteel Blond 11 and Abdij van ‘t Park Blond.

Out of that old batch comes this Piraat, and with this one I’ll take the plunge. Please don’t compare it with a freshly brewed Piraat, because the extra ageing does a lot for taste and smell. Treat this review as an experiment after which you can decide if you want to age a Beer like this. By the way, best before date on this bottle is 12/02/2010! How did that happen?

Piraat is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, from Ertvelde Belgium, which also makes Augustijn and Gulden Draak, but also Bornem Dubbel, Celis White, Leute Bokbier and Sparta Pils.

PiraatColor: Orange gold with, not a lot of, off-white foam.

Nose: Very murky, canals in the rain. Dust and lots of esters. Burnt sugar and heated orange skins, and that’s all the fruit that can be had from this nose. Not extremely pleasant, but not bad as well. Lets try a sip.

Taste: Heavy in alcohol, and the first sip is needed to was the smell away. Good warming qualities, and nice depth. The murkiness of the nose, and that has probably a lot to do with the yeast depot, shows its head in the taste too. This beer starts well, refreshing, hints of sweet banana and heavy on the alcohol. Aged alcohol, although there is no such thing. The middle is deeper due to the murky yeast and the finish has candied yellow fruits, combined with a little bit of bitterness.

First of all, before tasting this beer I didn’t think I should score it. Usually Blonde Beers that are aged too long are usually destroyed or undrinkable. This one however seems to have survived due to sheer quality? Still it has a depth to it I can’t imagine is there from the start. I can only compare this to a fresh bottle when the opportunity presents itself. For the time being, this Piraat is still a nice Beer, and therefore I’ll give it a score (but don’t take this score too seriously), since I feel a freshly bought Piraat will perform differently.

Conclusion, would I advise you to age this Beer? Most definitely not. This Beer was never intended for ageing. It probably didn’t get better after ageing, nor is it a style of beer that should be aged to boot. But, the Beer didn’t fold, it’s still drinkable and nice, where fellow Beers had to be poured down the drain, and that’s an accomplishment.

Points: 80

Tomatin 12yo 1997/2009 (57.1%, OB, First Refill Bourbon Barrel #4326, 244 bottles)

Here is another Tomatin, the tenth already if I’m not mistaken, but this time no obscure independent bottling, but an official bottling, yet not from standard range, but a limited release. Some sort of official bootleg so to speak. I hear this particular bottling was distributed in western Europe and Japan. Tomatins from the standard range that are from ex-Bourbon casks are quickly disappearing. The 25yo is no longer with us and who knows what will happen with the 15yo, the only true Bourbon casked Tomatin left.

Here we have a Tomatin that is 12 years old and comes from a refill Bourbon Barrel. You can’t get them more original than this, nor is the cask tampered with in a sense that the barrel is rebuilt as a Hogshead, nor has the distillery character been changed by (part) maturation in ex-Sherry casks or even by a first fill Bourbon Barrel. To sum things up, this is an official bootleg that probably will show a lot of distillery character. A real natural Whisky.

Tomatin 12yo 1997/2009 (57.1%, OB, First Refill Bourbon Barrel #4326, 244 bottles)Color: White wine.

Nose: Spicy wood, sweet and lots of vegetal notes. Alcohol. Vanilla and wood and a little bit of white pepper, but more is going on here. Slightly fruity and tiny hints of licorice and mushrooms. All in all a very clean nose.

Taste: Sweet at first, with again spices and white pepper. Even with this high alcohol content, it seems very smooth and even the finish is half long only. Warming and fatty. In the back of the mouth the alcohol has some acetone notes to it. But above all its zesty and shows signs of lemon. Lemon curd is stated on the back label and that’s what it is. The vanilla pod transforms into creamy ice-cream. Good balance.

Having just opened the bottle it seemed to be very closed and even a little bit unforgiving, but some five months of breathing did the Whisky a lot of good. Again an example of a Whisky that is closed and needs some time to really “wake up”. Just like me I suppose.

