Boozing with the Prague-based bloggers

Meeting up with Velky Al (he’s very tall), Evan Rail (his surname is Cornish), and Pivni Filosof (he’s very philosophical) was a real treat for us. For one thing, after six days on the road, we were getting bloody sick of each other, so the civilised company was very welcome. And, for another, they took us on a VIP tour of a couple of bars we’d never have found and never have set foot in otherwise.

All of the beers were excellent, but we were most impressed with the Kout na Sumave beers in U Slovanske Lipy. Boak loved the desitka, with its powerful hop flavour, while Bailey’s favourite was the dark lager.

We had a bit much to drink and weren’t taking notes, so that’s about it as far as an account of the night goes. You can read all about it here and here, though.

Thanks, chaps!

Dark beer in Dortmund

Dortmund is one of those places whose name is famous amongst beer geeks, but  where it’s hard to find any very exciting beer.

We did track down Hoevel’s Original, though, which we found interesting. It’s another one of those German local brands which has its own town sewn up but which you don’t see anywhere else. Every building, bus stop and billboard in town has one of their glossy adverts featuring a seductive nymph.

Their brewery tap (see Ron’s pub guide for details) dishes up the beer in perfect nick. It’s served in a custom glass (we love custom glasses) which they call a ‘Victoria’ — tall, and the shape of a trumpet bell. To all intents and purposes, it’s an alt bier, being brown, nutty, fruity and altogether very like a smooth, tasty best bitter. Not really worth going out of your way for — the alts in Duesseldorf are better — but, as they say in German adverts, “Mmmmmm…. lecker.” That is, tasty.  There’s also a cloudy ‘zwickl’, which was a bit home-brewy.

In contrast, we also tried one of the local ‘premium pilsners’ which, in the case of most German brands, is a euphemism for ‘very bland lager’. Brinkhoff’s No 1 is probably the most boring beer we’ve ever had. It had less flavour and body than tap water. Worse than Cruzcampo. Sheesh.

Our holiday arrangements were pretty chaotic this time so we stupidly failed to pick up on Bergmann as recommended by Adeptus. If you are going to Dortmund/Muenster or anywhere in that region, make sure you check his blog before you go!

West country beer tasting

We were down in Somerset for Bailey’s Dad’s birthday a couple of weekends ago and, as always, scheduled a visit to Open Bottles, the West Country’s premier eccentric beer shop.

The owner has had trouble getting some of the nationally known brewers to ship to Somerset but the result has been good for the shop. He’s now stocking many more local beers, including some real obscurities with homemade labels and “quirky” branding. Here are three we enjoyed:

Cheddar Ales Gorge Best

Gorge Best! Geddit? Geddit? Like “George Best”, the famous alcoholic, only it’s made in Cheddar with its famous gorge.

The branding on this one, dodgy puns aside, is pretty impressive, latching onto an essential truth: Gill Sans or variants thereof + screen printing = Britishness.

The beer itself is dark gold in colour, bottle-conditioned, and bitter as Hell. In a good way. Very cask-ale-like from the bottle and, all in all, an excellent beer.

Whistling Bridge, by Ringmore Craft Brewery (Devon)

It boast spices, cranberries and curacao orange on the charmingly amateurish label (sadly, no photo). We weren’t expecting this to work, but it did. It’s a pale colour, with a good head, and tasted fruity and refreshing. It also went surprisingly well with the roast dinner we were scoffing at the time. We’ll be looking out for more of their stuff.

Quantock Stout, by the Quantock Brewery

This was a very satisfying milky, creamy stout. Didn’t take any more notes on this one, but we liked it.

Open Bottles is at 131 Taunton Rd, Bridgwater TA6 6BD. It looks like any other offy from the outside, with megadeals on rubbish lager advertised in on bright paper, but it really is worth a detour if you’re in the area and want to sample stuff from local microbrews. You’ll have better luck there than in any of the pubs in town, sadly.

Badger Pickled Partridge at the Mason's Arms

We’ve been down on Badger beer since a holiday in Dorset last year where we struggled to find a decent pint of anything, and where even Badger’s own pubs in the area were serving dish-watery, boring, stale beer which made us feel a bit sad.

But the Mason’s Arms (recommended by Jeff “Stonch” Bell here) is a Badger pub which knows how to look after its ale. The seasonal beer, Pickled Partridge, is a dark, 4.6% ‘winter warmer’ and very, very drinkable.

The emphasis is on fruitiness and hop flavour, with very little bitterness — just enough to make it moreish. There might be some spices in there somewhere, but subtly done, with none of the overwhelming cinnamon and cloves that have ruined so many Christmas beers over the years.

In short: a nice cosy, quiet pub, and a very nice beer! Badger are back in our good books.

We’ve spent a fair bit of time on Seymour Place recently, for no particular reason. The Mason’s Arms, the Carpenter’s Arms and the Austrian Imbiss are all good reasons to visit if you’re in the area.