Prague for Beers No. 213 Stiegl Goldbrau, No. 214 Uneticke, No. 215 Bernard Dark, No.216 Primator Weizenbier, No.217 Old Gott, No.218 X Beer 33, No.218 Cerna Hora Granat and No.219 Bud Super Strong.

Prague for Beers No. 213 Stiegl Goldbrau, No. 214 Uneticke, No. 215 Bernard Dark, No.216 Primator Weizenbier, No.217 Old Gott, No.218 X Beer 33, No.218 Cerna Hora Granat and No.219 Bud Super Strong.

 

Hello everyone, it’s been an age, but I’m back for another rock rollicking adventure in my beer pursuit. Next stop was Prague, a bit of a beer Mecca for those who are on a stag.

The Czechs are famously the biggest per capita beer drinkers in the world, and there are so many beers I need to try from this country I knew this won’t be only visit.

We got there by train from Vienna, and on the way I had my last Austrian beer I picked up from a supermarket.sdr

No.213 Stiegl Goldbrau from Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg is probably not supposed to be drunk out of a plastic cup, but then as it’s Austria’s biggest selling beer I doubt I am the first. First introduced in 1912 the brewery had already been going for 420 years.  This Marzenbier was a lot lighter than the Marzens we and particularly the Germans think of. Michelle really like it, it had a bold flavour yet light as it is after all an amber lager.

We had booked our accommodation from Air B&B again and this time (like every time to be fair) we were on to a right winner. We had booked a houseboat just for something different, and the fact it was moored on the Danube made it special, and wow, it lived up to expectations.

It was a really cool place, moored on a small island a quick taxi trip from the centre. We couldn’t believe how well made and solid it was. I don’t know what we expected exactly, but we have never been on a houseboat before and to be honest once inside there was nothing to give away the fact it was a boat except the views out the window.

We loved it so much and felt at home instantly, so much so in fact we decided to stay in for the first night there and order what turned out to be two of the biggest pizzas we’d ever seen!20170419_232145

So Prague was off to a good start, and the following day we decided to have a walk around this beautiful city. There was plenty to see, from the modern history of the Beatles wall20170420_143949

To the historic Charles bridge which was constructed in 1357 with its numerous stone statues and even more numerous tourists and caricature artists.

It’s a nice historic city but a little too touristy for me, some the streets were literally jammed packed with walkers, like a London Underground station at 5pm. Luckily we were beer tourists and that often takes us off the beaten track. Our first stop had to be the famous beer museum. It was a nice place, but I was underwhelmed by the choice. I mean there was 30 or so to choose from, including 3 from my list but maybe I am little spoilt by England as I am used to this amount in many a craft beer bar or Bruges that blew me away with the amount of choice. Besides this was the bleeding Prague Beer Museum! I was expecting to never leave, but like nearly all this city it was just for the tourists and they did just enough to satisfy them.

So to the beers…

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Beer No.214 Uneticke was our first of 3. And what a great start. The archetypal Pilsner, a perfect pale lager exactly what I was hoping for on my trip to Prague. They may have only been brewing since 2011 but Uneticky Pivovar clearly know what they are doing. Clean, crisp and light with Saaz hops lingering in the cheeks. Why cant the lagers we have in England taste this good, why have we settled for tasteless Fosters and even worse, Coronas? As the writer Pete Brown wrote, “this (lager) is flavourful beer brewed to be drunk in large quantities. If flavourful beer was somehow challenging or difficult to drink, the Czechs wouldn’t be the biggest beer drinkers in the world.”

Next up beer No.215 Bernard Dark.

One of the reasons the lagers we have in our pubs are bland, tasteless and, as the famous joke goes, like making love in a canoe, is pasteurisation. This can diminish the aroma and flavour of lager and this is why Stanislav Bernard leaves that part of the brewing process out. This beer is lagered for forty days for a rich, malty body. It’s lovely and thin but that’s mainly due to the fact your brain is expecting a thick porter due to it’s colour. The roasted malts come through a little at the end but disappear again quite quickly.

For our final beer in the Prague Beer Museum was No.216 Primator Weizenbier

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This wheat beer tastes of fruit salad, caused by esters left by the yeast. A lovely beer with lots of citrus and clove notes from the specialist in specialities brewery Pivovar Nachod.

After these we were off exploring again. We found an excellent market that was quintessential Europe.

I was wearing my “I met Lil Sebastian” T-shirt whilst having a browse around the market and by pure coincidence I met Lil Sebastian whilst wearing it.

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I was suffering from pretty bad toothache at this point so Michelle grabbed a table looking on to the square and I made my way to the poshest dentist I have ever been to.

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I was a little worried I was seeing the orthodontic Hannibal Lecter. Luckily he told me it was a little gum disease, gave me some special toothpaste and sent me packing.

After all this excitement I needed a beer, so we decided to head to a brewery.

Mini-brewery U Medvidku is the smallest Czech restaurant brewery which also makes the Czech Republics strongest beer. It is situated at the back of a beer hall which was built in 1466.

Whereas stainless steel is abundant in nearly all breweries worldwide U Medvidku still uses wooden vessels.

Our first beer was their Amber Lager No.217 Old Gott.

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It’s a complex lager that’s their house favourite. It smelt like a brewery whatever that means. With an amber, dusty, creamy taste. I wasn’t that keen on it to be honest had a bit of a carboard taste, but it was certainly one of the freshest beers I’ve ever had, have a look at the taps it come from in the picture above.

Our second beer was at one point the strongest beer in the world, and at 12.6% it must still be up there for the regularly produced beers. This isn’t a crazy one off, or a Christmas special, this is one of their lines.

