Friday, 18 August 2017

Wetherspoons here we come

I’m awoken by my brother David bringing me a cup of tea before he leaves for work. Then get back to some heavy-duty dozing.

I finally drag myself out of bed at 10. No sign of the kids. So I get myself a pint of Red Barrel while I wait for them to get their sorry arses in gear.

When they come down, I ask: “What do you want for breakfast?”

“Is there bacon, dad?” Alexei asks.

“Of course there is. Uncle David knew you were coming.”

“I’ll have a bacon sandwich, too.” Andrew replies, before I even have time to ask him. Three bacon sandwiches it is, then.

Henry arrives a little later in his fancy new van. Definitely an improvement on his crappy old one.  He says he’ll give us a lift into town. There are only three seats in the cab, so Alexei has to jump in the back with a barrel and some other junk. Somehow Henry has managed to get it as dirty inside as his old van.

He drops us off in front of the Corn Exchange and tells us he’ll see us later in Wetherspoons.

As we’re walking down Stodman Street, I pause to take a snap of The Woolpack, sorry, the Prince Rupert. The kids are now 20 metres in front of me. So I can see the reaction of the youths hanging around outside the tattoo parlour. They point, mouths open, at the two giants. I’ve forgotten how much shorter people are in Britain.

Wetherspoons is pretty full. Mostly with pensioners: old blokes drinking John Smiths smooth, grannies drinking tea. We struggle to find a seat. I need space to set up my laptop, seeing as David has no wifi in his house. It’s like going back to the Dark Ages. Just without the violence. And the plague.

The kids have both gone for cider again. I have some cask beer or other. The barman is about five foot tall and looks about fourteen. So it’s a bit odd when he asks the boys for id. They hand him their verblijfsvergunnings and he looks at them bemusedly. After a minute or so he asks:

“Where’s the birthdate?”

“On the back.” Andrew points out.

Teenage barman goes off to consult a more senior member of staff about the id.

“They won’t have any idea what it is.” Andrew says.

“They probably think it’s a driving licence.”

Our junior barman returns and serves us. Whew! Alexei would have been pissed off at missing his first pint in Spoons.

My pint, Nottingham Brewery Sir John Special, has a slightly strange aftertaste. Something not 100% right there.

Once we’ve moved to a bigger table we’re ready to order some food. An all-day brunch each for the kids, steak and kidney pudding for me. I like to eat healthily.

Henry tuns up and gets himself a half. He doesn’t stay long. Has something or other to do in connection with his brewery. Just an excuse, I bet. He’s always finding reasons to duck out of things.

“Where do you fancy next, lads?”

“I don’t know, dad.”

“I suppose I’ll have to decide then. The Woolpack it is, then.”

“Isn’t it called the Prince Rupert, now?”

“Not in my head it isn’t, Andrew.”

I’ve always liked the Woolpack. Mostly because it was about the only pub in town to retain its multiroom layout. They’ve since moved the bar and changed the layout a bit, but it still retains the core of its original floor plan.

Alexei is still on the cider. Andrew has moved on to Guinness. Even though both are evil keg, I don’t mind. Happy to let them drink what they like. I, naturally, tread the path of righteousness and have a pint of cask.

Alexei is on his phone. “Mum says can you get her a Radio Times. And some tea.”

“No problem. I need to drop by WH Smiths to buy a Viz, anyway.”

We only stay for the one. We need to get back for our tea. And I plan on visiting Newark’s micropub, Just Beer.

“It’s on Murderer’s Yard.” I tell the kids. Which is true, but I won’t go into the full, sad story. You can read it here.

It’s encouragingly busy in Just Beer. But we can find a seat. The kids have both opted for a Lemon and Lime Cider abomination. I continue to follow the path of cask righteousness.

Alexei’s cider thing is soon almost. “You’ve got a bit of a thirst, Alexei.”

“It’s just like drinking pop.”

I try it. “You’re right. Obviously one aimed at the kiddies.”

The kids are intrigued by the card game being played. “It looks like cribbage to me.”

