Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mikkeller Black Islay Edition (17.5%)

Sorry, getting really bad with my late posts at the moment. I actually had this beer last weekend, and happened to be after a decent saturday night out. Still, with a crew at Stass and Jess's place on Sunday, we had a few people to share this with, so was good to do that, seeing this beer is pretty intense.

Yes, this is one I have had before, and like with the Brewdog Tokyo, it was had after 5 other highly alcoholic and flavourful beers.

So, with it pouring like tar and having basically no head at all, we slowly sipped away at this beer like a port.

I really like the malt character in this beer and how the sense (okay, so it is a bit more than a sense) of whiskey rises from it, and with it the warming alcohol that also comes from it. Once you have spluttered through the first sip and put your eyes back into your head and given it a minute for the alcohol to rise through you and into your head, it does become a pretty enjoyable experience. I think Stass was getting a soy sauce flavour and on the midpalate, possibly where the whiskey starts to kick in. It is interesting that it was only through comparing it with other Mikkeller Black's at the Slowbeer tasting that I could realise the difference this beer has, and how much better rounded it is, and I have to say, even the first timers were picking up on the nice profile and while it is flavourful, not a massive spiking of particular flavours.

It is just a blockbuster beer, and at nearly $40 a bottle, it is not for your average beer drinker. The combination of a very intense base black beer, barrelled in intense Islay whiskey just seems to match greatly when given time to meld and mellow. Definitely more intense in flavour than the brewdog Tokyo, but still good balance of flavours (at that level of intesnity overall). After not getting any sleep the night before, and having had a few wines with Mick before having this beer, was well and truely ready for bed after it.

In more recent news, want to thank Stass and Joel for helping me do a spring clean of my beer collection last night and getting rid of some bad beers that have been hanging around in my fridge. Also, thanks to Stew for leaving a nice message for me when I got back from overseas, so had to incorporate it into the photo for this post (the little stick man is holding the beer. yay!).



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fed Square Microbreweries Showcase, Oct 2010

Finally had a chance to put up my notes from this journey I did on Wednesday. Overall, I have to say that the beers are getting better, and while there is still that nice experimentation going on (there is even one I tried that I will not speak of so as not to get the brewery in trouble [it was only meant for industry types, but managed to find a way to try it]. Let's just say it would have been nice if one of the brewers were doing a Kolsch beer [ölsch_(beer)] that had some white wine aspects with a nice rounded [dare I say 'buttery' Stass?] flavours at 10.2%. Can see why I also liked some altbiers in Germany...) the standard overall seem to be improving. Maybe I have just tried enough now to focus on the new beers and breweries that I like, but also think with ventures like this, the brewers are getting feedback to help them tinker with their brews.

Anyway, here are the beers I tried, however, not in any order. But you should be able to tell which ones I had early with better notes taken. Thanks to Tim for joining me at this event for his own journey. Hope you got some good ideas out of it, even if nothing came close to the Holgate ESB you know and love.

2 Brothers Voodoo Baltic Porter - Actually had one of these with Stass the other day, but thought I would try it from the tap here. I also had their James Brown Belgian Ale on Monday and found the dark bubblegum flavour to be enjoyable, so they seem to be getting better. There is a smokey dark malt smell with a good fine brownish head. This smokey malt translates into taste well, and while there is a decent texture up front, it waters on the back palate. There is also a last minute hit of malt before it leaves with a slight dryness.

Beacon Brewing Bitter (with infused coffee) - while there is a definite smell, there is not so much on the palate and what coffee flavour there is tends to the sweeter side and so dies off to leave no bitter aftertaste. Speaking to the brewer, he confirmed the coffee was added after first fermentation. Still, with it, I could not get much 'beerness' from it. Tim had the uncoffee-ed version and didn't seem to mind it.

Bellarine Queenscliff Ale - nice caramel smell which comes across also in taste, however not much body to go with it. The caramel seems to hold up over the flavour profile to even leave me with the sweet aftertaste. I find this very enjoyable to find, and wonder if they use little to no hops to allow for this to happen...

Bridge Road Breweries - I am unashamed to say this is one of my fav aussie brewers and still saddened a bit I could not go with Ben on the tour of Belgium through them. Still, I did it myself and so was good to be able to speak to Ben about it and the beers he had on offer. I had tried the Saison on Monday night while celebrating Immy's thesis hand-in and found it quite nicely rounded. Unfortunately they did not have the Wheat Dunkel (I did quite get a liking to the Erdinger Dunkel while in Germany) but did try the B2 Bomber (very dark and in their robust porter style, hops rise towards end but melds with malt nicely) and the Chevalier Biere De Garde (don't know this style, and unfortunately speaking with Ben too much to make any notes on it. I think it was a bit dark fruity with a hit of malt to go with it. However, did get some slight sulphur smell from it). I did get Tim to try their Saison, but I had to finish it for him. At least we know that one is not for him.

Bright Fainter's Dubbel - sulphur smell with a bit of malt and cream. Okay, not impressed, and maybe one I had later in the night judging by this note.

Coldstream Spring Dark Lager - Ok, it was dark for a lager, but not really that dark. Again with sulphur smell and only little malt hit. What did I expect?!

Grand Ridge - Very happy to see some new beers come out of here. The American Red Ale had a caramel with hop smell and a quickly diminishing head. The malt flavour leads well into the hop, but the latter spikes a bit (duh, american!) and then lingers in aftertaste. Seems to have some of their scotch ale qualities in it and definitely a bit of alcohol could be tasted. However, even more impressive was the Mirboo Midnight Oaked Dark Ale. Normally I would not start a beer journey on such a beer, but when I saw it was available, I could not help myself. There is a nice licorice and choc smell with a fine head and a dark/black body. Of course there is a ht of malt flavour to go with this with hops mid to late on the palate that lingers a bit. Has a very good texture, and while I could tell there would have been some intensity in the base beer, the oaking has stripped away a lot of harshness to give it the roundness and milder flavours. Still, with the B2 Bomber, probably my fav from the night, especially with the lovely texture to the Midnight.

