Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Few More Things About Edinburgh

It was in the Dark Ages that the name of Edinburgh, Din Eidyn or Fort of Eidyn, first appeared in historical records. Castle Rock, the strategic fort built on top one of the area's extinct craggy volcanoes, served as the new nation's frontier. King Malcolm II in 1018 established the River Tweed as the permanent southernmost border and in the reign of Malcolm Canmore (1058 - 1093), the castle became the main centre of power. The surrounding town, which was given privileged status as a royal burgh, began to grow up around it. So began the history of Edinburgh and Scotland.
Of course, no visit to this great land would be complete without a taste of one of her more famous exports, Innis & Gunn, the oak-aged beer, brewed in Dunbar, about 50 kilometers east of Edinburgh by Belhaven, now owned by national giant Greene King. I found no fewer than 6 types available widely. Blonde (6%), delicate and fruity, with gentle aromas of citrus, apricot and vanilla, Triple Matured (7.2%), a darker variety aged for a total of 99 days, brewed using Optic & Chocolate malt, Canadian Whiskey Cask (7.1%), matured for 71 days in Canadian rye whiskey barrels, Rum Cask (7.4%), matured in rum barrels, producing a lively, spicy character, matured for 107 days, IPA (7.7%), matured with large quantities of fresh hops for 55 days, the Original (6.6%) that we all know and love and a new one out for Christmas 2010, Winter Beer (8.5%) aged in bourbon barrels. All of these beers are aged in oak, are filtered and packaged in distinctive clear bottles and are not available on tap. Innis and Gunn also happens to be Canada's number one UK import.
There was so much to see and do in the core of the city, that I really did not wander too far afield, all of the pubs I visited were within view of Edinburgh Castle, towering over the old town, with its tiny cobblestoned streets and closes, and new town, with its magnificent Georgian splendor.
Another one of those, just off of the Royal Mile towards its bottom end on Jeffery Street was The Tass. This large old room represents a more traditional working glass pub, with a wooden floored bar, a small dining room, but still with tall ceilings and lots of light. They serve real ale, malt whiskeys and wine to a mix of locals and tourists alike and is a regular venue for live traditional music. Here I sampled Tass 80/ (4.6%) made by Broughton Ales in Biggar. A dark auburn coloured brew, dried fruit nose, mousy head that thickly laces and slowly falls with the creamy head right to the bottom of the glass, with a malt accented palate and a malt balanced against a hidden hop support structure.
Just up from the main high street on the New Town side of the castle is the Oxford Bar, a small basic historical pub recommended by Clare for its literary connections, unchanged since the 19th century. It is renowned for being the favourite bar of Inspector Rebus and his creator, famed novelist Ian Rankin, and a haunt of many others over the years as well. It has a tiny front bar with high ceilings, 2 or 3 snug rooms up some short stairs, one featuring a warm fireplace for those cold evenings, and features 5 real ale taps, of the old Scottish tall fount variety. So, in honour of Ms. Stanfield and Mr. Rankin, I raised a pint of Cairngorm Tradewinds (4.3%), a spectacular multi-award winning ale. Massive nose of citrus fruit, elderflower and hop leading to hints of grapefruit and apricot on the palate. An exceptional bitter sweetness lasts through to a long lingering finish.
On my way back through town I came across a giant pub, the Standing Order, part of the Wetherspoons chain, on George Street. Situated in a marvelous old Georgian hotel building, it is truly a wonder to walk through the enormous bar and witness the literally dozens of tapped beers, many real ales and many not. However, they were featuring some sort of festival of international brews that day and the place was packed, and with such a din, one would have had trouble placing an order with a barman without shouting. I passed and went to the quiet local nearest my hotel in the Old Town instead.
The Bow Bar is a late 20th century pastiche of a classic one roomed Scottish ale house, featuring a constantly changing 5 real ale taps (using the traditional tall founts dispensing system) and 200 malt whiskeys. There is a lot of room in front of the bar for perpendicular drinking, a number of small fixed, narrow tables and benches surrounding, and of course, a fireplace. Once again I had just missed tasting the now infamous Bitter and Twisted, but had instead Broughton's Autumn Ale (3.5%). Gold coloured with a fresh nose, this hop accented brew has great balance of bitterness over biscuity malt, a smooth palate, a creamy mouthfeel and long lovingly dry finish. My goodness, all of these great Scottish brews are just way too easy to drink! No wonder I never see anyone drinking 1/2 pints, what's the hurry?
I finished the evening with a Bottlewreck Porter (4.7%) from the Hammerpot Brewery. Deep, dark and delicious! Malty nosed and full bodied with big flavour, this is a smooth and well balanced porter featuring roasted, toasted and bitter dry elements, a fantastic after dinner slow sipping brew, with hints of coffee, bitter black malt and a hidden hop drying out the finish fabulously! What a great way to end my stay in Edinburgh!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Derbyshire Beer Festival at the Guildford Arms

I have never seen such beautiful pubs as I've seen in Edinburgh. Many of these historical turn of the century bars (and I mean turn from the 19th to the 20th century that is) are so lovingly restored or recreated that many are breathtaking and awe inspiring, such is the quality and detail on display. The Guildford Arms is one of these places and was first mentioned to me by the gentlemen at the Halfway House, but I didn't get there until my second day. It is an absolutely stunning room, superb high ceiling, tall ensconced windows, gorgeous wood bar, lots of open floor space, comfortable seating and even a restaurant area above overlooking this magnificence. As luck would have it, I walked into the first day of a full blown real ale festival! As if there was not enough great Scottish micros to try, the Guildford Arms was hosting an 11 day event featuring 50 beers from Derbyshire, in the English Midlands. Oh my god! Where to start?
Well, they only have 10 real ale taps (!), so the festival beers would be rotating daily. That limited the field right away, as this would be my only visit. Next, I thought I'd better be prudent and go for the smallest tasters as possible, which turned out to be 1/2 pint glasses only. Okay, now I would need some sustenance to get me through the afternoon, and they had available a 'Scottish Cheese Platter', featuring 4 different local curds, a fresh crisp, coarse chutney with oatcakes, plus some fruit and veggies too. I was all set then, as I walked up to the busy bar and placed my order.
I started with Brunswick's Triple Hop (4%) from Derby, a pale gold coloured and citrus hop bouqueted bitter, featuring some malt sweetness and delivering a firm, dry aftertaste. It seemed to go quite well with the first cheese, something called Blue Monday. Incidentally, this wonderful fermented curd is made by Alex James, the former bass player from Blur, now an award winning cheese maker in his own right. My next beer choice came from Ashbourne and the Leather Britches Brewery, Doctor Johnson (4%), a mild brown ale, auburn in colour, fully flavoured malt accented brew, with some underlying hop and hints of caramel. This was delectable with the Applewood Smoked Cheddar! Number 3 took me to Stavely and the Spire Brewery. It was their 80 Shilling Ale (4.3%), a darker and maltier brew, made from a traditional Scottish recipe, medium bodied and very smooth. This was yummy with the second blue, a more traditional Stilton.
I then noticed that my beers where getting darker with each pour, only coincidentally it seemed, since I was choosing strictly by name and tap label only. Interesting. I also realized that the cheeses were not necessarily really Scottish, and the staff were really no help in this regard, as they were knowledgeable in the beers they were serving, but not the cheeses. The Full Mash Brewery from Stapleford looked good, something called Steve Ashby's Locoil (4.6%) with a picture of the brewer himself, I'm guessing, on the label. This seemed to be an almost black stout, but with a rounded body and a slightly bitter edge. I tried the unidentified Brie with this one, good, but went back to the Blue Monday, as they seemed to complement each other so well. From the beginning I had my eye on the Smoked Porter (5.6%) from the Bottlebrook Brewery in Belper. The label looked hand drawn, which somehow appealed to me, inspiring images of a brewer more interested in his art than the art of marketing, so it was next. Absolutely black, malty and smokey, a true English porter with bitter undertones, but with the presence of a fresh hoppy character. This was one of my favourites, and yes, it went down extremely well with the Stilton.
It was all tasting so good, but by now 3 of the 10 taps were emptied as the clientele came and went, and my stamina was starting to wane just a little bit. Not to mention I had eaten just about everything on my platter, so I allowed myself one more indulgence. It was Divebomber (3.8%) from the Funfair Brewery in Ilkeston. Straw coloured and extremely aromatic, really nice hop content, a very refreshing pale ale with hints of citrus and a wonderfully dry finish. And finished I was, counting myself fortunate to get through 6 marvelous brews and still be able to walk out the door!
The afternoon was fading, but it still was a gorgeous, warm fall day as I walked about the busy streets, knowing the air would do me good. I decided to do some music shopping, as I had glimpsed a great looking CD shop earlier in the day. Maybe not the smartest thing to do after an afternoon of beer tasting, I found way too many things I wanted to buy! But what the hey, I'm not in Scotland everyday! Ach Edinburgh, what a marvelous city you are!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Incredible Edinburgh

What can you say about a city that has it all: architecture, whiskey, music, art, history, a stunning, rocky landscape, world class restaurants of every flavour, real ale pubs, fabulous museums and a population that is fashionable, well educated and absolutely friendly and helpful? Incredible! That is Edinburgh!
It was a beautiful sunny morning as I arrived at the airport on my early flight. The bus to the city centre was right outside and took about 30 minutes. I dropped my bags at the hotel and was out and about before the pubs were open, so I did the touristy things: a big Scottish breakfast, the Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile walk and then found the Scottish Whiskey Experience, a multi-media tour through the history and process of malt whiskey making. It was actually very interesting. More so for the 3,500 bottles of whiskey on display (largest in captivity) and the amazing malts available at the bar at the end of the tour. I tried an 18 year old Smokehead from Islay (from an undisclosed distillery) that was absolutely fabulous – peaty, malty, with large hints of salt sea spray. Wow!
The CAMRA Good Beer Guide lists many great pubs in or near the city centre, but it does not take much to find some great spots, just a bit of an adventurous spirit, no fear of wandering up or down the many staired ‘closes’ running off the main streets and a willingness to engage the locals.
My first stop was the Halfway House on Fleshmarket Close, a tiny little pub on a tiny little side alley. I was immediately engaged by a couple of regulars, after I ordered a good local brew, Pentlands IPA (3.9%) from Stewart Brewing, a white foamed perfectly balanced golden coloured session ale, thick, slow falling lace, light on the palate, with a subtle bitterness tickling the tongue, fresh malt all the way through to a wonderfully dry finish. We talked about the Scottish micro scene and landlord Steve joined in describing some of the difficulties to overcome in running a free house in this day and age. He must be doing something right - the Halfway House was CAMRA's Pub of the Year for Edinburgh for 2009. I next tried Kelburn Red Smiddy (4.1%), SIBA's (Society of Independent Brewers) 2010 Best Regional Beer Gold Medal Winner, beautiful copper/red bitter, fruity malt aroma, citrus tones balanced against a good malt base, smooth mouthfeel, lovely, loose staying lace, malt accented finish, with enough hops to dry it out properly. I also met Robert Knops of the very new Knops Beer Co., only 6 months old. He was delivering casks that would not be ready to serve until the weekend, unfortunately for me. He said he did have some bottled versions of his beer in a couple of bottle shops around town, so i vowed to see if I could find them. Everyone recommended a few other places, so I wished them well and wandered on my way.
My next stop was the classic Abbotsford Bar & Restaurant on Rose Street, famous since 1902 for it's beautiful central dark mahogany bar, surrounded by long, sharing tables against the outside walls, a very historical pub. It has a intricately detailed high art deco-ish ceiling and is a popular lunch time spot. I ordered the 'Haggis, Neeps and Tatties' and Hurricane Jack (4.4%) from Fyne, a blond ale with a slightly fruity nose, well balanced hop versus malt ratio, very smooth palate and a nice dry finish. One of the very knowledgeable bartenders, Asten, noticed my note taking and we starting talking about beer. She explained the 'tall founts' system, where the beer is served by pushing it up with air pressure and a 'water engine' (hydraulics) as opposed to the English method of suction by pump. Once common, now only rarely used, the Abbotsford serves 6 real ales, all but one using the traditional Scottish ‘tall founts’ taps. Next up was Trappledouser (4.7%), a gold/amber, hop infused bitter, well balanced and smooth with a long and evenly dry finish. The Atlas Nimbus Strong Pale Ale (5%) displayed a fruity nose, a pale gold colour, a wonderfully malty backbone, with some sweet maltiness running through an evenly bitter palate, hints of apple, and light abstract lacing follows the beer to the bottom of the glass. Before she left, Asten recommended a new pub not far away, the Conan Doyle.
The Conan Doyle is a just refurbished upscale pub, part of the Nicholson's chain of historic pubs, specializing in Scottish food, cask ales and malt whiskey. They have 7 real ales on, I went for Brew Dog's Punk IPA. Pale gold in colour, hoppier and stronger than any other IPA I've tried, definitive floral nose, hop bitter palate held up by a solid malt base, the thick head leaves lovely, light rings of lace after each sip, high hop values, with an astringent, dry finish. I had been wanting to try Harvieston's Bitter and Twisted, recommended by everyone I talked to, but once again I was told that they had just run out. So, I went for the cask version of Brains SA instead. Interestingly, I was not as impressed with this beer as a cask real ale, as I was with the bottled version I tried in Wales. Then it dawned on me, something Lukas had told me in the Czech Republic. Different beers are designed for different purposes, and a beer destined to be bottled may not be the same when presented unfiltered in a cask. Very true in this case. Also, Wales was a long way for a real ale to travel.
After a spicy chipotle infused Mexican dinner (my palate needed a break), I finished the evening at the Blue Blazer, not far from my hotel. The ubiquitous Deuchar’s IPA (3.8%) is a gold hued, mildly hopped pale ale, creamy white head that leaves multiple ‘rings of Saturn’ lacing, smooth, well balanced malt-hop relationship and silky mouthfeel, with the bitterness ascending for a deliciously dry finish. My night cap was Old Mortality 80/ (4.2%) from Strathaven, a lovely garnet brown traditional Scottish ale. It starts with a dried fruit laden nose, has a toasted malt palate with hints of molasses, roasted malt, brown sugar and chocolate. It finishes long and even, smooth and caramelly.
It was a great first day in the Scotland's capital city.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Final Thoughts on Bristol

