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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.

Cyprus 1

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.

Cyprus 3

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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This winter has seen a heated discussion about the acess to Norwegian supermarket shelves for small producers of beer and food. We are down to three groups of retailers controlling 99% of the market, and I would not be surprised if we end up with just two within five years or so. A major reason for this is the customs barriers, particularly for meat and diary products, which makes it impossible for European retail chains to establish themselves in Norway and enjoying the benefits of low costs for Pan-European products. LIDL gave it a try, but gave up after a few years.

The smallest of the three, REMA 1000, has, to a lot of ridicule, decided to cut down on the number of breweries they want to give access to their shelves. The big acror benefiting from this move, Carlberg, is sitting very quietly, hoping no-one will notice the elephant in the room.

This has, of course, been discussed a lot on Facebook, and I agreed to chair an event celebrating the diversity of Norwegian beer as a contrast. This was arranged by Gulating Trondheim, one of a chain of specialist beer shops who now number almost 20 outlets.

We decided to focus on beer for  the Trondheim region, Trøndelag, and ended up with beers from 21 breweries. We could have included more, but 22 samples was probably enough. (There were two beers from both To Tårn and Røros).

 

These were the breweries:

Austmann
Bryggeriet Frøya
Fjord Bryggeriet
Hognabrygg
Inederøy Gårdsbryggeri

Kolbanussen Mikrobryggeri
Klostergården
Lierne Øl
Moe Gårdsbryggeri
Namdals Øl
Reins Kloster
Rodebak
Røros Bryggeri
Røros Bryggeri
Stjørdalsbryggeriet
Stokkøy Bryggeri
Storm Brygghus
To Tårn
Valset Gårdsbryggeri
Ølve på Egge

Tommy at Gulating was the one really doing the job here, and it was a great afternoon. Børge Barlindhaug, head brewer at To Tårn brewery was also present, bringing samples of his most exclusive beer. This was a beer brewed with the bacteria culture used for the blue mould cheese Selbu blå, which turned out great.

Just a few days before the event, it was announced that Mathallen, the food hall where the Gulating shop is situated, have to move out of their premises to make way for a discount store. In fact, out beer tasting was the last evenet taking place at Mathalle. Too bad, but a nice way to say farewell.

And if you know of somewhere in Trondheim that could be suitable for a beer shop, pleas get in touch with Tommy!

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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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TrondhjemsamplesBeer blogging and beer book writing are two different worlds. When I blog, I write, find an appropriate photo, run the spell checker, do some metatagging and push the publish button. There is even an automatic tweet function.

Book writing has a number of different stages. Fact finding, the actual typing, finding illustrations, proofreading, page proofs etc.

And then the promotional stunts.

The book is due from the printers Friday 23 October. The same day I will be on stage at the What’s Brewing Festival in Stavanger. I am trying to figure out what to say to the crowd that afternoon, I hope to make this a conversation between me and somebody else, I’m not very good at standing up talking.

Thursday the following week has the Christmas beer launch of the Norwegian Brewer’s Association, where my publisher has a stand among the beer stalls. Then the last plane of the evening to Trondheim, where I am due in a radio studio the next morning at eight, talking about the beers of the region. I hope to fit in a newspaper journalist at lunchtime (though he doesn’t know it yet). Onwards to the Trondheim Public Library, where I give them a copy of my book. Good for Facebook, hopefully for their Facebook page as well.

A tasting in the evening with breweries and beers from the local area at Mathallen Trondheim and a signing session at the Gulating beer shop the next morning.

The week following I’ll have an event at Verkstedet in Oslo, with a capacity of 50-60. This will be a combined book launch and tasting with five breweries presenting one beer each and joining me on stage to talk about them.

I hope I will convince a few confused souls to buy the book after all this. But what do I know about publishing, marketing and what have you. I’m just a beer drinker.

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The CASC blackboard

There is a fair number of bars in Aberdeen, my research made me have a closer look at three of them, and then I stumbled across one more..

CASC – short for Cigars Ale Scotch Coffee, was visited twice. Once during a very quiet lunchtime hour, when the very few other visitors were still into the coffee part of the name. BTW, it looks like they take the consonants seriously, too. There is a humidor that looked impressive.

The beer means a large number of fridges with bottled beer as well as 24 keg lines. Lots of English, American and German beers, even a few from Norwegian Lervig. What I missed was a wider selection of Scottish beers, but maybe they feel that there are others who take care of that side of the market.

