Thursday, March 29, 2012

International Delight


The lineup.
I'm typically such a staunch supporter of American craft brewers that I often forget about the fact that there are plenty of quality beers that come from overseas that are worth checking out as well. At the liquor store, I tend to be so focused on the newest releases from US microbreweries that, other than the occasional Mikkeller or Tripel Karmeliet, I fail to give proper attention to some of the special stuff that gets imported. So recently, I decided to make a more concerted effort to explore the craft beer offerings that come from the outside the US that I've neglected for so long.

Last night, I took some serious action to work towards this goal. Me and a few cohorts met up to have an International Beer Night of sorts. We each contributed beers from various countries and held our own miniature tasting party, taking a hoppy, yeasty virtual trip around the world. Germany, Scotland, New Zealand and Japan were just a few of the countries whose products we enjoyed, and we definitely enjoyed the majority of what we tried.

Out of everything we had, there were a couple standouts:

Panil Barriquée - Out of all the great foreign beers we had, I certainly wouldn't have guessed ahead of time that a beer from Italy would end up being my favorite. An oak aged sour red ale, Panil Barriquée was EXACTLY what I enjoy in a sour beer. It wasn't overpowering, it had a nice balance of fruity sweetness and tart acidity, with a touch of wood from the oak aging. The Shelton Brothers website says that this beer is the only all-natural, traditionally-made example of a Sour Red that you will find today. I have no idea how accurate that claim is, but I thought it was pretty interesting.

1809 Berliner Weisse - Before having this last night, I had heard many people say good things about 1809 Berliner Weisse. Well, it definitely lived up to its praises. Lemony tartness with enough wheat backbone to counter the sour and make this an easy drinking, refreshing take on a traditional Berliner Weisse. I could drink so much of this beer during the summer that it's ridiculous. Well done, Professor Fritz Briem!

Schneider Aventinus - I'll say it right off the bat; I would and could drink this beer every day. I've decided that German wheat styles like Dunkelweizens/Weizenbocks/etc. are ones I need to start paying more attention to. While I don't typically seek them out, every time I've had one in recent memory, I've really enjoyed it. The clove and banana notes in the Aventinus are perfect, along with a ton of other fantastic flavors (Is that caramel? What spice is that?) that keep you guessing and enjoying this beer's complexity until you realize your glass is empty and you are craving more. It's amazingly drinkable at over 8% ABV too, so file this one as dangerous.

These, of course, are just a few highlights from the evening. Quite frankly, I don't think there was a single beer that we tried that I didn't enjoy. I have every intention of continuing my exploration of beers from outside the US, because clearly there is a lot to enjoy that I'm missing out on. I suggest you all do the same, and occasionally move your liquor store visit over to the import aisle and pick up a few random things you've never tried before.

Have you had the beers above? What did you think? Any other foreign beers that you particularly enjoy?

4 comments:

  1. Aventinus is an all time favorite of mine. I usually love everything Fantome but the Dalmatienne did not do it for me. Maybe a bad bottle.

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  2. I'll admit that I haven't sought out the international beers as much as our American craft breweries. I haven't tried any of the ones you listed. But I have some others that are probably already well known...

    Weihenstephaner has become a go-to brewery for me. Their hefe-weissbier is the best hefeweizen I have ever had. Their Vitus and dark wheat are also delicious.

    Paulaner makes another great hefeweizen.

    Ayinger are well known for their bock beers. Look for the Celebrator Doppelbock.

    Hitachino from Japan makes some great beers as well. I recommend anyone try their Espresso Stout.

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  3. Another excellent one I've had recently that wasn't part of the group above was Evil Twin's Soft DK. I'm not sure if it's still on tap at Waldo Pizza anymore, but it really made me want to try more Evil Twin beers.

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  4. I've had no luck finding Berliner Weiss here until recently. The first BW I had was in Wisconsin, a limited edition from New Glarus (review is here, sorry about the formatting. Not everything played nicely when I switched blog templates: http://liquiddiets.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/new-glarus-unplugged-berliner-weiss/).

    Then there is also Bell's Oarsman (http://liquiddiets.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/bells-oarsman-ale-southern-tier-phin-matts-extraordinary-ale/), which some classify as a Berliner Weiss. Re-reading my review just now, I was all over the map with this one, although it is very enjoyable. If it is a BW it's not typical of the style, but a very good beer nonetheless and, despite being in bottles, would probably qualify nicely as a ballpark beer. 4% ABV FTW!

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