Built on a succession of hills just inland from the mouth of the river Avon, with a population of about half a million, Bristol prospered during the days of empire building, transatlantic commerce, and on the slave trade in particular in the 1700s. It features an area of waterways and a harbour at the city’s heart and a sprawling commercial centre that spreads up its many hills to Clifton, a more open and airy green terraced area of Georgian architecture, upmarket shops and the Downs, that overlooks a dramatic gorge over the river below. Bristol has a thriving music and art scene, a major university and is home to a very diverse population, from all over Great Britain and around the world.
As I continued my exploration of the city, I found the Hope and Anchor, half way up the hill between the Floating Harbour and the Clifton Downs, right near the university and not far from the city’s 19th century Cathedral. No TV, no pool tables, no VLTs, just a real traditional British pub, with a rotating selection of 6 interesting real ale. It has a nice bright room in front, a hop vine decorated bar, and the room swings around to the right making a L shaped with more tables in the back. Also, out back is a beautiful terraced area with a rocky flower garden for when the weather is nice. I have enjoyed the Hopback Brewery beers I have found in the city’s pubs, so started with Hopfest (4.6%) a pale gold/yellow best bitter, fresh bready/hop nose, light low head that clings to the glass for a thin, fading lacing, and features a wonderful balance, a pervasive subtle bitterness that floats across a toasted malt palate, with hints of tangerine and an astringent dry finish, easy to drink.
They have daily lunch specials and an extensive menu featuring an amazing looking Ploughman’s Lunch (choice of more than a dozen items in two or three lists including some luscious looking English cheeses). No quite that hungry, I went for the tasty lamb burger and listening to the soundtrack of my youth playing appropriately low on the speakers in the pub: Sixiousie & the Banshees, The Fall, David Bowie, Wire and a lot of other great new bands that I don’t even know. I just LOVE British music! Small taster glasses of anything on tap were freely offered by the friendly and knowledgeable bar staff.
Butcombe Brunel IPA (5%) is a gold brew with amber tones, biscuit nose followed up by a bitter fresh hop palate, well balanced with a fruity malt base and a malt-accented, yet dry finish. Wickwar Autumnal (4%) is more amber in colour, the balance swinging in the dark malt direction, but underpinned by a fresh bitterness with notes of toasted malt and hints of dried fruit. Palmers Tally Ho Strong Dark Ale (5.5%) is darker and sweeter still, it’s stronger palate giving way to some roastiness but with enough hops to smooth out the middle and dry the finish nicely.
There are a number of good bottle shops to find real bottle-conditioned and other ales around Bristol. Staying away from the large supermarket chains is a good idea, as their selections, as you can imagine, run the gamut of cheap international lagers and mass market national British beers. But Cotham Wines, in the heart of Clifton, is a decent little shop, with an amazing selection of British real ales, high end imports (Dogfish Head, for example, and a few other award winners from the States) as well as an impressive collection of wines.
Moor JJJ IPA (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 26), was a fabulous beer that I found here. Also, Cheddar Ales Totty Pot Porter (4.7%) Very good dark porter (there really seemed to be so few porters available) featuring tones of coffee and chocolate, with hints of tobacco and a big roasted malt quotient. Kelham Island has become one of my favourite breweries, on tap or in the bottle. Easy Rider (4.3%) is a session bitter, pale straw, good fruity aroma, with full hop flavour and bitterness.
Box Steam Brewery from Wiltshire boasts a steam fired copper kettle, hence the name. Dark & Handsome (5%) is a traditional style old ale, smooth and creamy, citrus notes floating seductively over liquorice undertones, exhibiting a certain malty sweetness throughout.
Another great pub, just around the corner from Cothams Wines on Whiteladies Road is the Vittoria, a beautiful restored traditional British pub. The building dates back to perhaps the mid-1850’s, with a façade added in 1911. The new landlord Les converted it back from a rowdy sports bar about 2 years ago to it's original retro splendor. Nice long wood bar, one long, narrow smallish room, maybe 8 tables with a booth in the front window and a couple of tables out on the street for people watching on the high street in good weather . The coal burning fireplace takes the chill off on rainy days, they have free Wifi, a nice selection of 7 real ales and a varied menu, including daily specials, as in some wonderful meat pies, 6 to choose from the day I was there. Les is very knowledgeable and gave me a short history of the place, of Bristol itself and the pubs namesake too, a pre-WWI British war ship sunk off the coast of Finland while siding with the Whites during the Russian Revolution. As all of the shops on the high were getting ready for Halloween, I continued that theme with my beer selection. Marston’s Wicked Witch (4.2%) is a dark ruby red/brown ale, with a fruity nose and a delicious malt laden body, held up by a generous amount of fresh, juicy hops. Greene King’s Ghastly Ghoul was darker, a brown ale with shades of garnet, a full malt nose with fruity tones, a fully body with hints of treacle/molasses, but enough hop bitterness to suppress too much sweetness. It had a creamy mouthfeel and a long, smooth drying finish.
Bristol is a wonderful city to visit, varied and historically intriguing, full of friendly and interesting people, a hodge podge of architectural types and styles, with many great pubs and exquisite restaurants. I would like to give many thanks to my great friends Dana and Mark, and their kids Taz and Rosa, for their generous hospitality and friendship, and for showing me the city in a way that a simple tourist just wouldn’t see, and for getting me out of the city for hikes in the country and up into Wales. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bristol Beer Factory, The Seven Stars and Beyond

This day started on a crisp, clear morning with a long bike ride down the hill from Clifton, over the river and into Southville where the Bristol Beer Factory is located. Assistant brewer Brett was working on a mash when I arrived, and head brewer Chris was in the kettle, cleaning and preparing it for the day's brew. Brett was able to take the time to give me a quick tour around this tiny brewery that produces so much beer. An independent award winning brewery since 2005, BBF produces some 11 different brews on their 10 UK barrel (16 hectolitre) system, and then some seasonals as well. They source British malt and hops and use a traditional single step infusion mash and open fermentation tanks to create their tasty beers. Once fermented, yeast is skimmed off for reuse, the beer is cooled for 2 days, then transferred to conditioning tanks where finings are added. They spend a minimum of 7 days here before being transferred to casks and delivered to pubs. All of their products are unpasteurized, unfiltered and naturally carbonated, though they do send out a small percentage of their best selling beers to a contractor to bottle for specialty liquor stores. They are also working on bottle conditioning some of their beers at their own facility, though up to 90% of their production ends up in casks for real ale pubs around town and beyond. They have two locations in Bristol of their own as well, The Barley Mow and the Grain Barge, where you can find a full range of their beers. Brett also told me about the first home brew competition BBF sponsored earlier in the year. Some 40 local home brewers stepped up to the plate and entered their British style ales for judging. The winner was honoured with a full batch of his brew being produced at the brewery and was available as a hand-pumped real ale. Pretty special, I'd say. I thanked the busy brewers for their time and continued on with my own day's busy schedule.
My next stop was the historical Seven Stars, one of Bristol's premier real ale pubs since changing hands in 2009, and one of the oldest, dating back to the late 1600s. Landlord Paul Wratten has worked hard this previous year and had just won the prestigious local CAMRA chapter's Best Pub in Bristol award for 2010. Rightly so, with 8 ever changing taps, it is absolutely incredible the variety of real ales that passes through this premises. Paul even has a list in front of the bar where patrons can mark down beers they'd like to see at the bar. I made it back here a number of times during my stay and was always astonished to find a totally different line up on each occasion. This day, however, found me meeting cheese guru Todd Trethowan for a pint. This is his local you see, as his office is right next door in the bell tower of the old congregationless St. Thomas Church. We talked of beer, cheese, the history of the pub, the church and Bristol itself, and had a pint of Boogie Woogie (4.2%) from Blackwater Brewery in the West Midlands. This was a lovely fresh hop nosed pale yellow brew, with hints of grapefruit on the palate spread over an even bready malt base. Todd took me on a brief tour of his 'cheese church' (as I've jokingly started calling it) and then I was back at the Seven Stars for something I had my eye on earlier, a tasty pint of Old Slug Porter from RCH in Somerset. Smooth, dark, roasty and full bodied, with hints of coffee and dark dried fruit, beautifully balanced, creamy mouthfeel, rich and complex. The pub was filling up by now, as on Wednesdays, all of the ales are discounted, a real deal indeed. I finished up with the delightful Kelham Island Are You Lonesome Tonite (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 21) then carried on to a few other great little pubs in the area.
The Cornubia, barely two blocks away, had been recommended to me by several beer lovers, and indeed, was another great traditional pub. They have 7 real ale taps, and also featured 3 casks of fresh rough cider that day. I opted for Quantock Brewery's Sunracker (4.2%) a beautiful light clear gold coloured bitter, presenting a floral hop aroma leading to a well balanced malt based palate with clean, dry finish. Northumberland's Hoof Harted (3.8%) was next, bright and gold coloured, deep hop nose, good malty backbone, smooth clean mouthfeel and a wonderfully dry finish. Yummy! Around the corner and over the canal is The Bridge Inn, basically a Bath Ales pub, where I tried a cask conditioned SPA (3.7%). This light bodied dry bitter has a fruity aroma and palate, is hop accented with citrus notes and delivers a long malty and dry finish.
My last stop was the classic King's Head, dating from pre-1660, and listed in CAMRAs Historical Pub Interiors Index. A narrow long bar leads to a tramcar-like snug in the rear. Pictures of old Bristol decorate the walls and an earlier landlady is said to haunt these premises. The bar seemed to be populated by a few eccentrics this day, but 4 real ales are always on offer, and between bits of intriguing conversation I enjoyed the Sharp's Cornish Coaster (3.6%), a smooth, easy drinking bitter, golden hued with a fresh hop bite and dry malt on the tongue, finishing smooth and full. One more for the road, Butcombe's Gold (4.4%) a decent bitter with a fruity pale malt nose featuring citrus hops and a good bitterness on the palate, slightly sweet, but finishing nicely dry.
All of these great pubs were within easy walking distance of each other, but now I had a long uphill bike ride back up to Clifton on the west side of town. No matter, as it had turned into a beautiful warm autumn day and life was good.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Big Cheese Taste Off at the King's Arms

It's not everyday one gets a chance to pair delicious Welsh cheeses with tasty British beers, so when I told Mark about the sign I saw in the window of the King's Arms, we decided to give it a go. And it wasn't just beer they were pairing the cheese with, but British cider and British wine as well. The wonderful and whacky Todd Trethowan from Trethowan's Dairy, a family owned business of cheese makers & mongers from Gorwydd Farm, Llanddewi Brefi, Wales was on hand to give colourful descriptions of each cheese that was presented. Also on hand were representatives of the three beverage providers, who described their products ahead of each pairing. Everyone was provided with a voting form and were asked to rate the three different drinks that we thought went best with the cheeses in each flight. Of course, beer readers, Britain is not known for it's wines, and alas, I have nothing good to say about the wines that were presented at this evening of pairings, I placed the wines at number 3 each time, so I will leave it at that. The ciders were good, but of the sparkling, commercial variety, very similar to each other and not the zesty and fresh rough, cask ciders I've been enjoying around town, so, of course, my focus was on the beer. The Bristol Beer Factory was the featured brewery, in business since 2005, making an interesting array of beers, using all British sourced ingredients and winning awards for them as well.
The first delectable curd up was Gorwydd Caerphilly, an award winning mature cheese made by hand to a traditional recipe using raw unpasteurized cows milk and aged for two months on the farm. It exhibits a fresh lemony taste with a creamy texture right through to the outer mushroomy rind (known as the “breakdown”) and a firmer but moist inner. It was paired with BBF's Acer, a 3.8% ale with a fruity nose, a big hop presence (they use Soracchi Ace hops), with hints of tangy citrus over a bready malt base. Quite a wonderful combination.
Next up was Dorstone Goats Cheese, presented by Todd, but actually from Neal's Yard Creamery, a traditional, unpasteurized ashed goats cheese with a delicate, wrinkled rind, fluffy yet creamy texture and a lovely zesty tang. This went quite well with BBF's Bristol Hefe, a German style wheat (unusual for a British beer maker), refreshing, tart and light bodied with the traditional banana and clove notes, but also small hints of bubblegum and grapefruit. Delicious!
The last pairing featured a Collingthwaite Farm product, Stichelton, a classic blue cheese from unpasteurized cows milk that is cool and buttery, with an underlying nuttiness and a spicy element. BBF brought out their award winning Milk Stout for this one. This 4.5% brew is black, full-bodied and a touch sweet. They use unfermentable lactose sugar in the boil that accentuates the chocolate sweetness and black malt roastiness. I think this pairing won over the crowd to beer being the best thing to taste with cheese.
On hand from BBF was Brett, one of the brewers, who had a couple of extra beers for those interested. He happens to be an Californian living in Bristol, so was likely responsible for the next brew he poured for me, Southville Hop, a 6.5% American style IPA, made with Columbus and Centennial hops. This is a big beer, amber in colour, huge hoppy nose of grapefruit over a strong malt base, wonderfully complex palate, hinting of tropical fruit, definitely a US West coast inspiration. I had the unique opportunity of tasting this brew cask conditioned on a hand pump, and was suitably impressed again. As a real ale, the hops are somewhat subdued and more evenly balanced, though still running juicily through the huge maltiness quite impressively. He also shared their Exhibition Ale (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 20), perhaps my favourite of the evening. We chatted some more and he invited me to visit the brewery, located in one of the remaining buildings of the old Ashton Gate, once a brewery for almost 200 years.
Todd came over and spent some time at our table as well, talking to us about apprenticing as a cheese-maker, the labourious process of making cheese by hand, his love of beer paired with cheese and beer in general. Turns out we have a lot in common. We agreed to meet the next day at his local, which just so happened to be The Seven Stars, the CAMRA Bristol chapter's Pub of the Year for 2010.

