Old School Beer “Blogging”

Before blogging, anyone who wanted to record something interesting they’d come across to do with their hobbies and interests had to stick it in a scrapbook.

The Westminster Archive1 (which we’ve mentioned before) has an astounding collection of beer related scrapbooks — 82 volumes in total — all of which were the work of a mysterious chap2 called “D. Foster”.

Between around 1880-1900, Every time Mr Foster came across anything in a book or magazine to do with beer or pubs in London, he copied out the section by hand. His scrapbooks, of which there are between 10-20 per bound volume, are meticulously organised. The first 60-odd volumes cover London pubs from A-Z. Then there are volumes on beer and ale; drinking vessels; coffee shops; and so on.

It really does read like a blog, and is a priceless resource of knowledge about beer. The copy in the Archive is the only one — it’s never been printed or published — so if you’re in the area, it’s worth popping in for a look.

Notes

1. The archives are on St Ann’s Street, in Westminster, and are open every day except Sunday and Monday.

2. We’re assuming D. Foster was a chap — the librarians didn’t know much about where the scrapbooks had come from, except that their author was an “enthusiast”.

Department stores and beer: Fortnum and Mason

I was walking past Fortnum and Mason at lunchtime, and thought I’d wander in to look at the newly refurbished food hall. With proud boasts of an expanded wine section (and bar) I thought it would be worth checking out the beer selection.

Stonch’s post about the beer selection in Army & Navy had reminded me that A&N was actually one of the better places to shop for beer in London; it also reminded me of the fact that the best place to find beer in Spain was not specialist booze shops but actually El Corte Ingles, a good-quality chain of department stores. So I thought F&M might be a reasonable place to find some nice beer.

Unfortunately not.

They sell two beers, yes, two. They are an “English Ale” and an “IPA”, both brewed for them by the West Berkshire Brewery. You can get them in gift packs (though not on their website – search “beer” and you get beer mustard and… er… teddy bears. Are F&M customers really such sloppy spellers?)

F&M sell more types of average Polish vodka than they do beer. They even sell “Spirytus Rektyfikowany” which at 79% is just meths, right? It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of “luxurious” beer styles they could stock, like imperial stout, barley wine, vintage Belgian abbey ales etc.

However, before I picked up my pen to write to Messrs Fortnum and Mason and give them a piece of my mind, I thought I would at least try their own brand. Perhaps these beers are just so good that no other beers are necessary.

So: The IPA (5%) – bitter yet balanced with a lovely hop aroma. A very nice brew indeed, though can’t match the body and overall impact of a classic such as Goose Island.

The English Ale (4%) – apparently “this rich, full-bodied ale calls to mind stout yeomen at archery practice in the autumn before Agincourt – and other images of antique Albion”. Eh? That said, it’s quite interesting, because there is a hint of smokiness in the aroma and flavour, unusual for this style, I’d say. It also has a good body and a rather bitter aftertaste. Good, but not as drinkable as say, Young’s Special or London Pride.

So definitely good brews – but if I ran a shop and only stocked two beers, they wouldn’t be it. So it’s pen to paper time in the Boak and Bailey household.

Random plus point though: the top-hat-and-tailed shop assistants are experts in wrapping bottles elegantly yet quickly so that they don’t clink in a carrier bag. Great for the budding alcoholic who doesn’t want to attract attention at work!

Boak

Notes

  1. Stonch has covered Army & Navy’s beer selection here.
  2. Fortnum and Mason are at 181 Piccadilly, London and have been serving posh ready meals there for 300 years. It’s a department store although mostly famous for its food hall (currently being expanded) and its luxury hampers. It’s worth a look if you’re a tourist, looking for a nice gift, or just up town on a wet afternoon and want to gawp at how the other half live (yes, those people really are doing their weekly shop here…)
  3. Here’s a link to the West Berkshire Brewery – they make no mention of the F&M link on their site. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of tasting their other stuff, but they seem like a decent bunch. I’d certainly want to try more after these beers.
  4. For more about El Corte Ingles, see the Wikipedia article here. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about them and their magnificent selection on imported beer later this year…

More boring lagers launched

Carlsberg have decided to distribute Polish lager Okocim on tap, across the UK.

Okocim is not an especially exciting beer. It is not even the best Polish lager — and Polish lagers are a sorry bunch, to be honest.

It’s an attempt to tap into the market for “world lagers” — a bizarre sub-category much loved by chain pubs, which includes San Miguel, Kirin Ichiban, Peroni and so on.

I wish someone would distribute Jever Pils, for example, or Kostrizer Schwarzbier. That would be news.

Nice places to drink in Nuremberg, Franconia, Germany

Franconia has only been part of Bavaria since the early 19th Century, and apparently “many of its people do not consider themselves fully ‘Bavarian’ “. Well, that’s the kind of guff Lonely Planet comes out with, but I would say that there is a different type of beer culture here than further down south.

