Recently at the Archive Beer Boutique in Brisbane’s West End, it was Liam’s shout and I, too lazy to walk up to the bar and choose something myself, I told him to “surprise me”. And surprise me he did…
Enter 961 Beer’s Lebanese Pale Ale. Seriously wtf?! This brew is quite interesting, unique and probably not like anything you’ve ever tasted… except for a roast dinner. 961’s website describes the concept behind the beer thus:
From the land where beer and human civilisation was born, comes a new brew that is a marriage of Western brewing tradition, Eastern complexity, and a sublime expression of the Lebanese Renaissance. This beer is an innovation inspired from the Lebanese spice markets, and filled with Lebanese tastes.
And, as for the beer itself:
… based on an English IPA… [w]e used Lebanese herbs, such as za’atar (wild thyme), sumac, chamomile, sage, anise, and mint in the brewing process.”
It smells exactly like the toasted herb bread I make occasionally at home. Notes of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – just like the song by the famous S & G. (Okay I lied, but it would have been poetic huh!). There’s definitely thyme and sage aromas in there though with strong hints of anise. It seemed almost too serendipitous that I happened to ordered the slow cooked lamb shoulder from the kitchen because the smell certainly has one reminiscing of a hearty roast dinner.
Colour-wise it’s a dark, golden brown with not too much carbonation happening and very little [read: nearly zero] head. Sad face.
To taste it’s also overwhelmingly herbal and the za’atar (yeah, I know what that is now) is the prevailing flavour. There are subtle undertones of sage and anise too but I couldn’t find the chamomile or mint in there but maybe that’s my shitty tastebuds. As for the sumac, I’m not entirely sure what that tastes like, or what it actually even is (if you’re interested you can check it out here). Aside from the herbs, there’s not a lot else happening on the palate but it’s not surprising given their intensity.
While there’s a lot going on with the flavour, the lack of carbonation made the overall mouthfeel and experience a little bit drab. It was kind of what I assume drinking herb-infused water would taste like.
In any event I’m glad I got to try this and even though I’m probably not going to rate it terribly highly I’d nevertheless recommend trying it to all the craft beer nerds out there.
- Genre: IPA
- Regionality: Mazreat Yachoua, Lebanon
- Strength: 6.3%
- Rating: 1 / 3 taste + 0.5 / 2 ancillaries = 1.5 / 5
- Plus: You probably haven’t tried anything like it before
- Minus: Interesting doesn’t necessarily also mean delicious.