» Beer ...ideas from the road Thu, 30 Jul 2015 23:28:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Big In Texas: Bold Beer Wed, 19 Feb 2014 20:08:26 +0000 There are many breweries across Texas and big, bold flavors dominate the scene. John explores some highlights.

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Texas is big and hot. And you need something to get through the heat and humidity. So beer it is. There are many breweries across Texas and I indulged in the following varieties throughout the past summer and fall.

adelberts flying monks

Adelbert’s Brewery, Austin – Flyin’ Monks (10.9%)

This quadrupel ale is one of the brewery’s infamous Belgian-style ales that are both potent and quirky. Conditioned with rum oak cubes, the label states “Enjoy the Flight” and who wouldn’t with each mouthful of this cork-topped bottle. I’m constantly amazed by the desire of US microbreweries to create their own versions of my beloved Belgian beers.

black metal beer

Jester King Brewery, Austin – Black Metal (9.3%)

This is a farmhouse imperial stout that is described by the brewery as “a cruel and punishing beer fermented by the sheer force of its awesome will.” Brilliantly said. It’s one of their many brews that are worth trying just for the unique and artistic label designs. I love dark beers and I particularly adore imperial stouts. The perfect alcohol content and is best enjoyed as an after-dinner dessert by itself.
 rahr & sons texas red beer

Rahr & Sons Brewing Company, Fort Worth – Texas Red (5.0%)

A good amber lager is hard to find and this one is perfectly drinkable for its caramel and malty undertones. Just right for those long, energy-sapping summer days. I also tried the brewery’s “Ugly Pug” at last spring’s Houston Press Brewfest and will let you figure out what type that is.
 mesquite porter

Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, San Antonio – Mesquite Smoked Porter (6.4%)

Porter is my ultimate beer that can be imbibed on any day at any time of the year. The smokier, the better and this drop has the added bonus of “using malt smoked in-house over Texas mesquite”. Now I’m not 100% sure what mesquite actually is, but this smoked porter tasted like a liquid-barbecue in my mouth that couldn’t quench my hunger. I just wanted more and delicious is not a strong enough word for this beautiful brew.

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The Maine Craft Beer Scene Thu, 05 Sep 2013 07:55:58 +0000 Nothing goes down better with lobster than the delicious craft beer in Maine.

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Maine is famous for their wonderful lobster but the craft beers are just as fabulous. Prior to arriving there, I discovered the Maine Brewers’ Guild, which contains the Maine Beer Trail. Established in 2009, the Maine Beer Trail contains information on the Maine breweries and a map to assist you throughout your visit. The best part is if you visit five breweries, you receive a hat and 10 breweries will get you a t-shirt. During our week-long drive through the state we managed to stop at five so here are some of the brews I tried.

maine beer pourMarshall Wharf Brewing Company, Belfast (Two Pinchy Lane)

Doppelbock Lager (8.0%) – dark and malty, my love of bock beer just grew with this drop. This was a tiny brewery where you can fill up your growler(s) or sit on the couches whilst enjoying your beer tasting.

Bar Harbor Brewing Company, Bar Harbor (Eight Mount Desert Street)

True Blue Blueberry Ale (5.2%) – we tried blueberry ale in Patagonia in 2011, but the wheat aspect of this one was more than intriguing. Bar Harbor’s first microbrewery was also small, but terrific. I had a great chat with the knowledgeable server and sampling the beers gives you credit to use in the gift shop.

Atlantic Brewing Company, Bar Harbor (15 Knox Road)

Coal Porter (6.5%) – one of their ‘classic’ varieties, this was outstanding and reinforced to me that porters are amazing. Perfect on our only rainy day in Maine, the BBQ was a fantastic accompaniment to the beer. The local I sat next to at the bar was super-friendly and couldn’t wait to tell me of the brewery’s history.

atlantic brewing company maine maine-beer-3

Gritty McDuff’s, Portland (396 Fore St.)

Red Claws Ale (~4.5%) – dark red-amber with nice nutty flavors. Maine’s first brew pub since prohibition, this was a good place to stop by for an afternoon pint. They also have locations in Freeport and Auburn.

grittys portland maine beer

Shipyard Brew Pub, Eliot (28 Levesque Dr. – Route 236)

Old Thumper (5.6%) – bitter style that was easy to drink. Located just across the border from Portsmouth, NH, the GPS almost foiled us in our search for this place. Part of the Shipyard Brewing Company with three other locations.

shipyard brewing maine maine-beer-26

Maine Beer Company, Portland (525 US Route 1)

MO (6.0%) – American pale ale is my favorite type of pale ale and this was delightful with dinner and an interesting bottle to boot. While not officially attending this brewery, it was on my list. Their production is limited, so make sure you get stuck in when in Portland.

The Portsmouth Brewery, New Hampshire (56 Market Street, Portsmouth)

Barleywine (10.0%) – the ‘knockout’ factor of such a beer always tempts me and barleywine is truly a great style. On our last day in Kittery, Maine, we walked across the bridge straight into downtown Portsmouth, NH. Stumbling across this brewery, it gets an honorable mention here.

What’s your favorite brewery in Maine?

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Beer In Norway: A Way Of Life Sat, 15 Jun 2013 20:39:01 +0000 Forget skiing and fjords. When you're in Norway, head straight for the craft brewed beers and you'll be in Scandinavian bliss.

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Planning a move or visit to Norway? We lived there. Check out our Norway stories and resources.

When you think of Norway, you think of vikings, fjords and white-blond hair. At least that’s what I thought of before I lived there. Snow and skiing is part of the environment and a relaxed lifestyle is enjoyed by most. And then we come to beer. Now every country, big or small, long or narrow, produces beer. I bet even the Vatican City has its own brew, probably made right there in the bowels of St. Peter’s by someone called Giuseppe. So I expected Norway to have beer, but not outstanding craft beer with varieties and blends I’d never dreamed of.

nogne O beer

I’ve covered some of these Norwegian breweries before, but in honour of my new-found favourite, I’ll start with Nøgne Ø.

Nøgne Ø (Grimstad)

Their #100 (10%), in honour of their 100th batch is the best beer I’ve had in my short-to-long life so far. Now people, I wouldn’t give this accolade lightly, so listen and listen well. Fantastisk! That’s about all the Norwegian I know, save for Takk you very much. I’ll get to Oslo in a minute, but whilst there, I tried on tap Nøgne Ø’s Saison (6.5%) and India Saison (7.5%). These are not seasonal beers as I’d previously thought; they are a mix between Belgian beer and a pale ale of sorts. Pretty good. My last visit to the Vinmonopolet (literally translated to Wine Monopoly, ’cause it is), I saw their Roasted Pepper Ale but didn’t have the heart to buy the 500 mL bottle. Not for almost $14 a pop that is.

nogne O floaty bits

Amundsens Bryggeri & Spiseri (Oslo)

What a find this brewery was. After the heavens opened up while on top of Oslo’s hill in the park in the middle of the city, I was drenched courtesy of my shitty umbrella that couldn’t resist a 1 km/h wind, let alone the mini-hail downpour. Anyway, I stumbled upon the Amundsens Bryggeri and exclaimed to the barman, “I’ve got two hours to kill. Ply me with beer my good sir”. A tasting sampler was recommended and duly drunk which included their Pale Ale (4.5%), Oceans IPA (6.6%), Batch #100 (8.5%) and the Amundsen Anniversary Ale (10.5%). The Batch #100 was a delicious stout that won the day for me.

Haandbryggeriet beer

Cardinal Bar in Stavanger was a way of life for me whilst living there. The local Lervig brewery varieties never disappointed, but in my humble opinion, second only to Nøgne Ø is Haandbryggeriet in Drammen. The labels come complete with five fingerprints of a hand grasping the very bottle you are imbibing from. Previously I’d had their Dark Force Double Extreme Imperial Wheat Stout (9%), but the Odin’s Tipple, Dark Norse Ale (11%) takes the proverbial cake. I would describe this as a “porter with attitude” and probably the best style like that I’ve ever had. Drink many and be happy. I also sipped their delectable Fatlagret Porter, which is aged in Akevitt oak barrels (8.2%). Now this is truly Norwegian because Akevitt is their spirit of choice and I tried it once and have no idea what it is.

odin's viking beer

One last beer I tried on our final visit to Cardinal Bar was Mikkeller’s Boogoop. Whilst Danish and not Norwegian, it must get a mention as an ale aged in Grand Marnier cognac barrels (10.4%). You beauty!!

boogoop beer

What’s your favourite Norwegian pasttime?

