Oktoberfest München 2012 Report

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Oct 18th, 2012
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Oktoberfest München. Somewhere imprinted in the mind of many a beer drinker, this festival represents the ultimate celebration of beer…and of lederhosen. And actually it’s that latter part that is the most discomforting for the average American beer drinker. It’s pretty damn hard to look manly in lederhosen. Maybe if you’ve got body hair like a sasquatch you could pull off the look without disrespecting your manhood, but I digress….

We didn’t go to Oktoberfest for the lederhosen, we were there for the beer. If in the end, we woke up the following morning wearing lederhosen, then that meant two things: First, it must have meant the beer was really good. Second, the fact that we still have some clothes on means that we probably resisted the impulse to run naked through the beer tents. (Not as compelling as the urge to run naked through the hop fields of Belgium, but an impulse that we know we must resist.)

Oktoberfest…hmm…where do I start?

The first thing that you have to realize about Oktoberfest is that the beer is crap.

I’m not going to sugar coat the truth. Oktoberfest is a wonderful experience. The beer halls are each filled with thousands of people from all over the world drinking beer from liter mugs (called a mass, or more correctly Maß). Every single one of those thousands of people is a person with a story to tell (usually at a high decibel range), and a potential new best friend for the length of time that it takes you to drink your mass. In many ways, Oktoberfest is a celebration of beer as the ultimate social lubricant. (more…)

Beer of the Moment: The Kernel Brewery, London

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Mar 14th, 2012
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Your new plans for Saturday

Cancel your plans. Drop everything. Whatever it is on your schedule, you can always do it later. Do you not understand how to procrastinate?  Wikipedia defines procrastination as the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time.

So maybe it’s not procrastination after all. Let’s just say that you will derive enjoyment from a visit to The Kernel.  But who is to say that such enjoyment should not be your priority? You owe it to yourself …  you’ve earned it … what would the Kernel do?

Saturday, you need to reward yourself with a visit to The Kernel Brewery in Bermondsey.

The Kernel was undoubtedly the highlight of last weekend’s WDT London Spring Beer Weekend 2012.

Their single hop series of IPAs and double IPAs are outstanding. Bottle aged, with an impressive yeast sediment, these beers have more depth and body than your typical IPA. And consider this this comment is coming from a fan of US west coast IPAs such as Stone, Sculpin and Green Flash … not to mention the Pizza Port brewpubs.

Kernel Double Citra IPA: A Tasty Experiment in Nuclear Fission

The focus on a single hop series of bottle conditioned beers certainly draws comparisons to Mikkeller. The Mikkeller series is great, but while The Kernel does not have nearly as broad of a range (yet), to me they have more of a small batch charm.

During our visit to the Kernel (and other bars that served Kernel beers), we enjoyed their Columbus (taste is more upfront, the GTG says it’s “A shot of malty vanilla followed by a baseball bat of hops”), Galaxy (more of a slow burn on the back of the throat), Nelson Sauvin (fruitier, almost like a hint of white grape), and Chinook (similar to Nelson, but lighter). We also enjoyed stronger double IPAs … the double Citra was like sunshine in a bottle, bright and excellently balanced … a 9.8% strength beer full of flavour … maybe a hint of lemon, vanilla, peach … or quite possibly active nuclear fission, as it seemed to have the power of the sun … and I’ve never tasted nuclear fission before so it’s hard to compare … so let’s just call it brilliant … and glowing. The aged double Centennial was also excellent, if not quite as memorable (or glowing) as the Citra, although it did have quite the yeasty sediment.

Liquid bread

They also had an Export Stout available … smoky and rich … would probably go quite well with the sausages and cheeses available in the market area around The Kernel. However, after the IPAs, it is hard to switch gears to the stout.

The Kernel is open Saturdays from 9am to 3pm. They are surrounded by a market of food vendors, so it’s a great way to spend your Saturday midday, even if you’re not on a liquid diet.  You can find more information at http://thekernelbrewery.com/saturdays.html

In a few weeks time (March 31), The Kernel will be moving to a new location several blocks away. Presently they are about equidistant from London Bridge and Bermondsey tube stops (10 minute walk or so), but the new location looks closer to Bermondsey.

If for some reason you can’t make it out midday Saturday (it is a rather long journey for some of us), try their beers at the Euston Tap (an excellent bar right outside Euston Station) or the Cask Pub & Kitchen in Pimlico.

Beers of the Caribbean (Scorchio!)

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Jan 14th, 2012
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Do not attempt if the weather report is not Scorchio!

Let’s face it … the best thing about drinking a Caribbean lager is that you’re in the Caribbean when you’re drinking it.

If you’re on the beach in Barbados, the local Banks beer has a certain appeal.  Sure it tastes a bit like Corona without the lime.  But you didn’t go to Barbados for the beer.

It’s the same reason that you drink Balashi in Aruba.  (Although, admittedly, we did find a very nice Belgian Beer Bar in Aruba when we were there a couple of years ago.)   The sun is hot (Scorchio!), and the cold lager is refreshing.

Today's Weather Report: Scorchio!

I’d have a hard time telling the difference between a Carib in Trinidad & Tobago and a Kalik in the Bahamas.

Amstel Bright (I think it’s brewed in Curaçao, but I encountered it in Aruba) and Medalla Light (Puerto Rico) have such a pale yellow color that … wait … ignore those tasting notes, I think it was cloudy the days I tried those beers.  Or maybe it was at an airport bar … the farther away from a sunny beach, the lower the score.

