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Archive for December, 2007

This blog post from May shows how far beer fanatics are willing to go if there is a glimmer of hope:

Professional obligations led to me spending a few days in Larnaca, Cyprus some weeks ago. A bit of online research had shown me that there is a brewpub in Cyprus, in the seaside city of Limassol. As I had half a day with no plans, I decided to take an excursion to check this out.

Public transportation is not up to much on the island, but they have a system of service taxis, which are minibuses picking you up where you want them to and then driving you to the next town. I asked the reception to order one for me, but I was informed that there would be an extra charge for the pick up, as the hotel was located too far from the centre.
Never mind. I was picked up at the hotel about 10 in the morning, we drove on to downtown Larnaca where some more passengers and parcels were added. Most of the passengers were locals, I suppose there are more tourists in high season.  After zigzagging through the outskirts of the town, we picked up an old man outside his house and we were on our way.
The motorway goes partly inland and partly along the coast, and it was a pleasant way to see a bit of the country, with the spring greenery not yet having turned brown by the summer sun.
Arriving in Limassol I booked a return trip two hours later and set out to find the brew pub. The map I found on the web was not the most accurate, but after circling around the area for a bit I found it. The place has a splenid setting, on a quiet side street with a fine view of an old castle. At noon it was totally deserted, but the place is probably crowded in the evenings. The interior is like brewpubs tend to be, with a row of gleaming copper kettles and the usual trimmings of reproductions of beer and whiskey commercial of bygone days.
There were several beer taps, including both domestic macros and imported beers as well as their own beers.
I picked up a menu, found a sidewalk table in the sun and ordered a salad with grilled vegetables and feta cheese. The menu mentioned lager, pilsener, wheat beer and ale. I asked the waiter to bring me a half pint of all their own beers. He seemed a bit bewildered, but soon arrived with a mountain of a salad – and a glass of pale lager.
The salad was great – they seem to share the kitchen with several other establishments in the same building complex. The beer was just as pale lagers are everywhere, if I had been served the same beer elsewhere being told it was a Carlsberg, I would not have objected.
I finished my beer, and motioned the waiter to come over.
- I would like to try the other beers you brew here, please. May I have a glass of each?
-    I am sorry. The lager is the only beer we have on. We only brew one beer at a time. You can have a draught Leffe. Or Guinness.
-    So you don’t have the ale? Ot the wheat beer?
-     No. When this is finished, we will have another beer for sale.
Being a polite guest in a foreign country, I bit my tongue, before ordering another half pint of the lager. I asked for the bill and walked back to the minibus.
I have to admit the return was a bit gloomy. £ 20 in taxi fare. Three hours of driving which I could have spent by the pool. All this for a pint of pale lager.
Next time I’ll probably call the pub before setting out on such an expedition.
But, since you ask, the salad was great.

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I don’t know how long the good people over at mo’time will keep my inactive old blog up, so I’ll republish a few of the best posts of 2007 here. I haven’t found a clever way to migrate the whole blog. The first offering is from the end of February:

This micro brewery in Brussels also functions as a museum for lambic brewing and has a tasting room for its products.  Both Cantillon and the lambic beers are covered extensively in any guide to the beer styles of the world, so I’ll just give you some personal impressions.

The concept is simple – you turn up at the brewery, enter and pay a 4 Euro entrance fee. You then get a leaflet explaining the brewing process, and you are free to wander around as long as you like. The start of the brewing process is like in any brewery, the difference comes at the point where you’d usually add the yeast. The lambic beers use spontaneous fermentation, which means that no yeast is added. Instead they expose the cooling wort to the open air, and yeast spores then, like Tinker Bell, come dancing on the breeze and settle in the beer. Theses spores could be anywhere in the environment, so they have to be extra careful when doing any alterations to the building. And they leave cobwebs and dust in some corner – the food control authorities are not too happy about that!

After the wild yeast has started to do its job, it’s time to fill the lambic into oak barrels, which, for the first three or four days, are overflowing with foam. After this has died down, a slow fermentation starts in the barrels, and this can go on for years.

Some of the lambic is bottled as geuze, some has fruit – cherries, raspberries or grapes – added in the process. At the end, a mix of new and old beers (up to three years in the cask) is bottled and sent to the market.

When you walk through this shrine to old fashioned brewing, you have the smell of beer evaporating everywhere, from open vessels and from barrels of various vintages. The strong smells tells you that this is a rather more expensive way of brewing than in large plants where everything is hermetically sealed to make sure you can bottle every drop.

And at the end you get to taste two or three varieties. The Geuze is a blend of 1, 2 and 3 year old lambics. It is more sour than bitter, with a lot of acid. You have no feeling of the malt or hops, it is a cider-like beverage, but extremely dry.

