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Beer collection

This is my (former) beer bottle collection. As I’m planning on moving, it’s time I get rid of it. It’s been suggested it’s gone too far, and I’m inclined to agree. Including a few duplicates, excluding the ones had on tap in pubs and bars etc, I’ve (apparently) drunk well over 300 different beers. The collection, including duplicates (some of them saved because the design of the can/bottle changed, some of them saved because I’d forgotten I had them), consisted of 318 bottles, nearly all of them complete with the bottle cap.

Before throwing them out, I photographed each bottle/can/cap individually, giving a pretty good look at beer packaging design in 2010 +/- a couple of years, and in some cases the progression over several years. While I had saved duplicates for this reason, it was surprisingly interesting to see the progression of design of some breweries, while others have of course stuck with a simple design that works.

Before separating the bottles from their caps and the cans from the bottles (bottles separated into clear and coloured), I thought I’d line them up and get a group photo of the entire collection, sorted by geographical location and brewery. This was easier said than done. Eventually I gave up and realized I had to separate the containers into two photos, and as rain was expected when setting up the second photo, the Swedish section spills over to the right. Rain did come, and I had to cover the lens to keep rain off it, but the end result is pretty impressive (in spite of everything), in my opinion.

The first photo covers North America to the UK (and Iceland and Spain), the second goes from Norway and the Low Countries (starting with Trappist brews) to Japan and New Zealand. Due to lack of time for the setup, the Swedish brews spill over to the right, going “east” of Japan and New Zealand, and even forcing me to add a fifth level to fit them all. On an additional note, I wish I would have saved the first Guinness I ever had which contained an earlier version of the can draught system, containing a metal tube-like nitrogen canister rather than the currently used plastic ball and being the full 50 cl.

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Robinsons Old Tom

Brewer: Unicorn Brewery, Frederic Robinson Ltd. (Stockport, Greater Manchester, England)
Alcohol: 8,5 % ABV
Price: 24:80 SEK (75:15 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 33 cl bottle
Malts: Unknown.
Hops: Unknown.
Recommended temperature: 14-18 degrees Celsius

Colour: Almost transparent dark brown with a reddish tinge. Good head and liquidity.
Aroma: Malt, liquorice fudge, some brown sugar.
Taste: Roasted malts, liquorice, dark syrup, hints of dadles and a warming alcohol finish with notes of dark chocolate (80% cocoa or more) dark syrup and dark dried fruits. Vinous overall. Mouthfeel is nice and a tad buttery, carbonation is low with fine bubbles.
Aftertaste: Vinous, dark dried fruits, dark chocolate and dark syrup.

Afterword: Very much worth trying.

Gouden Carolus Christmas

Brewer: Brouwerij Het Anker (Mechelen, Antwerp, Belgium)
Alcohol: 10,5 % ABV
Price: 29:50 SEK (89:39 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 33 cl bottle
Malts: Unknown.
Hops: “Belgian hops”.
Spices and additives: “Six kinds of herbs and spices”, sugar.
Recommended temperature: 8-12 degrees Celsius

Colour: Murky brown with thin white lace. Strange, gooey-like liquidity.
Aroma: Fruity, liquorice, lots of spicy herbs (anise-like and more), slightly sweet, hints of banana.
Taste: Plenty of liquorice, somewhat fruity and sweet, notes of butter-fried brown sugar, very malty with a strong raisin vibe. Full of spices and herbs like nutmeg, something anise-like, ginger and many more. There is some hint of bubblegum banana flavour, and quite a lot else that is hard to identify. Surprisingly no alcohol flavour.
Aftertaste: Slightly buttery mouthfeel. Slightly sour, herbal taste. Tongue is significantly numbed.

Afterword: Not a bad drink, but more like herbal liquor than beer. Would drink if free.

Samuel Adams Winter Lager

Brewer: Boston Beer Company (Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Alcohol: 5,5 % ABV
Price: 17:50 SEK (49:30 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 355 ml bottle
Malts: Two-row Harrington, Metcalf, and Copeland pale malts, Caramel 60, malted wheat, Weyermann Carafa Malt, and Munich 10.
Hops: Hallertau Mittelfrüher.
Spices: Orange peel, ginger and cinnamon.
Recommended temperature: 8-12 degrees Celsius

Colour: A rather clear, dark, brownish orange. Head is small and dies down fast.
Aroma: On the vague side. Caramel, malt, hints of candied orange peels, ginger and spiciness. Vague whiffs of fresh wheat.
Taste: Decidedly malty with a host of taste impressions. Notes of caramel, spices, brown sugar, orange peels, dried apricots coated with melted butter, that taste you get in your mouth when chewing on a thick straw of grass, some momentary, feint impression of generic bubblegum flavour. Sweet, but somewhat bitter. Robust, slightly buttery mouthfeel with perfect low level of carbonation.
Aftertaste: Slightly buttery mouthfeel. Malty, slightly sweet and spicy.