Somehow, at a beach bar, these nondescript supposed beers, become a fond remembrance of a great vacation.  These memories are the reason that you occasionally stumble and order a Red Stripe later in the evening.  At least Jamaica has a couple of strong stouts for when you tire of the Red Stripe (I like Dragon Stout, but Jamaica Stout is good too).

Antidote for scorchio!

That’s why I was so surprised to taste Wadali beer earlier this year in Antigua!  Maybe the weather was more scorchio than usual.  Or maybe I was dehydrated from too many rum drinks in the sun.  But this was a delicious surprise.  While light and refreshing, there was something of a little extra hop zing in this one that seems to be missing from other island lagers.  And then there’s the smell … I have to admit that there’s a bit of a funky skunky smell that you encounter, especially when you first pop off the cap.  But it’s not so skunky that it scares you off, it actually invites you in.  The funk offers promise that you might actually be drinking a beer … and if you’ve been trapped on a cruise for the past week, that promise is good enough.

(Side note:  Ok … St. John’s Brewers does have some interesting non-lagers in the US Virgin Islands, but every bottle I saw said it was brewed by Shipyard in Maine, so I’m not sure they qualify as Caribbean beers.)


And now, the weather report:





San Diego – King of the IPA

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Oct 15th, 2011
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I don’t claim to be an expert on San Diego or West Coast IPAs in general.  I do get to San Francisco once or twice a year, and I am a fan of northern California IPAs such as Lagunitas, Racer 5, and stronger versions such as Pliny The Elder.  In fact, I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it.

Last year around this time, I had my first taste of Sculpin IPA at The Monk’s Kettle in San Fransisco (a bar I highly recommend for lunch or an early happy hour … it’s a little on the small side and crowds up later in the day … just a short walk from the BART stop at 16th & Mission … but I digress).

Sculpin is from Ballast Point Brewery in San Diego, and it’s not a beer that we see in the Southeast US.  I do recall enjoying their Victory At Sea Coffee Vanila Imperial Porter at The Lodge in Hilton Head once, but that was my only previous exposure to Ballast Point.  Sculpin makes a strong case for possibly being the best American style IPA … a near perfect blend of hops.

San Diego is also home to Alesmith, who brews yet another world class IPA.

And in San Diego North County, of course, there’s Stone Brewing.  Ruination IPA is one of my favorite full frontal hop assaults, technically more of an Imperial IPA, although only a little stronger than Sculpin.  And they also have Sublimely Self Righteous, one of the best names for a beer ever, and the second best black IPA … being second only to Stone’s 15th Anniversary brew.

With a few nights in San Diego, I had some additional exploring to do. (more…)

Brussels Belgian Beer Weekend 2011

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Oct 5th, 2011
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2011 was our sixth trip to the annual Belgian Beer Weekend beer festival in Brussels.

Brussels always delivers, but every year the festival itself gets more and more crowded, and it’s generally more relaxed to go have a drink in a bar than fight through the crowd.

The one good thing about the festival, however, is that there are so many beer lovers in town that you’re bound to meet someone interesting.

I remember one year we were at Cantillon, and the staff was working feverishly to take extra good care of an American guy.  It was hard to complain because they were opening up all kinds of bottles for him to taste, and then bringing the rest of the bottle over to our table afterward.  We ran into the guy later in the weekend at Delirium, and he turned out to be Tom Peters from Monk’s Cafe in Philly.

Brasserie Cantillon

Not much from the outside

The good old prices...

Prepare for overload

After running into David from Brouwerij Huyghe year after year and night after night on these trips, we took him up on his offer of a brewery tour one year.

Delirium Bottling Line

What's Brewing?

Get me a straw

I could go on, but on a typical night out in Brussels any other time of the year,  you’re not as likely to run into such interesting beer lovers.

But hour long queues to buy tokens for the beer festival?  Waiting at the entrance for people to leave so that additional people can be let in?  Drinking at a bar is so much more civilized … and thankfully Brussels has some great places to choose from.  Here is a guide to some of our favorites…


WDT 2011 – Report from Brugge (Bruges)

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Sep 24th, 2011
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If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me.  But I didn’t, so it doesn’t.

Or so one of the characters from the movie “In Bruges” famously said.

't Brugs Beertje (photo from 2001)

I hadn’t been back to Brugge (the proper Flemish name for the town) since well before the release of that movie, so I was curious to see how things had changed.  We had always had fun in Brugge in the past, but it was basically a one decent bar town.  Plenty of good places to eat … the best fish soup in the world … but only one world class bar, ‘t Brugs Beertje.

Now that said, ‘t Brugs Beertje is one of the best beer bars in the world.  In fact, it’s legendary.

But it’s closed on Wednesdays.

And guess what day we rolled into town?

Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel

Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel

I knew that when I was planning the itinerary for this year’s trip.  But we had to take the chance that Brugge was more than ‘t Brugs Beertje.  And we also had to at least see a canal.  My friend ColaniAL has probably been to Brugge 6 or 7 times and had yet to see a canal.  That’s mainly because there weren’t any on the path between the Hotel Acacia and ‘t Brugs Beertje, which was the only sightseeing we had done on any of those trips.

I’m happy to report that Brugge now has at least 2 additional world class beer bars, and a scattering of other fine establishments. (more…)

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