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No.218 X-Beer 33 is made without any addition of alcohol, sugar or wort, it reaches its extraordinarily high ABV after being fermented with two types of yeast and conditioned for at least seven months. It’s the Czech equivalent of a barleywine and the sweetness really comes through. It doesn’t seem crazy boozy but the price and the sweetness give the strength away.

We found one last pub of the night that seemed typically Czech. There’s a quote again by Pete Brown that says “There’s no tourism like beer tourism. See the world with beer as your guide, and you’ll see it in a more interesting way than any tourist brochure or guidebook could tell you.” This is certainly true in us finding the tiny little brewery of U Medicku and likewise this last pub.20170420_224048

Away from the tourists, no one speaking English, this is what we prefer. Of course a quarter of the price of everywhere else to boot. Unfortunately I don’t have many photos of the pub, just the one above and I don’t know the name of it. The only record I have is of the beer we drank there.

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No.219 Cerna Hora Granat tasted like a roasted lager to us. Which is exactly what is is. Black lagers actually predate the more familiar golden ones. This offering was first brewed in 1896 but Cerna Hora beer was first mentioned as being drunk in 1298! Unbelievable history and practically impossible to comprehend.

So that was Prague, to be honest we were a little disappointed but maybe that’s because we came straight from the exhilarating Budapest and wonderous Vienna.

Before we left we snuck one more beer in on our houseboat.

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No.220 Bud Super Strong is a million miles away from what most of the world consider a bottle of bud. A 7.6% its certainly not that super strong as the name suggests but it does have a winter warmer feel due to the fact that it’s rare to have a lager that strong. It’s hopped with 100% Saaz hops and conditioned for at least 200 days.

I’d certainly go back to the Czech Republic again, I cant wait to do so in fact. But just like Dublin in Ireland, there’s a Cork round the corner and we are excited to discover it.

Our only regret is we didn’t go to the pub next to houseboat, we chickened out and I wish we had gone in. It wasn’t the most welcoming though…

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Vienna for Beers No.209 Alaskan Smoked Porter, No.210 Trumer Pils, No.211 Schwechater Zwickl and No.212 Commerzienrat Riegele Privat.

Vienna for Beers No.209 Alaskan Smoked Porter, No.210 Trumer Pils, No.211 Schwechater Zwickl and No.212 Commerzienrat Riegele Privat.

We got a train from Budapest to Vienna and my word, what a palava. The ticket was on my phone but I had around 5% battery and we idiotically hadn’t bought an adapter with us. The only print out we had was one that clearly stated “this is not a ticket” on it.

The train itself was like one of those old James Bond carriage ones with little 6 seat cabins in. It was ridiculously claustrophobic trying to find our cabin as the walkway was so tight and there was sooooo many people all trying to find where they were going, most of whom were carrying luggage. Once we found where we were supposed to be the relief was amazing. It was one of those dreadful experiences I’m really glad we had if you know what I mean.

The journey took about two and a half hours. Once we arrived we got an Uber. I love Uber. Not so much in England, but in foreign countries its a real godsend. The app installed on your phone is international (I managed to charge mine through a USB on the train by the way). So straight away it eliminates having to track down a taxi number either through Google or at the station and of course trying to ring someone.

It also allows you to put the destination in through the app and gives you your fare before you order, so no more lost in translation conversations on where you are supposed to be going, and of course its impossible to rip tourists off as the fee is set before they know if your local or not!

All in all I think its great and Vienna is a great city to travel through.

As we were only staying in Vienna one night we decided to get a luxurious hotel instead of our now beloved Air B&B route. 20170418_184607

It was a beautiful hotel and everything we expected. We knew we were going to fall in love with Vienna but we decided to have a much needed nap and check out some bars then do the sight seeing the next day.

The first place we went to was called Mel’s Craft Beer Bar and my word what a winner.

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I think it was the best best craft beer bar we have been to and pretty much established itself as the bench mark for us. The decor was perfect, the food option good and by the look of it plentiful.

The drinks menu was very impressive also, we took a lot away from the place for our venture. Michelle liked it as she said she would happily come here just with Heather whether it was Craft Beer or not which is important to us.

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Craft Beer it was though and we found a great one from my list. Not Austrian but surprisingly Alaskan!

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No.209 Alaskan Smoked Porter by the Alaskan Brewing Company, set me 40 euros for the bottle but I think it was worth it. Strong, black, takes you on a journey and the fact it was bottled in 2008 made it even more appealing. You can tell it’s smoked it had a really strong flavour of it coming through. Delicious.

The one thing that let Mel’s down was the slow service, it took an age to pay the bill, which was a shame as it was practically perfect otherwise.

We had booked a meal in a restaurant called ef16. I found it on trip advisor and it was the eighth best rated restaurant in Vienna out of 3646. So you could say we were fairly excited.

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It was empty when we arrived but soon filled up, it had a really nice welcome and immediately great service. We were going to have wine with our dinner, but a beer first to settle in, and bang…

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No.210 Trumer Pils. This is a classic pilsner really. Smooth refreshing, bubbly and light, everything you want from a lager really. Very hard to find such a good example so readily available on our shores

After polishing that off and ordering a lovely bottle of red, our food arrived. But I had made a huge mistake.

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Vienna in Austrian is Wien. Which is of course the birthplace of the Wienerschnitzel. I thought as I was here, in one of the best restaurants in Austria I had to try what Vienna is culinarily famous for. Unfortunately it’s just not my cup of tea. I’m sure it was a great example it just doesn’t do it for me as a dish. Michelle’s steak on the other hand…

Pretty much perfection. It had a chilli chocolate sauce that gave it an amazing depth of flavour. To say I was jealous would be an understatement!!