Planning a move or visit to Norway? We lived there. Check out our Norway stories and resources.

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Houston Press Brewfest: A Feast For the Tastebuds Wed, 29 May 2013 03:20:59 +0000 The inaugural Houston Brewfest was a great way to try the amazing craft beers available in the USA.

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Houston is big. Bigger than anything else I’ve seen. The biggest variety of everything in the US. So what better way to spend a Saturday than attend the inaugural Houston Press Brewfest, sampling beers from all over the country. And as expected, the choice was huge! We turned up early to get our VIP tickets with new friends and couldn’t wait to get started; 3pm is beer o’clock anywhere in the world, but even more so when its hot as can be with humidity striking upon us with furious anger.

canned craft beer

houston brewfest

The event was held in a warehouse, so the oodles of sunscreen I’d drowned myself in only served to aid the beads of sweat that cannot be avoided. Yes, it was great to be out of the sun, but the warehouse did produce a stifling atmosphere with no opportunity for a breeze except at the far exit to the toilets. But no matter, we were here to drink. The VIP tickets meant we had an extra hour before the entrance would be flooded by the hordes. We were each handed a plastic cup, a beer card to sample either eight 3 oz or two 12 oz beers and a list of the beers available from each brewery on their own table.

houston press brewfest craft beer

houston press brewfest 2013

Adjacent to the VIP area, various bands played and tap beers could also be sampled. Bottled water was free and plentiful at the venue, with water stations also provided to rinse your cup before trying the next beer. There was wine, spirits and cider too, plus a few different tables with a chance to enter competitions and win prizes. We tried our luck on the spinning wheel and received free passes to a comedy club.

houston brewfest brand

One look at the beer list and I was overwhelmed. I consider myself a fairly well-schooled master in craft beer, so I attempted to form an order for the day. “Start with the lagers and wheat ales, then progress through the stronger ales, then the dark beers and finish with the superior VIP beers (in their own section)”, I told myself. When my first selection was not available, this order turned to disarray. I ventured to the VIP area and off the bat, went with the Blue Moon Brewing Co. (Golden, CO), Vintage Proximity, 8.5%. So much for starting slowly. This was an interesting drop that had a hint of champagne to it.

hop czar houston brewfest

houston press brewfest

Because of the sheer volume of types on offer, I decided to go with eight different 3 oz selections. Here’s a quick rundown:

Big Sky Brewery (Missoula, MT), Moose Drool, 5.1%: Brown ale

Boulevard Brewing Co. (Kansas City, MO), Tank 7, 8.5%: Farmhouse ale

Bridgeport Brewery (Portland, OR), Kingpin, 7.5%: Imperial Red

Dechutes Brewery (Portland, OR), Black Butte, 5.2%: Porter

Dogfish Head Brews (Milton, DE), Indian Brown, 7.2%: Brown ale

Harpoon Brewery (Boston, MA), Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA, 6.9%: IPA

Ommegang Brewery (Cooperstown, NY), Hennepin, 7.7%: Belgian-style Saison

Southern Star (Conroe, TX), Buried Hatchet, 8.25%: Stout

Karbach Brewing Company is local from Houston and each of their Weiss Versa wheat ale (5.2%), Hopadillo IPA (6.6%) and Rodeo Clown Double IPA (9.5%) were truly outstanding.

alaskan beer

houston brewfest food trucks


Those of you with a mathematical inclination will no doubt have noticed that my list above totals more than eight beers. Never fear my friends, because once your beer card was full, a second (and presumably third and fourth) could be purchased for $8. The VIP area also had food to snack on in between beers, but there were also food trucks outside where more substantial fare could be purchased. With my second card hanging around my neck, it was time for VIP beers. The following list details my selections and you can see the potency increase with each delicious variety:

Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI), Centennial IPA, 7.2%: American IPA

Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL), Pere Jacque, 8.0%: Belgian ale

Alaskan Brewing Co. (Juneau, AK), Birch Bock, 8.5%: Doppelbock

Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY), Silver Anniversary, 9.0%: Doppelbock

Real Ale Brewing Co. (Blanco, TX), Brewer’s Cut Blonde, 9.5%: Barleywine

Samuel Adams Brewing, (Boston, MA), Cinder Bock, 9.5%: Smoked bock

Left Coast Brewing Company (San Clemente, CA), Left Coast Hop Juice, 9.7%: Imperial IPA

Six Point Brewery (Brooklyn, NY), 3Beans, 10.0%: Baltic porter


brewfest table

All I can say is WOWEE!! Much to my chagrin, the Saint Arnold’s Brewery (Houston, TX), Bishop’s Barrel No. 3, 11.5%, Imperial stout was out before I got to it. I guess it was popular! Overall, a fantastic event and I would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall (or more aptly, a bead sweat on the forehead) to view the shenanigans that ensued when it finished at 10pm.

What’s your favourite US beer fesitival?

Disclosure: We were guests of the Houston Press Brewfest. All opinions are always our own.

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Beer In France: A Taste Of the Country Wed, 15 May 2013 19:48:38 +0000 Drinking wine in France is heavenly and highly recommended, but no country can be accurately assessed until its beer is sampled.

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Drinking wine in France is heavenly and highly recommended, but no country can be accurately assessed until its beer is sampled. Being there just over a week gave me a chance to try just a few beers:

La Goudale (Les Brasseurs de Gayant, Douai) – 7.2%

One of the styles of beer known as Biere de Garde, which refers to a special brew from the 14th century. This is a blonde lager-looking drop that is easy-drinking, but with a decent kick given the high alcohol content. Absolutely loved that this not only comes in a 75 cL bottle, but with a cork to boot. I’ve seen corked bottles in Belgium before, but can’t really recall trying too many (I love my dark ales too much!) I like to think the use of the cork is also a characteristic of the wine country it’s famous for.

la goudale france

3 Monts (Brasserie De Saint Sylvestre, Flanders) – 8.5%

I’d seen 3 Monts on beer menus all over the world before and knew it was French, just never got around to trying it. So now it was time. This is similar to La Goudale as it’s also a Biere de Garde and comes from the Flanders region of France (and with a cork!) There is also a windmill on the label which is gives its origin away. I enjoyed this beer more than La Goudale, maybe due to the even higher alcohol content, but I think it just had more body to it and a little more pizazz!

3 monts france

Belzebuth (Brasserie Grain d’Orge, Ronchin)– 13.0%

Belzebuth…the devil you drink. After a morning walk in Lyon, I called time out for the first drink of the day. Ooh, that little bar on the corner looks OK! Perusing their beer list, I selected this “extra forte” drop purely on the massive alcohol content. When it was delivered to our couch upstairs, I noticed the 25 cL bottle. The message there is “you only need this much, Mister!” Every malty mouthful is too be cherished and I was even more delighted when I read the label to see it was indeed a French beer.

belzebuth beer france

Mont Bugey (Maison de Brasseur, Ain) – 6.6%

Walking through the old town of Lyon, I stumbled upon this awesome bottle shop called La Chope de Lug (9 Rue du Boeuf, I wish we had a fridge and were able to stock up on the amazing selection of beers here. I didn’t know where to begin, so the owner told me that all the beers were from local regions and he basically goes around to each microbrewery to pick up their offerings to stock his store. Awesome! He suggested this red ale which absolutely hit the spot. Delicious with a nice, creamy head and lingering aftertaste. I will be back there one day for sure.

la chope de lug lyon

mont bugey

Kronenbourg 1664 (Brasseries Kronenbourg, Obernai) – 5.5%

Not to be confused with its inferior cousin, the simple Kronenbourg, that extra 1664 makes all the difference. I know it’s the stock standard beer of France, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. I’ll drink a Kronenbourg 1664 any day of the week, because the perfect mix of bitterness and smoothness makes it a great lager. Add the fact that it’s a slightly higher alcohol content than your average brew and you’ve got yourself a winner!

What’s your favourite French beer?

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Beer in the USA: Land of Opportunity (to Drink Great Beer) Part II Sun, 24 Feb 2013 19:55:03 +0000 The second in a two-part series on US beer. While Part I covered beers of New York and the surrounding states, Part II takes a look at what the rest of the country has to offer.

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If you missed Part I, it examined different breweries in the Eastern States while we were in New York City. In this second part, I’ve included the “Western Conference” breweries. You’ll notice Michigan here and, while not technically in the West, it’s still west of NYC.

