Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pastis vs Anisette *Updated*

I am very familiar with the whole anise flavored liqueur family since my father-in-law was very fond of Anisette. I have tried the offerings from various countries including Absinthe, Arak, Ouzo, Pastis and Anisette.

For those who are unfamiliar, here is a little background on Pastis and Anisette.

Pastis is an anise flavored liqueur and aperitif from France. It is one of the most popular beverages in France. Pastis is especially popular in the south of France where it is associated with Provençal lifestyle along with Pétanque (a game similar to Bocce) and drinking rosé wine.

The story of pastis began when absinthe was banned in France. The producers of absinthe decided to create a drink that resembled absinthe, but with out the wormwood, which was the ingredient which got absinthe banned in the first place. It was to have a more robust anise flavor, using star anise, sugar and a lower alcohol content, between 40%-45% abv whereas absinthe is usually between 45%-75% abv. Voila, pastis was born.

Pastis has a transparent yellowish-brown color when undiluted. It is meant to be diluted with cold water before drinking. I learned this the hard way of coarse, I drank it straight... from what I have heard in general it is supposed to be a 5:1 ratio of water to pastis, but to each his own, so it is usually served along side a jug of cold water and ice cubes (optional), which if used should be added only after the water has been added to avoid crystallization.

I tried Pastis Juvanis (45% abv) with a 4:1 ratio of water to pastis, when the water is added to the pastis it goes from transparent yellow to an almost opaque milky white-yellow (see the first image in the post). The palate had notes of liquorice (réglisse), anise and fennel. It is not overly sweet or cloying, which I liked. The addition of water really helps bring out the flavors.

I remember vividly when I went to visit Southern France, we would go explore a small town each day. On our way in we would pass a small brasserie or a café and there would be some elderly gentlemen sitting around the table with a bottle of water and pastis sipping and chatting. Hours later when we finished sightseeing in that town we would see the same gentlemen sitting around the table with their cloudy coloured pastis in hand, still sipping and chatting.

Anisette (aka Anis) is anise flavored liqueur mainly consumed in the Mediterranean area including France, Spain and Italy but may be found in Portugal and Mexico as well. Anisette tends to have a lower alcohol content (well not with the anisette I tried for this post) and be sweeter than other anise flavored liqueurs, such as Pastis. Similarly, anisette was created as an alternative to absinthe. Anisette is made primarily with aniseed unlike pastis which is made primarily with star anise. Anisette can be drank straight or prepared in a similar way to pastis with water. I reccomend adding water.

The anisette I tried for this post was Phénix (45% abv), originally manufactured in Algeria by Moïse Taieb, it is now produced in Roanne, France.

According to Arabic Liqour:
"Anisette Phénix originally is an Algerian Jewish aperitif now produced in France. It is particularly associated with Jewish pieds-noirs, European colonists with French citizenship in Algeria. At some point in time in the twentieth century production moved from Algeria to France due to the unstable situation in Algeria, especially for Jews...According to the bottle it is made by macerating anise grains in a neutral grain spirit and subsequently distilling it. It is very sweet because of the added sugar (it is sweeter than pastis; arak is unsweetened) and it should be diluted with water."
I have also tried Anisette Marie Brizard but it was so long ago I can hardly remember how it tasted.

The anisette had many of the same flavors as the pastis: liquorice (réglisse), anise, fennel and additional hints of coriander and mint, but it was much sweeter than the pastis. When water is added to the anisette it becomes cloudy white, but not as opaque as pastis.

Bottom line:
I personally liked the pastis better than the anisette, in the end it is a matter of taste. If you like anise and liquorice in general try sampling both pastis and anisette before going out to buy a bottle. This way you can see if you like anise flavored liqueur at all and if you do which one you prefer.

à la tienne!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Czech beer: Starobrno Černé (Dark)

Well, considering the fact that the Czechs are the worlds #1 consumers of beer they must have a number of very good beers. Starobrno was a welcome change after the last Czech beer I reviewed here on this blog.

The city of Brno, Czech Republic, claims to have over 750 years of brewing tradition. dating back to 1243 when king Wencesclas I granted the town the right to brew beer. in 1872 the "old Brno Brewery" was founded and they began producing what became known as "old Brno beer". After WWII Starobrno underwent some changes, including modernization and management. Starobrno is now owned by Heineken, the fourth largest brewery group in the world. StarobrnoČerné (dark),
produces various styles of beers including: Řezák – Mixed pale & dark beer, Ležák - Lager, Medium and Traditional.

Today I tried Starobrno's Černé (Dark) beer, which is a Munich Dunkel Lager style of beer containing 3.8% abv. Munich Dunkels are said to be smooth, rich and complex, with a ruby hue and a mild bitterness to balance any sweetness.

Now on to the review:

Presentation- Green 500 ml bottle with freshness date on the back label.

Appearance- Nice, thick, coarse tan head, leaves a little bit of lace. The color was dark deep brown. When held up to the light you see it is dark ruby red with a few streams of tiny bubbles.

