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Archive for the ‘pubs’ Category

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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I am not doing a year in review thing this year, just catching up on a few things I never got around to covering.

While staying in Antibes in July, there was some interest in getting away from the beach and doing some sightseeing. As there was a tiny principality with good train connections about an hour away, we decided Monaco was the place to go. And as I had thought about this beforehand, I knew where we were going for lunch.

Brasserie de Monaco is on the waterfront, with fine views of the yachts of the rich and, presumably, famous. Considering the surroundings, it is a inexpensive place to lunch, and the local tarts and cheeses from the snacks menu were really good. Those of the company who ordered burgers seemed content, too.

The beers? Three of their own brews on tap when I visited, nicely presented in sampler glasses. A wit, an amber and a pils. the amber claiming to be the honey ale brewed at the White House. Rather bland stuff.

I’m sure there might be better beer bars in town, but I did not have time to look for them. You will want to sit down and relax at some point, and it is unlikely that you’ll find a better lunch at a reasonable price in the harbour area.

Easy to find, by the swimming pools.

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There’s a room in a house in a street in a manor in a borough
That’s part of a city that is generally referred to as London
It’s a dark place, a mysterious place
And it is said that if you’re born within the sound of Bow-Bells
You have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner
[It's a cruel place, it's a hard place]
But when you think back to all the great Londoners
William Blake, Charles Dickens, Dick Whittington,
Pearly kings, barrow boys, Arthur Daley, Max Wall
And don’t forget the Kray twins.

Ray Davies –London Song

I make no claim to have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner. But I used to visit London at least annually.

A week every year.

For decades.

I explored the city. On foot, by bus, by tube. I went on guided walks, I bought guidebooks.

I explored the pubs in number of boroughs, usually sticking to Young’s Special or Fuller’s London Pride.

But times changed. There were pubs with a broader range of beers. There were beer festivals. Utobeer and the Rake offered exiting American import beers. BrewDog entered the scene. Young’s disappeared.

The last four years I have only visited once. I have tried to follow the developments, but I cannot claim to have my finger on the beer pulse of London the way I used to.

Time to do something about that. Time for a pre-Christmas visit. In particular, it is time to get so know some of the dozens of new London breweries that have emerge over the last few years. Many of them are clustered in East London. Hackney seems like the centre of gravity right now. And my research shows that on the weekend I am in town, there are two events in the area worth visiting in addition to breweries, pubs and brewpubs.

There are four of us from Oslo going to London for an oval weekend. The other three have more knowledge of beer and brewing than I do. But I know a thing or two about advance planning.

We are talking Friday 6 December, starting at lunchtime. Anyone is welcome to join, get in touch about more exact timing.

Start: Old Street Tube Station.

Or Shoreditch High Street, if that’s more convenient.

There used to be a rather good beer shop around here some years ago, carrying the Pitfield range of beers brewed to classic English recipes. That’s history.

But we have a good alternative. The first stop is a something really special. A pop up beer shop.

The Wanstead Tap is a moveable feast,  selling beers at festivals, farmer’s markets and other event. It  has settled for two weeks in 87 Leonard Street in Shoretditch.

As far as I can understand, the concept is simple: Bottled beers from the London breweries. According to the East London and West Sussex Guardian, this is a case of true love for beer: A father of two has given up a successful career in television to dedicate his time to promoting beers brewed locally. I have already asked him to reserve something specialfor me. Have a look at the Facebook page if you are looking for something out of the ordinary..

I haven’t been to any of the BrewDog bars yet, and BrewDog Shoreditch is just up the road. 51 Bethnal Green Road. Maybe a swift one? www.brewdog.com

 

The question is if the Redchuch Brewery on 275-276 Poyser Street is worth a detour? I may be convinced. On the other hand, their beers might be available later in the day, too.

I think we will jump on a bus going north. Just before the road crosses the Regent’s Canal, the first brewery of the day is Hackney Brewery, just to the left. in Laburnum St. They don’t seem to be open to the public, but I have e-mailed them.

The next stop is across the Canal. It used to be the home of Beawertown Brewery, but they have moved on. But Duke’s Brew and Que is still the brewery tap. And, dangerously, they have around ten of their beers on keg or cask. Not to mention bottles.