Rogue Brewing Company (2320 OSU Drive, Newport, OR,

I picked these two up from a liquor store while in New Jersey. I’d always heard good things about Oregon and this is just another big thumbs up!

rogue chocolate stout

Chocolate Stout (6%) – a delicious stout embedded with everything chocolate. The perfect after-dinner nightcap.

Dead Guy Ale (6.5%) – a maibock style ale. If porter is my new favourite type of beer, then bock (in all its variations) is the next type I want to get know better.

Stone Brewing Company (1999 Citracado Parkway, San Diego, CA,

Smoked Porter (5.9%) – in their own words, “this worldly libation is dark, smooth, and complex, with rich chocolate and coffee flavors suffused with subtle smokiness from the addition of peat-smoked malt.” An accurate description and a truly outstanding drop.

stone smoked porter

Imperial Russian Stout (10.5%) – this beer is described as “massive” and I totally agree. Intensely aromatic and heavy on the palate, this was amazing! Imperial Russian Stouts should really be on everyone’s bucket list. I sampled this one at Rattle N Hum (14 E 33rd St, NYC,

Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2%) – another brilliant ale that is aptly named. I think you may get the feeling that I enjoyed Stone’s work!

Peculier Pub (145 Bleecker St, NYC,

peculier pub

This was a great place with the walls decorated in bottle-cap inspired art and the wooden tables engraved with all those who’ve come before. I think this is a university student hangout and we timed our arrival just as an exuberant group were leaving, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves:

Founders Brewing Company (235 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI,

Dirty Bastard Wee Heavy (8.5%) – dark ruby in colour and brewed with seven varieties of imported malts. Hints of smoke and peat, paired with a malty richness and the right amount of hops. This was fantastic and in keeping with the “Bastard” theme, I followed it up with the Stone Arrogant Bastard mentioned above.

The Stag’s Head (252 E 51st St, NYC,

Following on from Part I, here’s the other brew I got stuck into:

Left Hand Brewing Company (1265 Boston Avenue, Longmont, CO,

Sawtooth Ale (5.3%) – their original flagship beer, the malty chewiness and earthy hops make for a fine experience. This was enjoyed with food in a great atmosphere.

rattle n hum nyc

Rattle n Hum

Coopers Craft & Kitchen (87 2nd Ave, NYC,

Here are the other two I tried as part of my four mini-pint sampler (see Part I for the others):

Anderson Valley Brewing Company (17700 Hwy 253, Boonville, CA,

Winter Solstice (6.9%) – a deep amber hue with a rich, malty taste. Toffee, caramel and spices tantalize the senses while the creamy finish makes everything worthwhile. A brilliant drop!

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers (1195 Evans Ave, San Francisco, CA,

Betrayal (8.2%) – a sweet caramel sweetness with scintillating aromatic hops. A beauty!

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (1075 East 20th St, Chico, CA,

I’m pretty sure most people have had a Sierra Nevada brew over the years. I remember Andrea raving about them when I first came to the US and they sure pack a punch!

Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2%) – the first beer to feature their “Hop Torpedo”, which is a revolutionary dry-hopping device that controls how much hop aroma is imparted into the beer without adding additional bitterness. I first tried this in Australia and I’ve always gone back for more.

Celebration Fresh Hop Ale (6.8%) – an American-style IPA with intense citrus and pine aromas. It also features Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops in honour of Sierra Nevada. This was aptly the beer I rang the New Year in and it was wonderful.

rattle n hum

Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout

One day, we’ll have to do a countrywide road trip to find every brewery/pub/backyard shack that makes its own delicious nectar! Only then, will I be truly satisfied!

What’s your favourite US beer?

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Beer In the USA: Land Of Opportunity (To Drink Great Beer) Part I Thu, 21 Feb 2013 14:03:44 +0000 The first in a two-part series on US beer. Take a look at what the Eastern States have to offer.

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While in New York City, we visited many pubs and bars to sample a wide range of American craft beer from different parts of the United States. I know we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but in this first part, I’ve included the “Eastern Conference” breweries.

pony bar craft beer nyc

Landbrot (137 7th Ave S, NYC,

This brewakery (brewery/bakery) has two locations, the West Village one we stumbled upon and also in the Lower East Side. The food looked good, but we only had time for the beer:

Höss Doppel Hirsch (7.2%) – this strong, dark beer is brewed with at least 75 % dark malt and has a distinctive malty and velvety taste with light hop bitter.

Höss Holzar (5.2%) – labelled as an original old Allgäu brewing specialty, this amber beer is bottom-fermented and has the taste of dark brewing malt with a well-rounded bitter touch.

The Pony Bar (637 10th Ave at 45th, NYC,

pony bar nyc

Hat’s off to Andrea for her fantastic research before we arrived in NYC. This was the pick of the trip and when we arrived only five minutes after the opening hour, the place was already packed. True to form, we got stuck into some local brews:

Singlecut Beersmiths (19-33 37th St, Astoria, NY,

Pacific NW Dean Mahogany Ale (6%) – made with Pacific NW hops and malt attitude, I could’ve swum in this beer for hours. An absolute highlight!

Ruckus Brewing Company (261 W 35th St, NYC,

Hoptimus Prime (9%) – this double IPA contains five different hop varieties, then dry hopped for two weeks. The massive hop flavour was perfectly balanced with three types of malt. Gimme more!

Coopers Craft & Kitchen (87 2nd Ave, NYC,

coopers craft and kitchen nyc

This was another place we discovered that didn’t disappoint. A great range of beers and good food to boot. I had a four mini-pint sampler here, chosen strictly by name. Two are mentioned here and the others are covered in Part II:

Southern Tier Brewing Company (2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, NY,

2XMAS (8%) – a double spiced ale with two varieties of hops and four varieties of malts. Figs, orange peels and the like give it that sweet taste with aromas of mulled wine. I’m not usually a fan of seasonal Christmas brews, but this was delightful.

Smuttynose Brewing Company (225 Heritage Ave, Portsmouth, NH,

Robust Porter (6.2%) – this hearty, mahogany coloured ale is a very drinkable beer, characterized by its well-balanced malt and hops, plus subtle notes of coffee and chocolate. I can’t say enough about my love for porters and this one was amazing.

Heartland Brewery (35 Union Square W, NYC,

Andrea first brought me here in 2009 and while it’s a chain establishment with many locations in the city, the beer they brew is still very good:

Red Rooster Ale (5.5%) – a red ale with a rich toffee and roasted nut character. Lots of American hops made it the perfect accompaniment for my chicken tenders.

Farmer Jon’s Oatmeal Stout (6%) – this creamy oatmeal stout has hints of espresso and a dark chocolate sweetness. I indulged in a piece of their cookie pie along with the beer. Delicious!

The Stag’s Head (252 E 51st St, NYC,

stag's head nyc beer menu

This was my second favourite pick of the pubs we discovered. The extensive number of beers listed on the chalkboard made it a lucky dip where everyone’s a winner! Here’s one I had while the other is in Part II:

Victory Brewing Company (420 Acorn Lane, Downingtown, PA,

Moonglow Weizenbock (8.7%) – a dark amber wheat beer featuring fruity and spicy aromas. It’s also unfiltered (which I adore) with a unique yeast strain. I first encountered weizenbock beer in Vienna in 2011 and it’s enjoyed all over Bavaria too. Fantastisch!

Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 E 7th St, NYC,

A great little place downstairs from a different pub above. Don’t be fooled and walk into the wrong one! I would’ve loved to stay longer for more beers and tempting food, but research is hard work!

Wandering Star Craft Brewery (11 Gifford Street, Pittsfield, MA,

Red Nose Rye Spiced Winter Rye (6.7%) – a festive, subtle-spiced ale with being overly spicy or drowning the underlying beer. I’ve got stuck into rye beers since being in Norway and I really liked this drop.

Knife & Fork Inn (3600 Atlantic Ave, Atlantic City, NJ,

I have to mention the fantastic Knife & Fork Inn we visited when gambling the night away during our stay in AC. The food was great, but the beer was even better!

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (6 Cannery Village Center, Milton, DE,

Bitches Brew (9%) – a bold, dark beer that’s a fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread of honey beer with gesho root. That’s a truly delectable mouthful if ever I’ve heard one! I opened with this beer before the food came and while many may say stouts before dinner is a no-no, it definitely hit the spot for the poker night ahead.

