Thursday, 14 December 2017

Golden Pints 2017

Last year I tried my hardest to write my Golden Pints and ended up giving up because it was a year in which I did so much and visited so many different places so I just couldn't make any decisions. This year I've possibly visited even more places, and tasted even more beers so it's still difficult but I'm determined to get something down.

Best UK Cask Beer:

Honestly, I'm still drinking less and less cask beer than I ever have in the past although I've still drunk a lot of it. Here I could just default to a beer that I know I've loved for ages, but I won't. The cask beer from 2017 that really sticks out in my mind is Elusive Brewing Level Up Red IPA; I spent a night in the Plasterers for landlord Craig's birthday a few weeks ago and he'd invited Andy from Elusive down to Norwich along with Iain from Wild Weather to host a tap takeover, and out of all of the great beers I tried that night I just kept going back for Level Up with its juicy, tropical and almost dank and sticky hoppiness paired with a strong red malted backbone. I went back the next day for more, naturally.

Other notable cask beers I've enjoyed a lot are Grain Rye Pale, Almasty Session IPA and Tiny Rebel Juicy.

Best UK Keg Beer:

This is an easy one given my love for quality lagers... Lost and Grounded Keller Pils is as good as any top of the line lager I've had in Germany. It's crisp, fresh and highly smashable. I just wish it was available on tap here all of time.

Other notable keg beers from this year are Thornbridge Lukas, Adnams Earl Grey Lager & Three Blind Mice Juice Rocket.

Best UK Small Pack:

To be honest I'm pretty much blind to whether a beer comes in a bottle or can; it really doesn't matter to me so I don't think it's necessary to have separate sections like many people do. Fourpure Juicebox has been outstanding every time I've had a can of it this year because it does what it says on the tin, it's bursting full of hoppy fruit juice flavours but isn't overly sweet so I can literally chug a bag of cans.

I've had a lot of other great small pack beers too obviously, with highlights being Burnt Mill Pintle, Magic Rock Shredder & Weird Beard Gumball.

Best Overseas Draught Beer:

This is possibly even harder than the British section considering I've spent 5 days in Prague and 16 days in Germany this year (as well as a few hours in Austria) and have had the pleasure of visiting many little towns and villages whilst I've been there.

The thing is, as many decent IPAs or other non-traditional European style beers I've had it's the lager I go to the mainland for. It was only this year that I first tried Tegernseer Hell (Germany) and it fast became a favourite after finding a bar in Munich in May where I sat alone chugging pint after pint at the €2,50 Happy Hour. It's just crisp, refreshing and so chuggable because in Germany the beer is never overchilled.

Other highlights were Orcabrau Wanderlust (Germany), Permon Cryohop Mosaic (Czech Republic) & Mahrs U (Germany).

Best Overseas Small Pack:

I'll be damned if this isn't one of the easiest sections, even though I've been spoiled rotten with even more great bottled and canned beers from abroad. When I visited Stiegl Brewery in Salzburg for a day back in May I was lucky enough to try some rare bottled beers from their cellar. The beer that absolutely blew me away was Stiegl Jahrgangsbier 2015 - Sonnenkönig II (Austria), a tequila barrel aged double witbier. Holy fuck, it was beautiful. You could taste the barrel ageing and sweet agave from the tequila which married well with the classic orange and coriander flavours of a witbier. I only had a few mouthfuls in the tasting cellar but popped the cap back on and snuck it out with me, only to drink the rest on the train back to Munich.

Some other packaged overseas beers I've really enjoyed are Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout (USA), Evil Twin Old Fashioned Lemonade IPA (USA) & Berliner Kindl Pilsner (Germany).

Best Collaboration Beer:

I've got a bit of an issue with collaboration beers unless it's for a particular special event, but I'll save that for another time. One thing I'll say though is that I've probably had tons of collaboration beers this year, but they're not always labelled properly in pubs.

My favourite has been Duration / Left Handed Giant Strategic Partnership which I spent an evening drinking with Bates & Miranda from Duration. It was murky as hell, and juicy as hell. Would totally drink again.

Other notables include Duration / Deya This Ain't My First Rodeo & Brewdog Berlin / BRLO Dr Frank's Happy Pils.

Best Overall Beer:

Lost and Grounded Keller Pils. Just send a keg to my house please.

Best Branding:

The new Suffolk brewery Burnt Mill have awesome branding. The keg badges look great and the cans look even better.

Best UK Brewery:

This is bloody difficult but I reckon Magic Rock because I will order one of their beers every time I see it on keg or cask, and grab their cans every time I see them. They're just consistently good and have a broad range of beers.

Honourable mentions for Thornbridge and of course Oakham.

Best Overseas Brewery:

Again, I've been spoiled this year but I'll go for Pivovar Matuska (Czech Republic). They brew hop forward beers like Raptor and Apollo Galaxy IPA and I'll order them every time I see them. In fact this year in Prague I think we walked about 2 miles to a bar we'd not been to before just in the hope they had a Matuska Beer. They did.

Special mentions for BRLO (Germany) & Stiegl (Austria).

Best New Brewery Opening:

I've really been impressed with two new breweries locally - Burnt Mill & Ampersand and can expect to see big things from them in the future. And of course you have to look out for Duration because if their collabs have been anything to go by...

UK Pub/Bar of the Year:

The Plasterers Arms in Norwich, obviously. Everything from the best cask & keg beers in the country, to the biggest bottle list in Norwich that's packed full of rarities from around the world, the frequent tap takeovers, the delicious pizzas and the complimentary rude service from Craig, the Manager makes it the best pub in Norwich.

Other pubs I enjoyed drinking were The Stoneworks in Peterborough and Brewdog Norwich.

Best New UK Pub/Bar of the Year:

Downstairs at Hawthorne in Norwich. It's not a craft beer bar and primarily a cocktail bar, but they do have decent beers like Trumans Lager on tap. Besides, mine's an Old Fashioned.

Best Overseas Bar of the Year:

The Muted Horn in Berlin was an absolute standout bar for me this year... 22 taps of incredible craft beer from all around the world at reasonable prices in the heart of Berlin along with the friendliest service we got in Berlin.

Other overseas bars I absolutely loved were Klub Malych (Pilsen) and Pivovarsky Klub (Prague).

Best New Overseas Bar of the Year:

I have to pick Beertime in Prague for this one because we stay in Smichov every time we go to Prague and up until now, the immediate area to where we stay has been devoid of craft beer up until now. Prices were reasonable, the courtyard was sunny and you can get a pint of Double IPA served in a Nonic pint glass for around £3.

The only other I can think of is Boeheim Bierhalle in Nuremberg which was great.

Best Brewery Tap of the Year:

Obviously Stone Brewing World & Bistro in Berlin. 75 taps of deliciousness in a massively awesome space. Only downside is how far out of the centre it is!

See also Schanzenbrau in Nuremberg and Stiegl Brauwelt in Salzburg.

Best Beer Festival of the Year:

I've already written about this but BRLO Brwfest is exactly how it should be done. We had an awesome day there, drinking beer from all around Europe in the sun with new friends.

Supermarket of the Year:

Without a shadow of doubt it's Marks and Spencer. They seem to have cut their range down quite a bit now, but it's for the best because they've really looked at which beers sell and focus on them. Plus they're making waves with selling full cases of beer from the likes of Fourpure and Adnams, which is a tick in my book.

