Sunday, February 22, 2009

Belgian Beer: Duvel

Hey, We are back!

is produced by the Duvel Moortgat Brewery (Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat), which was founded in Belgium in 1871. The brewery's best and most renowned product is its Belgian strong golden pale ale: Duvel, which in Brabantian Dutch means Devil. This beer packs a punch at 8.5 ABV. The brewery also purchased the Brasserie d'Achouffe in 2006, which produces La Chouffe. Additionally the Duvel brewery produces a line of abbey beers: Maredsous

According to wikipedia this is how Duvel got its name:

To commemorate the end of World War I, the Moortgats named their main beer Victory Ale. But during the 1920s, an avid drinker described the beer as "nen echten duvel" (a real devil) - perhaps in reference to its formidable alcohol content (8.5% ABV) - and the name of the beer was changed to Duvel.
In any event it is a devilishly good beer and I love the bottle.

All hail to this dark prince of beers.

Presentation- Small brown 330 ml bottle with freshness date on back label.

Appearance- Golden with lively carbonation, a thick foamy white head, excellent retention and a lot of patches of lacing.

Smell- Malty, Grassy, yeast, citrusy.

Taste- Sweet at first balenced by a slightly bitter finish, yeast, malty, fruity with hints of citrus.

Mouth- Light, smooth, crisp and clean.

The bottom line: Duvel is an amazing beer, so enjoyable let it speak for itself. Outta this world.

***** (out of 5 *)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Noilly Prat to change its U.S. formula

I personally have never tried Noilly Prat, but, for any of our readers here who are fans of this renowned dry vermouth should be aware that its makers are planing on changing their formula in the U.S.. I don't know if this is a wise move by the company. But people always know how to ruin a good thing I guess.
"according to the company, the dry vermouth is merely a return to the "original recipe," which has been the version sold in Europe all along. Unfortunately, the version sold in Europe has never been produced with Martinis in mind...the new Noilly Prat is meant to be "served straight and chilled or on the rocks with a twist of lemon." The company claims to have enhanced "the bouquet, color, and flavor of the wine," producing a "sweet, floral blend." Uh-oh."
For more: Bad News for Martini Drinkers

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Belgian Beer: La Chouffe

The Brasserie d'Achouffe, founded in 1982, is a Belgian Brewery based in Achouffe. In September 2006 the producers of Duvel (which we will be reviewing soon), Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat purchased the Brasserie d'Achouffe.

Brasserie d'Achouffe produces a number of different styles of beers, amongst them
  • Belgian Dark Ale, 6.5% ABV: Chouffe-Bok
  • Belgian Strong Dark Ale, ranging from 8%-10% ABV: McChouffe, N'Ice Chouffe
  • Belgian Strong Pale Ale, 8%-8.5% ABV: La Chouffe, Kwelchouffe
This time we tried La Chouffe, Bière blonde D'Ardenne, 8% ABV. This beer is unfiltered, it is re-fermented in the Bottle or Keg.

Presentation: La Chouffe comes in a 750 ml green glass Champagne like bottle with freshness date on back label.

According to wikipedia:
"The beers have gnomes on their label, a play on the town name Achouffe, since Chouffe means gnome or dwarf in a Walloon dialect."

The company website explains why such a large bottle, as La Chouffe only comes in 750 ml and up:
"The size of the bottles encourages people to share the beer with friends and families, which is very sociable!"
and share we did.

Appearance: Cloudy gold with streams of small champagne-like bubbles. A Nice thick, coarse, bubbly white head which leaves a good amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell: Grain, fruity, spice/herbal, yeast, citrus.

Taste: Fruity sweetness which is balanced with the slightly bitter finish, honey, cloves, spicy, citrusy.

Mouth: Bubbly, live carbonation and light bodied, kind of like champagne.

The bottom line: An excellent beer, sweet but not overly-sweet, fruity yet balenced with hints of spice, very enjoyable. Although you may want it all for yourself, you will soon feel the effects of the 8% ABV considering how easilly La Chouffe goes down, so like they said, this one is nice to enjoy with friends and family.

