- Food and Cooking
Three Beers to Drink While Traveling (in Europe)
I'd love to write a travel blog (or lens, article, whatever) but I always feel like I'm not thorough enough when I visit different places. I can't give anyone definitive information about which landmarks, museums, or general attractions to visit because I spend most of my time tracking down delicious beer and the rest of the time seeing what I can. If I can't find great beer, I may still love the city for what it is, and I can't always be sure that I haven't missed a fantastic beer along the way (if you think I have, feel free to let me know in the comments). The point is, I've come across beers and venues that blew me away and I want to take this chance to let lovers of beer and travel know about them so they don't miss out. This lens is part one of a series of lenses that I hope to continue, and for this lens I've decided to showcase three cities in Europe that I feel you, the reader, should visit and which beers you should drink while you're there.
Porterhouse Oyster Stout
Starting off the list is a beer that you can actually find in places in the U.S., though I'm not sure how easy it is to find on tap (unless you're at the only stateside Porterhouse location in New York: Fraunces Tavern). It doesn't matter though, because this lens is about drinking AND traveling, so you're going to need to go to Dublin. There are three Porterhouse locations in Dublin alone, the one I went to was the Central location near Trinity College and its a quaint and cozy pub tucked away across the street from the famous statue of Molly Malone. However, the Porterhouse that YOU should go to is the one located in Temple Bar. It opened up in 1996 as Dublin's first brewpub and it's the only location where they actually brew the beer. All of that cool stuff aside, Temple Bar is like a beer drinker's Mecca and you should take any chance you get to drink a beer there. To be specific, you should take any chance you get to drink the Porterhouse Oyster Stout there. Are you saying to yourself "that sounds gross"? I'm disappointed in you. Oyster stout's as they exist today have been around since at least the 1930's. I say "at least" because oysters have been associated with stouts for much longer; often oysters were served in English pubs as a pairing for the stout porters that were widely popular at the time. Eventually, somebody decided to put them in a beer. The reasons for first using oysters in the brewing process are still speculative, but in any case the oysters actually delivered a lot to the stout in terms of flavor and mouthfeel. The Porterhouse Oyster Stout is a silky smooth stout with a sweet roasted malt flavor; it's slightly salty on the nose and you get a little bit of mineraliness from the oysters, but the beer doesn't taste like fish. So stop being a baby and drink it. Then be sad that this beer is not more readily available. While you can find oyster stouts in the states, they're still pretty rare and even when microbreweries make them it's usually just for a limited release. So fill up!
Then try the Plain Porter that made them famous, it's really good. Oh, and try the Red also. Just...try them all.
Over the river and past the pubs
Sometimes great beer can be found in a place you wouldn't expect (See below), but sometimes you find great beer exactly where you'd expect. Belgium - along with countries like the United Kingdom and Germany - is holy land for beer and Brussels alone has one of the greatest series of pubs out of any city I've been to: the Delirium Village. The Village is made up of eight beer cafes, the most popular of which is the Delirium Cafe, which serves over 3,000 beers. You can look at the beer menu - which is a little over half an inch thick - but you won't have to to order a Delirium Red (after which you should definitely still scope out the menu). You'll probably see plenty of people in the rustic multi-story pub drinking glasses of this bright red beer, because when I was there they couldn't keep the tap nozzle dry. Delirium Red is flavored with cherries and it shows through the color of the body and the frothy pink head. The aroma is that of fresh cherries and the flavor is like cherry candy. It's delicious, and a sure hit with fans of fruit beer. Make sure you get to the cafe early and get a seat, because it will get packed and you'll want to have plenty of time and a nice comfortable spot to enjoy and explore the wide selection of beer that this place offers.
If you make it out of Brussels without alcohol poisoning, you shouldn't stop there. Check out some of the legendary Trappist abbeys that brew Trappist beer, all of which are located within two hours of Brussels (except for the ones located outside of Belgium). Orval is a great one, but the true legend lies an hour and a half to the west in Vleteren. The famed Westvleteren 12 is extremely hard to find outside of the coastal city, so for a beer that is widely considered the best in the world you should make that drive (it's definitely next on my list).
Research "state-dependent memory"...
Prague, Czech Republic
Flekovsky Tmavy Lezak 13P
Prague is an amazing city, and even if you have no beer-related inclinations you should add it to your list. Then you should add beer-related inclinations to your list, because among the beautiful Gothic architecture and alleyways crammed with pilsner-slinging pubs, there lies a hidden gem. Or just a regular gem, it's not hard to find. Located in the New Town quarter is Prague's oldest brewpub, and it's been there since 1499. That means the brewers at U Fleku have taken over five hundred years to perfect the only beer they serve: Flekovsky Tmavy Lezak 13P (or The Flek Dark Double Lager at 13P, from here on affectionately referred to as The Flek). It looks hard to pronounce because it is. I'm not even certain I know how to say it correctly, but that doesn't matter because you don't have to order it! Sit inside in one of the cozy German-style beer halls or outside in the equally cozy beer garden and men with trays of beer will come to you. So just relax and let glass after glass of the delicious black liquid flow effortlessly into your face (DISCLAIMER: BEER GOES IN MOUTH). Czech's are notoriously difficult when it comes to categorizing their beer. For example, lezak means lager and 13P indicates a measurement taken during the brewing process that doesn't really help the prospective drinker. Basically what you can gather from that explanation is that the Flek is a black lager, albeit with the flavor and body of a dark ale. What hits the tongue is a perfect marriage of smoke and chocolate, but not before the sweet smoked malt aroma fills your nose. This beer is so smooth and delicious that it isn't hard to knock out three or four in twenty minutes and get whisked away into a blurry night of Segway tours and absinthe pubs. I assume. If this all sounds like a biased account, its probably because the Flek is (so far) the best beer I've ever had...but who cares if its biased? Drink it!
Also, maybe check out some authentic Czech pilsners while your there.
If you hit Slovakia, you've gone too far
So that's it!
For now at least, because I am in no way finished searching the world for great beer and great places to drink. I'll try to hit up a few places stateside for readers who live elsewhere (or beer lovers on a budget), so keep checking in! Until then, scope out some places of your own and let me know if you have any suggestions.