Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ben's Pleasant Surprise: Holland's Heritage Collection

Hiatus over.

You may think that enjoying a wide variety of beer and dissecting is easy work and, well, it kind of is, really. But as is so often said, it is certainly very possible to have too much of a good thing, and beer has the pretty grand potential of being quite a contender for "Best Of" in that category.

My Christmas and New Years was sort of like that, if truth be told. I experienced a fantastic collection of beer - Affligem Noel, Corsendonk Christmas Ale, Sam Adams Infinium, and a wonderful bevy of others - but it took it's delicious, delicious toll. I felt, well, schlumpy. So much so that I didn't even write about anything for awhile, as you fine readers may have noticed (which I'm disappointed for - stick around til next Christmas will you? I promise to do a Christmas beer exposĂ© that the "genre" of beer surely deserves). And thus, a brief interlude: a beer moratorium.

But clearly this was doomed to be a short interlude. You don't keep yourselves from your passions (unless it's like, you know, crack, or something. Don't be passionate about crack), and I don't want to keep myself from beer. Besides, it was my birthday...

When word gets out about how much you like something, esoteric or otherwise, people tend to latch on to that concept, and, for all foreseeable gift-giving opportunities, adhere to that as a protocol for what constitutes a thoughtful gift. And that's not to say it isn't, but it can be tough to escape. When she was little, my sister thought piglets were cute. Flash forward a decade or more later, and the poor girl has been inundated with the most absurd collection of adorable piggy products that a person could possibly want. The deluge has ebbed over the past few years, and that dead pig is thoroughly beaten, but it's an interesting testament to how quickly a heartfelt gift can become arbitrary.

Those in my general vicinity have been clued into my beer passion. And you know what? It's not nearly as bad as having 300 stuffed piglets.

Unless it's this one. I kind of want this one.

Given the variety out there there's a pretty decent chance they're going to get me something at least new and different (we're past the stage where I have to worry about getting a 30 pack of Bud, thankfully). But when someone who can't stand beer gives you a case of beer for your birthday, there's a natural knee-jerk reaction as to how this could possibly go.

Pretty, well actually.

Holland's Heritage Limited Edition Collection

My lovely roommate gave me a case of Heineken's Heritage Collection for my birthday, which was a thoughtful gesture, especially given her aversion to any and all beer. Honestly, on the scale of drinkable mass produced beers, Heineken ranks rather low in my opinion. The bizarre smell, can't quite place it after taste (ash tray? Maybe?), and sort of one-tone flavor mean it's not one of my favorites. And it apparently represents a quarter of Holland's beer heritage.

And this Light version is another quarter. Are you even trying, Holland?

But I called the collection a pleasant surprise, and I meant it. The pleasantness comes from the other half of this collection -Heineken's Taewebock Wheat Bock and Dark Lager. 

Tarwebok Wheat Bock 6.5% ABV

Perhaps the more unexpected of the two is the Tarwebok, a wheat bock. Bocks are traditional German beers, traditionally a bit stronger than your usual beer and at 6.5% this is just that. Heineken's version seems to hark the brewing styles of the Belgian masters, with a caramel color, medium body and distinct sweetness. 
The body isn't quite as thick as those of the Belgian variety, but it does have more "chuggability" than its inspiration. 

And it's a pretty decent facsimile of the "real thing," aside from one thing - it's so incredibly sweet. Belgian beers tend to be quite sweet, certainly, but they're often cut with a nice bitterness or some other flavor note that balances it a bit. That's not the case with Tarwebok. The first sip is pretty great, really, but the overwhelming sweetness really mars it by the end of the bottle. Congratulations if you can drink more than one in a row. I couldn't. 

That doesn't sound like a glowing review really, but I don't necessarily hate it; it was an unexpected experience to come out of a Heineken "variety" pack. I think it has the heart of some of the more sophisticated forefathers out there, but none of the finesse. It's flavor, while initially pleasant, steamrolls over your pallet and quickly becomes overwhelming. 

Heineken Dark Lager

Easily the best of the bunch, the Dark Lager is a smooth and very drinkable lager that evokes a bit of Guinness's body and burnt flavors with a bit more sweetness (they must have a surplus of sugar over there). It sort of seems similar to the Tarwebok in some ways, almost as if this was the starting point and then they went off the edge by prodding it and adding more than the beer needed. Which works fine, really; try a six pack if you see it. 

So have I converted my opinion of Heineken? Not particularly. But it was a nice surprise to see something something different and more interesting than their standard fare. 

Thanks for reading!

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