Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Monday December 29 part 2

To take advantage of those moderate temps, we hop on one of those open-top CitySightSeeing buses. Aside from the small city, the bus also goes thru the ancient town of Fiesole and into the hills overlooking Firenze. Unfortunately, it's biting cold up there -- especially atop an open-top bus.

2 hours later we are back on foot and starving. At Osteria dell'Agnolo we find some wonderful pasta with smoked salmon and, surprisingly, German beer: Warsteiner. They serve it by the litre for €7, so of course I have to have one. Nice mug.

Once again we misread the opening times of the Palazzo Vechio and arrive too late. Guess the copy of Michelangelo's David will have to wait til next time.

After some nightime photography we head back to the room to rest up, then head out again for a walk at 10 pm. The temps are still mild and most of the tourists are gone for the night so it is very pleasant.

We stumble upon an Irish pub, the Michael Collins, where a young crowd of locals and Brit tourists has gathered. The Guinness is surprisingly good with a long-lasting head and great lacing.

Unfortunately, the Bulldog Strong Ale and an unheard-of-by-me Harp Strong are out. By no matter as we must get to bed; a big day of travel tomorrow as we are meeting Lorenzo way up in Fossano to visit the great Casa Baladin in Piozzo.

Stay tuned...

Sent from my iPhone

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Monday, December 29

Sunny and progressively more mild today to the point where by early
evening, scarves, hats and gloves are no longer mandatory.

We check out the antiquities from the original Duomo, like statues of
the original evangelists by Donatello and an unfinished version of the
Pieta by Michaelangelo in which he gave the figure of Nicodemus his
own facial features. Curiously, some homoerotic artwork as well.

More to come ....

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Samichlaus '07 and N'ice Chouffe on Draft ...

... at the Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel.

Not much work is going to get done this afternoon :)

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Sunday, December 28

Last night the concierge at our hotel told us she has lived in Firenze for 20 years and has only seen it snow once. As of this morning, make that twice. Under overcast skies and bitter cold temps, there are snow flurries for about 30 minutes in Piazza d. Signoria!

We make our way to the massive Duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. Even the widest of wide angle lenses can't capture this structure in one shot; below is what I could get with the iPhone camera.

After admiring the Duomo, its Baptistry and the 419-step bell tower from the outside and checking out the nearby shops, we duck into the big church when it opens for visitors -- as much to escape the cold as to appreciate the design from the inside.

Next is lunch at another local pizzeria, where I order a calzone that turns out to be the size of Monaco, and, of course, the ubiquitous Moretti alla spina.

We plan to hit some museums, but this being Sunday, as well as the Xmas period, they are closed or close earlier than our guidebook indicates. One closed 10 minutes before we arrived.

We continue wandering this gorgeous city where even the simplest stuctures are architecturally interesting and soon cross the River Arno on the legendary Ponte Vecchio (a bridge onto which houses and shops have been built) to the San Spirito district and walk to the first Firenze brewpub, Il Bovaro ("the cattleman," as well as a breed of dog, the image of which is the biriffico's logo).

We order half-litre sizes of the 3 beers alla spina: Riki, a 4.5% cereal-malty Blond (birra chiara) with a latent fruitiness (apparently the house favorite, and ours as well; we each order a 2nd); Titan, a 6.3 dark birra rossa (red beer) that is very malty, mildly spicy with a curious tartness; and Nera, a 6% dark ale served in an imperial stout glass with stout-like characteristics (caramelly, roasty). Axel, a strong Blond (7.1%) was unfortunately out.

These beers are only available on draught at this pub, which opened in 2000.

One of the owners-brewers/brothers, Daniele Venturi, drops by before we leave. I leave him a copy of The Celebrator. He does not speak English, but one of his waitresses (seen behind the bar in the photo of the 3 beers), fortunately does and translates as we discuss birra, the brewpub and the late beer writer John White as best we can, and snap some pix.

Tired and tipsy, we bid Daniele arrivederci and taxi back to our hotel. It's great to finish the day/night with birra buona...