**** 1/4 (out of 5 *)

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Release: Jameson Signature Reserve

I missed this article, posted back in June '08. Apparently Jameson has released a new whiskey, Jameson Signature Reserve. As of now it is available at duty free shops in England and Ireland. Eventually it will be available across Europe as well. Another newcomer is Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve.

Here is a forum discussing Jameson Signature Reserve, and another article about the release at the "Moodie Report".

If any of you have tried either of these new editions to the Jameson Reserve Series, drop us a line by leaving a comment, let us know what you think about these whiskeys.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Guide to Belgian Beer

Over at Chowhound they have an interesting detailed article on Belgian beers:

Belgian Beer Primer: Decoding the world’s most acclaimed (and confusing) brews

Belgian beer has mystique: Some of it’s made by monks. Some of it tastes really, really weird. Some of its labels show elves and devils. People who know beer are sometimes unable to resist blowing huge chunks of cash on it.
It is, said famed beer writer Michael Jackson, the “Disneyland of beer.”...

There is more on "How it's served".

“Belgian beer is really about the bottles, not the draft beer,” says Chuck Stilphen, co-owner of the Trappist, a Belgian beer bar in Oakland, California. Nearly all Belgian craft beer is bottle-conditioned. Consequently, in the United States you’ll find most Belgian beers offered in 150 different bottles. bottles. “Belgians on draft tend to be flatter and more one-dimensional,” says the Spuyten Duyvil’s Joe Carroll. When sharing a big bottle, some beer-lovers fight over who gets that last, sludgy shot: The yeast contains lots of vitamin B, which is good for hangovers.

It's worth looking this article over if you like beers in general or are a fan of Belgian beer.

Any way... we will be reviewing some more Belgian beers over here at "Keep Your Spirits Up", including Duvel and La Chouffe. So stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cocktail: The Corpse Reviver

Well all this talk of Pastis has given me a hankering to discover some cocktails which put it to good use. One of my favorite ways to go about discovering new cocktails is by using the Cocktail data base's search engine. Their search engine allows you to enter either a cocktail's name and/or main ingredient, in my case pastis, and then it gives you all the relevant results.

After entering "pastis" in to the engine, I received 293 results. How do I go through all of these results you ask? well each cocktail has the ingredients listed next to it so I go down the list and picked out the ones which I had all of the ingredients for, or at least most of them, then I try to find an adequate substitute for missing ingredient.

Lets see...looking through the results I come across: A La Française, already tried it in the last review. Absinthe American, nah, almost the same as A La Française. I tend to stay away from cocktails with raw eggs, not my bag. Then I saw it, The Corpse Reviver #2. I remembered reading about this cocktail, people raved that it was their favorite, how it has the perfect balance of diverse ingredients. So I thought to my self why not give it a whirl.

I went to check if I had the ingredient for it: Pastis (Phénix), check. Cointreau, check. Gin (Bombay Sapphire), check. Fresh lemon juice, check. Lillet Blanc, nope, but I had Cinzano Extra Dry vermouth on hand. Now, I am sure Cinzano is not the best substitute, and I know someone will say "oh! how could you do that! substituting Cinzano for Lillet is a sacrilege." but hey, that's what I had on hand. I was also missing the cherry for garnish so I used a lemon zest instead.

Now onto some background about the Corpse Reviver:

According to a post by Robert Hess over at spirit world:
"The Corpse Reviver was in truth more of a "family" of cocktails, than an individual cocktail itself. The corpse reviver was no doubt intended as a morning after pick-me-up (aka. Hair of the dog), and besides that, there seems little to provide an indication of what specifically separated such a drink from one of the other well-known categories, such as a cocktail.

Of the various corpse revivers that were once floating about pre-prohibition, only two appeared to pop out the other side, and were listed in Harry Cradock's "The Savoy Cocktail Book", which is where we encounter what he simply listed as "Corpse Reviver #2".

This drink illustrates one of the important aspects of the craftsmanship of a well made drink. The balance of the ingredients listed here is so precarious that each one needs to be carefully measured to make this drink properly. The lemon juice also needs to be fresh, and you can't substitute common triple sec for the Cointreau." (I'm sure he'd disapprove of my substitution of Cinzano for Lillet, but hey, what can you do.)

