Kerstbiers at the Poechenellekelder


We’ve just got back from a week away in Germany. On the way out, we spent a night in Brussels checking into our hotel not long before 10.30 pm on a rainy Tuesday night. That gave us just enough time to dash to our favourite pub, the Poechenellekelder, to try a few items from their very extensive Christmas beer menu.

Tsjeeses by Struise caught our eye because of the mysterious name which became less so once we said it aloud and saw the label, which features a cartoon of a very stoned Jesus with smoke curling from his mouth and ears. Tacky branding aside, it was a perfect Belgian blonde and absurdly drinkable at 10%. Not too sweet, not too bitter, definitely spicy but nothing you could pick out. Everything was in balance. It reminded us what we love about Belgian beer.

Palm Dubbel was  less exciting, but certainly not unpleasant. It reminded us of Leffe Radieuse, with the same kind of fruit flavour which makes you wonder if cherries have been added somewhere along the way.

Zinnebier Xmas (Brasserie de la Senne) reminded us of Fuller’s London Porter but was much easier to swig — less intense and with a lighter body. Roasted grains mixed with sour-fruit aromas. Fabulous.

Forestinne Nordika from Brasserie Caracole was the last we could squeeze in as the bar emptied and bills were paid. Luckily, it was also a hit, with a powerful sweet orange-peel aroma and flavour that we loved.  There was more fruit than spice and we guessed from the colour that it had been made with something like English pale ale malt as the base.

All in all, a successful start to our trip.

Still to come: we find a brewery making stout in Cologne; catch ourselves ticking mulled drinks; and find a surprising amount of decent beer in Northern Germany.

Craft-brewed beer from Toledo

Domus 'artesanal' beer from Toledo

Spanish version here.

Domus is an ‘artesanal’ beer from Cerveza Regia, Toledo. It’s bottle-conditioned, top fermented and available in various trendy bars in its home city. The marketing and packaging are fabulous, just screaming quality.

Unfortunately, the beer itself is a lot like one of our less successful homebrews: too fizzy, too thin and a little grassy. As it warms up, the toasted flavours come through a bit and it’s nice to have something with veritable hops, but unfortunately they have a way to go before we’d choose this over a glass of bland but pleasant fizzy Spanish lager.

Is it a step forward that something like this even exists in Spain? Our fear is that if someone does stray from a fizzy lager to try this they will simply be  put off craft beers and ales forever.

It doesn’t help that the bar staff have no idea how to handle it, shaking up the yeast and expecting us to drink it from the bottle which is (of course) the cool thing to do with ‘premium’ beers in Spain.

Decent beer at the flicks


Our nearest cinema is the Stratford Picture House, next to the 2012 Olympic site in East London. Last night, we were pleased to see that Hoegaarden was back on offer in the cinema bar, after a period of absence. We were even more excited to see that bottled London Pride had turned up in the fridge. And more excited again when we clocked (no pun intended) a shelf full of Meantime beers.

Their brand is the perfect match for the Picture House chain — classy, cool and ever so slightly pretentious. The pilsener, which hadn’t impressed us much before, triggered a vivid taste memory of a sunny afternoon in a cafe garden in Nuremberg, and is our beer of the week. The pale ale was nicer than on tap at the Britannia last week.

If we’d been so minded, we could even have taken our beers into the film with us. How’s that for civilised?

Photo from Andyrob at Flickr, under Creative Commons.

Bowling and American Beer in London


There are now several trendy bowling places in London, following the success of Bloomsbury Lanes which opened a few years back.

On Friday, we went with a bunch of mates to All Star Lanes, also in Bloomsbury/Holborn, and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the beer on offer.

We’re huge fans of Brooklyn Lager, so we had a couple of those. We also tried Sierra Nevada Summerfest (Beer Nut’s not convinced; we weren’t impressed either) and finished with our beer of the week, Anchor Liberty Ale. We were also pleased to see Sierra Nevade Pale Ale and Brooklyn Chocolate Stout on the menu. All were priced at around £4 a bottle.

Sadly, but understandably, most people there were going for the cheaper option: a bucket of Coors Light.

There are also exciting looking cocktails, milkshakes and ice cream floats. Would a Brooklyn Chocolate Stout ice-cream float work? We’re sure Mark will get round to trying that soon, at any rate.

Restaurant with almost good beer


Once again, last week we found ourselves in a restaurant which had made a bit of an effort with the beer, but not quite enough.

On the up side, there was one of each colour — Hoegaarden (yellow), Guinness (black) and Innis and Gunn (brown).

Sadly, the Guinness was the widgetised draught bottle (fairly bland) and Innis and Gunn’s beer is nowhere near as good as their marketing.

It wouldn’t take much to improve the beer offer here, without getting too geeky. Non-widgety Guinness Original isn’t bad; Hook Norton bottled Double Stout or Fuller’s London Porter would be even better.

And why not replace Innis and Gunn with… well, almost any bottled ale?

We guess the owners are buying what they can get at their cash-and-carry of choice, or through their wine supplier. We’d be interested to hear from anyone who knows how this works, and what would need to change to improve things.

The restaurant was the otherwise very good Eat 17 in Walthamstow, London.