Independent Retailer of the Year:

I am so, so happy that ABV Store opened on Norwich Market this year because it's an absolute blessing. Dan mostly only ever seems to buy one case of each beer which means that almost every time you go in there you'll find something new, but on the flip side if you miss it and it's only a special you'll miss out. Thankfully it's right in the city centre so I can visit on my lunchbreak. Norwich has needed a central bottle shop forever.

Best Beer Blog or Website:

Mate, of course it's Mark Johnson with his blog Beer Compurgation because he's a bloody good and passionate writer, and 99% of the time I can't disagree with anything he says.

Shout out to Andrew Fitchett with his blog Hot Break, too because he's the other Norwich Beer Blogger!

Simon Johnson Award for Best Twitterer:

I'm gonna go for Pilot Brewery because they're just hilarious. I'll leave you with this tweet below:

And I think that's it for this year. I drank so many great beers, in awesome places with some really nice people and it was just so difficult trying to write this in the first place. See you soon for more blogs.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Pubs of Norwich: The Dyers Arms

This is a series of posts where I am planning on visiting every single pub in Norwich regardless of any preconceived views about them. Even if I have been to a pub previously, I won't blog about it until I revisit it for this specific purpose.

It's one of those pubs that nobody has ever heard of unless you've lived near it; it's been there for years, so what's it like?

The Location:

It's on a street corner near several other pubs, and a couple of kebab shops in the Sprowston area of Norwich.

The Pub:

It's grotty and grimey, not exactly small and has a double sided bar, a dart board, a TV and weird seating around the edges of the room instead of in the middle.

The Food & Drink:

Any hopes of a gastronomic or craft experience can go out of the window, and on my visit you couldn't even hope for a brown, twiggy real ale as both hand pumps looked like they haven't seen any use since the conception of CAMRA 40 odd years ago.

The keg taps were blessed with delights such as Carling, John Smith's, Kronenbourg and Theakston Mild.

No Guinness on tap here, but there was a surger on the bar.

If you're wishing to dine, you're in luck because you can have a probably out of date packet of crisps or nuts.


Late enough on a weekend night you'll probably see a lot of eventful happenings, but a tap takeover it is not. I was told once by an ex-colleague that about 20 years ago he was at his girlfriend's house one night and decided to run across to the pub to buy a packet of condoms from the vending machine; he walked in and someone hit him with a bar stool. Never found out whether his condom mission was a success.

Oh, they show sports too. Unclear whether they actually pay for a Sky TV pub license.


Whatpub describes it as "a homely, cosy & friendly pub" but I would certainly not. It's grim and dusty. Not been cleaned since 1963. 

My Visit:

I walked in and got weird looks; I stepped up to the bar and scanned the taps before ordering a pint of Carling because it doesn't seem like the kind of place where you're allowed to order a half. Once the locals (who were shoving as much double cheap spirit and coke down their necks as possible) realised that I'm not a cop, it was OK but still weird.

I took my pint of Carling outside in the cold and stood at a bench that looks like it'd collapse beneath me if I sat on it and contemplated the fact that I never really have any intention of returning.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Pubs of Norwich: The Fat Cat

This is a series of posts where I am planning on visiting every single pub in Norwich regardless of any preconceived views about them. Even if I have been to a pub previously, I won't blog about it until I revisit it for this specific purpose.

Of course the first I start with is an easy one as it's my local; it's a pub I've been going to on a regular basis ever since I was first legally old enough to drink alcohol, and now it's my local being a 2 minute walk from my house.

The Fat Cat is a pub that every fan of real ale has heard of, from Penzance to Dundee, and indeed I've met people from outside of the UK that has heard of it's legendary status.

The Location:

The Fat Cat is located on a street corner just off of Dereham Road in Norwich, on the corner of Nelson and West End Street. It's easily a 15 minute walk from the city centre.

The Pub:

It's a fairly spacious pub with tables on the street outside, and plenty of seating inside including a back room which they open on busy evenings as long as it's not hired out for a private event.

Everywhere you look, the pub is covered in vintage breweriana and advertising from Black Cat Cigarettes, original Bullards windows that are still intact, and old Adnams signage. Looking up at the ceiling you'll see tons of old serving jugs and tankards hanging there.

Food and Drink:

It is primarily a traditional real ale pub so on the bar you'll find 12 hand pumps, along with another 15 beers served from gravity. The Fat Cat owns its own brewery so you'll usually see at least four of theirs on the pumps which start at a reasonable £3ish a pint for their Best Bitter (oh I remember when it was £1.80 and I'm sure some people remember when it was even cheaper). They always have a good selection of almost every style you can think of on cask, so there really is something for everyone. Usually you'll find Oakham Green Devil, something else local from Adnams or Lacons, and treats from further afield like Dark Star or Marble. If you're lucky they'll be serving Bass on gravity.

Moving on to the keg taps, they have 6 taps that always serve Belgian fruit beers, a standalone ornate Erdinger fount, a group four lagers/ciders which delightfully serves Budvar and 4 taps dedicated to craft keg. Usually a good mix too, but nothing too crazy or expensive and usually contains something from Marble, so I'm happy.

There's not much in the bottled selection anymore, a few Belgians and Sam Smiths but when there's so much choice on draught that's not an issue.

They also have a large selection of real ciders, a small selection of wines and some spirits for those not into beer. Soft drinks come in the form of cans of coke, and a selection of more interesting canned soft drinks.

Good luck if you're hoping to get a decent meal here because you have three options for food, just as an old fashioned pub does: Crisps, mighty pork pies and, if you're lucky, hand made cling film wrapped rolls which run out VERY quickly.


You don't really get events at the Fat Cat because it is what it is... just a pub. Although they'll usually do something like dedicate a certain amount of pumps to a certain brewery to coincide with Norwich Beer Festival, like recently they had Timothy Taylor Week.


You'll be hard pressed to find a time when it isn't busy, and when you don't struggle to find a seat which is usually the mark of a good pub. In the summer, you'll see people lined up on the curbside outside, hoping their pint glass doesn't slide off the window ledge, then diving for a bench the moment it looks like a group is moving on.

My visit for this post:

It was relatively quiet for a Friday night and we managed to get a seat without any hassle. We noticed that they'd decided to get in on the trendy mulled cider game, which Sammie indulged in, whereas I had my standard couple of pints of Oakham Green Devil which was a very nice drink and went down well.

All in all, the Fat Cat really is a must visit pub for anyone coming to the area.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

How to Visit Prague (and not get ripped off)

For those who follow my blog, you'll know that I love Prague and indeed every Czech city I've been to. It's an awesome country with great architecture, nice people and cheap beer but there's an issue - like any touristy city, there's a massive issue with people getting ripped off.

If I had a Czech Crown for the amount of times a friend or colleague comes back from Prague and boasts about only paying 99 crowns for a pint, I'd have enough to buy a pint in a respectable pub or hospoda that doesn't rip people off.

While on the face of it paying the equivalent of £3.50 doesn't sound that bad, it really is. I frequently tell people that the most expensive normal lager in the Czech Republic is usually Pilsner Urquell and even so you should never be paying more than around 50 crowns (£1.70) for a pint of it.

Yes, I know, people reading this blog who went to the Czech Republic 20 years ago will be flabbergasted that the price of a pint is that much these days when it was previously only about 10p a pint but that's what happens - inflation and the weak pound - but it's still cheap if you know where to go and what to do.

Arriving in Prague:

It is most likely that you'll arrive in Prague at Vaclav Havel Airport and I would strongly advise against using the taxis that are parked outside because they will rip you off. There is also an Airport Express Bus that goes directly to the main train station but it is not cheap, in fact it's probably about £8.

