Irish Craft Beer – Ireland’s Emerging Craft Beer Industry

So what countries do you think of when you think of good beer scenes? The US? Sure. Belgium? Germany? Of course. Ireland?  No way! What does Ireland have? Guinness and a few Guinness clones?  Actually, Irish craft beer has been growing quite rapidly over the past few years.

This past weekend, I attended the 2014 European Beer Bloggers Conference in Dublin, Ireland, and experienced a full immersion in this up and coming craft beer scene.

Beer Bloggers Conference

From Thursday, June 26 through Sunday, June 29, I left caution to the wind, and threw my taste buds upon the mercy of Zephyr Adventures, the organizers of the conference, and my fellow beer bloggers, trusting them to help educate me on the Irish craft beer scene.  And I was pleasantly surprised!

Irish Breweries

Guinness Brewhouse 3 http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/irish-craft-beer/ #beer #ebbc14 #ourtastytravels

Guinness Brewhouse #3

Along from the most famous breweries in Ireland, such as St. James Gate (Guinness, Harp, Kilkenny, Smithwicks, etc.) and Heineken (Beamish and Murphy’s), Ireland is presently home to 50 breweries, with 45 of those falling in the category of Client Brewer, Brewpub or Microbrewery. Only 10 of these 50 breweries were established before 2010, while 13 are established in 2014!

These are exciting times for being a craft brewer in Ireland.  Dean McGuinness (@BeerMessiah) likened the Irish craft beer industry today to the American craft beer industry of the 1990′s.  Not a bad time to be in! New beers and breweries abound, but don’t write off the big boys either!  Guinness continues to innovate, including in-house brewing competitions to come up with new beer ideas, such as the Night Porter we got to sample at the Guinness Storehouse.

How To Start a Microbrewery in 10 Easy Steps http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/irish-craft-beer/ #beer #ebbc14 #ourtastytravels

How To Start a Microbrewery in 10 Easy Steps by Black Donkey Brewing

Some of the breweries I had the opportunity to sample included 5 Lamps, Black DonkeyBlacks of KinsaleBo Bristle, Brown Paper Bag Project, Carlow Brewing, Carrig, Dingle, Dungarvan, Eight Degrees, Four ProvincesFranciscan Well, Galway Bay, Galway HookerIndependent, J.W. Sweetman, Mescan, Metalman, Mountain Man, N17, Rascals, St. James Gate and Trouble. The best part is that 12 of these (in bold) were sponsors of the conference; that’s 25% of the total beer industry of Ireland sponsoring this event, and two others supported us during the pre-conference pub crawl as well, with a third being one of the speakers!

Irish Craft Beers

Ok, so there’s 50 breweries in Ireland, but are the beers any good?

YES!

The Irish craft beer industry is putting out some very good beers, representing a nice cross-sector of beer styles. And one can only look forward to the opportunities they have to experiment with even more, local flavors in the future to find a true, local niche in the market.

Irish Craft Beers http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/irish-craft-beer/ #beer #ebbc14 #ourtastytravels

Irish Craft Beers

Some of my favorite beers that I’ve tried from Ireland include:

  • Lublin to Dublin (Oatmeal Stout) by Carlow Brewing Company (O’Hara’s)
  • Kinsale Pale Ale (American Pale Ale) by Black’s of Kinsale
  • Hairy Goat (English IPA) by Mountain Man Brewing
  • Five Lamps Pilsner (Pilsner) by Five Lamps Brewery
  • Stormy Port (Porter…on Cask) by Galway Bay Brewery
  • Horn8′s Nest Pale Ale (American Pale Ale) by Eight Degrees Brewing
  • Of Foam and Fury (Double IPA) by Galway Bay Brewery
  • N17 Oatmeal Stout by N17
  • Night Porter by Guinness
  • Beoir #1 (Double IPA) by Black’s of Kinsale
  • The Hurler (Copper Ale) by Four Provinces
  • Jameson Stout by Franciscan Well
  • Ginger Porter by Rascals Brewing
  • Sheep Stealer (Saison) by Black Donkey Brewing

Irish Craft Beer Bars

The first night in Dublin, before the conference, Reuben Gray of The Tale of the Ale put together a pub crawl for those of us already in town.  Since I happened to arrive in time, I decided to join.  The crawl started from The Church, which was the venue for the conference, and then continued across the city of Dublin, taking in five other Irish craft beer establishments. Steve Lamond of Beer’s I’ve Known did a nice advance write-up of the pubs on the crawl, including a couple we never made it to due to the inclement weather and overcrowding of some of the establishments.  For me, that was the best part of the crawl; seeing the huge turnout in these establishments, enjoying the local  Irish craft beer, rather than just the major international imports found in most of the other pubs.

