Boozelog XVI – Grand Marquis

My third dry red from Gianaclis. Carignan-Grenache. 70g, 12.5% ABV

Nice aroma. Chocolate and a definite vanilla undertone.

Not as tanniny as you might expect, but it is pretty tanniny. Black fruit with a bit of a blackcurrant flavour specifically, slightly spicy, hints of chocolate and vanilla. All flavours you would probably guess to be found in such a blend.

This is pretty good. Would drink again. It’s about 15g more expensive than Omar Khayyam bottle-for-bottle, but definitely worth it at least once in a while. 7/10.

Boozelog XV – Obelisk

One of the slightly cheaper normal-strength wines. Gianaclis, naturally. The grape isn’t named, not a good sign. 41g, 12.5% ABV

Smells like wine. No distinctive features.

No distinctive taste either. Somewhat dry. Red fruit. A little bit tanniny.

Not bad. It’s wine. That’s it, really. Omar Khayyam is probably better. 5/10.

Boozelog XIV – Nabidh Abaraka/’Vin de Messe’

Long overdue: the fabled ‘black wine’ of the Nile valley.

Tonic wine, synonymous for centuries with Coptic celebrations and Saidi tradition, but also with riotous excess from the time of the Pharaohs right down to the present day, is truly Egyptian, yet familiar to us northerners in the form of the much-loved Buckfast. Mentuhotep IV said ‘iirp'; your average Mina Botros says ‘nabiz’ – I say ‘let’s get stoated’. I also say ‘I hate the SNP for their restrictions on civil liberties’.

It’s a nice bottle. There’s a drawing of a cherub supine on a wine cask holding up a glass of the good stuff. Gianaclis. 47g – not bad considering a bottle of Bucky costs about double that these days… and 16% ABV, here we go!

It pours thick, viscous, a deep reddy-black colour. The smell is very full, cinnamony, sickly sweet, cola-y, fruity, strongly alcoholic. Pretty much like Buckfast.

Long story short, it tastes like Buckfast. Extremely sweet. Full-bodied. A bit spicy. Distinctly reminiscent of cola, but violently alcoholic – dynamite.

It’s nice to know that the Buckfast of our hearts has such a venerable progenitor. I love this stuff. 9/10.

Boozelog XIII – Sakara Weizen

Wheat beer. 12g, 5% ABV.

It pours like other wheat beer, but it’s not the same head explosion as an Erdinger. A healthy yellowy-brown colour. Slightly transparent. The head disappears quite quickly though.

The taste is quite mild. There’s a bit of banana. Not terribly complex. Not much body, and certainly a bit of spice in the aftertaste. Moderate carbonation, quite refreshing.

This is decent. Luxor Weizen is better, but I certainly wouldn’t turn this stuff down. 7/10.

Boozelog XII – Bolanachi ‘Vieille Recolte’

Another brandy by Bolanachi. 22g, 32% ABV.

The colour at first sight does look better than Vat 20, it’s a richer, darker brown. Doesn’t smell like anything much.

Doesn’t taste like anything either really except alcohol.

This doesn’t seem to be too popular. I can see why. Best avoided when you could have Vat 20 for cheaper or, better yet, lager. 2/10.

Boozelog XI – Luxor Weizen

This is the only example I’ve yet come across of an Arab or African brewery attempting a reasonably serious traditional European style of beer. Apparently it’s only been around for a few years.

Tasting notes from the neck:

‘A South German style of beer made from barley and wheat malt. A yeast that produces some spiciness and unique flavours of banana and cloves. The ‘Hefe’ prefix means “with yeast”, hence the beer’s unfiltered and cloudy appearance. Twist the bottle before serving and serve with a lemon wedge, which gives a flavorful snap.’

I skipped the lemon. 12g, 5% ABV.

I like wheat beer, I drink it whenever it’s available, in hot-ish weather especially, but still that’s not very often. My exposure to main brands, other than one-offs at home and in central Europe, has hitherto been limited to Erdinger, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden, Tucher and Weihenstephaner, all of which I think are great, especially Franziskaner.

Quite unlike other wheatbeers, Luxor pours easily even into a dry glass. The head disappears almost as quickly as with a lager and hardly leaves any lacing. It doesn’t look that much like other wheatbeer either, there’s obviously the opaqueness but it’s quite a deep browny colour for the style and has an orangey tinge to it. And it’s completely opaque: you can’t even see movement or shadows through it. The smell is very wheaty and citrusy. A bit of banana and maybe clove, per the tasting notes. Not very much spice though. Does it smell like apricot? Personally I think it smells like apricot.