Revisited in the evening, fairly packed with a young crowd.

This bar probably has the best selection of beer in town, but go in the early afternoon to enjoy them. Centrally located in the rustic Merchant Quarter.

Bottle Cap is a brewery and a bar. They serve very basic food, too, in case you want to line your stomach. Their own beers were underwhelming. I tried three of them, and the general feeling is that you are being served home brews that did not turn out quite all right. Drinkable, but with an aroma that was quite unpleasant. Not a must stop.

Six Degrees North is next door, but in another league. They call themselves the Belgian brewers of Scotland, but there is more to the place than that. Note that the beers are not brewed on the spot, so this is more like a brewery tap than a brewpub. Not that it really matters much.

A blackboard, which you will not see on your way in, you have to turn around and look above the doorway once you are in the main room, shows the beers on tap, including a handful of their own beers. Once seated, you can have a look at the bottle list, which includes hundreds of Belgian beers . Some of the Six Degrees beers are in the classic Belgian styles, others more crossovers like Belgian IPA and Belgian DIPA. Fine beers, and fine Belgian cooking, too. This one should be on your Aberdeen shortlist.

If that’s not enough, there is a bottle list, too.

Worth mentioning is the Triplekirks, yet another church turned into a bar. The beers were fine, but there was a studenty competition going on that was extremely noisy.

Time to call it a night, as the next day was the big event – the BrewDog brewery visit

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I thought I would stick to Norwegian beers this spring, book writing and all. I was wrong. When I got an e-mail telling me BrewDog wanted to fly me to Scotland to visit their brewery, I was not difficult to persuade.

So, last Thursday, as the pubs were opening, I found myself on Union Street, Aberdeen. One of the places on my list was just a few minutes from the hotel, and it came recommended by the taxi driver that took me in from the airport.

The Grill does not look like much from the outside. It probably had a more elaborate sign, perhaps windows with frosted glass and more trimmings some decades ago. Some details of hops and grapes shows that this was more upmarket in another age.

A look at their web page – I was surprised they had one, shows a long history, the name unchanged since it opened as a restaurant in 1870. Their claim to fame, however, is of another kind:

When the pub reopened after the 7-month long refurbishment, (in 1925) John Innes hung a sign in the window which said “ No Ladies, Please”. For nearly 50 years this remained the policy, despite an invasion by female delegates attending the Scottish Trades Union Congress at the Music Hall in April 1973. This demonstration made front page headlines in the national press and the police had to be called to disperse the thirsty ladies!

It wasn’t until December 1975 that women were officially served in The Grill, following the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. This was followed sometime after by the construction of a ladies toilet in 1998.

Going inside, it is a well kept pub. Nothing fancy, but tidy and clean. No signs of any food, let alone a grill, though, this is a place for drinking. A place dominated by regulars, good atmosphere, where people are greeted on their way in and their regular is poured right away. Local beers on several hand pumps.

I ask for an American APA from the Windswept brewery. The adult lady tending the bar asked if I had tried it before, and offered me a taster. This was apparently a bit outside the mainstream of their beers. It was pouted expertly, topped up and served with a fine head. The cask gives smoothness, but there was a fine bitter mouth feel, too. Malt, caramel, oranges, discreet pine. And APA? The cask treatment makes it difficult to say. An ESB with American hops is perhaps more correct.

A quite small bar, I looked in later, and it was more packed in the after work rush hour. Personal and attentive service. Some serious drinking old men, some reading their paper, some chatting. Not the cheapest place in town, but certainly not the most expensive.

I liked this place. No pretensions, polite service, well kept beer. But I would not be surprised if it was replaced by a fake Italian place with over priced coffee the next time around. I don’t know if Union Street will keep its name either, come to think of it. Go while you can.

Windswept APA

A proper pint

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Last week I was at a low. No photos were coming in, I really doubted if I was able to follow the schedule. Now the dropbox icon on my computer is living its own life, telling me about documents popping in.

And then there are all the great beer people getting back to me, explaining why they are busy. Most do brewing as a second job. One of the brewers is having a full-time job, running for mayor in her municipality and still finds time to brew and distribute beer. She sends e-mails at five in the morning. One is a sheep farmer, and explained that he had to get through the lambing first. Those who have hotels, catering or restaurants have one of their busiest seasons during May and June.

So my next challenge is to process all the material, to get back to those who have given their input and make sure I got things right.

But the second half of this week, I’ll be doing something completely different.

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