Irish Craft Beer Bars http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/irish-craft-beer/ #beer #ebbc14 #ourtastytravels

Irish Craft Beer Bars from #TheTrailOfTheAle Pub Crawl

Impressive Beer Lists in the Irish Craft Beer Bars http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/irish-craft-beer/ #beer #ebbc14 #ourtastytravels

Impressive Beer Lists in the Irish Craft Beer Bars

If you’re in Ireland and looking for the best information on where to find Irish craft beer, download the BeoirFinder app for Android or iPhone.  This will definitely help you find the right pub for some nice craft beer instead of just a normal German, Dutch or Danish import.

All in in, I would have to say that Ireland has quite a lot to be proud of in their accomplishments thus far in their entry into the world of craft beer.  And I think we all have a lot to look forward to from further developments in the industry over the coming years.

The Church, Dublin.  Hosting Location of #EBBC14 http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/irish-craft-beer/ #beer #ourtastytravels

The Church, Dublin. Hosting Location of #EBBC14

Special thanks to some of the venues and companies who helped make the #EBBC14 such a special time for me and the other bloggers:

The Church cafe for hosting the conference.
Molson Coors for helping defray the costs of attendance.
Guinness for the tour and tasting event.
Pilsner Urquell for the special keg tappings, lunch and pub crawl.
Franciscan Well Brewery for the beer-food pairing dinner.
Carlow Brewing Company for the O’Haras After-party.

And if you’re in Dublin, check out this great apartment that I stayed in.  The location was perfect!

 

Craft Beer in Santorini, Greece

When you think of the island of Santorini, Greece, your first mental images are likely of whitewashed buildings perched on the cliff side, overlooking the deep blue of the Aegean Sea. Not many people would also envision Santorini as a burgeoning home of the Greek craft beer scene.

While more traditionally recognized for olive oil and beverages such as ouzo, raki, retsina and wine, Greece is starting to make a name for itself with its line-up of craft beers.  And while there are some good breweries popping up on the mainland, some of the better craft beers appearing in Greece today are found on Santorini.

On our visit to Santorini, aside from a wonderful meal at Assyrtico Wine Restaurant and a visit to the town of Oia, one of the biggest scores for me was finding a collection of beers from not one, but two different local breweries!

Volkan Beer

Volkan Beer is the first beer from Santorini, brewing since 2011.  While the beer itself is final brewed in Argos currently, there are plans to move the brewing operations onto the island in an environmentally friendly footprint in the near future.  In the meantime, some of the key ingredients of Volkan’s beers are local to Santorini; Santorini Rare Honey and their trademark Volkan Lavarock Filter. This filter is used to make the brewing water taste like Santorini’s groundwater may have tasted thousands of years ago, around the time of the island’s volcanic eruption.

Volkan has had two regular beers in their lineup from their start, Santorini Blonde and Santorini Black, and when I visited, they also had their new Volkan White available.

The Beers of Volkan Brewing, Santorini http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

The Beers of Volkan Brewing, Santorini

The Santorini Blonde (5%) is their flagship pilsner made with Santorini honey and citrus medica. A very standard pilsner, with a hint of citrus.

Volkan Santorini Blonde http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Volkan Santorini Blonde

Volkan Santorini Blonde http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Volkan Santorini Blonde

The Santorini Black (5%) is a Black Wheat Greek Lager, inspired by the black cliffs of Santorini.  Beautiful chocolate color and coffee-colored head. Interesting hints of dark grain flavors.

Volkan Santorini Black http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Volkan Santorini Black

Volkan Santorini Black http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Volkan Santorini Black

The Santorini White (4%) is a Belgian-style Greek Wheat Beer, and was one of the best wheat beers I’ve had in a while.  By far my favorite of the three!

Volkan Santorini White http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Volkan Santorini White

Volkan Santorini White http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Volkan Santorini White

Santorini Brewing Company

More easily identifiable as the Donkey beers, so named for the donkeys who can carry you up from the port to the village of Fira. Santorini Brewing Company brews their beers on the island in Meso Gonia, not far from the top of the road leading up from the new port and not too far from Santorini’s airport. The working brewery can be visited Monday through Saturday between 12 noon and 5PM.

Santorini Brewing Company brews three different “Hip Hoppy Kick-Ass Ales.” Unfortunately, I was only able to pick up and try two of them, with the one I most wanted to try being only available in a 750ml bottle which I wasn’t able to take back to the ship with me that day.

Yellow Donkey (5%) – A blonde ale, made with a mix of old- and new-world hops, providing a slightly citrus taste.