A Day in Bath

Bath is a short train ride from Bristol and home to many traditional pubs and six microbreweries of their own. I decided the best approach to finding good real ale was to seek out the local CAMRA pub of the year. In Bath's case, that meant The Raven. They have 7 local real ales on the hand pump, featuring 3 of their own, made by local micro Blindmans, plus a cider and 4 other taps. The Ravens Dark is a deep, garnet brown with a tan head, light nutty nose, floral hops, creamy malty palate with a rich underpinning of bitterness, though nicely balanced, lovely finish. I ordered the Ravens Pie for lunch, made with their own ale, and my next beer, Sommerset & Dorset Ale (4.4%), beautiful reddish gold, fruit-hop nose, definite hop accented palate, a mild bitterness running through its whole malty profile, lovely dry finish. I ended my session with Otter Bright (4.3%). All these beers are so smooth! This one pale gold, classic hop/malt nose, white head creates a hanging lace, great balance with a tinge of citrus, good malt base and a 'more-ish' finish.
Not far away is the Old Green Tree, a tiny bar with two small adjacent rooms. Their best seller here is RCH Pitchfork (4.3%), gold coloured, fruity nose, sharp hops with hints of citrus on a bright palate, fully flavoured, ending nice and dry. I read they always have a porter on, though this day it was Hopback Brewery's Entire Stout (4.5%). A smooth, light bodied and easy drinking stout, jet black featuring some roasted coffee tones, great balance and dryish finish. Blindmans makes the house brew Old Green Tree Ale for this pub, a light, pale gold, well balanced session beer that is popular as well.
I made my way next to The Bell, a larger more rambling pub a short distance away. Hop vines hanging everywhere, there are 7 real ales available, with 2 rotating guest taps and a very knowledgeable and friendly bar staff. They had a local favourite from Abbey Ales, Bellringer (4.2%). Gold coloured, fresh, floral hop nose, beautiful malt balanced nicely against a nice even bitterness, toasty and dry, lovely and long finish. They had free Wifi, so as I studied my Good Beer Guide and worked on catching up on my blog posting, I went for a Danish Dynamite (5%) from Stonehenge Ales. Full on deep gold ale, big fruity aroma, with a complex palate, fully flavoured, medium bodied, malt accented balanced against a wonderful bitterness. It was all so wonderful, I didn't want to leave! But, it was if the barkeep saved the best for last as he offered me a Weymouth Durdle Door (5%) from Dorset Brewing (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 19). Then it really was time to get to the train and find my way back to Bristol.

The Golden Age of British Ale

Back in the early 1970s, the British beer scene was ruled by the 'Big Six'. Like in many countries, big industrial brewers closed regional breweries to promote national and international brands. This was when CAMRA was born. Now 40 years young, CAMRA is not resting on its laurels, but is continuing the fight against regressive tax laws and promoting traditional, small batch real ale. In fact, due to the hard work and dedication of this great organization, there are now twice as many small, craft breweries operating in Britain than when they began. The real ale revival is reflected in CAMRAs membership, now some 115,000 strong. I've also heard quotes of up to 850 breweries now operating, a impressive number. This is truly a Golden Age for British Ale. As mass market beers stagnate, and many pubs face closure, real ale continues to grow and prosper, and at such a rate that even the annual Good Beer Guide cannot keep their listings totally current.
That said, I had my work cut out for me. Staggering are the numbers of pubs listed in the Good Beer Guide 2011 I picked up upon my arrival, but also just the sheer number of pubs everywhere. There are literally dozens within walking distance of where I was staying. Dana made me o short list of a few places she knew, and book in hand, I set out. My first stop was the Port of Call in Clifton, claiming to be the oldest pub on Clifton hill, dating back to 1760. It has a small L shaped room featuring 4 real ales on the hand pump, and like any British pub I've been in, people are friendly and well informed. This is where I met John and Dave, two regulars, and Dave the barkeep, who schooled me on the local and national scene. I started the day with Cotleigh New Harvest (4%), a golden bitter. Subtle hop aroma leads to citric elements on first sip, but slowly fresh hops come to fore on the palate, balancing the good malt base. It also has a creamy mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish. They also had Sharp's Doom Bar (4%), a bitter from Cornwall presents a malty nose, with a good balance featuring citric notes, fruity palate that dries out nicely in the finish. Some small traditional pubs still close for part of the afternoon, so John and Dave took me down some stairs on a tiny side street to the Beaufort Arms, as Dave the barkeep closed up the Port of Call. This pub did have national real ale casks on: Fuller's London Pride (4.1%, dark gold, malt nose, classic beautiful balance between hop and malt, dry finish) and Young's Bitter (3.7%, pale gold, slight hop aroma, every sip lacing the glass, hop accented built on a good malt base, hints of citrus, dry finish), but I had been brought here to taste some fresh 'rough' cider. Bristol and environs are famous for their orchards and therefore is a centre for cider making, and fall just happens to be the time one can find wonderfully fresh, real still ciders served from casks. Thatcher's Dry Cider is still and a cloudy orange colour with an apple-fruity nose, definite sour apple palate, balanced towards a a drier finish. Tauton Cider is pale yellow, not as cloudy, but slightly hazy with a touch more carbonation, warm apple palate, nice even finish. Cider was the traditional drink of the working man, John told me, and is therefore about 2/3 the price of ale. The place to go in Bristol to taste all the marvelously fresh ciders in the area is The Apple, aka the Cider Barge, down on the city's harbour front. This could be a whole other tour! I thanked my mentors and wandered on my way. Next, to the Coach and Horses, a more modern pub, for a pint of Butcombe Bitter (4%). A lovely, classic dark bitter, malty nose with hints of hop, an even balance with bitterness ascending on the palate, some light peppery notes with a dry, clean bitter finish. I then finished the afternoon at the Jersey Lily, a lovely modern, wood accented room right on the high street, featuring 6 real ales in casks. I went for the award winning St. Austell Tribute (4.2%) medium bodied, copper coloured premium ale, slight citric hop sitting nicely on the malty architecture underneath, with a smooth and light mouthfeel, beautiful stalactite lacing on the glass, and a dry, hoppy finish.
On my walk back up the hill I noticed a small poster in the window of the King's Arms, advertising a cheese tasting with British beer, cider and wine. Sounded like something I should check out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Across the Channel to the Land of Real Ale

It's a quick flight from Amsterdam to Bristol, where I would be visiting and staying with good friends Dana and Mark. In fact, Mark picked me up at the airport on a lovely warm and sunny day, and as we whisked through the beautiful English countryside on our way into town, I could not help but notice, pub after pub, everywhere along the drive advertising 'Real Ales on the Hand-Pump'. It made my mouth water just thinking about it! I've tasted a lot of different styles of beers in a lot of different places during this adventure, but I do have a real affinity for cask conditioned real British ale, and this is one reason I left Britain for the end of my journey. One of the first places Mark took me to was the Portcullis, not far from his house. This just happens to be CAMRA's runner up for Best Pub in Bristol 2010. CAMRA, for those who don't know, CAMRA is the Campaign for Real Ale, the quintessential organization that promotes and endeavours to protect British real ales. They publish their Good Beer Guide annually, and it is the holy bible one absolutely needs to navigate the many pubs to find the best beers anywhere in the U.K. The Portcullis has been a pub since 1821, but was recently saved from closure by the Dawkins chain, and is therefore a 'tied house', offering 9 real ales on tap, three from Dawkins and 6 guest taps. We ordered the Dawkins Bob Wall Best Bitter (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 17) and Dawkins TTT Best Bitter, both measuring in at 4.2% ABV. The TTT is a golden/amber, smooth and easy-drinking ale, displaying some citrus and marmalade tones, very well balanced with a gentle bitter finish. A very nice start, but we had to go, Dana was waiting! Also waiting in their fridge were three beers from the local Bath Ales Brewery: Gem (4.8%) an amber best bitter with a rich aroma of hops, malt and a long, deep, bitter-sweet finish; Barnstormer (4.5%) featuring Brambling Cross hops, a fruity palate with hints of chocolate, complex and malty, a full-bodied dark bitter; and Golden Hare (4.4%) a light ale, well conditioned, smooth yet dry, wonderfully fresh, made with Maris Otter barley and Golding hops exhibiting a delightfully zesty finish.
What a great start to the British leg of my tour!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Tale of Three Brewpubs in Amsterdam, and then some more bock beers!

Of course, like most places in the civilized world, the Netherlands beer industry is dominated by major players: Heineken is the largest (who also control Brand), Bavaria is number two, operating on the cheaper end of the market (though they also run La Trappe) and Grolsch being number three of the homegrown large industrials. There are internationals here as well, Inbev being one who operates Dutch breweries Dommelsch and Hertog Jan, and there are 5 independents: Alfa, Budels, Gulpener, Lindeboom, and Leeuw, which is owned by the Belgian brewery Haacht. There are far more microbreweries in Holland (more than 30) than brewpubs (more than 12), but that too is changing, as it is in many places. There is also a trend that seems to work, contract brewing, where Dutch companies engage other brewers to make their beers for them. The Dutch brew a wide range of beers, both top and bottom fermenting varieties, ranging from Euro-lagers, British and Belgian style ales, as well as some traditional Nederlander beers (multigrain, sour browns and some hoppy types).
There are many great pubs and cafes in Amsterdam, some 1200 for the population of almost 3/4 of a million. My focus on this journey has been to always search out the most local and freshest brews that I can on tap, and in the case of Amsterdam, that boils down to three brewery/brewpubs, all located within the city itself.
The first is Brouwerij de Prael, built on the site of a former 17th century coach house, right in the centre of the Red Light District at the city's heart. The brewery itself is located behind their retail shop, and they currently run a tasting room one block away on Warmoesstraat, but are in the process of building a new taproom within the existing premises on Oudezijds Armsteeg canal. They also have a unique philosophy, employing as many as 70 people, some who might be otherwise unemployable, giving many a fresh start and the dignity of working in a thriving business. As mentioned in a previous posting, they have about 8 brews on tap at any given time, plus a guest beer. I just so happened to drop in for a tour of their facility and found that they not only had a bock beer, but in fact, 3 bock beers! The Nelis Herbstbock (7.7%) is the autumn bock brew, with a sweet malt nose, hazy golden brown colour, tones of chocolate malt giving way to a very balanced middle, with a velvety mouthfeel, nice long lacing and a well rounded and somewhat fruity flavour profile. They also had another version of this same brew, but made with a portion of smoked malt and whiskey malt (see Beer of the Day, Oct.15) named Nelis 'Pyp' or 'Pipe'. The guest beer that day was Polder Bock, a doppel bock I'd say, clocking in at a hefty 8%. Dark brown, tan head, full complex malt palate with some varied bitterness, hints of coffee, chocolate, brown sugar, fairly well balanced finishing with a drying bittersweet maltiness.
Perhaps the oldest micro in town is Brouwerij 't IJ, now celebrating 25 years in the business of brewing. Their brewery and tasting room is located on Funenkade, not far from the city centre. They make an impressive array of beers, from pilsner to Trappist, amber to dark beer and wheat beer to bock, plus many seasonal and specialties released at various times of the year or for special occasions. Their bock beer I commented on in yesterday's blog, along with the lovely bock from Schelde Brouwerij Wilde Bok (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 13) that I enjoyed at Cafe Demmers.
Yet another great Dutch bock I found was at Amsterdam's smallest brewpub on Klovenierburgwal De Bekeerde Zuster, or The Reformed Sister. This pub is part of De Beiaard Group, who run two other pubs in Amsterdam, and a few more around Holland. The small brewhouse is on display at the back of the pub, but there are many rambling rooms of various sizes in this unique bar. They had 4 beers of their own on tap, as well as 6 other guest beers. The golden brown Bock Ros (6.5%) was superb, starting with a sweetish nose, creamy head, malt palate hinting of dried fruit and toffee, medium bodied, with some alcohol warming the tongue. They do a cheese fondue with this brew that is to die for! Also good was their Tripel Ros (7.2%) pale straw coloured, candi sugared treat, sweet malt pervades, hidden spikes of alcohol and fruity notes, nice balance, lovely, long finish.
And I still found more great bocks made in this lovely country! Gulpener Jaarling Bokbier (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 14) was an excellent brew, as was Jopen Bokbier, a ruby red 6.5% treat from Haarlem, made with oats, wheat, barley and rye. Unfiltered haziness with tarty hints of orange, this beer displays a certain smoky roastiness and perhaps a touch of licorice.
Such great bock beers in the Netherlands! Who'd have thought?
The beers of Holland are like hidden gems waiting to be found. This city should be a must on any beer hunters list of places to go.
I would also very much like to thank Ulli and Edzer for their generous hospitality during my stay in Bussum, and for showing me a side of Holland I would have never got to see! Cheers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Running Back to Amsterdam for Bock Season

