Brocket’s Beer

brocketsbeer.jpgThe Independent’s list of the 50 best beers in the UK includ­ed one brewed for Lord Brock­et.

Lord Brock­et is an old Eton­ian who is (just about) famous for (a) hav­ing been in prison and (b) appear­ing on the appalling real­i­ty show “I’m a Celebri­ty, Get Me Out of Here!”

He now has a side-line sell­ing Brocket’s Bacon, Brocket’s Bangers and so on.

I won­der which mar­ket­ing genius thought that hav­ing a minor celebri­ty mug­ging on the label would make peo­ple want to drink Brocket’s Beer? I mean, the beer itself might be per­fect­ly nice, but, well, just look at him! He’s grin­ning like a mani­ac and wear­ing a tweed jack­et. We should prob­a­bly be grate­ful he hasn’t got his thumbs up, I sup­pose.

Still, it could be worse. At least no-one is expect­ing us to buy Jef­frey Archer IPA or Jonathan Aitken Stout. Not yet, any­way.

Belgian Beer in Biarritz – La Tireuse

I seem to be hav­ing a lot of luck with my stopovers.

As Sun­day tends to be pret­ty dead in France, I had been won­der­ing whether choos­ing Biar­ritz as a stopover was wise. How­ev­er, it turns out to have con­sid­er­ably more life on a grey Novem­ber Sun­day than many oth­er French towns.

It also has “La Tireuse”, a bar with 20 hand­pumps loaded with Bel­gian beer. They’ve gone for a selec­tion that avoids the usu­al, fea­tur­ing a range of styles from the big­ger “inde­pen­dent”* brew­eries – which you don’t often see out­side Bel­gium, par­tic­u­lar­ly not on tap.

So from Brouwirij Leroy they had Leroy stout (not my kind of thing – too sweet) and Yper­man (described as an “ambree” – love­ly stuff). From Bocq there was La Gauloise Ambree, St Feuil­lien Bru­in, and from Van Eecke there was Watou’s Wit, Kapit­tel Triple and an old favourite, Poper­ings Hom­mel­bier.

Also intrigu­ing­ly, they have a beer called “La Tireuse spe­cial” – I can’t find ref­er­ence of this beer on the inter­net. They told me it was brewed in Bel­gium, but I don’t have enough French to find out if it was brewed espe­cial­ly for them. It’s a “light” blonde, 5.6%, with quite a strong hop flavour. It was very tasty.

The bar staff are extreme­ly friend­ly and hap­py to pro­vide tasters, descrip­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions. There is also food, with a nod to Bel­gium and Ger­many in the menu (Flammkuechen, Spaet­zle, and great big hunks of meat and pota­toes).

Fab­u­lous.

Notes

*I’m not sure what inde­pen­dent means in the world of Bel­gian beer – inde­pen­dent of what? – but all of these brew­eries are clas­si­fied as inde­pen­dent on var­i­ous web forums, as well as in their own pub­lic­i­ty mate­r­i­al.

La Tireuse is on Rue Maza­gran, at the top of Place Ste Euge­nie, in the cen­tre of Biar­ritz. Pho­to to come.

Boak

Belgian beer in Burgos – La Espiga

Bur­gos is the kind of place that guide­books describe as “like­able”. It has some nice old build­ings includ­ing a stun­ning cathe­dral, and lots of bars and pubs. You prob­a­bly wouldn’t go out of your way to vis­it, but it’s handy for trav­el in between Madrid and the Basque coun­try.

As I had only cho­sen it for a stopover based on the rail con­nec­tions, it was a very pleas­ant sur­prise to dis­cov­er La Espi­ga, a gen­uine beer lover’s par­adise. I’ve been to a num­ber of places in the last cou­ple of months in Spain that claim to be “beer par­adis­es” or “beer tem­ples”, only to dis­cov­er they’re yet anoth­er weapon in Heineken’s Span­ish arma­da, and that the excit­ing inter­na­tion­al beers on offer extend to Adelscott and Des­per­a­dos.

Trois PistolesNo, this was the real deal. Around 10 beers on tap, includ­ing La Trappe Dubbel, Spat­en Bock, Kwak and Liefman’s Kriek, and between 50–70 more in bot­tles. The selec­tion was most­ly the usu­al Bel­gian big boys – the Trap­pists, the Abbeys, the Delir­i­ums, the Hoe­gaar­dens, but there were some more unusu­al offer­ings, such as the Uni­broue range from Que­bec.

There was a guide to the var­i­ous beers, and the staff were knowl­edge­able and pre­pared to make rec­om­men­da­tions. Beer menus are some­thing I’m very keen on, as they help and guide the bud­ding beer enthu­si­ast – it’s amaz­ing how many good pubs with big selec­tions don’t both­er with this step.