Santorini Brewing Company Yellow Donkey http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Santorini Brewing Company Yellow Donkey

Santorini Brewing Company Yellow Donkey http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Santorini Brewing Company Yellow Donkey

Red Donkey (5.5%) – An amber ale, with a mix of malts to give it a chestnut hue.

Santorini Brewing Company Red Donkey http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Santorini Brewing Company Red Donkey

Santorini Brewing Company Red Donkey http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Santorini Brewing Company Red Donkey

Santorini Brewing Company Crazy Donkey http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/craft-beer-santorini-greece/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Santorini Brewing Company Crazy Donkey

Crazy Donkey ( 5.8%) – The first IPA to be brewed in Greece. Unfortunately, this was the one only available in larger format, so I wasn’t able to try this one yet, but I hope to do so when back in Greece in October.

While I enjoyed both the Yellow Donkey and the Red Donkey, I have to give the nod to the Red Donkey on this due, but again, will hold out my final vote until I’ve had the chance to try the Crazy Donkey.

La Cagole – The Beer of Marseille

One of the aspects of travel that I enjoy the most is the opportunity to try new foods and drinks.  During our recent port of call in Marseille, France, I had the opportunity to take part in this tradition as I picked up a few local beers from La Cagole de Marseille.

Upon arriving in the Vieux Port district of Marseille, we started to wander along the quai looking at all of the cafes and restaurants lining the street.  Nestled in between the cafes were the occasional souvenir shops, many of which sported a similar sign outside, and pictured on much of the merchandise inside the shop.  A bright yellow background catches the eye, and draws you towards the image of a striking French woman holding a beer on a tray.  How can anyone turn away from such beauty…a beer on a tray!

La Cagole is a local word from the Marseille region to describe a beautiful woman who, well, based on one French definition run through Google translate, “is led to bed without problems.”  This would explain the branding, and why the La Cagole logo can be seen so prominently around the city.

On our visit to Marseille, I came across three different beer offerings from La Cagole:

The Beer Selections of La Cagole de Marseille http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/la-cagole-beer-marseille/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

The Beer Selections of La Cagole de Marseille

La Bière du Cabanon  – La Cagole de Marseille (5.5%)

This is the flagship beer of La Cagole. A standard Czech-style pilsner.

La Cagole de Marseille http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/la-cagole-beer-marseille/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

La Biere du Cabanon

La Cagole de Marseille http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/la-cagole-beer-marseille/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

La Biere du Cabanon

La Bière de Légende – Recette Antique (6.5%)

Made from an ancient recipe from herbalist monks that gives it its unique color.

La Cagole Recette Antique http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/la-cagole-beer-marseille/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

La Biere de Legende

La Cagole Recette Antique http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/la-cagole-beer-marseille/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Recette Antique

Bière Blanche - À l’ancienne (4.5%)

A white beer made in the traditional way. Fresh and sweet.

La Cagole Biere Blanche http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/la-cagole-beer-marseille/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Biere Blanche – A l’Ancienne

La Cagole Biere Blanche http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/la-cagole-beer-marseille/ #beer #ottmed14 #ourtastytravels

Biere Blanche

The Recette Antique was my favorite of the three La Cagole offerings, followed by the Bière Blanche.  The standard pilsner was OK, but nothing special.  Definitely worthwhile  as a souvenir though!

Have you tried these, or any of the other beers from La Cagole?  What did you think?  Feel free to let us know in the comments how you liked any of these.

Oud Beersel Brewery in Beersel, Belgium

When most people think of breweries located in the village of Beersel, just 10km outside of Brussels, their first thoughts run towards the 3 Fonteinen brewery. But this is not the only lambic brewer in Beersel.  You can also take advantage of a visit to Beersel’s other authentic lambic brewer, Oud Beersel.

Oud Beersel Brewery, Beersel, Belgium http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/oud-beersel-brewery-beersel-belgium/ #beer #travel #ourtastytravels

Oud Beersel has been brewing beer since 1882, and is one of the last remaining authentic lambic breweries.  They produce an Oude Geuze, Oude Kriek, and Framboise in the traditional lambic style, as well as the popular Bersalis Tripel and Bersalis Kadet top fermented beers.  They also produce Oud Kriekske, a liqueur based on their Oude Kriek.