One of the participants turns around and says: “Yes, that’s right. This is the only place it’s played in Newark.”

Odd that. I always thought of cribbage as one of the standard pub games. I’ve played it plenty of times. Though the exact rules escape me at the moment.

We walk to the bus station via WH Smith. Where I eventually find Viz. As we walk through town there’s more pointing and staring at the boys. Haven’t they seen someone two metres tall before?

There’s another reason, other than our tea, we haven’t left it too late. The last bus is just after six. Britain really is turning to total shit. On the upside, the pound is tanking nicely, which makes everything cheaper for me.

David hasn’t polished off the barrel, as I’d feared. Still plenty of Red Barrel left for me and the kids to tuck into. It’s still drinking very nicely.

After a few pints I get peckish around 9 PM.

“I might go and get myself a pie, Dave.”

“You’d best hurry up, they’ll be closing soon.”

I get to the chippie with the kids just before they close the doors for the night. In addition to my pie, they give us another mountain of chips and a few battered sausages. Which pleases the kids. Somehow we manage to get through it all.

Tomorrow we’ll get to see Henry’s brewery. That’ll be exciting.

The Sir John Arderne
3 Church St,
Newark NG24 1DT.
Tel.: +44 1636 671334

The Prince Rupert
46 Stodman Street,
Newark NG24 1AW.
Tel.: +44 1636 918121

Just Beer Micropub
32A Castle Gate,
Newark NG24 1BG.
Tel.: +44 1636 312047

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Baldo here we come

“Oh that’s good.”

“What is, dad?”

I’m just looking at the departures screen. “Our flight leaves from pier D.”

“What’s so good about that?”

“It’s where the Irish pub is.”

We’ve already picked up sandwiches from La Place using a voucher Andrew got from his work. It took a while for them to accept it. First all the staff behind the counter, then off for a consultation with the manager, before we get the nod.

“How much did it cost, dad?” Alexei asks me.

“Seventeen euros fifty.”

“Is that with or without the fifteen euro voucher?”

“Without. With, just two fifty. It’s still blooming expensive.”

We’re already checked in and have to hold bags so we can waltz straight through to security. It’s always a worry, going up those stairs, wondering how far the queue will stretch back. Though if it’s really bad you can tell before, as it will come all the way down the stairs. Then you know you’re in for a fun two hours of shuffling slowly forward.

We’re in luck. There are only a dozen or so people in front of us. As soon as we get to the front, Andrew starts chatting with the staff. He’s recently started working at security here. It’s slightly strange, him chatting to his colleagues. Not used to the lazy git being gainfully employed rather than stuck behind his computer all day.

They pull my bag out for closer inspection. They always do. I factor that into my timings.

The queue for passport control isn’t too bad, either. Soon we’re home free aiside.

It’s a bit of a walk to pier D. Just as well we’ve left plenty of time. I don’t want to have to rush my pint.

The kids don’t remember the Irish pub.

“You must have been here before.”

“I can’t remember it, Dad.” Says Andrew.

“Strange. I’ve been here loads of times. I recognise all the bar staff.” Which is true. Tells you a lot about how often I’m in Schiphol.

This is going to be an interested trip. It’s the first time he’ll have been in Britain since turning 18. Which could make it an expensive trip for me.

“What do you want, boys?”


“I’ll have a cider, too.”

“I won’t ask if you want a pint. No son of mine is going to drink a half.”

I go for a Murphy’s Stout. And a double Jamesons. It is 5 PM, after all.

Alexei is quickly through his cider. He’s knocked it back like apple juice, which is what he usually drinks.

“Another one, Lexie?”

“Yes, please.”

“I’ll have a Stout, dad” Andrew chips in.

We’re flying with Flybe to Doncaster Sheffield airport. Maybe a little further than East Midlands, but much easier to get to from Newark. Straight up the A1. And it’s nice and small, like East Midlands used to be until they changed it to a seatless shopping centre.