Afterword: Let me start with saying that if I had known this beer was spiced, I would not have bought it, especially since one of the spices is ginger. I recently tried Brewdog’s atrocity “There is no Santa” (no review) and it tasted as Grinch-like as it was named. The bottle didn’t mention spices, it was on the official website that I noticed this was the case.
I’m glad I didn’t get a chance to let that one bad beer influence my decision when buying this, because it’s delicious. The spices are there in the background and complement the beer wonderfully, but they aren’t noticeable in the taste. This is the way it should be.
I’m growing more and more impressed with the BBC’s ability to create good beer despite being a rather large brewery.
Short version: A good winter lager, full of taste. Great for sipping!

Samuel Adams Black Lager

Brewer: Boston Beer Company (Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Alcohol: 4,9 % ABV
Price: 16:40 SEK (46:20 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 355 ml bottle
Malts: Harrington, Metcalfe and Copeland pale malts, Munich 10 Münchener and a small amount of dehusked Carafa.
Hops: Spalt Spalter and Hallertau Mittelfrüher.
Recommended temperature: 10-14 degrees Celsius

Colour: Very dark brown with an orange-yellow lining , almost opaque, with a lofty head that dies down quite fast.
Aroma: Worty, roasted malts, somewhat sweet, slightly buttery. Notes of chocolate truffles.
Taste: Interesting. Definitely roasted malts, wort bread, notes of chocolate and burnt sugar. Slightly sweet, but a lot of bittersour, burnt notes. The hops combined with the roasted malts provide that bittersourish liquorice sensation, like the burnt surface of a loaf of dark bread. Mouthfeel is good, though on the light and drinkable side, and carbonation is very low, but it feels appropriate.
Aftertaste: Worty, roasted malts, slightly sweet.

Afterword: This is quite an interesting schwarzbier, in the sense of flavour. I like it a lot, despite being a tad light on the mouthfeel. A very decent brew, and in the company of the right food it will be great.
Short version: I will certainly buy this again!

Mahou Negra

Brewer: Mahou S.A. (Madrid, Madrid, Spain)
Alcohol: 5,5 % ABV
Price: 13:90 SEK (42:12 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 33 cl bottle
Malts: Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Recommended temperature: 8-12 degrees Celsius

Colour: Semi-opaque Coke-brown with a reasonable white head.
Aroma: Vague, dark wort bread, soy.
Taste: Coffee, soy, roasted malt. Fairly bitter overall. Hints of dark chocolate/cocoa and some feint liquorice root. Carbonation is quite low, mouthfeel is sadly quite watery.
Aftertaste: Roasted and somewhat sweet, long but vague.

Afterword: This was the first time I tried a Spanish beer; partly because they are hard to come by in Sweden, partly because I have yet to find a good beer from a typical vacation country. This is not just a matter of being a judgemental bastard.

What happens is Swedes, often very happy with any mass-produced beer as long as it isn’t foul, go to some warm place on holiday. They drink lots of some cheap brand and find it quite agreeable, if only for the fact that it’s liquid. When they get back, they want to buy that nice beer they had while on vacation. So with a few thousand customers asking the alcohol monopoly to introduce it, they soon do. And the people who loved the beer in Thailand or wherever typically find that it is in fact rather mediocre and doesn’t taste much at all. Still, with enough Swedes going on vacation, enough people are buying these brands too keep the import going, and they tend to be cheap enough for the alcoholics to “like” them.

Still, this was pretty cheap, the label indicated it has been brewed since 1890 (actually 1908), it was a dark beer and the label wasn’t coloured like a piñata, so I figured it was worth a shot.
It is in fact quite a decent dark beer, and aside from the very watery, almost solvent-like mouthfeel, it tastes very good indeed and has the key flavours I look for in a dark lager, and very well-balanced as well. However, the wateriness soon washes the flavour away, which is a shame.
Short version: Very good but short taste, overly watery mouthfeel.