Holgate Temptress - Okay, when the word came that it was closing made a dash for Holgate to have this beer last. Well, I found I had enough time to try the american red ale from Grand Ridge again (though, I was really trying for the Moonshine. damn it!)

Mildura Tongue Twister Stout - Has a light choc smell and taste with some creamy texture, almost to the point of being a bit sugary. After my experiences in Germany, could not help but remember the cola tasting dunkels, even though this beer didn't go that far.

Mountain Goat Bubble and Sqeak - Has quite a hoppy smell which comes through in flavour, but there is enough body in the beer to cope with it and not leave a bad aftertaste.

Otway Oktoberfest - was getting on in the session and was 'distracted' when experiencing this beer, but did have sulphur and a creaminess to it, but guess it was light on to make it easy drinking as a good oktoberfest beer should be.

3 Ravens Oktoberfestbier - The malt is good, and darker than I would expect for this style of beer, making it sweeter. Also tried their Smoke Beer, which while does have the classic liquified smoked ham aspect to it, is quite lighter, even against the Bamberg Weissrauch beer I had in Germany. Tim didn't like it at all...
I also tried their Noir beer recently and found it quite interesting and well worth a taste. will be keeping an eye out for more new brews to come out of these guys, as previously I had not been too impressed with their beers.

Thunder Road Pale Lager - One brewer I was interested to see, as they are new on the block. The lager had a decent head with a light body and heightened but still subtle hop smell which comes out more in taste but does not linger. Also has a bit of caramel and a decent texture to it. Definitely one for the summer months to come.

True South Wee Heavy - While I had recently tried the Renaissance Stonecutter's Scotch Ale recently, and found it smokey and not to my liking, this one was definitely better with good malt and body but not overly deep. Also had some sulphur smell to it.

White Rabbit White Ale - Hadn't actually tried this before today, and have to say like the change in hops I thought I tasted in the Dark ale from the last Microbreweries showcase (and asked a hop farmer about today), this beer really didn't do much for me. There was sulphur smell to go with the cloudy pale colour. It seemed to have too much carbonation to stope me tasting it too well, apart from some slight honey-like flavour.

So that is all 19, I mean 18 beers I tried at this showcase. Some good stuff coming out of the established brewers I like, others that are improving, and new guys coming into the mix with something interesting to bring. Pretty good result, and did not throw out a single drop of beer. This could not be said for Tim, who I ended up drinking some of the ones he didn't like just so as not to waste the alcohol, or if it was a beer I didn't mind.

Thanks to all involved in getting another one of these up and running. look forward to the next one and what will be new to try then.



Friday, October 15, 2010

Slowbeer Tasting #3: Cantillon Lambics

Hi everyone,

This tasting actually happened on Wednesday, so sorry for the slow posting. Still has given my tastebuds so time to settle from it. Actually, was not as harsh as I thought, or maybe Chris took us as gently as he could through the journey. After having a couple in Belgium last month (and actually tasted the Lou Pepe Framboise before I left on that trip, has been interesting acquire more of a taste to these lambic beers through Cantillon. As usual, will go through in the order of drinking.
1) Iris - Had actually wanted to try this before as had heard it was a fairly mild one good for entry level drinkers. Of course there was the slight tart/sour smell but on first taste found it quite flavourful but not overly intense. Sour hits hard early but cleanses on the back so no tart aftertaste, making it pretty mild and good to start on.
2) Gueze 100% Lambic Bio - With the use of older hops and wheat it definitely has a milder flavour to the previous. Is less sour, but then has a cider taste with acid with hangs on in aftertaste. Still, has a nice even flavour profile.
3) Lou Pepe Gueze - the added brewing sugar for carbonation does spike the flavours a bit more, but with this lambic being a blend of 2 and 3 year olds, the age dulls it overall, along with the cider aftertase. Somehow sense some sweetness though on the backpalate (?).
4) Grand Cru Bruocsella - The 3 years old, non carbonated lambic has a musty sour smell but is quite slight. Nice rounded and full flavour and comes across very earthy. Some slight burn in back of palate (similar to previous) and a long length.
5) Rose de Gambrinus (Framboise) - Has a pink champagne look with a sweet and tart smell. Bit hit of tart up front with almost medicinal impact but settles on mid palate when it warms on the tongue. Intensity makes it slower to drink (or am I just feeling the effects already?). Think adding the raspberries late in this brew only allows sweetness in smell and late in taste.
6) Lou Pepe Framboise - Artificial red cordial look with more sweetness in the smell than previous. Again, hits hard on the front (does the sweetness spike the tart flavour?) and sourness on sides of mouth/tongue. Sweetness dulls the cider aftertaste. Must say, was able to appreciate this better second time around then the first, when terms like 'rancid' were being thrown around.
7) Kriek 100% Lambic Bio - Very fine head and again with the cordial look. tart and a pink musk smell to it, with less spike on the front but has sourness on the sides. First taste has a woody musk finish with sour aftertaste the bites.
8) Lou Pepe Kriek - slightly browner than previous with a bit of sherbert in the smell. Very well balanced and rounded in flavours. Covers the tongue well with this and texture. Using 2/3 year old lambics in this really mellows it greatly allowing it easier for me to appreciate, and so really enjoy this one.
9) Vignronne - using Muscat grapes bring some higher sugar to the brew, and so get a similar sherbert sweetness before the sourness kicks in. Looks a bit like a lager and has a similar sour/tart smell to the beers we started the night on. Has quite a dry, acid on the back.
10) St Lamvinus - has a browny red look and a definite sour smell, which translates to a well rounded sour taste. More depth in the flavour but not sure what it is (the merlot grapes?). Cab Franc seems to dull the sourness as well.