Oud Beersel Kriek and Geuze http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/oud-beersel-brewery-beersel-belgium/ #beer #travel #ourtastytravels

Kriek and Geuze

Oud Beersel Framboise http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/oud-beersel-brewery-beersel-belgium/ #beer #travel #ourtastytravels

Framboise

Visits to the Oud Beersel Brewery can be arranged at any time by contacting the organization De Geuzen van Oud Beersel.  But if you’re not able to make an appointment, the brewery is open to the public on the first Saturday of every month, offering tours in Dutch (11 am and 12:30 pm) and English (12:30 pm and 2:00 pm) and a talking bar.  The tour will give you a unique opportunity to visit the brewery museum, as well as giving you an opportunity to try and purchase beers right at the source.

Oud Beersel Brewery http://ourtastytravels.com/blog/oud-beersel-brewery-beersel-belgium/ #beer #travel #ourtastytravels

Oud Beersel Brewery

Oud Beersel Brewery is located 1.5 km from the 3 Fonteinen brewery, and only 1.8 km from the Station Beersel if you are visiting by train from Brussels.

Information on Oud Beersel Brewery

Oud Beersel Brewery
Laarheidestraat 230
1650 Beersel
Belgium

Intergalactic Brewing Company – San Diego

San Diego, California has one of the most vibrant craft beer communities in the United States right now.  Most recent counts put the number of craft breweries in San Diego county at 87, with many more on the way!

While this count includes a number of large brewers whose beers you may be able to find across the US, such as Ballast Point, Alesmith and Stone, there are also quite some small brewers who operate locally, in some cases only out of their own brewery and taproom.

One my my joys of working in San Diego for the past six months has been being able to visit these breweries.  Up through now, I’ve managed to visit 21 of the breweries found in San Diego County, and have to say, am truly grateful for the number of excellent and interesting beers I have been fortunate to try.

One of the smaller breweries I stopped at during this stay was Intergalactic Brewing Company located in the Mira Mesa area of San Diego. Intergalactic Brewing Company has been brewing in San Diego since March, 2013.  In fact, the 1-year anniversary event for their tasting room is being held on April 19, 2014.  Intergalactic’s tasting room is a little difficult to find if you’re visiting for the first time. Be sure to look for the small white sign pointing you over to their tasting room entrance located behind the brewery building.

This way to the Intergalactic Brewing Company Tasting Room

This way to the Intergalactic Brewing Company Tasting Room

Inside Intergalactic Brewing Company’s tasting room, you’ll find 12 different beers on tap.  When I visited in late November, 2013, the 12 beers we were able to sample was almost half of the breweries’ total product line through then, as they had 26 beers on their running tally of releases.  You have to enjoy their naming convention for their beers, which truly stay to theme with the brewery’s name.

Beers on Tap at Intergalactic Brewing Company

Beers on Tap at Intergalactic Brewing Company

Historical Beer List at Intergalactic Brewing Company

Historical Beer List at Intergalactic Brewing Company

I enjoyed all of the beers I tried here, especially their IPA’s.  My personal favorites from the tasting were the Andromeda IPA, That’s No Moon Triple IPA, and Black Sun Black Ale.

All 12 Beers On Tap at Intergalactic Brewing Company +3 Duplicates

All 12 Beers On Tap at Intergalactic Brewing Company (+Three Duplicates )

Intergalactic Brewing Company Red Shirt #5 Rye Saison

Intergalactic Brewing Company Red Shirt #5 Rye Saison

Intergalactic Brewing Company Spudnik

Intergalactic Brewing Company Spudnik

There’s a friendly vibe in the tasting room, and they do offer some snacks to enjoy with your beer samples.  Just be sure not to stray too far outside the confines of the tasting room, as there may be consequences.

Be sure not to stray outside of the tasting room...

Be sure not to stray outside of the tasting room…

Information on Intergalactic Brewing Company

Intergalactic Brewing Company
9835 Carroll Centre Rd
San Diego, CA 92126

(858) 750-0601

Hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 3:00 – 8:00 pm
Thursday 3:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday 3:00 – 9:00 pm
Saturday 1:00 – 7:00 pm
Sunday 1:00 – 6:00 pm

Have you come across any small breweries during your travels?  Please let us know if you have any recommendations we need to check out!

C is for Carlsberg Brewery – Copenhagen, Denmark

If you are exploring Northern Europe and happen to fancy beer, no visit to Copenhagen, Denmark would be complete without a visit to the Carlsberg Brewery.

Visit Carlsberg is located in Vesterbro, around 2km from the City Hall.  A visit gives you the opportunity to see the original Carlsberg Brewery, founded in 1847 by J.C. Jacobsen.  Your self-guided tour takes you through the old brewhouse, which houses an impressive collection of unopened beer bottles from around the world.

Carlsberg Brewery Grain Store

Carlsberg Brewery Grain Store

The sculpture garden contains selections from the Carlsberg art collection.  Here you’re find a second Little Mermaid statue, very similar to the one sitting in Copenhagen harbor.  Did you know the original Little Mermaid statue was a gift to the city of Copenhagen by the son of the founder of Carlsberg Brewery?