My Antonia Pilsner (7.5%) – a continually-hopped imperial pils that’s citrusy, sweet and refined. I’ve never seen a pilsner with such a high alcoholic content and while we didn’t drink it at the Knife & Fork, I have to mention it because it was Andrea’s favourite beer of the trip.

my antonia

Tröegs Brewing Company (200 E Hershey Park Dr, Hershey, PA,

Mad Elf Ale (11%) – brewed with honey and cherries and using spicy yeast, this knocked my socks off!

mad elf ale

An honourable mention goes out to Brooklyn Brewery ( I’ve tried their beers many times before, but there were just too many others this time round!

What’s your favourite New York beer?

Part II

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London Pub Culture and Unique Beers Sun, 13 Jan 2013 21:31:41 +0000 There's a pub on many street corners all over London with a range of beer selections available.

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I’ve never lived in London, but spent many weeks on end there crashing on friends’ couches in the past. I also did a stint living in Reading (a short distance away) to at least give me a feel for the English life. And the English life is this: work, talk about football and go to the pub, and sometimes not in that order. Make no mistake, being Australian I certainly understand the pub culture. Even though we do it a bit differently (i.e. sunny beer gardens as opposed to dark dungeons), the English influence is undeniable.

brodies beer taps
The beauty of English pubs is that when you walk into one and look at the beer taps, there’s usually something there you’ve never heard of. And that’s fantastic! Sure some have longer names than Brazilians, but therein lies the charm. Room temperature ales – how do you feel about them? Some swear that they don’t taste like real beer and I swear that those people don’t know what they’re fuckin’ talking about. I like all beer and I think that’s plainly obvious. There’s nothing like a good ale freshly pumped into a nice pint glass. When you’ve finished trying the wide varieties, then it’s time for some crisps or pork snacks. Mmmm…pork snacks. The only downer with London pubs is that they shut before midnight and then the drunken rush to get to the Underground ensues. But that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

During our recent pre-Christmas visit to London, one such pub example was The Old Coffee House (Beak St, Soho). There’s plenty of nooks and crannies and memorabilia as you’d expect, but the most important thing was the beer! The two I tried were Brodie’s Sim Coe for Breakfast (10.1%) and Brodie’s Dalston Black IPA (7%). They were both as powerful as they sound and provided a good buzz for exploring Soho in the evening rain. I would’ve loved to visit more pubs this time, but at least I got to try a few weird and wonderful beers:

Chalky’s Bite, 6.8% (Sharp’s Brewery, Cornwall) – This is a Belgian-style “white” beer made with wild Cornish fennel, giving it a unique taste that got better with every sip. Thumbs up!

chalkys bute

Pure Brewed Organic Lager, 5% (Samuel Smith Old Brewery, Tadcaster) – Organic beer is all the rage and this crisp beer is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Go figure!

samuel smith organic beer

Wells Banana Bread Beer, 5.2% (Wells and Young’s Brewing Company, Bedford) – What can I say about about a banana bread beer? Drink up!

wells banana bread beer

I’ll never tire of walking the streets of London, ducking in and out of pubs to be among the locals. My enjoyment grows with each trip and I can’t wait for the next time!

Do you have a favourite English pub?

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Dutch Beer: The Hidden Gem Of Netherlands Sun, 25 Nov 2012 13:19:46 +0000 Welcome to a journey of discovery in the wonderful beer of Amsterdam.

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People (including myself) sometimes refer to the Netherlands as Holland. But Holland is actually a region in the western part and hence many Dutch people would frown upon referring to their country as such. It’s kind of like calling New York City, Manhattan. Although some would say Manhattan is like another planet altogether (again, myself included because where else can you have a burger delivered to your front door at 4am?) But I digress. Did you also know that Hollandaise sauce was perhaps actually founded in France? Anyway, my point is that there are things synonymous with the Netherlands that we all know about…and there are things that maybe go unheralded. For me, this is dutch beer.

Brouwerij De Prael samples

Beer flight at Brouwerij De Prael

OK, so dutch beer is not really a hidden gem because if you drink beer and haven’t indulged in a Heineken or Grolsch during your life, then you’re no friend of mine. During my Contiki Tour in 2000, I drank so many Heinekens that I couldn’t stand them anymore. Also being a football (soccer) fan, watching the European Champions League was never the same when the sponsored Heineken logo was plastered everywhere. There is certainly nothing wrong within these beers, but during a recent visit to Amsterdam we found the time to try some of the more unique brands.

ramses mamba

I’ve always professed that Belgian beer is second to none and I stand by this. The variety is amazing and although the high alcohol content combined with sweetness is not for everyone, I adore it. However, Dutch beer is equally impressive in its variety and even though their styles are different, the characteristics of great beer can also be found in the Netherlands. I’m sure there are many fantastic breweries across the country, but here’s a selection of what I tried:

Ramses Bier (Wagenberg)

Mamba Porter, 6.4% – I love porters and all they stand for!
Moby Dick, 6.2% – A wheat beer which I can drink until the cows come home.

white label dutch beer

Emelisse (Kamperland) – White Label Imperial Russian Stout, 11% is just out of this world! You haven’t tried a stout unless you’ve had this type and Emelisse have nailed it.

columbus beer dutch

Brouwerij ‘t IJ (Amsterdam) – Columbus, 9% is an organic amber beer that is special in its hoppiness. I love hops. I fucking love them!

jopen haarlem dutch beer

Jopen (Haarlem) – Damiate Dripa #1 Double Rye IPA, 8.5% is a pale ale to rock the senses. Rye beers are seriously underrated, so please drink up!

Brouwerij De Prael (Amsterdam)

Johnny, 5.7% – Kölsch which is not my favourite style, but how could I not mention it?
Willy, 11.5% – A quadrupel which is hard to find, but most enjoyable to drink!
Mary, 9.6% – Barley wine is definitely the best thing since sliced bread, just sensational!
Willeke, 7.5% – A tripel blond sweet style that finished off my tasting tray nicely.

So there you have it. Next time you’re in the Netherlands, don’t buy tulips or clogs; just try the many types of beer and watch the boats go by!

What’s your favourite Dutch beer?

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Tallinn On Tap: Let There Be Beer Wed, 24 Oct 2012 11:23:57 +0000 A trip to Estonia wouldn't be complete without visiting the microbreweries in Tallinn.

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To paraphrase our guide on the Pakri Peninsula and Paldiski tour: “Our two main breweries are called ‘Suck You’ and ‘Le Cock’. Quite funny”. I tried the A. Le Coq premium lager (4.7%) on the ferry over from Finland and it did the job nicely. Apparently, it was changed from the original Estonian name some years ago to add ‘sex appeal’. Hey, it works for me! I also had the malty Saku Tume (6.7%) a couple of times on tap and it’s a rich, dark beer that is more my speed. But the real beauty (as in any country) lies in the craft beer selections on offer. We frequented two of these beer houses in the Tallinn old town and I’m sure there are plenty more in and around the city.

Saku Tume

Saku Tume

Põrgu Ollelokaal (Rüütli 4,

I was most impressed with this establishment. Set in a dungeon-type atmosphere with steep stairs entering from an alley on street level, this is also a brasserie where Andrea and I feasted on a very nice tasting plate. But beer is the reason you should come here: it harbours an extensive list of local tap and bottled beer with exquisite names to boot. And as always, you can never try them all.

Pihtla Saaremaa Farm Ale

Pihtla Saaremaa Farm Ale

I began with the Pihtla Saaremaa Farm Ale (7.6%) and I can truly say that I’ve never had a beer quite like it. It was like a banana-wheat-yeast cloudy ride where you could taste every bit of the high alcohol, and really an appetizer on its own. Very impressive. Not for everyone, but I don’t usually ‘do normal’. The German-styled München Hele (5.2%) was exactly what you’d expect to get with a name like that and it did not disappoint. Then there was the Palmse (5.6%) which was a dark-reddish drop and very nice to finish with. But truth be told, I was still reeling from the Saaremaa and if I ever see this on a beer menu anywhere in the world again, I will drink it come morning or midnight!

palmse porgu

Palmse from Porgu

Hell Hunt (Pikk 39,

This place is the local ‘cheap eat’ pub and it was fantastic. Decorated with barbed-wire chandeliers, it feels like a biker bar minus the bikers (Disclaimer: I have no problem with bikers. Happy family…happy family). And as the self-proclaimed ‘First Estonian Pub’, of course they brew their own beer! We only had time for the Hell Hunt Hele (4.6%) and Hell Hunt Tume (5.0%), but I would’ve gladly gone back to try more beer and have more food. From living in Norway to travelling in Finland, it sure was nice to be in Estonia where your wallet didn’t take a brutal beating. Tallinn beer prices range from €2,50 – €3,00 for Estonian drops in the bottle or 50 cL draught.

hell hunt tallinn estoniahell hunt tallinn
Which Tallinn beer brought light to your life?

