Nectar Creek Mead

I’m filing this under beer reviews rather than liquor because I don’t really feel like I’ll be doing enough mead/cider reviews for them to warrant their own category yet.

Nectar Creek appears to produce *only* carbonated session mead.  A Session (not Saison) for those not familiar with the term derives from a kind of low ABV beer intended for people who want to drink, but then need to actually get out and do something.  These are the kind of beers you can drink all day and not really get drunk because by the time you’ve had your second, the first one is almost out of your system.  (Note: You can get drunk on them, it would just take so many that you’d likely be full long before you got a comfortable buzz on).

Mead, traditionally, is pretty high ABV when compared to beer or cider, because the sugar content of honey is much higher than grains or apple juice.  Many meads are bottled at 12% ABV or higher. If ratebeer.com is any indicator of the type, they are seldom lower than 11%. All of the top 10 rated meads are 13.5% or higher.  That expectation colors a lot of my thinking going into this tasting.

Nectar Creek seems to have set their sails to filling the niche for drinkable, carbonated mead without the heavy alcohol kick.  With their strongest bottle clocking only 6.2% these meads are the little brothers of any other mead.  This threw the tasting for a bit of a curve.

The number of ingredients in mead is pretty small. If you’re tasting one of the more common styles it tops out around four.  In this case honey, water, yeast and unfortunately sulfites.  My tasting panel would normally consist of myself and TruantMuse but after one sip she acquired an instant headache that threatened to turn into a migraine and begged off of further tasting.  I was not personally aware of sulfite sensitivity prior to this evening or I might have read the label more closely.  Subsequent trips to the bottle shop and liquor store have shown sulfites in a good portion of the offerings in the beer/cider/mead category so this should not be taken as a problem unique to Nectar Creek.  It is actually quite hard to get a shelf stable product to market without adding some form of preservative.

Process established we tasted two flavors from Nectar Creek, Sting (Ginger) and Cluster (Cranberry/Strawberry).

Cluster

I want to start with the good points here.  The nose does give strawberry in abundance, you can really taste it through your teeth.  The drink is light, carbonation isn’t overwhelming and it doesn’t flatten out as quickly as some malt beverages or session beers.

The downsides however are many and manifold.  The sulfites are quite possibly the biggest hurdle, while they incapacitated my crew I was able to soldier onward and finish the tasting.  There is a definite mineral quality to the mead that I don’t usually get from my own attempts at making mead without preservatives.  The flavor was more reminiscent of a macrobrew than anything I have tasted in recent memory.  The berry flavors abandoned ship after the nose and what honey or sweetness you could expect from a mead followed soon after.  On the palette the brew was watery and lacked complexity or character.  The above mentioned metallic after-taste took any enjoyment out of the bottle pretty quickly.  I’m not going to accuse the bottle entirely, but after a single 500ml bottle, I felt like I had been gut punched and did not feel the need for another.

I want to be clear, I don’t think this was bad.  It was just not good.  There are many many offerings in this field.  Gluten free has gotten a huge ramp from cider so there is no lack of fine things to drink if that’s your limitation.  At $8 a bottle this is not something I would demand of my beer steward and getting any in quantity for a party seems a non-starter.

Sting

After allowing sufficient time to pass I ventured to the other bottle we had acquired.  TruantMuse wisely stayed out of the tasting and elected to spend the time taking photos of our bottles.

Again once opened, decanted and sampled the drink has a fine nose for Ginger.  The flavor is less pronounced that the berry flavors of Cluster but still ambient.  Once that clears however we are left with a less enjoyable product than before.  The astringent nature of ginger flavors that normally brings heat and a citrus bite is absent.  Similar in aspect to a weak store brand ginger-ale the flavor dies off quickly and doesn’t return.

Carbonation is good and maintains the lightly fizzy aspect that makes me suspect mechanical carbonation rather than bottle conditioning.

All in all, I think what happens during production makes a big difference.  Rather than finding a reasonable way to stop fermentation at 6% ABV and keeping the natural sweetness of the honey that remains, I think we have a product that is fermented to completion and then flavored and diluted to the desired level.  Similar to a liquor NDP who dilutes 95% rum and expects to retain some of the character of plantation or Agricole.

 

 

 

 

I leave you here with Dr. Ian Malcolm who has said it better than I could…

Koutsky 12°

22-45 koutsky 12 degreeThis was one of my sleepers of the show. I love the Koutsky 12° by Kout Brewery.

It was brought to the fest by Shelton Overly-Full-Of-Themselves and I am glad they brought it. It was one of the earlier beers I tried and they had some issues with the taps, so when I got the pour it had a large head. After waiting a few minutes for the foam to subside like the receding ocean tide I got a chance to look it over. It was clear, and bubbly just like I expect from a Czech Pils.

Stats: Czech Pilsner 5% ABV & 33 on the IBU scale

The first smell was bread like and very yeasty, almost a little funky honestly. But the first sip was smooth, and had a finish very similar to a white Belgian, crisp at first but with a slightly floral finish. I am pretty sure it’s beers like this that give the Czech people the honor of one of the highest beer consumption rates in the world. This is a solid every day drinker.

According to some searches other than Europe, it looks like the closest you can get this is New Orleans. I will keep an eye open, because I want more!

Na zdraví!

Special Mystery Triple IPA

19-34 Super Mystery IPAOh boy, here we go! This review is for one of my least favorite beers, a SUPER IPA.

I love a good IPA, don’t get me wrong. Ninkasi brewery made an art form out of the super hoppy beer, as did Lagunitas with Hop Stoopid. I love Total Domination and Tricerahops by Ninkasi. If you have not had many IPAs these beers are characterized by their very strong bitter flavor, brought on by the extra hops that are added during the brewing process.

They are assertive and very hard to pair with any kind of food. If you love a good bitter beer, an India Pale Ale is just what you need. Any-who on to the review.

Stats: Oregon brewed – 10+ % ABV and well over 100 on the IBU scale.

I honestly think that the Double Mountain brewery just sent this over to get rid of it. I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would enjoy more than one of these, let alone a .22 OZ. The aroma was the best part of this beer, it had fruity citrus & apricot notes. The IPA beers are normally very fruity smelling to my nose, this one was no exception. After the initial taste and bitterness fades, if you keep it on the tongue long enough some of the fruit flavors start to develop, but its SO bitter that it detracts from any enjoyment one may derive from the drinking.

I have had a few of their other brews, so hopefully this one negative review does not scare you from trying some of their other work.

PROST!

Weltenburger Kloster Pils – Review

16-24 Weztenburger kloster pilsI am a sucker for a good Pilsner, let me start this by stating that right from the outset. I think the craft beer movement has forgotten its roots to an extent, with all the IPAs, and Saisons you’re seeing lately. Not that I have a problem with them mind you, but I feel there is a place in the market for a delicious crisp Pilsner. The Weltenburger is a German Pilsner if the name didn’t give it away and I was not disappointed.

First the facts: 5.6% ABV, and a 22 on the IBU scale.

It had a clear pour, nice and bubbly almost like a champagne. Very light citrus smell on the nose, with a crisp and light flavor with only a slight grain or popcorn finish that is characteristic of much of the German beer I drink. This would be a beer that I could drink ice cold after mowing my lawn. At first glance it almost looks like what American mass market beer wants to be, however it has none of that vague uric flavor that is so common in American beer.

It was pretty much everything Budweiser wants to be. I have found websites that sell it, yet finding a vendor in Portland seems to be difficult. It is not currently on the list at Johns Market. I will be doing an expedition down there soon, and if I find it I will report back dear readers!