So, back to one of my favourite cities for some well deserved rest and relaxation. Also, to meet up with a couple of the 'Jesus and Beers' girls (Les & Jess) for their final days in Europe before flying home to Calgary. Our time was well spent doing some fun touristy things: renting and riding bicycles along the canals and the many bike paths this wonderful city has to offer. We also relaxed on a canal tour boat, getting a glimpse of some of the beautiful areas we missed first time around. In between we even managed to tour the Heineken Brewery, a rather fun experience actually, getting there early enough to beat the crowds. Of course, we fit in a few pubs for a few beers and that is when I discovered it was bock season. I was too early during the first part of my journey to catch any German bock beers while traveling there, so I was quite surprised and exited to find a few here. One of the first ones I came across was the guest tap at the Old Nickel, the wonderfully deep, dark, delicious and strong Weihenstephaner Korbinian Bock (see Beer of the Day, Oct. 11). This was a nice prelude to our last meal together, as it were, at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant, a short walk from the old town centre. It was a lovely night and even though we had reservations, the restaurant was not full. It was nice to kick back and enjoy some pre-dinner cocktails that were not beers for a change, and then to have a bottle of beautiful deep, red Italian wine with the excellently prepared and well served meal. We took our time and then sauntered slowly back into town, reminiscing about our collective and separate journeys. The girls had been in Europe for a month, me for 6 weeks. They would leave the next day, I had two weeks to go.
The next morning we crossed paths again at the central train station, Les and Jess on their way to the airport, and I was heading out to Bussum, to visit the friends I'd made on our hike in the Austrian Alps, Ulli and Edzer, only about 30 minutes out of town. It was a beautiful afternoon (what luck I've been having with the weather) so Ulli decided to show me this small town by bike and lovely it was indeed. We were to meet Edzer at the Demmers Biercafe in the adjacent town of Naarden, not far from the Vesting wall, the ancient fortifications overlooking the canal, that once was the high ground citizens retreated to during times of war. Here I was pleased to find, not only a traditional Dutch beer cafe, but they had an excellent Dutch beer selection too. Ulli and Edzer knew I would like this place.
On tap was one of their own brews, the Vestingguilde Blonde, a lovely light, pale yellow brew, well balanced and refreshing. Also on tap though, were a couple of excellent seasonal Dutch bock beers, Wilde Bok from Schelde Bruowerij and Brouwerij 't IJ Bok. The first has been voted one of the best beers in the 'heavy bock beer' category in the Netherlands, a dark brown brew with reddish highlights, full malt body with notes of caramel and some nuttiness, but well balanced with a smooth long finish. The second was no slouch either, coming from one of Amsterdam's finest inner city breweries, being 100% organic and unpasteurized. This brew too was big and bold, perhaps a touch darker, perhaps a touch maltier, but strong flavoured with hints of chocolate and a long, smooth finish. Demmers is a wonderful place to while away the late afternoon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Berlin, Day Two

First of all, two days in Berlin is not nearly enough. My wonderful stay in the Czech Republic threw my schedule a little out of skew, but I narrowed my focus and strived on ahead. Berliner Weisse found, I now felt I had time for some touristy things: sections of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and the big Sunday market not far from my hotel on Bernauer Strasse. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny Sunday, and though the Berlin underground and above-ground Metro is probably the best in Europe, it is also an easy place to walk. Kolin, who is a graduate of the Versuchs und Lehranstalt fur Brauerei school here, recommended a unique spot, situated under a railway arch near Alexanderplatz, Bräuhaus Lemke, and so that was my first stop, for lunch and to taste their beers. As luck would have it, they had four beers on tap and even offered a tasting ‘probe’. It was a lovely modern brewpub, two large rooms in fact, the bar area featuring smaller, higher tables and the main room more traditional with long shared tables. They also had a lovely patio, surrounded by large trees and much greenery. I went from dark to light, munching on the toasted grains provided in between, as I waited for my Bavarian-Oktoberfest inspired weisse-wurst and fresh, steaming pretzel meal. Their mustard was good too! The Original was a malty nosed dunkel, caramel and lightly roasted grain palate, a good balance that finishes a little sweet with a tiny hint of rauchbier-style smokiness. The Oktoberfest was, of course, the seasonal offering, a little lighter in colour, a brighter mouthfeel, clear and clean, some hop bitterness underpinning the malt base. The Weizen was a typical cloudy pale gold-amber, fruity nose, but a bit drier than expected, the traditional banana/clove elements missing, but it was well balanced with some citric and a background of hops, finishing quite dry. The Pils ended up being my favourite, big, hoppy aroma, pale yellow, nice bitter first sip, a bright mouthfeel that leads to an even bitter palate, but smooth, ending dry with more hops than other German pils I’d tasted. I ordered another glass of this one, despite the AOR classic rock soundtrack too loud in the empty room. This excellent brewpub now has two locations in Berlin, and I can see why. The beers are quite good and so is the food. More folks poured in for Sunday brunch, as I made my way out and on to other more touristy things.
I then went for Hardy’s recommendation from the night before, the Stangdige Vertretung, or Stäv, as its affectionately called (translated as The Permanent Embassy). This is an historical place, having not only survived the Cold War, but actually became a place for intellectuals of all stripes to discuss current events, the main room being filled with photographs of a divided and united Germany over the years. A lovely location with a terrace across the road, right on the water’s edge, and as the restaurant was full and the early evening warm, that is what I opted for. They served Gaffel Kolsch in the standard tall 200 ml. thin glasses. This tap beer was delicious, pale yellow with a light head leaving great lacing, a somewhat fruity nose, but a lovely even and smooth malt character, good carbonation and enough hops to even out the palate and dry the fine finish. After the lovely lentil soup of the day, and a few more kolsch, I asked if they had any Berliner Weisse. This, of course, led to a discussion with the not-so-busy waitresses. They did have the Berliner Kindl Weisse in bottles, but were surprised I would order it out of season, but also without the usual, sweet syrups. Again I found myself the centre of attention, as all three wanted to know who was drinking such an odd, sour beer. Traveling and writing about beer is a great conversation stater.
I had wanted to hit the Zur Letzten Instanz, but, alas, it was closed on Sundays, and although I had been by the Brauerei Mitte earlier in the day when it was not opened, I got a little lost and ended up not finding it again. But, all in all, I had had a great day, so opted for a Metro ride back to my hotel, where I finished the evening with a couple of glasses of a regional Berlin beer on tap, Wittinger Pils (a 4.9% classic German pilsner brewed with Hallertau hops and local malts, characterized by a smooth bitterness that lingers lovingly on the palate) discussing Berlin life and beer with the beautiful bartender and night desk person Janine. I didn’t nearly spend the time or discover what I had originally intended in Berlin, but I had a very nice slice and was not disappointed in the least. I promised myself that I would be back!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Drinking Berliner Weisse in Berlin

Forgive me beer readers, I have been just a little preoccupied this past week, and perhaps a touch negligent. It has been a long six weeks and I think the continuing travel has been finally catching up to me. That said, though, it is time to talk about Berlin...
I have spent a lot of time in Germany on this trip, very much enjoying the great variety of beers on offer: pils, weizens, dunkel weizens, maerzens, bock beers, rauchbiers, kellerbiers, lagers of various sorts (pale, helle, dunkel, oktoberfest, etc). In coming to Berlin, however, I was after one thing in particular: Berliner Weisse, a beer hard, if not impossible, to find outside of the capital, and one I consider a distant cousin of the sour beers of Belgium. First though, a little background...
History has not been kind to the brewers of Berlin, divided as they were for many years after the Second World War. For a time, some breweries with the same names continued parallel existences on each side of the wall, sometimes producing different beers. Reinheitsgebot was not an issue, being really a long time Bavarian law, and only coming into effect in the rest of Germany at the end of the 19th century. Still, it was largely ignored during the two world wars and not really a concern for East German brewers during the Communist era. Berliner Weisse has had its ups and downs too, one brewery in the east who made it, closing its facility not long after the wall came down. Happy to say, it is being brewed again. This unique style was generally unfiltered, unpasteurized, uncompromising in its flavour profile and, near as I can tell, was made more often in the east side of the city. So, I centred my search around Alexanderplatz, once the heart of East Berlin, and still the centre of the larger modern capital. My first stop was for dinner at the lovely Alt-Berliner Weissbierstuben. A very traditional, if not, upscale room (classic black and white photographs on wood paneled walls, oak bar, brass lamps and mirrored shelving) but the service was unpretentious and efficient. I was lucky to get a small table inside near the bar, as the evenings were getting colder and despite the heating lamps on the terrace, everyone was inside. My server spoke English well, but my request for one of their unique Berliner Weisse beers seemed to miss the mark. She came back with a tall glass of Schofferhofer Weizen. She saw the surprise on my face, of course, because without even tasting it, I knew to be weizen and not Berliner weisse. Then it dawned on her, but no problem, I would have likely ordered one later on any way. This weizen had a fruity nose, huge head, a lovely cloudy pale yellow colour with some citric overtones. Though not big in the banana and clove department, it was a good, tart example of the style and very refreshingly easy to drink. Dinner was a very tasty pork steak smothered in a rich mushroom gravy, surrounded with potatoes and served a fresh green salad. Half way through dinner, I ordered a Schultheiss Original Berliner Weisse. I noticed in the menu that they serve it with sweet syrups (raspberry or woodruff, but also with Brandy or Cognac and even sparkling wine and lemon juice. These concoctions are served in a large bowl-shaped glasses, often with a straw, more like a cocktail, as opposed to a real beer.
I had asked for one straight up, no syrups, and got a funny look from my server. "Are you sure?" she asked. "Oh yes please," I replied. She poured me one from the taps and delivered it to my table with a straw. I jettisoned the straw. It had a frothy white head that disappeared quite quickly, leaving a mild fruity nose and a light, see-through pale straw colour. The first sip told the tale however, a nice, even sourness creating a tart palate that opens the senses on your tongue. Light in body, easy to drink and very thirst quenching, this was not over-the-top for a lambic-loving beer geek like me, but I could appreciate that the average drinker might want to mix this with something sweet. Tiny, sour bubbles danced in my mouth, leaving a long, deliciously tart finish. What a unique and lovely beer.
I left the restaurant quite sated and satisfied, thinking about the rest of the evening. I had heard of a place not far away that served kolsch and altbiers, two other German specialty brews I had not yet found in my travels. So, it was off to Sophie'n Eck, a lovely corner pub filled with the local after dinner crowd.
I found a space at the bar and asked for a kolsch, which I noticed on their menu board. "No kolsch!" came the reply from the very busy bartender, so I settled for the Schlosser Alt. Beautiful copper colour, with reddish highlights, with a crisp fruity nose that extends right through to the malt accented palate, smooth mouthfeel, some nuttiness, clean light biscuit tones, hidden hops carrying the balance through to a nice round finish. A very pleasant and drinkable brew. At this point, the fellow seated next to me at the bar struck up a conversation, as he too was enjoying the altbier and turned out to be a very interesting gentleman. Once a commercial airline pilot, but now a free-lance ferry pilot (shuttling many kinds of aircraft from one place in the world to another) Hardy had also spent time in Canada. We chatted about the free-lance life, his travels, my travels and then, of course, beer. I explained to him my search for Berliner weisse and he pointed out that they did have that beer in the bar. It was then I noticed the bartender flip open a short, stubby, almost Trappist style bottle and pour it completely upside down into one of the bowl glasses I'd seen early. The beer was red and it was served with a straw to a woman nearby. Well, I ordered one too, but no syrup. The bartender looked at me. Hardy looked at me too. "I've never tasted one like that", he said. "I've never ever served one like that!", the bartender added. Still, I insisted and was treated to a Berliner Kindl Weisse, with the same unique pour. This pour is to create a head, of course, which dissipates quickly. Again, it was delicious, bright and effervescent, same tart, sour palate, pale straw colour with some strong lacing left by the quickly falling head. Very enjoyable, I thought, finishing my big, bowl glass and ordering another. By now I was a curiosity at the bar. Who was this crazy Canadian guy drinking not one, but two straight Berliner weisse beers? Hardy and I continued our conversation and he treated me to a shot of some bright orange drink, distilled from a local sour berry, whose name I cannot remember, somewhat sweet and full of vitamin C. Then the evening really got going. It turns out they did have kolsch bier (the bartender thought I'd said 'grolsch', my language skills not being what they were at the beginning of the day), Sion Kolsch to be exact, and the bartender kept pouring them for me in the standard tall 200 ml glasses. Light and malty, crisp, clean and clear pale gold, malt accented, no hop presence detectable, but balanced and easy to drink. Also too easy to drink were those little orange shots that kept landing in front of Hardy and I. I finished the night with a Landmaan Schwarzbier, from the region just outside of Berlin. A Burgundy-cognac brown brew with ruby highlights, a smooth, surprisingly bright mouthfeel, no bitter malt aspects, nice balance and some hidden hop to dry out the finish. Very tasty indeed. By now I was feeling the effects of the wonderful drinks I'd been enjoying, but before I left Hardy suggested I needed to visit the Stangdige Vertretung for their kolsch bier. Good idea,I thought, but that would be tomorrow. Thank you Hardy and good night!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Evening in Plzen

