The Okanagan Tapmasters revíed up our beer engines this past week in Trentville, BC over fine fare and with the usual courtesy of this monthís meeting host, Rob. A great start to 2005 as we make our way toward our clubís first anniversary.
Rob and his wife spent the last several weeks in the Philippines in search of hops and possibly some NHL hockey. To the best of my knowledge, they found neither. I do understand that they had a fabulous time in spite of this minor setback. Amongst the booty that returned with them were several samples of Philippino beers that we enjoyed at the meeting, which followed an Asian theme.
We opened with candied mango pickles with pomelo, then a round of gambas, eventually cooling our taste buds with sweet and savoury dim sum. The beers of the evening included a barrage of labels that we typically avoid - Tiger, Sapporo, Zhujiang, Tsingtao, Asahi, and Singha. Robís Philippino booty included labels that we havenít tried before - Cerveza Negra, Red Horse, San Miguel Pale Pilsener, San Miguel Super Dry, and Beer Na Beer.
Although we stood knee-deep in a current of Asian Budmilloors, something became very evident - and Iím not talking about the odd waft of Tsingtao that stung our nostrils from across the table. Each of these beers are, in fact, very different from each other! I had never tasted any of these side-by-side before, and had adopted a very general opinion that each of these tasted very much alike. True, there wasnít a lot of difference in the visuals. All examples were very pale, with the exception of the Negra. We noted the first difference being the size of the bubbles in our glasses. A few resembled champagne while some had large fish-eye bubbles that gave you the impression that the contents of your glass were about to sublimate... or blast off into space. Only the Cerveza Negra sported any kind of head. The rest clung to the glass with a low profile once settled. The body ranged from light (especially in the dry examples) to medium. Malt aromas were all very mild with varying levels of sweet and graininess. Hops were generally hard to find aside from bitterness. The Tsingtao was very skunky and the Singha pushed a very stale cardboardy maltiness. I donít recommend either of these two beers at any time for any reason! Most were within the realm of sweet, corn, spicy, and maybe even fruity but the aromas didnít necessarily tie in with the flavors which were generally well-balanced. The Negra reminded me of Xingu or maybe Negra Modelo with its restrained bitterness. While the rest were not necessarily bitter, a couple did leave a mild lingering bittered aftertaste, with the definite exception of the Asahi which was very crisp and clean and left absolutely no remnants of its presence once you swallowed it. Of the dry beers, this was clearly the driest.
My personal pick was the Cerveza Negra with its sweet caramel and ripe fruit, nice head, and more robust complexity. On the other hand, with food, Iíd return to the Asahi, especially with delicate flavours such as sashimi. This beer is an easily paired thirst quencher because it never draws much, if any, your attention away from the food. We may have to thank dextrose and plenty oí rice for that. It would pair well against even sweet prawn dumplings or pomelos just the same.
Chad was the first to leave and I stayed to watch the DVD from the vacation and for a sip of Fundador.
Our meetings have often adopted style themes such as Wheat or IPA, and now even Asian lagers/pilseners. By comparing so many beers side by side, it enables you to learn a great deal more about the styles at hand. I couldnít tell you much about the hops in a Singha or a San Miguel other than to say, "What hops?" But, with each additional sample, the narrow margin of hop character is able to be distinguished from the next, as is the restrained maltiness or overcarbonation. Reading between the lines you may be able to tell that I still donít have much desire to drink most of these beers but we do walk away with a better understanding and maybe even some respect for the styles.
... now, would someone please get me a Dogsfish Head 120min IPA?!