Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Global malting pot

Tour Folklorama's pavilions and taste what the world's brewers offer

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Folklorama is a fortnight of fun, no matter what kind of food or drink you desire. The two-week festival starts tomorrow and runs through until Aug. 17 at venues throughout the city.

Many of the world's premier wine-producing countries are represented at Folklorama, although there are a few absences -- France, New Zealand and Australia among them.

It could be argued beer is, in fact, a more global drink than wine. A search for "wine" on the Liquor Marts website returns more than 2,500 products from 24 countries -- an impressive number. And while a search for "beer" returns only 660 items, they come from 35 different countries.

Most wine-producing regions of the world sit between the 30th and 50th degree of latitude in both the northern and southern hemispheres. That leaves out Indonesia, Ethiopia, Thailand, the Philippines, Scandinavia and most of England, Russia, Belgium, India and Mexico -- all represented at Folklorama and all areas of the world from which we get beer but little to no wine in Manitoba.

Yes, they make wine in most of these areas, but it is rarely, if ever, exported.

So in the spirit of Folklorama, and of beer being a truly global beverage, I took a worldly adventure and tried 10 worldly lagers and ales...

BELGIUM:

WESTMALLE TRAPPIST DUBBEL

($3.32/330ml bottle)

Deep cherry/copper in colour, with an intense nose and a head that lasts for ages. Intense aromatics: candied nut, dried apricot, raisin, vanilla and spice. At seven per cent alcohol, it's stronger than the rest here. It's easily the top of the heap, with caramel, burnt orange, yeast, raisin and mocha flavours and a soft but rich texture. The winner this week by a long shot -- remarkable stuff.

BRAZIL:

XINGU BLACK BEER

($2.74/355ml bottle)

Molasses notes come through most prominently on the nose of this very dark beer, with some gingerbread and prune in there too. That prune/raisin component is notable on the palate, but with just a hint of sweetness. Fans of tawny port will probably like this.

CARIBBEAN:

CARIB LAGER

(Trinidad -- $2.17/330ml bottle)

This is a pretty cookie-cutter beach beer ala Corona: very pale in colour, with light bitter hops notes and some citrus aromas. It's crisp and citrusy -- chill it right down, pop a lime wedge in there and hit the beach.

CHINA:

HARBIN 1900 TREASURE

($3.01/500ml can)

This Budweiser product (labelled "the oldest beer brewed in China") has a cool pull-tab on the can... beyond that, there's not much going for it. Very pale in colour, some light commercial maltiness and pretty uninspired, short and corny on the palate.

DENMARK:

FAXE PREMIUM

($2.43/500ml can)

Slightly darker than the other light beers, this has a fairly malty and toasted-grain nose. Drinking from a glass helped the tinny note dissipate, leaving a simple corny, malty brew. Once again, an imported beer with the word "premium" in its name ain't that.

GERMANY:

HACKER-PSCHORR WEISSE

($3.95/500ml bottle)

This German wheat beer looks like unfiltered apple cider in colour and brings wheat, banana candy and clove on the nose. There's a hint of sweetness here, and more of the clove and wheat, with a marshmallow-banana candy flavour coming through. A classic, very good German wheat beer.

IRELAND:

GUINNESS BLACK LAGER

($2.53/330ml bottle)

Not to be confused with the iconic stout, this black lager is cold-brewed with roasted barley. Mocha, espresso and dark chocolate aromas carry through on the palate, yet are deceptively lighter in texture than the standard Guinness draught. Rather than drinking this just slightly chilled, cool this tasty, expressive lager right down.

ISRAEL:

GOLDSTAR DARK LAGER

($2.65/500ml can)

I expected this medium-gold "dark" lager to be a touch darker. Caramel and toasted malt come through aromatically here; there's some sweetness to the roasted malt that definitely tips the hat to caramel and Tootsie Roll flavours. Feels like it's lacking something.

JAPAN:

ASAHI SUPER DRY

($2.14/330ml bottle)

Not a lot going on aroma-wise: some grain, a hint of oat, and otherwise pretty nondescript. It's more vibrant on the palate than the other lighter beers tasted here -- that "super dry" aspect and lively bubbles keep things fresh. I could see myself drinking this with sushi. Actually, I think I have.

PHILIPPINES:

SAN MIGUEL PALE PILSEN BEER

($2.74/330ml bottle)

Mild hints of hops, grain, and candied nut come through on the nose. It's a remarkably light and short beer, with some grain/oat notes and a very mild herbal component. Another very short (literally too -- it's in a stubby bottle), fairly uninspiring beer.

uncorked@mts.net Twitter: @bensigurdson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 D16

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