Many thanks to the Tallinn City Tourist Office & Convention Bureau and Merchant’s House Hotel for hosting us.

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Finland: The Land Of Fine Beer Fri, 12 Oct 2012 13:13:51 +0000 Finland is a country that has its own unique identity and this was evident in the beers I had the pleasure to delve into.

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Coming back to Finland for a second time was absolutely awesome. I remembered the country being fantastic, but this time it really knocked my socks off…and my taste buds duly followed. Not only is the countryside beautiful, the people friendly and helpful, but the beer is outstanding! Our first pit stop on a rainy day exploring Helsinki was the great Latva bar. As we were between lunch and dinner, Andrea, Kyle and me had the whole place to ourselves and the beers on tap and in the bottle were about to get a workout. We actually returned there the next day because we just “happened to be in the area”.
Prykmestar Vehna

Prykmestar Vehnä at Latva in Helsinki

My first discovery at Latva was the Vakka-Suomen panimo (brewery) and the delicious wheat beer on tap called Prykmestar Vehnä. I truly love wheat beer and this did not let me down. At a very drinkable 4.5%, I could’ve happily drunk these all day, but I wanted to try the many other types on offer.
Savukataja prykmestar
I finished this particular day with the Prykmestar (gotta love that name) Savukataja in the bottle. This 9% dark beer was my favourite in Finland until I tried one more by this same brewery in Turku: the Prykmestar WehnäBock from the Cosmic Comic Cafe is a dark wheat beer with a bock twist, as the name suggests. If porter was my discovery from last year’s world travels, then bock is a type of beer I want to really get to know next. So drinking such a combination was a marvellous lesson in itself; 6.2% and it won the Suomen Paras Olut (Finland’s Best Beer) award in 2012.
huvila x-porter
Back to Helsinki and in between the Vakka-Suomen varieties, I had the Huvila ESB. Now Extra Special Bitter is a beer not to be reckoned with. It generally packs a punch with a smack-in-the-face to welcome you and then a delectable sipping quality. After three or four pints, you are rockin’! The Huvila variety (5.2%) was indeed that, but of course I only had time for one. I also tried the Huvila X-Porter (7%) at the cool Alvar bar in Turku and this was truly fantastic. I mentioned my love of porter and this was the perfect evening drink before heading home.
 stadin panimo american pale ale
Two other panimos we sampled in Helsinki were Malmgårdin and Stadin. Andrea had the Stadin American Pale Ale (4.5%) and I had the Malmgårdin Belge (8%). IPAs are all the rage in Norway and I love them, but there’s just something about American pale ales that gets me excited. And the Belge was sweetly satisfying in a Finnish homage to the best of all beers – Belgium.
malmgardin panimo belge

I’ll conclude with another superb drop that I had at the Cosmic Comic Cafe: the Stallhagen Baltic Porter. This 7% beer is nicknamed the ‘Pig & Rooster’ and really hit the spot. Stallhagen describes their beers as “Hand-Made Slow Beer” and whatever their process, it works. Obviously I only barely touched on the many panimos across the country, but I was very happy with the quality of boutique beer and I know that we’ll be back to Finland someday soon.

baltic porter pig & rooster

What’s your favourite Finnish beer?

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Scandinavian Beer: Unique and Brutal, Served In a Bottle Tue, 04 Sep 2012 06:40:45 +0000 The craft beer on offer in Norway is both plentiful and diverse. Here are some of the best beers of Scandinavia that I've tried so far.

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Let’s get down to it. I always compare new beer to my all-time favourite: Trappistes Rochefort 10  from Belgium. Well after a year of travel in 2011 and having since moved to Norway, I’ve finally found one that holds up to this standard. Let me introduce the Nøgne Ø #100! Quoting from the bottle, it’s “a big, dark and hoppy ale that commands your attention.” I couldn’t describe it in any other way. It’s 10% and smells beautiful while the taste leaves you wanting more. Truly outstanding and worth being in Norway just to be in its presence alone.

nogneø ø 100

My top three Norwegian breweries are Nøgne Ø, HaandBryggeriet and Ægir Bryggeri. The range of beers they produce are amazing, with Nøgne Ø being my favourite. Haand’s Norwegian Wood is a 6.5% smoked ale with juniper berries. The bottle tells a story that I like to believe is true: “Once every farm in Norway was required by law to brew its own ale. All of that ale had a natural smoky taste and most of it was spiced with juniper.” It’s certainly a different style and by your third sip, you’ll be hooked. Haand also have the Dark Force, a 9% double extreme imperial wheat stout – it’s a mouthful in name and taste.

haand norwegian wood

I’ve tried many Ægir beers on tap and in the bottle, but the Tors Hammer Barleywine left it’s mark on me. Anybody who’s ever had barleywine knows that this style of beer is to be ‘experienced’ rather than just drunk. At 13.2%, prepare yourself for a wild ride. Stavanger’s local brewery is Lervig and their beer is nothing to sniff at either. Regular beers, Lucky Jack, Betty Brown, White Dog and recent arrival, Hoppy Joe (all 4.7%) can be found in the supermarket and are all very good. However, the one that knocked my socks off was their Konrad’s Stout – a 10.4% Russian Imperial Stout, brewed with oatmeal. Just try it…please.

konrad's stout

The final Norwegian brew I’ll mention is a tasty bock by the Aass Bryggeri. Don’t be put off by the funny name, it tastes like anything but ass. Bock beer is one of my favourite types and this doesn’t disappoint at 6.5%. Where’s the other Scandinavian beer, I hear you ask! Well I can only go by what I’ve found in the Vinmonopolet alcohol stores, but here goes:

aas bock

DenmarkMidtfyns Bryghus has a 9.2% Double India Pale Ale that appears to have braille on the label. That is pure genius and a powerful drop to boot.

SwedenSigtuna has a 5.4% South Pacific Pale Ale that mentions New Zealand (the beer down there is pretty good too) on the label. Andrea had dibs on this one, but I stole a sip or two and it was awesome!

south pacific pale ale

IcelandViking Ölgerd has a 5.8% Black Death Beer with the motto “Drink in Peace.” It’s dark and chocolatey and a good reason to visit there one day.

black death beer

Obviously, there are many more to try in this region of the world. I’ve tried to stick with Norwegian varieties, because the supermarkets and stores have a lot to choose from. The best way to experience local (and international) beer in Stavanger is to visit Cardinal Bar (Skagen 21) in the town centre. The decor inside is stunning and the beer menu is extensive, whether you want tap or bottle.

What’s your favourite Scandinavian beer?

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Traveling Couples’ {Digital} Dinner Party – Leap Day Edition! Wed, 29 Feb 2012 08:18:36 +0000 Today we join a virtual dinner party and we've selected three favourite beers for the occasion.

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Today is a special one for a few reasons. First of all, it’s Leap Day and those don’t come around too often – and we could use an extra day this year because 2012 has started off as a hectic one for us! Second, we’re celebrating our 200th post – it’s hard to believe we’ve documented so many travel moments on this blog, though thinking back we have so many we haven’t even gotten around to even writing about yet.

Photo by brianjmatis from Flickr.

But never mind that. Let’s get straight to the third and most important reason for this post. Today we’re having a virtual get-together with some other lovely travel friends as part of a delightful invention by Two Oregonians known as the #RTWdinnerparty. We love this concept! Everyone has brought something delicious to eat, drink and share for the occasion so let’s get started, shall we?

Meet and Mingle: We’re Andrea and John, two restless wanderers who just happened one day to wander right down to a teeny tiny town at the very bottom of the island of Crete. At the same time, of course. That was over seven years ago and here we are today in another fine period of transition…more on that later! Last year we took a year off from our lives in Australia, chucked the things we couldn’t bear to part with into a storage unit and took off on a yearlong sabbatical around the world. We never planned to go back to Melbourne and are now about to set off on our second expat stint overseas. Andrea is from the US originally and we’re looking forward to being a little bit more in the middle of our two home countries going forward. You can read more about us here if you like.

Dinner Specialty: Thanks to John, we’re both pretty much obsessed with beer these days and have selected three favourites from our collection to the party. Since not everyone likes the same styles of beer and different beer tastes better with different dishes, we thought we’d bring a few choices along.

