Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Night Beer: Christoffel Nobel

Christoffel Nobel
Christoffel Bier
Roermond, Netherlands
Something different tonight. I've been doing mostly ales since I started, and, genereally speaking, when you get into beers you find yourself buying up ales to the exclusion of lagers. That's a shame, because lagers can be just as unique and fantastic as ales. Unfortunately they've been given a bad name thanks to Bud, Blue, Canadian etc. etc. etc.
Christoffel makes a coupld good lagers. The Nobel is new, but you should usually be able to find a Blonde in the LCBO. The Blonde is a more traditional lager, but quite good, hoppy and refreshing. This Nobel is a bit of a beast. High alcohol and highly hopped with continental "noble" hops. You'll notice the label says "dry-hopped". This means that hops are introduced after the boil, giving a nice hit of aroma, but not cooking the hops to add bitterness.
My bottle is beautiful, which is nice because I've heard from some people that the shipment has been a bit flat. Huge billowy white head off the pour. Settles after five minutes or so to a finger-thick head. Clear lacings on every sip.
Perfumey continental hops on the nose mingled with some hot alcohol. Slightly piney aroma, a touch of citrus zest.
Taste is all at the back of the tongue. About as bitter as you'd expect from a European pilsner. However, I'm sort of missing the flavours I really enjoy from Euro-hops. A good hit of fresh grass would be welcome. Instead the focus is all bitterness and floral herbs. Then again, I'm not sure how much of that can be chalked up to the huge alcohol hit. This beer is hot, and it gives it an almost Belgian strong ale character. One glass is fine for me, this is a tough beer. I'd definitely recommend it though.
I find this beer surprisingly heavy. Pilsners are typically light and refreshing, whereas this is alcohol heavy and full bodied. Worth a try. Drink it a bit warmer than you normally would a light lager. If it's not your cup of tea I'd recommend the Victory Prima Pils, my favourite pilsner at the LCBO.


  1. I don't want to create the impression I'm chasing you around the beer world but I did take you up on two of your recent recommendations and was completely blown away -- in a good way -- by both. Mid week, I had a Rogue Brutal Bitter and -- my wife's assertion that you can't "love" food notwithstanding -- I loved this brew. Considering it was labelled a “strong ale” (6.2 % ABV), the many places its characteristics diverged from ale traditions surprised me. If you can believe the Oregon brewer, it’s made with only a single breed of hops – an Oregon-grown twist on Cascade. But they’re all over the place in this really great beer. It poured cloudy and golden-orange, with a nice creamy head. Lots of hops in the nose, flavour and lasting forever through the finish. At first taste, my and I immediately picked up orange (she: Orangina soda; me: orange peel with a hint of cloves) making it much more evocative of an IPA than a more traditional ale signature.

    And last night (Thursday), I enjoyed with equal enthusiasm a bottled St Louis Gueuze I bought at the LCBO. A beautiful light gold / yellow colour in the glass, the beer generated a light head and imparted a somewhat thin body. Lots of fruitiness behind its trademarked sourness, somewhat lemony, certainly the apple cider resonance is there, somewhat grassy / haylike (probably what lies behind the “barnyard” descriptor someone used in the Wikipedia entry for "gueuze"). Little left for the finish but the sourness did hang around for a bit. I did a bit of ancillary reading about how gueuze is produced and got a chuckle out of the fact they pride themselves on the opposite of a sterile brewing environment -- deliberately inviting wild yeasts to flutter into their vast open-topped fermentation tanks. Every batch an adventure! But the fairly narrow range of their home geography means at least some consistency in the wild yeast sources.

    Then tonight, I guess just as penance for so completely enjoying my two previous, I opted for a Greek brew -- Mythos ("Hellenic Lager Beer", says the label) because we were in the Greek Souvlaki House tucking into one of their massive platters. And what a mistake that turned out to be! (The beer choice, not the food, which was as satisfyingly filling and tasty as always). Maybe because it comes across as a quick and dirty sunny summer day thirst quencher and I had it on a late winter evening indoors, it just lacked any defining characteristics whatsoever. Added to this was the fact that the indoor lighting in this place was a weird aquarium blue – undoubtedly resonant of “home” to someone, or something, but only if you happen to be a neon tetra – which bathed the beer’s colour into a completely unappetizing, sickly greenish-yellow. But nothing about this beer – not even the ancient Olympian echoes of Homeric heroes residing in its name – would ever inspire me to order another. (Although I might feel differently if the location were an outdoor village café on the slopes of Santorini overlooking the crystal Mediterranean and my physical state consisted of a towering thirst. But unless and until those circumstances are created, I’ll just quench that thirst with ice water before I’d spend money on another Mythos.)

    Cheers, and have a happy weekend (a week if you're March Breaking anywhere to the south).

  2. Yeah, you really can't go wrong with Rogue. I've seen a couple bottles of Yellow Snow IPA turn up around here, pick it up if you see it. Agree completely on the orange character, I think Rogue has a pretty distinctive yeast character that you'll find in most of their brews.

    St. Louis was the first gueuze I ever had. It's frowned upon by a lot of beer geeks because I believe it gets a dose of sugar prior to fermentation. Nonetheless, I don't have a big problem with it, especially since it's all we get in these parts.

  3. The St Louis Gueuze label actually has a stick-on added note, almost like a Health Canada warning: "Artificially sweetened beer... CONTAINS SUGAR AND ACESULFAME-POTASSIUM" (Ace-K -- which'd be a great name for a rapper who updates pop tunes from groups like The Archies and The Monkees for the New Millennium, but I digress -- is a calorie-free artificial sweetener trade marketed as Sunette.) The Belgians have no problem with it and will quite happily let you know they use only the finest candy sugar to trigger the Gueuze in-the-bottle fermentation, along with the Ace-K for you calorie-counters. I consider myself a beer geek (admittedly on the "featherweight" end of the scale of geekiness) and the Gueuze is one more style to enjoy. They never claimed to be Rheinheitsgebot adherents. I have a whole lot less respect for the mass market products on this side of the water, whose brewers tank them up with all sorts of adjuncts and up to three pages of chemicals and whose bottles are still allowed to wear labels like "Ale", "Lager" or even "Beer".

  4. The Belgians are adventurous, but there are certain styles, such as lambics, whose attractiveness lie in the traditions of brewing. Putting sweetners in gueuze is a lot different than putting candy sugar in a strong ale, or coriander in a witbier. When you add candy sugar to gueuze you get Faro. In the case of St. Louis, they're a commercialized gueuze brewer and are not really indicative of what a gueuze actually tastes like.

  5. You mean I'm enamored with a pretender??!!! Dang! (Well, if you needed proof that my beer geekery tilts towards featherweight, look no further.) But thanks for the clarification. I'll continue to enjoy StL from time to time and just look forward all the more to the unadulterated version of the style some day.

  6. Nuttin' wrong with that. Drink what you like. I've even been known to put a slice of lemon in a witbier, sacrilege to some fellow travellers.

  7. :-)

    We were told by a serious Hoegaarden fan that lemon is acceptable; orange is the sacrilege.