Hyena piss with a hint of citris

and a polony after-taste that burps back on you…  Blergh!  Now, I am not saying that I have ever had the displeasure of drinking carnivore urine spiked with orange peel but the world of craft and other specialist beers can be a real hit and miss affair.  Thankfully, as it is with most things in life, there are very bad, ok, good and downright delicious examples of a cold one – that is, if you are willing to take a chance on things named Bonecrusher or Lumberjack or some other name you cannot pronounce sober.

Not sure what it’s like in social circles around the world, but it seems that here in SA, whipping out a selection of craft beer is the latest trend around the braai (barbeque).  Cans and bottles are replaced by glasses (you cant taste beer in a bottle – come on, beer-tasting 101!) decanted from an odd assortment of weirdly shaped brown bottles with equally odd labelling…. Chemically mass produced lagers are replaced by hand pampered beers that range from golden blonde ales to imperial stouts to white wheat beers with coriander and orange peel.  It’s not quite as bad as wine snobbery thank goodness, but I honestly never knew that people take their niche beers quite so seriously.

I am a beer drinker and have, in my youth, consumed more than what the government deems healthy quantities.  I still do on occasion – lets face it there are few things as good as ice cold Peroni Draft enjoyed in a crowded roadside pizza shop at the beach – but age has thankfully refined my palate. Oh god, who am I kidding: I can’t do fizzy drinks without suffering from some kind of gastrointestinal world war and the old leaky seal means I spend more time emptying the bucket than I ever used to. No. I now savour my choice of alcohol and getting blotto is no longer the primary purpose. Enter beer tasting.

This last weekend we went away with some friends and I popped past the local bottle store and had them choose a selection for us to enjoy over the weekend.  I am not a total stranger to microbreweries but I do not know much about the small producers beer so I figured I would let the experts choose.  My experience is limited to our hockey team being “sponsored informally” by Mitchells (the biggest local microbrewery here in SA) and a keg or two at the season end party is all it took for us to stick a logo on our shirts.  Beers selected, bagged and paid for (easily double the cost of a standard beer), I figured we could have a little fun instead of just getting tipsy on the standard fair while we razzeled up the fillet and chops.

Never having done it before and our tasters only starting after a bottle of champagne, multiple gins and a few glasses of Chardonnay, I am not sure that we followed the recommended tasting process as outlined on RateBeer but we did attempt to score each beer out of ten according to looks, smell and taste.

Maredsous Blonde

In the group, we tried some local SA ones: Darling Brew Bonecrusher and Jack Black Lumberjack… which smelt and looked better than they tasted unfortunately.  Bonecrushers marketing compares the beer to a misunderstood hyena and truth be told, of all the beers we drank we all agreed that it was by far the worst we sampled.  RateBeer gives it a two star but we’d give it a one – at a push.  Lumberjack was not as bad, but it was also pretty disappointing with a strange aftertaste – its worth a 2/5… perhaps a 3 if you drank enough of it.  The other local beer we tried was Alliance Amber Ale which, thankfully to our patriotic natures, was pretty decent and quite enjoyable… easily a 3/5 and I would spend money on it again if there was nothing else (I would not buy the other two).  Unfortunately the local showing did not hold up to the international competition with us all enjoying Erdinger Weis Kristall and some other German beer with an odd plain bronze label which for the life of me I cannot remember or find online (arrgh)… In fact, the lady in our group of “testers” loved the one I cannot remember… Murphys Law I suppose… For the rest of us, the best beer we drank was the  Maredsous Blonde Ale – proving once again that monks have been whiling away the boredom of their lives perfecting the art of making damn fine alcohol.  It’s a beer that looks, smells and tastes great and won the shootout hands down for us.

Great fun was had by all and I’d recommend beer tasting.  It’s like a wine tasting but wearing broad-shorts and a t-shirt. Next time I may get a little more serious and pick something from RateBeers Top 50 to try, or be a little more specific about our review and not forget the name of a beer!  One thing I refuse to do is describe a beer as having a “subtle chocolate nuance with undertones of lime and berry”… arghh bloody winos…..


ps.  we are not sure if it was the fresh air out at the place we stayed but none of us had any sort of hangover…. hand crafted beers without chemicals… hmmm….


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