Tired of macro-brewed domestic beer that resembles fizzy urine? For once, then, take your weekend beer budget and put it to good use. Prepare for an adventure in beer snobbery as we tour some of the finest watering holes in the area in search of exotic beers from around the world.
Before setting off, let us take a moment to remember Allan D. Eames, a renowned beer historian and anthropologist who passed away on Feb. 10 at age 59. His passion for beer led him to search out the ancient traditions and lore associated with beer in 44 countries, including Egyptian tombs and villages along the Amazon, which led to the modern-day reproduction of Xingu Black Beer (see below). Let this brief list serve as a tribute to his work. Manifest destiny!
8% abv. (Germany)
Where to find it: Gasthaus German Restaurant, 4812 Brownsboro Center, 899-7177. (16.9-ounce bottle: $7.25)
How’s it taste?: There are myriad flavors at work in this dark brown beer — for instance bananas and grapes, malted wheat and chocolate — and it sits heavily on the belly. The alcohol gives it a nice warming finish, and a surprising amount of carbonation eases its wallop on the way down.
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA —
Imperial Pale Ale,
21% abv. (USA)
Where to find it: Rich O’s Public House, 3312 Plaza Drive, New Albany, (812) 949-2804. (12-ounce bottle: $11)
How’s it taste?: Don’t let the alcohol content frighten you, this is a very drinkable, or rather sippable, beer. A citrus/candy sweetness balances remarkably well with strong, bitter hops, more hops and, obviously, a good dose of alcohol in each measured sip. In short, it’s a frightfully smooth, truly delicious brew to nurse all night.
Fraoch Heather Ale — Gruit,
5% abv. (Scotland)
Where to find it: Za’s Pizza Pub, 1573 Bardstown Road, 454-4544. (11.2-ounce bottle: $5.50)
How’s it taste?: A gruit is a beer that traditionally uses herbs and spices for flavoring in addition to hops and barley, and the floral aromas and flavors are very heady in Fraoch. The taste is subtle — flowery with minimal malt — and very refreshing, like a Scottish hillside … but in your mouth.
Murphy’s Stout —
Irish Stout, 4% abv. (Ireland)
Where to find it: Flanagan’s Ale House, 934 Baxter Ave., 585-3700. (1-pint can: $5.25)
How’s it taste?: This one follows the basic stout blueprint fairly closely: subtle burnt nut and chocolate flavors, black as tar, smooth and creamy, yet filling. Fans of Guinness should give this one a go.
Old Speckled Hen — English Pale Ale,
5.2% abv. (England)
Where to find it: Brendan’s Restaurant and Pub, 3921 Shelbyville Road, 895-1212.
(1-pint draft: $5)
How’s it taste?: Here’s a smooth pub companion you can with drink through the night. Honey and toasted bread flavors sit in the front, with a sour finish that dries pretty quickly, which also makes you drink it quickly. Nice pint for a footer match with your mates.
Rogue Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale —
5% abv. (USA/Japan)
Where to find it: Maido Essential Japanese, 1758 Frankfort Ave., 894-8775. (22-ounce bottle: $11)
How’s it taste?: Though this ale is brewed right here in the states, it’s inspired by, and goes wonderfully with, Japanese cuisine, as most noodles in Japanese dishes are made from buckwheat. It’s very dark in color, and most of the flavor is taken over by a rich, smoky nuttiness: Try it with seaweed-wrapped sushi.
Taj Mahal —
4.5% abv. (India)
Where to find it: Kashmir Indian Restaurant, 1285 Bardstown Road, 473-8765. (22-ounce bottle: $6)
How’s it taste?: Not much in the realm of flavors here … reminiscent of any number of American brews: sour and only a little hoppy, but a little bit more funky because of its long journey from India. But hey, it’s a good value, and something to help put out the fire that Indian cuisine is sure to set in your mouth.
Unibroue Chambly Noire —
Belgian Dark Ale, 6.2% abv. (Canada)
Where to find it: Brendan’s Restaurant and Pub. (12-ounce bottle: $5)
How’s it taste?: Like most of this brewery’s efforts, this beer is highly carbonated and has a quick dry finish, almost like champagne. The flavors of this jet-black brew are subtle but numerous, like a pan of fruits, nuts and coffee beans all roasted and then promptly brewed.
Westmalle Tripel — Trappist Ale,
9.5% abv. (Belgium)
Where to find it: Rich O’s Public House. (11.2-ounce bottle: $7.25)
How’s it taste?: Adjectives come a bit short for such a complex brew, but here’s a few anyway: malty, sweet, spicy, boozy. It’s deceptively light in color and body, but the malts and heavy alcohol flavor will keep you from trying to foolishly pound it. Definitely something to nurse gently and drink at a warmer temperature in order to taste all of the flavors at work.
Xingu — Black Beer, 4.7% abv. (Brazil)
Where to find it: Palermo Viejo, 1359 Bardstown Road, 456-6461. (12-ounce bottle: $3)
How’s it taste?: Brewed from a recipe that hasn’t changed very much since its creation by Amazonian Indian tribes, and it retains much of the earthy, smoky flavor of its rustic roots. A fairly heavy beer, but incredibly smooth, with a creamy cocoa quality at the finish line.
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