My brother David has arranged a taxi. He told the driver to look out for a fat old bloke and two giant lads. Cheeky git. The kids aren’t really that tall. For Dutch standards. He manages to find us easily enough. It’s a pretty small airport, after all.

Bizarrely, our driver is really into cycling. Despite, er, being built like a taxi driver. It’s hard to imagine him on a bike. He only just about fits in the car. And I say that as a fat old bloke.

We quite handily get to Dave’s just after the chippie next door opens. We get a pie and mushy peas each. And some chips. Unwisely, I order a large bag of chips. They keep shovelling more and more chips onto the pile until there’s a veritable chip mountain*. It must weigh a good two kilos. I’m not joking.

Luckily, there’s some beer to wash it down. A very special beer. My schoolfriend Henry has just opened a brewery in Collingham, a few miles outside Newark. And he’s brought over a firkin of a very special beer. A dead famous beer. Or should I say infamous? It’s 1963 Watney’s Red Barrel. Obviously, from a recipe of mine.

“You won’t be able to get a full pint,” David says, “It’s very heavily conditioned.”

He’s right. But I take his comment as a challenge. With a bit of patience I’m able to get a full glass with a lovely tight collar.

The beer itself is pretty nice. Obviously being cask rather than pasteurised to buggery, it’s not exactly a clone of the original. A good drinking beer. As the kids prove as they knock back pint after pint. No idea where they’ve got that from. Must be their Mum.

We need to get stuck into the firkin. 72 pints, four of us, three days. I make that six pints a day each. Another challenge.

Tomorrow there’s a special treat in store for Lexie: a trip to Wetherspoons. Where he’ll be able to enjoy a pint for the first time.

* The photo is actually of a small bag of chips. I forgot to snap the mountain. It was about three times the size of that.

A 1 Fish Bar
234 London Rd, Balderton,
Newark NG24 3HD.
Tel.: +44 1636 702679

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Don't forget

I'm still trying to flog my new book:

Please buy my new recipe book. It's dead good. And Andrew is about to go to University.

Let’s brew Wednesday - 1918 Barclay Perkins Ale 4d

The next big change in Barclay Perkins wartime Mild Ale was also provoked by a change in the rules.

Average gravity was cut again in early 1918:

April 1 1918: Conditions changed by provision that average gravity of all beer brewed shall not exceed 1030º for great Britain and 1045º for Ireland, and that no beer shall be brewed below 1010º: and prices fixed at 4d. per pint below 1030º, and 5d. per pint for 1030º to 1034º.
Source: "The Brewers' Almanack 1928" pages 100 - 101.

The effect was immediate. X Ale (OG 1046º) and GA (OG 1038º) were both discontinued and replaced by a single new beer, Ale 4d. As the name implies, this fell into the sub 1030º bracket.

They may have dropped the gravity considerably, but the number of ingredients increased. There are now four types of malt: pale, brown amber and crystal. Plus two types of sugar. What I’ve represented as No. 4 invert was “Martineau’s BS” in the original. I assume it’s something similar.

With several dark malts, two types of dark sugar and caramel, unsurprisingly the colour has darkened. Quite possibly to make drinkers think it was stronger than it really was. Though you’d have noticed when, after five or six pints you weren’t getting intoxicated. It must have come as quite a shock to a generation used to Milds over 5% ABV.

Surprisingly, Ale 4d didn’t disappear with the restrictions on brewing. Even when X Ale returned in the summer of 1919, Barclay Perkins continued to brew it. Clearly there was a market for a watery Mild. It finally disappeared in 1943, when the gravity of X Ale had dropped to almost the same level.

1918 Barclay Perkins Ale 4d
pale malt 3.25 lb 58.77%
brown malt 0.33 lb 5.97%
amber malt 0.75 lb 13.56%
crystal malt 60 L 0.33 lb 5.97%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.33 lb 5.97%
No. 4 invert sugar 0.50 lb 9.04%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.04 lb 0.72%
Fuggles 120 mins 0.33 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.33 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.33 oz
OG 1027
FG 1006
ABV 2.78
Apparent attenuation 77.78%
IBU 26
SRM 19
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

This recipe isn't in my new book. But over 200 are:

Please buy my new recipe book. It's dead good. And Andrew is about to go to University.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Buy my book, please

Go on. It's dead good.