You can use public transport although it will consist of a bus and then an underground journey which isn't too helpful if you have luggage with you, so your best bet is to use Uber which will probably cost around £8 to the centre which isn't too bad if there are more than one of you.


DO NOT CHANGE MONEY AT CHEQUEPOINT. This is literally the worst thing you can possibly do as a tourist in Prague. They advertise 0% commission, but they literally give the worst rates ever because where you'd usually get around 28 crowns to the English pound these days, you'll be lucky to even get 20 here.

Of course there are honest currency exchanges in Prague but it's much better to exchange your money before you go, at somewhere reputable like Eurochange or Debenhams.

Also, whilst you can buy things using Euros in the Czech Republic, local currency is cheaper. If you look at a bill in a restaurant and convert both crowns and euro currency into English, I can guarantee the price you pay in crowns is better for your wallet.

Old Town Square:

Old Town square is pretty; there's no denying it. It's fun to see the Astronomical Clock, then take a walk over the beautiful yet horrifically busy Charles Bridge but you see that pop up police station right in the centre of the square? It's there for a reason. It's there because the area is rife for pickpockets. You won't see them and you won't feel them slide your wallet out of your bag or pocket until you go to pay for something and boom, you'll notice it's gone.

The shops of old town square are a rip off too. Want a traditional Czech gift to take back to your mum? Well it'll cost an extortionate amount and is actually made in China. Go find a farmers market instead to find some genuine hand made gifts to take home.

Beer & Food:

Of course I wanted to go a little more in depth about the beer situation since this is a beer blog, but I'm also going to include food. This basically follows on from what I was saying at the start, and about Old Town Square.

When walking around Old Town Square or up near the castle (the two main tourist areas) you will see several things...

Kiosks: These kiosks primarily sell 3 things - Trdelník, Prague Ham and Drinks. All of these things are a rip off. Trdelník despite all of the signs is not traditional Czech dessert; its origins are unknown but it's suspected to be Hungarian. Prague Ham, whilst delicious and is well worth eating, is a rip off from these kiosks because the price advertised is actually only for around 100g, not a portion so they'll pile it up and guess what sucker? You're stung with a bill for 300 crowns and you'll have to pay it. Drinks are extortionate too as they'll charge you probably 100 crowns for a 330ml can of deliciously warm Pilsner Urquell that you're not legally allowed to drink in public.

Restaurants: If it boasts about selling "traditional" Czech cuisine in English and/or the menu has pictures on it STAY WELL AWAY. There are several restaurants in the touristy areas of Prague that like I said above will charge you a horrific price for beer but that's not all. The food is crap and massively overprice - whilst a main meal in a real traditional Czech restaurant would cost you around 125 crowns, these restaurants will charge around 300 crowns whilst also sneaking a massive service charge and cover charge on you.

Instead of visiting the kiosks and restaurants around Old Town Square, just walk a couple of streets over to Dlouha to visit Sisters for a delicious open faced sandwich topped with Prague Ham or anything you can imagine; and pop to Lokal for a cold, reasonably priced pint of tank fresh Pilsner Urquell with some delicious Czech Cuisine. Lokal is a small chain of maybe 5 restaurants in Prague and you can't go wrong. There's also one at the other end of Charles Bridge - U Bile Kuzelky, on Misenska.

There you go, my top tips to avoid getting ripped off in Prague. Of course this is not a comprehensive guide but just a few observations that I've made when I've been there and also a couple of bits that I've borrowed from Honest Prague Guide on YouTube because they're great guys, doing a great service to stop people from getting ripped off.

I have plenty of other blog posts about good places to eat and drink in Prague, including posts about craft beer bars where the £3.50 a pint is justified so take a look at the rest of my blog!



Friday, 28 July 2017

BRLO Brwfest 2017 - A Craft Beer Festival for All

BRLO is a small craft brewery located in 38 shipping containers not far from the centre of Berlin. They brew a range of beers similar to what craft breweries in the UK & the USA are brewing such as IPAs and Pale Ales as well as more traditionally German beers such as Helles and Berliner Weisse.

I first discovered BRLO Pale late one night in Kaschk in Berlin last August and I fell in love; it was definitely one of the best beers I had of that trip so we knew we had to visit the brewery bar when we were in Berlin last month.

We discovered just before we went that our visit would coincide with their Brwfest celebration - a mini craft beer festival where they'd invite some of the breweries they're friends with to come and pour their own beers in the yard of their Brwhouse. They'd invited 11 of their friends - 9 of which from various countries in Europe including my friends 40ft in the UK, Edge from Barcelona and White Hag in Ireland as well as three new German breweries - and had various street food and music things going on.

As y'all know, I'm a beer festival skeptic but since we were in Berlin and planning on heading to BRLO at some point anyway we thought we'd check it out along with Canadian Chris.

The most important thing that struck me when we first got there is that despite there being a craft beer festival going on within the confines of the brewery, you could still just go there and drink BRLO beer from their own bars as you would on any given day. Whenever I've seen similar events at UK breweries, regular drinkers who don't want to take part in the festivals have to elsewhere. I absolutely loved this approach that doesn't exclude regulars who just want pints of BRLO beer.

For those who wanted to get involved, you'd pay €5 for a special festival glass which includes a token for a 300ml pour from the hosts BRLO and having that glass allows you visit any of the craft breweries who were pouring at the festival. Prices were good, typically being €1, €2 or €3 depending on the size of pour you wanted... yes, it was possible to get a full grown up glass of beer at a craft beer festival!

I started by cashing in my BRLO token straight away and had their German IPA which was a dark and chewy caramel based IPA with plenty of tropical fruits going on in the background. Very enjoyable and somewhat of an English/American IPA cross.

Next we dashed across to White Hag an Irish brewery whose beers I've enjoyed before both in Dublin and Munich to try their Little Fawn session IPA that The Beer Nut had previously said I need to try, and it was a nice and light IPA. I could have had several, alas there were more beers to try including Edge Gose Margarita that Sammie got a goddamn it, it was like if a margarita and a beer were to bang and have a beautiful baby.

We popped to the bar next door to see 40ft Brewery from Dalston where Tanya whom I'd briefly met before at 40ft's Technoberfest last October. We chatted about our love for the London beer scene and how Braumeister Ben is a legend and she kindly gave us a free beer! I went for the Pale Ale which I'd not had before and it was fruity with a solid malt base whilst Sammie went for Larger, an awesome German style lager that I've previously drank loads of. Sammie wasn't really feeling lager so I finished hers, with great pleasure.

Next we dashed back across the other side, trying to avoid getting hit by kids playing cornhole (they beat Chris) and I went to the Stone Berlin bar and had a large glass of the Go To IPA, another session IPA that I absolutely love. Sammie berated me for my boring choice of beer because I drink it all the time. Sammie was slightly more interesting and went for Motel Beer Purple Noon, a grisette which is a lesser seen beer style. It was spicy, fruity and a little funky. Very enjoyable!

We then noticed a sign saying we were at the meeting point for brewery tours and it was the right time so we figured it'd be nice to see the brewery. The lovely Devin (whom we'd met before at BKL) turned up along with other people who wanted to join the tour, whilst he had to make the decision of whether the tour was going to be in English or German! Luckily everyone in the group could at least understand English so we went along with the tour. See, they say that once you've seen one brewery you've seen them all but it's not about that. It's about meeting the people and hearing the story. Besides, it was a bloody beautiful brewhouse! Devin was funny and engaging and a great host!

Near the end of the tour we got to try a brand new beer that was almost ready to come out which was a pale ale with tea, and it was absolutely delicious.