As you can see, I am still trying to get my head around what actual flavours I get from these beers, but still able to find the Lou Pepe Kriek to be the best of the bunch. Did notice that there was generally a spiking flavour on the front of the tongue with each beer, and not sure if that is usual, or maybe they beer was being served a little too cold. Acid also seemed to be pronounced when the beers were cold. I also enjoyed the Gueze Bio (think that the older hops did it for me to make it milder), and thr St Lamvinus was also good to use wine in it's production.

So, 3 Slowbeer tasting down, and come out with another beer I have to try with a fresh palate to make sure it tastes as good by itself as it was in this journey. Come on Lou Pepe Kriek! Thanks to Chris for another great event. Looking forward to the ensuing tastings (russian imperial stouts? braggots? spiced chrissy beers? etc)



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

European Beer Journey in 6mins 30 secs!

Hi All,

Just finished my beer movie of the trip, so wanted to share it with you all.

My apologies for the last 10 seconds, but I had to show it for the purpose of scientific research. What a dismal failure!

Anyway, here's to the adventure I had along the way. Hope you enjoyed it, and enjoy this quick recollection of it.



Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brew Dog Tokyo (18.2%)

I don't normally like to focus too much on the higher alcohol beers, and I have to say, this is the highest alcohol beer I have ever had. But dealing with so many dark beers, and the stronger alcohol being more of a trait in this style, I guess there are occasions where this occurs. I know I have reviewed this beer previously in June, and since then been waiting to find it on the shelves to try again with a fresh palate, and not after 7 other aged beers as previously done. Still, after doing a beer shop with Stass yesterday at the new Purvis Beer Store in Richmond, I found this (and another beer I have been waiting months to come back in stock. keep an eye out for that one later on) and just had to get it to try with him. At around 6 standard beers in one bottle, you need at least one other person to help you drink it, and its as black as the ace of spades.
So, from a fresh palate, I have to say it was probably pretty similar to the previous tasting (intense!). There is a massive malt hit in this beer that I personally enjoy, and the texture is amazing for a beer this high in alcohol. I would expect that it would be more watery as the alcohol separates from the beer, but in this case it doesn't. This beer really does run a fine line as to whether it is a real beer, as the texture did make me question as to whether they had used the 'beer distilling' technique of freezing the beer and removing the ice to get the alcohol this high, and keep the texture this good. I hope it is not this as for me, this is where it stops being a real beer produced in traditional means (while traditional can be different for different styles, distilling I don't think is part of brewing beer). As for the supposed cranberries and jasmine, apart from some slight light sweetness I can't pick up this at all. It is possible the dry hopping is used to prepare the tongue slightly for the alcohol to come, and is done so that the hop flavours hit early, as the alcohol is strong as hits earlier than a usual beer. Still, with the french oak chips, there is a lovely mellowness to stop it from being as intense as what it would be without it, and help meld the flavours. I think it also allows the alcohol to rise a bit slower so that it is not so much a spike of alcohol burn, but a warming rise of it. After the first taste, it takes about 10 seconds after you for a warmth to come from all the way in your stomach, through your lungs, then out your mouth. It is an interesting experience to get from beer.
I guess the only way I can understand this beer is that by using very intense flavouring in the base beer to match the alcohol, then mellowing the whole thing out with the oak, we end up with this. Still, the texture does still baffle me a bit.
Overall though, the intensity of this beer is immense, and am almost glad I had a beer of similar intensity in the Russian Imperial Stout I had in Prague last week (even though that beer was 10% less than this). As they say on the label, this is a beer of excess, but I find balanced to allow the flavour to be as rounded as possible so your tongue doesn't burn off (and not just for the alcohol). Very impressed with the result, but best drunk like a port.
I also noticed it had an expiry of 2019, so the potential for mellowing it out further is possible which would be interesting to try.
Our final comment; 'We feel so mellow'.

Well, seeing my beer adventures over the past month or so have knocked me around a little bit, at least can exchange volume for alcohol a bit and feel like having had 3 beers in half of one. Hopefully my other pick from Purvis comes out similar...


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beef's European Beer Journey Summary, and Beyond


Have had a chance over the past couple of days to go through the stats of the trip, come up with some highlights and think overall what has been achieved and where I go from here.

Firsty, the important stats.
Countries I drank beer in: 5 (England [ok, it was only the Guinness at Heathrow], Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Czech Republic)
Approx. number of beers drunk: 169
Number of different beers drunk: 141

Top 5 Beers: 1) Rochefort 10 (2003 Vintage), 2) Ellezelloise Hercule Stout, 3) Chimey Blauwe (2000 Vintage), 4) Achel Extra Brune, 5) Leifman's Cuvee Brut/Boon Faro
Worst Beer: Tuborg (any beer that reminds me of VB is gone), but I know Jaimi would put Abbey Des Rocs Special Noel.
Best Bar: For having both atmosphere and great beers, I can't go past 't Brugs Bertje in Brugge.
Best Beer Store: For having a good international range, Bier Spezialitaten Laden in Berlin
Best Beer based meal: Sorry, but it a tie between the Flemish stew At De Pas Partout (Brugge), and the Venison stew at Pivovarsky Dum (Prague). But if I had to choose it would be the Flemish for that first time cherry popping moment with this style of food.
Best Drinking Partner: For his tireless efforts to keep up with me and allowing himself to get broken over and over again doing so, Mr Jaimi Faulkner. In terms of my random drinking partners, is has to be Willy at Brugge.
Best Drinking Experience: Ok, so while I had some amazing beers, my best experience was actually very situational, and only on half decent beers. But it was in Instanbul with some supermarket beers sitting in the park with Brad and Seda in front of the boat they were married on 2 months ago. While the beers may have just been an accompaniment, it just goes to show, it isn't just the beer itself that makes drinking it a great experience.

