Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making A Difference Through Beer

Negligence, thy name is Ryan.  In this case, the negligence is two fold.  First: about two months whole months ago, my Uncle Chris shipped me a second round of beers from Africa.  I did not drink them until last Wednesday.  As you may recall, I had an extended vacation in there and I didn't want to drink them until I could put up a decent post about them, so I had to wait until I finished updating about the vacation, which as you know took about a month.  Second: as you may have noticed, today is Tuesday.  I drank them almost a whole week ago and yet no post is up.  Well, as I rectified the first act of negligence, now shall I rectify the second.  Ryan Responsibility is..."The Rectifier," Tuesdays at 8 on TNT.

As an initial matter, the flavors of the following beers may or may not be altered by my sophisticated aging process.  I have no idea when exactly Chris purchased the beers, but I do know that he flew with them from Kenya to America.  Then sometime after he arrived in the States, he shipped them from Michigan, I believe.  Then they arrived at my apartment.  Then two months later I drank them.  So, it really could have been upwards of six months from purchase to consumption.  If I had a time machine, I would like to age a beer a year, go back in time that year and drink it side by side an un-aged version of that beer.  Oh sure, you can age a beer and then compare it to the brewery's fresh release of that beer, but it's not the same.  Like right now I'm aging a 2009 Bethlehem Brew Works Rude Elf which I intend on drinking side by side with a 2010 Bethlehem Brew Works Rude Elf.  But you know what would be spectacular?  If I could age a 2009 Rude Elf and taste it side by side with an un-aged 2009 Rude Elf.  Stupid linear nature of time and all of that.  So with that in mind, these beers had been slightly aged.

I'll discuss the beers in the order I drank them because it actually makes sense to do so this time.  First up, Sierra Amber.  Once again, this isn't to be mistaken for a Sierra Nevada beer.  It's the Amber from the fine people at the Nairobian (is that what you call people from Nairobi?) brewery Sierra.  I'd previously had their porter which was perfectly serviceable.  Chris had told me that the Porter was Sierra's best offering so when I got the Amber, I had expected a perfectly drinkable, but unspectacular, amber ale.  What I got was a legitimately delicious, really caramel-y, really sweet (but not in a sickly way) amber ale.  Seriously, this beer was great.  If I had to compare it to something you might have had (I don't have to but I'm going to anyways) I'd say it tastes a lot like Triple Carmelite, which is to say, amazing.  It doesn't quite have the alcohol content as a Triple Carmelite, but it does have that robust caramel taste.  Also, I hate myself a little for using the word robust here.  Unlike the porter, the amber was anything but thin.  I don't know if my "cellaring" the beer added to its greatness, but I'd sure like to find out.  Suffice it to say, I was surprised.  This beer isn't good for an African beer.  It's a good beer period.

The next beer I drank was a Nile Special Lager from Uganda.  This beer brings up an interesting juxtaposition between beer critics/reviewers and person-on-the-street beer drinkers.  If you google this beer, you'll find a couple of interesting things.  First, beer reviewers hate it.  All your beer review sites give it low grades.  If you scroll through the comments on beeradvocate, you'll find people saying its worse than your Buds and Coors.  Second, backpackers love it.  It has its own facebook fan page.  Every backpacker that has been through Africa raves about it as the best beer they've ever had.  They can't wait to get back to Uganda to drink another Nile Special.  I kid you not, it seems to generate the kind of adulation reserved for jam bands (although I suspect that the venn diagram of "Backpackers in Africa" and "Jam Band Enthusiasts" would be largely overlapping).  To force a metaphor, the debate over Nile Special Lager evokes a certain Congress v. Generals-on-the-ground debate over war policy/strategy.  Oh sure, Congress/Beer Reviewers, enjoy your view from those ivory towers but we're the ones that know the conditions on the ground.  Well sorry, Beer Critics, but beer drinking doesn't necessitate civilian oversight.  The drinkers have won out.  I'm here to report, this beer is good.  Honestly, truly, very good.  To put it in perspective, I liked it more than about half of Schmaltz's line (He-brew and Coney Island included), so I can imagine that if you're traveling through Africa and come across this gem of a beer, it's going to stand out.  It's one of those beers that makes you wish summer was longer because this really needs to be drank out doors on sunny summer afternoon.  Even more shocking, that's two for two so far on excellent beers from Africa.  Again, not even great contextually.  Just great.  Also, as you noticed if you clicked that link, their slogan is "Making a Difference Through Beer."  I like that.  A lot.

Speaking of sweet slogans, the third beer I had was the venerable White Bull Lager, which I documented at length in my previous African beers post.  Ok, so White Bull Lager doesn't stand up so well taste-wise to the prior two beers, but its ability to make me super sappy and emotional is off the charts.  You can't drink a White Bull Lager without stopping to think, "Holy shit, I am drinking a beer made in Southern Sudan."  It's phenomenal.  The bottle that my uncle sent me had the back label printed on upside down which makes me believe that one day the bottle will be worth more than those weird misprinted stamps or coins everyone (everyone?) is always going on about.  True to form, when I drank the White Bull Lager, I gathered everyone's (Liz's) attention and make a lengthy speech about the magnitude of the occasion and what it meant to be sitting in a cushy Brooklyn apartment drinking a quite drinkable beer from Southern Sudan.  We drank, of course, to Peace and Prosperity.  Well that's not exactly right.  You drink to something that has passed or has yet to be.  White Bull Lager celebrates peace and prosperity in its existing form.  So we celebrated Peace and Prosperity.  I'd like to have that attitude with every beer I drink because the fact that I'm able to drink a tasty brew means that there is at least some modicum of peace and prosperity happening in my life/in the world, and as White Bull Lager reminds me, I don't celebrate that enough.  My 1000 Celebrations of Peace and Prosperity Year.  If it rhymed, the title would already be changed.


  1. "I liked it more than about half of Schmaltz's line (He-brew and Coney Island included)"

    wait -- really?? i am a huge fan of almost all of Schmaltz's stuff - and their higher APV (not-Brooklyn-standards) are GREAT. I mean, you can get the Lager or a Python everywhere here, but a Bittersweet Lenny's IPA --- SO good.

  2. I'm diggin' the Polyphonic background to the blog!
    Thanks again for the shout. The Brew Works is proud to announce that we'll be brewing 14 batches of Rude Elf's Reserve for 2010 for off site (bottle) sales. We'll be in 12oz bottles this year in addition to (as well as)the corked/caged 25oz bottle conditioned offering.There's some fermenting in the tanks now!

  3. That is music to my ears Mike. Any chance they'll be ready by Thanksgiving? I'll be in the Bethlehem area then and I'd love to pick up a case of both the 12 oz and 25 oz bottles.