So, I arrived in the town of Plzen by bus, fresh from my beer spa. As luck would have it, a huge billboard pointed the way to my hotel on the main central square, Náměstí Republiky. As I left the bus depot to walk the short distance, I became aware that someone was brewing, as that tell-tale sweet malt aroma filled the street. It was strongest outside of a little door with a sign above called U Sládka. Unbeknownst to me at that moment, I had wandered into Plzen's smallest and newest brewpub. The young brewer was shoveling out his 200 little mash tun as I entered the premises, one of the smallest I've seen on this trip. The friendly barkeep had spent some time in Canada and was fascinated by the story of my adventures, as she poured my a stein of their Pašák Světlý (See Beer of the Day, Oct. 8). They also had Pašák Speciál, a 12° golden amber hued and hazy brew, but with a flowery hop nose and a full head that slowly drops to nice lacing. A sweetish malt palate is immediately pulled down by the underlying hops giving good balance, a pleasant creamy mouthfeel and a somewhat dry finish. There was a darker guest beer available on tap, Polotmavý 12°, from a little brewery about 20 kilometers outside of Prague. This was a reddish amber coloured offering, well balanced with a lovely dry finish. The food on offer was great, I had ordered a cheese and meat plate, that came with generous amounts of both, plus some veggies and and good, fresh bread. Love this place! The brewer even gave me a taste of the sweet wort he was turning into Pašák Světlý in his kettle. By then it was time to go, so I continued on, to find and check into my hotel, after this great little lunch break.
Located right on the centre square, it was easy walking distance to anywhere in the city centre. Of course, top of my list was the famaous Senk na Parkanu pub, one of the very last places you can find Pilsner Urquell unfiltered and unpasteurized on tap. The Nefiltrovaný Ležák had an herbal hop aroma, big white, thick head and a hazy pale gold colour. A biscuit maltiness first appears on the palate followed closely by the hoppy architecture, creating a balanced and smooth mouthfeel, with the hops winning out in the end creating a nice and dry, bitter finish. The temperature is perfect, the lacing looks good with a light covering of head remaining on the surface of the beer to the bottom of the glass, it has excellent carbonation and is very fresh and tasty. This is the best they can do these days, Pislner Urquell being owned and marketed world-wide by giant SABMiller. I've a had a few glasses of this famous beer in my travels in the Czech Republic, and it was not always good. I was unable to finish one or two due to dirty taps, old beer or just generally poor handling. It is a shame that such a well known beer is now just another international product geared for mainstream tastes and treated just like any ordinary mass market beer.
I found my way to Bernard-In, a tied house for the Bernard line of beers, one of the last regional brewers in the Czech Republic, now owned by .... The only one of the 7 taps available served an unfiltered version of Bernard 12°. It had a fresh nose, with some hop present, a pale gold colour, initial maltiness fades to an even hop bitterness, somewhat understated and drying in the middle, lightly hazy and medium bodied with an OK finish. It was a bit cloying and something in the aftertaste just screamed mass-market lager.
I decided to close out my visit to Plzen at Zack's Pub, a funky and favourite little hip bar of the local arts scene, because they are one of the only places to find Pernštejn Porter on tap. A big brew clocking in at 9%, this is the 'originální tmavé pivo' from Pernštejn Pivovar Pardubice. This is an intoxicating, heady brew, a big Baltic-style porter, not for the light hearted. It is a philosopher's beer, one you take time to sip and contemplate. Deep, dark and almost black, with a warming alcohol effect, creamy mouthfeel, tones of raisins, dried plums, coffee and dark, bitter chocolate. Dark tan head, full bodied and lacing its unique glass, this was my fair well to the Czech Republic. It also put my over the edge that night, an amazing night cap indeed! I slept like the dead after this one!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Soaking in the Suds in Chodová Planá

When Leslie first told me about a ‘beer spa’ somewhere outside of Prague, I was intrigued. After all, in Central Europe there are many ‘wellness’ spas of one sort or another. Mineral springs and therapeutic centres for improving your health, visited by many tourists and locals alike, have been operating for hundreds of years, but I had never heard of a ‘beer spa’. So I went online and found the Pravé Pivní Lázně, part of the Chodovar Brewery in Chodová Planá. This facility has been in operation since 1992, run by the Plevka family, who started brewing in 1962, but claim to be part of a local brewing heritage that dates back to 1573. The brewery has its own well and soft, mineral rich water springs from the granite massif below that runs through the entire area. They also bottle and market this ‘ferrous acidulous’ water under the name Il Sano. The brewery is part of a complex in the centre of town that includes the Hotel U Sládku, The Old Malt House Restaurant and The Beerarium, a brewing museum. They make 8 different products under the Chodovar label and below the site ancient carved-out granite cellars are still in use today to age their beers. Their spa packages include beer baths, massage, hot stone treatments and various other therapeutic ‘wellness’ cures. It all sounds (and is) very impressive, but had I known how hard it was to get there, I might have reconsidered, or at least rented a car.
The Czech train system is the antithesis of its German neighbors. It’s like going back in time, nothing seems to run on time, and no one is in any hurry to help you or move forward into the future. The trains themselves are, for the most part, decrepit beasts of burden that have seen better days. In my rural wanderings I have also seen many rusted out cars left at old railway sidings to the ravages of time and nature. So, I guess I should not have been too surprised when, partway through my journey from Prague to Chodová Planá, it was announced that there were problems on the tracks ahead and we all had to disembark to be transported by bus for the next part of the journey. Finally arriving in Mariánské Lázně well past dusk, I realized I had missed my connection and would have to wait a full hour and a half in order to go the final 5 kilometers. I went to speak to the station agent on duty in order to find a taxi, but he spoke no English, and it became obvious that there were no taxis. Speaking no Czech myself, I must have looked rather lost and dejected at this point, but as luck would have it, an off duty employee offered to take me in her own car, a trip of about 10 minutes. The hotel was locked up tight and as dark as the surrounding countryside, but I did notice a door bell and rang it. Five minutes later, the night manager (who also spoke no English), opened the door, checked me in and I retired to my room, exhausted and ready for a beer. Oddly, the whole place was quiet as a mouse, the restaurant was closed (it was 9:30) and I could not find the bar, if there was one. My beer spa was scheduled for the next morning, so until then, I’d have to be happy with the small supply of Chodovar beers in the mini bar in my room. I enjoyed a bottle of their Prezident Premium and a Svetly Cerné and went to bed.
Next morning I was excited for my spa. I descended the brick stairwell into the ancient arched chamber and found the spa room behind a heavy, carved wooden door. Ah, and someone spoken English! Enough anyway. I ditched my clothes, wrapped myself up in a toga-like big white sheet and was led to a long room, where 6 or 8 huge tubs, separated by pull curtains, awaited. Dropping the sheet, I slide into the warm beer bath and looked around. There was a giggling couple in a larger tub one curtain over, and three Russian fellows were having an animated conversation punctuated with laughter across the floor. There was low, relaxing music playing, though the atmosphere seemed more upbeat than chill. Still, it was relaxing. The literature says the bath is a mixture of mineral waters, unique dark ‘bath’ beer, including hops, curative herbs and beer yeast. The procedures’ purpose is to ‘harmonize organic functions, provide mental rest, reconditioning and muscle relaxation’. It is also supposed to have a curative effect on complexion and hair. Of course, a cold glass of Chodovar beer is provided on the side table. A bit of tan foam floated about the tub and though the temperature was not hot, it was warm enough to be comfortable. I closed my eyes and thought about my Czech adventure and decided this was worth the journey. When else would I ever get a chance to soak in a big tub of beer? The laughter subsided and I sank into my own thoughts.
It did not seem long before my 20 minutes was up. I was helped out of the tub, wrapped once again in the white sheet and led into long dark room. This was the 20 minute resting period after the spa. With another glass of beer waiting, I was wrapped in a second layer, in a huge warm towel and laid down on a comfortable cot. The lights were a low glowing orange and the music even softer, the other bodies in the room seemed to be asleep. It wasn’t long before I drifted off too. Soon I was gently awakened and told not to shower for 4 hours. That wouldn’t be a problem, as I dressed. I had to check out and figure out how to get to Plzen, the last stop on my Czech adventure. “No problem”, I was told at the front desk. “There is a bus station right across the street.” I stepped out into the warming sun of midday, dragged my bags over to the bus stop, could make no sense of the posted schedule, but at check out I was given a route and told the bus would be along in 15 minutes.
It took 3 buses, two transfers and 3 hours to reach Plzen. But it was a beautiful day, I was relaxed, I met some helpful people along the way and as I disembarked at the main bus terminal, there was a huge billboard pointing the way to my hotel. Life was good.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Trains, Trams and Automobiles Part 3: The Continuing Search for the Elusive Czech Pilsner in Hradec Kralove & Dvur Kralove nad Labem

We stayed in the lovely village of Libcany, not very far from Hradec Kralove. This is where Lukáš’ family now lives, and his mother Zuzana was a most gracious and generous host, not to mention a great cook. She kept my belly full the entire time I was there. There were excellent cheeses, tasty dark Czech bread and she even made her version of carbonara, with tagliatelli noodles and Hungarian bacon, followed by a wonderful dumpling and vegetable soup. Then, when I thought I could eat no more, out came the absolutely lovely sweet plum dumplings for dessert! Delicious! This is where the real Czech cuisine can be found, in the homes of people who love to cook. Our tour of the local Tambor Brewery had to be put off for one day, so we made the best of it, me catching up on my notes and Lukáš catching up on sleep.
Late in the day, Lukáš’ sister Zuzanka joined us and we went into Hradec Kralove for the evening to visit three beer bars and see a bit of this old world town. At Danup, our first stop, we had to send back the Herold Dark Lager as it was served totally warm, and was therefore quite undrinkable. It was warm, because the waitress forgot to turn on the cooling device, but it eventually came back at a proper temperature. This 13° Plato dark lager is almost black in colour with a profound roastiness and notes of black malt and coffee.
We headed next to a Ferdinand Brewery pub, where we tried 3 of the 4 beers they had on tap. The 10° Plato Pale Lager (a nice, lightly balanced brew), the 12° Pale Lager (hoppier, some middle malt and a dry finish) and the 11° Plato Dark Lager (smoother than the Herold, with more reddish hues, creamier mouthfeel and drier finish).
We finished the night at a much more modern, well light and stylish pub that served the beers of the brewery Primator. I was intrigued by the English Pale Ale they had on tap, but it tasted a bit odd since it seemed to be made with pilsner malt and not a lot of hop. The Oatmeal Stout, however, was excellent, full bodied, deep black and very much in style. The Weizen was an excellent version too, pale yellow, cloudy, fruity with hints of banana and clove. The 12° Lager was crisp and clean, light gold and very drinkable. My evening ended though, when I ordered a bottle of what they called a Double in the menu, but on the back of the bottle it was described as a Dunkels Doppel Bockbier. It was neither, being more a sweet, strong Baltic porter. Very dark burgundy brown and malt dominated, the warming alcohol effect was almost immediate, and it was a heavy beer (24° Plato) with a full body and a long sweet malt finish that just kept lingering. I nursed this one until we went to catch the bus.
Next morning we were off to one of the best breweries in the Czech Republic, Tambor. We were picked up at the train station in Dvur Kralove nad Labem by the owner, Nasik Kiriakovsky and after a quick 5 minute drive (it’s a small village) were at the brewery and met by Head Brewer Martin Vrba, who gave us a personal tour of the facility.
Tambor means ‘drummer’, as in the marching drummers who used to drum armies into battle in the 19th century. As they story goes, the Austrians and the Prussians had a great battle in this town in 1866, and when the victorious Prussians marched into town, lead by their tambors, they drank the old brewery dry and then burnt it to the ground. The brewery was rebuilt, but eventually closed in 1979. Exactly 30 years after its closing, Tambor opened.
Situated a little above the town, they have their own mineral rich, pure water source, and besides the beers they produce, hope to soon market their water in bottles too. Tambor currently brews about 4,500 hectoliters a year, but are already in the process to step up their brewing capacity to 30,000 to meet the every growing demand. They do not only market their products in the Czech Republic, but also in Moscow, Stockholm and will be sending their beers to Tel’Aviv and New York City soon. In fact, they are a certified ‘kosher’ brewery and therefore are favourites of Jewish communities in all of these places. More recently, one was brewed especially for the Pope’s tour of the country. Martin has even brewed a very light in alcohol beer using cardamom in Syria. Truly international indeed. Their facilities are very modern and they use a 2 step decoction mash method and only brew in small batches, their mash tun and brew kettle holding only 25 barrels, while their fermentation tanks hold 50. This will not change when the new building expansion is complete, as small batch brewing ensures the maintenance of the high standards Tambor is known for. In fact, brewer Martin Vrba is a very busy man. Outside of his duties at Tambor, he is the co-owner of an Italian brewery and also runs a business building breweries all over Europe. He said he is about to complete his 40th installation.
Also, proudly, all of Tambor’s ingredients and equipment are Czech made and I would say they are the vanguard of a renaissance in Czech brewing. After the Velvet Revolution, open markets were not kind to the Czech brewing industry. Large regional breweries bought up the smaller ones, and they in turn were swallowed up by the giant multi-nationals and this, of course, made the famous Czech pilsner an endangered species. Tambor is trying to change all of that, by maintaining small batch, high quality brewing, they are returning the prominence of the true Czech pilsner to the world.
Now, the beers… Tambor makes 3 pilsners: a 10° Plato (4.3%), an 11° (4.6%) and a 12° (5.1%). Only the 11° is both filtered and unfiltered (which makes 4, I guess), all the others are filtered, which is important to the flavour profile. They also make a 13° Dark Lager (5%) and a special 14° Amber Lager (5.8%) at Christmas time. All of the Pilsners are crisp, clean and clear, with a thick, white mousy head, good carbonation and lovely lacing. They all have excellent hop aroma and are very well balanced, with a lovely hop bitterness sitting on top of a most pleasing maltiness, giving way to an exceptional, dry finish. They use only Saaz hops and the Saaz offshoots Sladek (and Premiant only in the 11° Pilsner), , for bitterness, flavouring and aroma. The Dark Lager is a deep and dark reddish brown, featuring garnet hues, with a rich, tan head, a gorgeous full flavoured, creamy mouthfeel and a very good balance of hop and black malt bitterness against some malt sweetness that is nicely subdued resulting in smooth, medium body and a delicious, long finish.
Martin left us in the tasting room and after a few more of their delicious pilsners I came to the realization that my quest was complete, at long last, I had finally found the true, great Czech pilsner I had been looking for. I want to thank Lukáš for all of his efforts and all of his time, he truly made my trip to the Czech Republic a memorable one. We left each other at the train station in Hradec Kralove, he headed home to Brno, and I continued on to Chodova Plana for a much needed day at the spa.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Trains, Trams and Automobiles Part 2: Beer Hunting in Prague