Thinking of the beer journey overall, we really did get through a lot early on with the Belgium Beer Weekend Festival, and in Belgium overall. Still, there are so many more that could be tried there. For such diversity in beers, Belgium really is the place to go. To be honest, was pretty disappointed with Germany, as was hoping to be inspired more by their dark beers. However, I do have to point out that I did not do the regional touring in Germany that I did in Belgium, so realise I don't have a good grasp on it. Still, Bamberg did show itself to be an great region for beer in Germany, so I hope it is more like that overall. With no expectations of Turkey, was pleasantly surprised that I didn't find any offensive beers, and even some interesting brews being done their. Prague was interesting, especially through Pivovarsky Dum, which ran the line between novelty beers (nettle, coffee, banana, etc) and authentic blockbusters (Russion Imp. Stout). While it is awash with Pils, was glad to have found a few dark beers that tasted like real beer.

For me then, while I could just continue tasting beers and enjoying the experience, I think I need to pursue the possibility of getting involved in the making of beer. Yes, Stass and I have the little set up and do enjoy the experimentation of making beer, but I can't help think that I should attempt to do more and finally see if there is anything for me in this industry. So with my limited brewing experience, would like to try and get some experience working in a brewery. I understand that 90% of brewing is in ensuring clean equipment, and would be happy to do this to just get into that environment. Hopefully the enthusiasm I have shown through this blog would transfer well, and luckily I know I have a good work ethic as a basis. The other side of things is possibly in the serving of beers, and the potential of getting behind the bar, so also looking at doing my Responsible Service of Alcohol ticket to start that process. I think I have enough experience now with beer to be able to choose a decent selection of beers from here in Australia and maybe even overseas. As I know, my taste in beer does not correspond well with the general aussie public, but with the experimentation happening in brewing here, hopefully it shows at least the brewers are seeing the potential, and it may start filtering through to the tastebuds of the people. I would like to thank Jaimi from planting the seed of these recent thoughts, and the encouragement people here in Australia and those I have met overseas have given me over the longer beer journey I have had in my life. From Toohey's Old, to Guinness, Rouge's Chocolate Stout, Moo Brew Vintage Stout and most recently Trappist beers and lambics, there have been some pivotal moments in my beer tasting journey. Brewing with Stass and Brad, and having Stass help get this blog up and running have been other important steps for me on this path. While I haven't previously taken beer/brewing seriously as a career option and seen enough of what alcohol has done to our society to not want to take it too seriously, maybe it is time to overcome this and 'ave a go (ya mug).

So, as always, any comments you would like to add to this would be greatly appreciated. I do hope you have at least been slightly entertained by this blog and most recently the trip.

In the next couple of weeks I have a lambic beer tasting at Slowbeer, and Fed Square has another microbreweries showcase where I can see what the latest in with experimenting with beers here in Oz. Maybe I can even chat to some of the brewers to see if they need a labourer.

Well, we shall see what comes from all this. At the very least there will be more beer being tasted.



PS: I have to confess, I did have a beer on the trip home on the plane. The steward saw my belgium beer shirt so handed me a Heineken. Yeah, really brought me back down to earth after everything I had been through.

PPS: The day after I returned there was a Twoks gig so I could meet up with my friends at. Turned into a drunken event, and think finally my body rejected me and all the beers I have drunk over the past month. Lucky it did not happen while on the trip! Thanks everyone for welcoming me back.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 33 & 34: The Reflecting Begins...

So, from starting this trips blogging from the Sleepwell hostel in Brussels, my final entry comes from the breakfast table of the citystay hostel in Berlin. Yesterday went as such; up and made the train to Berlin taking in some great views through Czech and back into Germany. After some faffing around I made to this hostel, dropped off the gear and went straight to the best beer store in this city. If they had the Hercule, I would have bought it to take home. Still, was able to do my other plan and get the Berlin aussies some interesting beers from my travels to give to them to try. From Belgium I found the Rochefort 10, from Germany the Bamberg Rauchweiss (hopefully a nice introduction to these smoke beers for them). They did not have any Turkey beers that I could see, and only had the Budvar Dark from Czech, so decided as a beer challenge to get them another dark beer from there that even I haven’t tried to get them to review it for me.

After picking up those beers had a kip at the hostel before making my way back down to their part of the city, stopping at the local pizza place for a Galzone, so that as the twilight of the last sunset occurred, I sat in Templehof airport and started to reflect on the whole trip with the pizza. It was amazing to think of all I have been able to experience through the people, places, beers, etc in these countries, and how fortunate I have been. The contentment from that moment was a great feeling to have towards the end of this trip, and was happy the kneipe was not far away to have my first beer while I was feeling like this. As a nice bookend to our meeting in Brussels, Jaimi and I met at the front door of the pub, and headed in for a Kostritzer, the German beer he recommended me for this trip. So, over that beer and an Erdinger Dunkel, we caught up from last seeing him in Munich and started reflecting together on what we had done.

Once we were onto our second Dunkel, Joe and Tina arrived, and then soon after James and Lottie, so we took back the round table we had all sat around the first time I had come to this pub with them (again, another nice bookend to the german part of the trip). I was able to present my beer journey to them and talk more of what the trip has brought me and where I take the experience of it from here. We even had a nice moment where everyone was able to say a little something about the experiences they had with me on this trip and to encourage me to pursue the direction I seem to be taking with beer. I tried to say something nice to them all in return trying to express how much they had helped with my experience and using their own labeling of me as a beer artist to fit in with their crowd. Still, it didn’t go that well, so to rectify, I am going to quote someone else who has said it better than me. In the wise words of Gomez, ‘It’s the things that are given, not won, which are the things you want.’ I have been given so much from so many aspects that you can from an experience, and so I hope that once I get home and have time to reflect on it all, as I picked up from the gang last night, that I find a way to give more of myself and find that direction in with to pursue life a bit more.

To bring it all to a close, Jaimi and I had one last Kostritzer (which as an even bookend I just realized this morning, is the first German beer I ever tried when I went out to Hanhdorff in South Australia many years ago and asked the bartended for a dark beer), so am happy to end this beer journey on that.