Little Mermaid Statue at Carlsberg Brewery

Little Mermaid Statue at Carlsberg Brewery

Little Mermaid Statue at Visit Carlsberg

Little Mermaid Statue at Visit Carlsberg

And no visit to the Carlsberg Brewery is complete without a visit to the stables, where Carlsberg equine ambassadors call home while not on their daily trip through the streets of Copenhagen.

Horse Stables at Carlsberg Brewery

Horse Stables at Carlsberg Brewery

Carlsberg Beer Wagon at Carlsberg Brewery

Carlsberg Beer Wagon at Carlsberg Brewery

At the end of the tour, you visit the Jacobsen Brewhouse and Bar where you can sample some of the products from the Carlsberg family of beers, including Carlsberg, Tuborg and Jacobsen Housebrew.

Carlsberg family of beers for tasting at Visit Carlsberg

Carlsberg family of beers for tasting at Visit Carlsberg

Visit Carlsberg is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10AM to 5PM, with the last tickets sold 30-minutes before closing, though you should allow 1.5 hours to enjoy the tour properly.  Admission is 80 DKK (Around $15 US) including the self-guided walking tour and 2 beers/soft drinks at the end.  Entrance is free with the Copenhagen Card.

Information on Carlsberg Brewery

Visit Carlsberg
Gamle Carlsberg Vej 11
- or -
Bryggerhesten 1
1799 Copenhagen V.

Public transport
Bus routes:     18 or 26
5 minutes walk from the bus stop

S-Trains:         Line B & C
Enghave Station 15 minutes walk
Valby Station 15 minutes walk

This post is part of the 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge. Coming up tomorrow for Foodie Friday: D is for DimDimSum Dim Sum in Hong Kong! 

Previous Posts on the A to Z Blogging Challenge:

A is for Announcements: Updates and Where Our Tasty Travels is Headed Next

Understanding Wine Terminology: Botrytis or Noble Rot

Photo of the Week: Strawberry Beerita in Belize

Strawberry Beerita from Caramba Restaurant and Bar in San Pedro, Belize

Strawberry Beerita from Caramba Restaurant and Bar in San Pedro, Belize

Here’s to Tequila Tuesday…with a little twist of beer! One of my favorite new drinks here on Ambergris Caye, Belize is the Strawberry Beerita from Caramba Restaurant and Bar in San Pedro. A giant strawberry margarita comes served with a local Lighthouse Lager beer inside. Be wary though, a couple of these will sneak up on you quickly!

Brews of 2013 – Brett’s Favorite New Beers

2013 was a rather busy beer year for me.  After spending most of 2009-2012 living in Asia, returning to Europe and then spending a few months in San Diego allowed me to venture back into the world of craft beers in a big way.  In total, I tried almost 700 different beers last year!  Now granted, a large number of these were small tasters in breweries in Southern California, but each of these was a unique beer for me to try for the first time.

Overall, the quality of the beers I tried in 2013 was quite good.  Of the 690 ratings, only 37 were not able to garner an “OK” rating of 3 out of 5 on my personal taste scale.  359 beers were in the 3-3.5 / 5 range, and 272 I enjoyed enough to score in the 4′s.  Only 21 different beers, from 13 different breweries managed to earn a 5 out of 5 for me.  This is 3% of all of the beers I tasted in 2013.

I expect 2014 will be a rather prolific year as well.  In fact, when I return to the Netherlands, I still have a large number of beers from the Our Tasty Travels 23-country road trip to sample. I’m looking forward to seeing if any of them stand out.

23 Countries worth of Beer

23 Countries worth of Beer

Interested in what some of my favorites of 2013 were?  Here’s a rundown of some of my top Breweries and Beers of 2013

1) AleSmith – For many, San Diego has become the capital of craft beer in America.  And, lucky for me, work has had me spending quite a bit of time in San Diego towards the end of 2013.  One of the first breweries I visited was AleSmith. Within San Diego, many of the breweries are well known for their IPA’s. AleSmith is different, as its specialties tend to run darker and heavier.  Some of my favorite beers from AleSmith were the Old Ale, Decadence, and Speedway Stout.  The top for me, however, was the Barrel Aged Speedway Stout that was released not long after I arrived in November.

Beer Sampler at AleSmith in San Diego

Beer Sampler at AleSmith in San Diego

2) Brasserie De L’Abbaye Des RocsAbbaye Des Rocs has always been one of my favorite Belgian breweries, and last year, I tried a couple of new bottlings from them, including my new all-time favorite, the Abbaye des Rocs Triple Imperiale. I look forward to finding this one again!