This Whisky is actually all about the details, and all details are tiny and restraint. Due to its high alcohol content, no-one will pick this up first, but when it’s tasted after a few other Whiskies, the subtleties are gone. Definitely use this as an aperitif, or when you are planning to have only one dram. If you stick to these “rules” you will be rewarded. I like it.

Points: 86

Aberlour 18yo 1994/2012 (59.6%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Bourbon Cask CM 193, 234 bottles)

Back to core-business! To finish off the month of March, here is a review about an indie Aberlour. Aberlour is a very interesting distillery that in my opinion keeps on producing good malts, correction, good Sherried malts at affordable prices. Just have a look at my review of the excellent A’bunadh. This here is the first independently released Aberlour, and as with most Aberlours that are released by independent bottlers this is from an Ex-Bourbon cask, they probably need all the Sherry casks for themselves.

Aberlour 18yo 1994/2012 (59.6%, The House of MacDuff, The Golden Cask, Bourbon Cask CM 193, 234 bottles)Color: Light gold.

Nose: Fresh at first, creamy and very fruity. Biscuits and slight hints of mint. It smells somehow sweet, caramel and toffee in a good (not added) way. Pencil shavings. It seems like a good spirit with quite a nice full on sweet, cookie dough, and funky, body. In the distance it does remind me of White Wine (Barrel aged and buttery Chardonnay).

Taste: Spicy wood and not as sweet as the nose suggested. Wood, pears and a little bit of vanilla. Although not the most complex Whisky, the cask gave off more woody notes (all in check), and less of the Bourbon notes the cask could have given off. Having said that, the Whisky is actually quite nice in a toned down sort of way. It’s almost a shy Aberlour, not confident about itself,  because it didn’t come from a Sherry Butt, quite unneccessary so. It’s nice but only a little bit quiet and introvert in character. The high-proof matches the sweetness, the creaminess and the cookie dough perfectly. Not hot at all. Finishes off with oak, again toned down.

A very interesting malt. Without the independents we would hardly have a real clue about the quality of the Aberlour spirit, since most Aberlours that are released by the owners themselves have a huge amount of Sherry cask thrown in. This is more a naked version of Aberlour. It reveals a lot that the spirit behaves well in an ex-Bourbon cask. It would be quite nice to compare this to an independently bottled Oloroso Sherry cask at cask strength.

Points: 85

Berghs Bier (6.5%, 33 cl)

Martin OstendorfAfter Santpoorts Bier, here is another local Beer. Where Santpoorts Bier was linked to Santpoort, this Berghs Bier is linked to Berghem, a town in between Den Bosch and Nijmegen in the Southern part of The Netherlands. The Beer is brewed by Martin Ostendorf in his Muifelbrouwerij in Berghem, so this is the Beer Martin made for his own home town. I have come across some other beers of Martin’s and they usually are pretty good, so expect more Muifel Beers on these pages.

The Muifel brewery started up in 2006 and its mission is to produce excellent beers in styles as diverse as possible. The name comes from the words ‘Megen’ (again a town) and ‘Duivel’ (the devil, after the Belgian Beer “Duvel”). The Muifelbrouwerij started out as a hobby brewery where a Duvel-style Beer quickly was known as ‘Muifel’.

Berghs BierColor: Beautiful dark amber, nice brown and red hue, with a fine dark cream foam (not quite Cappuchino).

Nose: Wet dog and dishwater. Spicy and a nice light hoppy freshness. Malts and caramelized sugar. Warm apple sauce and hints of cinnamon. It actually is quite hard to describe the nose. It’s almost like it doesn’t want to come out of the glass, especially when it drunk at the advised temperature of 8 degrees Centigrade, which for me seems a bit too cold.

Taste: Warming at first and deep. Slightly too low in alcohol, because after the initial sip the beer seems very light and sweet. Light body. Not what I expected. The taste is actually at its best just before the finish kicks in. The finish is more Pilsener in style (a bit sour), but most of the flavours emerge just before the slightly bitter finish. That middle part has some nice complexity too it, it’s refreshing and sometimes it even reminds me of a nice Alsacian wine. The middle part is stellar, if only the rest of the beer would be as good.