My next stop was at Norwegian brewery Bevog's bar where I had Rudeen, which was honestly one of the best Black IPAs I've ever had. In another not-so-surprising twist, Sammie had yet another sour beer in the form of Jopen Coastal Gose from the Netherlands and it was honestly one of the saltiest beers I've ever had. I don't think I could have handled more than a sip!

Yet another IPA for me, Kinn Vestkyst (which I'm assuming means West Coast in Norwegian) and it was one of the beers of the day... as juicy as you'd want from the style. Then out of nowhere OH MY GOD SAMMIE IS STILL ON THE SOUR. Back to Ireland for this one... The Puca Dry Hopped Lemon Sour from White Hag was lemony and acidic and delicious.

Just one more beer to finish our trip and I went Spanish with Ziggy a session IPA from Barcelona's Edge Brewing. It was soft and citrusy and basically the youngest brother of their DIPA i'd had before. I don't even need to tell you that Sammie drank Kennedy a berliner weisse from Schneeeule which again was ridiculously sour!

By this point we'd drunk loads of delicious beers so it was time to head off for some food. We toyed with the idea of going back but we were knackered and went back to our hotel.

It was genuinely the best craft beer festival I have ever been to and if they do it again in 2018, I can guarantee we'll be back!

Thanks for an awesome day, BRLO!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Prague 2017 Day 3 - Viewpoints, Weird Donkeys and Vietnam

Day 3 started much the same as any other with us moaning about hangovers before making sandwiches at the apartment before heading out.

We decided to head up to Letna Park because we'd not been there before and we'd heard it has great views over the city (also, beer gardens.

We jumped off the tram somewhere in Holesovice near the Generali Arena where AC Sparta Prague play, and for a team that I've seen play champions league games I was surprised how small their stadium is. I guess ice hockey is more their thing since the TipSport Arena where HC Sparta Prague play is massive.

We wandered through the greenest space we'd seen in Prague, the large Letna Park and found the Metronome where there was skateboarding and the universal sign for "You wanna buy drugs, fam?" and holy shit, the view was incredible. A wide unobstructed view of the city I love in all its glory.

Afterwards we took a short wander and accidentally found a Staropramen beer garden serving Tankova at very cheap prices, about 32kc if I remember correctly. Despite it only being 11:30am of course I had to have a pint of the 10 degree (which is not the horrible stuff we get here). It was so nice sitting in the scorching sun drinking beers, chatting and smoking cigarettes. Some English girls then arrived who knew ALL ABOUT BEER, it was great because I learned that Corona is from Italy. NOT. We prevailed through their knowledgeable conversation which somehow, effortlessly switched to make-up and I have no idea how. We decided to have another pint with Sammie once again making the mistake of thinking the cider wasn't Kingswood. Obviously it was, to her disappointment.

We decided to head towards The Prague Market in Holesovice with another stop at another beer garden. This one wasn't quite as nice and only had Gambrinus 10 which I actually prefer in bottles and Sammie had a bottle of Frisco which is like a blended fruit cider from the makers of Pilsner Urquell.

We finally found the market and it was wonderful. I felt like I was walking around Great Yarmouth due to the sheer amount of stalls selling genuine knock off merchandise and cheaply made everything, except there were more Vietnamese people than in GY.

We found the food hall which was wall to wall of fresh produce. Fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and the freshest carp you could find... in fact it was so fresh that it was swimming around in the tank still! Next, food was on the agenda, and the only food we could find was Vietnamese, but I was OK with that! I had some curried chicken noodles which were alright, washed down with a can of Gambrinus 10 that boasted 10% extra, whilst I got lost in translation and accidentally ordered Sammie a chicken pho, but it was delicious and fresh so no complaints.

We decided to walk through the housing estates and construction sites of the very quiet Holesovice area towards Pivovar Marina which I'm sure that you don't need to know Czech to figure out that it's a small craft brewery and restaurant next to the water. The restaurant and beer garden are both massive and there's a small, probably only 5bbl brew kit behind the bar. The Holešovický ležák 12 was a delicious unfiltered lager, popping with sweetness and fresh grassy hops whilst Sammie's Marina tmavý speciál 13 was rich and chocolatey.

We got the tram into the centre next and went to another place on our hit list for the week, T-Anker which is a bar/restaurant on top of a rather brutalist looking department store. With the sun shining down on us, and the amazing view over the city it didn't even matter that their house lager was just OK.

Next we were going to meet Adam, Brendon and Bellos somewhere that I would never have chosen before. A well known, misogynistic chain of American bar/restaurants. Hooters. Tankovka Pilsner Urquell and chicken wings were delicious and cheap enough but I couldn't shake the uncomfortable feeling I had being in a restaurant where the management's entire philosophy is for female waiting staff to get their boobs out.

We moved on swiftly to Craft House where we'd been the other night and was handily across the road. They'd shaken their tap list up a bit so there were fresh new beers for us to try. Hendrych H8 is a pilsner that I'd had before and was tasting as delicious as ever. Sammie's Raven Morrigan Irish Dry Stout was silky smooth, creamy and full of chocolate as a beer of the style should be. Raven is one of the best Czech craft breweries out there so I had to grab a pint of their juicy, Casquinox IPA which unsurprisingly was full of Cascade and Equinox hops whilst Sammie had been craving something sour so went for the locally brewed Zubaty Pes Kiwinator which was an uber salty and bitter Kiwi Gose.

We left the guys to their own devices and went somewhere that Sammie had seen online and we'd been recommended before, Pivovarsky Klub. We walked into an incredibly busy tiny bar since the downstairs was closed; the bar man who was doing everything by himself including drinks, glass collecting, glass washing, serving food, seating people, the works was incredible calm and collected, asked us to either come back when downstairs is open or just wait for a seat. Bars of this small size in the UK struggle with even three people on so he was doing an impressive job. Eventually he spotted two seats at the bar so reserved them for us and we jumped in. There's a small but carefully curated tap list of 6 beers, one of which I'd noticed was Benedict Světlý ležák 12 which Joe had recommended me on twitter, and holy shit it was one of the best lagers I had all week. Perfectly crisp and hoppy. Sammie went for Rebel pšeničný which is a perfect banana and clove tasting creamy hefeweizen.

It was with this, we decided to call it a night. Stopping via Tesco and sitting in Sacre Couer park with a couple of beers on the way back to our apartment as the next day was going to be boozy...

Friday, 23 June 2017

Prague 2017 Day 2 - Not Just Pilsner in Pilsen

Waking up with irresponsibly sore heads, we had some breakfast at the apartment and caught the train to Pilsen, a city of a little over 150,000 about an hour and a half on the train from Prague.

I'd been to Pilsen once before, back in 2015 to do the Pilsner Urquell brewery tour which I didn't fancy doing again so this was a trip to see the town and visit some pubs.

First stop was actually the Pilsner Urquell brewery where they were preparing for a performance art festival later that evening. As it was a nice, though somewhat blustery day, we sat outside drinking their ubiquitous beer which I'm sure I don't need to introduce by now.

After that we took a wander over the river, taking in the sights of the beautiful city and found Na Parkanu, a pub I'd heard so much about before since they sell Unfiltered Pilsner Urquell, probably the only place to do so. I'd had it once before, directly in the cellars beneath the brewery but I was underwhelmed with this and that's probably because it's a case of needing the experience more than you need the drug. Next, a poster in the pub caught my eye; it was advertising Master Summer Ale which comes from Prazdroj who make Pilsner Urquell so I went for that. It's great seeing an extremely traditional brewery making their take on a modern craft beer and it not being shit! It was exactly what I expected from a summer ale... citrusy and refreshing. Sammie went for a cider, thinking it wasn't Kingswood but much to her disappointment it was. It just tastes like Apple Tango (which I don't mind so much).

