Hoppy Xmas Countdown – 21 Dec

Today is the official longest day of the year and in honour of that, we’ve got 3 beers in our Advent Calendar today. Also… and I have to admit this upfront, I had been keeping these guys in the back of my fridge for like, 6 months, and it was just time to taste them. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t before but for some reason I kept putting them off.

Anyway, today’s the day. We’ve got 2 beers from Long Mountain Brewery in Robertson and one from Harfield in Cape Town. Unfortunately we’re going to be having a lesson in off-flavours with these.

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Long Mountain Brewery – Wheat

The first thing I noticed is the tiny bottle. 250ml. That’s a bit stingy. This size bottle should be reserved for extra rare, extra special, boozy Tripels or Quads. In my opinion anyway. The next thing is, this bottle of Wheat has a lot of yeast sediment. Much more than it should have had. If you look closely in the pic you’ll see it.
So let’s say, part of the reason that I hadn’t tried these is that I was a bit nervous about them. Ash reckons the labels put him off. They’re just not enticing. They look “amateur” in his opinion. I’m not that harsh about them, but better labels always help.

OK, so I poured this one out and it was magnificently clear, which is very odd for a wheat beer (unless it’s a Crystal Weiss – but it didn’t specify the style). The carbonation was great; very effervescent and lively. On the nose I got all sorts of funky aromas. I couldn’t really pinpoint it but mostly I got peppery tartness. Basically, it has a pretty sour smell. I pushed on and tasted it. It actually wasn’t complete rubbish. This Wheat could have real potential. It tasted a little more “barnyard” or saison like than a wheat beer. I’m not sure whether it was actually infected or just old. But well brewed beer shouldn’t just turn funky, even with age.

Harfield – Harvey Brown

OK, next up was a brown ale from Harfield in Cape Town. When I did a little research on this one, I found that they follow a very American baseball, letter-jacket, sporty theme which explains their label. I have to be honest, I had low expectations for this one because I hadn’t seen many other reviews on it.

When I opened the bottle it was a complete gusher, meaning it was totally over carbonated. It took literally 10 minutes and two separate glasses (plus my table) to try and pour this beer out and it still hadn’t stopped foaming. Not only is that a bad sign, but it’s definitely a sign of poor practice in a Brown Ale which should only be moderately carbonated.

The aromas I got were all metallic, like rust or blood. But I tried it anyway and discovered what could be a great beer. It had all the right nutty, malty flavours that you get from Brown Ales. But it was clearly a (potentially) good beer gone wrong. Gushing can be caused by a sanitation problem, an infection and/or over carbonation (normally in bottle conditioned beers). Because of the metallic aroma, I’d guess it was a sanitation problem.

Long Mountain Brewery – Porter

The last of the 3 and I was suitably sceptical. I opened the bottle and it, too, was overcarbonated. It didn’t gush like the Harvey Brown but it had way too much head for a Porter. The aromas were all sherry like. So were the flavours.

Now, sherry-like aromas/flavours are associated with “oxidisation” which is a beer that is old or has been aged for too long. Considering I had this one in the fridge since about July, that could be the cause. BUT. For a style like a Porter, this shouldn’t be such a big problem. Porters can be aged. If this was a lager or a witbier, I’d say it was my fault but for a heavier, richer style this really shouldn’t happen that quickly. So it may come down to being an old bottle that I bought and stored for many many months, or something linked to the brewery. Either way, I’m afraid, it was a drainpour.

There were a few things I think all brewers can take from this experience: 

  1. Don’t put a beer out unless you’re 100% confident that it’s great. This isn’t measured by your best buddies saying it’s awesome; let’s be honest, your buds are probably just angling for free beer. And if you are going to put a beer out, please specify the style.
  2. Put expiry dates on your damn labels. It’s pretty hard for reviewers (and general beer lovers) to know when your beer is past it’s prime if there’s no date. I’ve actually noticed this cropping up in a few instances where on the label it says: “Best Before: Check batch.” But there’s no batch number or expiry date in sight. I’ve even seen on a label “Drink within 6 months” but there’s no production date. Come on guys. This sort of thing ruins the industry. Imagine a newbie to craft beer picks your beer off the shelf and it’s infected/old. After that, they’re not going to taste ANY more craft beer, not just yours.
  3. Don’t bottle condition unless you’ve tasted your own bottles 6 months later after being stored in poor conditions, good conditions and everything else in between. Seriously. We all know that liquor stores and logistics companies don’t always handle craft beer the way they should. But well brewed beer doesn’t turn into rubbish from that alone. A beer can’t get infected from being poorly stored. It can get old, sure, but not infected. That’s a brewery problem.

These three didn’t merit any ratings today. Only because there are some factors that both the brewery and I could have controlled better. So it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ll try these again one day and hopefully report back with better findings. Cheers!

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