Archive for the ‘Beer around the world’ Category

Offered the opportunity to spend a week working in Poland, I naturally jumped at the chance to escape the monotony of office life in London. My prior research into the city consisted of Googling the location of the hotel and so I arrived armed with the misconception that Krakow is a bit grim and is mostly is a city favoured by large groups of English men out to get as lathered as possible on stag do’s. I vaguely hoped to track down a few tasty beers.
Luckily for me, I found that Krakow is currently experiencing a revolution in the Polish craft beer scene.  On the first night, according to a barman I got speaking to, I was drinking the first ever IPA brewed in Krakow.  I’m not sure how accurate this is or if the fact was somehow lost in translation but either way, I believe it’s a clear sign that new and exciting beer styles are now becoming more visible at the bar alongside the mass produced lager/pilsner styles which have which have traditionally been commonplace.
perfect pour

perfect pour

Krakow is a beautiful city and a fantastic place to discover some new beer. The Old Town is a easily navigated, surrounded by a city wall and centred around an impressive open Main Square.  The Main Square is the focus of the Old Town and is dominated by a huge Church, meeting hall/market hall and Clock Tower which act as an ideal compass point when you are wandering round the medieval streets of the walled city.
Like many other European cities, the square also acts as a central destination for cultural events and gatherings of tourists and is unsurprisingly flanked by hundreds of bars and restaurants.  Unlike other European cities you thankfully do not get hounded by waiters bullishly ushering you into their establishment.  There are four fantastic beer bars within the walled city (Multi Qlti, The Tap House, The House of Beer and Viva La Pinta) two just on the outskirts (Brewpub C.K. Browar and TEA Time) and a further two which I visited in the Jewish District (Omerta and Beer Gallery).  The Jewish district, favoured by the young of Krakow is only a short walk from the old town and here you will find a high density of eateries, drinking spots and some quirky beer bars.
The price also helps.  Beer tasting is extremely affordable pastime with benefit of the exchange rate.  A half pint of local micro brewed beer costs around 4-6 Zloty (80p-£1.20) with pints ranging from 9-12 Zloty (£1.80 – £2.40).  In one bar it was only 1 Zloty (20p) to ‘upgrade’ from a half to a pint! No Brainer.
I asked around and did a little research at my desk to I seek out the best beer bars in the city and I was delighted by what I found.  The RateBeer website was helpful, as was talking to locals since it seems some of these bars have literally only been open a month or two.  The language barrier and the fact the bar websites are pretty much non-existent does makes beer-discovery a bit of a tricky task.
Here is my list of bars in order of favourite:
Multi Qlti
Opened in August 2014
The newest and coolest. It’s a trendy urban hangout so naturally I got the vibe immediately.  Up a set of stairs onto the first floor which is unlike other bars in Krakow which which are predominantly ground or basement. The huge floor to ceiling windows are flown open so you can people watch and snigger at the people below who are clearly not as cool as you. Decked out with comfy retro chairs, an orange and grey colour scheme and 20 taps serving local beers, Lindemann’s Kriek and Brewdog and groovy chill out music, you can hang out there all evening.
The beer list at Multi Qlti

The beer list at Multi Qlti

Omertà
Very good choice. 2 bars serving local and foreign pints. Good vibe and clearly a place where people come if they enjoy good beer. Nothing stuck or hung up about this place, just rock up and discover some great beer. Served Arbor and Brewdog from UK).
Viva la pinta
Tap room for the Pinta brewery. The space is cave like, with arched curving white washed walls. Decent tap selection, spacious outdoor area, nice staff who speak good English and are happy to recommend beer and give (multiple) samples. Really laid back and friendly place. Arbor Ales from England on tap and Brewdog bottles (noticing a theme developing here?).
The House of Beer
This literally does feel like a house or your front room, with sofas, carpets and  wooden coffee tables scattered about and The Beatles playing on repeat. Lovely friendly staff as well as an impressive ‘wall of beer’ proudly displaying their current bottle list.
C.K. Browar
This is a Brewpub with beautiful copper Kettles built into the back of the bar and lots of fermenters lined up neatly just visible behind the bar. Basic but tasty food. Great atmosphere once it gets going (world Volleyball champs on TV), nice range and good quality beer served in sample sizes or up to 5000ml tubes. Classic fun, great for groups and bit of novelty with the beer tubes towering over the tables.
scarily tall

