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Archive for the ‘pubs’ Category

I don’t read many beer books. As a matter of fact, I buy slightly more beer books than I actually read. I interact a fair bit with other beer bloggers, but I don’t even read them as systematically as I did. The demise of Google reader is partly to blame.

A blogging duo which I have followed for years is an exception.Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey have a love of language as well as a love of beer, and, have a personal voice between them that is personal, not private.
They moved out of London and settled in South Western England some years ago, showing yet again that you dont have to be based in a major city to play a part in the beer writing community.
They have been open about their bigger projct for a long time, putting together a history of British beer over the last five decades, starting with the early beginnings of The Society for the Preservation of Beers in the Wood  (SPBW among friends) and CAMRA and ending up with the fantastic diversity of today.
They have researched this in depth, using a long list of printed and oral sources. Their blog has been used cleverly for crowd sourcing information.
The result, Brew Britannia,  is impressive. It is a story of businesses that thrive or fail, of consumer rebellion, of enthusiasm and organizational strife. And, given the topic, a story of English eccentricity told in such a way that a smile and a chuckle is never far away.
In addition to the well told main part of the book, there are appendixes and comprehensive notes, even an index, which you don’t find too often nowadays. (You’ll even find me in the index, which is, come to think of it, even rarer).
When you write a book like this, you have to choose what to include and what to leave out. I have followed the British beer scene for most of this period, and I did not find any omissions to point out.
Go ahead. This won’t end up on the shelf with the unread beer books. And it’s in paperback, meaning you can read it on the bus, which is more than you can say about the heavier tomes full of glossy photos.

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Freddy Delvaux

Professor Delvaux guides in the old brewery

Zigzagging our way through the Flemish countryside, a lunchtime stop was at the Brouwerij de Kroon, where we were welcomed by Freddy Delvaux, head of the family that owns and runs the brewery.

But this is more than a brewery. A bar/restaurant, a museum and a laboratory. They call it a multifunctional centre of brewing and taste, no less.

 Let’s start with the lab part, which is where Freddy has his background. He was appointed head of the laboratory at the Artois brewery in 1973, and continued in this position for many years as the brewery merged many times over.  He also established a lab at Leuven University, which he ran for decades.

When the university told him he was approaching retirement age, he decided to set up on his own together with his sons, and they have established a lab doing services for 25 Belgian breweries. They also have a yeast bank, and they develop new beers for a number of breweries.

The facilities they use today was opened only last year, but in the same building as the historical de Kroon brewery, which closed down in the nineteen eighties  but is remarkably well-preserved – showing brewing methods going back many decades. The equipment and the recipe books show that the beers used to be brewed with mixed fermentation, among the beers they made was the lost style of Leuven beers. A modern beer inspired by this is brewed today, the Super Kroon.  The highest volume was lambic-like table beers with alcohol content between one and three per cent.

The modern brewery is next door to the old one, and this is where they make their own beers as well as developing and testing new ones for other breweries.

The brewery tap also reflects the activities in the lab. There is one beer here from each of the 25 breweries that de Kroon does the lab work for, in addition to the three house beers.

There is an enclosed courtyard in the center of it all, a sun trap even on a slightly chilly spring day. I did not really study the menu, but they have some really nice salads if you want to tend to your lunchtime hunger.

 

Of their beers, the mentioned Super Kroon was the most interesting. The tap line goes directly from the unfiltered tank in the brewhouse, the beer is a hazy amber. It is bittersweet and fruity, with an elegant lemon-like sourness.

De Kroon is reachable by bus from Leuven station, it takes about 25 minutes. You could do worse on a sunny day.

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Straffe Hendrik Wild

On the Wild side

This is actually a place I have visited before, I had lunch in the bright and airy restaurant/café some years ago. The Half Moon brewery is a tourist destiantion in its own right.  If you are in Bruges, this is a nice place to visit, good food and family friendly.

We did not meet the brewer here, but this is also a destination in its own right. While running a modern brewery, this is also a museum showing how the company has developed from its humble beginnings. The tour takes about an hour, be prepared for many steps up and down and some narrow passages, but also lots of breweriana and splendid views from the roof.

There is even a new beer worth trying, Straffe Hendrik Wild. A fruity beer with some brett adding another layer to an elegant beer. Apricots , almonds and funk. Limited edition – catch it while you can.

