Sunday, 22 January 2017

Bruges - Beer, what else is there?

Around Bruges in 80 Beers written by Chris 'Podge' Pollard and Siobhan McGinn was the first item I packed before Michelle and I went to Bruges for New Year. I should point out that I am a bit out of date though, the book pictured above is the second edition published in 2009 rather than the third edition published in 2013.
The "Around in 80 Beers" series of books include London, Brussels, Berlin and Amsterdam. I find them incredibly useful guides, not only in relation to beers, bars, but, also food, general information and history.
Some of my tips below feature in the edition I was using, a few others are ones we found that I'd like to share. All of these are on, or very near the main square, and, were personally vetted by us (tough job).

@The Pub 4 Hallestraat - Off the square, a small bar, but one which had a lovely friendly feel to it. Over 100 beers available on tap or in bottle. Well worth a visit, but, could be busy on a weekend evening. Michelle chose a lovely beer in here - Viven Porter (less said about the aniseed fuelled rubbish I sampled the better).

2be 53 Wollestraat - Tourist central! Home to the Wall of Beer, containing over 1,700 different Belgian beers, some of which are available in the small (usually crowded) bar at the back. Has two floors of beers and gifts that you can buy on your way out, take a look around, I reckon you'll find something you must have! We had hot chocolate here, love Belgian hot chocolate, especially on a crisp cold January day.
Brugs Beertje 5 Kemelstraat - This place WILL be busy, pretty much regardless of the time of day you arrive (you have been warned). The reputation of this bar precedes it, as much for the landlady (who is sadly leaving) as the beer list, which contains around 250 choices. We went for the dark beers plus cheese and ham toasties, it was a good afternoon/early evening. My top beer here was Prearis Quadrocinno, a coffee infused Belgian Quad.

Delaneys (previously Celtic Ireland) 8 Burg - We went here so we could watch Liverpool v Man City (ok, might have been more about me than Michelle). An Irish pub that has a few screens, shows all the football, and, serves food all day. I had a few glasses of the local Straffe Hendrik which is a seriously good Abbey Tripel from Halvemaan. For the record, we beat Man City 1-0, probably the last match where we played ok and deserved the win.

Duvelorium Grand Beer Café Historium Brugge Markt 1 8000 Brugge - A quick visit here, as the name suggests it is a Duvel owned and inspired bar. Decent beer list, and, a stunning view of the square from the balcony. I imagine during the summer that those seats outside go very quickly.

Bier Museum Breidelstraat 3 / 8000 Brugge - We went here twice, once to the bar and two days later, the actual museum itself. This is a Palm lead bar, with a good choice of beers available, although nothing too challenging, in my opinion. Taster paddles can be purchased at the bar, or, as part of your museum ticket if you choose that option. I think the bar closes at 6, with the museum closing a bit earlier.
The museum was worth the entrance fee, you get an iPad and headphones which provides you with the interactive element (you point the camera at the various pictures and you get the option to read or listen to information). There's also a quiz, which was good fun, I managed 16/20. The museum is spread out a couple of floors, look out for the photos on the walls of the stairwell, they really are very good.

Jilles Beer & Burgers Braambergstraat 10, 8000 Bruges - Now for the food, if you fancy something non traditional, then why not go a burger joint. Not any old burger joint, this establishment opened in 2010 and offers a wide range of burgers and beers, with the menu offering burger and beer pairing suggestions. Beware though, none of the suggestions are "sessionable". The burgers are delicious, and, if you are in Bruges with children, then this restaurant is definitely an option for you.
The Bottle Shop Wollestraat 13, 8000 Bruges - Lastly, you are going to want some beer take home aren't you? As noted above, 2be has a wide range of beers, but, I would also suggest visiting the Bottle Shop. I purchased beers in both places as some of the ones I wanted were only available in one or the other, also prices do differ, so, if counting the euros take a look in both places before you buy. Also, the Carrefour shops all stock beers, choice depends largely on size of the shop, although the Express at Brussels station is always a good emergency stop if required.

I love Bruges, I love the beer, and, I quite like the food and chocolate too, and, the scenery at times is simply stunning. We had a lovely time.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Let the festivals begin

What festivals are you looking forward to over the next few months?
Well, here are the ones I will be attending between now and the start of April.

This week, it's a trip up north and my first visit to the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival, which runs from 19th to 21st January and is held at the Manchester Central Convention Complex Ltd, for further details, please follow this link
I've heard very good things about this festival in the past and I look forward to finding some new beers and breweries, if you're around, say hi, I will be there with Beer O'Clock Show Steve (we should be wearing our Hopinions tee shirt, if we have remembered to pack them). Also, I believe those guys from a little known brewery by the name of Cloudwater might have some cask beers on, all part of the "Goodbye to cask" tour, perhaps the comeback tour is already in the planning? Fellow podcasters Beernomicon will be there and hoping to catch up with blogger and hero of Manchester Beer Week Connor Murphy (although now that he has been name checked by Roger Protz, he might not speak to the likes of us).

Next up, and, still in Jan, it's a visit to my local winter beer festival, which kicks off Wed 25th Jan and finishes up Sat 28th. Held in the town centre, it's easily accessible by public transport and is held in an old church, further details can be found here
As you can see from the link, it is a Camra festival.....I know many people have strong views one way or another about Camra (I do too), but, this isn't an opinion piece, maybe one day I will put something down in writing about my relationship with this organisation that I am a long time member of. A good range of local beers will be on offer, plus some from further afield, also, it's cashless (you pay £10 for a token card) and if you want, you can donate the remainder to a local charity. My main gripe is the bloody half pint tankards, I never fail to take the damn things home, only to then realise I really do not have the space (they don't stack!).

Staying in Essex, it's time for the Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival, another Camra offering, but, probably double the size of the Colchester one. This one runs from Wed 15th Feb to Sat 18th, all the details can be found here
The venue is the King Edward IV Grammar School (KEGS), who says us Camra folk don't have a sense of humour?!?! Always a good range of beers at this one and again very accessible by public transport, plus, only a 10 min walk from the train and bus stations. Appears to be a theme developing here, I'll be in attendance on a Thursday again, where there will undoubtedly be a few friends from the SXBottleShare present, some of them arriving earlier than me trying to drink all the Cloudwater cask (who are these guys anyway?)!

Off to The Emerald Isle for the Alltech Craft Brews and Food Festival which is taking place between 23rd and 25th Feb, I'll be there for all of it. However, this does mean I miss the National winter Ale Festival in Norwich and Craft Beer Rising in London, both of which would most certainly have been on my radar. That being said I am very much looking forward to this one, especially after my visit to Dublin last November. Also, catching up with the Irish Beer Snobs is always fun, see you soon guys.

Ok, well that's looking pretty good so far, 2 in Jan and 2 in Feb. Question is, what about March?

There is the London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival in Kings Cross, but, unfortunately it is far from being a favourite of mine, I think having to leave during the afternoon to return again later annoyed me, lost my enthusiasm during the break.

March could be dry from a festival point of view........oh well, there's always Wetherspoons, where every day is a beer festival!! (Where did I put those 50p vouchers??)

PS - Thanks for the picture Clayton.