Brasserie De L'Abbaye Des Rocs Triple Imperiale

Brasserie De L’Abbaye Des Rocs Triple Imperiale

3) Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Another new favorite from Belgium, 3 Fonteinen is one of the kings of Belgian lambic beers, along with Cantillon.  I was lucky enough to visit 3 Fonteinen at their Open Beer Days each of the last two years, and a few of the beers I picked up there made my top list of 2013, including the Straffe Winter, Oude Kriek and the Oude Geuze Vintage (2008). I also shared a bottle of Druiven Geuze (Malvasia Rosso) during Cantillon’s Zwanze Day at Moeder Lambic which was also quite outstanding.  I have a number of bottles of Vintage Geuze and other special offerings still in my cellar, which I am very much looking forward to trying still.

3 Fonteinen Malvasia Rosso

3 Fonteinen Malvasia Rosso

Lambic Masters - Jean van Roy of Cantillon and Armand Debelder of 3 Fonteinen

Lambic Masters – Jean van Roy of Cantillon and Armand Debelder of 3 Fonteinen

4) Brasserie-Brouwerij Cantillon - I visited the Cantillon brewery in Brussels a number of times throughout 2013, including a visit in September for their Zwanze Day event both at the brewery and at the Moeder Lambic pub in Brussels. One of the best benefits of visiting in person is that you can often sample beers at the brewery that are not available for retail sale for take-home consumption, but only for sampling on site.  My favorite beers tasted from Cantillon in 2013 were the Lou Pepe Framboise and the Fou’ Foune 2013 (Peach Lambic) on cask. I also very much enjoyed the Fou’ Foune 2012, Zwanze 2012 as well as their normal Kriek 100% Lambic and Rosé de Gambrinus offerings.

Cantillon Selection on Draft at Zwanze Day 2013 at Moeder Lambic in Brussels

Cantillon Selection on Draft at Zwanze Day 2013 at Moeder Lambic in Brussels

5) Alpine Beer Company – Coming back to San Diego, one of the best breweries in the area isn’t in the city itself, but around 30 miles east of the city. Alpine Beer Company is in the small town of Alpine, CA, and makes some of the best IPA’s around. They also make some pretty great barbecue at their restaurant at the brewery, which makes for a fun and delicious visit.  My favorites from Alpine were the Bad Boy Imperial IPA, Pure Hoppiness Imperial IPA, Great (Barleywine), and Nelson IPA, my favorite, which unfortunately they were not selling bottles of when I was there.

Nelson IPA at Alpine Beer Company

Nelson IPA at Alpine Beer Company

6) Brouwerij De Molen – While the majority of my favorite beers from living in Europe are Belgian, there are also quite some good Dutch beers as well.  I tried a number of very excellent Dutch beers in 2013, and their craft offerings continue to improve and impress me.  The king of the Dutch craft beers for me would definitely still be De Molen, with its line of stouts (and impressive bottle shop of beers from elsewhere in Europe, and even the US.)  Its Rasputin (Disputin in the US, as they cannot use the Rasputin name due to trademark issues) and Hel & Verdoemenis Imperial Russian Stouts are both very strong offerings that I enjoyed immensely!

Brouwerij De Molen Rasputin (Disputin)

Brouwerij De Molen Rasputin (Disputin)

7) Brouwerij Rodenbach – Rodenbach will always hold a special place in my heart, as their Grand Cru is the first sour beer I tried, and turned me into a huge fan of the style, helping me to enjoy the lambic offerings of breweries like 3 Fonteinen and Cantillon.  As much as I love the Rodenbach Grand Cru, I was enamored with my first taste of their Vintage Oak Aged line, having a bottle of 2010 Vintage Oak Aged Ale (Barrel No 144) near the top of my list for 2013.

Rodenbach 2010 Vintage Oak Aged Ale (Barrel No 144)

Rodenbach 2010 Vintage Oak Aged Ale (Barrel No 144)

8) De Struise Brouwers – Another Belgian Brewery on the list, De Struise continues to impress me with their line of beers. With favorites like the Pannepot already under the belt, I was thrilled to fall in love as well with one of their Christmas beers, Tsjeeses. Their Kabert Russian Imperial Stout was also one of my favorites of 2013.

De Struise Brouwers Tsjeeses

De Struise Brouwers Tsjeeses

9) Red Rooster – Ok, so these weren’t the absolute best beers I had all year, but these beers from Palau Brewing Company definitely earn the time and place award for 2013.  We tried these beers on a visit to Palau back in April, and not only did we enjoy the beers, we also paid a visit to the brewery where they took the time to give us a tour of their operations in the middle of their busy day.  We tried their Amber Ale, Stout, Wheat and Light, with the Wheat being my favorite, especially drinking it with lunch at the restaurant next to the brewery.

