Monday, August 10, 2015

OK, I've Been a Bad Boy...

...and not updating the blog. Most of my beer travels have been documented on Twitter and I haven't always felt like duplicating them here.

I am on my way to Bamberg with my trusty Bike Friday -- if weather co-operates I'll have nearly a couple of weeks riding around to my favorite countryside breweries.

I'll be playing around with a  new toy -- an app on my iPhone -- called LocaToWeb -- that will update my riding tracks -- and do so in real time. Now with a 6-9 hour time difference you probably won't catch the start of a ride -- but you might catch the end.

It may not work well, but it's worth a peek if you are bored.

Also, I hope to soon have my iPhone/iPad version of my "Beer Drinker's Guide to Bamberg" in the App Store. It is waiting for Apple to approve (or reject).  It will be followed in short time by beer guide apps for London, New York, Dublin and Copenhagen. And maybe a free one for Antwerp (not as many pubs there).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Non Quiet Day in Bamberg; 5 Breweries.

I didn't mean to make this a marathon day, it just ended up that way.

Started off with lunch and a couple of beer at Spezial.

Lunch was Goulash. Very tasty.

Then across the street to Fässla for an after lunch beer.

I was hoping Keesmann might still have their Josephi Bock still on but it was only in bottles, so I had the other famous Bamberg Pils, the Herren Pils. A tough choice -- usually I like the Fässla better but today the nod went to Keesmann.

I love the stylized barley in the light fixtures.

Keesmann had their new(-ish) Weizen on draft, so I had one. They, like Mahrs (and Ambräusianum) actually brew their wheat beers while the other Bamberg breweries have the contract brewed and or fermented.

By then Mahrs was open (they open at 4pm on Monday) so I went across the street for "a U"

Then I noticed the sign on the wall -- both the Festtags Weisse and the Weisse Bock. Danger ahead.

Went with the Festtags Weisse first.  This and Schneider Weisse compete for my favorite regular strength wheat beer.

Then Der Weisse Bock. It probably was my taste buds but it wasn't as complex as former years. But I usually haven't had two wheat beers before it either.

I needed some food, so I ordered the excellent Biertreber Schnitzel. Yummy as always.

There was at least one more Weisse Bock though there could have been two. I think it was only one though.

One the way home I passed Schlenkerla, It would have been rude not to stop in for a beer, so I did.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Quiet Day in Bamberg.

Ok, I definitely overdid it Saturday, for which I paid the price on Sunday. Good thing I didn't stay for that extra Mönchsambacher.

I am working on an iPhone version of my "Beer Drinker's Guide to Bamberg" booklet and I needed some pictures for it. So I went on a bike ride around town to take some pictures. Mahrs Bräu would have been my eventual destination but they now close at 3pm on Sunday (until 4pm Monday). I can see the need for a "rest day" but why not just close Monday? With Keesmann also closed Sunday that means the poor residents of Wunderburg have brewery to visit Sunday afternoon/evening. A crisis, I say.

So I was going to head to Fässla Keller -- it was a sunny day and I wanted to sit outside. Well, when I got there I discovered I had left my wallet it my room. Oops. So I rode back home. I didn't really want to ride all the way back across town and remembered that Zapfhahn opens early on Sunday, so I went there for a beer and a burger.

I started off with a Hell from Sonne (Bischberg). As always, a very nice beer.

I ordered a "Mango-Chedder Burger" to go with it. It also was good but they must spice the hamburger differently or something. I enjoyed it and would have it again but that "difference" sort of bugged me a bit.

Their "guest" beer was a "Bayreuther Bock"  -- so I had one, The famous brewery in Bayreuth is Maisel but they brew wheat beers so I guess it is from the other brewery, Becher. The waitress didn't know the brewery, only that it was from Bayreuth. It was good but a little on the sweet side for sitting in the sun.

After that I needed a nap.

When I finally felt like venturing out again, I walked down to Schlenkerla for a light dinner and a couple of beers.

Second Day in Bamberg.