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Saturday December 27

We depart Venezia today on another bright and brisk day and manage to score some outside seats on the bow of the vaporetto taking us to the train station; a poor man's gondola ride at a fraction of the cost.

We just miss the faster Eurostar, so we take the 3-hour-plus Inter City train to Firenze (Florence), giving us time to catch up on reading, blogging, etc., as we travel from lagoon thru flatlands thru snow-capped rolling hills and into the urban areas of northern Tuscany.

Our hotel in Florence, the Relais Uffizi, is well located just off (and overlooking) the Piazza d. Signoria, home of the world class museums of ancient Italian art, the Palazzo Vecchio and the Galleria degli Uffizi. But it's in a small chiasso (alley) off a smaller chiasso and practically impossible to find the first time. Even our cabbie from the train station had to call someone en route to find it.

After settling in, we head out to a walk amidst the throngs of tourists milling about in the shopping streets and walking promenades. Continuing our jag for pizza, we stop at the Pizzeria Nuti, where the thin crust pizze remind me of the "tomato pies" of my youth in the Italian section of Trenton, NJ. We wash it down with 50cl mugs of Moretti alla spina, which somehow tastes better than en bottiglia.

Pizza Washer-Downer

But our minds and tastebuds are set on one of Firenze's 2 brewpubs, the close by and new MostoDolce (sweet wort), a spinoff of thebirrificio of the same name in the nearby town of Prato, which was recommended by Lorenzo.

We have a hard time finding it until Danise spots the logo: the posterior of an elephant with the pub's name. Sadly, the place is closed, likely for the holiday period as this is a Saturday night.

All is not lost, however, when we duck into an off license store and Danise finds some decent imported bottled beers, which we buy to take back to the room: a 750 of McChouffe, La Trappe's Witbier (which I have never had!), Belgium's Bloemenbier and Augustiner Edelstoff. Cost for the 4: €30. Ouch. But we are on holiday and need good beer.

Tomm and Danise in Italy, Friday December 26

Sunny but cold as we head off to more Venice landmarks on San Stefano's Day; sites are open again.

We visit the Pallazo Ducale, the pink-and-white Gothic-Reniassance center of the "doges" (elected-for-life dukes) who ruled Venice for over 1,000 years. We opt for the Secret Itineraries guided tour, which I called the "Dick Cheney/Gitmo Tour" because it takes us to the secret, undisclosed locations in the Palace where the dukes had private chambers behind hidden passageways. Also to the torture chambers and the prison cells, including the one Casanova escaped from, as well as the staircase down which he ran to his freedom.

We also saw the rooms of Venetian and plundered armor and weaponry of the area, which we were not permitted to photograph (so I just had to; see photo).

Forbidden Foto

At the conclusion of the tour, I made a crack to the guide comparing the doges to Bush & Berlusconi today; she laughed and said there was too much corruption in the world now to fight it.

This being a crisp, clear day, a trip up the 318 ft. San Marco Bell Tower was a must. As soon as we exited the elevator at the top, the giant bells started clanging overhead. That, combined with the ferocious wind up there, with a wind chill factor that made it feel like freezing temps, and this turned into an endurance test. Still, the unlimited visibility seeing Venice from above was worth it.

Now it's lunchtime. But in search of what our guidebook called one of best pizzerias in Venice, our following directions that didn't quite make sense, and we were unable to locate it. One local shopkeep told us flatly: It does not exist.

So we settle for a nearby Crazy Bar, a chain of small café/bar/restaurants, to get our pizza fix. They have Moretti Rossa, the brewery's decent deep red, malty lager, on tap (alla spina), so we
order 2 and a funghi pizze (mushroom pizza) to share.

I also find 2 bottled beers I had not seen/tasted before, so we order them for dessert: San Souci, a 5.6% Moretti export lager brewed in Milan is mildly malty with a dry finish. It's made with an ingredient called granturco (I'll have to get back to you on what that is) [Ed: Its is corn]. Also, Castello Birra Premium Friulana from the Castello Brewery in San Giorgio di Nogaro; 5%, sweet, boring and made with maze adjunct.

