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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

I spent some days in Cyprus earlier this month. There are good beers to be found, but don’t expect much of the local brews.

This was no beer trip as such, but obviously I kept my eyes open for interesting beers. I last visited ten years ago, and what I found was a brewpub in Limassol brewing just one pale lager .

I’m sorry the photos in the old post are no longer visible, Photobucket is charging a stiff yearly fee for sharing photos which are not worthwhile.

This year I stayed in Larnaca – with a one day excursion to Nicosia. I start with my apologies to the brewpub Pivo in Nicosia, it was way above 40 degrees the day I came to town, so I had to return to the coast before opening time. I have every reason to believe they have good beers.

So. The 1900 Art Café Bar has a bar downstairs and a restaurant upstairs, crammed with posters and paintings. A fairly typical Cyprus menu, I had a very nice lamb and spinach stew. A good selection of Belgian beers, some other imports, but the only domestic beer was KEO. A fine place, I hope they can encourage some domestic breweries to make beer for them in the future.

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The main beer bar in Larnaca is the Barrel House, tucked away in a courtyard off the pedestrianized Ermou street. A quiet spot in the afternoon and early evening, getting more noisy later. A well curated beer list, including a few Greek craft beers.  De Molen, Flying Dog, Kaapse, Kees, Thornbridge and De Dolle are among the breweries in the menu. And they are quite explicit: Please note we do not serve beers such as Amstel, Budweiser, Carlsberg, Corona, Fix, Heineken, Keo, Leon, Stella Artois etc. I hav a Viven Master IPA, brewed at De Proef for Beer Development Viven. A light, fruity beer, quite sweet. They could have called this a Belgian Blond instead, but it’s a nice beer.

Free snacks on one of our visits, a deli counter with meat and cheese if you want to eat more. Very good service. Ask if they have something new that’s not in the beer list.

A few yards away is the wine shop Cava Spiritology, which also carries some beer. There are splendid Belgians like Westmalle Tripe and Roedenbach Grand Cru, but also some Cyprus craft beers. I tried a few, but they were not too impressive. The brewery is called True Ale, they have five beers, of which I tried their Blonde Ale at 2,5% and  their Pale Ale at 3%. It is difficult to brew good low alcohol beers, I think they would be better off going for stronger beers. The shelf life of this Ale is virtually limited It says on their bottles. It is most certainly not, especially not in this climate.

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Nevertheless, there are good beers to be found here, including a premium, well hopped lager from the Greek Delphi brewery. It is a very good shop for wine also, ask for recommendations. I bought a few bottles of an excellent Lebanese wine we had earlier at a seafront restaurant – the meze at Maquam al Sultan was the best meal in town.

Then to the big disappointment – The Brewery. Presenting itself as a brewpub in a prime spot in town, they even offer a sushi/Thai buffet once a week. I was very disappointed by both the food and the drink.

There is what looks like brewing equipment on the first floor, but on closer examination it is fake and dusty. It turns out they have never brewed beer on the premises at all. Our waitress tells us they buy the beer from Germany. On the plus side you get a sampler set of the beers for free, but the beers were all very dull. Pretending to have a range of nine beers, and pricing those at three times the going rate of domestic brews is not acceptable. The buffet was not up to much, either, even when the restaurant was half full, the cooks struggled to keep up with demand, and the cooking was very basic.

Cyprus 2

I can recommend Larnaca as a holiday destination. The beaches are clean, the service is generally very good, the food is of high quality (though there is a tendency to deep fry similar to Scotland) and people speak good English. And the widely available national lagers, KEO and Leon, are pretty good, I found that Leon had a bit more flavor. There are import beers, too, including some cans with pretentions. Like in Italy, some people think that a German-looking Omlaut is a sign of quality. Insëlbrau was the local example.

Cyprus 4

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Today I link to an article in the Spectator. Ted Goldsmith Points out that there is a good reason for many pub closures – they were dreadful.