The first order of business Saturday was to see about renting a bicycle. I headed over to Fahrradhaus Griesmann on Obere Königstrasse and was soon outfitted with a "trekking" bike. It has big, fat, squishy tires and weighs a ton, but I will only be using it around town (and maybe a ride to Merkendorf) so it will do. The fat squish tires do make the cobblestone streets a little less rattling.

Then it was time for lunch and Spezial is right there.


One of the daily specials was herring in a sour creme and bärlauch sauce. I had to google bärlauch -- it is "bear garlic" or "wild garlic." In any case, it made a nice sauce.

Then back to the rooms for a short nap. Later that afternoon my landlord -- Frank -- asked if I wanted to go with him go Greifenklau. He said they had a bock beer a few weeks ago that was very good and he wanted to try it again. So we hiked up the hill.

I started with the Lagerbier and it was in its usual good form. Many years ago they were having some constancy issues which made it a bit of risk -- walk up the hill and end up with a marginal beer. Luckily, those days seem to be past and the quality has been excellent the past few years.

Suitably refreshed and rehydrated it was time for the "Braunerbock"

It was a decent beer, nice and malty, but Frank was disappointed -- he said the one he had before was much hoppier. So we switched back to the Lagerbier, which came in a krug ("stein") this time.

Frank had an appointment elsewhere, so I decided so long as I had climbed the hill, I might as well take advantage of the elevation. So I headed over to Stephansberg and Stöhrenkeller. Along the way were some pretty trees in bloom. I assume it is some sort of fruit tree -- I'll leave that to the experts.

When I got to Stöhrenkeller it was packed -- being Saturday it was Thai food night. I found a place at the (tiny) bar and ordered a Vollbier from Brauerei Witzgall (Schlammersdorf). This is a tiny brewery near Forchheim and it is rare to find outside of the brewery. So I had a couple.

I headed back towards town and my room. I had to pass Schlenkerla and had thought about stopping for a nightcap but it was packed and I didn't want to stand in the street and drink, so I kept going.

Soon I came to Roten Schild and decided to check out what they had going. The normally only have bottled beers but Friday and Saturday they often have a barrel of something good. Tonight it was Metzgerbräu from Uetzing. This is a fairly new brewery that was started by a butcher ("Metzger").

Soon after I got my beer they brought out a fresh keg, so I knew that a second beer was in my future. It would have been rude not to have.

This is not a traditional gasthaus or even really a beer place. The bartender was busy making all sorts of fancy cocktails and they were doing a land office business with Tucher Cola-Weizen.

This is, I think, a waste of Cola.

Then came my downfall. A second barrel was brought out, this time of Mönchsambacher Lager. This is one of my favorites and from a gravity barrel it is delightful. So of course I had one.

They went thru the 20L barrel in about 45 minutes, just as I finished mine, so of course I had to have one from the fresh barrel. I would have been rude....

It was tempting to stay for a 3rd or 4th but sanity reigned and I headed for home. I had had a "Kinderschnitzel" at Greifenklau but that was a while ago, so I had some street food -- a pork sandwich, Bamberg style. The roll was certainly better than those in Düsseldorf (Bamberg is famous for it's bakeries as well as breweries) and the pork was just as good.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Arrived In Bamberg

I am staying at Frank Wetzel's Ferienwohnung ("Holiday Apartment") which is close to Schlenkerla, so of course that was the first stop.

The sun was out so the garden was open (though it was a bit chilly). After a while Matthias Trum happened by and we talked a bit. I said I was sorry I missed the Fastenbier this year and he said they bottled it for the first time and there were still a few left.

Things you learn when you travel -- I never new that Purple was the color of Lent (at least in Franconia).

After a few beers the sun went behind the buildings and it go quite chilly, so we moved inside to the Schwemm for another couple of beers.

I needed to grocery shopping so, reluctantly, I had to leave. A local friend, Christoph -- whom I met thru the Franconian Brewery Museum, decided to walk with me. Christoph is a home brewer -- which for someone living in Bamberg means they are quite dedicated!

On they way back to the apartment to drop off the groceries. Christoph insisted I try the Hemp beer brewed by Klosterbräu Weisenhohe. I tried to beg off but Christoph was insistent so we stopped in at the store that sells hemp products (clothes, makeup, etc.).