It tastes great. Well-balanced sweetness and bitterness, yeast, citrus, and understandably wheat. Orange. A bit of banana. If it doesn’t smell like apricot, I definitely think it tastes like it. I reckon the yeast also balances perfectly with the fruity flavours. It’s a kind of middle ground between the (relative) mellowness of Erdinger and the hard-hitting Weihenstephaner. Only slighty fizzy, and a bit dry. The aftertaste basically gives you more of the same, with a definite clovey flavour. Overall, quality.

Luxor Weizen is the best beer yet. Try it. 9/10.

Boozelog X – Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam is possibly the most famous (or should that be ‘least infamous’?) Egyptian wine. This is the red I’m looking at, lately white and rose Omar Khayyams have also been brought out.

2009, though I can’t imagine the contents change too much year-by-year, there not being exactly inundations of rain in this part of the world. The bottle is quite cool: it has that handsome old-fashioned Arabic script on the front and a stanza of the big O-man’s famously oenophilic verse, translated into Arabic, and the same in French and English on the back. Bobal. Gianaclis is now a subsidiary of – yes, you guessed it – al-Ahram. 56g, 12.5% ABV.

Deep red colour. But the nose isn’t particularly robust. Standard soft red fruit and berry aroma you usually get from a Valencian wine, the area to which this grape is native, and not much else.

The taste is fine. Again, red fruit. Little bit of tannin. That’s about it. The only major negative is that an older bottle can be very acidic, so you don’t want to hold onto it for too long before drinking it.

Alright, but clearly overpriced. Wouldn’t seek it out again from choice, but wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered either. 5/10.

Boozelog VIII – Sakara King

Al-Ahram’s resident comedian never fails:

‘If you’re seeking a more daring experience, make sure you try out the Sakara King 10% (long live the King).’

I remember it being pretty tasty and 12% alcohol until even the start of this year, but now al-Ahram has somehow contrived to reduce it to 10% ABV and simultaneously make it taste much worse.

It pours. The head seems to be made of plastic at first sight. Looks like Charles Kennedy pished into a pint glass on a Saturday morning and kept it in his fridge for a few weeks. Smells like sweetcorn smothered in syrup.

It doesn’t taste that bad though, actually, considering the strength. Sweet, obviously, but drinkable, albeit slowly. Basically a clone of Super T/Carlsberg Special Brew.

Personally I think this is alright considering the strength. If you’re not big on Super T, though, avoid. 5/10.

Boozelog VII – Meister Max

Ahh, here we are at last. Almost as iconic as Stella, though for altogether less wholesome reasons. Al-Ahram produces a hilarious description of it, in Eengleesh as well:

‘With its 8% alcohol, Meister Max is a beer for a new and daring men generation.
Meister Max was the first high alcohol beer to be launched in the Egyptian market and still it’s the market leader because that beer offers you power, taste and style at the same time.
Meister Max is a sophisticated and premium beer with an international dimension for the stylish and strong men only. It enforces your masculinity and expresses who you truly are; a virile man… It’s part of the way you look and the way you act. It’s got the looks and power just like you.
Meister Max gets you in the mood quickly with its powerful buzz and very acceptable taste [hahahaha]: that beer is here to challenge you, to make your life to the max with style and control!’

Comes out of black half-litre and 330ml cans. They serve it in 330ml bottles in pubs increasingly because too much in a short time has been known to cause public order issues, or ‘Arab Springs’ as we seem to be saying in English. 8% ABV.

Fleeting head, a decent lace though. The colour actually looks quite good, it’s a pleasant-ish golden-yellow rather than the horrific orangey-chemical of most special brew in the UK. It smells like sweet malt. And actually, I think it smells cheesy.

You bring it to your lips and sort of wince in the process, but take a sip, raise your eyebrows and think wow, that’s not bad. And it’s really not. You don’t taste the 8%. It’s quite hoppy, again, sweet, a lot of corn. Orangey. I think it tastes a bit like hard cheese. Surprisingly drinkable.

Definitely full of character. ‘Meister Max': the very mention is enough to make laconic bar waiters from here to Homs and beyond shudder at the memory of all the fights they’ve had to break up because of this soup. I think it’s perfectly fine in moderation. 6/10.

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