Birra-fortifed, we catch the vaporetto, the overpriced water bus that takes folks to locations in Venice inconvenient to walk to, for a chilly ride at dusk to the Collezione Peggy Gugenheim, the late art patron's home/museum that houses some of the world's best examples of Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Experssion, including work of ontime hubby Max Ernst. We get 45 minutes to peruse, which turns out to be enough time.

After some modern art in an ancient city, we take the long walk back to the hotel and pick up a couple slices to go from a pizza á taglio to have with our last craft beer brought from Milan, Biriffico Scarempola's IPA (Italian Pale Ale), a beer made with grapefruit but not all that citrusy.

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Friday, December 26, 2008

Will Travel ...

... But not that far.

Took the Big Blue Bus up to the Daily Pint in Santa Monica for a hand pulled pint of cask Deans IPA.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Thursday, December 25

Editors Note: Content Warning -- pictures and descriptions of wine appear in this post. If that disturbs you, just scroll down, while keeping your eyes closed.

Xmas morning en Venezia. What did San Nicola bring us? A bright sunny day with mild temps (upper 40s!) and the option to sleep in.

Venice and its aged, weather-beaten buildings and palazzi take on a different mood in the low winter sunlight, yet retain their dark, mysterious aura. But the people (particularly the kids) in red hooded jackets startle me in bright as much as they do in shadow -- those frightening images of the murderous, red hoodie-clad dwarf lurking around the dark Venetian passageways in Nic Roeg's frightening film "Don't Look Now" from the 70s.

As the sun sets, the temps drop considerably. The Venetian elite are out en route to their Xmas dinners. And yes, the women do wear full- length furs and the men full-length capes and fedoras. Euro-class, I guess you'd call it.

Speaking of Xmas dinner, we have ours at one of the city's best, Antico Martini (since 1720), next to the opera house. While Danise opts for the Pedovena (the sole birra available), I break ranks and order wine(!): a 2003 Brunello from Il Marronetto; deep red, mildly fruity and alcoholy. Not only does it go well with my pumpkin, ginger and coriander soup and gnochetti with pomodoro and basil, but the second I take my first sip, the haunting Ennio Morricone theme from Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America" comes on the sound system. Perfecto. I half expect some mafia guys to enter with their machine guns and conduct a gangland slaying -- the Antico Martini Massacre!

Tomm & Brunello

Fortunately for us, that does not occur. But it is windy and rainy -- and even colder -- when we leave the ristorante and wind our way through alleyways and across footbridges to Chiesa di San Vidal, a gorgeous church where we attend a delightful Concerto Natale (Xmas concert) of Vivaldi's "Quattro Staglione" (Four Seasons) performed by strings and harpsichord by a local ensemble. Sure beats a church service.

Walking back to the hotel, we see the rain turn to snow flurries for about a minute. Magical. We cap off this amazing Xmas with a double nightcap of beers we brought from Milano: the musty amber from Monaci (monastery) Benedettini (6.4%) and Baladin Elixir, a 10% Belgian old ale-style beer with candi sugar and aged in Islay whisky barrels.

It perfectly complemented the chocolate torte we took away from Vino Vino the other night.

Baladin Elixir

Monaci Benedettini Amber

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Tapping a Keg at Uerige

For a change of pace (and as promised earlier) here is a short video of a keg being tapped at Uerige.

Watch at about 15 seconds in, where he closes the valve on the tap before pounding it in -- that is a trick they play on the new guys -- hand them the tap open and when he pounds it in he gets a face full of beer.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Wednesday, 24 December

Xmas Eve in Venezia is overcast and chilly, but at least the fog has lifted. Off to do some obligatory tourist stuff, like visiting Basilica San Marco in the piazza of the same name. Things smell a bit moldy, and funky as this was undoubtedly flooded in the recent deluge. And here I thought it was the rot of centuries of oppressive religiosity...

Prayers for peace next to booty plunders from the Crusades. Ya gotta love it.

It's getting time for our Xmas Eve dinner. Our hotel recommended Trattoria della' Madonna in the Rialto district. Danise guides us thru the dark and winding passageways to a darker alley where the trattoria is located. Only it isn't open. So we settle for (heated) canalside dining at Ristorante Florida.

