Oslo for Beers No.242 Ke To Re Porter, No.243 Re Ale, No.244 Oskar Blues G’Knight, No.245 Ardenne Blonde, No.246 Dark Horizon and No.247 Norwegian Wood

Oslo for Beers No.242 Ke To Re Porter, No.243 Re Ale, No.244 Oskar Blues G’Knight, No.245 Ardenne Blonde, No.246 Dark Horizon and No.247 Norwegian Wood

We got an overnight ferry from Copenhagen through Kattegat and Skagerrak into the Norwegian fjords and on to Oslo. It was definitely a ferry not a cruise ship. The ballroom was full of inebriated Scandinavians clapping hands in a large circle to the Venga bus is coming.

Needless to say I was in my element.IMG-20180319-WA0009

After a surprisingly comfortable night in a cramped cabin it was a beautiful still morning to wake up gliding across the fjords.IMG-20180319-WA0012

We moored up at Oslo harbour and found our way to the hotel. After dumping our stuff we made our way to the beautiful Opera house.IMG-20180319-WA0007

It’s a splendid building with an interior full of Scandinavian designs.

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Even more impressive you can walk up the roof to the top, I’ve never seen anything like it but it’s a fantastic way to see the views of the harbour and the city itself.IMG-20180319-WA0011

We were getting pretty peckish and it was a lovely day so we decided to get something to eat on one of the outdoor tables on the waterfront.

Oslo was looking pretty pricey, we had already noticed a wrapped plastic cheese sandwich sets you back 7 quid, but the place we found, Olivia’s, was a really pleasant looking Italian with a very reasonable lunch time meal offer.

To cap it all, after a lovely pizza, pasta combo I notice they had a couple of Italian beers from my list!

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Ke To Re Porter has all the wonderful flavours of a stout but in a milder version.  A really nice daytime stout, this is actually brewed with a little tobacco for some sweet aroma. Though you wouldn’t know unless you were told to be honest.

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Re Ale was the second beer I had there and the second beer from Italian Brewer Birra del Borgo. This was one of Leonardo Di Vincenzos first beers and it was the one that made him famous. It’s amber in colour, and light for a 6.4% ABV. It has a fleeting flavour of blood orange and just about pick up able bitter grapefruit.

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After lunch we walked up to the Amundsen Bryggeri & Spiseri. It was really like an old English pub before everything was modernised and had one of the smallest breweries I have ever seen in what I can only describe as a glass cupboard at the end of the bar.

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Amundsen, I presume named after the Norwegian geezer who was the first person to the South Pole, are very cool at the moment with their brightly designed cans backing up their exciting range of beers like Everyday Hero IPA which is a strong example of the style.

It’s pricey there though. Cor dear is it pricey. Michelle had a house brewed Porter. Not Imperial just standard and seeing as it was brewed in house so minus transportation and maybe packaging you would think it might be less in price than others, but you’d be wrong. It came in at a princely £6.60 a half, £13.20 a pint.

I saw an American beer on my list Oskar Blues G’Knight. It was a can, it’s not that hard to get hold but still set me back £15.60!Christ alive. We were starting to feel glad we were only here for one day!

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The beer itself is an Imperial Red IPA and it’s very red. Its kind of scented without being perfumey. Loads of caramel and hops, resiny yet still refreshing.

I hadn’t found a single Norwegian beer I was after yet so we decided to push on as I only needed 3 from here.

We made our way to Dr Jekyll’s pub and I really liked it. It was practically a theme pub as they went all out on the horror memorabilia. It had a super cool toilet which is hidden behind a bookcase like you see in the big film houses. Nicely laid out it felt like  a dangerous pub as in it seemed to be inviting people to get very drunk there. They had a great beer list too, a very helpful young lady behind the bar and some Norwegian beers I was looking for.IMG-20180319-WA0002

The first was Ardenne Blond. This is a saison that is unmistakably made with Brett yeast. It’s clearly very refreshing on a summers day but I found it a little tart.

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My second felt like the polar opposite. Dark Horizon is a thick very strong (16%) dessert beer. It’s double fermented with brown sugar and coffee. I thought it had loads of interesting flavours but the one that was most pronounced was frazzles the crisps with loads of bacon coming through from somewhere.

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The night was drawing in early as to be expected in Scandinavia, so we ventured forth into the darkness to find the last pub which I hoped would hold the last beer I needed.IMG-20180319-WA0008

We arrived at Handverker Stuene and our initial impression was that it was the most authentic bar we had been in all night. It was very busy but that may have been due to the theatre next door. It had a great layout, feeling like a traditional Scandinavian inn, though I’m not sure what that’s like, just a hunch. They had a great selection of Norwegian beers including my final beer I should try before I die from this country I was increasingly enjoying.

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Norwegian Wood was our second beer from HaandBryggeriet which means hand brewery with Ardenne Blonde being the first. This, just like Ardenne,  is real craft beer. Sculpted using locally harvested juniper branches, German and English malts and American hops. This like many others I have tried on this journey are a million miles away from commercial continental lagers I grew up smashing my way through. I found it had a bitter sharpness with a smoky mouldy orange coming through. If the Dark Horizon reminded me of Frazzles this was definitely more in the Walkers Smokey Bacon camp.

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So there we have it, Oslo. Very clean, very friendly, very expensive. So much more to do than our little skim of the service, it felt relaxed, with a city confidence of a well maintained infrastructure.

Worth a visit, but again, bring your wallet. Bowl of chips? £16. Forget about it.

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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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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.