With all these posts describing the great time I had scouring Amsterdam for brewery taprooms and craft beer bars, you’d think I’d have drunk myself into a burbling stupor. A foolish assumption for two reasons: 1) I’m always in a burbling stupor, and 2) I stopped off for more beer on the way back to the apartment.
I expected a few forlorn tins of Heineken to line the shelves, maybe some dusty bottles of Grolsch. Instead, I found the largest selection of beers I’ve ever seen outside a specialist bottle shop.
Given the selection, it was a struggle to limit myself to just three. Restricting my choice to Dutch beers and picking out those with the most interesting names or labels proved to be a decent approach.
Two Chefs Brewing, Kinky Koos
As I said, I mostly chose these beers for the labels.
KK is dark gold, with just a little head. Its smell is glutinous and sweet, with perhaps a little ginger.
Given all that, the palate is not what I was expecting. It’s floral to start, rose, though more of that glutinous sweetness we smelled earlier returns after a second or two. Fresh herbaceous notes linger on the finish, which makes sense given they’ve brewed it with basil as well as ginger. Oats also not much of a surprise – but somewhat of a relief knowing that’s the cause of this beer’s high protein content.
Kinky Koos is interesting, but not terribly exciting. The label is the highlight. 3/5
Bruutbier, Soelaas 7.0%
Any misconceptions I may have had about Bruutbier just being a silly name were soon shelved. It behaves very much like a Brut, fizzing and overflowing easily once poured from my admittedly slightly inebriated grip. Twice during the pour I had to lean in, gently sucking away excess froth to keep it from spilling onto my trousers. Nothing worse than a beer stain to the crotch.
Soelaas has a more scientific approach to naming its flavours than other beers. Going in, for instance, I know to expect 3-ethyl-1-butylacetate (that’s 3-ethyl-1-butylethanoate to all you IUPAC diehards I know read this blog).
For anyone who has studied organic chemistry and not scrubbed all memory of that subject from their minds, this is useful information. For the rest of us, it means “banana”. Specifically, the flavouring used in banana-flavoured foamy sweets.
Now in fairness, it doesn’t taste like the fresh bananas you can buy in the supermarket. That’s because the dominant species of banana available today is the Cavendish, which once had the advantage of being slightly resistant to the fungal infection that wiped out the world’s commercial banana supply in the 1950s. Before then, the dominant species was Gros Michel, which 3-ethyl-1-butylethanoate allegedly resembles more closely. Wheel that story out at your next dinner party and remember to refer everyone to my blog once the rapturous applause has died down.
Anyway, while there’s an interestingly sciency label, Soelaas doesn’t have much in the way of flavour except for foamy banana. Better options abound. 2/5
Brouwerij de Molen, Hemel & Aarde 10.0%
Smoked Imperial stouts are a dime a dozen these days, but “Smoked Imperial Stout…ish”? Now I’m intrigued.
A quick trip to Google Translate informs me this beer’s name, Hemel & Aarde, means “heaven and earth”. This is the sort of pretentious prickery that might normally put me off but, given it’s in another language, I elect to turn a blind eye.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that Hemel & Aarde looks like a stout: thick and black with a creamy brown head. What might be a bit more surprising is the wood smoke aroma – specifically, it smells like smokey whisky or bacon. I can feel my inner Ron Swanson getting more excited already.
The mouthfeel is creamy, the flavour subtle at first. Initially it’s mostly peat smoke, reminding me of a particular single malt whisky I can’t quite place. Bitterness follows, spreading slowly across the tongue: dark chocolate, coffee, liquorice, then back to smoke for the finish. You have a choice in how to taste this beer: take it in with a little air for the chocolate, unaerated, it’s like drinking liquid peat.
I inquire with a friend far more knowledgeable than I on the topic of whisky and am rewarded with the sweet taste of knowledge. It’s Laddy! The peated malt used for this beer comes from the Bruichladdich distillery on the Scottish Isle of Islay. No wonder it feels like drinking a whisky.
Given that feeling, it’s an odd sensation drinking Hemel & Aarde by the bottle and not 25ml at a time. I certainly couldn’t drink it all night. But a second bottle? I could certainly go for that. 4/5