Though I chose incorrectly it was a fantastic restaurant with fantastic company. We were starting to get a little merry and finding the language amusing.20170418_222015

Maybe it was time to make our way back, everyone had seem to have come and gone in the time we sat and enjoyed ourselves.

During our giggly walk we found ourselves in high spirits, again amused by the language, we saw this place which reminded us of our often partner in crime Heather Engel.20170418_230232

We didn’t really want to go back to the hotel straight away and we found a cool little bar still open.20170418_230948

Very quiet as you can see but the bloke behind the bar was very nice and we didn’t feel rushed at all. The thing that surprised us most was that you could still smoke in pubs! We’ve found this unimaginable now as it’s been so long since the ban started in England and we both work in pubs, but this city, which seemed very clean, health conscious and in most places downright posh still embraced it!

It was hardly a craft beer pub yet I still managed to get two off my list. One Austrian and one German.

No.211 Schwechater Zwickl is an unfiltered lager. Very hazy I dont think it would sell well in England. I found it very nice though, tasted very fresh with a sweet floral flavour.

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and No.212 Commerzienrat Riegele Privat is actually a German beer. It was my third lager of the day and I had enjoyed them all. Quite malty, definitely biscuity and especially easy to drink on a night out.

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All in all a great night. We managed to make it back to our hotel for a nice day of sightseeing before catching a train.

Vienna is a really wonderful city, the architecture is breathtaking.20170419_112414

This was just a street. There is so many tall, old buildings that streets have either been cut through them, or they were built incorporating throughways.

We found an amazing destination. Cafe Central. Incredibly famous and historic, opened in 1876 it can count  Leon Trotsky, Sigmund Freud, Vladimir Lenin and even everyone’s favourite Adolf Hitler as some of it’s patrons. It was touristy but that was only at the beginning as you get your own booth and the place is a delight.20170419_113033

We had a little light lunch then pushed on as I wanted to find another Viennese speciality Sachertorte.

It had started to snow by then so we were glad when we snuck into one of the most authentic Sachertorte cafes in Vienna.20170419_125041

A lovely end to a lovely city, we would definitely like to go again. One word of warning though. If it starts to snow it’s absolutely beautiful, I mean it’s the homeland of the snowglobe, but it’s a long walk to the station!!!!!20170419_140526

Toodle Pip!

Budapest for Beers No.207 Dreher Bak and No. 208 Keseru Mez

Budapest for Beers No.207 Dreher Bak and No. 208 Keseru Mez

Many people go to Budapest for many different things. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is cited as the most liveable city in Central and Eastern Europe. It is also ranked as the second best city in the world by Conde Nast Traveler whoever they are. Michelle and I however were there for the beer, two in fact. We also had a particular interest in the ruin pubs of Budapest that lived up to our expectations and the famous Spas that we never even bothered going to in the end!

We had booked our accommodation through Airbnb and our host picked us up from the airport which was a nice little bonus. Where we were was a grand townhouse of apartments which reminded me of many classical capital cities in Europe especially Paris.

I had already done some research as I am a massive geek so we didn’t hang around long in the apartment even if it was very impressive.

Our first stop in this very bohemian and culturally on point city was a little bar called Neked csak Deszso

It was pretty cool but didnt have much we we’re after. We drank their own brew which was pretty tasty and very cheap. We had already seen a Dreher Bak in the off licence but there was no sign of the Keseru Mez, so we decided to push on to the infamous Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s first ruin pub.

And what a pub it was…

I have never to any bar or pub that what so exhilarating and exciting.  It was massive and buzzing. I’ve seen so many that has the same kind of vibe from The Sunrooms back in the day when Mark Hey had it, to The Railway now, that sort of cultural, cool, indie look, but I’ve never seen done it on a scale like this. Kert means market, and this three storey giant apartment block had a massive courtyard with so much going on. There is films projected on the wall, a band playing in the corner, a smoking area complete with shish pipes and even an old Trabant car to sit in whilst enjoying your drinks, as seen in my photos.

Upstairs was loads of old apartments that are now individual bars, or kitchens, or just places to chill out. There doesn’t seem to be a square inch that hasn’t got graffiti  or a sculpture or a photo or some kind of art adorning it. It really is an experience, and I would emplore any one who loves bars to go and visit it.

Again we were there for beer though, so when we saw Keseru Mez on the menu our excitement levels were raised, only to be dashed when told they were completely out of stock. We were getting closer.

Hunger was coming and luckily immediately next door was a super cool food market called Karavan.

It was excellent, we had this sausage in a pastry cone thing. Gawd knows what it was, but it was delish and crazy messy. Again where we were just oozed cool, so young, so hip, so happening, we were starting to fall in love with Budapest.

Onwards on to the next pub, with a walk through this lively city with surprises round every corner.

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Lehuto bar is on the corner near the Elektrotechnikal Muzeum (!). It is unashamedly craft, very heavy on the Brewdog.

It was nice, and Michelle had a lovely Coconut Coffee Porter that she thoroughly enjoyed.

One thing caught my eye on the blackboard behind us

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They had Four Pure cans for 1390 Forints which works out at about £3.95. In England in a craft beer bar you can not get one for that cheap. We sell them at my bar for £4.65, thats an increase of around 20%. What’s annoying is that the Four Pure Brewery is in Bermondsey, 2.6 miles away from my pub, whilst where we were, selling the exact same product is 1009 miles away.

This isn’t due to the business owners wanting to line their products, they operate on very fine margins in this industry, instead its the amount of tax we, the English, pay on beer. So much so its 20% cheaper to buy English beer in Budapest than England.

