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Archive for November, 2007

This pub is on the same street as the Bier Temple shop, but it is located at the end of a blind alley, so look for the sign, you won’t find any windows or doors inviting you in here.This is a serious beer bar. They have other drinks, too, but for once, this is focused on beer. The wines on offer are listed as just red, white and port, while there are about three dozen beers available, six of them on tap. The food is limited to small bags of crisps, as far as I could see. No real beer rarities here, but an easy going atmosphere and speedy service.

Some background music – sung in French – and small groups of people – who looked and sounded local to me – chatting, either at tables or by the bars while they enjoyed theri beers. The style? Sort of upper class gone seedy, rickety chairs, wooden tables and benches with the upholstery falling apart.

A very nice Christmas beer on tap,  Busch Noel. Sweet, nutty and warming. A dry finish of cinnamon and hops. Do I have time for one more? Sice the service is so speedy, I have a bottle of Cuvee des Trolls, too, a well balanced Belgian blond.

This was a nice oasis to sip a glass or two, particularly in contrast to the pretentious brewpub I blogged about a few days ago. Actually, this would be a fine bar to go with a bunch of friends and drink one’s way slowly through the beer list as the night creeps slowly towards morning and the demands of work and other duties are a light year away..

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Bring your own … pub?

The good people at the Evening Standard, who for quite a few years have been much more readable on the web than on old-fashioned paper, informs me that there is a new New Zealand pub opened in London, and I certainly intend to pop in next week.

The pub consists of two forty foot containers shipped all the way around the globe, and is unlikely to win any design award for its exterior. Maybe all the available designers were busy designing Peter Jackson films? Anyway, the containers have been placed on top of Temple tube station, which means I don’t have to wander around dark street in the rain with my battered A-Z to find it.

There is praise for the beer:

Was it worth the journey? In our opinion, it certainly was – the beer is excellent, all thoughts of gassy, pissy liquids dismissed on the first sip – and there’re five beers to choose from. The beer of choice appears to be Speight’s award winning Gold Medal, but our favourite was the malty Old Dark.

CLIENTELE: blokes, mates
NEAREST STATION: Temple station

I promise a report, maybe even a photo or two if the interior is as classy as the exterior. But Stonch, I really trust you to keep us updated on gems like this!

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New York beers

Another reason to start saving up for a transatlantic ticket: The New York Times writes about beers from New York in their travel section this week.

A sample:

O.K., so New York isn’t an internationally celebrated beer capital. But microbrews and craft beers you won’t find in much of the country are sold throughout the city, in flavors ranging from subtle to walloping (but skewed heavily toward walloping). Sure, you might find Saranac and Brooklyn Brewery beers in a state near you, but others are not available in much of the country; one of the state’s finest breweries, Southampton, just made it into its ninth state, South Carolina. Not bad.

(Careful readers may cry hypocrisy, recalling that in August, “Weekend in New York” celebrated cheap beer, mostly of the corporate swill variety. But can’t a Kobe beef snob enjoy a Quarter Pounder once in a while?)

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This is a rather new establishment, but interior architects have clearly made sure that it looks like it’s been around for a century or so. I’m sad to report that it will not be around for much of this century, either, unless they get their act together.

Given its location, I’d guess it’s crowded in the high season, but it was not when I popped in. I got a sampler of 3 of their beers for € 6, which is not bad. I got the wit, the blond and the brown, the amber not being on.

The blanche had a sweet banana aroma, a little citrus sting in the tail, but rather boring. The blond was off. There was an aroma of rotting vegetables dominating the aroma, so it was impossible to finish the sampler glass.

Finally the brune. Syrupy sweet, like they took a beer and filled it up with syrup. Sorry, but this is not good enough!

There was loud Adult Contemporary music as muzak, and it managed to be rather smoky despite being almost empty.

You get some nice nuts to nibble on, I’ll give them that. And if you, even after reading this, end up stranded there, they have some bottled beers, too. Have a Kwak!

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Brussels: Bier Tempel

On my last visit to Brussels, I had some time of my hand, which meant I could go to Bier Mania to do my shopping. It is not far out of the way, but this week it was outside my scope.

There is, however, a good alternative in the touristy center, just a few blocks away from the Grand Place – Bier Tempel. I have been there before, a few years ago, and it is no mean substitute.

You’ll find hundreds of beers here, too, exclusively Belgians. Christmas seasonals, blonds, saisons, wits, dubbels, trippels, quadruppels and what have you. And the prices are on the whole very decent, a number of beers for under € 2 and Westvleteren 12 for € 6.95, which is far below the competition. No other real rarities that I could see, but most of you should be able to find something new here.

The stream of tourists passing by makes sure there is a market for gift packs of beer and glasses, of books, bottle openers, t-shirts, watches etc. A very broad range of glassware, too.

I did not have time to browse, as I was expected at dinner in an hour. So I just picked a few more bottles than I could reasonably drag with me. Conscious of the luggage limitations, I stick to small bottles this time.

Good service, there seem to be more people working there now than three years ago. Then the shop closed at ten to seven, as the lady working there had to catch her train home. That’s Belgium.

The address is Rue du Marché aux Herbes 56b. No web site. 

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I like Brussels

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say I love Brussels. It is not necessarily a city I would like to live and work in. But it is a city I enjoy visiting, and where I still have much to explore.

I like the mussels, I like the chocolate. I like the mix of the European institutions and local everyday life. I like the decent public transport and good service in a city that has lived with a multilingual and multicultural population for decades.

I like the people going about their daily business despite their politicians being unable to form a government. It is true that the contact between the two language groups has probably not been the best over the years, but it is encouraging that so many fly the Belgian flag from their windows and balconies to show that their nation is worth saving.

I like the well functioning Brussels airport, where you still can get old fashioned dishes like gratinated endives in the cafeteria, even if the only beers available after security are produced by the AntichristInBev.

And I enjoy the contrasts. Just a block or two away from the gigantic EU buildings you feel you are in a small village somewhere, with small shops and workshops where people have pride in their craft and their products. And there are small cafes offering a glass of Steendonk Wit, a very refreshing wheat beer tasting of coriander and citrus, before you hurry back to the next session of your meeting.

There are broad boulevards and cobblestoned alleys, there are tourist traps and real bargains. And there is beer and knowledge about how to serve it.

I will have some more details about places to go and places to avoid over the coming days, but there was one thing that I missed, as the opening night is on 7 december. The Delirium Cafe is opening the Delirium Taphouse, with 25 rotating tap beers available. The adress is Getrouwheids gang, a dead end alley right above the Delirium Cafe.

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I seldom praise Carlsberg, but it looks like they will be launching their House of Beer concept in Norway in the near future. This would not impress anyone from countries with a broad range of beers available, but if this means more choice for the Norwegian drinkers, they are very welcome. It seems to me that a strong importer/wholesaler is needed to actually get the beers into the state monopoly shops, too, as the small ones struggle to adjust to such a large player in the market.

The beers they offer in Denmark include hand picked beers from micros like Nørrebro, who are also negotiating with them to be distributed in Norway, as well as interesting beers from Germany, France and the US. Some boring standard beers, too, but they are presumably in it for the money…

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