Then in true Jaimi Faulker fashion, after saying my goodbye’s to the rest of the gang, Jaimi and I hit the kebab place he lives near to finally have one of their doners, before saying farewell to him and getting back to my hostel for 4 hours sleep. So hopefully now this means I will be able to sleep on the plane back home.

As I found last night, it is very hard to put into words the admiration I have for all the people I have met, and the encouragement they have all shown me. Whether it was someone like Jaimi who put up with my crap all trip and came out with a better appreciation of beer (and maybe even me?), other friends like Brad and Seda who were in a spontaneous moment able to show me around Istanbul for a few days, or all the people like Willy I met randomly (yes, mostly with a beer in our hands), I can take away many memories from this trip, and let the impact of them filter over the coming days, weeks, years, etc to see how I react to all of this. Luckily, I have had this blog to help me document as much as I could.

Thank you too, to all of you who have read and are reading this now, as the past month has shown that people actually do read this stuff and have continued to follow me on this journey. You won’t enjoy the boring old man I go back to when this trip is over, but it has been a pleasure to show you what I have from this trip. I don’t like to use the term inspirational in attachment to myself, but if any experience I have been able to communicate to you through this blog helps in your own appreciation of beer, the diversity of this world (not just the beer in it) and the people that inhabit it (including those that drink/brew beer), then I have found something else to be content with from this trip.

Good luck to us all in our journeys (and especially beer journeys) from here.



PS: Don’t you just love the ‘syrupy, semi-philosophical, rose tinted glasses’ vibes that come out of people when they have just been on a trip? Sorry if I am being a bit over the top, I would like to blame sleep deprivation but can’t. As I said, boring Beefy will be back soon.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day 32: Perusing Prague

Up early to beat the tourists and see Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square before finding a restaurant in the Square with a beer I wanted to try (Budvar Dark) and an awesome boar and mushroom stew (yep, made with dark beer) with potato cakes to help soak up the stew. The Budvar just tasted like a standard pils but with dark malt, so there is no uniform taste to come from it. Just get malt spike and then hop spike, but at least the hops cleansed the palate so I could enjoy every mouthful of the stew like it was the first taste. Then found a pub doing what I had been told was the best Pilsner Urquell in this town, so decided to give it a shot. Ok, I am an ale's man (So my face can't be shown in this blog entry), but I do have to say I was pretty impressed with it. the first taste went as such; nice caramel leading to honey, then slow rise of hop, before cleansing with a dry finish. Very well structured and the overall balance of flavours let the profile be very rounded, even though I don't appreciated the hops or dry finish (just personal preference). Still, to have me enjoy a beer that is not my preference just goes to show how good it is. I can see why so many people on this trip told me to make sure I had it here. Thanks to you all.
So, with the pils worship over, I went down to Pivince U Rudofina for a Kozel Dark. Ok, so I have had this beer before, but it was either that or another Urquell, and I wasn't going to give into that. Yeah, it was watery and had a dusty malt aftertaste, but at least had little hops to take away from the malt. Slight dry aftertaste but does come in a glass that my hand fits in. No smell, and some carbonation on the tongue to show it is serves a little too cold. Fairly standard. This bar was picked by Brad and Seda, and have to say is nice to see it have a front bar for anyone just wanting a beer, even if the beer selection is limited. Also, no tourists which is a major plus being so close to Old Town Square and Charles Bridge.
Then made my way to Pivovarsky Dum to have an eight beer sampler, a Venison in beer (porter actually) stew, and ended with a Russian Imperial Stout (I think all beers brewed by this company). As an overall to the samplers, they all had a flavour that would resemble what they were trying to be, but the novelty factor was high enough that they never really came across at real beers. the banana beer actually tasted like liquified lolly banana, so was looking for a Boag's St George to add it with. As for the Venison stew, another culinary delight, and the sauce again was amazing. Which turned out to go perfectly with the Imperial Stout I ended on. So limited was the stout that it had a serial number (853) and yes, fairly intense as you would assume from such a beer. Really packs a punch, but that is just keeping true to the style. Could be aged a bit to get it towards a Moo Brew Vintage, and will be hard to have another beer after this 8.5%.
Still, not to give up so early, hit a tourist favourite in U Fleku near where I am staying for one last dark beer and some sort of Czech spirit. Both were placed on the table without me asking (how good is that) as people are always just walking around with alcohol to distribute. The spirit had a cinnamon flavour and reminded the Finnish couple I was speaking with as something they would drink at Christmas time. The beer was from the house, and have to say it was pretty good with nice malt character and no offensive hops. Still, after the Russian Imperial, was going to be hard to cut through. I nearly did stop drinking after the Russian knowing this would be the case, but found an excuse to try and be nice to the girl manning the hostel (Ok, so Katerina is good looking and has been nice to me) by seeing if she wanted something from the local store. Still, seeing she didn't, I went to a pub instead. Why did I write that? I have to stop writing in this blog when I am pissed.
So I think that is everything. The boar stew, Pilsner Urquell, venison stew and Russian Imperial Stout have been major standouts for today. Thank you Prague for showing me what it has to offer, and for everyone that encouraged me to come here. Only one full day left on this trip, and getting pretty reflective about it all and thinking about what my favourite beers and beer experiences, etc have been. Hope to put together a little 'best and worse of' post once the trip is over for anyone that hasn't been keeping up on the way (would have saved you being bored for hours reading all this crap. Sorry everyone).

Well, early start in the morning to get to Berlin, so better hit the sack. Will transmit again in Berlin, where I will probably get all teary now the trip is coming to an end. Will need some shoulders to cry on for anyone in Berlin willing to let me.