Crammed into the front bench seat of a small delivery van, three of us left Brno in the dark and rain, rolling into a warmer and dry Prague about two hours later. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, as Czech highways don’t seem to be the most well kept. I was left at Libeň Novoměstský Pivovar as Lukáš headed to school for the day and Cipis went to drop off and pick up kegs. Novoměstský is known as a traditional restaurant for authentic Czech cuisine, with the brewhouse front and centre in the main room and at 10 am, they were packed! They make two beers of their own, a light and a dark lager and both are unfiltered. The light was deliciously refreshing, hazy pale gold, smooth and balanced with enough hops to support the malty architecture. The dark was amber brown in colour and had more malt sweetness, but again, hazy and balanced, smooth and creamier, but the hops were buried in the finish. I surveyed the list Lukáš had left me and decided to concentrate on the brewpubs in town, of which there are at least 8 or 9. His list also included 6 or 8 beer bars, so I was going to have to be selective with the time I had.
U Medvídků Minipivovar is billed as the smallest brewpub in Prague, and perhaps one of the more expensive as well. They make three beers fermented in open wooden barrels. The brewery itself is located way at the back of the large and rambling traditional beer hall and up some stairs. Only here in this smaller room can you try all three beers on tap. Ležák Oldgott Barique (13° Plato, 5.2%) is a red brown colour with a big white head, smooth malt flavour is what first hits the tongue, but it is well balanced with a good underpinning of hops, goes down easy and exhibits hints of wood and a hop dryness in the finish. The Rouge Lager (5%) is slightly more red in colour than the Oldgott, with pinkish hues in the head and a sweet honey aroma. The palate is mildly sweet with overtones of honey (the brew master uses a blend of herbs, but no real honey) but it has a smooth mouthfeel all the way through. It is a nicely balance brew and kind of grows on you, the sweetness falling off towards the end. Almost the same colour as its sister brews, X33 could be the strongest beer made in the Czech republic (33° Plato). Surprisingly light malt nose, moussy head and somewhat hazy, there is a smooth creamy mouthfeel, full body and a malt accented palate, but it is really well balanced with tones of honey, caramel and a sweetish malt finish.
U Fleků is the oldest brewery pub in town, dating back to 1499, is a typical Czech beer hall with long tables, now perhaps serving more tourists than locals, accordion player entertaining the diners, with a small army of wait staff continually cruising the room with trays of their one brew, Flekovský ležak, a deep black lager, registering in at 13° Plato. Delicious and roasty, full bodied with a beautiful flavour profile, offering tones of toasted and black malt, creamy mouthfeel, excellent balance with a small malt sweetness edging out the underlying hoppy structure, but the finish is a nicely dry one. It went very well with the excellent house goulash I ordered for lunch served in a thick, dark gravy with onions including potato and bread dumplings.
I did some touristy things too, like walk across the Charles Bridge and exploring the Old Quarter with its quirky side streets and incredibly crafted architecture. Not far from the bridge I found Pražský Most U Valšů, a small bar off the street and the brewhouse situated in a bigger room down a set of stairs. They make two brews, a light (nice gold colour, big rocky head, initial hoppiness gives way to a more balanced middle, with both malt and hop notes, dry finish) and a dark lager, both unfiltered.
I do understand what Lukáš had been telling me the night before. There are many beer bars in the city centre serving the many beers from the large industrial breweries, some tied houses, some independents offering more interesting local favourites, and though I found the quality of these beers generally high, more so with the unfiltered varieties I found at the brewpubs, there was a certain sameness to many of the selections. Where was that elusive crisp Czech pilsner I had been longing to try? Most beers seemed to be light, pale lagers geared toward mass market consumption or the many tourists, for whom beer is, generally, just beer.
I was to meet Lukáš at Zly Casy late in the afternoon, and he had obviously saved the best for last. There were no less than 22 beers on tap, most good Czech beers from all over the Republic, but some German as well and even Trashy Blond from Brew Dog in Scotland. Keeping track was hard to do. I tried Chotebor Premium, a 5.1% Bohemian Pilsner, full bodied, pale amber colour, hop accented, well balanced, wonderfully bright mouthfeel. Rambousek Kaštanomedový, a Styrian Goldings hoppy brew with Slovenian honey, a darker shade of amber, froth head, a good balance met between bitterness and sweetness, the hop rescuing the finish from being too cloy. Rychtar Natur (12° Plato) was smooth, hazy gold hued, fresh aroma, well balance and naturally carbonated (as I am told most Czech beers are). Tambor 11° unfiltered lager, nutty maltiness, fresh hoppiness, bright on the tongue, crisp, clean and delicious, considered by Lukas to be one of the best beers in the country, a classic Czech Pilsner. I also tried a couple of Franconian beers I had not gotten around to in Bamberg: Mahr’s Ungespundet, a 13° Plato, an unfiltered kellerbier, smooth, full bodied, gold hued, hints of honey, malt, understated hop, dry finish and St. Georgen Bräu Kellerbier, a 4.9% dark amber, fully flavoured malt accented but dry palate, well balanced brew. This was one of the best of the evening. I also met Petr Burianek, considered one of the best home brewers in Prague. Lukáš has tried his American IPA, Porter, Witbier, Weizenbock and even Barley Wine and says he is really, very good. He had a beer on tap that a local brewery allowed him to make on their 10 hectoliter system, it was a Rosemary Hefeweizen. 12° Plato, beautiful pale yellow and very aromatic with flowery rosemary (of course), big head, good carbonation. A great balance was met here with wheaty fruitiness on the palate and rosemary that never quits, creating a smooth, creamy mouthfeel and a big herbal finish. He said he had made a rabbit stew with this brew, I would have liked to have tried that!
Time had kind of gotten away on us and we had to rush to get the bus after all these great beers, , for Lukáš was now taking me out to his hometown of Hradec Kralove, where we were to stay at his family’s home in the small village of Libcany.

Trains, Trams and Automobiles: Pub Crawling in Brno, Moravia

Back at the beginning of this trip, Paul and I met a young man in Beersel at the 3 Fonteinen Brewery, Lukáš Provaznik. Like us, he was in town for the Brussels Beer Weekend and was now hunting down beers in the lambic towns just outside of the city. He is a beer geek like me, but with a depth of knowledge about the industry, ingredients and beer styles that was surprising. He is from Brno, the Czech Republic’s second largest city. During the afternoon at the 3 Fonteinen open house, I told him about my tour and that I was eventually on my way to Prague. He said he would be happy to provide me with a list of brewpubs and good beer bars to check out. We exchanged emails and went our own separate ways. About two weeks later he sent me a note, saying he had some time off, would be happy to be my personal beer guide in Brno and that he would be studying at a brewing school in Prague, and would be happy to show me the best beers and beer bars there as well. So, I added Brno to my list of places to visit and went to visit him there.

I took the train out of Vienna and into the Czech Republic on a Monday morning, not really knowing what to expect, other than I thought this to be the land of the original crisp and clean pilsner. On route, while studying my own list of Czech Breweries, I met Jessica and Johann, a Canadian couple on their honeymoon in Europe, and they just happened to be from Calgary too. Wow, it really is a small world, isn’t it? We exchanged stories of our travels and then I hopped off the train in Brno, while they carried on to Prague. Brno is home to one large brewery, Starobrno, and two brewpubs. So, I made my way to one of the brewpubs, the Pegas Hostinsky Pivovar, attached to the Hotel Pegas in the downtown area.
This brewpub was established in 1991, not long after the Velvet Revolution. They have a traditional style beer hall with the brew house on display in the middle and serve four unfiltered beers. The waiter seemed to speak no English, so I pointed to one of the beers on the beer menu card to start. He brought me Psenicne pivo (12° Plato), some sort of wheat beer served with a slice of lemon floating on top of the beer, but hidden by the big, frothy head. I was a bit surprised, but it was refreshing enough after my walk there and light in body, with an obviously citric dominance, but not really what I expected for my first beer in the Czech Republic. I next pointed to the bottom of the list, at a beer called Pegas Gold (16° Plato), the house special. It certainly was a gold coloured and malty brew, with a nice head that falls quickly, some hop aroma, but the palate is one of malt and alcohol. It is rather thin for a beer of this strength and finishes sweetly. As I waited for Lukas to arrive, I ordered the 12° Plato Tmavy Lezak (dark lager). It had a creamy tan head, full body, smooth mouthfeel with some roasty-toasty hints of black malt, chocolate and caramel with a hop bitterness that balanced the finish. I soon realized I was having my own private Oktoberfest as the waiter kept bringing me ½ liter steins (I didn’t know how to order anything smaller) and was half gunned by the time Lukáš arrived and dragged me out of there.

Next we had an 11 degree Plato unfiltered lager at Zelena kocka, a tied house for Akciovy pivovar Dalesice. It had fresh, almost citric overtones, slight haze, gold colour and a beautiful white head that left some lacing. The 13 P Dark Lager was very brown with a tan head, slightly sweet malt nose with a smooth mouthfeel and pleasant palate. We got these served, by the way, in smaller glasses. Lukas tuned me in: a stein is a krygl (500 ml), a glass is a stuc (300 ml), ½ liter is called pullitr and a tuplák is a full liter (Krýgl is Mug or Stein or Seidel, štuc is glass without handle - similar to Stange. It could be in variety size, usually 500 ml or 300 ml.).

By way of comparison, we went to U Richarda, not one of Lukáš’ favourite places, and quite frankly the beers were unremarkable. They had a bottom fermented pale wheat beer (11° Plato, no real fruitiness, cold, cloudy) and some sort of fruity pale lager (12° Plato, some malt present, some hop in the finish). Lukáš has understandably high standards and does not have too many good things to say about some of the beers one finds in Brno bars. I laughed sometimes at his descriptions, but he is studying to become a brew master and says (with a wry smile) that this situation is no laughing matter. Too many beers are boring mainstream industrial clones of each other, too many bartenders never clean their taps, too many servers have no idea, nor do they care, what they are serving. Sound familiar Canada?

So, we ended the night at the bar where he works, Na Bozence, named after the famous Czech writer, Božena Němcová. It was Monday night, but the place was packed. They have three taps. Only one tap is for guest beers, other two are reserved for extra hoppy Poutník and unfiltered Poutník. That night they were serving a beer from the Malostransky pivovar Velke Mezirici. Harrach Vidensky lezak is a 13.8° Plato (6.2%) sort of Vienna style lager. The Czech pale lager from Poutnik from Pelhrimov, 12° Plato, filtered and extra hoppy. They did have a Mahr’s Undespundet-hefetrüb (kellerbier) from Bamberg, but, alas, it ran out earlier in the evening. There were a couple of other kegs waiting in the beer fridge for the days to come. This is a typical neighbourhood pub, a small hole-in-the-wall kind of place, with no food available, except some local cheeses and sausage, and very popular with the locals. We had great conversations, of course, all about beer. The origin of Maerzen, the near extinction of the Vienna style lager, how important balance is in a beer versus the over-the-top styles so much the fad right now, North American beers versus European, North German lagers versus South German lagers, Slovak versus Czech and Bohemian versus Moravian beers. Lukáš is a great conversationalist when it comes to beer.