 I imagine this is a place that gets very crowded in the summer. Try to get on the first tour in the morning.

View from brewery roof

A brew with a view

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Lunch in Brussels meant cured meat, cheese and bread – and a beer tasting. While the two Moeder Lambic bars have established themselves as cornerstones on the Brussels beer scene, this is the first time I have visited any of them. Easy to find, minutes away from the main attractions for the tourist and strategically located if you are in town for business. Business usually meaning government.

We enjoyed a conversation with  Jean Hummler, one of the two owners of the company since 2006. With great passion he gave us samples of some of his beers while talking about his philosophy about beer (and food).

Their focus is on Belgian beer, but not exclusively so. Among the 150 Belgian breweries, there are 15 outstanding, according to Jean. When he considers which beers to order, he considers both taste and how the beers are made. Freshness is the imperative word, and the taps and the temperature control makes sure the quality is as good as it gets.

There is a broad range of customers in the bar, an estimate is 60 per cent local, the rest expats and tourists. Most are in the 25-25 age range, but there are also students saving up to drink the best beers they can get.

There is no best beer in the  world, says Jean, but there is one that is best for my palate.

Among the beers we got to sample were an Oud Bruin from Verzet, less sweet than others of the same style, and a very interesting brewery to follow.

Cuvee de Ranke is a blend using sour beer from De Ranke blended with Girardin lambic. The lambic has consumed the sugars from the other beer, but it still has a hop profile that is is more prominent.

This is a bar, not a restaurant, but there is excellent cheese, salami etc if you cannot tear yourself away.

Endless rows of beers on tap, bottles in the fridge, too. Not exclusively Belgian, we even got to try a fresh pale ale from Kernel while we were there. But the imports also have to live up to the demands for freshness that they set for the national beers.

Check out their website for a list of the current beers on tap. You will not regret a visit.

 

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I got a transfer from the web design company via PayPal last night, with the following message:

Apologies for the misue of your photo. It was for placement only during early production and was supposed to be swapped out with actual photos of this brewery’s beer — but that task fell through the cracks. Please accept this gift to buy yourself some beer. We have already replaced the photo.

So. No grudges. But I’d still like to try the beers from the Hopvine brewery.

Meanwhile – a crappy photo of a grilled Gorgonzola sandwich and a beer. At the Chelsea Pub in Parma, Italy. It is highlyunlikely that anyone will steal this.

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Håndverkerstuene has gone through some changes of management, but the kitchen is still very good – and the beer range is better than ever. Some of the imports, particularly the Belgians and Americans, are gone, what you find is an outstanding range of Norwegian and Nordic beers. 12 craft beers on tap a few days ago, 10 of them Norwegian, the other two also Scandinavian.

Handverkerstuene taps

This year they are challenging Norwegian breweries to come up with the best beer matches for various menus. Eight breweries are taking part in the quarter finals, Austmann vs Aass, Ringnes vs Nøgne Ø, Lervig vs Haandbryggeriet and Ægir vs Kinn. 

 

The two best meet in the final 22 September. The juries are the paying guests on the evening of each round. The loser of the final will brew a special brew for the winner.

Details about the challenge, the menus and tickets at the Bryggeribråk web site.

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Jeff Knut

I told you I won’t give any proper coverage of our London visit, but I must mention this particularly.

We had spent the afternoon and early evening doing brief stops at a number of pubs. Some of them we knew beforehand, like Cask Pub and Kitchen and the Euston Tap. My aim was to end up fairly early in the evening at the Gunmakers Arms, where two of the early activists of the beer blogsphere are to be found, behind the bar, Jeff and Alessio.

I was welcomed warmly – I have met Jeff some time over the years, while I was in touch with Alessio during the time I visited Italy fairly frequently.

The Gunmakers is still doing very well, with a good range of well kept cask ales.

I’m happy to report that Jeff is also opening a new pub in Earls Court, or to be exact, if I got it right, reopening a pub that has been closed for quite some time, the Finsborough Arms. It will not be a brewpub, but in the beer range you’ll find  recreations of classic beers unearthed by the legendary Ron Pattison. Six keg beers, eight hand pumps.

Opening on 28 February. Jeff’s birthday.

Jeff even promised that he’ll start blogging again.

If you want updates, follow @FinboroughArms on twitter.

Thanks to Ole Richard for the photos.

Gunmakers

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