Bocken I Paradiset

Brewer: Gotlands Bryggeri (Visby, Gotland, Sweden)
Alcohol: 5,0 % ABV
Price: 18:90 SEK (57:27 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 33 cl bottle
Malts: Caramel
Hops: “German and American sorts”
Recommended temperature: 10-14 degrees Celsius

Colour: Clear amber with a reasonable head.
Aroma: Fruity with flowery hops, slightly sweet and citric.
Taste: Sweet malt with a roasted touch, with a rather weak addition of fresh hops. Slight bitter alcohol taste throughout, but strong alcohol finish in the first sips. Notes of pear and nutty toffee. Mouthfeel is decent, but on the watery side.
Aftertaste: A sweet, nutty and watery mouthfeel with some bitter alcohol stings.

Afterword: The taste sensation is not unlike eating a rum-soaked chocolate covered pear. In my mind, it would have been far better with a touch more hops and a bit less alcohol, as the balance is quite off now and a lot of the flavours are veiled by a thick blanket of alcohol.
Short version: Drinkable, but not great.

Red October

Brewer: Gotlands Bryggeri (Visby, Gotland, Sweden)
Alcohol: 6,0 % ABV
Price: 15:90 SEK (48:18 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 33 cl bottle
Malts: Unknown barley malt
Hops: Saazer and Amarillo
Recommended temperature: 12-16 degrees Celsius

Colour: Semi-transparent dark orange with a decent head.
Aroma: Large, worty with definite Amarillo notes. Rather sweetish without being sweet.
Taste: Rather sweet, almost syrupy, with a bready maltiness. Some notes of dark dried fruits (raisins and something else) and an underlying taste of perfectly balanced Saazer/Amarillo hops. Good, smooth mouthfeel.
Aftertaste: Sweet biscuits and some hops.

Afterword: This is an interesting experiment, and no matter what one might think of the communist kitsch marketing, the beer is certainly full of both aroma and taste. It is too sweet for me, but it might make a decent Christmas beer.
I must commend Gotlands Bryggeri for getting the Saazer/Amarillo balance just right, and I hope other beers with that particular hop blend will follow.
Short version: If it had been a bit less sweet, it would have been great.

Stella Artois

Brewer: Pivovary Staropramen A.S. (Leuven, Flemish Brabant, Belgium)
Alcohol: 5,0 % ABV
Price: 13:90 SEK per bottle (42:12 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 33 cl bottle
Malts: Unknown
Hops: Unknown
Recommended temperature: 8-12 degrees Celsius

Appearance: Clear, light yellow. Decent head that dies down to a foam with a mucky texture.
Aroma: Rather vague, made up of bitter cabbage but slightly grainy. Skunkish.
Taste: Better than the smell. Rather vague with a watery mouthfeel. Grainy light malt notes, somewhat on the grassy side, some bitterness. Watery finish.
Aftertaste: Rather vague, slightly buttery and a bit sweet.

Afterword: Not something you’d buy for the taste, but perhaps a good thirst quencher in the summer. There’s little chance I will buy another one.
Short version: Meh.

Staropramen (Lager)

Brewer: Pivovary Staropramen A.S. (Prague, Czech Republic)
Alcohol: 5,0 % ABV
Price: 16:90 SEK per bottle (33:80 SEK per litre)
Packaging: 50 cl can
Malts: Czech pilsner malt
Hops: Saazer
Known additives: Maltose syrup
Recommended temperature: 10-14 degrees Celsius

Appearance: Orange yellow, dense head.
Aroma: Fresh, slightly malty with grassy hops.
Taste: Slightly thin initially. Malty, rather bitter and slightly buttery. Some slightly sweet notes and definite fresh hops. Well balanced with hops and none of the bad taste which is common in other mass produced beer. Prickly carbonation, good mouthfeel.
Aftertaste: Good and long with sweet maltiness, butterscotch and a slight bitterness.

Afterword: This is what a decent Czech pilsner should be like. It’s not outstanding, but it’s very good and goes with most food and friends.
If anyone from Staropramen reads this (as if, lol), please simplify your site. It’s horribly corporate, and while flashy animations and videos amuse the bosses and marketing department, it’s useless for the audience. The customer wants facts and easy access, neither of which you currently supply.
Short version: A good Czech pilsner at a decent price.