With draft Peroni the only beer available, I seriously consider ordering wine. But since we'll have beer when we return to the hotel, we choose the hop over the grape. Bad choice. It only makes us colder and doesn't go as well with the prawns and pasta we ordered.

After a chilly walk back to the room, we treat ourselves to one of the Italian craft beers we bought in Milan: Birrificio 32's Oppale, a grapy, fruity pale ale at 5.7%. Tasty and refreshing as we sip it bundled up and sitting on our terrace, the beer, along with the impending jetlag, does us both in.

Plans for walking over to St. Mark's for midnight mass are abandoned. Instead, visions of candi-sugared beers dance in our heads as we turn in for the night.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Tuesday, December 23

A sunny morning in Milano but things get hazier as we travel 2 hours
and 45 minutes via Eurostar rail to Venezia -- where it is as foggy, and as cold, as an unfiltered hefeweizen. Not that we'll find that exotic of a beer style here. Lorenzo told us we would not find good beer in Venice.

Disembarking the chilly ride on the water taxi at the doorstep of the Hemingway-famed Harry's Bar in Venezia, we dropped in to get warm, get our bearings and get a beer. "We don't serve beer," the white-clad barman sniffed in Italian. So we ordered 2 €7 coffees.

Fortunately, we are not very far from our hotel, Hotel della' Opera, 2
doors from the Opera House. Open for only 6 months and remodeled from a private residence, the hotel has 15 rooms. Ours, on the 3rd floor has vaulted ceilings, windows on all 4 sides and 2 sets of French doors leading to a terrace. True, it looks across an alley street
onto another residence, but then, this is Venice..!

After a brief power nap, we head out for a late dinner -- to the
next door restaurant, Vino Vino. Despite it's name, we order birra,
birra with our pesce and pasta dinners. Mainly, because it was one I'd
never heard of before: Pedavena (see photo below).

A dark golden lager, it was maltier than the other industrial Italian
beers, but brewed with a maze adjunct. Not horrible. Next time, I'll
go for the vino.

Submitted by Tomm Carroll.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Monday, December 22, part 2

...a Tutta Birra is Milano's premier (and likely Italy's only) serious beer emporium, akin to Beer Mania in Brussels or Bier Köenig in Amsterdam. It is a tiny shop, maybe about 15x20 feet tightly packed with Italian craft beer, as well as great offerings of Belgian (especially Xmas), German, Dutch and British beers (and curiously, some Anchor and Brooklyn Brewery wares). Beeraphernalia too, from half-yard Kwak glasses to 9-litre St. Fuillen jeroboams to Guinness flip-flops.

Owned and opened in 1995 -- just as Italy's birra artiginale movement was being born -- by Lorenzo's longtime friend, Flavia Nasini, arguably Italy's first lady of beer -- the shop, just off Buenos Aires, is patronized by beer fans throughout the country.

With Lorenzo's recommendations (and discount -- Grazie!) we buy a half dozen tall bottles of Italy's finest, including some from the purveying birrificio, Baladin.

Pictured below are a few of them (that we took to Venezia with us for Xmas), including a beer from Italy's only brewing monastery (2nd from right). Who knew?

Massimo and Fausto deliver some of their Maltus Faber beer, already prominently displayed, to a Tutta Birra, and then we are off again -- this time driving to La Ratera, a bier á cuisine restaurant on Milano's east side, named for the rodents that once populated the area.

The place does not open for an hour or so, be we leave more Maltus Faber brew with the chef, who brings a plate of fine Parmesan for us to nosh on while we sample the 3 beers from Birrificio Italiano, near Como, on draft: the award-winning TopoPils, the caramelly yet clovey dunkel weizen Vûdû, and the fruity BiBock, made with apricot. Non-Italian beers sharing the taps were Blanche de Namur and... Anchor Steam!

No time to wait til the restaurant opens as Lorenzo has an Xmas beer tasting to conduct, and a preceding dinner, at, of all places, Mulligan's Irish Pub.