The first is the hoppy, malty and crisp (it says so right on the bottle) Emerson’s Pilsner from the South Island of New Zealand. Dunedin is a hip university town with free views from its many hills. We had an awesome time there at the start of 2011, even staying in a haunted hostel for some real local character. At 4.9% alcohol this is a nice drop to start the evening with (and Andrea will likely stick with this one all night).

If you want to charge ahead to something stronger, we also have the delicious Gran Torobayo from Kunstmann, a well-known brewery in Valdivia, Chile. This is a strong English-style ale at 7.5% with a nice dark amber colour, thick head and a malty caramel sweetness.

kunstmann beer chile

This is how they drink it in Chile and we’ll be no different tonight.

Finally, we have John’s standard favourite to finish, though this is not a standard beer at all. Trappistes Rochefort 10 hails from Rochefort, Belgium and is a meal all on its own. It’s the perfect after-dinner drink to be cherished with each delicate sip. Sweet and malty with the 11.3% alcohol content to make that after dinner conversation extra interesting.

Table Talk: We’re not sure if everyone at the table is aware of our latest news, but John has accepted a job in Stavanger, Norway and we’re moving there very soon. We’ve been spending some time in Perth with family since the end of last year, which has been wonderful, but it’s time to head off again and start the next chapter of our lives. What do we know about living in Norway? Not a whole lot, actually, seeing as neither of us has ever even visited before. But we’re stoked to check out a new place and intend to stay for a few years. Europe has been at the top of our “places to live” list since we met and the last time we had the opportunity was a brief sojourn in Paris in 2005.

Of course, we couldn’t resist working in some travel around our move so we will be spending a few days in Singapore on the way to Europe and then plan to hit a couple of other cities on the way to Stavanger. We’ve been non-stop since John accepted the offer organizing everything and planning the move. We had to buy some new winter gear and supplies as well and will spend the next few days packing, catching up with local friends and finalizing the last few details ahead of our big move.

Well, time to mingle. If you want to crash the party, just head over to the Two Oregonians website here, check out everyone else’s posts and join the conversation.

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Craft Beer of South Western Australia Mon, 13 Feb 2012 16:09:46 +0000 Bungas needed some time away from Perth and what better way to relax than visit the microbreweries in the South West?

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Going away down south is the tried and tested holiday spot for Perth dwellers. After the Macedonian madness throughout January, Andrea and I thought it was time once again to make the three hour drive and chill the fuck out.

The Margaret River wine region in well known, but Bungas (whose beer gut has been in immaculate form for well over 13 months now) insisted that rather than hit the wineries, we’d visit the microbreweries for a taste. Here they are in chronological order:

1.  Colonial Brewing Company, Margaret River

Refreshing Kolsch at Colonial Brewing Company

Refreshing Kolsch at Colonial Brewing Company

The first type we tried was the Kölsch. Kölsch beer in WA? En serio? That’s right. It had a fuller taste than its origins in Cologne, but that refreshing clean flavour was evident and totally hit the spot on a warm summer’s day. I also had the limited edition “Mumme” beer, which reminded me of a bock, but much more subtle. Among others, they also brew an India Pale Ale and Porter that I couldn’t indulge in due to their high alcohol content and the fact that I was designated driver. Colonial (as well as most breweries down there) have a two litre bottle called a “growler” that you can fill up with a beer of your choice to take home, however, we resisted the urge to stock up.

2.  Cowaramup Brewing Company, Cowaramup

A gaggle of geese on the beautiful grounds at Cowaramup Brewery

A gaggle of geese on the beautiful grounds at Cowaramup Brewery

A beautiful setting with an outdoor verandah, beer garden and pond full of tasty looking geese, we also enjoyed a delectable pizza here. They have an award-winning Pilsener that we missed, but unfortunately you have to pick and choose your beers because you can’t have them all! Tasting paddles are also available with six 100 mL glasses of each type, but I didn’t delve into this glorious pasttime until later breweries. Andrea had the Special Pale Ale and I tried the Porter, which is fast becoming my favourite style of beer. Hefeweizen also features here, which shows the German influence in producing wonderful beers.

3.  Bootleg Brewery, Wilyabrup

Bootleg has been around since 1994, with its massive beer garden and surrounds providing an awesome spot for a good old-fashioned Sunday session. We stopped by quickly to pick up a delicious six pack for drinking at the hotel. While I’m not against the growler as mentioned above, the chance to taste different types is much more appealing to me. Their Raging Bull is outstanding and at 7.1%, is full of taste and malty goodness. The other winners for me were the Hefe and the Sou’ West Wheat beers, with the former steeped in banana flavour and the latter full of delicious “chunky bits” that I love so much.

4.  Eagle Bay Brewing Company, Dunsborough

Vienna at Eagle Bay Brewing Company

A short drive from Dunsborough town, this picturesque location has a great view of Cape Naturaliste and the ocean. We both had the Vienna to begin with, which is an extremely drinkable Bavarian style lager. We then tried the Pale Ale and Extra Special Bitter (ESB). The Pale Ale was American style and truly full of hops to keep you occupied for hours. The ESB was English style with bitterness and maltiness combining for a great experience.

5.  BushShack Brewery, Yallingup

Tasting the range at BushShack Brewery

This non-descript brewery has homemade written all over it. The bar felt like your local corner pub and the backyard a tranquil beer garden where you can put your feet up. But that’s where the comparison ends, because this place brews some weird and wonderful beers. I went with the tasting paddle, which included the very interesting Strawberry Blonde (6.7%) and Chocolate Beer. But my favourites were the malty Yallingup Old and the smokey stout, Dirty Dan’s Dark Delight (7.9%). BushShack is the only other brewery that has their beer available in bottles. They also do alcoholic soda and fruit drinks that I dared not try, at least not this time.

6.  Duckstein Brewery, Wilyabrup

The tasting tray at Duckstein

Duckstein also has a winery attached and a very nice front garden on arrival. Inside, please turn left for the brewery and proceed to the outdoor verandah overlooking a dam. There’s also a pleasant beer garden with plenty of space. I opted for the tasting paddle again, trying their four regular beers and the seasonal special, Fest Bier. This was my favourite, malty and refreshing at the same time and I went back for another pint. Their Hefeweiss, Dunkel and Altbier show that this brewery is serious about producing all that is German. We also ate lunch here and the menu is full of German specialties, with Andrea’s wiener schnitzel beating my trio of sausages.

Have you visited these breweries before? What’s your favourite?


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Beers of the World: A Round-Up from Bungas Fri, 02 Dec 2011 15:13:13 +0000 After eleven months of trying various beers, Bungas reflects on 2011 with one final entry.

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We finished our time in Europe in the lovely city of Vienna. Austria has great beer…really great beer. With Germany and Czech Republic as neighbours, maybe it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Ottakringer and Gold Fassl are good examples of the standard beers found on tap, but microbreweries such as 1516 and Figls have a large range to choose from. During the summer at the outdoor film festival in Rathausplatz, I first tried an unfilitered dark beer (Zwickl), which truly tantalizes the senses.

Figls Rotes Zwickl

Figls Rotes Zwickl – great name, even better taste!

Drinking such fine beer made me think about the whole drinking year. What has fancied my tickle? What surprised me the most? Did I find a beer out there to compare to my beloved Trappistes Rochefort 10?

First off the bat is Emerson’s Pilsner of New Zealand. Andrea loves pilsner. Generally, it’s not my favourite. But this drop is the best I’ve had. Being organic just adds that special touch. The only one that comes close is the unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell in Czech Republic.

The craft beer of Chile and Argentina was another highlight, especially Kunstmann in Valdivia. Their bock is out of this world! The Patagonia beers were also outstanding. Anyone thinking of moving there to live a peaceful and secluded life should add this to the list of reasons to do so.

Colombian beer is fantastic and so is the country. Just go there…please.


Tomislav – 7.3% alcohol content, 92.7% aggro!

I never mentioned this beer before, but Tomislav of Croatia is a dark beer that is high in alcohol content and steeped in flavour. The name also reminds me of my best friend, Tommy (who has a Macedonian background like me), because a few bottles will enrich you with intolerance of people who are way out of line.

As if I need to say it, the Oktoberfest beer of Germany boggles the mind in its high alcohol content yet easy-drinking form. Maybe we’ll go again when I’m 45!

Finally, I knew Polish beer was both potent and delicious, but drinking in the country is another experience altogether. Drink vodka there if you have to, but don’t forget to sample the wide variety of both amber and dark beers.

