Posts Tagged ‘blond’

Beer Review: Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer

24 February, 2008

AFTER my recent Polish excursion, I came over all thirsty for something with complexity. It was time to head back to a beer from the Britain. Much to my delight, this coincided with my local Tesco stocking a new range of Scottish beers. One that caught my eye was Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted. Purporting to be a “Blond Beer”, this immediately reminded me of the outstandingly delicious Leffe Blond(e) Beer. How would Harviestoun’s and Leffe’s blond(e) beers compare? And does it maintain the fine reputation established by Scotland’s other fine beers?

For a start, Bitter & Twisted looks different.
Bottle of Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted

The shape of the bottle is different to those of the continent. The front label too, gives this beer a look and feel so local, that it amazes you a shipment made its way from the county fair all the way down to London town. That is a quality I like.
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer front label

The mouse mascot. The hops. The description of ‘Craft Brewed in Alva, Scotland’ all add to it. The front label also gives us a three bullet point description of the contents. Always excellent as it gives me something to judge it by. “Spicy”, “Aromatic” and “Zesty” are what I’ll be on the look out for here.

In the way that all good British beers do, we get a good story on the rear label. This one is about the mouse that frequented the brewery and later achieved fame as the mascot (see front label). We are also treated to a technical description of the ingredients that goes above my head. It includes words and phrases like “hop profile”, “Hallertau Hersbrücker”, “Challenger”, “late hopping” and “Styrian Goldings”. If you know what any of this means, leave a comment in the usual place.
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer back label

Also on the information packed rear-label is the mention of awards having been won at “home and abroad”. But Harvieston have, like so many others, failed to say what those awards were, and when they were received. Also mentioned is that less carbon dioxide was used in the bottling process, so this should make it less gassy. Also of note, below the “Bitter & Twisted” banner is “Like the Twist of a Lemon”. Will the “Zest” come from a lemon flavour? The ingredients of barley, oats and wheat also tell us this isn’t going to be the watery experience of lager. Let’s see what this 500 millilitre (nearly 1 pint worth) of 4.2% beer is really like…

Poured into a glass, there was less head than with Leffe. The smell was also very different. It’s aromatic in the complex way that I wanted. But not malty like Leffe’s interpretation of blond beer. The is clearly going to be a very different drink to Leffe. You can just about make out the various crops that went into the making of this drink, plus the smell of something zesty added to it. Fortunately, not in an overpowering Cif Lemon way.
Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Blond Beer in a glass

Now the most important part: taste and drinkability. And I’m happy to report that Bitter & Twisted has both. The flavour is as complex as you’d expect from a drink with so many qualities and ingredients.

If I had to pigeon hole it, I’d say it was a bitter. But Bitter & Twisted is more than that. In the same way that Sir Ranulph Fiennes is someone who enjoys a spot of rambling, Bitter & Twisted takes the concept of a bitter to an extreme. Although the main taste is ever so slightly bitter, it’s swiftly followed by the taste of countless arable crops and yes, a hint of something that may be considered “zesty”. Possibly helped by it’s relatively low alcohol volume, Bitter & Twisted is very easy to drink. I’d very much like to try a bottle with a seafood meal.

If you find this available, it is well worth your time. In the sub £1.40 price bracket, it is also good value.

Rating: 4.25

If Tesco haven’t sold out, I’ll be trying the other Scottish beers, ales and lagers soon, so watch this space.

Have you tried Bitter & Twisted? What did you think? Can you recommend any other Harviestoun beers?


Beer Review: Leffe Blonde/Blond Beer from Belgium

18 February, 2008

AFTER slumming it with Tesco Value Lager, I decided to move upmarket for my next beer review. That move upmarket led me to this: Belgian Blond(e) beer.
Bottle of Leffe Blond(e) Beer

Like Ostravar Premium Czech Lager, we can tell that Leffe is premium because of the gold wrapping around the top. Ostravar however, was a letdown, so can Leffe do any better?

The labels on the bottle don’t tell us an awful lot. That might be because the little it does say, it says in half a dozen European languages. Most prominent among those are Dutch and French. In fact, the entire bottle is split between Dutch and French names and descriptions. Not surprising, when Belgium itself is, more than ever, splitting apart at its French and Dutch seams. As a consequence, we have ‘Blond’ also spelled at ‘Blonde’. ‘Bière Belge’ as ‘Belgisch Bier’ and ‘Abbaye de’ as ‘Abdij van’. This final duel wording, referring to Leffe’s origins at an abbey. The ‘1240′ date on the label at the shoulder of the bottle is something of a mystery. That couldn’t possibly be the date that brewing started there. Maybe it’s the date that the Leffe abbey was founded? If you know, leave a comment in the usual place.

Leffe Blonde front label

Around the back, if you look carefully at the multilingual jumble of text, you can make out a small number of facts. We learn that it is an authentic Belgian abbey beer. But we learnt that from the front of the bottle. It is 330 millilitres, so be prepared for either overfilling your half pint glass, or leaving your pint glass looking unfulfilled. Malted barley is the only listed ingredient. The only pleasant surprise the rear label tells us is that this beer has a 6.6% volume. Pleasant because that will make it more potent than most of the ales and cheap lagers I’ve tried recently.
Leffe Blonde back label

Impressions of the outside are of its yellow-ness. Presumably playing on the blond(e) connections, this is a distinctively yellow package. And continental European too, going by the text and red roof-topped abbey.

Poured carefully into a glass, we are treated to a thick creamy head. And one that stays around. The colour is yellow-ish, but not as luminescently bright yellow as the labelling has led me to believe. Still, it does look appealing being a dark shade of gold.
Leffe Blonde poured into a glass

Giving this a thorough sniff, as I recommend that you do, you will be treated to something special. Leffe has the richest and maltiest smell I have seen so far. And not in a bad way. You will have to smell it for yourself to see what I mean.

The smell carried over to the taste. It is rich, creamy and malty. Unlike nearly every other malted barley brew I have tried, it is not the barley that comes through. With Leffe, it is the malt. This is by far the maltiest beer I have ever tried.

It is, however, somewhat gassy, causing me to burp once or twice. You also have to be particularly careful how you pour it into a glass, if that is your preferred method of drinking. Whilst pouring the remainder into the glass, with rather less care than the first portion, it was very easy to end up with a big pile of foam atop a tiny layer of drink.

The flavour, also, might not be to everyone’s taste. It is fairly strong, so if you don’t care for malt, you may not be impressed with this. Me however, I enjoyed every drop. Leffe, is different, but not unpleasant. It is actually quite drinkable. And like the many ales that I have tried, this lager manages to match them on smell and flavour. A rare accomplishment indeed.

Does Leffe deserve to play the ‘Premium’ card in the same way as Ostravar? Unlike Ostravar, Leffe doesn’t just look quality, it is a quality drink. And it does what it does differently to the others. For that, I think it is well worth your time trying a bottle for yourself.

Rating: 3.75 to 4.25 depending on how much you like strong maltiness

Have you tried Leffe? What did you think of it? And have you tried any other Blond(e) beers? Leave me and the other readers a comments!

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