Flavia, her husband and Lorenzo's webmaster join the rest of us at the beer guru's table in the private downstairs room at the pub for dinner (pasta, not corned beef). The 60 or so tasting class attendees, men and women in their 20s & 30s, fill the rest of the room.

The tasting consists of only 3 beers: full pours of Maltus Faber's Birra di Natale (medium bodied with that estery Belgian yeast), Binichoise Nöel 08 and Stille Nacht 08, plus of much talk and description from Lorenzo as well as comments from Fausto and Massimo -- all in Italian of course. Plus a little bit of English for the monolingual Americanos' sake.

The tasting ends after midnight and Danise and I offer Lorenzo mille grazie, bid all buona notte and cab back to the hotel after an amazing crash course in the Milano beer scene.

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Monday, December 22

As promised, Italy's "guru di birra" Lorenzo Dabove arrived at our hotel at 9:30 am to fetch us for a daylong beer excursion in Milano.

Another beautiful sunny day and temps in the low 50s as we meander to the Metro green line chatting about the burgeoning Italian craft beer movement. We stop in Fabriano Boutique, famous paper products manufacturer, and I pick up a notebook for my beer notes, having forgotten to pack mine.

Soon we are Metro-ing to Lambrate, the section of Milano that is home to Birriffico Lambrate, "the first and best brewery in Milano," according to Lorenzo. Began by 2 young brewers (whose names I forget at the moment) in 1996, the brewery is in a former manufacturing space at the back of a courtyard, accessible thru a covered alley. There, we sample, right from the fermenter, their new unnamed golden ale (lotsa Styrian Golding hops providing a dry finish) and a young, promising pils referred to as "na gott" (no name).

There, we also meet the two owners of Birrificio Maltus Faber, a 5-month old brewery in Genova, Fausto (the brewer) and Massimo (the marketing guy). Lorenzo's latest championed brewers, they drove up to Milano to introduce and distribute their lines of beer.

We all move across the courtyard to Lambrate's pub restaurant (closed for lunch for the holidays but opened for us thanks to Lorenzo). After a round of Lambrate's tasty pale ale, Ligura, Massimo proceeds to dole out generous pours of Maltus Faber's line-up, all from bottles (they do not keg).

All of their beers are Belgian-style, bottle-conditioned and, interestingly enough, are compliant with Reinheitsgebot: only water, hops, malt and (obviously Belgian) yeast are used.

The flagship Blonde is an estery, dry beer, not unlike the spiciness of a Leffe Blonde. I liked it a lot. Also good but less distinctive, were the Amber (Ambrate), Bruin, Tripel Blonde, Extra Bruin and a tasty, heavy, if young (bottled only 15 days prior), Imperial Stout.

And all this before pranzo (lunch). Speaking of which...

.. Our jovial party repairs to a long corner table in the pub where the English-speaking co-owner/wife (again, forget name; sorry) of one of the brewers and the Lambrate kitchen staff serve us a risposte (actually, antipasti) of artisinal cheese and thinly sliced salami, followed by a pasta ragu course -- plus an amazing aubergine parmagian for yours truly, the lone vegetariano in the group (thanks for asking, Lorenzo!).

Meanwhile, la birra continued to pour from the taps: Lambrate's Popora, a red bock; el Beccamort (the undertaker), a smooth, chocolately, foreign export-style stout; Brighella, a mildly spicy birra di Natale (Xmas beer); and the brewery's flagship offering, Ghiza, a smoke (but not rauch) bier made with the beechwood-smoked malt from Weyermann's in Bamburg -- and, as the Mad Brewer himself says of Schlenkerla's rauchbier, it was smoky without the meat or fish component of the taste.

And then Lorenzo, true to his love of lambic, produced a wonderful digestif: a bottle of the brand new Lindeman's Cuvée René Kriek, a mildly funky, sour cherry treat. Perfecto.