It was a good day and a great night, for my first 12 hours in the Czech Republic and I would especially like to thank Lukáš, since the reason he wasn’t working was because he had broken a finger the week before, had his left hand in a cast and was wrapped in bandages up to his elbow. He informed me that he had classes at the brewing institute in Prague the next day and we could get a ride with a friend of his, Cipis, who was going there on a beer run to pick up new beers for his pub. Sounded good to me!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Last thoughts on Vienna and Austrian Beer

Austrians are a no nonsense people. When you sit down in a pub, the staff want to take your whole order right away - none of this getting your drinks first while you take your time to peruse the menu for food. Or at least this seemed to be the case in most places I visited. That said, their efficiency is second to none. In many places, especially smaller towns and traditional pubs, there is only one size of beer you can order, the 1/2 liter glass or stein. Fortunately for those of us who like to try a number of brews on offer, many of the places I visited in Vienna did have a range. There certainly was the 500 ml 'krugerl' or 'grosses', and even the occasional brew could be ordered in a 1 liter stein. But a more conventional 300 ml glass 'siedel' or 'kleinesbier' I found in a lot of places and even better for us beer geeks was the 200 ml 'pfiff', which leaves a lot more room for variety at any given seating.
Ottakringer is Vienna's largest brewer, and as such has deep penetration in the market place and a good loyal following. Many pubs are 'tied' houses serving only their products, and most of their beers are of high quality and eminently very palatable. We visited one such tied house Bieramt one evening, and while most folks seemed to be out in the biergarten smoking - yes, smoking is still very prevalent in Austria's (and Germany's) pubs and restaurants - we sat at the bar and chatted with the friendly and knowledgeable barkeep. They had 10 taps, all but one Ottakringer products (and that lone brew was the original Budvar). We tried two new ones that had just come on the market recently, an organic filtered beer called Ottakringer Pur, and a new wheat beer named Innstadt Weizen. The Pur had a surprising earthy nose, a fruity palate and was very well carbonated with great legs and good lacing. It was clear and clean, light body, pale gold in colour and was easy to drink with a nutty and fruity maltiness right through to the end. The Weizen was also rather easy to drink, but unfiltered, and fuller bodied, cloudy pale yellow, fruity and aromatic with citric notes permeating the palate. Now Vienna is an historical city, original divided up into districts, and addresses of any building still use the old system, adding the district after the street address. The old and famous Ottakringer brewery is located in the 16th district, and people in that area have their own slang and fun with the language. Our bartender explained to us how to order a beer, a sausage and a slice of bread in that part of Vienna - still a traditional lunch for many. "Ein sechozehner blech, a eitige und a bug latte". Literally translated this means 'a 16 can, one with puss and a humpback'. What you get is a can of Ottakringer beer, a sausage filled with cheese and a heel of bread. Kind of funny really, though the some of the play on words does get lost in the translation to English I think.
I was looking for a good meal when I visited the last brewpub on my list, as I had wandered the streets all day, went and saw the Danube River, hit some museums and never stopped for lunch. This was the Wieden Brau, a lovely, but not-so-little neighbourhood pub. Many of these kinds of pubs seem deceivingly small when you first arrive, but you soon realize they have many rooms running to the back of the building or into hidden alcoves. This was no exception, with the brewhouse sitting right in the middle. All 3 of their beers are unfiltered and bottom fermented. They also had a specialty on, which was a Pils, and it was excellent! This was the hoppiest beer I tried whilst in the city. Fresh hop nose, clean straw colour, thick white head, good carbonation, great initial hop bite, light body with hop bitterness dancing on your tongue and present right through the dry finish. I ordered the Dunkles next, to go with the platter of ribs that arrived with roasted potatoes and a lovely side of spicy salsa and pickled hot peppers. Yum! It was a dark, reddish brown with a big hit of malt on the first sip that settles into a smooth and roast malt dominated palate, but balanced with tones of chocolate and toasted grain, the somewhat hidden sweetness fading to bitterness in the long finish. The Maerzen too was surprisingly good. I must be developing a taste for this style - it is THE style of Austria, and though there are many mainstream and tasteless versions, this one was an exception. Flowery nose with spicy herbal notes, well balanced with nice dryness over the mellow malt character, some fruitiness and buried spice mid way through that falls away in the finish. Like all Weiden Brau's beers, this too was well carbonated. They also make a Helles, and blend it with the Dunkles to make what they call their Mixbier, a kind of black and tan. As well, they offer a Radler. This is a popular mix of beer and lemonade that you can get almost anywhere beer is found in Austria. All of the Wieden Brau beers are also available to take home in 500 ml bottles for 2 Euros a pop. What a deal!
One last thing, the Austrians, like the Germans, love their schnapps. Many little brewpubs do distill their own from the beer they make, but drinkers beware. These are not the candy sweet varieties we see in North America. They are strong and can sometimes be rather medicinal, an acquired taste for sure.


  • 1605er Weisse (btl)
  • 3 Fonteinen Faro (tap)
  • 3 Fonteinen Lambiek (tap)
  • 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze Vintage (btl)
  • 3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek (tap)
  • 3 Fonteinen Straffe Winter (btl)
  • 7 Stern Bamberger Rauchbier (tap) 5.1%
  • 7 Stern Hanfbier (tap) 4.7%
  • 7 Stern Herbstbock (tap) 6.3%
  • 7 Stern Maerzen (tap) 5.1%
  • 7 Stern Prager Dunkles (tap) 4.5%
  • 7 Stern Wiener Helles (tap) 4.7%
  • Abbaye d'Aulnes Waterloo 8 (tap)
  • Abbaye des Rocs Bruin (btl) 9%
  • Abbey Ale Roar (cask) 4.3%
  • Abbey Bellringer Ale (cask) 4.2%
  • Adelardus Brune (tap)
  • Adler Hefe-Weizen (btl) 4.9%
  • Aecht Schenkerla Rauchbier Märzen (tap)
  • Aecht Schenkerla Rauchbier Weizen (btl) 5.2%
  • Ambräusianum Dunkel (tap)
  • Ambräusianum Hell (tap)
  • Ambräusianum Weizen (tap)
  • Apostelbräu Dinkel (naturtrüb) Bier (btl) 4.8%
  • Arbor Ales Motueka (cask) 4%
  • Atlas Nimbus Strong Dark Ale (cask) 5%
  • Augustinerbräu Munchen Dunkel (btl)
  • Ayingers Altbier Dunkel (tap)
  • Ayingers Kellerbier (tap)
  • Ayingers Pils (tap)
  • Bamberger Klosterbrau Pils (tap) 4.9%
  • Barbar Blonde Honey Ale (tap) 8%
  • Bath Ales Special Pale Ale (cask) 3.7%
  • Bath Gem Amber Ale (btl)
  • Bazens' Pacific Bitter (cask) 3.8%
  • Berliner Kindl Bock (tap)
  • Berliner Kindl Weiss (btl)
  • Bernard 12 Unfiltered Pale Lager (tap)
  • Biere Leon (tap)
  • Bink Bloesems (tap) 7%
  • Blackwater Brewery Boogie Woogie (cask) 4.2%
  • Blanche de Namur (tap)
  • Blanche de Neige (tap)
  • Bons Voeux Dupont (btl) 9.5%
  • Bottlebrook Smoked Porter (cask) 5.6%
  • Brand Imperator (tap)
  • Brand Oud Bruin (tap)
  • Brauerei Beck Trabelsdorf Affumicator (tap) 9.6%
  • Brew Dog Punk IPA (cask) 6%
  • Bristol Beer Factory Acer (btl) 3.8%
  • Bristol Beer Factory Exhibition (btl) 5.2%
  • Bristol Beer Factory Hefe (btl)
  • Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout (btl) 4.5%
  • Bristol Beer Factory No. 7 (cask) 4.2%
  • Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop (btl) 6.5%
  • Broughton AlesTass 80/ (cask)
  • Broughton Autumn Ale (cask) 3.5%
  • Brouwerij 't IJ Bok (tap)
  • Brouwerij 't IJ Columbus (btl) 9%
  • Brouwerij 't IJ Natte (tap) 6.5%
  • Brouwerij 't IJ Plzen (btl) 5%
  • Brouwerij 't IJ Zatte (tap)
  • Brouwerij de Prael Nelis Pyp (tap) 7.7%
  • Brunswick Triple Hop (cask) 4%
  • Budelse Goudblond (tap)
  • Budweiser Budvar (tap)
  • Buffalo Stout (btl) 9%
  • Burton Bridge Stairway to Heaven (cask) 5%
  • Butcombe Bitter (cask) 4%
  • Butcombe Brunel IPA (cask) 5.7%)
  • Cairngorm Tradewinds (cask) 4.3%
  • Cantillon Faro (tap) 5%
  • Cantillon Gueuze (tap) 5%
  • Cantillon Mamouche (tap)
  • Cantillon Vigneronne (cask) grape
  • Cheddar Ales Goat's Leap IPA (btl cond) 5.7%
  • Cheddar Ales Totty Pot Dark Porter (btl cond) 4.7%
  • Cheddar Ales Totty Pot Dark Porter (btl cond) 4.7%
  • Chimay Blue (btl)
  • Chimay Tripel (tap)
  • Chotebor Premium Bohemian Pilsner (tap)
  • Cluss Keller Pils (tap)
  • Cnudde Brown (btl)
  • Copper Dragon Golden Pippin (cask) 3.9%
  • Corsendonk Angus (tap)
  • Cotleigh Brewing Peregrine Porter (btl cond) 5%
  • Cotleigh New Harvest Golden Bitter (cask) 4%
  • Cuvée de Moeder Lambic (tap) 5%
  • Dalesice Pale Lager (tap)
  • Dalesice Tmare Lezak (tap)
  • Dawkins Bob Wall Best Bitter (cask) 4.2%
  • Dawkins TTT Best Bitter (cask) 4.2%
  • De Bekeerde Suster Bock Ros (tap) 6.5%
  • De Bekeerde Suster Tripel (tap) 7.2%
  • De Cam Oude Gueze
  • De Halve Maan Brugse Zot Bok (btl)
  • De Halve Maan Brugse Zot Dubbel Bruin (tap)
  • De Molen Melk en Mild (tap)
  • De Molen Vuur & Vlam (btl)
  • De Ryck (btl)
  • De Silly Pink Killer (tap) grapefriut
  • De Silly Saison (tap)
  • Delerium Tremens (tap)
  • Deuchar's IPA (cask) 3.8%
  • Dinkelacker CD-Pils (tap)
  • Dorset Yachtsman (cask) 4.7%
  • Duvel Verte (btl)
  • Edelweiss Dunkel (btl) 5.5%
  • EKU 28 (btl) 11%
  • Felen Zeebonck (tap)
  • Flekovsky Lezak (tap)
  • Franziskaner Weissbier (tap)
  • Full Mash Steve Ashby's Locoil (cask) 4.6%
  • Fuller's London Pride (cask)
  • Funfair Divebomber (cask) 3.8%
  • Fässla Gold-Pils (tap)
  • Fässla Zwergla (btl) 6%
  • Gaffel Kolsch (tap)
  • Glastonbury Dream Catcher Cider (cask) 6%
  • Greene King Ghastly Ghoul (cask)
  • Greifenkläu Pils (tap)
  • Grieskirchner Pils (tap)
  • Grimbergen Dubbel (btl)
  • Grisette Fruit de Bois (tap)
  • Grottenbier (btl)
  • Guldenberg (btl)
  • Gulpener Jaarling Bokbier (btl) 6.5%
  • Gösser Dunkel (tap)
  • Haacht Charles Quint Golden Blonde (tap)
  • Haacht Kaiser Karel Ruby Red (tap)
  • Hacker-Pschorr Edelhell (cask)
  • Hacker-Pschorr Export Dunkel (tap)
  • Hammerpot Bottle Wreck Porter (cask) 4.7%
  • Hertog Jan Grand Prestige (btl) 10%
  • Hertog Jan Weizener (tap)
  • Highland Brewing Scapa Special Pale Ale (btl) 4.4%
  • Hirter Morchl Dunkel (btl)
  • Hirter Pils (btl)
  • Hoegaarden Rose (tap)
  • Holzkirchner Oberbräu Weisse Dunkel (tap)
  • Honey's Midford Cider (cask)
  • Hopback Brewery Entire Stout (cask) 4.5%
  • Hopback Brewery Hopfest (cask) 4.6%
  • Hopdaemon Brewing Kentish IPA (btl) 4.5%
  • Horal's Oude Geuze Mega Blend 2009 (btl)
  • Houblon Chouffe Double IPA (tap)
  • Huffendorfer Bier (tap)
  • Hurricane Jack (cask) 4.4%
  • Hydes' Hubble Bubble (cask) 4.4%
  • Innis & Gunn Triple Matured (btl) 7.2%
  • J.W. Lees Dark Mild Ale (cask) 3.5%
  • Jacobin Gueuze (btl)
  • Jacobin Kriek (btl)
  • Jandrain IV Saison (btl)
  • Jandrain VI (tap)
  • Jenning's Cumberland (cask) 4%
  • Jopen Bokbier (btl) 6.5%
  • Joseph Holt Bitter (cask) 4%
  • Joseph Holt Touchwood (cask) 4.3%
  • Kaiser Doppel Malz (btl) 4.7%
  • Kasteel Bruin (tap) 11%
  • Kelburn Red Smiddy (cask) 4.1%
  • Kerkomse Tripel (tap)
  • Kloster Andechs Hefe-Weizen (btl) 5.5%
  • Klosterbrau Braunbier (tap) 5,7&
  • Konig Ludwig Dunkel (btl) 5.1%
  • Kostritzer Schwarzbier (btl) 4.8%
  • Kriek Lambic Girardin (cask)
  • La Chouffe (btl)
  • La Rulles Grand Dix Tripel (tap)
  • La Trappe White (tap)
  • Leather Britches Doctor Johnson (cask) 4%
  • LeFebvre Hopus (btl)
  • Leffe Bruin (tap)
  • Leffe Tripel (tap)
  • Lemke Brauhaus Festbier (tap)
  • Lemke Brauhaus Original Dunkel (tap)
  • Lemke Brauhaus Pils (tap)
  • Lemke Brauhaus Weizen (tap)
  • Les Brasseurs de la Grand Place Amber (tap)
  • Les Brasseurs de la Grand Place Blond (tap)
  • Les Brasseurs de la Grand Place Dark (tap)
  • Les Brasseurs de la Grand Place Tripel (tap)
  • Lindemans Frambroise (tap)
  • Lindemans Kriek (btl)
  • Lupus (btl)
  • Mahr's Bräu Kellerbier (tap)
  • Mahr's Pilsner (btl)
  • Mahr's Ungespundet (tap)
  • Mahr's Weizen (tap)
  • Maredsous 6 (tap)
  • Maredsous 6 (tap)
  • Maredsous Bruin (btl)
  • Markischer Landmann Schwarzbier (tap)
  • Marrach Vidensky Lezak (tap)
  • Marston's Wicked Witch (cask) 4.2%
  • Metisse du Lion a Plume (tap)
  • Moenchshof Kellerbier Dunkel (btl)
  • Mohren Bräu (tap)
  • Moinette Blond (btl)
  • Mongozo Coconut (tap)
  • Montegioco La Mummia (cask)
  • Moor Beer Co. JJJ IPA (btl cond) 9.5%
  • Moor Beer Co. JJJ IPA (btl cond) 9.5%
  • Moor Beer Co. Revival Pale Ale (btl cond) 4%
  • Mort Subite Gueuze (btl)
  • Mort Subite Kriek (tap)
  • Northumberland Hoof Harted (cask) 3.8%
  • Novometsky Lezak (tap)
  • Old Green Tree Ale (cask)
  • Old Mortality 80/ (cask) 4.2%
  • Oldgott Lezak Barique (tap)
  • Orval (btl)
  • Ottakringer Innstadt Weizen (tap)
  • Ottakringer Pur (tap)
  • Ottakringer Weizen Dunkle (btl)
  • Ottakringer Zwickl Dunkel (tap)
  • Otter Bright Ale (cask) 4.3%
  • Oud Gueuze Beersel (btl)
  • Palmers Tally Ho Strong Dark Ale (cask) 5.5%
  • Pattoloereke (btl)
  • Paulaner Salvator (btl) 7.9%
  • Pegas Gold (tap)
  • Pegas Tmavy Lezak (tap)
  • Pentland IPA (cask) 3.9%
  • Pernstejn Porter (tap)
  • Petrus Oud Bruin (btl)
  • Pilsner Urquel Nefiltrovany Lezak (tap)
  • Polder Bock (tap)
  • Poutnik Pelhrina (tap)
  • Prael Andre Lentebok (tap)
  • Prael Johnny Kolsch (tap)
  • Prael Willeke Tripel Blonde (tap)
  • Psenicne Pivo (tap)
  • Quontock Brewery Sunracker (cask) 4.2%
  • Rambouek Kastanomendovy (tap)
  • Ravens Dark Ale (cask)
  • RCH Brewery Old Slug Porter (cask) 4.5%
  • RCH Pitchfork (cask) 4.3%
  • Rochfort 6 (btl)
  • Rodenbach (btl)
  • Rodenbach Grand Cru (btl) 6%
  • Rodenbach Vintage (btl)
  • Roman Black Hole Lager (btl)
  • Roman Mater Wit (tap)
  • Rosemary Hefe-Weizen (tap)
  • Rulles Estivale (tap) 5.2%
  • Rulles Tripel (tap) 8.4%
  • Rychtar Natur (tap)
  • Saison 1900 (tap)
  • Saison de Dottiginies (tap)
  • Salm-Brau Bohemian Mix (tap)
  • Salm-Brau Helles (tap)
  • Salm-Brau Pils (tap)
  • Salm-Brau Weizen (tap)
  • Schelde Golden Raand (tap)
  • Schelde Oester Stoute (tap)
  • Scheldebrouweri Wildebok (tap)
  • Schlossbrauerei MacQueen´s Nessie Whisky Malt Red Beer (btl)
  • Schlosser Altbier (tap)
  • Schofferhofer Weizen (tap)
  • Schremser Roggen Bio Bier (btl) 5.2%
  • Schultheiss Berliner Weiss (tap)
  • Schwaben Bräu das Schwarze (tap)
  • Sezoens Quatro (btl)
  • Sharp's Cornish Coaster (cask) 3.6%
  • Sharp's Doom Bar Bitter (cask) 4%
  • Sion Kolsch (tap)
  • Smisje Dubbel (btl)
  • Sommerset Ale (cask) 4.1%
  • Sophie's Bräuhaus Schwarzbier (tap)
  • Spaten Oktoberfest (tap)
  • Spezial Rauchbier (tap)
  • Spezial Ungespundetes (cask)
  • Spire 80/ (cask) 4.3%
  • St, Georgen Gold Maerzen (btl)
  • St. Austell Admiral's Ale (btl cond) 5%
  • St. Austell Tribute Ale (cask)
  • St. Bernardus 12 (tap)
  • St. Bernardus Tripel (btl) 7.5%
  • St. Feuillieu Tripel (tap)
  • St. Feullien Triple (btl)
  • St. Georgen Kellerbier (tap)
  • St. Georgen Pilsner (btl)
  • Stonehenge Danish Dynamite (cask) 5%
  • Stouterik (btl)
  • Straffe Hendrik Tripel (btl)
  • Stroud Brewing Budding Pale Ale (cask) 4.5%
  • Stuttgart Hofbrau Keller Pils (tap)
  • Super des Fagnes Griotte (tap) raspberry
  • Tambor 10° Pilsner (tap)
  • Tambor 11° Pilsner (tap)
  • Tambor 11° Unfiltered Pilsner (tap)
  • Tambor 12° Pilsner (tap)
  • Tambor 13° Dark Lager (tap)
  • Taras Boulba Extra Hoppy Ale (tap)
  • Tauton Dry Cider (cask)
  • Thatcher's Dry Cider (cask)
  • Thomas Guest Puddlers (cask) 4.1%
  • Timmermans Bourgogne des Flanders (tap)
  • Timmermans Gueuze (tap)
  • Timmermans Lambic Doux (tap)
  • Tirolier Bier Maerzen (btl)
  • Toccalmatto Skizoid (tap) 6.2%
  • Toccalmatto Stary Dog Bitter (tap) 4.2%
  • Trappist Westvleteren 12 (btl) 10%
  • Trappledouser (cask) 4.7%
  • Triple FFF Brewery Moondance (cask) 4.2%
  • Trummer Pils (btl)
  • Tucher Frankisch Dunkel (tap)
  • U Medvidku Rouge Lager (tap)
  • U Medvidku X33 (tap)
  • U Richarda Pale Lager (tap)
  • U Richarda Weizen Lager (tap)
  • U Sladka Pasak Special (tap)
  • U Sladka Pasak Svetly (tap)
  • U Valsu Pale Lager (tap)
  • Urthel (btl)
  • Vedett Extra White (tap)
  • Velkopopovicky Kozel Dark (btl) 3.9%
  • Velkopopovicky Kozel Dark (tap)
  • Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne (tap)
  • Verhaeghe Echt Kriekenbier (tap)
  • Vestingguilde Blonde (tap)
  • Vicaris Generale (btl)
  • Vichtenaar Oud Bruin (btl) 5.15
  • Vieil Orval (btl)
  • Weihenstephan Weizen (tap)
  • Weihenstephan Weizen Dunkel (btl)
  • Weihenstephaner Korbinian Bock (tap) 7.4%
  • Westmalle Dubbel (tap)
  • Wickwar Autumnal (cask) 4%
  • Wieckse Witte (tap/btl)
  • Wieden Brau Dunkles (tap)
  • Wieden Brau Maerzen (tap)
  • Wieden Brau Pils (tap)
  • Witcap Stimulo (btl) 6%
  • Wittinger Pils (tap)
  • Wolf Howler (cask) 4.2%
  • Young's Bitter (cask)
  • Zillertal Gouder Bock 2010 (btl)
  • Zillertal Märzen (btl)
  • Zillertal Pils (btl)
  • Zillertal Schwarzes (btl)
  • Zillertal Weissebier Dunkel (btl)
  • Zinnebir (tap) 6%
  • Zipfer Märzen (btl)
  • Zipfer Pils (btl)
  • Zwickl Spezial (tap)