I think I’ll have a Bloody ‘Ell Blood Orange IPA.  

Adress: 33 Downham Road, De Beauvoir Town

After this it is probably sensible that we strech our legs, and our next target seems to be about a kilometre due east. Perhaps we will walk along the towpath.

London Fields Brewery has a core range of session beers and more challenging stuff in their Bootlegger Series.
The brewery and brewery tap: 365-366 Warburton Street. Gift packs of beers to take away are available.

If the weather and overall condition is up to it, we can continue walking. The alternative is to get on a bus along Mare Street towards Central Hackney.

Pressure Drop Brewing is located in a railway arch, but don’t have a brewery tap. I think we’ll have a fair chance of sampling some of their beers in the Cock Tavern, which I seem to recall as a rather grim establishment in its previous incarnation, but presumably gentrified along with the rest of the area. According to the Craft Beer App, there are chances of us finding beers from the otherwise elusive Happy Collie brewery from West London there. And, conveniently, the Cock Tavern has its very own Howling Hops Brewery at the premises. 315 Mare Street.

Just a few minutes away, Five Points Brewing is close to London Fields station. I thought I would e-mail them to ask them if they want visitors. But I don’t think we will be up to a serious presentation of a brewery at this stage.

It’s dark by now. But the Pembury Tavern, across the street, is like a beacon. It is actually the only stop on the route that I have visited before. 16 hand pumps, including a fine range from the Milton brewery. 90 Armhurst Road.

The sensible thing now is to return to wherever we came from. Eat some junk food and go to sleep. But there is a beer festival. The City and East End CAMRA Pig’s Ear Festival. With lots of one off beers from London breweries. It’s in an old chapel (!) in Powerscroft Road. Lots of friendly natives. Come on. Just for a pint?

London Beers listed for the festival include brews from

  • Beavertown
  • Belleville
  • Brew by Numbers
  • Brew Wharf
  • Brodies
  • By the Horns
  • Clarkshaw’s
  • Crate
  • East London
  • Five Points
  • Fourpure
  • Hackney
  • Howling Hops,
  • Kernel
  • London Brewing
  • London Fields
  • Moncada
  • Partizan
  • Pressure Drop
  • Redchurch
  • Redemption
  • Strawman
  • Tap East
  • Truman’s
  • Weird Beard
  • White Hart
  • Wild Card.

That makes 27. And, while there is no way to know which beers are on at any given time, there should be enough for even the most enthusiastic ticker.

Even the affectingly mentioned Pitfield from the beginning of this ramble is listed with a few beers. They have made festival one offs for Pig’s Ear for many years, now they are being brewed somewhere in the countryside.

The festival will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, which advocates the use of wooden barrels as part of British beer heritage.  Several wooden casks will be featured, including a one-off anniversary special 7% classic Red Ale brewed by award-winning Cambridge Moonshine Brewery.

There is food available at a number of the pubs on the route, I suppose we will be snacking along the way rather than sitting down for a proper meal. Scotch eggs, crisps and beer cover most of the basic food groups.

 

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(Norsk tekst nederst)

Halden is a fairly small town in the Southeastern corner of Norway, just a stone’s throw from the border with Sweden.  Of course it used to have its own brewery, which was gobbled up by bigger rivals many years ago. I suspect most of the beer consumed in the area is bought in Sweden, but that has not stopped Joachim Grandahl from establishing a brewpub in the old jail in centre of town.

It’s not just a brewpub playing it safe with a blonde and a brown ale, either, there were seven beers on tap brewed on the premises when I visited, in addition to a few guest taps with brews from other Norwegian micros.

It’s been a tough job getting things up and running – both the paperwork and practical issues.

The beer is brewed on a 500 liter Speidel.

Even if the beers are only sold at the brewpub, it is a struggle to keep up with demand.

I am happy to say that it is a very charming place to visit in the early evening, and the beers have a high standard. Very high, considering how new the place is.

No sampler glasses as yet, but they are under consideration.

The general rule of visiting in the early evening applies here. You have the opportunity to sample the beers at your leisure – and the acoustics in this old vaulted cellar means it can get a bit noisy, particularly at weekends.