Whilst we were walking towards somewhere else, we figured it'd be hilarious to pop into the British and American sweet shop and to our entertainment found Bud Light, John Smiths and Boddingtons in the beer fridge!

After that we found another little craft beer bar and bottle shop that wasn't on my radar, Pivotecka, so it would have been rude not to stop. Lovely little hipster looking oasis where I observed a mixture of people from two guys who were clearly on a craft beer crawl, to two coders with the macbooks discussing development stuff and a guy who was slightly confused that they didn't sell Pilsner Urquell so made do with another lager. I think there were about 15 beers on tap, which was pretty astounding. I figured it was time for an IPA so I went for Zichovec 15 Degree IPA which was happily drinkable. A little hoppy but more English style. Sammie went for Hellstork Doppelcock which is a honey doppelbock. A little too sweet for my liking.

Next stop was Francis, another craft beer bar which actually sold Pilsner Urquell so I had a pint to which Sammie judge me as she ordered her Zhurak Melounie Oatmeal IPA which I wish I would have had because it was rich with a thick body and a boatload of fruity hops. It actually reminded me of Siren Soundwave.

Back round the corner and we were hungry so stopped for a dirty kebab which was very delicious and wasn't the last of the trip.

Next stop was Na Cepu, another little craft beer bar where I had the Pivečka Cascade IPA as I wanted hops again. It was nice, but not exactly bursting. Sammie had some weird beer that tasted like apples. I wasn't into it.

We walked towards the station and purposefully missed the next train out to go to Klub malých pivovarů which I'd heard was good, and boy I was not disappointed! 8 taps of craft from the Czech Republic's finest. I started with Kout na Šumavě 10 degree lager which was crisp and delicious whilst Sammie had Frýdlant Albrect 12 degree as she'd had the dark version the previous night and enjoyed it. I have to admit I preferred this one. We decided to have one more beer which turned out to be the best I'd had all day, and possibly the best of the trip. Permon Cryo Hop Mosiac was a punch in the face with mosaic hops, citrusy, bitter, toasty, juicy. Basically it's 100% what I want in a beer and I should have had another pint. Sammie had a bottle of Sedmy Schod because she has one of their beer mats but hadn't tried it before. I wasn't a fan; it tasted like one of those old American imports.

Next stop was the train station and we had some beers on the train and got off at Smichov. We wandered across the river and went to (A) Void which describes itself as a floating gallery. The atmosphere here was banging, with music and dancing which was nice considering everywhere we'd been in Pilsen was dead. We had a couple of beers here, but just relatively boring Lobkowicz lagers but remember what I said earlier about needing the experience more than the drug? Well that. We absolutely loved sitting in the scorching sun, drinking pints and listening to music.

More craft beer next as we found Kulovy Blesk where I found what I think was my only Matuska beer of the trip, their wonderfully summery and hoppy California whilst Sammie went for Bad Flash Hop Wings IPA which was equally tasty.

And that was day two, more beeriness, more cheeriness but a different city to explore.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Prague 2017 Day 1 - Monks & Craft Beer

Ah, the now annual trip to Prague. A wonderful occasion as it's one of my favourite cities. The old world style buildings, mixed with modern architecture. I love it.

Usually we don't arrive until quite late at night but this time we opted for an early flight meaning we could get there in time to enjoy our first day. Obviously an early flight means a mandatory 6am pint of Adnams Mosaic at the airport too, which is always a delight.

We landed at around 11:30am and got an Uber to the apartment we were staying in, but we were too early for Check-In so we decided to pop to our local for the week... Smíchovská Krčma. It's a small, and cheap, pub and restaurant with a half constructed back garden in shade of the sun. The beer selection is the same that you'd find in many Prague pubs with the likes of Pilsner Urquell, Radegast, Kozel Cerny and Gambrinus of course. Obviously I opted for the crisp and refreshing Pilsner Urquell which was probably the cheapest PU of the trip at 39kc for a half litre which was perfect on a hot day. I went on to have three before check in.

Our apartment was still being cleaned at the time of check in so we dropped our bags and decided to take a wander for a beer or two and groceries.

The next stop was an old favourite, Bernard Andel, which was the quietest I've ever seen it and it led me to wonder if people even drink on a Sunday. I had the Unfiltered 12 Degree which was colder than the previous Urquell and delicious as always, whilst Sammie opted for a bottle of their new IPA. It seems that Bernard are trying to get all modern on us! Their IPA was nothing to speak of; it was probably more English style with its sweet maltiness and no hop bitterness to speak of.

On the way to Tesco and back to the apartment, we stopped at the very new Beertime... CRAFT BEER HAS FINALLY HIT SMICHOV! 14 taps of modern craft beers (and the occasional craft lager). I went for a half litre of the locally brewed Sibeeria Lollihop IPA at 6.6%, mostly because of the novelty name but it turns out it was a nice little juicy banger full of fruity hops and was served in a nonic glass, to my delight. It also seems that Zichovec Pina Colada Cream Ale, which was very sweet and creamy and tasted a bit like a pina colada. It wasn't for me, but Sammie loved it.
Czech craft breweries are being as playful as the likes of Omnipollo as Sammie went for

Decided to have a couple of beers at the apartment next, one of which was Tesco Finest Unfiltered Lager - yes, even Tesco is getting into the craft beer own brand game over there! It's unclear as to who brewed it but I was impressed as it's exactly how a porter should be, though maybe a bit thin.

Our next stop was Klasterni Pivovar Strahov, which I've seemed to have missed on my previous two visits. We accidentally sat down on the same table as a gun loving, Trump supporter from North Carolina who despite having been living in Prague for 15 years barely speaks it. He advised me to get the St Norbert IPA because apparently it's exactly the same as Pliny the Elder. Spoiler: It's a really decent beer, strong malty backbone and a nice hoppiness but Pliny it is not. I think I was more impressed with their Weizen that Sammie had.

We walked down the hill next and found another bar from the poplar Lokal chain at U Bile Kuzelky. I think I've talked about Lokal before - they basically just sell Pilsner Urquell Tankovna which is why it's awesome. Enough said.

Next we were going to meet my friend Adam and his merry band of Cumbrians in Vortex bar but it appeared to be closed so we just headed to Craft House, somewhere we'd been before. First Order Green Door IPA was drinkable but nothing special but Sammie's Frydlant Albrecht 12 Katerina dark lager was full of caramel and roastiness.

Afterwards we decided to walk back to Smichov instead of using public transport because Prague is pretty, and that way we'd walk past Hells Bells Rockin' Pub and I can tell you that this time it was not rockin'.

We've always had pleasant experiences here but this time, a different guy was working on the bar. I only realised when I ordered my second drink that he was massively overcharging us by 40kc so we were paying 74kc for a fucking Staropramen. Being slightly drunk I figured I wasn't going to be an arsehole drunken Englishman so we finished our drinks and left before popping across the road to Pivnice U Mejly which is a little oddball 24 hour sports bar we quite like. Here, the prices were exactly how they're meant to be. A solid 31kc for Staropramen 10.

We then decided to go home to sleep as the next day we were catching a train to Pilsen.


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Real Reason Why RateBev is Terrible

This weekend Good Beer Hunting broke the news that an AB Inbev owned investment firm has bought a stake in popular beer ratings website, Ratebeer.