Please buy my new recipe book. It's dead good. And Alexei is almost out of vodka.

In case you've forgotten

I've a new book out. Full of that recipey stuff the young 'uns like. But with enough of the talky explainey stuff to interest twats as old as me.

Did I mention Andrew is going to university?

"We don't want to lumber him with a big debt."

"Don't we, Dolores? Rather that that us become paupers."

"What about his future?"

"I'll be dead for most of that. What do I care?"

On that caring note, I'll remind you that you can help my future be slightly less bleak by investing in my dead good book.

Think of the children.

What I drank in my Berlin hotel

Fascinating for you all, I'm sure. But I'm just back from Newark, a bit knacked and feeling lazy.

As with my beer festival sups, Lager predominates. Now I've no time for Bavaria trips, I need to scratch my Lager itch somewhere.

Apologies for the IPA. It must have fallen into my basket accidentally.

Monday, 14 August 2017

We’re on our way home

I awake feeling totally knacked. It takes two cups of tea to get me out of bed. Even after a shower I’m not that lively.

The selection of fried stuff is getting narrower every day. Yesterday there was no bacon. Today there are no meat balls, either. Still plenty of fruit.

As I get tucked into my fruit, I start to speak, but Dolores interrupts me.

“I know, the fruit means you can drink more beer. You say that every morning, Ronald.”

Sorry for being so predictable.

Dolores takes pity on me and lets me lie in bed while she goes off shopping. While she’s gone I get stuck into the remaining beers. Though, come to think of it, I took back quite a few beers from Berlin last year. In fact, it’s only a few weeks ago I drank the last couple of bottles of Maisel & Friends.

She’s gone to the supermarket for some stuff to take home with us. And the second-hand clothes shop she looked around on Saturday. She’s been regretting not buying the dirt-cheap dirndl she spotted. Fingers crossed that it’s still there.

I’m three bottles into my stash when Dolores returns.

She immediately tries to switch channels.

“I was watching that.”

“But it’s rubbish.”

“I know. That’s why I was watching it.”

Die Trovatos, if you’re wondering. Quality stuff that you’ll only find on TV on a weekday morning.

We spend the next hour packing up all our shit, while do my best to reduce the weight of beer I’ll have to carry. Yet does Dolores thank me for my consideration?

Once we’ve checked out and dropped off our luggage, we head over to east of Warschauerstrasse again. It’s surprisingly busy for 12:15 on a Monday. There are quite a few people hanging around the bars and restaurants. Doesn’t anyone have to work around here? Though I wouldn’t personally be sat outside eating on the bits of the street with the bad drain smell. As some are.

Avoiding the stinky parts of the street, we have a quick pre-prandial beer. I’m trying to work out what the place is called. The sign is pretty cryptic:

Can you guess what it’s called? I couldn’t. It’s Plusminusnull. Not sure about that one. I am sure what I’m drinking: a half litre of Staropramen. Never my favourite. In fact the Czech beer I liked the least, back in the good old days.

We were thinking of dining in a Sudanese place. We spotted a couple yesterday. But the first one we come to is pretty small and cramped. So we troll a bit further down the street to a Vietnamese place, bizarrely called Soup & Rolls.

Unfortunately, they’re out of Hanoi beer. So I have to make do with a Saigon.

“Shouldn’t it really be a Ho Chi Minh City beer?”

“Very funny, Ronald.”

We kick off with a spring and a summer roll each. The spring rolls are dead good. The summer rolls not quite as good as on Saturday. My main course, crispy duck on fried noodles, is ace. Even though there’s quite a pile, I shovel it down. Dolores has a beef noodle salad that’s also pretty damn good.

Bags picked up, we face the long trek to Tegel. There are several possible routes, none perfect. The one with the fewest stairs isn’t practical. The M10 tram, as we discovered on Friday, doesn’t run all the way through due to works on the track. So we plump for the U-Bahn/S-Bahn route again. Despite all the stairs.