Red Rooster Beer of Palau

Red Rooster Beer of Palau

10) Rough Draft – I add Rough Draft to the list for a combination of very good beer and great people.  I was sampling beers at AleSmith with fellow bloggers, Michael and Stephanie, who were also visiting San Diego, when we started talking with another taster at the bar. Turns out he is a brewer at Rough Draft Brewing Company and had stopped over after closing the tasting room for the day.  He offered us a private tour of the brewery, where he walked us through the entire process.  He provided us with samples of their full lineup of beers, including a side-by-side sample of their Eraser IPA still maturing in the tank along with the finished product from the tap. Overall, I enjoyed all of their hoppier IPA’s the most, as well as their Freudian Sip Strong Ale and Belgian Vanilla Stout

Beer Tasting Flight at Rough Draft in San Diego

Beer Tasting Flight at Rough Draft in San Diego

11) Stone Brewing Co. – Spending a lot of time in San Diego, it’s almost impossible not to try some beers from Stone Brewing Co. And this is a very good thing.  Stone has been one of my go-to beers when there’s not much else craft on tap, and visiting the World Bistro and Garden in Escondido for dinner and some beers is a treat whenever we make the visit.  With 74 new beers created in 2013, there’s almost always something new to try each time you visit! While their core pours like Arrogant Bastard Ale and Cali-Belgique IPA are all excellent, I was most impressed with some of their more limited offerings, such as their Enjoy By IPA’s (10.25.13 and 12.13.13), Imperial Russian Stout 2010, and Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.

Brett with Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing Company

Brett with Greg Koch, CEO of Stone Brewing Company

12) The Bruery – Of all the breweries I visited while in San Diego in 2013, the best brewery I went to, unfortunately, wasn’t in San Diego, but around two hours north in Placentia, Orange County.  I have heard so much about The Bruery over the past couple of years, but hadn’t had much opportunity to try any of their beers.  I decided to make the drive up, and fell in love! Their line-up of sour beers helped me feel back at home with my lambics from Belgium.  I tried a number of different tastes on my visit, and all of them hit the mark.  My favorites were Bois (Bourbon Barrel Aged) Old Ale, Mash & Grind English Barleywine, Tart of Darkness (regular and with Cocao and Vanilla Beans) and most of all, Melange No. 3 and Grey Monday.  I am very much looking forward to trying their Black Tuesday in 2014!

Beer Sampler at the Bruery - Black Tuesday and Grey Monday being picked up

Beer Sampler at the Bruery – Black Tuesday and Grey Monday being picked up

13) Three Floyds Brewing Company – I managed to try two beers from Three Floyds Brewing Company of Munster, IN in 2013, and one of them was beyond a doubt my beer of the year, Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord With Vanilla Beans (2012).  I lucked into a taste of this beer while attending Zwanze Day 2013, taking part in a bottle share between my visit to the brewery and the event itself at the Moeder Lambic pub that evening. The Apocalypse Cow was also a highlight.

Three Floyds Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord With Vanilla Beans (2012)

Three Floyds Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Lord With Vanilla Beans (2012)

3 Fonteinen Brewery Open Beer Days in Belgium: September 5-9, 2013

From August 30 through September 3, 2012, the 3 Fonteinen Brewery near Brussels held their annual open beer days.  This is a rare opportunity to visit one of the premier brewers of the local specialty lambic beers.  The event includes free tours of the brewery in Dutch, French and English, a chance to taste some of their products, and most importantly, a chance to buy some of their special, old bottles not usually available for purchase in the shop.  You may also get a chance to meet Armand and Lydie Debelder, the owners and brewer of the 3 Fonteinen beers.

Armand Debelder finishing up a tour of 3 Fonteinen Brewery

Armand Debelder finishing up a tour of 3 Fonteinen Brewery

 

Armand Debelder's Philosophy on Making Geuze

Armand Debelder’s Philosophy on Blending Geuze

Lydie Debelder helping a customer with their special beer purchases.

Lydie Debelder helping a customer with their special beer purchases.

Available for tasting at lat year’s event were the 3 Fonteinen Lambic, Oude Geuze, Oude Kriek, and Faro as well as the Beersel Blond, Lager and Zwet.be.  I had to partake of a Faro here, as they don’t bottle this for normal sale.  The Faro seems to be usually available only in the 3 Fonteinen Restaurant located next door.  Faro is a lambic blended with caramel and candied sugar.  It retains the normal sourness of a lambic, but with a nice sweetness that makes it quite smooth.  These beers are usually short lived, only three to four weeks in the bottle, as the added sugars result in very active fermentation that could make the bottle explode!