Day 31: Prague Pils and Some Supermarket Dark Beers

So got into Prague around 1pm and headed for my hostel after some cake at the railway we were dropped of at. Got settled then did a walk of the small town area on the east side of the river, and kept walking around it until I came across a biergarten with a good view over the city, so had a Pilsner from it that had a bit of hop flavour to it, to make it interesting, but not my style, so haven't focused on it too much.
My room has a a fridge, so on the way back from the walk picked up pizza and some supermarket beers, finding a Bernard Dark. Have been on the balcony drinking it and have to say, there is a slight sugar flavour (bit like the Germany dark beers) but definitely more roasted malt and hops finish to keep these pilsner drinkers happy. Has a roasted smell and a dark, slight translucent colour. Needed the pizza to help cleanse the palate of the hops in aftertaste, but apart from that okay. Some body, but still a bit watery for my liking.
The Primator Stout is definitely darker in colour and smell, the latter bringing a sense of coffee to the beer, which translates into the flavour. There is also some chocolate flavours going on, but the beer is to watery to carry it well. Still, very happy to have found a Czech Stout and to see it has some good stout traits to it, even if it doesn't come out the best. There is also a dusty, smokey finish which again, made me happy to have a meaty pizza to go with it.
Hmm, now I have tasted a bit of chocolate in the last beer, may need to get into some more chocolate cake I got from Bamberg as I was leaving this morning. Good end to the day I think.


PS: Some sad news. Found a cheese shop round the corner from me that also has a decent selection of beer (no, that isn't the bad news, unless it is like the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch). In the shop window saw Cerna Hora Granat which is also on my list of Czech beers to try (no, this is also good). Only thing, the shop is not open again until 30 mins after I leave Prague. Boo!

PPS: You know something is wrong when the Czech girl manning the hostel said she was concerned for me going out in a t-shirt when I got back after my walk. Come on, its gets much colder here (it was like 15 degrees), or maybe I'm just aussie tough!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 30: Bamberg Beer Pub Crawl

So, has been great drinking weather today with overcast skies and the occasional bit of rain. managed to go and do my tourist tour before the other tourists arrived, then booked my tickets to Prague and Berlin for the end of the trip, then going to a brewery museum (next door to a church) before getting in the beers themselves.
The tasting started at Ambrausianum with the Wezien (darker bubblegum flavour. Almost fruity or sweetness from malt, Hell (pretty standard lager but with carbonation and body (maybe from being on tap). Like Wiezen, a flavour I can't quite put my finger on to give it more 'height'), and Dunkel (carbonation and slight roasted smell. Very cleansing at the end [even watery], but too cold, even though I don't get anything else once it warms up).
Moving onto Schekerla, had the wheat rauch (smoked ham smell, but more depth that the smoke beer I had in Istanbul. Wheat base gives it a cleansing end) and a rauchbeir with the people (who brought dinner with them to the pub. supposedly between 4-6pm you are allowed to bring your own food) I was sitting with (is much less intense as the one I had at the Taphouse. Must be difference between bottle and on tap), before moving to Klosterbrau to try the Schwarzla which had been recommendation of the folks at the previous pub (a pretty strong dark for the German beers I have tried previously. Again, carbonation and too cold but a real beer). Ended the night at Spezial to try their own rauchbier with an American in combat engineering for the Army finishing off his training here before heading to Afghanistan (beer had some depth, but not as much as Schekerla [mind you, my taste bud could be dead by now]).
Okay, just got organised and now have all my travel and accommodation booked for the rest of the trip (yes, it's all coming to an end). Still, have a chance to check out the beers in Prague and one more night in Berlin before I head home. So let's bring it home!

But for now, bed. My train leaves at 8:30am. Maybe too organised?



PS: Sad news, I checked in the mirror and it seems my beer gut still won't form. I am saddened, but still have a few days left to try and rectify. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 28 & 29: Last Day in Istanbul and Return to Germany

Have just gotten into Frankfurt and now on my way to Bamberg to start the end of this trip. Seeing I didn’t try a Tuborg while in Istanbul I had one on the flight back, and it wasn’t good. Worst beer I didn’t have in Istanbul. Couldn’t even tell if it was the yeast, hops or carbonation that made it difficult like a VB to drink.

Just found out before boarding this train that Stew has made it to Germany and had time to meet up with me over the next week. If he had let me know an hour earlier than he did, I may not have booked Bamberg from Turkey this morning and could be on my way there now. A disappointment for this trip. Still, that is travel, and already met, and reacquainted myself with many good people. Even on the way to the airport on the tram, I had a 20 minute conversation with an Istanbul local who shook my hand as we parted ways and said ‘God be with you’. Was a nice touch to the trip.

Ok, as for yesterday, I went and saw Hagia Sofia by myself in the morning (one word, immense. Made me think that in such a crowded city, this was where they came for space to contemplate). Then caught up with Brad, had a fish sandwich (too much onion) and meet up with Seda before heading out on the ferry then cable car to a café with a great view of the city. Made it back down to get a vending machine ice cream (with vacuum), past the iron church (and collected walnuts from a tree there) and made our way to an old, run down suburb in good location to meet up with a friend of theirs for beer. His place had great views as well, and so we sat and relaxed with him on the balcony and watched to sun go down from there. I started with a Efes Extra (out of a can), and even with 7.5% there was enough flavour overall to keep the taste relatively even. Slightly darker with malt, and more hops allowed me not to be offended by it as I thought I would. Then had a Efes dark to give me a bit of flavour to enjoy before getting with the other boys and drinking Efes Pils as we made our way to the design festival party (but with bad weather approaching they didn’t let us in at 8pm), so ended up back at his place for pita, more Efes Pils and the turkish spirit raki, which had a pretty distinct licorice taste to it, but still went down alright. We ended up staying the night there, having to get up early so I could get back to my hotel, have a shower, brekkie and then get to the airport.

Much love to Brad and Seda for being amazing to me to show me so much of the city and for being available just to hang out as much as they did. Luckily I have been writing down all that I saw as well as all I drank or it would be a massive blur right now.

So from sunny Turkey now back to overcast Germany but the beer journey continues with Bamberg and Prague. Sorry Stew, would have been great to catch up but looks like this is one piece of bad luck from the trip. Enjoy this country mate, and see you in January when you get back to OZ. Also, see you Brad and Seda in a couple of months, when you make it back to OZ.