If Upper Bavaria (Munich et al) is about swigging litres in beer gardens, Franconia is more about savouring individual and local styles. It’s estimated that there are around 200 breweries and thousand beers in “Upper Franconia” alone, and you see styles here that you don’t see elsewhere (such as “Rauchbier” (or “smoke beer”)). It’s home to famous brewing towns such as Bamberg, Kulmbach and Bayreuth. Furthermore, people seem genuinely interested in their beer here, and proud of the varieties. Unlike other parts of Germany, where you get strange looks if you ask for a different drink on the second round…

Nuremberg

Nuremberg is the capital of Franconia, and a very interesting and beautiful city to visit even if you’re not a beer lover. It’s also very well connected, with high speed links across Germany and excellent local connections to the smallest villages, making it an excellent place to base yourself for a beer holiday.

Nuremberg has two brewpubs, the Altstadthof and Bar Fuesser (see below), and is also home to Landbierparadies, a chain of five pubs (and one large off-licence) selling beer from small breweries in Franconia. We featured them in an article on this blog last month.

Recommended pubs

This is not a comprehensive guide! I have a feeling most of the best places to drink are probably outside the centre, but Nuremberg is a big old place, and this is just intended to be a starting point.

From Nuremberg station, it’s only a short hop to Kloster Andechs “Das Wirthaus”, in the groundfloor of the Hotel Deutscher Kaiser. This does the full range of Andechs, one of Germany’s most famous monastery brewing corporations. They even do a tasting platter (which takes them a while to put together).

About five minutes further up Koenigstrasse, you get to Barfuesser, a cavernous “Hausbrauerei” and restaurant. They brew two tasty refreshing beers (a dark and a light), which you can see fermenting from certain parts of the beer hall. The food’s pretty good too.

Top of our recommendations has got to be the Altstadthof, in the middle of the old town (up the hill near the castle). This is a cosy brewpub where, on a cold January day, we really fell in love with beer. They brew a Helles, a Schwarzbier, and most special of all, a “Rothbier” (which they translate as “Red beer”).

altstadthof beer mat

I’m intrigued by how they manage to brew beers which taste so different from anything else, yet are absolutely delicious (and still in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot!). The red beer has a strong aroma of toffee apples, but is also very bitter for a German beer, and possibly slightly sour. It’s not very carbonated (like a lot of beers in this part of the world). It’s incredibly refreshing and more-ish.

It was also pleasing to see (during one of our many afternoon sessions there) the number of locals coming in to buy beer to takeaway. You can go on a brewery tour and even watch a play in the small theatre attached. There’s also a distillery where they make several different types of schnapps.

The closest Landbierparadies outlet to the centre is probably the one on Rothenburger Strasse. It has one draft “landbier” on tap and around 30 in bottles. See our earlier blog for more on Landbierparadies. If you’re hunting for souvenirs, their shop on Galganhofstrasse (about 10-15 minutes walk south of the main station) is an excellent place not just for local beers but also for original stone mugs and glasses at very reasonable (i.e. not touristy!) prices.

Other areas for pubs etc

The area around St Sebaldus church (between the Hauptmarkt and the castle) is a great place for wandering. The pubs can be quite touristy, but it’s a great place for food (particularly Nuremberg sausages). For something different, there’s a trendy cafe attached to some kind of arts centre, near the Rathaus, which has several varieties from the organic Neumarkt Lammsbrau brewery. Unfortunately, we can’t remember the name of the cafe or the street…

There’s also a good area for pubs to the east of Konigstrasse – lots of small bars with beer from local breweries such as St Georgen and Kuchlbauer.

Notes & further links
1. Link to GoogleMap with the above places marked and full addresses.

2. The Franconia Beer Guide is a comprehensive database of the 300 or so breweries in Franconia; it also contains news, articles and a downloadable tour guide. You can upload details of your own beer trips or read other people’s. Very useful.

3. Deutsche Bahn website is very easy to use for looking up train times and even booking fares. If you want to get to Nuremberg by train from the UK, you can get Eurostar to Brussels, and then use this site to get a ticket from Brussels to Nuremberg via Cologne. If you get the connections right, you could get from London to Nuremberg in around 9 hours.

If you are travelling around Franconia, then the “Bayern ticket” is an excellent deal. For 27 Euros, up to 5 people can travel between 9am and 3am the following morning on any local trains. Read here for more.

4. There’s more information about types of beer in Bamburg and Franconia here, written by John Conen, author of CAMRA’s “Bamberf and Franconia: Germany’s Brewing Heartland”.

5. Here’s another page listing Nuremberg pubs.

Lamb and Kriek Pie

I noticed that the Pembury Tavern in Hackney, East London (my favourite pub) was serving Lamb and Kriek Pie today. I didn’t try it, but I’ve been pondering other pie/beer combinations.

Obviously, there’s the classic steak and ale – I’ve found Hook Norton Old Hooky a great ale to use for this, as it’s on the malty side. I used ESB once and it was a touch too bitter.

But what beer to go with chicken in a pie filling? Something not too bitter, light in colour, perhaps citrusy… a German weissbier? Chicken and weissbier pie could work.

How about for the veggies (like Boak)? Lentil, carrot and onion cooked off in Koelsch might work. Or mushrooms in mild… as long as a completely black filling doesn’t make the pie look too unappetising.