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Beer reviews: Orval and Švyturys Ekstra

For my birthday this year, my parents gave me a bucket of thirty different bottles of beer from all over the world:

There is already a little "good beer list" on our fridge (along with the "renovation list, from mundane to absurd" and the grocery list), but thirty bottles requires something a bit more involved… like blog entries. Some of these beers are familiar to me, and some are uncharted territory.

In general, I will pour the beer into my best guess at an appropriate glass, at my best guess at an appropriate temperature (going by the label if they give me any hints), and drink the beer with supper. I won't do any research before tasting beyond reading the label and ogling the beer in the glass. Afterward, I will find some suitable link on the Web for the beer.

Last night, I had the Orval, a strong Trappist ale from Belgium. We ate lentils, kale and brown rice for supper. Their logo is a trout (which looks like a dolphin to me) with a golden ring, and the bottle is shaped like a bowling pin. Inside is a clear, brassy-coloured ale with a thin head and lots of effervescence. No signs of lees.

The taste comes on pretty hoppy, and has notes of toffee and dry white wine. It tastes toasted, and it's not at all heavy. It's distinctive, and to me doesn't taste particularly "Belgian". I'd definitely have it again on its own, with unobtrusive food, or maybe with something smoky or sweet.

Tonight, I had the Švyturys Ekstra, the most popular beer in Lithuania according to the label (and AC Nielsen). I picked it to go with the pierogis, dill pickle and peas we were having. As promised on the gold-and-burgundy label of the tall bottle, the contents are flaxen-golden with more head and less persistent bubbles than Orval.

The first taste had some funny wintergreen notes, but they dissipated by a third of the way down the bottle. The general taste was very light, starting off a bit un-toasted and getting a little toastier with more drinking. I could taste hops, and also the sweet rice flavour. I'm not sure I'd make a point of buying this beer, unless I were celebrating something Lithuanian. It's not a bad beer, but it fills the same (light, refreshing) niche for me as the time-tested Labatt Bleue (one of the thirty beers in the selection) and the truly excellent (but not in the selection) Stuart's Session Ale, and the first sips were kind of strange.

I'll post more entries for your reading pleasure as well as to crank the non-work-related writing handle with some regularity. Updates will proceed at the speed with which I taste the beer (no more than one bottle a day; more than that biases reviews of beers later in the tasting order…)

This is a copy of an entry here: http://metawidget.dreamwidth.org/3130.html. There are comment count unavailable comments on the original entry.

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odetothepillow August 10th, 2010
I expect a convenient table of all thirty beers when you're done with them.

phrawzty August 10th, 2010
Excellent ! I am looking forward to more reviews. :)

Orval is tasty - the earthy tones originate (so i'm told) as a result of their dry-hopping process, which infuses the hops over a period of a few weeks.

I've never heard of the second one, but then again, i haven't heard about much of anything related to Latvia as a country. I wonder if i can buy it anywhere here ? Hmm...

phrawzty August 10th, 2010
Lithuania, not Latvia. :P

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