A landlord can preside over civilised ambience — with proper beer, no fruit machines and chairs made for comfort — or he can pump dance music through the stereo and offer two-for-one shots of Jagermeister to punters seated on working recreations of medieval torture devices. Of course, some pub ‘managers’ are only obeying orders — but really good pubs are run by people who know what they are doing and can call the shots.

 

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The beer scene in Berlin has been developing fast over the last few years, with micro breweries, contract breweries and beer bars popping up all over the city. I’ll get back to that.

Today I’ll just mention the one factor that will really change the European beer scene, the Stone Berlin brewery.

I hope to get back to presenting the brewery itself later. Today I’ll just recommend vising the bar and restaurant. This is an old brick building converted in a grand manner, with space for hundreds of people. When the outside space is developed, this will also be an splendid place on summer evenings.

You don’t have to splurge on a meal, just sit down at the bar and sample some of the beers. Some are exclusives brewed here, some are barrel aged rarities from the Stone catalog. Some are guest brews from across Europe.

A total of about 65 beers on tap, if I remember correctly, so it could easily turn into a long evening.

A gift shop with their canned beers and various merch, too.

It’s in southern Berlin, some distance from the nearest U-bahn stop, but there are buses. Google maps will help you find the way.

The really good news for everyone, if we are lucky to get to Berlin or not, is that we get fresh beer from the Berlin canning line across Europe. Right now there is a Christmas stout available.

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“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

We all know this, of course. And Norwegian craft brewery Færder Mikrobryggeri decided to brew one beer named after all the three gifts as their seasonal offering. Gull, Røkelse and Myrra in Norwegian.

Røkelse, frankincense, has a Norwegian name with association to smoke, so this beer had to have some smoke malt. It ended up at the top of the list at the most comprehensive Christmas beer tasting, hosted by regional newspaper Adresseavisen.

Færder Mikrobryggeri is a family business, with Mathias Krüger as head brewer. He is educated as a medical doctor, put has put his career on hold to follow his passion for brewing. His parents are also very involved in the business.

You’d be very lucky to find a set of these beers now, but other Færder beers are broadly available in Norway and on the Color Line ferries between Norway and Denmark. And during  the summer moths, they have a pub in the back yard of the brewery in Tønsberg, a town about an hour by train from Oslo. And it’s right by the railway station.

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I aim to publish short daily pieces during December, let’s see how it works.

I haven’t read Henry Jeffreys Empire of Booze so far, but it is certainly on my own wish list. It was recommended on the BBC Food Programme (you should subscribe to their podcast)

As a side interest, this book was successfully crowd funded, but that should not distract you from the  contents. This is about how Britain created the first global drinks. The India Pale Ale is in it, obviously, and I don’t know how this retelling will hold up to the scrutiny of historians like Martyn.

But what caught my interest was the story about Sir Kenelm Digby, the inventor of the modern wine bottle. It made possible the production of champagne, but they started out as bottles strong enough for sparkling cider. The cold climate made it impossible to make domestic wine, and wars with France, Spain and the Netherlands put a stop to imports. Cider was then embraced as a substitute. You can read this fascinating chapter online.

From the book:

Other members of the Royal Society in London took an interest in apple growing, cider making and putting fizz in the bottles. The greatest minds in the country turned themselves to perfecting this home-grown product. It was soon noted that the bubbles would be all the more vigorous if extra sugar was added to fuel the secondary fermentation. John Beale from Herefordshire cider country and formerly of King’s College Cambridge read a paper to the Royal Society on 10th December 1662 in which he describes putting a ‘walnut of sugar’ into bottled cider. This is about 20g of sugar, roughly the amount of sugar (‘dosage’) added to modern dry champagne.

You can buy this from amazon, but the authors Unbound page offers more alternatives.

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We had decided that Oranienburg was a promising destination for a day out from Berlin. A shining renovated palace, hopefully a picturesque town, too. And I had a lunchtime spot penciled in.