Two hours by train from Oslo, about the same from Gothenburg, if that is a more convenient starting point.

Midt i Halden sentrum, i en hvelvkjeller i det som var byens fengsel, har Joachim Grandahl etablert Halden Mikrobryggeri – Den Gyldne Høne. Han brygger på en 500 liter Speidel, og har problemer med å dekke etterspørselen, selv om ølet bare serveres i den egne puben. Anlegget er også en utfordring når man ønsker å brygge sterkere øltyper – men det er i stor grad løst ved å fokusere på smaksrike og spennende øl med lavere alkoholstyrke.

Opp til syv egne brygg på kranene pluss et par gjestebrygg. Hyggelig betjening, som gjerne informerer om de ølene man finner på tavlen.

Hva som tilbys, kan nok variere fra uke til uke. Det var i alle fall gjennomgående høy kvalitet på det jeg fikk servert, og generøst fikk jeg en smaksprøve på hver av ølene før jeg bestilte et par større glass. Vi får se om det kommer mer standardiserte smaksprøveglass etter hvert.

Chili-øl, IPA, wit, krydderøl, brown ale – her er det et bra spekter å velge mellom.

Lokale navn med humor og historikk gir alltid ekstrapoeng hos meg. Her spilles det mye på grensehandel, smugling og slikt, og et øl er for eksempel oppkalt etter Hönan Agda, en velkjent pornobutikk på den andre siden av den gamle Svinesundsbroen. Agda-ølet er forøvrig humlet med villhumle sanket i nærområdet.

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Sometimes you get to go to new places. Not new places on the top of your list of where you’d want to go given time and money, just mundane places. Places you have passed by on a train or in a car, places you would not consider as a destination in their own right.

Södertälje is one of those places. A commuter town for Stockholm, a traffic hub, industry, population about 65.000.

We went there last weekend for a youth sports event, and I did not expect much in the way of beer. But then I started googling.

It seemed there was one decent beer bar in town, and their Facebook page told me they even had their own beer.  Well, there is no lack of pale lagers where you can get your own label, but this looked more promising.  Photos showed the bottle and the label. The Fellowship of Hops Brewing.

A new google search gave me a blog of a home brewer, including an e-mail address. I sent of a question: -Do you brew beer for the 137:ans Kök  & Bar? I got a reply back from brewer Thomas, confirming that he had indeed brewed the beer. The beer was brewed in the pub, which has its own licence.

So. We have a new gypsy brewer and a new brewpub, not registered on BA or ratebeer. I like that.

!37:ans is located in the town center, just a few minutes from the railway station.  It is small, I’d estimate it is full with less than fifty customers. This is a sit down kind of place, and on an early Friday evening, most of the guests were eating. A very comprehensive beer list plus blackboards showing the more rare and exclusive offers – but also a few discount bottles.

The 137:ans India PAle Ale has an alcohol content of 7.4.

Light bodied, pleasant malt character. Nice blend of hops - Citra, Amariallo, Nugget and Hallertauer. Grass. white pepper and herbs. Bittersweet. A very decent all around IPA, not trying for the extreme. I hope to see more beers from Fellowship of Hops in the future!

There are plenty of beers to choose from, the list claims 500. Lots of exotic countries for the tickers, a good selection of trappists, and a number of rare American bottles.

You’ll find it on Oxbacksgatan. Well worth a visit, especially if you are staying overnight.

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New brewpubs and bars opening all the time now, it is important to cash in on the important two months leading up to Christmas.

Grünerløkka Brygghus  has been around for several years as a food pub, with a very decent range of Norwegian micros and quality imports. They have finally sorted things out with neighbours, planning authorities and what have you, meaning that it is now a brewery as well, though the actual brewing takes place a stone’s throw away. Eight of their own brews on tap yesterday, very respectable most of them. A bit pricey.

Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri  is still going strong, by far the best brewpub in town. As they are located in a vaulted cellar, the nice weather this summer has been rather quiet. They will celebrate their third birthday on 1 October with a one-off special beer.  I am happy to see that the new brewer keeps up the same quality as we are used to. Expect 5-8 of their own beers on tap plus high-class imports.