Tasting Bar at 3 Fonteinen Open Beer Days

Tasting Bar at 3 Fonteinen Open Beer Days

The 3 Fonteinen Faro, only available at the Restaurant or during the Open Beer Days

The 3 Fonteinen Faro, only available at the Restaurant or during the Open Beer Days

3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek - Amazing color!

3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek – Amazing color!

For the bottles for purchase in the store, the following options were available:

Beers available for purchase at 3 Fonteinen Brewery

3 Fonteinen

Oude Geuze 0.375 L €2.50
Oude Geuze 0.75 L €4.45
Golden Blend Oude Geuze 0.375 L €8.00
Oude Kriek 0.375 L €3.85
Schaarbeekse Kriek 0.75L €12.00

Armand D4 2010 Limited Edition Oude Geuze 0.75 L €24 each for Autumn, Summer and Winter.
Spring is only available as part of the limited edition (500) collector’s box at €110.00

Horal’s Oude Geuze Mega Blend 2011 0.75 L €7.00

Beersel

Blond 0.33 L €1.25
Lager 0.33 L €1.15
Zwet.be 0.33 L €1.75

Special Offerings during 3 Fonteinen Open Beer Days

Oude Geuze Vintage 2003 0.75 L €24.00 (max 1)
Oude Geuze Vintage 2005 0.75 L €17.00 (max 1)
Oude Geuze Vintage 2008 0.75 L €10.00 (max 6)
Oude Geuze Vintage 2008 0.375 L €6.00 (max 6)

Doesjel Vintage 2006 0.75 L  €7.00 (max 6)
Doesjel Vintage 2010 0.375 L €4.00 (max 6)

Oude Kriek 2006 0.375 L € 6.00 (max 1)
Schaarbeekse Kriek 2006 0.75 L € 20.00 (max 1)
Schaarbeekse Kriek 2008 0.75 L € 15.00 (max 6)

Straffe Winter 0.75 L € 34.00 (max 1)

Selection of 3 Fonteinen Special Beers available during the 2012 Open Beer Days

Selection of 3 Fonteinen Special Beers available during the 2012 Open Beer Days

The 2013 Open Beer Days will be held from Thursday, September 5 through Monday, September 9, 2013.  If you’re looking to pick up a few of the rare older bottles, try to get there on Thursday or Friday, as quantities are often limited and they run out of choice vintages fast!

If you’re driving to 3 Fonteinen, they’re off Exit 19 on the R0 Ring Brussels.  As you’re exiting, veer to the right to cross back under the highway and head up into Beersel (don’t go straight towards Lot).  When you hit the top of the hill with the large church, you can see the Restaurant 3 Fonteinen in the square, and the brewery in just around the corner on the main road.  Parking is free in the spots in front of the church and restaurant.

3 Fonteinen Restaurant - Beersel, Belgium

3 Fonteinen Restaurant – Beersel, Belgium

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen
Hoogstraat 2a
1650 Beersel
http://www.3fonteinen.be

Restaurant 3 Fonteinen
Herman Tierlinckplein 3
1650 Beersel
+32 (0)2  331 06 52

New Brew Thursday: Petrus Aged Red

Well, it’s been a very long time…but I believe I may have finally found it.

My least favorite beer ever? Could it be?

Tonight I stopped by my local beer bar to see if they had anything new on offer I may be interested in trying.  I saw a few new offerings on the menu, and dcided to give one a try.  Petrus Aged Red, a Flanders Oud Bruin from Brouwerij Bavik in Belgium.  This is a style I actually usually enjoy, with the Liefman’s Goudenband of this style being one of my go-to beers in a pinch.

Petrus Aged Red

Petrus Aged Red

What did I think of the Petrus Aged Red?  Think Robitussin, with a touch of Benadryl!

Why does cherry syrup have to taste so bad. And since it does, why use it???

Petrus Aged Red

Petrus Aged Red

I had decent hopes here, but they were very quickly dashed. I took one sip, and knew this beer was not for me. It smelled like a Shirley Temple. And tasted like cough syrup. Definitely not a Kriek. And not up to par with other Oud Bruins that I’ve tried.

I’ve had beers before that I hated at first but grew on me. Sour beers in general gained my respect in this manner (thank you Rodenbach Grand Cru). So I’m giving this beer a shot. I’ve been sipping at it now for over 30 minutes.

Can someone please knock over my table?

No.  The remainder of this beer, sadly, went down the drain.

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