For every pint of beer sold in Spain (I couldn’t find the figures for Hungary) approx 4p goes on alcohol tax, whilst in England its a staggering 50p!

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This makes it so difficult to keep the prices down. As many of you know I would love to open my own craft beer bar, but its so risky taking this kind of punt as taxes are just so high. More and more people are staying home, as having a few drinks with friends is becoming increasingly a luxury due to this very reason.

I’d love to start a campaign, but it ain’t gonna happen, so I’ll just go along with it, like the rest of us sheep. They’re gonna get their money off us somehow.

On that happy note we went back to our apartment and went to bed.

The next day we went sightseeing and again Budapest is a beautiful city.

Not that my photos do it any justice but thats the Danube, with some beautiful historic buildings over looking it.

We seemed to walk forever before finding one of the most striking bars I have ever been to.

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It’s called Jonas Craft Beer Bar, sitting on the Danube, it is I presume named after Moby-Dick, as it is housed in a huge whale looking building, but I could be completely wrong. We had a few drinks and it was nice surroundings, but there was nothing I needed or was inspired by beer wise.

I was starting to worry a little. Just like Moby-Dick is modeled on the notoriously hard to catch actual albino whale Mocha Dick, we had had no more sightings of the legendary Keseru Mez beer, and we were leaving the next day.

It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we headed to Raday Street which is known as Restaurant Street in Budapest.

We wanted a couple more drinks before we went for a meal as we thought we might go back to the apartment after the meal so we went to a bar called Puder Barszinhaz.

It was cool, in a ruin style and I had a couple of interesting beers, lots of that sort of throwaway furniture and old bikes.

No Keseru and I was starting to get toothache.

We drank up and strolled over to Voros Postakocsi (Red Stage-coach) Restaurant. There we had a couple of results. They had Dreher Bak so we could try it somewhere nice and Michelle had the best meal she has ever eaten in her life!

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Bak means bock in Hungarian and the 7.4% ABV lives up to the style. The Dreher part of the name comes from Anton Dreher who was an Austrian brewer, a very important figure in the development of pale lager, so much so he invented Vienna Beer which was ironic as thats where we were going the next day.

Dreher Bak itself was dark but quite thin. We didn’t find it very drinkable, in fact we tried to drink three times over the course of our trip and left it three times.

The food on the other hand, we didn’t leave a single morsel. Michelle had been desperate to try goulash since we arrived and we had noticed that it is traditionally served as a soup, so we ordered 2 for starters and a couple of steaks.IMG-20170501-WA0017

Sorry for the unflattering photo, but my God it was delicious. Melt in your mouth meat, so much flavour packed in the oily sauce, it was fantastic. The steaks were forgettable, in fact I have forgot them but the goulash was the best thing Michelle had ever eaten!!!

So that was Hungary, we had a goulash, visited a ruin pub, had a beer of my list and had a thoroughly good time.

I was sad as I only wanted two beers and I couldn’t find one of those. I had a little Google to have a look at the now, mystery legend that was Keseru Mez.

Hold on a minute, I think I recognise that label! I think I’ve seen that beer! I think it was in Lehuto!

We rushed back, me delirious with pain from toothache, Michelle delirious with oil from goulash and low and behold…

What a great way to end a couple of days, we were really happy to find it, and it felt for the first time that we sought out a difficult to find beer. We’ve travelled to breweries before to get rare beers, but we have always known where we were going, this felt like the first time we tracked one down.

Keseru Mez which means bitter honey is one of the forerunner of Hungary’s craft beer revolution. It is a hoppy lager quite like anything else, it has a really cool bottle and is a lovely drop.

But most of all we found it, and we found Budapest enchanting and exhilarating,  well worth a visit.

Next stop Vienna.

 

London for Beers No.200 Petrus Aged Pale, No.201 Dochter van de Korenaar Belle Fleur IPA, No.202 Cantillon 100% Lambic Bio, No.203 Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, No.204 Tannenzapfle, No.205 Sharp’s Doom Bar and No.206 Wells Bombardier.

London for Beers No.200 Petrus Aged Pale, No.201 Dochter van de Korenaar Belle Fleur IPA, No.202 Cantillon 100% Lambic Bio, No.203 Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, No.204 Tannenzapfle, No.205 Sharp’s Doom Bar and No.206 Wells Bombardier.

As we all know London is a fantastic place and at the cutting edge of all the new fads so of course it’s been rocking craft beer for years now. Obviously with the company I work I am involved daily but it’s still great to go and see different pubs to see which inspiring innovations they are bringing. Michelle and I traveled to Bethnal Green to check a New York inspired Tap Room I had heard a lot about.

It’s called Mother Kelly’s and I must say I was very impressed. Its situated down Paradise Row which sounds like it’s out of Grand Theft Auto and it’s all very modern and hip.

It’s 21 taps were fitted to the back wall in a very fashionable and the taps in the bathroom were super cool being a beer tap themselves. They had lots of beers in fridges along the side wall which were nicely sorted and labelled by style. We were particularly impressed by the food option. It was a choice of meat board, cheese board, veg board or dessert board. All for £7 to £10. Surprisingly we went for the veg board and it was excellent. It had fat olives, crisp peppers some cheese, bread and other things I can’t remember now.

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It was excellent, we really enjoyed it. the good thing about it from a business side is it can be all prepped in advance so that bar staff can sell them. This of course eliminates the need for the space and money of having a kitchen. It also gets rid of the requirement of a chef which can hold your hold business to ransom. Finally it means the food can be served right up till closing time at 1am not have to finish at 9pm or whenever. All in all a great idea that I am definitely nicking when I open my own place.

Of course with all the beers on offer, of which there was plenty, there was a couple I needed for my list.