Crowbar  has an impressive list of beers as well,  usually going for interpretations of classic beer styles. High standard, and I believe the place is very popular. Go in the afternoon if you want to enjoy your beer quietly. Lots of interesting imports there as well. Pricey.

Amundsen Bryggeri og Spiseri has a sister establishment, Nydalen Bryggeri og Spiseri. They will be brewing both under the Amundsen name and some of their own, I believe. Makes more sense to brew on the (relative) outskirts of town than using floor space for this in downtown Oslo, if you ask me. 3-4 of their own beers on tap. a good range of Norwegian guest beers, extensive bottle list.

If you want to make a crawl, you can start at Nydalen, then walk along the river to Grünerløkka, about an hour in a modest tempo. The rest of them are then within ten minutes walk of each other.

There is a new grocery store in Storgaten with Russian and Eastern European food. With our licensing laws, there are no regular beers, but they carry two varieties of kvass, which is always a good thing.

The supermarket Centra Colosseum used to have the broadest range of beer in Oslo. it is rebranded as Ultra, and has no beer selection to speak of. Try Meny Oslo City for the best range of beers below 4.7%ABV.

Nøgne Ø Wet Hop is the beer to try right now, made with fresh hops within a few days of harvesting. On tap at Cafe Sara and Crowbar.

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Regional belonging is a concept I struggle with as a Norwegian. The main reason is probably that we are just too small as a nation to develop much of a regional identity in the modern age, apart from speaking our own dialects. In some ways we are more of a Norwegian region in a Nordic context.

I spent a few weeks in Munich this summer as a participant observer, taking part in a work atmosphere  - in an actual office, not an international conference. This also gave me the opportunity to seek out a fair number of licensed establishments in my spare time. This made me realize that there are strong similarities among Bavaria and Italy when it comes to pride in their region and its produce.  It does not stop at the regional, but keeps going further - you also have a loyalty to your sub-region, etc down to your tiny village.

If you can source it locally, you don’t need to get anything from the next town.

Obviously this does not encompass capital goods, shoes, clothes and so on. But it is deeply felt in food and beer.

I get echoes from  my old anthropology lessons here. There seem to be different spheres. There is the hi-tech Germany. The Germany of BMW, Siemens and what have you. This is the economic tugboat that tries to make the rest of Europe move along, grow and prosper.

At the same time you have this fascination for the local. For the village where you grew up. Where the traditional values are honored. Where they raise the maypole outside the inn as they used to do.

 

I looked up Heimat, which is a term that is at the core of this. Heimat has no English equivalent. It has to do with ancestry, community and tradition. It has to do with nostalgia for a life that has been lost – torn apart by war and dictatorship and later slowly eroded by economic forces or a government somewhere on the Rhine, or, more lately, the Spree.

We don’t have the word in Norwegian,, either. but it is a real factor for us, too, just beneath the surface. Our two referendums on membership in the European Union shows that Heimat  and the contrast it offers to those who rule you or want to rule you trumps all other arguments when you really mobilize.

But back to the Bavarians and their regional cuisine. The menus are spelling it out. Bavarian asparagus. Bavarian beef and pork. Bavarian trout. Even vegetarian dishes turn up to be focused on Bavarian spuds and leaves. The Hofbräuhaus in Munich has a podcast that manages to find new angles every month. They often focus on where their vegetables, beef, cheese and lettuce come from, interviewing the farmers, who are not only Bavarian, but preferably live in Upper Bavaria.

Why is there a brewpub in Munich airport and not anywhere else? Look closer. Sure, they brew beer. But they also boast that 85 per cent of their supplies come from regional produce.  Just what you need. It is the last and first stop of your trip to foreign lands, Prussia, or even further away.

There is a tragedy at the core of this. The attempts to build a national identity in the 19th and first half of the 20th were not successful. Even cheering for your national football team is a fairly recent event here. German patriotism has been deeply stained. So one has to look inwards, closer to home, to find identity. Living in a federal state with lots of decentralized power in regions larger than many European nations strengthens this trend, it actively encourages it. If you cannot fly your national banner, you can be proud of the Bavarian white and blue.  And, in a land of agricultural plenty, let’s be proud of what we can produce. Which is a lot.