This led to a #Hopinions poll by my friends at Beer O'Clock show asking whether it's a good or bad thing. Here is the poll and my response:

Now I thought long and hard about this after I tweeted it and realised that it's a terrible thing; not for the industry but for the people within the beer community.

The Irrelevant Reason

There was a lot flying around on twitter about how AB InBev will now have access to all of this big data and market insights which is a bad thing, but it's not. They already had access to it. Everyone did. Anyone can harvest data from Ratebeer to tell you what the most popular beers are in a given region. Besides, how would ABI use the data? Sure, they've bought craft breweries but craft brewers don't need to be told what's popular. The data side of things is irrelevant.

The Real Reason

What is relevant, however, is the fact that the knowledge of this buyout could destroy a whole community of tens of thousands of people across the world.

It's not secret that I'm not a fan of Ratebeer - in fact I regularly refer to it as "hatebeer" - but I am a fan of the sense of community that craft beer has.

See, Ratebeer has thousands of subscribers from all over the world that share one common interest... craft beer. Although it's actually not strictly true that they only have one common interest because the second is that they hate big conglomerates like AB InBev.

Just look through the Ratebeer forums every time a AB Inbev or some other conglomerate buys a craft brewery and you'll see hundreds of posts showing outrage; cries of boycotting said breweries, and photos & videos of angry beer geeks drain pouring $25 bottles of beer because they can taste the corporate structure.

Now I've not looked at the Ratebeer forum since this announcement but I'd bet my last 50p that there are many angry people on there; people looking for a way out; somewhere else to go and trade beers; somewhere to continue being a part of that community, and I doubt I can see them all flocking to Ratebeer's biggest rival, Beer Advocate.

Sure they could all go to Reddit, or they could keep in touch via strings of emails or WhatsApp groups but it's not the same. It was one of the only surviving forums when forums all but died.

Where will they go now that they know the evil eyes of AB InBev are on them, stealing their thoughts, because you can't wear a tinfoil hat on the internet.

The Ratebeer community could potentially be destroyed and this really isn't good for the beer community.


An Opportunity That Can't Be Missed

If I were the owner of Untappd, I would be rubbing my hands with glee, thinking of all of the potential new subscribers I could potentially get. Historically, Ratebeer and Untappd are worlds apart as Untappd users generally don't take everything quite so seriously but this could change.

Sure, right now you can toast and comment on checkins; you can rate them and split the format you had them in but if I were the owner of Untappd I would be paying my app developers to work overtime, throughout the night working on a forum that former, disgusted Ratebeer users could flock to, to share beer and rage at the next buyout.

This could be a massive and wise move for Untappd. It doesn't have to be the end of this whole community. Just a migration.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A Day in Salzburg with Stiegl Brewery

Waking up bright and early on the Thursday morning in a hungover haze in a dorm shared by 7 other people, I was basically still drunk. I panicked as I couldn't find my wallet or passport, but I still had my phone. I was led to believe that everything had been stolen, went to the police, then got back to my hostel to find the key to my locker where drunk Nate had stashed everything. I am such an idiot.

But that's not the point of this blog post; the point is to tell you about the awesome day I had with Thomas Necker, Export Manager for Stiegl Brewery in Salzburg, Austria.

I've been a fan of Stiegl brewery for quite a few years; in fact (geek moment), my 1,000th Untappd check in was Stiegl Weisse, and my local, the Fat Cat has recently had their flagship Goldbrau and Grapefruit Radler.

I've also been good friends with Martyn and Andy from Euroboozer, their U.K. import partner for several years and that's how my trip to Stiegl came to be. I'd mentioned on Twitter that I was planning on a day trip to Salzburg during my stay in Munich and Martyn responded asking if I'd like to see Stiegl Brewery and really, there was only one sensible reply... "HELL YES".

I arrived in Salzburg at about 11:30am on Thursday, my hangover had cleared, and I was ready to see this city I've heard so much about and the brewery whose beers I'd come to love.

Thomas picked me up from the train station and drove me through the picturesque city, almost like a tour guide, telling me about some of the history of Salzburg. For example, I didn't know that Salzburg hasn't actually been a part of Austria for that long as before, it was basically run by the catholic church!

We arrived at the brewery, a large pastel yellow complex on the edge of the city; in front of the building there's a field with farm animals, ample space to expand on but they're not allowed. Why? Not because of planning permission but because the owner of the brewery's villa is across the road and he's said that for as long as he's alive, there will be no building on that land as he wants to be able to see the brewery from his house. What a guy.

We wandered through, past the tents and busy workers getting ready for the May Day celebrations that happen the Sunday after May Day. I didn't even know that they celebrate May Day on the continent and in fact Thomas was surprised to learn that I know about the tradition of the May Pole!

We walked through a yellow arch into the biergarten courtyard before Thomas gave me a quick tour of the three onsite restaurants. There's a more formal restaurant where the owner of the brewery has his table that he likes to dine on (it is in no way exclusive, however), a more modern looking craft beer bar style bar, and the main restaurant where we would have lunch. I was very surprised to learn that you are allowed to smoke in restaurants in Austria, something which I do not disagree with.

Since I was in Austria, what do you think I was going to have to lunch? Wiener Schnitzel of course; it was a no brainer. I was a little thrown off by the fact that they don't have kartoffelsalat and instead just parsley potatoes or chips, but OK, I opted for chips, along with a half litre of Stiegl Pils. I'd not had the Pils before, and it was beautiful. Crisp, floral, a little hop bite and refreshing; it was nothing like the Northern German style Pilsner as it didn't have that herbalness, and in fact it was closer to Czech style. It makes sense that it's a combination of the two since they're both bordering countries. The Schnitzel was the best I've ever had; tender pork, a bit fatty, a crunchy batter on the outside, and a very large portion. The Pils cut through the grease perfectly. We decided to have one more beer here; the unfiltered lager which was delicious too.

We then toured the massive brewery, including the beautiful brewhouse which is situated in a building designed by Dr. Volkmar Burgstaller who also designed Red Bull Hangar 7, another beautiful building. Now I've been to a lot of breweries, big and small but this brewhouse was possibly the most beautiful I've seen.

We walked through the brewery and the museum with Thomas passionately talking about the 525 year history of the museum. It was refreshing to hear such passion and dedication from someone who truly loves and respects the company and the beer.

An interesting fact I learned is that their flagship Goldbrau can't win international awards because its style is a Marzen, but an Austrian one which is basically a Helles, unlike its German and internationally recognised counterpart.

After the tour, Thomas chose some rare and special Stiegl bottles from the fridges in the bar before we went down into the private tasting cellar to try them.

Going into this dark, wooden clad room adorned with bottles and barrels was really something special. I've never seen anything quite like it. When breweries do private tastings, it's usually in the corner of a railway arch or some industrial building but this felt more akin to a wine cellar in Burgundy or Tuscany. It was really something special.

And so were the beers.

First up was Grenzganger, a Hibiscus Gose at 4.9% and a great example of the style. It was full of juicy yet tart hibiscus with that little bit of salt on the end reminding you that this isn't just a fruit sour. Next we had my favourite beer of the entire trip a Tequila Barrel Aged Double Witbier and holy fucking shit it was special; it wasn't light at 9.5% but nor did it taste the ABV - classic orange and coriander flavours, a smattering of booze before woody agave flavours. I loved it so much that I finished the bottle on the train back to Munich. Next was a Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout which did exactly what you'd expect with a thick mouthfeel and delicious, deep chocolate flavours, before finishing on the weirdest beer of the trip. Wildshuter Urbier was beer without hops, made solely from ingredients that are grown on their farm around 40km away; its ingredient list boasts 3 different types of malt, honey, dates, saffron, coriander and aniseed and was insanely bizarre. It's one to sip and savour.

