As you may or may not be aware of, I am the only male with Lebanese blood who doesn't believe in outrageous conspiracy theories; I stick to the more credible stuff, such as the indisputable fact that Almaza is the result of concerted efforts by the ruling classes to subjugate the Lebanese worker via a cruel concoction of malts, hops, and barley. This is why I was so happy to tour 961 Brewing Co., and taste their beers.
Located a bit up the mountain outside of Beirut, 961 is a craft brewery with large aspirations and a strong reservoir of beers, albeit a fixation on producing Lagers. My partner-in-crime Katy and I brought our taste buds and open minds:
IPA: After having only ever drank Pilsners in Lebanon (and whatever that Pure Malt abomination is), I wanted to start with something that would blow my hoppy head off. Although it was not the hop bomb the label's flag hinted at, it turned out to be a floral, spicy beer that nips at your tongue.
LPA: This is where stuff got real. 961 decided to brew something entirely new; this Lebanese Pale Ale is crafted with Zaatar (thyme) and was quite simply one of the most delightful beers I've ever had. They say consuming Zaatar makes you smarter; if I could have this as often as I wanted, I'd be a genius.
Irish Stout: Alas, poor Yörick, thou doth expect too much. This was a creamy, session-able stout, yummy but shallow. I would love to taste this on nitro.
Whitbier: I made a promise to myself when taking this job; a solemn vow to not let my preference in genres cloud my appreciation for style. After less than a month in the position, it is forsaken. This Whit is true-to-form, so avoid its overly bubbliness at all costs. (Still preferable to Almaza).
Lager: It's a lager. See Whitbier (above) for more information.
Red Ale: I was actually really pleased to try this; red ales aren't something you would expect the Lebanese consumer to like or have heard of, so I'm glad they're doing it, and making so much of it! It's a little bitter, a lot floral, kinda tasty, but its best attribute is that it represents a hope for a better tomorrow in Lebanese brewing. A tomorrow where people will try a genre they've never had before for the sake of variety and respect for the craft.
Lebanese Brew: This represents the other end of the spectrum. Brewed under a different brand than 961 (but by the same people), LB is pretty average Pilsner that beats Almaza in taste but loses in the hearts of those who want to see innovation over responses to market forces.
All in all, 961 is a decent brewery with a bright future, I hope. I'm looking forward to trying what they come up with next, and continuing to preach the anti-Almaza gospel. Praise be to craft, Amen.
Cheers, and Merry Christmas Eve!
Go buy your loved ones something with the words "oatmeal" and "stout" in it.