It’s all going well. Until there’s an announcement saying the train won’t go any further than Wedding, due to a Polizei Einsatz (police operation). Great. I quickly consult the network map. If we take the U6, we can connect with the 128 bus. More stairs. Just what we needed.

We squeeze onto the bus. And have to stand. There’s a bloke sitting nearby with a nose the size, shape and colour of a half-pound strawberry. It waves from side to side every time he moves his head.

We check in dead quickly. It helps that I can use the short queue because of my Sky Elite status.

We’ve still some time. The terminal we’re leaving from is a bit shit. An obviously temporary shed. So best be airside. Inside is pretty grim. Doesn’t look like they’ve changed anything since the 1970’s.

Luckily, there’s a little pub just outside our terminal. In an old S-Bahn carriage. I get myself a Kindl Jubiläums Pils. It isn’t great. But it is wet.

Our flight starts boarding early. And is ready to leave early. But we have to wait for 30 minutes for a air traffic control slot.

It is cheese in the sandwich on the way back. It looks just like the egg one. As is traditional, I wash it down with red wine.

The house is still in one piece. Unlike my Guinness. Alexei has drunk a couple of bottles. It could have been worse. He could have got stuck my Abt stash.

Plusminusnull (+-0)
Grünberger Str. 61,
10245 Berlin
+49 30 21239624

Soup & Rolls
Kopernikusstraße 11,
10243 Berlin.
Tel.: +49 30 80923253

EsS-Bahn Imbiss
Tunnel Flughafen Tegel,
13405 Berlin.
Tel.: +49 30 41014441

Sunday, 13 August 2017

In case you missed it

My new recipe book is out, packed full of, er, stuff. Loads of new recipes, including ones from North America and some Lagers. Quite a few Lagers, actually. And lots of other random shit.

You should know me by now. What interests me. Which is everything beer-realted. Just about.

Just back from Newark. Visiting family and my mate Henry from school. Who's just started a brewery*. The fact that he dropped off a firkin of Red Barrel at my brother's for my stay has had absoulutely no influence on my opinion of his beer.

It was a bit like a challenge. Or at least that's how I saw it. 72 pints, four blokes, three nights. Should be a piece of piss. Just six pints a day each. I'd tell you how it ended - were the kids up to it? And the insanity chile story. That's another good one.

But you'll have to wait for that. I'm trying to flog my new book:

Any guesses as to who's the handsome man on the cover?

Please buy my new recipe book. It's dead good. And Andrew is about to go to University.

 * Cat asylum, in Collingham, Nottinghamshire. He hasn't got a website yet. But it did look this afternoon as if I might be able to persuade him to install a dropping system. Or was that Red Barrel I'd had for brunch clouding my judgement? In case you're wondering: surprisingly unshit. The Red Barrel. Not that I doubt Henry's brewing skills. More the recipe. It is an evil keg one, after all. The archetypal evil keg.

Last day at the Berliner Biermeile

The day begins with the same routine. A cup of tea in bed, then downstairs to perform some fast breaking.

Once again, I’m partially health conscious, eating a bowl of melon.

“After that, I deserve an extra couple of beers.”

“You said that yesterday.”

“And it was true, wasn’t it?”

“You always drink extra beers.”

“What made you so cynical?”

“Growing up in the DDR. Have you forgotten that already?”

Dolores has read that there’s a Sunday market just over the other side of Warschauerstrasse she fancies taking a look at. No probs. Always good to have an excuse to check out a new bit of the city.

We realise that the other side of Warschauerstrasse is much more exciting. Lots of little ethnic restaurants, lots of cocktail bars. And several bakeries which are even open today, Sunday. Everyone seems to be having brunch in the sun. The tattoo and beard count is extremely high. Bloody yuppies. Sorry, hipsters. The world has moved on.

We have a quick look around the market, where all sorts of second-hand junk is being sold. A bit like Koningsdag in Amsterdam, but less mobbed. Not that we intend buying anything. Not sure we could fit a record player of a sideboard in our luggage.