In a European market overflowing with cut-price meat and vegetables, butter and beer, the regional authorities and trade associations play on this sense of region and Heimat. Be sure to ask for Bavarian quality. Accept no substitutes. Other countries celebrate their days of liberty, of liberation or victories at land or sea. The Bavarians celebrate the Reinheitsgebot of 1516.

Sure, there are plenty of Italian restaurants. There are kebab shops on the corners, sushi conveyor belts and cheese counters in the big supermarkets where you can find Italian and French specialities.  But the beer is most likely from the local area, even Getränkemarkt bottle shops will have a very limited range of beers. I managed to track down two beer shops in Munich with a broad range of beers.

A broad range means hundreds of different beers. Did I find any imports? About a dozen. BrewDog, Corona, Guinness and Pilsner Urquell. No Belgian, no English, no Italian beer.

If you look closely, you will find a few IPAs and imperial stouts, but they will be from Bavarian breweries. The innovation in the beer field is coming from small breweries in the region, which pose no danger to the big players. Speciality beers still basically mean beers from tiny family breweries, the most daring of them  using smoke malt or having the rebellious streak of offering a Dobbelbock out of season. There is some hope in reports that the big supplier of malt in the region, Weyermann, actively encourages upstart breweries to look beyond the standard range and brew pale ales or other varieties. But you’re not likely to find a trace of these beers when you look at the statistics of annual consumption.

So, the important question: Will this change over time?

My guess is that the changes will come very gradually. There is some distribution of innovative bottled beers, but I don’t think they will rock the boat.  What is needed is someone with financial muscle to establish something that could have an impact in Munich and create a buzz.

A Munich brewpub with a beer garden with ample seating for all seasons offering a broad range of beers with inspiration from Belgium and the US could do the trick. But someone with more knowledge about real estate in Munich than me should do the math.

I could be greatly mistaken. Things happen fast in the beer world. Maybe there will be a BrewDog bar and a Mikkeller Biergarten challenging the culinary conservatism in a year or two. But I think the odds are better for changes from within.

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There was no Biergarten weather in Munich that afternoon, but it was perfecly pleasant for a stroll. Avoiding the main avenues around my flat, I came across an old graveyard. The Südlicher Friedhof is a beautiful place, where nature is slowly taking over. Crumbling memorials in marble speak of families long gone, ivy and other greenery creep slowly forward. Is seems like a long time since anyone was buried here, though some of the memorials are in better shape than others.

A large gravestone stands just by the path, and the title catches my eye. Bierbrauer. It even gives the name of the brewery, Bierbrauer zum Sternecker. Johann Baptist Trappentreu. Not only a brewer, but also a Rittmeister. He died in 1873, 77 years old, but someone has made sure his memory has not faded away as his neighbours in the cementery.

The Sternecker Brewery was located in Tal, close to where the present day Schneider Weissbräu is located. According to Wikipedia, there is documentation of a brewery on the premises way back in 1557.

Long after Rittmeister Trappentreu had passed away, the brewery and its brewery tap got famous. When you google Sterndecker Brauerei, most of what you get is Nazi memorablia.

The Sternecker brewery was the venue for regular meetings in the Nazi party from 1919, and a party museum was established on the premises in 1933 by Hitler himself.

The building survived the war, but the Gasthaus was closed in 1959 and the ground floor was used for shops.

Today there is an autorized Apple dealer on the premises. But if you look down the alley on the side of the building, the Beer and Oktoberfestmuseum is down in the alley. In Sterneckerstrasse. So there is some kind of continuity after all.

This is a beer blog, and I have no ambitions to make comments on world history or grave matters concerning the future of the planet. But sometimes the beer and the breweries are interwoven with history, in particular in Germany. You cannot pretend that there are dark shadows behind the present charm. This is not so obvious in Bavaria as in Berlin. But it is there if you look a bit more closely.

Rest in peace, Johann. It is certainly not you fault that, almost 40 years after you passed away, you brewery was home to evil deeds. I have no wish to see the brewery rebuilt. But maybe someone should plant some hops by your memorial?

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