A pretty decent beer, but I have to admit, pretty light, and slightly unbalanced. The start somehow doesn’t match the beautiful body, and after this beautiful body the finish is a bit sour and a bit weak. Luckily Martin isn’t afraid of experimenting and is learning on the spot. Soon it will be apparent that some of his other beers really are hitting the bullseye. This one is good, but not one of his best. Still, there is a lot to enjoy in the middle part, so I’m now going to enjoy the rest of what’s in my glass.

Points: 79

Humala IPA (7.3%, 33 cl)

Humala is a Spanish Beer brewed by The Nómada Brewing Company at Companyia Cervesera del Montseny in Catalonia, Spain. I don’t quite understand the workings of their website, but they have an interesting page on Facebook (if you can read Spanish).

Pale ale originally was an Ale that had been brewed from pale malt, lightly hopped and quite different from later pale Ales, with less smoking and roasting of barley in the malting process, and hence produced a paler beer. The East India Company requested a more strongly hopped pale ale for export to India. These early IPA’s, were only slightly higher in alcohol than most Beers brewed and would not have been considered to be strong Ales. In general more of the wort is well-fermented, resulting in fewer residual sugars, and the beer is more strongly hopped.

Nómada Humala IPAColor: Orange yellow, with heaps of shiny Sugar foam (peach yoghurt in color).

Nose: Very Sunny and fresh, very appetizing. I have to spoon out the foam to get to the Beer. Lovely fruity and very perfumy, but also a whiff of pee. This has really a great nose, and the pee-bit somehow seems to fit, although it would have been nicer without it. The whole comes across as refreshing, and does reminds me of half-sweet white wines.

Taste: Greatly balanced, all the flavours are behaving as a whole. Again a lot of fruityness and seems lighter in style than it is. Never would I have guessed this has more than 7% ABV. It seems so terrace in style, enjoying it watching people pass by, but it does have a kick, when you downed the whole bottle. Excellent, but when I sit down outside, in the city, with a beer to enjoy the sun and the people passing by I usually order a Duvel, which is widely available and also quite high in alcohol.

Well I have never looked at Spain as a country to look for beers, but that is probably a huge prejudice since most countries produce good beers. Don’t drink this too cold as you would miss a lot of great aroma’s. Not a perfect Beer but still I consider this a true find. Lovely stuff I wouldn’t mind drinking again and most definitely will order if I would find it in a bar.

Points: 86

Santpoorts Bier – Blonde Tripel (8.5%, 33 cl)

Santpoorts Bier logoSantpoorts Bier is a very locally brewed and sold beer. It is made in Hillegom by Brewery “Klein Duimpje” (Tom Thumb) and made for the “community” of Santpoort (near Haarlem in The Netherlands). With the proceeds the instigators hope to fund their own brewery in Santpoort (2020). This first Santpoorts beer is called a Blond Tripel and boasts a hefty 8.5% ABV. Blond as in blonde or a lightly (colored) beer, and Tripel after the Belgian Abbey and Trappist beers. Looking at the list of ingredients: Pilsner malt, Carapilsner malt, Munich malt, wheat malt, Challenger hops, Saaz hops and yeast. It doesn’t seem to be a Belgian Style Tripel, since a lot of typical Pilsner malts are used, so somehow I’m expecting a more Pilsner style Beer that is higher in alcohol.

The beer I’ll be reviewing here is from the first batch (best before date: July 2014, I aged it a little). By now, a second batch has been released called ‘Reprise’ (orange label again) as well as a winter beer (blue label) and a just released Spelt Weizen Beer (green label), that isn’t even on their website yet!

Santpoorts BierColor: Lively, yellow, almost orange gold. Murky, with a lot of yeast deposit. A lot of ivory foam.