Browsing done, we make for Frankfurter Tor. Where the Biermeile starts. Being Sunday and only just about noon, it’s not that crowded. But, judging by the rate punters are arriving, it won’t be long before it starts filling up. Best drink quickly, then.

Schinner Braunbier (5.4% ABV)
Definitely is brown. Malty, slightly bitter. Quite caramelly. Not bad, but a bit odd.

Talking of punters, there’s a much higher pensioner count here than most beer festivals. It’s quite sweet seeing an old bloke buzzing around in his electric wheelchair while drinking. Is that legal? The crowd is really just a complete cross-section of society. Young and old, and all the stages inbetween. Rich and poor. German and foreign. Drunk and well on the way to being drunk. Sadly I’m not yet in either of those two categories.

I see there’s a Czech brewery over the way. I’m not really into excessive walking today so something from there will do. Despite the sexist pump clips.

Pivovar Millénium Drsňák (12º Plato, 4.9% ABV)
I have fun trying to order this one by name. Czech loves starting words with multiple consonants. Zmrzlina – Czech for ice cream – is a good example. Then there are the words with no vowels. Is that even legal? An amber Lager. Or polotmavé, as the Czechs say. Slightly sweet, but a bit bland. A bit of nice hop bitterness right at the end.

Another sign this isn’t a geek fest: I’m the only one taking photos of my beer. And making tasting notes, however brief and shitty they might be. What’s wrong with everyone?

We start walking further down the festival, with me looking for something I fancy. Which turns out to be something German.

Zwönitzer Stout 5.1% ABV
Dead black. Roasty and with perhaps a touch of lactic. There’s a pleasant underlying maltiness. Not bad.

By the way, I’m drinking half litres of everything. If they sell them. I hate pissing around with small measures. They mean too much walking and queueing up at bars and not enough drinking. I’ve come to drink beer, not take exercise.

I just can’t resist a classic Czech beer when I spot the Pardubický stand.

Pardubický Porter (19º Plato, 8% ABV)
Great to be able to drink this again. Nice and dark, tan head. Caramel, malt, chocolate with just enough bitterness at the end. A great session Porter.

“This used to be the strongest beer brewed in Czechoslovakia” I tell a not particularly interested Dolores, “Not that I ever saw it, mind.”

Falkenštejn Tmavý Speciál (14º Plato, 5.4% ABV)
Served in a nonic, for some reason. Very roasty. That’s interesting.

Just time for one more beer. Another Czech one.

Kout na Šumavě 12ºIt’s still lovely.

We leave just after two, when it’s already starting to get a bit busy. I’ve an appointment, anyway. At Vagabund, over on the scary side of the city. I always feel oddly uneasy when in West Berlin. Never quite worked out why.

I’ve been invited over by Vagabund’s American brewer, Erik Mell. He asked me if I’d like to come over and try his Broyhan. Only ever going to be one answer to that question.

The Broyhan is darker than I expected. Very dry, with no sourness. Though that seems to have been optional, depending on time and location.

Andreas Krennmair arrives. I told him yesterday we’d be trying the Broyhan. He didn’t want to miss out, either. We get a quick tour of the tiny brewery. The kit is just 50 litres. I have, literally, seen bigger homebrew setups. A British guy about my age who was sitting in the bar tags along with us. He seems quite happy to get a look inside the brewery.

We have a couple more beers and then head back to the U-Bahn. But we aren’t going home just yet. It’s after 6 PM. Which means Augustiner will be serving cask. Not going to miss out on that as god knows when I’ll be in Bavaria again.

We take a seat inside. I ask what’s on cask. It’s Edelstoff.

“I’ll have one of those then.”

“Do you want a large or a small one, sir?”

“I’ll have a big one, please.”

“You do realise that means a litre, Ronald?”

“No, I didn’t. But I’ll have one, anyway.”

