Sunday, 24 April 2011


It looks like my quest for Birra Artigianale is running out of steam. It seems that there's not much market penetration for it outside of the specialist beer places in the big cities - so far I've found a couple of worthy examples but nothing to match the awesome stuff I've had at home from bierkompass.

So what do you do when you've come from Munich to Italy in search of interesting Italian beers? Drink Erdinger of course. Stands to reason guv.

Because this bit of Italy is just a short hop over the Brenner pass, Germans and German beer is everywhere - mainly Weissbier. In fact shop keepers and the like will often speak to you in German if you're not Italian looking.
But soft! What beer through yonder glass breaks?
'Tis non filtrata non pastorizzata...

At last, just as I'm about to head for my train home I find what I was looking for. Ambra Rossa it's called, and a spanking good beer it was, quite bitter in an unusual way. It seems restaurants are the place to go if you want to get an interesting beer in Italy. Thankyou San Gabriel.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Limone sul Garda

Whizzing around the lake on a Catamaran offers up some nice views, and the sea air gives you a thirst...

There are not that many Lemon themed towns in the world, but here we have one: a small set of streets clinging to a vertical cliff face, where everywhere you look giant sized lemons are on sale.

But of course I was more interested in finding interesting beer than lemons, and although I drew a blank in the town's cafes, I stumbled upon this treasure trove in a shop...

Shame there were no Italian beers in there... do most Italians not yet seriously believe that their birra artigianale is a match for any in the world?
What caught my eye was the bottled conditioned Shepherd Neame 1698, as the vast majority of the time when you find British beer in Europe they will be pasteurised, even if in Britain they would be bottle or cask conditioned. Boy oh boy was this nice... it really brought back to me the taste of real ale, the one thing I miss about Britain.

Friday, 22 April 2011


 A bit foggy today...

Is there a prize for the stupidest-shaped beer glass? If there is, please award it to Super Poncey Restaurant 78 in Bresica.

Is there some aerodynamics or something to support a square beer glass? thermodynamics maybe? Or just the dynamics of being up one's own arse.
But things are looking up... at last, an Italian beer that isn't of the Europiss variety, namely Menabrea e Figli...

Things then looked down when I saw maize listed on the ingredients... it wasn't a bad imitation of a Belgian Brune but I definitely wouldn't class this as "artigianale".

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Desenzano Del Garda

Italy is home to some of the finest beer in the world - the difficult bit is finding the bloody stuff. The idea of being able to stroll into any Italian cafe and drink a Toccalmatto Skizoid is way, way off, unfortunately. Of course everyone knows about the famous beer bars in Rome, which have been blogged to inifinity and beyond, but what about the rest of Italy? What is the availability of Birra Artiginiale there?

I start my quest in this small port town. Things are looking up when I find an "Ale Market"... have I struck gold straight away?

Alas, this was not a market for top-fermented beers. But surely when I stroll into a Birerria and see these fellas on the bar I can't go wrong?

Unfortunately these bottles are for decoration only, they don't actually stock Sierra Nevada and Trappist Rochfort. But what they do have is a small selection of the better known Belgian beers, from which I picked a Chimay...

So besotted am I with Rochefort and St Bernadus that I've been neglecting Chimay, so it was nice to be reminded what a corker this still is.
An Irish pub across the road didn't seem to promise much, usually the beer choice is terrible at these places.

To my surprise they had two varieties of the Belgian John Martin's on top, a blonde and a brune. The blonde reminded me of something like Delirium Tremens, dangerously easy to slip down. The brune though had an incredibly fruity flavour.

So prominent was the fruitiness, and so unlike a normal Belgian brune, that I half suspected that it wasn't how it was supposed to taste, but it didn't matter, it was the best tasting beer I've had in an Irish pub for yonks.
So no luck on the Italian beer front, but a very decent selection for a small town.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Two in the Loo

I spent a large part of tonight on the bog, due to a dodgy fish curry I had eaten the night before. But even diarrhoea doesn't put me off my quest to find interesting German beer. A Störtebeker Pils and Pinkus Weissbier should be just the tonic...

The Störtebeker kept up their good form, with a late bitterness that is unusual in bland Bavarian Pils. A very flavourful example and it's a crying shame I can't buy these in any shops here. Apart from their disasterous porter Störtebeker really are a fine bunch of geezers.
The Pinkus Weissbier was a bit of a let down though. I don't know if I had a dodgy example, the top seemed to come off slightly too easily, but there was practically no head, and none of the flavours you associate with Weissbiers. I'll stick to their Altbier in future which is far better.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Christmas in April

If you are a beer geek living in a country where you can only obtain the beer you like by mail order, then Christmas comes many times a year. You get home and find the DHL card, then bang and scream at your neighbour's door, and if necessary kick it in. Then there's that nice big cardboard box which promises to soon yield up its treasure.