Best of all was that it was absolute­ly heav­ing with locals of all ages, enjoy­ing a range of beer. Per­haps there is hope for the beer scene in Spain after­all. Maybe the Span­ish beer rev­o­lu­tion will begin in Bur­gos – I also noticed a Ger­man bar, and the inter­net cafe I vis­it­ed had Bar­bar Miel and Kapit­tel Watou in the fridge.

In the mean­time, here’s to you, La Espi­ga. I put this up in the hope that anoth­er beer lover who winds up in the area will google “beer + Bur­gos” or per­haps even “cerveza + Bur­gos” and will dis­cov­er you too.

Notes

  1. Cerve­ce­ria La Espi­ga is on Calle de San Juan, right in the mid­dle of town. Ciber­cafe is on Calle del Pueblo (?) which meets Calle de San Juan at a big arch.
  2. Bur­gos is about 2.5 hours from the French bor­der and 3.5 hours from Madrid on the train.
  3. French key­boards are the most annoy­ing in the world. All the let­ters are arse about face. It has tak­en me an hour to type this.

Boak (home­ward bound…)

50 best beers

Today’s Inde­pen­dent has an arti­cle on the 50 best beers avail­able in the UK.  It’s a sur­pris­ing­ly decent piece, although a cou­ple of the choic­es are a bit odd (as you’d expect). Estrel­la Damm…? Marks and Spencer’s Ital­ian lager!? And Bad­ger bloody Gold­en Glo­ry, which I think is dis­gust­ing.

I was pleased to see the CO-OP’s Strong Ale in the list. It’s a guilty plea­sure of mine: full of dodgy caramel, clear bot­tle, pas­teurised, fil­tered. But it’s very tasty any­way – sweet and malty, some­what like a strong mild.

Their num­ber one? St Peter’s IPA, which I’ve nev­er had. I’ll have to get my hands on some and give it a go.

Beer in Madrid

spainflags.jpgMadrid is home to some of the best art gal­leries in the world and some of the best bars too. Best in terms of atmos­phere any­way, but the beer is rarely any­thing to write home about.

Ron Pat­tin­son has put togeth­er a guide to bars in Madrid, which includes two brew pubs. As they are hand­i­ly with­in a minute´s walk from each oth­er, I tried them both togeth­er.

Natur­bier is on the busy Plaza San­ta Ana, which boasts many oth­er fine cerve­cerí­as. It has two offer­ings – rubia (blonde) and tosta­da (brown, lit­er­al­ly “toast­ed”). I slight­ly pre­ferred the Tosta­da, with its heav­ier malty flavour, but both are excel­lent – extreme­ly fresh-tast­ing and refresh­ing, bal­anced malt and hop flavours, and none of the unpleas­ant “home­brew” flavours you some­times get from brew­pubs. Pubs in Fran­co­nia would not be ashamed to serve these. Oh, and appar­ent­ly it´s organ­ic too.

Natur­bier also has a great atmos­phere – friend­ly staff and a good mix­ture of locals and tourists. So you can take your non-beer geek friends too, to expe­ri­ence the madrileño bar cul­ture. It also serves tapas, which is rather pri­cy (although nor­mal for that area) so I didn´t try any – but they do tend to bung you a plate of olives or nuts.

Mag­is­ter is just off Plaza San­ta Ana, on Calle de Principe. I think it´s sup­posed to be dec­o­rat­ed like a Ger­man beer hall, but it just didn´t feel like one. They make a point about giv­ing you free tapas, usu­al­ly a staleish bit of bread with some meat on it.

They offer a rubia and tosta­da too, which aren´t as good as the Natur­bier offer­ings – slight­ly acrid flavour, and didn´t taste as fresh. How­ev­er, they also offer a “cara­mal­iza­da” which is a sort of stout, and which I liked. It wasn´t the most amaz­ing stout flavour­ing I´ve ever expe­ri­enced, but the body and mouth­feel were bang on, which was a pleas­ant change from the last three months of lager tex­ture. If that makes sense. Final­ly, they were also offer­ing a “dou­ble bock” at 8.2%. This one was inter­est­ing. Like a not very good home brewer’s attempt at a strong Bel­gian-style ale, with a slight­ly odd fruity taste. It might even have been off.…

Over­all I pref­ered Natur­bier for the atmos­phere, but Mag­is­ter is also worth your sup­port if you´re in the area.

Notes

1. Clos­est metro sta­tions to Plaza San­ta Ana are Anton Marti­n and Sol. It’s also about 15–20 min­utes walk away from Atocha sta­tion, so handy for get­ting a drink if you´re just pass­ing through. There is left lug­gage at Atocha sta­tion, but it can be a pain to find – it´s at the far end of the trop­i­cal gar­den, away from the plat­forms, under Sam­bar Kan­da restau­rant.