My 200th beer is Petrus Aged Pale by Brouwerij Bavik. Supposedly thrown into the publics eye (or mouth) by Michael Jackson (the beer writer) when he paid them a visit and requested some to be bottled for the US. It’s nice and creamy not sour or challenging very close to an English pale.

We followed that with No.201 Dochter van de Korenaar Belle Fleur IPA is made in a Belgian enclave in the Netherlands near the border. Its a new beer first brewed in 2011 yet it is labelled in a style a lot older. It’s a nice hoppy yet smooth IPA, its quite fruity upfront with a very bitter finish.

After the drinks we met up with my mate Jack in one of the Craft Beer Co’s pubs. This time in Clerkenwell which is the highest rated bar in the whole of the UK by ratebeer, and 26th in the world!

There we got a couple of bottles of Cantillon to share.

The first one No.202 Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio is the second time I have had a beer from this brewery that opened its doors in Brussels in 1900. Lambic means a spontaneously fermented beer from the area around Brussels. Spontaneously fermented by wild yeasts. Gueuze is made when young and old lambic beers are mixed together. In this case they use one, two and three year old lambics. This creates a super sour sharp beer with grapefruit overtones.

We followed this with No.203 Cantillon Rose de Gambinus. My word this is a challenging beer. Very sour raspberries, you can taste them but its tough to get to them, this is a million miles away from Fosters and want I wanted from this journey, if not to enjoy them wholeheartedly but to experience them and expand my palate.

Back to my pub in Limehouse and we’ve got a new bottled beer in, and just happened to be on my list.

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No.204 Tannenzapfle,or Rothaus Pils as we call it at work, is a lager from the black forest first brewed in 1956. It’s really really nice, one of my favourite lagers I’ve ever had and it’s massively popular in Germany. Supposedly it has its smoothness from the soft water of seven natural waters. Either way it’s fandabedozee.

The last two beers on this small portion are two I’ve had many times before but revisited for the sake of completism.

Michelle and I went to The Axe and Compasses in Aythorpe Roding, West Essex for lunch. It is an ward winning 18th century building surrounded by beautiful countryside, well worth a little trip out. There they had No.205 Sharp’s Doom Bar. Obviously I’ve had this one before as it really revolutionised the way English Ale is seen by a lot of young people and out sells nearly all others about 4:1 when I was at The Trading Rooms. Named after a sandbank in Cornwall, it’s an easy drinking very accessible ale.

Followed by another classic, this one I just drank at home. No.206 Wells Bombardier is one I’m sure you are all familiar with. Famous as much for it’s taste as the hilarity of those who pronounce it in a French accent this beer has been around all my life. Well not quite all as it was first brewed in 1980 but I wasn’t sinking many up to the age of three anyway. This self proclaimed Beer of England is the Official Beer of The English Heritage so you are doing a little bit of good with every pint you drink. Made with Challenger and Fuggle hops,it’s a lovely malty, fruity bitter. With many youngsters chasing the hottest APAS from across the pond and the craziest flavours from all over the world it’s easy to overlook some of our own, more solemn, masterpieces.

Beers No.193 Brodie’s Prime, No.194 Saison Rue, No.195 Red MacGregor, No.196 Dark Island, No.197 La Meule, No.198 Uerige Alt and No.199 Modus Operandi.

Beers No.193 Brodie’s Prime, No.194 Saison Rue, No.195 Red MacGregor, No.196 Dark Island, No.197 La Meule, No.198 Uerige Alt and No.199 Modus Operandi.

Edinburgh is an excellent place to visit, its great if your on a beer hunt like me, but just in general it seemed to have nearly everything you could require from a city break. A great mixture of centuries old heritage and modern, up to the minute, bars and locations. More on Edinburgh later as I was successful in tracking some beers down but first a little up date on where I work.

I am very lucky to work in an industry that is a passion of mine as I have mentioned before. It has allowed me to meet bonafide rock stars like Band of Horses,IMG-20170223-WA0023

meet bonafide Beer Stars like Tiny Rebel Brewing Co,

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and try some of the beers I’m after on draught which is obviously getting rarer and rarer.

One example of this is No.193 Hawkshead Brewery’s Brodie’s Prime.

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This beer from the Lake District is surprisingly new, only being created in 2004. Named after the brewery’s founder Alex Brodie, this dark premium beer has all the classic traits of winter ale, being a little thin for stout, but also can boast the fruity herby flavours Cascade hops can bring to it.

I also get to try rarer beers in bottle too, like No.194 Saison Rue by The Bruery.

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Strangely enough this is another beer named after the brewery’s founder. This time it’s Patrick Rue, who is the creator of The Bruery. Saison Rue is an unfiltered, bottle conditioned take on a Belgian beer complete with Brettanomyces yeast.  It’s got a nice bright orange colour and flavour with a lingering Champagne dry finish. It was very good, maybe the best saison I have ever had, but then again it wasn’t very saisony, more like Brett Pale.

Then on to..

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As I mentioned earlier Edinburgh was a great place, I was warned by the locals on more than one occasion not to bother coming up for the Comedy Festival, as its simply too busy, overpriced and if you want to watch comedy in Edinburgh there is plenty of options available to you all year round regardless.

My wife and friend went up off season (is there is a season) and it was really well priced, I think the flight cost 40 quid return from Stansted and our apartment which was simply fantastic was less than 100 for the night. I’d highly recommend where we stayed actually. It was in a great location, spotlessly clean and very spacious. It was a little noisy at night due to its location, but with so many beers available you’ll be conked pretty quickly after your head hits the pillow anyway. We stayed at St.Giles Apartments, Google it, it’s great. Actually I’ll try and put a link up, hold on…

https://www.stgilesapartments.co.uk/

There we go, don’t know if it’ll link anywhere but you can’t say I didn’t try.