Smell- Malty sweetness, Roasted nuts, fruity.

Taste- Sweet, rich, malty, dark chocolate, some hops, and a slightly bitter finish.

Mouth- Smooth, light-medium bodied, little carbonation.

The bottom line is that this is a pleasant and easy beer to enjoy.

*** (out of 5 *)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Another good offering from Leffe: Leffe Blonde

Earlier this month I reviewed Leffe Brune which I liked, **** stars. This time I tried a bottle of Leffe Blonde, which is a Belgian pale ale with an abv of 6.6%.
Appearance- Light golden amber color with lots of tiny bubbles. Big, creamy, white head which slightly clings to the side of the glass.

Smell- Yeasty, grainy, honey, fruity, some hops and floral/grassy notes.

Taste- Sweet Honey/nectar, malt, some hops, grassy and a pleasant toffee sweetness.

Mouth- Smooth with lively carbonation.

Drinkability- I'd have another.

Bottom line:
This beer is sweet, creamy and easy to drink.

*** 1/2 (out of 5 *)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Economist: Amidst the gloom, single malts are flourishing

The Economist is running an interesting article about the success of single malts amidst all the financial turmoil. 

MOST recession-blighted manufacturers worry that their next order is likely to be for mothballs. Not so Scotland’s whisky makers: they are busy bringing old distilleries back to life and building new ones. The reason is not that the British are drowning their economic sorrows; it is that exports of single malts are booming...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

English Pale Ale: Fuller's London Pride

Fuller's is a brewing company founded in 1845 at the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, West London. "London Pride" is an English Pale Ale, uses hard water which helps bring out the hops' bitterness. This type of ale can range from golden to reddish amber in color. The flavors and aromas usually are a mix of fruity, hoppy, earthy, buttery and malty notes.

I really lucked out with this one. It was the last one on the shelf...little did I know it had a good reason to be.

On to the review:

Presentation: Brown glass 11.2 oz bottle.

Appearance- A half inch thick head which quickly reduces to a thin layer of foam. It is orange-brown, dark amber with little streams of tiny bubbles.

Smell- Hops, yeast, citrus, Fruity, malt, grain and a slight caramel sweetness. Sourdough bread.

Taste- Grainy, Malty, citrusy. Sweet at first with a more than slightly bitter finish

Mouth- Medium feel with nice carbonation. Very Smooth.

Drinkability- Overall a very nice beer, at 4.7% abv its easy to enjoy, so sit back and relax. I have also discovered that the on-tap version comes in 4.1% abv. I highly recommend this beer!

***1/2 (out of 5*)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Whisky wedding

Tonight I was at a wedding and there were some nice single malt whiskies going around. I tasted the only three that I was able to get my hands on: Dalwhinnie 15 yr, Glenfiddich 15 yr Solera Reserve and Glenmorangie. There were other Single malts but the eluded me the rest of the evening

Both the Dalwhinnie and Glenfiddich I had tasted before, they are excellent whiskies. They have hints of chocolate and honey sweetness and are on the delicate, light side, while Dalwhinnie is slightly more smokey.

As for the Glenmorangie, I have tried their "Port Wood" and "Cote D'Or Burgundy wood" finishes in the past, both of which I deeply enjoyed. However, the Glenmorangie I tried this evening was one I am not familiar with. I was pleasantly surprised, it was very sweet, with predominantly citrus, honey, heather flavor. At first I thought it was a Glenmorangie Whisky Liqueur, but then after drinking a bit more I realized that it wasn't. I also noticed that this whiskey felt stronger than your average 40% abv stuff. Because the lighting was lousy and the fact that someone was doling it out I was unable to see the label clearly, except for the name "Glenmorangie". The bottle itself was strange for a Glenmorangie bottle, shaped like a short stubby Chivas or Dalwhinnie bottle in brown glass like Glenfiddich's 15 yr Solera Reserve.
If anyone out there can help me identify which Glenmorangie this was I'd be very grateful :)

Danish Beers on tap: Tuborg Green and Carlsberg

On a side note I also tried Tuborg Green (Lager) on tap at the same wedding. Very light yellow, clear with almost no head and a lot of large bubbles. Grainy smell, along with yeast and slightly grassy. Crisp, dry grainy taste with a slightly bitter finish. Nothing to go out of your way for, an easy to drink beer.
*1/2 (out of 5*)

A few days ago I ordered a Carlsberg (German Pilsner) on tap. Thin white head which quickly disappeared. Little bubbles with a bright pale yellow-golden color. Malt and some hops, yeast, grain on the nose. Crisp, grainy taste which seems to be balanced, with a light and thin feel to it. Another easy to drink beer.
** (out of 5*)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dutch Beer: Grolsch Premium Lager

Grolsch, is pronounced: Khrolsh or Chrolsh, in Dutch the "G" is pronounced similarly to The "kh" in Kharkov or "ch" Loch. The brewery was founded in 1615 Groenlo (Netherlands) and is currently located in Enschede (Netherlands). After Heineken, Grolsch is the second largest brewery in the Netherlands, and the 21st largest provider of beer worldwide.