I don't think I'll be bringing one of these bottles home, even though it is really no different than the various hemp beers in the states. The taste was OK, but I don't feel the need to have another anytime soon.

We headed for the Zapfhahn where I hoped to get some food but all the tables were reserved and they don't serve food in the Schwemme or on the patio, so I settled for a beer.

I went with the Hölzlein Vollbier from Lohndorf. It was very good as usual.

Christoph wanted to go on the Der Pelikan but I managed to persuade him that I was jet lagged.

I still hadn't had anything to eat, so I walked back up Sandstrasse and got a couple of bratwurst on a roll with sauerkraut. I great finish to the day.

Tomorrow I am going to try and rent a bicycle (as I didn't bring mine). And probably drink some beer.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

First Beer of a New Beer Trip...

I had a really interesting around the world trip planned for March: Los Angeles -> Budapest -> Tokyo -> Los Angeles. It was a mistake fare that was around last May -- total airfare was $390 (to Tokyo, I was using miles to get home).

Well, about 2 days before I was to leave I came down with a nasty virus. So I ended up canceling the trip. If I had paid $1500 I would probably have tried it -- and been miserable as I was out of it for over a week. But $400 was worth not being miserable. And I may get it back -- I was supposed to fly thru JFK and that day one of the snowstorms hit. Refund has been "processing" for a month now.

So my consolation prize was a trip to Bamberg. As I write this I am 37,000 ft over Iowa, again transiting JFK. The good news is Delta serves Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (which has become my goto "local-isn" beer).

Unfortunately it is only on the LAX-JFK (and SFO-JFK) runs. On the flight to Frankfurt my "premium beer" will be Heineken.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kind of a Blah End to the Trip...

I was feeling a bit off on Monday. I took the DART (commuter rail) down to Blackrock to visit the new J.D. Wetherspoon's pub and then met a local friend at the second Wetherspoon's in nearby Dun Laoghaire.

Both pubs had mostly English and American beers on cask and keg plus the usual international swill.  The only Irish beers were bottled. Prices were amazing -- my first half pint of a cask Stout from Bath Ales was €1.25! Full pints -- cask or keg -- where €2.50 about half of what I had been paying.  I can see why the pub operators associations are fighting tooth and nail to keep Wetherspoon's out if Ireland.

Anyway, I though maybe I was coming down with a cold. After dinner and a couple of beers at the Brew Dock I called it an early-ish night.

Turns out I had some kind of stomach bug and hardly left the hotel room for the next two days. Not a pleasant time. My flight home was actually schedule for Wednesday but was canceled because of the bad weather in the Northeast US. That ended up being a bit of a blessing as it gave me an extra day to recover.

Anyway, I back home, OK and recovering from the jet lag. Kind of bummed that I didn't get to make a last visit of my favorite places, but there is always next year.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Three New Places and Nine New Beers

Started off in Ranelagh at the Taphouse for a bowl of soup and a beer.

The first beer was Trouble Brewing Sabotage IPA (not a new one for me). A solid Irish IPA, lower in alcohol than a US counterpart but every bit as flavorful.

Followed by a Kinnegar Limeburner (new). After the IPA this was little on the bland side but no flaws and would have been a good first beer.

Then it was back on the bus to Alfie Byrnes, the Galway Bay pub in the Dublin Conrad Hotel. I got off the bus and said, "Hmm, which way do I go" then turned around...

Great marketing. The pub is in the same build as the hotel but has its own entrance by the fountain, down one level.

As you'd think being in a 5 star hotel, it is a bit fancier than the usual Galway Bay pub but not too fancy. I started off with a Blacks of Kinsale KPA (or Kinsale Pale Ale) Aggressively hopped and quite good. I remember this one from last year (or was it the year before) and I wasn't disappointed.

As I write this I realize all three beer I had at Alfies look alike. They were different, though. Next up was a new brewery for me Black Donkey Brewing and the beer, Pilot House Amber Ale. The hops were not a sharp as in the KPA but still a well made, drinkable beer. Looking forward to others from this brewery.

Finally, I had an 8 Degrees Amber Ella. This was fairly new on my last visit and was one of my favorite new beers. Still as great as ever.