It’s about an hour’s train ride from central Berlin by the rather slow S-bahn, with nothing spectacular to watch along the way. Some of this is rather drab DDR suburbia, probably better to be seen in midsummer.

The town of Orianienburg is not much to write home about, either. Seems like half of the shops and cafes on the main street at named Am Schloss, showing where the focus is.

The palace goes back to the 17the century, and our guide took us through the centuries, starting with prince electors who were pretentious enough to make themselves kings of Prussia. Beautiful tapestries and paintings have survived burning, looting and warfare, while there is not much original of the building itself.

Photographs are not rnormally allowed, but when we were shown the beautiful 30 liter beer glass (with a small tap on the side for cheaters), I asked in my best German if they could make an exception. Permission granted.

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I bought a booklet in the souvernir shop on the way out – Beer and winemaking in Brandenburg. The man behind the counter gave me a piece of advice:

-Frankly, the wines of the state of Brandenburg are not up to much. But there is some really good beer here, I would recommend the Schwarzbier.

Time for lunch at the Alte Fleischerei, as the name implies, the old butcher’s shop. Very good food, I had a slow boiled shoulder of mutton – Lammhaxe. With this a glass of Oranier, a local beer from a brewery as yet undocumented on Ratebeer. But  frankly, the beer was not up too much. So I wouldn’t make an excursion just for that!.

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There is no lack of beer books, even in Norwegian. Some retell the old tales, some are national versions of multilingual books. But, once in a while, something genuinely unique comes along.

Author Lars Marius Garshol (disclaimer: I am proud to call him my friend, even though I have not been involved in this project) is a well-known name in beer circles. He has been blogging in English for a dozen years, illustrated with his excellent photos, sharing intelligent journalism and analysis.

He has also done an amazing job documenting Lithuanian traditional brewing, in spite of linguistic challenges, resulting in a self-published book in English – Lithuanian Beer – A Rough Guide.

But now he has looked closer to home, where there are other treasures to be documented. The result is just out: the book Gårdsøl –literally Farmhouse Ale.

Some of his source material has been published before, but mostly in obscure and long out of print publications. More important, he manages to tell the story both on the micro and the macro level. This is done by alternating the style of the chapters of the book between journalism/participant observation and historical or other scientific overviews.

Lars Marius manages to convey his great enthusiasm for the brewers he meets and the traditions they share with him. And while the broader picture is well written and educational, it is the living tradition, often spiced with local dialect words that illustrate the process, that makes this book really shine.

The book gives an overview of brewing in various parts of the country, climatic conditions and traditions vary widely. Norway has a tough climate, and wheat was never an important crop until very recently. That means that barley and oats were important for food in most of the country, and in lean times there was not much left for brewing.

The book is richly illustrated, both by diagrams of brewing processes and the author’s photographs. This visualizes both what he observes today and it gives the opportunity to show old brew houses, beautiful drinking vessels and more.

If you want to try brewing in the traditional way, or at least get inspired by it, there is plenty of documentation for that as well.

Two important aspects of Norwegian traditional brewing have been kept alive in different parts of the country, both described in detail in the book.

One of them can be found in the fjords and valleys of the Western coast, with a epicenter at Voss – kveik. These are local yeast strains, some of them in symbiosis with bacteria, which behave in mysterious ways. They work at high temperatures and give complex aromas in the beer.

The other is the malt of the Stjørdal region. Farmers grow their own barley and malt them in small scale malt houses. The malting takes place using smoke and heat from local alder wood, giving a pronounced smoky flavor to the beer.

Could I ask for more? The original manuscript was much longer than the published book, so perhaps a directors cut as an e-book sometime in the future?

And yes, this important part of the Norwegian brewing heritage also calls for an English edition. But, knowing the author, he probably wouldn’t want anyone else to translate it. We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, check out his blog, where there is a lot of information to be found in English.

And maybe we’ll do a blog collab about the commercially available beers using stjørdalsmalt or kveik, Lars Marius?

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