Grolsch Premium Lager (aka Grolsch Premium Pilsner), has a 5% abv and comes in two types bottles (which I am aware of), I used a 330 ml bottle for this review. It is also available in a distinctive shaped bottle, known as the beugel or "the gurdle". These bottles have a swing-top cap with a rubber stopper, which eliminates the need for a bottle opener and allows you to re-close your beer. The export beugel bottles I purchased contain, I kid you not, 473 ml (47.3 cl or 15.99 oz), you can enlarge the thumb nail if you don't believe me!

Anyway... on to the review:

Appearance- Light yellow gold with a steady stream of tiny Champagne like bubbles. A nice white fluffy head with decent retention, It lasted for a bit, which shrinks down to a thinner layer of head.

Smell- Grain, hops, yeast, with a clean grassy and herbal scent. Maybe even a tiny drop skunky.

Taste- Smooth, crisp, grainy bitterness along with some sweetness and some herbal/medicinal notes.

Mouth- Nice carbonation and medium body.

Drinkablity- I enjoy this beer, I like its smooth-bitter-herbal/medicinal taste and I'd gladly have another one. I'd take this over Tuborg, Carlsberg ect...

*** (out of 5 *)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The top 20 Beer drinking countries

Here is a slide show count down of the top 20 beer drinking nations in the world. Although there were a few surprises I knew who would be in the #1 spot. I'll give you a hint from an earlier post:

"___ _____ ________ is know for its heavy beer consumption and I guess putting beer in large plastic cola bottles helps facilitate this. I remember when visting ______ seeing advertisements for breakfast, brunch and lunch specials which included a beer, Gotta love 'em."


My favorite "beer facts were from Australia, the #4 spot:

  • Apparently the first European settlers in Australia drank more alcohol per person than any other community in the history of mankind.
  • In 1954 Bob Hawke made it into the Guinness Record Book for sculling 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. He then went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Belgian beer: Leffe Brune

Leffe Brune is a Belgian dark ale that was originally brewed in the abbey Notre Dame de Leffe which was founded in 1152 on the Meuse River. It is now brewed at the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven. Leffe Brune has a 6.5% Abv.

The Belgians, especially the Dutch/Flemish really know their beer. In addition to Leffe they produce some other really high quality tasty beers including: Chimay, Duvel, Hoegaarden, La Chouffe etc... Don't worry we will get to those but first we must return to cocktails and Spirits. All in due time.

With my beer chalice shattered, broken, I decided to try this beer in a wine glass so that I could enjoy its wonderful smell and take deep sips.

Appearance- Dark Brown, Caramel, almost black. Good head retention.

Smell- Malty, roasted, toasted, sweet, Chocolate, nutty, caramel, yeast and a hint of spice.

Taste- Sweet, bittersweet chocolate, roasted/toasted almonds.

Mouth- Creamy, Chewy, good carbonation.

Drinkability- I would definitely have another...dozen or so.

Serving type: bottle

The bottom line:

In general along with Czech and stout beers, Belgian beers are amongst my favorites!
I loved this beer. It has a very dark and heavy appearance, akin to Guinness, but is much lighter in the mouth, its smell and its taste. It has a nice bittersweet smell and flavor which I really enjoy and makes for a pleasant drink. Plus it gives a nice "buzz". I highly recommend this beer. Give it a whirl, you won't be disappointed nursing this baby.

**** (out of 5 *)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Czech Beer: Paka Pramen

Paka Paramen is a výčepní light beer brewed in the NovoPacké Pivo Brewery located in Nová Paka, Czech Republic. The ABV was only 3.7% and it came in a 1/2 liter brown glass bottle. Why do I stress glass? well if you go to their website you will see that they also sell some of their beers in a 1.5 liter plastic bottle. This struck me as strange, but hey, the Czech Republic is know for its heavy beer consumption and I guess putting beer in large plastic cola bottles helps facilitate this. I remember when visting Prague seeing advertisements for breakfast, brunch and lunch specials which included a beer, Gotta love 'em.

Appearance: yellow, golden, with lots o small bubbles. This beers retains its head only for a matter of seconds and then it quickly disappears.

Smell: very weak, sweet, hops, yeast, citrus.

Taste: It took a while until I could distinguish the flavors. The flavor was pretty weak, dominant bitterness, over ripeness and yeast.

Mouth: Over carbonated and watery.

The bottom line:

Although some of my favorite beers are Czech beers unfortunatly I did not enjoy this beer as much as Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen Premium Lager and Velkopopovický Kozel Pilsner. The smell and taste were dull/weak and there was a lot of yeasty bitterness as is expected from a Pilsner, but, not the kind which I enjoy. I don't believe that I will be trying this specific beer again anytime soon but I would like to try some of the different styles available from the NovoPacké Pivo Brewery.

* (out of 5 *)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sorry I was out for a while...

I'll be back ASAP with some more updates, reviews and posts... In the meantime enjoy the beginning of 2009 :)