March 31, 2009

Strong Austrian Beer

Tonight with steak I chose not to open another pinot noir. My experiences with grilled or broiled steak and pinot noir are generally not good. What to choose? What to choose? How about a 2004 Eric Texier St. Gervais Veilles Vignes des Cardinieres?

I've enjoyed Eric Texier's wine for nearly a decade. Ever since I found a delicious bottle of the 1998 Brezeme Cotes du Rhone at Pike's Place up in Seattle, this producer of southern and northern Rhone wines and the occasional Burgundy has become a sentimental favorite.

In the past though, Eric has bottled some wines with synthetic corks, which I've found to provide inconsistent results with ageing wine. I still have some of the 1999 Brezeme standing up in the cellar, the idea being that the wine doesn't need to, and shouldn't, touch the synthetic cork. We'll see how the last few bottles hold up.

A few years ago I tried a single bottle of the 2000 Cardinieres, and loved it. So lively and peppery, just what I want in a Cotes du Rhone Villages wine, with the depth and intensity of a higher AOC like Gigondas.

So this 2004 Cardinieres has been in the cellar queue for a while. Made from 80 year old grenache vines, this wine is an ideal alternative to cabernet for a nice steak. That is, when it's not corked. Yes, no artificial cork here. Instead, the real thing, taint and everything.

Damn it! I suppose there are far greater ills in this world, but when I get a corked wine, it hurts.

So the steak went solo, but after dinner I opened a little bottle of "the world's most extraordinary beer." Yes, Castle Brewery in Eggenberg, Austria's Samichlaus Bier, bottled in 2007. This is "malt liquor" and allegedly the world's strongest beer at 14% alcohol. I imagine the micro brewers here in the US have things that trump that strength. Still, 14% is powerful beer, ideal in my case for a pinot noir stem.

What can such a strong beer smell and taste like? The first sniff simply said "Austria." This beer smells like an intense version of the crisp but malty beers of Vienna, where I spent some time in university. With time, there are hay, honey, and light burnt sugar aromas as well, still nicely fresh for what is obviously aged beer.

The color is bronze and the flavors moderately sweet, with round malt, apricot, and mild alcohol notes and terrific length. This in fact may be the most extraordinary beer I've ever tasted. Yes, the label's boast seems correct.

More details from the back label: this beer is brewed once a year, on December 6, and aged 1o months before bottling. Thus, this must be from 2006, and apparently this should age nicely and become "more complex with a creamy warming finish." I'll buy that.

Where strong beers are hot and alcoholic at 10%, this is amazingly wine like with great aroma, balance, texture, and length, everything I look for in a quality wine. Treat this like an aged white dessert wine. Chocolate didn't work, but maybe fruit dessert or biscotti would be nice. Or sip it on its own. For nearly $5, it's pricey beer. But for the quality, it's a steal.

1 comment:

Dudley said...

These can age for decades. I try to buy three bottles a year and try them after 3-5 years. It has all the complexity of mature wines.