Being the geek I am I had already done some research and planned a little pub crawl which I knew had some of my beers. Its geeky but I really enjoy doing it this way as you get to go to some out of the way little places you had no way of knowing existed before, an sometimes these can even open up whole areas of the town which you wouldn’t know were there, which is what we found in Edinburgh.

After to a trip to Tiles Bar which reaped no reward for me we traversed to The Royal MacGregor where I found 2 beers both by The Orkney Brewery. It was also the scene of my favourite photo from our trip…IMG-20170314-WA0034

It may not look like much we like it, Michelle was talking to a tramp, and we’re disgusted by this fact as we’re so middle class.

The place itself was small and friendly, and my first beer, No.194 Red Macgregor, was excellent.

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It had a classic bitter taste, red in colour just like its name suggests, it had a lovely creamy head, all three of us enjoyed it. Interestingly after the previous 2 beers in this blog, this beer may not be named directly after the names of the brewery’s creator but it is indirectly so. The beer takes it’s name from the MacGregor clan of Scotland who the original owner of Orkneys Brewery claims he is a descendant.  Either way it’s an excellent beer and probably my favourite of the trip, which as good as it’s Scottish.

The second Orkney offering was No.195 Dark Island

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A dark beer that poured with no head. Michelle thought it was like a pint of fizzy liqourice whilst Heather was surprised how nice it was calling it like a lager with a smoky bacon finish. It was thin for how dark it was and not creamy at all. So much so Michelle invented the word uncreamy for this very beer.

After a stroll about the old town we found our 3rd and most profitable in my eyes bar. The SaltHorse. With a smorgasbord of different beers it didnt take long to find some beers I liked (well wanted to try at least). 3 in fact!

First off was No.196 La Meule by Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes and my first from Switzerland.

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Made with sage leaves this is an interesting beer. Michelle thought it was like a honey cream whilst Heather thought it was really sweet and tantalised the tastebuds. It was very pleasant with a nice wheaty flavour.

Next up was No.198 Uerige Altbier

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I need to mention the bottle first. My photo does it no justice, it was really cool with some nice artwork very similar to the Fallout game series. Now this beer is a lot older than the rest, dating back to 1862 and it’s one of the most famous in Dusseldorf. It is supposedly a secret recipe having not changed in that time. It’s very dry with quite a food smell due to it’s maltiness. It was quite creamy with dark undertones. Heather described it as almost like wine whilst Michelle described it as almost like sawdust. I’m starting to doubt my travel companions credentials as professional critics.

Our final beer of the journey was the hallowed Wild Beer Co. No.199 Modus Operandi.

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Brettanomyces are not these girls game. This revered beer was described them as nail varnish remover in smell and taste, proper horrid, completely disgusting without one ounce of goodness. Pretty harsh reviews showing how dividing the Belgian style can still be. It does have a lot of balsamic vinegar coming through mixed in with cherries. At first I didn’t like it either but I think that may have been just through making the jump from a different, easier style because by the end of the glass I didn’t want it to finish!

So that’s that then. Edinburgh ticked off. I highly recommend it. One thing though, make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the toilet as we found in nearly every bar the toilets are miles away and usually involve stairs!

Ta Ta

 

Beers No.185 Deus, No.186 Windsor & Eton 1075 Conqueror, No.187 Arrogant Bastard Ale, No.188 Stone Ruination IPA, No.189 Espresso, No.190 Southville Hop, No.191 Schneider Weisse and No.192 Timmermans Framboise Lambic.

Beers No.185 Deus, No.186 Windsor & Eton 1075 Conqueror, No.187 Arrogant Bastard Ale, No.188 Stone Ruination IPA, No.189 Espresso, No.190 Southville Hop, No.191 Schneider Weisse and No.192 Timmermans Framboise Lambic.

 

Hello everyone and welcome to this action packed blog of fun, action, laughter and beers. Well one out of the four anyway. I visited my friend Jack up in London. We met at Lowlander Grand Cafe which is a cool little Belgian/Dutch joint on Drury Lane. We had a nice mixed platter…wp-1487339782194.jpg Followed by, more importantly a great bottle of beer.

Brouwerij Bosteels Deus is a crazy complicated beer and certainly made with love. After normal fermentation it is refermented with Champagne yeasts in Epernay. Epernay is in the Champagne Region of France so it’s certainly authentic. Thats not even the end of it, the beer is then kept at a steady temperature for nine months then tilted and rotated for a week for yeast removal. It really is a crafted beer in the truest sense of the word. It’s served in a champagne bottle with flutes and comes in at 11.5% but doesn’t taste it. It’s light and quite wheaty even though not made with it. It’s really good and definitely worth your effort.wp-1487339754934.jpg

I persuaded Jack to move on to The Maple Leaf near Covent Garden to try some Canadian Beers. Complete waste of time. It was just an English Sports pub really. Fosters and Amstels on tap, football on the telly (Premiership). They had one tap called Maple Leaf lager, but I found its Canadian authenticity spurious.

On the stroll home we decided to pop into the local Wetherspoons, Penderel’s Oak. Lo and behold there was only a beer on my list.wp-1487339853188.jpg

Windsor & Eton’s Conqueror 1075, a stronger hoppier version of their Conqueror named after the year William the Conqueror built the original Windsor Castle. It was surprisingly sweet, on the side of being sickly, with a little bit of smoke in there.

Good to see Wetherspoons keeping up their diversity. They have a lot of knockers for a lot of valid reasons I’m not going to go into now, but you can certainly pick up some interesting beers there from time to time.