scarily tall

disceptively small

disceptively small

The Tap House
Also opened in August 2014
Uber cool, minimal, Scandinavian and hipster. White washed walls with clear, wooden tables. It reminds me of a Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen. Couldn’t stay for long to taste all the beer but it has about 15 I think from memory. This probably deserves more of a mention and should potentially rank higher but I just didn’t have the opportunity to give this one more of a chance.
Beer Gallery
Bit of a strange one, dark and gothic feel on the inside, we were the only people there on a Thursday evening. Was recommended an 8% Sahti, a style I’ve not encountered before which was a collaboration between local brewery Pinta and Pracawonia Piwa.
Tea Time.
By the time we arrived at Tea Time we had already been to numerous establishments, reviewing my notes on this place, they seemed very harsh! I’ll say It’s a nice little spot with communal style tables and exposed brickwork. It’s got a great atmosphere to drink in but I was a little disappointed by the beer which they brew on site.
Look out for beers from:
Brouwar Lwowek Slaski (Jankes American Pale ale is incredible)
Brouwar Amber (tasted their Bock which was superb)
Pinta (the most available local brewery, Imperium Atakuje [imperial IPA] was brilliant)
Pracawonia Piwa (their collaboration with the above brewery called Happy Crack was the first Sahti style I’ve tasted)
Mango, pine nose with gorgeous sweet mouth with pleasant hint of hops bitterness.  Sharp carbonation balances the sweetness and ends clean.

Mango, pine nose with gorgeous sweet mouth with pleasant hint of hops bitterness. Sharp carbonation balances the sweetness and ends clean.

Drink Different

Drink Different

Wasssup y’all. Oh sorry I forgot I wasn’t in The States no more (oops there it goes again). So I thought it would be nice to give you a rundown of my little beer pilgrimage to the States.

 

Week one of my beer trip to the US was a thoroughly enjoyable excusion around Boston and New Hampshire. Overall impressions? These guys love their beer, they know how to brew in volume, tear up the recipe book and consumers are always looking for great beer from interesting breweries. Ok, so I was almost solely seeking out local beer Mecca’s but I barely saw a Budweiser or miller light all week. For anyone who still thinks American beer is just light and fizzy; where have you been? Times have changed. Whatever preconceptions I came with about the health of the US craft beer market have been surpassed. The beers are available, plentiful and tasty. The best part is that the consumer now expects great beer and is educated enough to explore what is on offer. Great beer is so widespread and readily available, I swear even the hobo’s are chugging double IPA’s to get their kicks.

Just a few of the taps at The Mead Hall, Cambridge, MA

Just a few of the taps at The Mead Hall, Cambridge, MA

 

Boston has a great beer scene. Everything from brew pubs, serving great beer and food combinations like their own amber ale beer battered fish and chips (Cambridge brewing company), to up market beer bars (Park and Meadhall), to downmarket dive bars with colossal beer lists and drinking challenges such as chugging 130 of the different beers available in 180 days (at Bukowski Tavern). Of course Boston is also famous for its pioneering breweries which are now on the ‘factory’ size scale such as and Harpoon and Sam Adams. Both of these have thrown open their doors to the public and are doing fantastic, extremely affordable and educational tours.

Whilst the larger brewery tours were fun and interesting, I felt a little let down by both in different ways. The Sam Adams tour of their ‘experimentation and research brewery’ was over the top American enthusiasm, incessant one liners and wise cracks and little insofar as the actual operation of the brewery, more ‘so you guys want some free beer?!!!’ Closely followed by much whooping and cheering. The enthusiasm for beer was great but the entertainment factor heavily outplayed any insight into what they actually did on site. I was happily surprised by their beer, it was better than I expected and indeed I remembered. Maybe free beer always tastes great?

Harpoon Brewery beer hall

Harpoon Brewery beer hall

 

Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon Brewery

Over at Harpoon Brewery on the Boston waterfront they run a slick operation. We tried to head there in a Saturday afternoon. After seeing the queue of 100 people patiently waiting in -2C and making enquiries in my best British accent the possibility of joining a brewery tour, we decided to cut our losses and head to a local sports bar, which just happened to have over 20 taps on draft. When I returned by myself on a Wednesday there was no queue but still a wait for a tour. There are few worse places to while away the time. A flight of beer and a fantastic fresh baked IPA pretzel later in the beer hall, I joined the tour. More US enthusiasm from the tour guide and if I closed my eyes I could swear he could have been plucked straight out of a scene from Anchorman. Interesting tour and plenty of free beer, it’s just a shame I found the beer a little bland, watery with little body. Maybe not all free beer tastes great after all.