Day 27: Hanging with the Newlyweds in Istanbul

Having been woken up about 6am seeing I am staying near a mosque, I had brekkie and tried to do a quick walk around where I am staying. However, with the rabbit warren system of roads I found it very hard to get my bearings so ended up going back before I got lost. Brad and Seda turned up with some of Seda’s mums cooking (hmm, walnuts and pastry) before we headed out for the day. Getting a map and seeing a Turkish cemetery before going through the Grand and Spice Bazaars (along the way meeting up with Brad and Seda brother in law, eating Turkish Viagra, a pretzel like baked good and a nut and toffee like snack that tasted like caramelized popcorn), went through a mosque near the spice market known for its tiling (and where I strangely saw a grandfather clock in), and then headed up towards where Seda’s family live to see a castle before deciding it was beer o’clock and going to a place called Taps which Brad has found at least some selection of beers available. Brad went the Marzen (red lager) and Seda had the Rauch(smoke)lager, whereas I did the sampler which had these two plus a Pilsner and a standard Lager. I wished they had the Chocolate Stout and Stout they also showed on the menu but only brought out in winter. Still, my pick was the smoke beer. Nothing like the intensity of the one I had at the Local Taphouse in Melbourne, but just a nice smoky flavour to make the beer very interesting. The Marzen had a bit more depth but didn’t really standout apart from the caramel that started to come out as it warmed. The Pils was okay with a nice refreshing start before the hops slowly rose towards the back of the palate, whereas the Lager just didn’t have anything going on, even for a lager. All the beers seemed to come at a decent temperature and seemed quite fresh with nice creamy heads and good body to them. While they do say it is a brewery as well, I am not sure, but the beers do seem to show they are made nearby. Seda did ask about the chocolate stout, and was later sent a text saying it would be available in 2 months, so hopefully they get to try it for me before they come to Australia.

Walking further round the coast road we stopped for an ice cream (Seda has been going there all her life, and can remember the guy serving us also being there that long), and my caramel, almond and honey with choc coating and nuts on a sugar waffle cone went down a treat, and great for the warm weather we had. We stopped at a supermarket and got some more beers before going to the park where the boat they used for their wedding was moored, so sat on the grass, and relived their wedding day in front of ‘Matilda’, while drinking Gusta Standard, Gusta Dark Dunkel and the Efes Dark Brown I had had the night before. The Gusta wheat beers were quite well rounded in flavour, and was quite impressed by the Dunkel. They tasted like beer, which is better than what I can say about some german dunkels, and noticed a bubblegum flavour start to come out of the standard Gusta to give it more authenticity. It has become another favourite moment for this trip just to sit there with a beer and chat about life, and allowed me to feel a little bit like I had been there for their wedding day 2 months ago.

Heading back to my part of town we found a place for dinner and was able to pull out another bottle of J.J. Prum to share with them. Not so much acidity on the back palate, and more fruity than the sherberty residue sugar taste that seems to come from older vintages. Still, gave me a chance to share this different wine with more people.

So a very pleasant day all round and looking forward to my last full day in Istanbul to see more sights and hang out with the cute couple.

Day 26: Munich to Istanbul

So after a few hours kip on the bench in front of the check in counter I needed to go through, I smashed water and decided I felt better than what I thought I should under the circumstances, so took it as a win to start the day on. The check in started, so grabbed my ticket (yes, my booking did work.) and made my way through security, a long queue for passport check and then had some white sausage to tide my stomach over. Two hours later was touching down at Ataturk airport, getting a visa, standing in another long (and slow) queue for passport check, changing currency, getting my bag and finding the bus Brad said would get me into town. 30mins after my intended arrivial at Taksim Square, I met up with Brad, Seda and Brad’s cousin Jono, who 5 mins after meeting me, got the bad news his booking for London had not gone through. So on the way to my hotel we stopped at a couple of travel agents, had ice cream (it’s like 28 degrees here) before Jono got on his way to the airport to see if he could sort it out. So after tagging out Jono (he ended up getting to London fine and on the flight he thought he had missed out on), Brad and Seda helped me find my hotel, and we started checking out all the sights near where I was staying in Sultanahmet.

Of course checked out a few mosques and found a place they had brought Jess and Stass for my first Turkish beer and a ‘turkish bong’. We went with melon for the bong and I went an Efes dark pils for the beer. Like many of the german darks, pretty watery, not a whole lot of flavour, but could at least see it had some roasted malt to make it taste like real beer as it sunk in that I was in Istanbul and with Brad and Seda. Also had a standard Efes pils, which was exactly as I expected, like the dark, but without the dark, before we walked around and made our way back towards Taksim, finding a bar Brad and Seda knew for dinner.

One beer they had told me about was this coffee infused dark beer that Efes also do, and so had that with creamy chicken pasta. The Efes Dark Brown was pretty interesting actually. Normally through the roasted malt you get a bit of a bitter coffee taste, but in this case it was a sweeter coffee flavour, and found the first mouthful to be quite alright. Seeing I am not a coffee drinker though, the coffee flavour was a little too much on multiple tastes, so was happy to have the food cleanse my palate a bit after each taste to help me enjoy the beer. So far then, the Turkish beers have not been offensive, easy drinking and good to see there is some experimenting happening to do something different with beer.

Coming into another city have noticed this organic-ness to Istanbul. So many people living their lives, with apartment blocks stretching for kms and every space in the city being used. The biggest things in this place are the mosques, and whatever space is left over is used for everything else in life. And it is used! Shops are completely full of stock, and any nook or cranny could have a shop or someone living in it. With something like 17-20 million people in this city, it is close to the same population as Australia, but all in one area. It has been interesting soaking it up and seeing people just getting on with their lives in this city. I look forward to doing that more today. Finally, I have had a sleep in a real bed and been able to catch up on my beer travel notes over the past few days, I can have brekkie and ‘tffy’ (team ‘ffy’. Something we came up with last night. Seda is cuffy [cute+ffy], Brad fuffy [funny+ffy], and of course I’m already beefy. Ah, close enough) can get more into this city. I am such a lucky person!!!