After the tasting, Thomas accompanied me into the centre of Salzburg; something I was not expecting at all. When I've been invited on tours before, I've done the tour, maybe had lunch and been left to my own devices but not here. Thomas didn't just treat me like a guest at the brewery, but rather a guest to the city of Salzburg. It was amazing.

We drove into the centre, absorbing the sights of this beautiful city, and parked in a car park that was built inside a goddamn mountain. It was such a surreal experience.

We wandered through the historic city centre, all of the time I was in awe at the beauty and hated that I didn't have much time left there. We had a look inside the majestic cathedral, adorned with marble and 5 massive organs risen high above the pews.

We wandered through streets lined with high street shops that were hidden in the facade of buildings that are hundreds of years old. I saw Mozart's birthplace (fun fact: Mozart actually once visited and drank at Stiegl brewery; they found it in an excerpt from his diary a few years ago) which is an apartment building with a Spar convenience store underneath. We saw the "Stiegl" (little steps) from which the brewery gets its name.

We walked up a steep hill before finally getting in one last beer of my day in Salzburg... at Augustiner which is no relation to the one in Munich. Still, it's Augustine monks doing what they do best - brewing beer. Inside this massive building, down a wide, steep marble staircase you find yourself in a corridor aligned with independent food vendors. You get to a crossroad, turn left and find shelves adorned with half litre and litre stone mugs and the concept is simple: You grab the size mug of your choosing, rinse it in the fountain, pay the lady at the kiosk for the size of beverage you would like then you take it to the old Austrian man who fills it from a massive wooden barrel before sliding it, wild west style across a metal counter to you. The experience is as magical and as medieval as the beer is good. We took a seat (in the smoking room) and drank in the place that I could spend an entire evening and afternoon drinking.

Alas, after those two last half litres that slid down as smooth as anything, my time in Salzburg was over for the day and I had to head back to Munich.

A massive massive thanks to Thomas Necker from Stiegl for taking time out of his day to show me not only the brewery that he's so passionate about, but for showing me the city that he loves so dearly.


Disclaimer: I didn't pay for my day at Stiegl Brewery with Thomas. The beers and lunch were on him. Not once was I even asked to write about my day but I have anyway. I did pay for some stuff in Salzburg though - Smokes (€4,90), a pack of Mozartkugln (€7,50), a half litre of Augustiner (€3,10), a taxi back to the station (€8,50) and two cans of Goldbrau for the train home (€1,60). Oh and my Bayern Ticket on the train (A bargain at €25 for unlimited travel on regional trains in Bavaria, which also gets you to certain border towns too, like Salzburg)

Monday, 15 May 2017

A Wednesday Night In Munich

It's only been a couple of months since Sammie and I were in Munich but I decided to take a quick solo trip to get away for a few nights.

I arrived in Munich on Wednesday evening, through possibly the most efficient passport control system ever and decided to seek out Airbräu, a brewpub located just outside of Terminal 1 at Munich Airport. I didn't see much inside, but had a rather large beer garden that I imagine gets really busy at the height of the summer; the weather was nice so I sat outside and ordered a half litre of Fliegerquell, an unfiltered Helles. Since this was at an airport, I expected it to just be somewhat of a gimmick, with shit beers that tourists will neck down but I was pleasantly surprised. It was fresh, clean, grassy hops, a little citrus, and really bloody nice.

Next I checked into my hostel and decided to head to the rather trendy Schwabing district in search of a couple of pubs I wanted to check out.

First I went to an international bar called Keg Bar. If, in the UK you'd open a pub called "keg bar" we'd all see it as a hilarious imitation craft beer bar but this was anything but; it just just a bar trying to be a bar. It was large, underground, and kind of dark. It shows sports and had a bar billiards table that was under a cover and unused. The menus were all in English and amusingly they had Meantime London Pale Ale on keg as well as Aspall and Guinness. Only one German craft beer was on keg, which was the locally brewed Crew Republic Munich Easy IPA, but I wasn't here for craft beer, I was here for the €2,50 Tegernsee Helles happy hour because it's one of my favourite lagers and I'd never seen it that cheap! I sunk about six pints of this chilled, but not cold, frothy lager of beauty, and ate a burger before heading off.

I had originally gone in search of Schwabinger7, a legendary dive bar but discovered I was an hour too early so I popped to a kiosk for a bottle of Augustiner Helles and sat on a bench drinking it because I'm classy. I then noticed a bench at Trumpf oder Kritisch across the road free up so I went and had two pints of Augustiner Helles outside of this impressively hipster bar whose menu was printed on a broadsheet newspaper!

I then saw that Schwabinger7 was open across the road, so I went in and downstairs to this filthy dungeon, perched myself at the bar and had a quick pint of Lowenbrau which is probably the worst of all the Munich big six.
Even as soon as it opened, the atmosphere was great, with a varied music selection that switched between techno, metal and pop.

I finished my beer and headed to Red Hot which despite its name, was not a strip club, and in fact an American style BBQ and craft beer joint. I didn't eat here *narrator: he probably should have eaten here*  and just had a drink. There were 7 beers on draught here; four from Stone Berlin, one from Jopen in the Netherlands, Left Hand Milk Stout from Colorado, and a lager (I forget which). All of the beers except the lager were highly irresponsibly strong so I was sensible and opted for a 0.3 of Stone Ruination, a hoppy as fuck, palate wrecking double IPA at 8.5%.

Next stop was the always awesome Weisses Brauhaus for another sensible beer, Schneider Weiss Tap 5 Mein Hopfenweisse, which I've talked about before. I love this beer because the 8.2% is very well hidden in the fruity hoppiness and soft wheaty base.

Now my final (I think) stop of the night, where I vaguely remember going was Raw Metal Bar. I say vaguely because I know that I had google directions saved on my phone the next morning, and I looked at photos of the bar online and remember it somewhat but I was fucked at that point.

The only other thing I really remember was going up an escalator, presumably at the Goetheplatz U Bahn station, drinking a bottle of Augustiner Helles. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Next post on my trip to Stiegl Brewery in Salzburg tomorrow... or some point.


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Food Review: The Alley Ole, Norwich

I liked The Alley when it was part bar, part Moosey Art. It was a nice place to chill out. I remember on my first Friday working at Cooper Lomaz, I went for a Chihuahua burrito there with some colleagues.

I'd noticed walking past that it was changing but there was no indication as to what, and then I met up with my friend Amy and she told me. I was excited.

And then, on Thursday night I popped into Brewdog and bumped into my mate Sean who suggested we go there for food.

So the concept of The Alley Ole is Spanish style rotisserie chicken and pintxos (or tapas to you and I) and I can always get behind chicken.

It has a casual atmosphere so we just took a seat in the bar area as the restaurant area was quite busy and ordered a couple of drinks. I'm not going to lie, the beer selection is not going to set the world on fire. We had Konig Pilsner, a beer I drink a lot of in the Rumsey. What pleasantly surprised me was that they had Estrella Galicia on draught, a gluten free lager that I'd only ever seen in bottles.

Now for the important bit...

I ordered a quarter chicken with patatas bravas and holy shit. The chicken was perfectly seasoned and literally fell off of the bone. Prod it with a fork and it melts. I fucking love chicken. The patatas bravas were soft and fluffy on the inside yet crispy on the outside with a nice bit of spicy sauce.