 

The state of New Hampshire has a wealth of great breweries and knowing my inclination to seek out great American Beer, A friend of mine went out of her way to plan a day of Brewery visits in Portsmouth. Starting off at Red Hook brewery, we had lunch in the tap room restaurant and a personal guided tour of the facility. In the tasting room we had a number of samples of both Red Hook and Widmer Brothers Brewing, who merged to form the Craft Brew Alliance in 2007 (part owned by Anheuser-Bush). On balance I actually preferred the Widmer Hefeweisse and the Pitch Blank IPA compared to the offerings from Red Hook (Audible, Long Hammer IPA and ESB).

12 of the finest from Portsmouth Brewery

12 of the finest from Portsmouth Brewery

 

Heading further into the picturesque, seaside town of Portsmouth we visited the Portsmouth Brewery, with a tour given by one of the brewers followed by a taste of all 12 beers which were available on tap! They were all exceptional quality and served straight from the fermentation tanks under the pub. My highlight was stumbling into Earth Eagle Brewings, a tiny brewery and tap room tucked away in the heart of the town working off a 2 barrel (72 Gallons or 576 pints per brew). These guys are the epitome of ‘craft’, extremely bearded, experimentational (their Cochon beer is brewed with four smoked pig’s heads http://eartheaglebrewings.com/stories), enthusiastic about their business, socially conscious and community driven. They were lovely guys creating fantastic ‘out there’ beer.

getting significant beard envy with the guys at Earth Eagle Brewings

getting significant beard envy with the guys at Earth Eagle Brewings

 

Vermont has the highest concentration of breweries per capita in America, so as you can imagine I was pretty keen to get over to a couple. I had a ski trip planned for the weekend so I made some twitter enquiries as where was best to visit. The consensus was that Whetstone Brewery in Brattleboro would be a convenient stop off for a light snack and a few beer samples. It is a proper brew pub with a 3.5 barrel capacity (126 gallons or 1008 pint capacity) located in a stunning location right on the Connecticut River. In the name of market research, I chose the flight of 6 beers. They came in all manner of styles and all were incredibly tasty and full bodied.

Picturesque Vermont, VT

Picturesque Vermont, VT

Another of Vermont's picturesque sights

Another of Vermont’s picturesque sights

 

New York, New York… Well what to say. It was great to be back and I was determined to seek out the best beer possible. The city has an impressive list of beer bars which if you are looking for great places to drink beer, these guys just get it:

Tørst – 615 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn (Minimal, clean bar with huge list of hard to find beers)

Top Hops Beer Shop – 94 Orchard St, New York (beer shop / bar perfect for discovering new beer)

d.b.a. – 41 1st Ave, New York (famous for beer)

ABC Beer – 96 Avenue C, New York (cosy, relaxed and chilled out)

Reichenbach Hall (5 West 37th Street) – German beer hall serving great German beer and incredible food. Pretzels bigger than your head.

Spuyten Duyvil – 359 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn (little disappointing, looks to be living off its reputation. Staff were rude)

Blind tasting.  Torst, Williamsberg

Blind tasting. Torst, Williamsburg

 

One mighty pretzel

One mighty pretzel

 

 

Chill out at abc beer

Chill out at abc beer

 

 

Top Hops beer shop and tap room

Top Hops beer shop and tap room

Probably not surprisingly there are few accessible breweries in New York, most are ‘upstate’ where industrial space is more on the affordable side and best accessed by automobile. However, any beer trip to New York would not be complete without a visit to the Brooklyn Brewery. The Small Batch tour was great fun, giving the opportunity to sample some of the less readily available beer. Their flagship Brooklyn Lager tasted great. Fresh as you like suds from the Brewery with the Blast (Double IPA) and the Sorachi Ace (Saison) being particularly memorable.

Brooklyn y'all

Brooklyn y’all

 

Great beer is now a given in so many bars in the US. The growing trend for craft beer and increasing number of breweries is showing no signs of slowing with the market share for craft brewers hitting 7.8% of all the beer sold in the United States, up from 6.5% in 2012. This trend is interesting reading for the UK craft beer market since ‘craft’ beer has only really hit public consciousness in these shores since around 2011. For those of us who embrace the tasty, complex and imaginative beer coming from this beer revolution we can expect more of the same.

However, I believe we are still a long way off matching the Americans for the sheer accessibility to tasty beer. The public is more informed and expects variety of choice and excellent quality beer as standard in bars over the other side of the pond. If we want great beer to occupy more fridge and tap space in our pubs and bars, we need to exude the virtues of great beer to our friends and help promote independent breweries! Enthusiasm is infectious and beer is delicious, so give it a go!

 

Why not bring some friends along to a craft beer tasting? Or organise a private beer tasting for a gathering of friends or birthday party, book one for your work colleagues as a team-building or client entertainment? If you are interested in booking Indie Ales for a tutored beer tasting, please get in touch via the form below or check out my upcoming events