I order a couple of sausages, potato salad and cabbage to go with it. I start to speak as I tuck not the cabbage, but before I can get very far Dolores says “Don’t start with that being able to drink extra beer crap again.”

The Edelstoff is wonderful. I’m not a huge fan of litre glasses. They usually slow me down. Not this time. I polish off half in just three gulps.

“Thirsty today are we, Ronald?”

As I’m shovelling down my food Dolores spots something. “Look behind you.” Blow me. It’s a Buddhist monk having a meal. I suppose they have to eat like everyone else.

When we get back to our hotel Dolores says: “Look at all that beer. You’re never going to get through it all before we leave.”

“That sounds like a challenge to me.” I say as I reach for my bottle opener.

Schinner Bürgerbräu Bayreuth
Richard-Wagner-Str. 38,
95444 Bayreuth.
Tel: +49 921 79780

Pivovar Millénium
Sibiřská 55,
400 01 Ústí nad Labem-Neštěmice,
Tel.: +420 606 645 203

Brauerei Gasthof Zwoenitz
Grünhainer Straße 15,
08297 Zwönitz/Erzgebirge.
Tel.: 037754 59905

Pardubický Pivovar
Palackého třída 250,
530 33 Pardubice.

Pivovar Falkenštejn
Křinické nám. 7/12,
407 46 Krásná Lípa.
Tel.: +420 478 048 673

Antwerpener Str. 3
13353 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 5266 7668

Charlottenstraße 55,
10117 Berlin.
Tel.: +49 30 20454020

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Berliner Biermeile

It turns out Joe meant lamppost 47 yesterday. No wonder I couldn’t find him. We’ve arranged to meet there again today. It’s where Kout na Šumavě is. So I’m not arguing.

Feeling all health-conscious, I have some fruit as well as fried stuff for breakfast.

“That means I can treat myself to an extra couple of beers.”

“You’ll do that anyway, Ronald.”

“You’re so cynical.”

“Realistic. I grew up in the DDR, remember?”

We’ve a date with the supermarket, first. A chance for me to stock up on some hotel beers. While Dolores fiddles around buying some foodstuff or other. She needs to get her priorities right. After dumping our food and drink we head to the festival.

We troll down to lamppost 47. No sign of Joe. But, hey, they’re selling Kout na Šumavě here.

“Three fifty for 25 cl! That’s expensive.”

“But it’s supposed to be dead good, Dolores.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

I order one anyway, while Dolores goes for something cheaper.

Kout na Šumavě 12º

My first time trying this. Will it disappoint? So many have sung its praises. It doesn’t. Really nicely hoppy. Top stuff.

Eggenberg Tmavý Ležák 11°
Pretty dark, slightly roasty, not too sweet. OK. Not as good as the Kout, obviously.

Joe rolls up when I’m on my second beer. He has a couple of hours before he needs to go home for a BBQ. Should be long enough. Always good to meet him, which usually happens a couple of times a year.

Andreas Krennmair, a young Austrian living in the city, arrives soon after with his Irish wife.  He’s been investigating continental beer, especially German beers, the way I’ve been looking into British beers. We’ve never met before, but have had contact on the internet. Plenty for us to chat about.

Maryensztadt Imperial Baltic Porter (29.33º Plato, 10.5% ABV)
Black as night, beautifully thick and sticky. Sweet, heavy, lovely. Very good.

Another thing I love about this festival is the food. Country-appropriate – so Czech stuff close to the Czech brewery stands – mostly pretty good and not that expensive. I invest in a Czech sausage. Like the Kout, it doesn’t disappoint.

It’s starting to get a bit crowded. Just time for one last beer. I guess I’ll make it something nice and light.

Maryensztadt Żywot Barley'a (22º Plato, 9.5% ABV)
An English Barley Wine, evidently. Sweet and gloopy as a Barley Wine should be. Full of alcoholy goodness.

Černá Hora Světlý Ležák (4.8% ABV)
I couldn’t pass this one up. It’s the beer I was drinking when I first met Dolores. It’s a lovely, light and hoppy beer, the type of beer they make so well in the Czech Republic.
It’s about time for us to leave. But we’re still hungry. What to do next?

