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Posts Tagged ‘brewing’

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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If you want a look into the perspectives of the Scandinavian beer industry, check out the web pages of the Scandinavian Brewer’s Review, where a number of their articles now are available online.

Thanks to beerticker.dk for making me aware of this.

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Good new from the British Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA):

 

In marked contrast to the decline in volumes reported by national and global brewers, the local brewing sector grew by a total of 10 per cent in 2008. Of this, three per cent was contributed by new brewers not operational throughout all of 2007, leaving ‘like for like’ volumes up by an impressive seven per cent.

 

The growth of the local brewery industry has been achieved through both increased distribution  – the average number of pub customers per brewer grew from 79 to 94 last year – and increased rate of sale –  throughput of local beers grew by an average of nine per cent over the last two years. While draught ale, through the pub, is the mainstay of the local brewer, accounting for 86 per cent of volumes, bottled beer is growing fast. Last year, bottled beer volumes increased by over 50 per cent, which helped to grow total sales turnover by an average of 20 per cent.

Cheers!

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I have written about the joy of drinking properly treated cask ales recently – and about the misery of drinking beer that’s gone bad. Or course this is more of a challenge with a fresh brew that is exposed to both oxygen and other dangers, but there are lessons to be learned about other types of beer as well.
 
I usually do not let an opportunity pass to make fun at the expense of the big players in the beer industry. One thing that the macro brewers and distributors should have some credit for is that they have professional quality systems in place that makes sure that their product will be of consistent flavour and quality – a reliable pint, however dull it may be for the more critical drinker.
 
But making sure that the beer is in optimal condition also applies to bottled beers. Now, a pasteurized pilsener can take any amount of beating as long as you chill it before brewing. But with a bottle conditioned beer you have to be more careful.
 
Beer raters and tickers (sure, that includes me, too!) tend to congregate to have tastings of a fair number of beers. My crowd here in Oslo is usually able to limit the number of ratings on a given evening, but do we serve the beers in prime condition? I think as a rule of thumb, the beers to be tested should be allowed to rest for at least a week in the cellar of the host of the evening. I have seen ratings of beers that I have felt were in top form that others were less happy about –they would probably have been given better grades if they were treated a bit more carefully – to leave sentiments to settle and to cool slowly to a proper temperature. The worst places for this are probably the European ratebeer gatherings, where beers are shuffled around in backpacks and crates for days before being served far too warm.
 
I was reminded of this when I read the newsletter from the Copenhagen beer speciality store BarleyWine today. They write about the eagerly anticipated Dark Horizon Second Edition from Norwegian Brewer Nøgne ø:
 
Some of us/you may have tasted it at the Copenhagen Beer Festival. It was a big disappointment for me there. It was served far too warm by the producer, meaning that the alcohol was too prominent. The other underestimation of the public at the festival was that it was poured shortly after a drive of 500-700 kilometres. It applies to real craft brew – as for top wines – that they, even more than humans, need to calm down and rest and then appear after the worst stress is over…..
 
.. I had the opportunity of tasting DH#2 right after it arrived in Copenhagen about a month ago. It made a better impression than at the festival; at least it was served at the right temperature. But, even at that time it was freshly bottled and agitated by the trip from Norway to Denmark. The weeks it has been resting, thanks to the Danish bottle deposit systems and other bureaucracy, it has developed splendidly. It is getting ready for drinking, but everybody being able to do so, should make sure they can enjoy it at least a couple of times a year until 2020. It is by this pleasant exercise one will experience or revive the pleasure of becoming more mature.
 
I don’t necessarily endorse every word of this, and I neither have the funds or the cellar for laying down a few cases of the brew. But I felt the same way about this beer in Copenhagen; it was much rawer and less refined than DH#1, which I had enjoyed under more controlled conditions. I have a few bottles on order, and I will make sure they are allowed to rest before they are opened. I think Christmas Day, with a good book and a few walnuts, will be a way of giving enough time and showing the proper respect.

 

A note: BarleyWine goes on to praise the beer:
 
It has all the nuances a stout should have. A clear hint of coffee, a sublime dark chocolate aroma and, not the least, taste. But also, in the Christmas season, lots of Christmas fruit like figs, plums, apricots, raisins and cinnamon. The hoppy bitterness is present, but fully anonymous as it should be when it discreetly keeps the sweetness and alcohol in their place. This genius of craftsmanship places both the brew and the brewery in the very top of North European breweries.

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