This months ever excellent box from Beer52 was centred around one of my favourite’s, Stone Brewery. It included a couple of beers including Arrogant Bastard Ale, I couldn’t wait to try.

One of the many reasons I don’t like Brewdog is what is written on their Punk IPA bottles, though I’m not sure it still includes it. On their 2007 released bottles it read:

This is not a lowest common denominator beer…This is an aggressive beer…We don’t care if you don’t like it…It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sopistication to appreciate the depth, character and quality of this premium craft brewed beer.wp-1487344188862.jpg

Now compare that to what Stone have been writing on their 1996 Arrogant Bastard Ale.

This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory – maybe something with a multimillion-dollar ad campaignwp-1487339998854.jpg

I’m sure they’ll say thput it on as being a homage, but I just don’t like the fact a company who are so rebelliously original have to practically cut and paste another beer’s blurb.

Arrogant Bastard Ale is the best selling large bottle craft beer in the US. This beer alongside their IPA has launched Stone Brewing into the stratosphere allowing them to even open another brewery in Berlin. Not bad for a beer that was supposedly created by accident.

I thought it was a great bitter drink. The girls who I drank it with wasn’t sure though with their reviews being:-

Michelle: Lingering bitterness at the back of your throat. On impact its not that bad, it’s not horrendous, it is very hoppy but that bitterness takes away the goodness.

Heather: YEURRCHK no goodness, tastes horrible, tastes like tut tut tut Eurgh proper lingering Eurgh

So maybe Stone are right when they write on their can “You probably won’t like it”.wp-1487340020415.jpg

Stone Ruination IPA was the second Stone I had from Beer52. This was another great strong beer. I really am becoming a big fan of Stone and look forward to going to visit them in Berlin in the summer. It’s very hoppy and very bright. Everything you want wish from an American take on an IPA and more.

The next day Michelle and I took a lovely trip down to Brighton.

We were really lucky with the weather and had a great day. After a spot of lunch at Café Rouge, where Michelle particularly liked the French Onion Soup, we strolled up to The Craft Beer Co. Brighton. It was good to see one of our sister pubs and it had a nice atmosphere. Unfortunately it had no beers I needed so after a couple of stouts we pushed on.

We arrived at The Evening Star, which happens to be the birthplace of Darkstar Brewing.wp-1487340089876.jpg

I went there expecting to pick up one or two Darkstar beers but as luck would have it they had an excellent selection and I found 4 I needed.

The first Espresso was the only Darkstar beer I had from where it all started. It’s made with real coffee supplied by a Coffee House in Brighton and you can certainly taste it. In fact Michelle remarked it tasted more like cold coffee than cold coffee does. It was dark, bitter and very good.

Southville Hop by the Bristol Beer Factory was next and this 2012 SIBA Gold medal winner didn’t disappoint. It’s golden thick and very hoppy. The English name of both brewer and beer doesn’t give away the massive tropical hit this beer delivers.

Cross the North Sea into Germany next with Schneider Weisse. First brewed in 1872 this beer certainly has the heritage it will take the previous two over 100 years to attain. This beer is a classic Weissbier, it is orange in colour with banana on the palate. A great example of this refreshing style of beer.

Finally Timmermans Framboise Lambic. These brewers have been around making Lambic in the Senne Valley since 1781. It is matured for six months before raspberries are added to start a secondary fermentation before being left for a further six to months. It really delivers what it promises. Loads of raspberries. It’s red in colour and though being compared favourably to pink champagne it also closely resembles a cider you’d pick up whilst sitting down the Peterboat on a sunny day.

So that’s it. Just time to tell you we stopped off on the way back at The Darkstar Brewery where I bought some socks as I’m a nerd

Thanks for reading, as I always say it’s doubtful anyone has made it this far but if you have I am grateful. Give us a like to let me know you’re there. Thanks, see you next month!

 

 

Beers No.177 Dirty Stopout, No.178 Gonzo Imperial Porter, No.179 Cantillon Iris, No.180 Combined Harvest, No. 181 Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout, No.182 Evil Twin Hipster Ale, No. 183 Rising Sun Pale Ale and No.184 Echigo Stout.

Beers No.177 Dirty Stopout, No.178 Gonzo Imperial Porter, No.179 Cantillon Iris, No.180 Combined Harvest, No. 181 Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout, No.182 Evil Twin Hipster Ale, No. 183 Rising Sun Pale Ale and No.184 Echigo Stout.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone. Bloody hell doesn’t that seem like an age ago already. I can’t believe New Years eve was less than three weeks ago, I think it just starts so early nowadays that by the time it comes around it seems like it’s already over if you know what I mean.

Anyway blah, blah, blah. Its been yonks since I last wrote a blog and so much has happened. I started my new job at The Craft Beer Co. and I’m glad to say I love it. It’s a great little pub in Limehouse with a really cool, friendly clientele and obviously an unbelievably good selection of beers. I would recommend anyone coming to pay a visit and I’m not just saying that to see me! It’s directly opposite the train station and has just got a really nice vibe, and of course impeccable service.

There’s certainly better pictures of it out there but you get the idea.

For our training we went to a couple of breweries. We went to the Kernel brewery in Bermondsey who make the Export Stout I reviewed (if you can call it that) in a previous blog. It was quite a big affair with everyone who worked there being beautiful girls or wooly hatted bearded hipsters looked over by a Glastonburyesque tied died public school bloke. You know the sort. It was all very hip but something about it seemed a bit self aware.

But then we went to something that really oozed effortless cool. The Partizan Brewery just down the road was as sexy as hell. It was just one lot under the railway arches, a bit like Kernel but much much smaller. They made their own beer in this one little room and had even constructed a little bar with 6 taps to sample their wares. The brewer was very welcoming and super natty. I loved it there.