Nose: Fresh and spicy, fruity (banana and peach without the sweetness). Very appetizing. A city after the rain and a distinct hint of warm plastic. The beer starts out fresh, lively and fruity, but quickly turns into something more broody. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Pretty “dirty” if you ask me. Fresh egg-white and new wood. Whiffs of cold dishwater. A very unusual nose. After half a year of ageing the nose didn’t change much (I’ve tried this beer when it was just released).

Taste: Dark, and a nice hoppy bitterness which almost seems woody. Pretty fruity, hot butter and has a lot of fresh (baker’s) yeast and a note of polyester. This polyester component is also easily recognizable in Hoegaarden White. Polyester is a maybe bad word here, but I’m using it for lack of a better word. Santpoorts Bier isn’t warming so it seems a lot lower in alcohol. This beer is advised to drink at 10 degrees Centigrade, but I like it better, when its colder. It finishes a bit like a Pilsener does, with its typical acidity, but the perfect bitterness this beer has, does a lot for balance. When freshly brewed, it was said to be nice already, and doesn’t need a lot of ageing. I tried it a few times and not a lot happened in half a year. The beer seems young (easily recognizable in the yeast taste, it has a lot of fresh yeast notes, ánd a lot of yeast in the deposit), but most definitely has it’s potential.

I’ve opened a lot of bottles of this to have people taste this and it is a very vigorous beer. You can’t Always open it without spilling some (and in some cases, a lot). In the glass the little yeast balls are moving around very quickly, like a speeded up lava lamp. Quite a stunning view. The beer is very lively!

Conclusion. To me, this first batch seems to be somewhat of a work in progress. It does have its charm, but it isn’t perfect yet. Overall I like the beer, but I didn’t care that much for the polyester notes and the “Pilsener” finish, but the start and the body (the middle part) are already quite good, as is the perfect bitterness of this beer.  The brewers are on the right road, but in my humble opinion, some more work has to be done. By now a second batch has been produced, called ‘Reprise’ which I haven’t tried yet.

Points: 74

Gabbiano Solatio Toscana IGT 2011

The surroundings of Tuscany in Italy are breathtaking, and I know that people who live there should be inspired too. I expect wine makers in Tuscany must be especially inspired since they make wine from the fruits of this land. This is the fourth bottle from this region, amongst others with two decent reds, but up ’till now, not a real stunner yet. I now got a bottle from a real wine specialist so I have high hopes for this Gabbiano Solatio from 2011 (Picture shows the 2010 vintage). I like the label, the orange color really stands out on the shelves and the knight and the sun, really look appealing, The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Sangiovese. Not a lot of Sangiovese for a Tuscan blend, and compared to others no Merlot. That leaves more room for the character grapes of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. I guess we may be on to something…

Gabbiano Solatio Toscana IGT 2011Color: Dark ruby-red.

Nose: Smells spicy and most definitely of Syrah and a bit less of Cabernet Sauvignon, no sense in mentioning the Sangiovese. Although Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon can be pretty full-bodied, this blend smells fresh and lively. Sweet jam of red fruits, and the slightest hint of fresh acidity, yes all that on the nose. It leaps out at you from the glass. Very appealing, and appetizing fruity Wine. Strawberries and cherries, ain’t that lovely! Great balance. The nose alone is way better than the previous contenders!

Taste: Not heavy, but with a fair amount of body and soft tannins. Some slight wood influence matches the tannins. Not as heavy on the sweet fruits as the nose suggested, but very appealing never the less. I did suit our dinner fine, grilled chicken with rice and a creamy tomato sauce. It would have been less complementary to it, if it would have been much sweeter.

Just like the other Tuscan Red Wines I review earlier, this is an entry-level wine. Nothing very fancy, but even with pizza and pasta I’d like to drink something I really like without breaking the bank. A great Tuscan with easy drinkability and easy food pairing qualities, and in the first 24 hours after opening, very suitable for drinking by itself. Good one. Recommended!

Points: 85