The American "craft" beer thing has pretty much passed me by, as there are only a few available on Bierkompass and they seem overpriced. But since finding Bierzwerg where they have a much bigger range and are more reasonably priced I resolved to find out what all the fuss was about. At 2.20 for a 355ml bottle they're of course much more expensive than local beers, or for that matter the Belgian stuff that I normally buy online, so I'll be looking at them from a value-for-money perpsective.

Of course I couldn't resist including a couple of Rocheforts and St Bernadus in there...

Thursday, 14 April 2011


In a typical German supermarket...

So, when it comes to wine, we have "wines from the whole world". Nobody tries to claim that Riesling is the only style that counts, that German wine is undoubtably the best in the whole world, so what's the point in stocking wine from other countries? That's not real wine that isn't, oh no, stick to German wine, ours is the best. Red wine? Huh? What's that? Wine for women or something? Ha ha, you drink it at room temperature!?!? Please, you lot know nothing about making wine, we're the world's experts.
When I enquired to the shop manager as to the reasons for this discrimination against beers from the whole world, his answer was "Get out, we don't want your sort in here."


So heavily are the towns on the "Romantic Road" marketed by the German tourist board that some nutter has actually gone to the extent of seemingly passing a law that all signs or notices of any kind have to be written in the Gothic script to give it that old-world feel. Even oriental restaurants seem bound by it...

 I'm not convinced the Silk Road extended into Bavaria but never mind. Half the time this simply means you can't tell what the heckity-heck something is trying to say, or what street you are on; the town is pretty by itself and doesn't need this silly nonsense.

They would be better advised marketing these towns for their breweries, of which Dinkelsbühl has two. Weib's Brauhaus is a funky little place in the Altstadt which does the usual offerings, and has a Witch motif which is very popular in these parts.

I could taste no puppy dogs tails, but instead a decent fruitiness. In the new town lies the Hauf brewery, whose beers are available at many of the towns' Cafes. They make a very nice Helles which shows that this style doesn't have to be as dull as it often is in Munich.

Yet again we have small Franconian breweries teaching the big boys how it should be done.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


If, unlike me, you've seen a film called "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (would you let a child watch a film with a character called Willy Wonka?), then you'll recognise Nördlingen because apparently there's some arial shots of it in the film. This is the old 70s version by the way, not the newer one starring the geezer who thinks he can do a cockney accent but can't. It's got a completely intact city wall which you can wander along, and is built in the middle of a meteorite crater, which is something not many towns can claim.

 Something else going for it is the very fine Anker brewery...

They brew what is possibly the finest weissbier I have tasted. It just gushes out the fruit flavours and pisses on the vast majority of Munich's weissbiers from a great height.

Munich brewers take note: this is what a Weissbier tastes like when you give it care and attention, and prioritise the flavour of the beer over churning out vast quantities of it at 5 cents cheaper than your competitors.
There is also a convivial Irish pub, which has a decent selection of bottled German beers.

Like many German towns it can be as dead as a dodo at night even on weekends, but of course you don't come to a town like this to rage.
I'm beginning to notice that my opinion of German beer goes up the further I get from Munich...

On a different note, oh the poor Blades, doomed seemingly to be in the same division as Wednesday. I haven't been there since 2003 but from all accounts for beer Sheffield is one of England's hotspots. What a shame that for football it's the pox-ridden bell end.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


As the train passes through Mittelfranken the scenery begins to resemble something from a cheese advert: rolling pastures and undulating hills, topped with conically domed fortifications and monasteries. Weissenburg is a small town with a well preserved Altstadt, typical of many in the region.

A town of about 15000 people has two breweries, and one London bus. Ken - see what you've done?

Who needs honey when you're in Franconia?

Franconian beer is spoken of in hushed tones of reverence, even by those who might otherwise dismiss much German beer, and it's easy to see and taste why. One of the town's breweries is Schneider (no relation to the Munich brewery):

The thing I always notice first about Franconian beer is how incredibly easy it is to drink. You have two sips, and then realise you just drank half the glass.
Were I to become a member of the Freemasons, the Bullingdon Club, or the England rugby union team, and had to undergo an "initiation ceremony" which involved either slamming my nob in the fridge door whilst wearing an Afrika Korps uniform, or drinking a "yard" of beer without pausing for breath, I would undoubtably choose the beer option, but would insist that it was a yard of Franconian beer. In this case I could gulp it all down in ten seconds, thus avoiding the "forfeit" of having my anal cavity explored by Boris Johnson or Will Carling.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Rye, Rye, Rye Derirah

The last Störtebeker beer I tried, the truly revolting Hanse Porter, went down about as well as a pissed-up Richard Keys and Andy Gray gatecrashing Germaine Greer's cocktail party. I had higher expectations though of their rye beer...