The brewer is the blonde haired bloke on the side not the doofus in the cap whom I work with.

It was a great introduction to such a small, exciting and vibrant scene. We had a preview night and many of the brewers including those from Partizan and Kernel came down. The owner of Beavertown came down too who just so happens to be Robert Plant’s son!fb_img_1484856824385.jpg

The first couple of beers on my list were no way connected to work though, I picked them up from Marks and Sparkles when I was doing my Christmas shopping in Bluewater.20161130_222419.jpg

Dirty Stopout is a rarely made stout by those in demand Welsh boys Tiny Rebel. It has 9 different malts with some dry hopping making this complex beer and it’s worth it. It’s a lovely drop. Tiny Rebel are really doing some great stuff at the moment. Someone said to me that Brewers are judged on consistency and from what I have tasted from these chaps they consistently knock the ball out the park. Cwtch is obviously a great beer but try Clwb Tropicana too. It’s a taste explosion and available on draught from your local Craft Beer Co. outlet. 😉

The last beer I picked up from M&S was Gonzo Imperial Porter.

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This Hunter S. Thompson inspired beer won a gold medal in the 2008 World Beer Cup. It’s a very nice sippable beer with a marmitey, soy sauce smell. It’s dark and warming and tastes stronger than it’s 7.2% ABV.

After I went on my brewery tour with work we visited a few of our sister pubs. In the covent garden bar I found a bottle of Cantillon Iris.20161202_173551.jpg

We were joined by Tom Cadden, who is the Operations Manager at The Craft Beer Co. He is the one on the far left, not the doofus in the cap whom I work with.

Tom has got very good pedigree. He was Brewdogs first ever customer and has invoice 001 from them for some Punk IPA he got for his pub. He is now paid vast amounts for his beer tasting skills and is in high demand from all the brewers. I thought it was a perfect time for me to ask him for his tasting notes on the Cantillon Iris and they were obviously far superior to anything I was going to think of! He first informed me straight from his fountain of knowledge that it is the only Lambic that is made without wheat and is dry hopped so it isn’t actually a Lambic at all.

He remarked the smell was of lemon, grapes and horse blanket(!) Whilst the taste was reminiscent of walking through a Romanian field then face planting into a citrus fruit bowl.

A whole other level from my “nice but a bit marmitey” reviews but hey ho. He said a lot more and I feel I’m not doing him justice but I was a bit merry by then and didn’t write everything down.

More locally I went to The Broker to watch the football. When it finished I popped over to Costcutter to pick up a couple of takeaways and lo and behold there were a couple beers I needed.

Combined Harvest is a lovely Amber from Batemans Brewery. It is a gold medal winner from the International Beer Awards and unlike any other beer I have tasted. It has a great nose, and it’s use of oats, rye, wheat and barley (hence it’s name) gives a lively bouncey mouthfeel with bubblegum coming to the fore.

Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout made by former Guiness brewer Peter Amos’ Wye Valley Brewery is a nice, dark and, though it sounds funny to say, very stouty. God I am a million miles away from Tom’s tasting notes aren’t I?! Very stouty, ha ha, don’t quit the day job. It’s a great beer though and did pick up the 2002 Champion Winter Beer of Britain Award.

To make the run up to Christmas a little more bearable I bought myself an Advent Calendar from Beerhawkfb_img_1484860517515.jpg

It was pretty good and had some interesting Belgian, Brewdog and American beers. It was a nice variety of cans and bottles and came with a lovely glass. It only had one beer I needed at this stage of my journey (plenty if I had just started). That was Evil Twin Hipster Ale.20161211_020639.jpg

Evil Twin are a funny old lot, the make some really interesting beers, their forte seeming to be the super strong dark stuff like Yin and Even More Jesus. The brewery was created in Denmark by the brother of the even more famous Mikkeller. But now after moving to the states I have a feeling Evil Twin may be suppassing his brother in terms of recognition and and certainly excitement. Thats what Evil Twin seems to thrive on, excitement. Quirky names like “Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room” for their Imperial Stout has definitely created  a buzz. Hipster Ale isn’t quite as out there but it’s still bursting with flavour and a bloody good drink. If you see any Evil Twin out there have a taste, you don’t know what you’re gonna get but it’s always impressive, if from a technical aspect alone.

Finally, my old mate Ad Rads who I miss dearly paid a visit from his new home Japan over Christmas. I had spoke to him a few times before he came back and he really enjoyed hunting a few beers down for me. He said it reminded him of his record buying days which was a really nice way to put it as I feel the same. He very graciously brought me back 3 beers to try. One was a Hitachino Nest Dai Dai Ale which even though it wasn’t on my list was actually my favourite of the three. It was very refreshing and pleasant, no doubt lovely on a hot day, unfortunately I was drinking it January but it was still great.

The other two were on my list.

Rising Sun Pale Ale is made by an American who created Baird Beer in a small fishing town called Numazu. It certainly tastes American and that is, of course, because of the use of West Coast hops. For me it tasted like marijuana and nettles. I wasn’t that keen on it (sorry Ads) and with so much competition with these beers it didn’t have any distinguishing features.

Echigo Stout is made by Japan’s first microbrewery. It stems from a brewpub that I would love to go to visit. The beer itself has an OXO personality with a little copper thrown in. It has a licourice bitter sweet taste that goes quickly.

All in all some interesting beers from Japan but ironically by far the best one was the one that was included on my list.

OK thats all for now. Thanks for reading anyone who’s made it this far. Give us a like and all that just so I know you are there!!

Cheers My Dears