I polished off my plate rather quickly and chef comes out, serving other people, and realises that he forgot to give us aioli... he apologises profusely and brings us some aioli with an extra quarter of chicken to share. Needless to say, we polished that off between us with the fantasically garlicky aioli.

AND IT GETS BETTER. Chef overheard me banging on to Sean about German potato salad so he grabs us a bowl of his Spanish style potato salad and told us to try that. I'm sorry Germany but this was incredible. It was indeed similar to Bavarian potato salad, but slightly less acidic and not as heavy, and with actual vegetables. The best part was how refreshing the crunch of a pea was within the salad. I want this all the time.

I mean, to sum it up, if you live in Norwich and haven't been to The Alley Ole, you need to do it. If you're coming to Norwich, make sure it's on your list.

See, food for me is just something you eat. I never feel emotion toward food but my experience and the food at The Alley Ole was absolutely spot on. I left there feeling ridiculously happy - Amazing food and great service.

Actually my favourite place to eat in Norwich now.

You can find them on Bridewell Alley in Norwich.



Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Don't Fear the Light

About six months ago I received a press release announcing the return of Bud Light to British stores and pubs, a move which I thought odd but then figured "well, OK then, if you must".

I recall posting some kind of sarcastic tweet along the lines of "GREAT! I'll finally be able to drink Bud Light!" but others were more aggressive about what is an entirely odd and what I saw as unnecessary move.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it may actually be necessary.

Hear me out...

In shops, with the aside of the ever more elusive Skol and several Own Brand Supermarket lagers I don't think there really are many sub-4% lager brands, other than a few alcohol free beers and a couple that hover around 2-2.5% which many would describe as far too weak. The same basically goes in pubs... there are not really any lagers below 4%.

Therefore, the re-introduction of Bud Light to the UK Market could actually be a saviour due to it only weighing in at 3.5%.

After hearing that every Wetherspoons in the UK was planning on stocking it on draught for a measley £1.99 a pint, I obviously had to put on my investigative hat and check it out and here's what I found:

It's bland but not unpleasant. It's inoffensive. It has that hint of sweetcorn that you'd expect. It has no bitterness at all. It has no body making it ridiculously chuggable. The carbonation was low and spritely.

It was refreshing on a hot day.

It wasn't really like any of the other lagers stocked, which seems weird to say. It wasn't like Budweiser, Coors Light or 1664.

It's a beer I could happily drink and it's a beer that could become successful if only because it's possibly the cheapest beer you'll find on tap in any city. Granted this is only 'Spoons, but still.

See, beer geeks moan and whine about the introduction of yet another bland mainstream product because "why don't they drink craft lager instead?" well, the thing is, Ol' Crafty McCraftface, not everyone wants to spend even £3.40 on Adnams Dry Hopped Lager.

Bud Light is never going to remove craft from taps and fridges. It's never going to cause the decline of the bottle shop or craft beer bars.

It's going to sit there, where people who either don't care or do care and want to drink a low ABV or low calorie beer.

It's just a little lager by a big brand.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Why I'm Over Beer Festivals

When your body clock is fucked and you're laying awake at 5am, your brain goes into overdrive. You start to ponder the questions, trials and hardships life throws at you; that big project you've got on, and whether you'll pass your appraisal at work, but then when you finally accept that you can't tackle any of those issues right now you start thinking about trivial shit.

Like Beer Festivals.

In February, I went to two conversely different beer festivals in two countries. The National Winter Ales Festival in Norwich, England; and Braukunst Live in Munich, Germany; and both experiences led me to the conclusion that I am over beer festivals. I'm not saying either were particularly bad festivals (hey remember London's Brewing from 2013?) but I'm just over them and here is why:

You have your two main kinds of festival Local/Regional CAMRA festival & Craft Beer Festival so let's start with the former.

CAMRA Festival (Norwich Beer Fest/NWAF):

Back when I was 18, the Norwich pub scene was pretty much dead. Don't get me wrong, we had plenty of pubs - indeed possibly more than we do now due to closures - but we didn't have much variety in those pubs. Pubs just generally didn't seem to have access to much other than the normal local breweries, large regionals and occasionally something like Dark Star (other than maybe the Fat Cat), so a beer festival was exciting. A beer festival managed to get lesser known beers from what were then known as microbreweries* and trying all of these new beers was incredible.

The thing is, now in Norwich we have SO MUCH CHOICE with the likes of The Plasterers, Brewdog & The Reindeer (the list could go on) who each do their own thing incredibly well by getting in wonderful beers, from independent craft breweries through a network of great independent wholesalers like Jolly Good Beer. You've also got the choice of going to shops like Harper Wells, or ordering from Beers of Europe to buy bottles and cans to drink in the comfort of your own home.

To get the choice that you had at beer festivals back in 2007 you no longer have to elbow your way through an overcrowded church hall**, just to get to the bar and find out there's nothing you want to drink right in front of you. You can sit in a pub and hear your friends; you can have a decent beer at home with your dinner; there's just so much choice available that the beer festival has become obsolete.

Modern Craft Festival (Braukunst Live):

Now there are essentially three types of Modern Craft Beer Festivals; The pay for entry and drink unlimited thimble fulls of anything you want (London Craft Beer Festival; Copenhagen Beer Celebration); the ones that are similar to CAMRA ones where you can actually buy a full glass of beer (Craft Beer Rising; Leeds International Beer Festival); and ones like the one I went to a month ago where you pay an entry fee then either pay for tiny pours in cash or with tokens.

See, Braukunst Live was fun but an expensive affair, well for entry anyway. €20 (plus booking fee) entry, then a fiver for a glass and 5 tokens for beer that nowhere it was explained we could use them.

Beer was generally €1 for a 100ml pour which to be honest, wasn't bad considering in craft beer bars in Germany you will regularly pay €5 for a 330ml pour, and there were some great breweries and beers but I just can't seem to get over the fact that I COULDN'T BUY A FULL FUCKING GLASS OF BEER.

I want to stand and savour the beer, not have one mouthful and be like "Huh, OK that was good but I could have done with more" and it almost seems selfish and embarrassing to go back and buy more when there are probably limited supplies.

Quirky venue, too, which didn't do it any favours when it was crowded. Who picks a fucking transport museum for a beer festival? Sure you can move some exhibits but not great big fucking trams that are hard to manouvre around when there are so many people, and so many tight squeezes to get to bars.

Of course, there were good beers, many of which we can't get back home. The Stone Berlin Skull Jacked Triple IPA was clearly the beer of the festival, rocking up at a rather weighty 9.1% and packed full of tropical fruits, with surprisingly low bitterness, and given the choice I would have filled my goddamn Teku with it. BRLO are another favourite of the modern Germans of mine and I got to try their German IPA which could not be complained at. Many other beers that I would have loved a full glass of, but it just wasn't a thing because of this craft beer ticking culture.

A mouthful of beer is fine when you're doing a bottle share with the guys at home, because that's what it's all about, but at a busy festival I don't want to get so little beer that I almost die of thirst whilst waiting for my next beer.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm having a beer life crisis; I'd rather be in a pub where I'm free to drink as much or as little as I want, whether it's a third, a half or a pint and not be limited to small pours or whatever the festival organisers want to drink, without a thought for anyone else.


*for the modern drinker, that's what we called 'craft brewery' back in the day.
**exception for NWAF due to the fact is was dead because a lack of any kind of marketing.