It was starting to think about dinner and wanted to move on. I am writing an Android App version of the website and one cool feature I've added is click on a bus route and see which other pubs are near that bus. It turns out the 37 bus goes from Alfie Byrnes to L. Mulligan Grocer. It was fate.

So I hopped on the next 37 bus and soon was at LMG. Almost too many beera to choose from 26 taps, and 6 hand pumps. I started with the Brown Paper Bag Project Lupe Garou Fresh Hopped Ale.

The Brown Paper Bag Project is an endeavor by the people behind L. Mulligan Grocer.  They don't (or at least they didn't) have their own brewery but have come up with some outstanding beers over the years. This one didn't disappoint.

Next up was Wicklow Wolf Brewing Kentucky Common. This is a style I don't think I've seen outside of home-brew competitions (and probably the state of Kentucky) I'm not that familiar with the details but it was a tasty beer. I drink Irish Stouts brewed in the US so why not a Kentucky Common brewed in Ireland?

With my herb crusted haddock I had a White Gypsy Emerald. I don't think I've had this one before and it went very well with the fish.

Next I strayed from he straight and narrow and ordered a non-Irish beer -- an IPA from the Italian brewery Birra Del Borgo. A friend from London had just spent a week in Rome drinking Italian beers and I ordered this is solidarity. It had a bit different yeast characteristic but was good. We don't get too many craft Italian beers in Los Angeles, so I'm happy to try them when I can. I hear an Italian only pub will be opening in London soon -- looking forward to that on my next visit there.

Time to start winding down. There was a Trouble Brewing Chocolate Cherry Stout on one of the hand pumps so I took a gamble -- sometimes they can be too candy-like -- I like my beers to taste like beer,

This one hit the right balance, the cherry and chocolate were there but it still was a stout. Good job!

For the final beer chose the Dungarvan Coffee Oatmeal Stout, also on cask. I guess it's more a breakfast beer but it was a nice finisher. Strong but not overpowering coffee notes.

Then it was off to catch the bus back to my hotel. I am getting to know the bus system but I don't always get the right stop. This time I went one too far and ended up walking by another place on my list, Cassidy's.

This is a sister pub to P.Macs and Blackbird. The above picture was taken when they were closed but at 10pm on a Saturday night they were hopping. I went in to check out their beers and ordered a Trouble Brewing VietNow IPA. I understand this was a beer brewed for them by Trouble and it was a quite nice IPA but at this point I couldn't really tell you how it was different than the Sabotage I started the day with. In any case, I quickly drank it and left -- I'm sure if I was 20 or 30 years younger I would have loved the place, but the crowd and the loud music were just too much for this old fart.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kind of an Off Day in Dublin

Probably over did it Thursday for a first day in country. No probably about it.

So Friday was a slow start. I walked over to the other side of Trinity College to check out a place called Kennedy's. It looked to be a nice pub but as it was lunch time it was packed and I couldn't find a seat. There were some craft beers on tap but nothing I wanted to wait for, so I headed on.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I walked over to the Ginger Man. I hadn't been here is years. It never had that great a selection but I think now it is even less. Those beers they did have were Franciscan Well and since I've now learned they may be brewed in England I'm less interested. Oh well.

So I walked over the Porterhouse Central for a bowl a soup and some beers. They had their Hop Head on cask so went with that.

Porterhouse Hop Head

After that I had another beer, but since I've already posted a photo I didn't bother. You can probably figure out which one.

Next I hopped a bus headed towards the Guinness factory. On a corner on Thomas Street is Arthur's Pub.

Arthur's Pub

A very cozy and friendly looking pub. They had a mixture of beers, the usual range if Industrial Beers and 6 or so craft beers. One the taps said Metalman Windjammer so I ordered that. Later I received a tweet from the brewery that they haven't brewed with Windjammer in a year a or so, so the beer was probably just the Pale Ale. It was tastily, nevertheless.

Metal man Pale Ale (probably)

Then a couple of things happened -- my camera started acting flaky and so did my stomach (though not it the way you think -- but I'll spare you the details). So I decided to hop a bus back to the hotel. There I got things squared away but that short nap before going for dinner turned into 12 hours of sleep. I guess I was behind the curve.