The head was thicker, more virulent and whiter if anything than a normal wheat beer. It doesn't say how much rye goes into it, but there's enough to give a spritzy taste on the back of the tongue. An interesting beer, and things got even better with the Schwarzbier. This for once had a roasty burnt taste that you sort of expect from a beer as black as the ace of spades - the ingredients lists röstmalz so that might have something to do with it. Definitely more interesting than the Kostritzer version.
A couple of thumbs up for the Stortebeker groovers, and nice to see a German brewer gouging the eye of the 'gebot for all the right reasons. Maybe focus on these two and knock the porter on the head lads - after all, it's not like British brewers make shitty versions of German styles and pret.... errrrmmm.... hang on... ahem... scrub that.


At the end of my street is the Paulaner brewery, the effluent from which smells better than the beer tastes. Behind this rises the Nockherberg, a hill on top of which sits their main beer garden, with a large feasting hall. This is a recreation of an older building which burnt down in the 90s, just after planning permission for major alterations was refused.

 If you're a pig, you'd better worry...

 Here is the main focus for the Starkbier season in Munich, where traditionally Bavarian dressed revellers turn up to pour flaggons of Salvator down their necks.

The bastards actually charge you to get in...

I would never drink Salvator at home out of the bottle, but whenever I've had it on tap it's been a different proposition. Whether it's a figment of my imagination or not I don't know, but it goes down much better this way. Out of all the "ators" I've tried it disguises the extra strength the best without any noticeable sweetness.

It's easy to get carried away with this stuff by the litre, so as I necked it I worked out a plan for getting home should my legs fail me after ten of them. It involved taking a leaf out of Bilbo Baggins' book, although given how litigious the Tolkien estate is maybe that wasn't a good idea. Were I to wab an empty Salvator barrel, place myself inside it and set it rolling, it would descend the hill, and then cannon billiards style off the wall at the bottom, which with a bit of luck would project me over a stream, from whence I would roll gently down my street to be deposited outside my tiny abode.

Monday, 4 April 2011


Pinball is the second coolest thing ever invented, after beer. There used to be loads of pubs with pinballs, but you hardly see any now - there's only one pub in Munich where I've seen a pinball and that's full of drugged out teenagers. To play pinball now you have to go to dark smelly places with fruit machines. There's almost always something wrong with them as well - the sound doesn't work, the flippers don't work, they're at the wrong angle to play properly or something. This Arnie machine was a case in point:

The scoring read out on the back only started working after a few balls, although the flippers were in surprisingly good nick.
Two of the best things about Australia are a) you can now laugh at them again for their ineptness at cricket, and b) there are pinballs in loads of pubs. Even better than that, they actually have container things attached to the side to put your beer in. Pure genius - the simplest ideas are always the best. When I used to play pinballs in pubs in Britain, you had to balance your beer on the front part of the glass, and if you started giving the machine a bit of welly you risked spilling it.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

More Bio

The Heller's brewery in Cologne was described by Michael Jackson as a "maverick", and representing one of the new generation of German brewpubs from the 1980s. This Kolsch is apparently the filtered form of another of their beers called Wiess (indicating a 'meadow' beer, nothing to do with Weiss, a wheat beer).
Remembering this, I was well chuffed when I spotted this in the Bio shop I found a few weeks ago. I've only tried a couple of Kolschs and both were pretty much a waste of space, but I'll wait till I try it in a pub in Cologne before condemning the entire style.

When you're used to German beers which very heavily favour the malt over the hops, any sort of bitterness comes a pleasant surprise, and this one pleasantly surprised me. Michael Jackson stated that in this version the hops were more subdued than the Wiess, so if I spot that anywhere I'm leaping on it straight away and stuffing it down my trousers before some other cad gets his mits on it.
Next was another Pinkus, who make the exceedingly decent Pinkus Alt.

Definitely more going on in there than your bog standard German pils, but coming after the Heller's it didn't quite match up. I'll still try more Pinkus whenever I see them though.
With Pinkus Alt and Heller's Kolsch I now have two very drinkable beers I can get cheaply here without having to get pricey internet beer - though it's as weird as a bottle of chips that I have to go to a Bio shop to find them.