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.