As some of you may already know, President Obama has been visiting Cuba recently to mend past relations and kick-start a friendlier future with the communist country having recent lifted the embargo renowned for more or less one thing in the USA…the illegality of their famously superior cigars.
In the meantime, of real news worthy headlines: Hertzel Brewery in Jerusalem, have come out with an experimental turned mainline “Cuban Tobacco Leaf Porter” beer aptly named EMBARGO. Cheeky! (I wonder if they will now change that to “OPEN LEGAL FAIR TRADE as a result of Barak’s charm offensive” – doubt it!)
A Cuban Tobacco leaf Porter. Just take a moment for that to soak in (pun intended). I gifted myself a few bottles and a tap version (Beer Market Sarona) for desert. An important and professional process for acquainting ourself with an interesting sounding brew such as this one. Ask anyone in the business, they will tell you. Practically Doctors orders.
The label is brilliantly designed, styled as a sort of chalkboard with icons and symbols of exotic Cuba drawn on alongside cigars and hop leafs. A sort of defiant pride in their country’s long pause in history. A native Cuban I am sure would love the sentiment. But does a beer soaked in their tobacco (or the other way around) pay homage to this expensive and until recently illegal gem leaf?
The answer to that is of course down to your own judgement. But here is what I made of it:
Dark Coffee Brown, Prefect light brown head, not creamy, quite airy which is not in logical tandem with the slow carbonation rising from the body. Interesting.
Stand back boys and girls, this is strong. You get firstly those dark toasted pure choc bean notes when whiffing from a distance. Then move in close to experience what you have been waiting for. Tobacco. This is a unique balance between roasted malts and burned tobacco. It’s interesting again, because I was not expecting wet Tobacco leaf to smell like it already had some sort of smoking done to it. But it does, its smelling like a cigar has been put out inside a Choc dark stout. In fact, its as damned near black and white to what is says on the label as you are likely to come across.
My assumption that this is a 6% porter by style and tobacco soaked by additional flavour, had already come undone at the nosing stage, so by the time it touched my lips, I was more prepared for the dominance of wet, burned tobacco. This time round, it hits the senses first, strong, alcoholic, salty & soy, giving way to a calmer full Choc creamy mouth-feel, quite sweet at this point. Hold it there and wash it about a bit because its here that I enjoyed the drinking experience most. Then when the soft thickness of the body turns a little metallic on the sides of your mouth, head back and let it down the hatch.
After a few repeats to the above, the malty characters will come into play and you can slowly identify them by the taste. It may take a while though, because the Tobacco is so overwhelming on the taste buds.
Ashtray. Just keep it in folks.
This is an impressive beer as far as experimenting and pioneering new styles go. Its gutsy and its certainly memorable. One for an occasion and I can readily imagine that those smokers among you (I am an EX smoker myself) will enjoy the familiar senses when experiencing this beer. Because that is what this beer is, its an experience, from beginning to end.
There is one small point I would mention, and that is that this an ‘Embargo’ in more ways that a cool name. It has a romantic tendency, but it will still leave you thirsty after. I wouldn’t see myself spending a whole evening nursing just this beer, I would want something to counter the dryness it leaves. Its a combination of the alcohol, saltiness, and roasted malt sweet tones that does this. But don’t let it stop you enjoying as much as I have, Hertzel have another spectacular beer which does that job. An IPA. וזה…..