  • Amsterdam: Brouwerij 't IJ, Funenkade 7,
  • Amsterdam: Brouwerij Prael & Taproom, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 15,
  • Amsterdam: Cafe Brecht, Weteringschans 157
  • Amsterdam: Het Elfde Gebod, Zeedig
  • Amsterdam: In de Wildeman, Kolksteeg 3
  • Amsterdam: The Old Nickel, Nieuwe Brugsteeg 11,
  • Bamberg: Brauerei Greifenkläu, Laurenzistrasse 36,
  • Bamberg: Brauerei Spezial, Konigstrasse 22
  • Bamberg: Fässla Brauerei, Obere Konigstrasse 19,
  • Bamberg: Klosterbräu Brauerei, Obere Muhlbrucke 1-3
  • Bamberg: Restaurant Alt-Ringlein, Dominikanestrasse 9
  • Bamberg: Zum Kachelofen, Obere Sandstrasse
  • Bamberg: Zum Sternla, Lange Strasse 46
  • Bath: The Bell, 103 Wolcott Street
  • Bath: The Old Green Tree, 12 Green Street
  • Bath: The Raven, 6 Queen Street
  • Berlin: Alt Berliner Weissbier Struben, Rathaus Strasse, 21
  • Berlin: Lemke's Brauhaus, Dircksenstrasse, 143
  • Berlin: Sophien Eck, Eck Grosse Hamburger Strasse, 37
  • Berlin: Stangdige Vertretung, Schiffbauerdamm 8
  • Bristol: Bridge Inn, 16 Passage Street
  • Bristol: Cornubia, 142, Temple Street
  • Bristol: Hope and Anchor, 38 Jacobs Wells Road
  • Bristol: King's Head, 60 Victoria Street
  • Bristol: Port of Call, York Street, Clifton
  • Bristol: Portcullis, 3 Wellington Terrace, Sion Hill, Clifton
  • Bristol: Seven Stars, 1 Thomas Lane, Redcliffe
  • Bristol: Vittoria, 57 Whiteladies Rd., Clifton
  • Brno: Na Bozence, Bozeny Nemcove 18
  • Brno: Pivinice Pegas, Jakubska 4
  • Brussels: A La Becasse, alley off rue Tabora
  • Brussels: Au Bon Vieux Temps, Impasse St. Nicolas, off of Rue Marché Aux Herbes
  • Brussels: Blanche ou Tonneau au Brasseur, rue de Brasseurs et rue des Chapeliers
  • Brussels: Delirium Cafe, Impasse de la Fidelite, 4A
  • Brussels: La Bier Circus, rue l'Enseignement 57
  • Brussels: La Mort Subite, rue Montagne aux Herbes Potageres 7
  • Brussels: La Porte Noire, rue des Alexiens 67
  • Brussels: Moeder Lambic Fontainas, 8 - 10 Place Fontainas,
  • Brussels: Poechenellekelder, rue du Chene 5
  • Edinburgh: Abbotsford Bar & Restaurant, 3 Rose Street
  • Edinburgh: Blue Blazer, 2 Spittal Street
  • Edinburgh: Bow Bar, 80 West Bow
  • Edinburgh: Conan Doyle, Queen Street
  • Edinburgh: Guilford Arms, West Registar Street
  • Edinburgh: Halfway House, 24 Fleshmarket Close
  • Edinburgh: Oxford Bar, 8 Young Street
  • Edinburgh: The Tass, 1 Jefferey
  • Innsbruck: Elferhaus, Herzog-Friedrich Str. 11
  • Innsbruck: Restaurant Krahvogel, Anichstrasse 12
  • Maastricht: Cafe 't Pothuisker, Het Bat 1,
  • Maastricht: Cafe de la Bourse, Markt 37
  • Maastricht: Falstaff, Sint Maartenspoort 13
  • Manchester: Corbiere's, Half Moon Alley
  • Manchester: Old Wellington Inn, 4 Cathedral Gates
  • Manchester: The Circus Tavern, 86 Portland Str.
  • Manchester: The Grey Horse, 80 Portland Str.
  • Manchester: The Old Monkey, 90 Porland Str.
  • Munich: Ayingers Speis und Trank, Am Platz 1A
  • Munich: Der Pschorr, Viktualienmarkt 15
  • Naarden-Bussum: Cafe Demmers, Martkstraat 52
  • Plzen: U Sladka, Poděbradova 12
  • Plzen: Zach's Pub, Palackeho nam. 2
  • Prague: Minipivovar U Medvídků, Na Perštýně 7
  • Prague: U Fleků, Kremencova 11
  • Prague: Zlý Časy, Čestmírova 5
  • Stuttgart: Sophie's Bräuhaus, Marienstrasse 28
  • Stuutgart: Brauerei Gaststätte Dinkelacker, Tubingerstrasse 48
  • Vienna: Bieramt, Am Heumarkt, 3
  • Vienna: Cafe Drechsler, Linke Wienzeile 22, Girardigasse 1
  • Vienna: Salm-Brau Kloster Brauerei, Rennweg, 8
  • Vienna: Siebenstern Brau, Siebensterngasse, 19
  • Vienna: Stehbeisl, Windmuhlgasse, 6
  • Vienna: Wieden Brau, Waaggasse, 5


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