Day 25: LozJoelberJess (Oktoberfest dedicated to the people's birthdays I am missing back home)

After a good sleep and brekkie (both provided by Jacob and Tanya, and through Jacob’s folks. Yeah, another thanks needs to go out to them, Jaimi, and just to luck), we were in town early to see if we could beat the masses and more easily find a place to sit and enjoy the third beer festival on this trip.

So, we only had one day to celebrate this day, and while we could have joined the masses at the actual tents, the locals and Jaimi’s local knowledge got us to the Hofbrau beer hall just away from the festival for an experience which I think would give us the good things of Oktoberfest without the queues and idiots everywhere. So we were able to get a seat straight away after doing a hot lap, next to a couple of other mates having a couple of beers. We did the first ‘Proust’ with them and got into our first beers, which were the same as our last, and all inbetween. Jaimi went the standard Hofbrau pislner where as I went for the dunkel (tasted like beer, but not a lot of flavour to appreciate. Yes, I do realise I am at Oktberfest). As I have said previously, there is something about a situation that changes a beer, and the way you drink a beer. With the atmosphere being so big and everyone there to have fun and enjoy themselves, the approach we had going into the day was soon lost. We had both contemplated just having one or two and just sitting back to soak up the atmosphere, but seeing this many people enjoying their beer, and as it is probably a once in a lifetime experience, we soon got into the act and found the beer going down pretty quick.

By the time our second stein came two darts players (father and son) from the N/E of Germany sat down next to us. So between Jaimi’s broken german (nah, you did well mate) and the son’s broken English, we were able to communicate enough. And in the end, we both know why we are there, so we just enjoyed each other’s company and the father and I could just drink, say something to each other, then look across at Jaimi and his son to translate for us. At this time it we were also ready for some food, so I went a Spanfekel and Jaimi went the pork knuckle. I have to say that mine tasted pretty good with good juicy meat, crackling and a sauce that was great (too bad it didn't all stay in my stomach. Yes, my first spew since starting this blog, and at Oktoberfest! Classic.). I would have thought with the amount of food they were making the standards may not have been that good, but it tasted great, and allowed us to keep drinking. I took the opportunity when I saw some girls behind us dressed in some of the traditional garb to get them to pose for me, and found one of them was from Melbourne (what is going on?).

From there it gets pretty blurry. I remember Jaimi pulling out and heading back to where we were staying, and me continuing to try and talk with the German darts players. Next thing, after I would guess 5 hours drinking (and possibly a stein for each hour), having toasted to probably anyone I have ever met (especially Loz, Joel and Jess), I hit the wall and like Jaimi, felt the need to get back to the abode (I think I may have even left about 100-200ml of beer in the bottom of my stein [bad beefy!]). I don’t recall getting to the train. I remember having to change trains and waiting 25 mins for another train to come, then walking back from the station, meeting up with Jaimi, before packing up my gear, just to head back to the train station and make my way to the airport. As my flight to Istanbul was leaving at 7:30am and I wouldn’t be able to get a train in the morning to get me there in time, I had to get there tonight and just sleep at the terminal (not the first time, probably not the last). Still, had the advantage (is it an advantage?) of being drunk and so just being able to lie down on the bench and get a few hours sleep. So at least we can say, we have done Oktoberfest in a way it should be done, and lived to tell the story. Now just to get through the next day…


Day 24: Munich and Music

So we have made it down to Munich yesterday, and been very lucky to be able to stay with a friend of Jaimi’s for the two nights we are here. I was able to meet Manfred, Jacob and Tanya at Jaimi’s gig, then meet up with Manfred’s other half Christine at there house after the gig to eat salami (they have just come back from a trip to Italy) and drink wine. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of all six of us there. Through Jaimi I have had another door open to me and really appreciate that they are open to me as a tag alonger of his. I found Manfred is an All Blacks supporter and not entirely looking forward to seeing them choke again next year in the world cup. Even at the café last night, the people there were so nice they tried not to let me pay for my beers, seeing I was with Jaimi. Still, I couldn’t let them do that, after finding an interesting dunkel to try. It was a Maisacher bier (Rauber…something) and seemed to be a regional beer of the area. Speaking to Jacob about it (he spent 6 months in Sydney) he could appreciate the differences in beers between our countries, and found the yeast is a big difference (of course along with the hops), and I have to agree, especially when it comes to the bubblegum flavour I can get in the higher alcohol beers.

Still, as for this beer, it was quite watery and seemed to be pretty mainstream, but had enough malt and hop characteristic and 5% alcohol to make it a decent beer, and one I enjoyed a few times over on the night. I was asked whether I wanted to try a spiced dunkel when I had the first beer, but decided against it (which I was told was a good choice but the guitar shop owner’s wife) still, might have been good to try. It is funny how once the language barrier is opened (by the German’s speaking English) how much better an experience I have. While I did manage to record Jaimi playing some of his songs, inbetween and after was too interested in talking to them that I forgot to get other photos. Also, I find it interesting that watching Jaimi get up and do his ‘thang’ you re-realise how talented he is. I guess I got so use to seeing him as just a travel buddy, you forget about his ability in this. Still, the locals here have seen him more times at gigs than I have. One other thing I have to say is that the crowds here are very responsive and appreciative of music. At many places in Australia, people are talking over and not showing respect for the musicians. Here, they are very quiet during the show/song, but very boisterous once a song is done (even if the café he was playing in last night could only hold 30 people). I can see why Jaimi and other musicians enjoy playing to these types of crowds.

Still, today we have our one day of Oktoberfest, and have been warned and guided by the locals as to how best to stay away from the traps of this event. Still, I have to say I am a little scared and excited to see how it goes, and will be happy just to have one or two just to say I have done it, and tick it off the list of beer festivals I have been to. Am sure there will be enough atmosphere around us anyway, that we won’t want to add anymore.