Jay, over at "Oh Gosh" has more on the subject. His ratio's are the same as the other recipes I've seen so far, Plus he has the "Corpse Reviver #1" recipe.
Corpse Reviver #2
  • 3/4 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz Lillet Blanc (or in my case Cinzano Extra Dry Vermouth)
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • According to Hess: 1 drop absinthe (or absinthe substitute, such as Pernod)
  • According to Cocktail DB: 2 drops (1 dash) Pastis (I made mine according to this version, next time I'll try it according to Hess.)

Shake with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

There are variations on this cocktail in terms of the ratios. If you scale back the lemon juice and cointreau it becomes the "Miracle Cocktail".

This cocktail is complex yet balanced. It is sweet, sour and Bitter. There are the sour notes from the lemon, a botanical and herbal flavor from the vermouth and gin and some sweetness from the cointreau. The finish is slightly bitter and you get that hint of the pastis anise/
réglisse goodness. The color can be described as a cloudy-white with a yellowish hue to it, similar to that of diluted pastis. Certain flavors came to mind, such as the "White Lady" and the "Dry Martini".

I see this as being a refreshing summertime cocktail. In fact after drinking it I must say I felt very refreshed. Now I know why they call this a "Corpse Reviver". I personally enjoyed this cocktail and recommend that you give it a go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Israeli beers: Maccabee & Goldstar

Tempo (טמפו) is Israel's largest brewing company. Tempo produces Maccabee, Goldstar and Nesher Malt non-alcoholic beer.

Maccabee (מכבי), is a 4.9% abv Pilsner which began production in 1968 and is sold in Israel, Europe and the US.

Presentation 500 ml green glass bottle with freshness date stamped below the neck.

Appearance- Light gold with a thin bubbly head which leaves a little lacing on the glass. Big bubbles cling to the side of the glass along side streams of little bubbles

Smell- Malty, Grainy, hint of sweetness, Bitter, grassy.

Taste - Crisp, grainy, malty with a hint of sweetness balanced by a "hoppy" bitterness, a hint of smoke and a slightly metallic taste.

Mouth- thin-medium body, low-medium carbonation

Bottom line: a decent beer which can be consumed easily in quantities. I remember Maccabee being worse, very watery, I recently tasted it and it either has improved or I got a lucky with that specific bottle.

** (out of 5 *)

Goldstar (גולדסטאר), is a 4.9% abv Munich Dunkel Lager which has been in production since the 1950's. Each year Tempo sells 30 million bottles of Goldstar

Presentation- 500 ml brown glass bottle with freshness date marked on the glass just below the neck.

Appearance- Produces a nice thick white creamy head which lasts for a short while and then becomes close cropped and thin. There is some lacing. The color can be described as dark amber. Lots of tiny bubbles.

Smell- Malty, some hops, grassy and some bitterness.

Taste- Malty sweetness, some hops, bread, slightly bitter finish.

Mouth- Lively, lots carbonation, medium bodied with a nice creamy feel.

Bottom line: Not outstanding, but, it lives up to its expectations as a beer which was meant to be consumed in large quantities at Mangals (Israeli BBQ s). I cold have a few of these along with some kebabs and skewers of meat.

** 3/4 (out of 5 *)

These two beers were not outstanding but neither were they horrible by any means. They work well as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish but would not be sipped on their own. I would like to try some other Israeli offerings such as Layla and Dancing Camel should I come across them.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pastis: Phénix

Over the weekend, after writing my last article, Pastis vs Anisette, I came across a bottle of pastis produced by the Phénix/M.G. Taieb company. Phénix is known for their Anisette, which was originally produced in Algeria by Moïse Taieb and is currently made in Roanne, France. Pastis is a new addition to the line of Phénix products, it has a 45% abv.

Presentation: It comes in a slender, brownish-green 700 ml bottle.

Color: Pale yellow-brown, after adding water it changes to a cloudy off-white color with a slightly yellowish hue.

Réglisse, anise, peppermint, slight sweetness.

Palate: at first mint which gives away to r
églisse and anise. Sweet but not cloying, bitter but not overly.

I Thoroughly enjoyed this new offering from Phénix/M.G. Taieb. I liked that it wasn't overly cloying and the taste was to my liking, Anise and réglisse with some minty notes.

*** 3/4 (out of 5 *)