Amsterdam, the European capital of sin, sleaze and spliffs. I also forgot it is the home of Heineken, but for that it can excused. On new years day I flew from Prague to Amsterdam to begin the last few days of my Christmas vacation. Whilst the in-laws were cruising canals and walking around the red light district, I decided to revisit my favourite pub in Amsterdam – Café de Koningshut which is located on Spuistraat. For some reason this pub is not mentioned in Ron Pattinson’s Amsterdam pub guide, but I think it’s a gem with plenty of character. It’s what is referred to as a traditional or ‘brown bar’ and it’s a bit of a locals place with sand on the floor, whose upper reaches are rich with pre-war memorabilia, animal heads and hunting horns and dangling steins. You are also greeted to a warm welcome from the barman who is only to happy to have a chat whilst he polishes his glasses. The fire place is stoked so the warmth hits you as you walk through the door, it’s like a home away from home.
Zipfer is the defining Austrian megaswill. I can remember my first encounter with the stuff in 2002. Back then I was ‘beer’ ignorant and brewed kit and kilo beers because it made for cheap drinking! It was on a Contiki tour and I was staying in the Austrian Tirol and I nearly got in a fight with a dick head from Melbourne called Logan because I had cut his grass. The girl was certainly not worth fighting over!
After the ‘hot chocolate’, we headed out to have a look at the Christmas markets located in the old town. It didn’t take my wife long to locate the stall selling giant pretzel shaped donuts. I didn’t mind buying her one as it gave me the opportunity to pick myself up a bottle of Stieglbock (7% abv), which was suitably appropriate to warm my freezing bones and coax my testicles down from the space that would have been reserved for ovaries if I was born female. Anyhow, the beer was nice. A powerful combination of malt/malanoids and alcohol. My only complain was the fact that it was freezing cold and this influenced the beer and did not allow me to truly ‘taste’ the beer. By freezing, I mean there was actual icicles forming in the beer, so colder than your local JDW serves up a cheap pint of GK IPA. Website
Tagus Dark (4.8% abv) is an all malt Bock style lager by Mare Nostrum Brasseur du Sud. The beer is dark with strong malty melanoiden flavours throughout and was probably the best beer I had whilst on holiday. Strangely enough, I can’t find very much information about the beer. Help me fill in the blanks!
As I often do, I went to a dodgy Hungarian supermarket and bought a bunch of local beers. the first cab off the rank was Dreher Bak (7.3% abv) which is a rich dark dunkel bock style beer. I have to say that this beer was delicious! It is a deep brown colour with delicate chocolate and coffee notes, minimal bitterness and a solid roast character. Breweries take note – this is how dark lager is supposed to taste!
The upside of drinking such a strong beer has also got to be the warming effects of the alcohol which surely did help to dry me out after the terrible weather. The Hungarians are a little behind and I couldnt find a kooky website to go with this one, but I urge you all to seek it out.
Ok, again this is from my Barcelona jaunt and again I bought it from the Spar Express in the red light district! I bought this beer expecting it to be a pretty ordinary beer, just a lawnmower like all the other mass produced swill that you get, well pretty much everywhere these days but I was pleasantly mistaken.
The beer: Moritz (5.4% abv) is an exceptional lager. The bottle claims that it is a locally brewed lager and is Barcelona’s favourite. It is extremely malty with a mild bitterness and a good hit of hop aroma as it’s going down. There is a reasonable amount of diacetyl as well which really suits this style of beer well. My only concern was that I didn’t buy more than one bottle! The beer has a Spanish website: http://www.moritz.es/ so I can’t really tell you much about that. This beer is good, even better than the Estrella Damm and will be my pick next time I’m in the Catalan capital.
Bock Damm Negra Munich (5.4% abv) is a dark lager from Spain’s Damm Brewery. I picked up this can from a Spar Express just off Le Parle’l in the red light district of Barcelona! The beer leans more towards an American dark lager than the Munich lager it aspires to be, and the initial taste is of roast flavours although this passes through to mild bitterness and a really thin body. It also has a slight carbonic bite to it and is quite gassy. The website for this beer is slightly comical, and claims that you must drink the beer in a ceramic stein etc, and has pictures of Munich circa 1888. Overall this is a very peculiar beer and my first Spanish beer experience…. Lets hope that the rest are as unusual and interesting.
Oh yeah, the official website is: http://www.bockdamm.com/
The second beer I have had the delight of drinking this year is Peroni Gran Reserva (6.6 % abv) from the SABMiller corporation’s Peroni brand.
The beer is a big malty beer in the style of a traditional german bock, with a firm bitterness and a touch of hops on the nose. Being bold I would say that the hops are Saaz. The beer is a big improvement on Peroni’s other main offering “Nastro Azzuro” which is nothing more really that euro mega swill.
I enjoyed this beer but suggest that it’s a beer for special occations and a bit too hardcore for a session beer. Check this one out and let me know what you think.