I will not go into details about every visit abroad in 2008, but I want to mention some new beer experiences. I have been to all of these cities before, except Riga, but not necessarily with an emphasis on beer. And yes, I’ve been to Italy, England, Ireland and other countries, too, even if they did not make the short list.
- I went with my family to Riga early in the year. It is not a sensational beer destination, but there are very decent lagers to be found, from light session beers with a hint of honey and a full grainy flavour to Baltic porters that have made a revival. Good beery food, too, especially the buffet restaurants.
- I have been to Berlin twice during the year, and I was pleasantly surprised. There is a fine range of brew pubs scattered around the city, but with logical, fast and clean public transport, you can cover quite a few, even if time is limited. One of the natives found the idea of blogging about beer fairly stupid when I explained it in rather rusty German. I particularly enjoyed Südstern, with delicious food and guest beers in addition to their own.
- My last visit to Prague was in the mid Eighties, a gloomy city under the iron heel of their Russian masters. To return on a lovely summer day to the Golden city that has returned to its rightful place among the free nations touched my heart. It is a cosmopolitan place, too, I particularly enjoyed a whirlwind tour of some beer bars with Max the beer philosopher. I can assure you I will not wait decades before returning!
- Copenhagen hosted a major European beer festival in the autumn. Lots of fine beer, remarkably well organized despite an unexpectedly huge turnout. I enjoyed the social side of it, too. Lots of the ratebeer people from Denmark, the UK, Sweden, Norway, the Irish Craft Brewers… A fine opportunity to chat with brewers and other professionals in the industry. All in all a splendid event. I was hoping for a repeat in 2009, but my informers tell me they will probably return to a smaller format festival in May. This is run by volunteers, and having a huge festival every year is stretching it too far.
- It’s been more than two decades since I was in New York, too, ad I enjoyed my return very much. It is a fantastic beer destination, where all types of restaurants having fine lists of draught beers and even modest delis have several dozen craft beers in their fridges. Some outstanding beer bars and specialist bottle shops, too. I’d jump on a plane right away if I had the opportunity . Favourite? The Ginger Man.