The Lou Pepe Kriek is their premium brand of cherry lambic. It is very smooth, with the cherries adding a new dimension. A little sweetness in the finish, but the sourness lingers, too. Very refreshing.

The last beer I tried was their Faro. This is lambic where they have added caramel and candy sugar. The yeast is still so potent that this will only keep for a few weeks. This was very sweet, had a peach-like fruitiness, but with the sourness underneath. A bit too syrupy for me, more interesting than outstanding. I guess that this was the form they drank much of the lambic in the old days, adding sugar as it suited the customers of a particular cafe.

You can get Cantillon lambics all over the world, and they even make special beers for other countries, with additions like blueberries and cloud berries.

If you want to really explore the world of beers, this is a family of beer styles you need to look into. Be warned, though, the sourness is not to every one’s liking.

I raise my glass to the enthusiasts who keep this running, keep it open to the public, and even sell their beers at a very nice price to people dropping by.

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And everything is covered with a thin layer of ice. No skiing, then.

A time to stay indoors and drink what’s left of the Christmas ales. And you can always dream of Christmases past and Christmases yet to come…

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Larko blogs about beer, too, amongst lots of other topics. A good read.

He picked up this story:

Germans drink less beer this year than they did last year, Reuters reports. The average consumption per capita this year is estimated as 112,5 liters which is 3,5 liters less than 2006. The decline has steadily continued since the top consumption of 156 liters in the 1980′ies.

2006 was the only year since 1998 when consumption increased. However, that must have been thanks to foreign guests at the football World Champ tournament. Germans are far behind Czech Republic and Ireland in drinking beer.

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Denmark is establishing itself as a country for beer tourism, with brewpubs and micros popping up in every town and village, some of them offering b&b, some of them food and all of them beers to enjoy on the spot or to take along.

We are far from that situation in Norway. The craft breweries are few and far between, but there are a few to be found, and with some planning and a rail or bus pass you could cover some of them in a week or so. I talked to Will, who works in the splendid pub the Bricklayer’s Arms in Putney, London, some weeks ago. He told me he was thinking about visiting Norway with a focus on beer, so here is a proposal for a schedule. For most visitors I would recommend getting a rail pass. There are also express buses, which may be cheaper, but they will not take you to places like Finse.

Day 1: Fly to Bergen (or take the ferry if that is convenient). Kalfaret Brygghus is a fairly new brewpub set up by Hansa, I have actually not been there yet myself.

Day 2: Boat to Flåm through the spectacular fjord scenery. Flåm has a new brewpub, Ægir, worth stopping at while you wait for the scenic train ride up to Myrdal. Continue by train to Oslo, or you could stay overnight at Finse, 1222 metres above sea level. There is both a hotel and a more modest hostel for hikers at Finse. If you want to walk in the mountains for some days, this is a great staring point.

An excellent alternative here is to take the train to Finse from Bergen and stay overnight. You then rent a bike and follow the Navvy Road – Rallarvegen down all the way to Flåm. It is steep, but the bikes have been fitted with extra brakes. This trip is only possible during a few summer months because of the snow.

Day 3: Oslo. Side trip to Moss and Møllebyen Mikrobryggeri in the afternoon , with some really nice beers. Return to Oslo and Oslo Mikrobryggeri in the evening. Of course there are other pubs in Oslo, too, but the ones with interesting beer are very few – the market is totally dominated by Ringnes/Carlsberg and a few other national lager factories.

Day 4: Now for the two most interesting breweries in Norway. Train to Drammen, home of Haandbryggeriet(by appointment). One of the most inventive micros in Norway, who knows , maybe they have something new that you could sample. Continue to Nøgne ø in Grimstad (by appointment, and you’ll need to read maps and timetables, too.)

From there there are several options. You can continue by bus or train to Stavanger and catch a flight. You can return to Oslo and continue north to Trondheim via Lillehammer, there are brewpubs in both towns. Or you can take the train from Oslo to Gothenburg or Stockholm, where the range of beers on offer is far greater than in Norway.

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It’s that season again…

The season of tacky trees.

The Vietnam Beer Company, assisted by Hai Duong Advertising Company, is displaying a giant Christmas tree made of more than 8,000 Heineken beer cans in central Hue City to welcome the upcoming holy season.

For some reason, the tree is located in front of the Hue University of Pedagogy. 

My apologies to the good people of Hue. But the holy season is not about the coming of Heineken. Try again!

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Newcomer of the year

I am not usually handing out any awards, but I would like to point to BrewDog from the windswept Eastern coast of Scotland as the most exciting newcomer in 2007. Daring and inventive, these young lads have lot to live up to in the years to come. Expect to see them in various markets in the New Year.

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