1516 lager

1516 lager – a great microbrew in Vienna

I am also a stats man. I know what I like, but I also like to know what others like. So here’s a list of my top five beer posts for 2011:

1. Bungas’s Beer of the Week: West Coast
2. Ireland’s Beer Beyond Guinness
3. Colombian Beer and Me
4. Kölsch: The North Rhine – Westphalia Beer of Cologne
5. The Dark Side of Czech Republic

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone, beer fans or otherwise. Keep an eye out for Bungas in the not too distant future, because there’s no beer like the next beer!

What’s your favourite beer of the world?

Be sure to follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page for more beer goodness!

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The Dark Side of Czech Republic Thu, 24 Nov 2011 15:44:03 +0000 Eleven years ago, I had a particularly unpleasant experience in Prague. It was time to visit the dark side again.

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Hands up who’s been mugged? Well one September night back in 2000, I left the famous Music Club in Prague in the wee hours to go back to my hostel. I never made it; instead waking up the next afternoon in a jail cell.

No, I hadn’t committed murder. Yes, I was mugged. I still had my kidneys, but not my wallet and other belongings. I guess the cops found me passed out in the street, because I woke up with a cracking, concussion-induced headache. But I digress.

porter Czech Republic
This time around, I thought I’d try as many dark beers whilst in the country. Some say Czech beer is the best, with the likes of Budvar, Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen prominent in other countries. These pilsner-cum-lagers are tasty, but I was in the mood for darkness!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are my favourites from my one week stay.

1. Pardubicky Porter, Pardubice, 8.0%

What an outstanding drop! I liked it so much I went back to the supermarket for more. I’ve really discovered my passion for porters this year and this one may be the best yet. I wish we visited the town of Pardubice to see what other beers they have.

Balbin post election dark czech beer

Balbin Post-Election Dark 14°

2. Balbin Post-Election Dark 14°, Prague, 6.0%

Served on tap at the U Balbinu restaurant, this micro-brew came a very close second. A traditional dark beer with intense character, I had two pints that left me feeling great! Not sure where the name comes from, but try it the next time you’re in Prague.

3. Budweiser Budvar Tmavy Lezak, Ceske Budejovice, 4.7%

The original Budvar is a nice drop, but I first discovered the dark version on tap in Budapest. I liked it then, so I gladly drank more here. Ceske Budejovice is in the south of the country and it sounds like a great place to visit, with the little town of Cesky Krumlov a short bus ride away. I had intended to go there in 2000, but the mugging meant I had to wait it out in my hostel for funds to come in.

4. Master Tmavy Lezak, Plzen, 7.0%

Plzen is close to Prague where the famous Pilsner Urquell hails from. I must say the non-pasteurised one on tap was amazing! Back to dark beer, Master was a good brew that I’d like to try more of. There are so many beers coming from Plzen, so they must be doing something right.

czech beer budweiser dark
5. U Medvidku X-Beer 33, Prague, 12.6%

This tiny micro-brewery is gruff and close to the old town. I couldn’t resist trying their X-Beer 33, with an alcohol content akin to my beloved Belgian beers. I have to mention it just for the sheer power it projects, but it was too sweet for me. One 33 cL glass was enough, but the place is worth a visit for the variety of beers on tap.

The Verdict: Czech beer is very good, both the light and dark types. There’s also champagne beer (which I didn’t try) and fruit-flavoured beers (yuck!), and Brno is another town that brews its own style. Overall, I still think Belgium and Germany win out.

Do you like dark beer? What’s your favourite type?
While visiting Prague we had the pleasure of staying at the beautiful Savic Hotel. This deluxe property is a member of the Great Hotels of the World Premium Collection and is located conveniently in the centre of the Old Town. Thanks to the Savic Hotel for a wonderful stay.

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Bier and Fun Times in Deutschland Mon, 14 Nov 2011 15:23:13 +0000 It's been a few years since I was last in Germany and it did not disappoint this time around.

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Those who have met me know of my love for Europe; so diverse, so interesting and, of course, excellent beer. In my opinion, Germany is all of these things and more. It’s my favourite country because I’ve always had a great time with the locals. Berlin is my favourite city; I first visited there in 2002 and fell in love with it the following year. Time spent in other parts has also been awesome.

german beer brands

Most bottle shops have a wide range of beers to try (and great prices too!)

Germany epitomizes a common mantra in life – work hard, play hard. Mine has a slight twist – work when you need to and then play hard! More to the point, in Germany you can be who you want to be and nobody cares. And if they do care, they still won’t judge you. I don’t judge and I don’t like to be judged.


I love wheat beer but this was the first time I tried a dark wheat beer. Delicious!

Part of playing hard is the truly wonderful beer, second only to Belgian beer in my books. Sure if you received a glass with such enormous head in Australia, you’d have the right to smack the pourer over their own head, but that’s the norm in Germany. If they serve it, it’s delicious, whether pilsner, wheat, lager, unfiltered, bock, dark or Kölsch.

Brauerei Lieske

On top of the endless bottled beer available, local microbreweries also tempt the palate.

The German Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) is well-known and you can taste that special difference with every sip. And when you’re hanging out with old or new friends it tastes even better. I also love that there seems to be an endless number of brands anywhere you look. Oktoberfest is a unique festival but you can make your own fun in any town. Not to mention the fact that you can freely walk down the street with a bottle in one hand, while the other waves to the polizei.

Ahhh Schwarzbier…nothing like a black beer after a hearty German meal.

If you don’t share my enthusiasm for Germany, please give it another go. It’s the land of beer and sausages, so how can you go wrong? Next time I’m there, I’ll be sure to find a bar and order a Weizen or Hefeweizen, then sit and watch the world go by.

What’s your favourite place in Germany? What is their local beer like?

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Kölsch: The North Rhine – Westphalia Beer of Cologne Mon, 24 Oct 2011 12:18:08 +0000 A quick visit to Cologne, Germany was spent drinking with locals.

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My previous visits to Cologne (Köln) in Germany were quick and with a host and this time was no different. Melvin from Traveldudes picked us up from the train station, and with rain closing in, it was time to indulge in the local bier. Kölsch is a light-styled golden brew with about 4.8 % alcohol content.

After a nice tour of the city, we entered a ‘brauerei’ to experience the taste and atmosphere of Muhlen kölsch. Served in 20cL skinny glasses by gruff male waiters who exude authority, no money is exchanged. No further had I finished my glass (which went down fast being way past beer o’clock), that the waiter had replenished it with a fresh one and also for my wife and friend.

Keeping up with the fish (i.e. me) brings a whole new meaning in this game. The waiter will take your glass with dregs or more left when he is bringing a new round, so keep up with the fishes!! A coaster placed on top of your empty glass indicates to the waiter that you shall wallow no more. Funnily enough, the coaster is also used to tally your beers!

Dinner drinking continued later that evening with more kölsch. Initially drinking in the same style glasses we had at the pub, we switched to bottles as the conversations headed into the night. This time it was Reissdorf kölsch. The beer itself is easy-drinking, but sweet and bitter at the same time in a weird way. It goes down a treat and if you eat the hearty meals served at the brauerei, then I would suggest you could drink it all night with relish.

I also tried one other called Fruh kölsch. German beer is brilliant and kölsch is just another that, even though not up my particular alley, keeps on giving.

Have you visited Cologne?

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Oktoberfest: The World’s Greatest Beer Festival Thu, 06 Oct 2011 05:55:45 +0000 My first experience at this incredible Bavarian party did not disappoint!

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Our first night at Oktoberfest was the best one – and I did it on one hour of sleep. I don’t know if they’re pumping oxygen into those halls or putting something extra special in the beer, but the sheer excitement and pulse of the crowds would get even the shyest wallflower up onto a bench, clonking her glass merrily and singing along with thousands of new best friends.

beer wench oktoberfest

How do they do it? Ladies of all ages impress with their multiple beer-carrying skills.

It was my first Oktoberfest and I learned quickly that all the grown-up fun is happening in the tents. Yes, the grounds boast some excellent (albeit expensive) carnival rides and enough beer food to soak up the litres, but if you want to hear Bavarian drinking songs and get amongst the unbeatable atmosphere, you have to find a seat.

oktoberfest beer tent

Saturday night at the beer tents – I really do think beer is the way to bring the world closer together!