Cuvée René, Lambrate brewers in background

Then, the entire crew walks around the block to a café and Massimo treats us all to an espresso. We thank profusely and then bid farewell to the Lambrate team and the rest of us pile into Fausto's car (he had been drinking sparingly -- typical brewer) to head to the Buenos Aires shopping district, along the way passing the square in which Mussolini was hanged!

We window shop and Lorenzo picks out some xmas gifts for his parents while we wait for Tutta a Birra to open at 4 pm.

More to come...

Submitted by Tomm Carroll.

ed: Just because its the way I am, a picture of Jeremy Grey (of Wimbledon. UK), myself and Lorenzo Dabove drinking a Schlenkerla Märzen at the Schlenkerla tavern in Bamberg...

Three Guys Drinking

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Sunday December 21

The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and we watch the sun come up as we fly over the Alps into Milano's Malpensa Airport.

It's a bright, sunny if brisk day (and a welcome respite for Italy from the 3 weeks of straight rain they've had, let alone finally some good timing on our part) as we train into the city. One subway stop from the train station, Stazione Cadorna, and we are a block from our hotel, the London.

After settling in and resting a bit, we head out into the Xmas shopping bustle as we are just a block off of Via Dante, a walking street/promenade full of shops and street merchants.

A quick stop at Farinella, a decent trattoria chain, for some lunch of pasta, whitefish and veggies. And our first birra on Italian soil. Sadly, it was just Nastro Azzuro, the "premium" version of industrial brew Peroni (kinda like what Michelob is to Budweiser); clear, crisp and characterless. Clearly, good beer must be sought out in this country.

We decide to get a quick overview of the city by taking one of those CitySightSeeing tours atop an open-top double decker bus. While awaiting the bus to arrive at the Castello Sforzesco, a castle-like fortress originally built in the 14th century, I buy a beer from an outdoor kiosk I never had before: Ceres Strong Ale, a 7.7% malty golden beer from Denmark.

And sure enough, as soon as I open it, the bus arrives so I bring it on board to fortify me against the open air as we breeze by the likes of the magnificent Gothic cathedral, il Duomo, and the stately La Scala opera house as early dusk settles and the the Xmas lights alight in the city. Priceless.

Then the jetlag hits, more severe for me than Danise. After wandering around the synchronized lights and Xmas songs display at the Castello, I stumble back to the hotel to crash. Danise comes in a while later with paninis and some birra -- alas, only Moretti -- for a light dinner before we turn in for the night.

Ah well, better birra tomorrow. Promise

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tomm and Danise in Italy: Saturday December 20

Despite staying up all night carefully packing with 6 beers in the
luggage to give to the Italian beer geeks and brewers, and leaving
early for LAX, Danise and I were met with a humongous line at the
Continental counter.

So long that by the time we got to the check in kiosk., it was too
late to check our bags if we wanted to make our flight. We could
either rebook, but no one could tell us when that would be, or
condense our bags down to 2 apiece to carry on -- and ditch the beer.
Sadly but wisely we chose the latter.

So there they were, 6 bubble-wrapped beers (spiced holiday brews which
the similarly inclined Italians brew , like Lost Abbey Gift of the
Magi, Anchor Xmas, and the new Stone-Jolly Pumpkin-Nogne holiday
beer), left on the bench near the security line entrance to apparently
no ones notice as we headed toward the TCA x-ray gauntlet.
I had visions of a bomb scare in which the LAX Continental terminal
was evacuated over those beers!

By then we were running late for the flight. Fortunately the security
x-ray was fast and comic relief was provided by the sight of poor
William Shatner in his bare feet being hassled by the TSA goons who
would not pass him thru and whisked him away! Shouldn't he be able to
just beam himself thru to the gate?

We got to our gate just as they were about to give our seats to stand-
by folks. Now the irony: There was no room for our bags on board;
they would have to be checked after all! Could I go back and get my
beer? Of course not.

Anyway, our first beers of the day were ok imperial pintsl of Guinness
and Smithwicks at the franchise Guinness Irish Pub in the Newark

Not a very auspicious start for our beer trip. Things could only (and
did) get better...