This is the difficult part. Locals can book tables months in advance for groups of ten or more. Saturdays are impossible. This brings me back to our magical first Friday night where we found ourselves fresh off a train from Budapest, exhausted after an early start. I couldn’t sleep the night before from excitement but was determined to hit the tents in spite of this. It was late afternoon already and we looked at the crowds in front of each tent as we passed, finally drawn to Lowenbrau with its cheerful, stein-wielding lion rotating high above the crowds. After politely signalling to the doorman that we only had two, we slipped in past the more aggressive louts in matching outfits and began the search for a table.

save water drink beer t-shirt

Our new friend from Hungary sports a fitting motto.

No table means no beer. Most of them are reserved, even in the sections labelled “no reservations.” Our requests to join locals were politely declined but we finally found a mostly empty table with two women who signalled that we could sit down. Not long after we were joined by a group of Hungarian lads.

“Hey! You’re from Hungary? We just came from Hungary!” This is the basis for any strong friendship at Oktoberfest.

Special Märzen beer is produced by six different brands for Oktoberfest.

Not long after the German owners of the table came along. For the price of a round of drinks we were all allowed to stay. It doesn’t take too many mass (the proper name for the litre mugs of beer) to get you going – all the beer is around six per cent alcohol – and next thing I knew I was into the ritual. I love it all – the traditional music, the locals dressed in costume (Lederhosen for the guys, Dirndls for the ladies), the way everyone climbs onto the benches and dances. Mind you this was my first experience of Germany at all and I know the rest of the country isn’t like this. Still I think it was a fine introduction.

bumper cars Oktoberfest

After (or perhaps before) drinking in the tents, head outside for some fun carnival rides.

At some point I had to break the seal so I floated through the crowd to the unfathomably clean restrooms. I only remember having a giant smile on my face as I drifted, looking about me at the chaos and revelry, soaking up every particle of the happy atmosphere, which is unrivalled as John had warned me. I returned to our table to continue my conversations with our group and the people at two of the other tables next to us. At the end of the night I could barely write down our email addresses for everyone. There were hugs and cheers and we left with gingerbread cookies around our necks, which means somebody loved us. Finding our way home was a mission, but that’s another story.

gingerbread cookies oktoberfest

Gingerbread cookies come in different sizes – buy one for a friend!

Saturday was brutal. Not only were we hungover and faded but it was “Italian weekend,” which is exactly like it sounds. Italians come up to Germany for the festival and everything is extra crowded. It makes sense that Saturdays are the busiest because it’s the best day for the locals to enjoy their traditions. Every tent had massive crowds and wait times. We had lucky timing to enter the Paulaner beer garden when they were letting a huge wave of people through, but the line to get into the actual tent was an hour deep. We left after one drink and headed to the Schottenhamel, which was a silly move. We waited an hour before finding out that we weren’t even in the entrance queue. The atmosphere in the crowd was entertaining, watching the drunk people stumble out of the tent and all the interesting characters. Jokes were cracked, one drunk Swedish guy tried to lie his way past the guards and even the guards were fun to watch, the way they stalked across the barrier tape sizing us up, taunting us. But that’s not what one comes to Oktoberfest to see. So we befriended two New Zealand brothers who took us to the Paulaner Weissbier garden – a place to go when you can’t get a beer anywhere else.

ferris wheel Oktoberfest

That ride on the left spins you upside down as it goes around – perhaps not the best ride for a drinking festival?

Later that night we got back into a tent, a feat that was only accomplished because a) one of the brothers was dressed in the lederhosen and a hat and really looked like a model German boy, b) the other brother had some great tattoos and was able to bond over this with the doorman, and c) somehow my smile and the only German word I know (dankeschön) amused the doorman when said German-looking boy didn’t speak a lick of German. It was already 9.30pm but we were able to find a table quickly and enjoy the final hour of the night.

hofbrau horses

The gorgeous Hacker-Pschorr horses

The next two days were relatively uneventful. Weekdays are so quiet during the day that it hardly feels like Europe’s largest beer festival. Except, of course, at the foreigner-filled Hofbrauhaus. We made sure to visit all the tents we were curious about and try most of the beers on offer. By Monday evening, when everything picked up again and felt festive and merry, we were over it. I was sad to leave behind the singing masses but I think a couple of thirty-somethings can only last so long. We were amazed at how some of the local elders can handle it all – but they are out in force. The only advice I have to offer about Oktoberfest is to just get there! It truly was the biggest, most wonderful international party I’ve ever had the pleasure to join.

funhouse Oktoberfest
Helpful Hints:

1. Book accommodation well in advance; the best hotels and hostels will sell out months before the festival.
2. Come early if you don’t want to line up, especially on the weekend, where early means 10am. Even then, good luck getting a table and holding it for the day as all the locals book months in advance. Groups of 10 or more can try to get a reservation, but do this in February or May (different tents start taking bookings at different times).
3. Eat regularly in order to savour the memories, particularly the half chickens on offer.

handel chickens Oktoberfest

The other handle you want at the fest – 1/2 hendl (or chicken) that is.

Fast Facts:

1. According to Discover Munich, about 5.5 million litres of beer is served each year at the event (though I read elsewhere that the 2010 figure was around 7 million).
2. The alcohol content of the beer ranges from 5.8% to 6.3%.
3. A mass of beer costs around €9, but handing over a €10 note and not asking for change means your next beer will be easier to get.
4. The taste of the beer varies greatly from tent to tent, but they are always served cold and the undoubted quality is there with every sip.

Have you been to Oktoberfest? How did you cope?

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Ireland’s Beer Beyond Guinness Tue, 09 Aug 2011 06:01:46 +0000 Three weeks in the Emerald Isle gave me time to drink plenty of fine beer and be surprised by the quality of boutique brews on offer.

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Ah Ireland…Eleven long years after boarding a ferry from Wales, the time was ripe again for Irish beer. Guinness on tap in Ireland, particularly Dublin, tastes like nowhere else in the world. Its lesser cousins, Murphy’s and Beamish are still pleasant, with the latter being my favourite (and cost effective). Harp lager is well-known and Smithwick’s ale is very popular, however, my old companion Caffrey’s was nowhere to be seen (probably because it’s from the north).

porterhouse beer dublin

The Porterhouse has a few locations around Dublin.

We stumbled into a pub called The Porterhouse while in Dublin. It turns out they are all over the capital and they brew their own beer. And what a range they have! I won’t even begin to list them here, but I tried the Plain Porter (4.3%) and the Brainblasta (7.0%). The former is smooth and bitter, while the Brainblasta is a deep red ale that packs a delicious punch. And they were both outstanding.

whitewater brewing company beers

A trifecta of goodness: selections from Belfast’s Whitewater Brewery

Our mate, Robin, who writes a lot of wind… recommended The Bull and Castle, so we gladly went there with Peter and Dalene of Hecktic Travels. He also suggested I should try a brown ale called Clotworthy Dobbin. I must also receommend this beer, because it was very good. Later on in Cork, we visited Bierhaus where Andrea tried both the Belfast Ale and Lager from Whitewater Brewery, the same makers of the Clotworthy Dobbin.

Cork was also home to a micro-brewery called the Franciscan Well. After trying their Friar Weisse wheat beer, their latest drop ‘Croaking Lizard’ was a brown ale with a difference. The tasting notes said it was strong on hops and malt, and how right they were! One of the most unique beers I’ve ever tried at 5.0%. Another beer worth trying is the Dark Arts Porter made by Trouble Brewing.

croaking lizard

Croaking Lizard Brown Ale at the Franciscan Well in Cork

We wanted to visit O’Hara’s Brewery in Carlow after leaving Kilkenny on a Sunday, but they were closed. Andrea had previously tried the red ale and their stout is meant to be pretty good. It was fantastic to see so many boutique brews in Ireland, because as good as Guinness is, the tap variety in most pubs was less than impressive. Every, and I mean every, pub we went into had Coors Light and Budweiser taking up precious tap space. Heineken and Carlsberg were also heavily featured, but this I’ll allow. We also noticed Budweiser ads on television, in the paper and even on billboards in the middle of the country. The premise is if it’s a hot day somewhere, you pay less for a ‘Bud’.

What the fuck? This is Ireland. It doesn’t get hot!

While driving around Dublin looking for our hotel on the last day, I noticed other micro-breweries around the place. So they are everywhere and you just need to be pointed in the right direction. Then the senses can be unleashed to revel in them, but not for a moment, forgetting that Guinness is a supreme beer that makes you strong, turtles included.

What’s your favourite Irish beer?

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