Submitted by Tomm Carroll

Tomm and Danise in Italy

Fellow brewclub member Tomm Carroll and his wife Danise were unable join us on the Sticke trip this year due to work constraints (I hate it when work interfers with beer!). They decided to make a Christmas visit to Italy and are sending back beer reports for us to enjoy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday, December 16

The weather Tuesday was much as it has been the whole trip -- grey and overcast.

View of the Singel from our hotel room

Last year while walking around we found a Chinese restaurant lots of delicious looking meat hanging in the window. After a couple weeks of Schnitzels and Haxen (and frites and stoofvlees) a break for Chinese food sounded good, so we heading down Zeedijk to Wing Kee Chinees Eethuis for a bowls of noodles with sweet pork on top and half a Peiking duck. Yum!

Wing Kee on Zeedijk

On the way back from lunch we passed right by In de Wildeman, so of course we had to go in and say "hi" to Simon and have a beer. I noticed they had bottles of the new Steinbier from the large Franconian brewery Leikheim (though the bottle is labeled as coming from "Brauhaus Altenkundstadt"). Luis had the Budweiser Budvar Dark Lager and Tom stayed traditional with a Budels Bock.

Budels Bock, Leikheim Steinbier, Budvar Dark

The Budvar was almost too roasty -- practically, but not quite to the level of "burnt" tasting. The Steinbier was interesting for about the first half a glass but it became too cloyingly sweat and I had to struggle to finish it. The Budels Bock was as you would expect a Dutch bock to be.

We had agreed to meet at 't Arendsnest at 4pm when they opened and it was about that time so we wandered over. On the way, we met Luis the Younger and his father (who lives near Rotterdam) and went in for a beer.

Two Luis's and Four Beers -- a good ratio?

Round one was a SNAB Pale Ale, Brand Pils, Jopen Koyt and a Texels Triple and...

Luis the Elder and his Jopen Extra Stout

It was all downhill (or uphill I guess, depending on your orientation) from there on...

LaTrappe Quadruple, Hertog Jan Grand Prestige, De Molen Heen & Weer ("To & Fro")

Somewhere along the line Theo Flissebaalje (from Utrecht) joined us. He was in town for the release of a new book on Amsterdam pubs, but the author (who is English) had his flight grounded and so the event was postponed a day. He had a few beers with us and then had to catch a train back home.

Fred & Theo discussing beer.

Theo recommended a beer from Brouwerij de Eem in Amersfoort (but actually brewed by De Prael in Amsterdam). It was good, but I didn't write anything so I can give you any more info.

De Eem Christmas Beer 2007

The De Molen Heen & Weer was so good, we decided to try the two other beers on the beer list. First up was Pek & Veren ("Tar & Feathers") a stout brewed with some peated (smoked) malt. Very nice!

De Molen Pek & Veren

And for our final beer at 't Arendsnest, their Imperial Stout, Rasputin

De Molen Rasputin

The name "Rasputin" conjured up for us North Coast's "Old Rasputin" Imperial Stout -- one of our favorite beers. The De Molen version was not nearly as strong and hoppy and the first reaction was less than exciting. But as the beer warmed up, we warmed to the beer. It was a very, very good beer and the fault was ours for letting a name distract us.

All in all, I think De Molen has become my favorite Dutch brewery, an opinion I think is shared by the others in the group.

Brouwerij De Molen

Since In De Wildeman had Spezial Lagerbier from Bamberg on draft, and that was my first beer of the trip, we wandered back over to make it the last beer of the trip as well. I love it when things come full circle.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday, December 15

We arrived in Amsterdam around noon, after seeing my brother Dennis off at Schiphol.

Some pictures...

Amsterdam Centraal Station

Venloosch Alt, Lindeboom Pils and Gouverneur from Limberg Province

Biercafe 't Arendsnest

A round of Dutch beers guarded by Luis

In de Wildeman

Jack eyes my draft Chimay Triple

La Trappe Dubbel, Band Pils and Weihenstephan Korbinian

Canal scene near our hotel

Flight One of Trappist/Abbey beer blind tasting

Flight two

Flight Three

Flight Four

Flight Five

Jerry and all the bottles

Closeup of the bottles