We’ve noticed a Korean restaurant on Warschauerstrasse. The food looked dead good when we walked past. We decide to eat there. I get a big pile of crispy fried pork on a bed of rice. It costs about threepence and is more than I can manage to eat. I’m not about to leave something so nice. We take the leftovers home in a doggy bag.

Pivovar Kout na Šumavě
Kout na Šumavě 2,
345 02 Kout na Šumavě.
Tel: +420 379 789 370

Pivovar Eggenberg
Pivovarská 27,
381 01 Český Krumlov,
Tel: +420 380 711 225

Browar Maryensztadt
ul. Sportowa 3
26-700 Zwoleń
Tel: +48 730 115 985

Pivovar Černá Hora
Černá Hora 3/5,
679 21 Černá Hora.
Tel: +420 516 482 411

New Arirang Restaurant
Warschauer Str. 22,
10243 Berlin.
Tel.: +49 30 92353325

Friday, 11 August 2017


We’re up pretty early for a busy day. Lots of stuff planned. Starting with brekkie.

Breakfast is one of the main reason we stay at Opstalboom. They have a good buffet spread. Fried stuff for me, herring and cake for Dolores. Though obviously she doesn’t eat the two together.

The weather isn’t as hot as some previous years here. But it has been for the last couple of weeks. Leaving the hotel pretty warm inside. So we leave our room’s windows wide open when we set off for Friedrichstrasse.

I was dead excited when I heard Tränenpalast had reopened as a museum. It’s a place I spent many a miserable hour in the 1980’s. Being where customs and passport controls were carried out for those leaving East Berlin via Friedrichstrasse station. Something I did a few dozen times.*

It’s was pretty weird. First you put tour bags on a table for the customs people to look through. Often very thoroughly. After which you were confronted by a wall of doors made from cheap laminated wood. You’d be directed through one of these to a narrow corridor, on one side of which was a border guard behind glass. Who’d really check your passport and visa.

Once you got past him, you were through into the station itself. Or at least the two westbound platforms. You were hermetically sealed off from the platforms serving the east. The photo of a model of the layout below should give you some idea of how it looked.

As well as the building itself, there’s an exhibition about the wall and the people who crossed over it. Hard to imagine today what an impenetrable barrier it was. Being in Berlin with Dolores was always weird. With the wall never far away. Being able to see, sometimes just 50 metres away, parts of the city she couldn’t visit.

I’m glad to be reminded of what it all looked like. Because obviously I couldn’t take photos. That would have got you into all sorts of shit.

But Tränenpalast only tells half the story. There was a similar hall for those entering East Berlin. That was in the main part of the station and has totally disappeared. There you left through a single windowless door. With no handle on the East Berlin side. Dolores would wait, staring at a blank wall, until I popped through the door without warning. Strange days.

Our original plan was to head up to Prenzlauerberg yet. But time is running short. We’re meeting Joe Stange at 13:00 at the beer festival. No way we’ll make that if we go first to Prenzlauerberg. So we head back to Friedrichshain.

We’re supposed to be meeting Joe at lamppost number 27. Which fortunately isn’t too much of a walk.

I love the Biermeile. Or the International Berlin Beer Festival, to give it its proper English name. It’s the least pretentious festival I know. Every type of beer, including mass-market beers, like Newcastle Brown, Carlsberg and Desperados. Lots of very, very unfashionable beers. Plus some craft shit.

I go for just one thing: Lager. Because there’s always some interesting Easter European Lager to be had. Everyday Czech and Polish drinking Lagers. The type of beer you won’t find in a geek beer bar.

No sign of Joe at lamppost 27. I wander around a bit looking for him. No luck. I go back and sit with Dolores. And we both drink some nice Czech stuff. I even took some notes. Starting with a beer brewed just outside Berlin:

Bernauer Torwächter Dunkel (12º Plato, 4.9% ABV)
Nice dark colour, but a bit bland. Not nasty, mind, and good for unthirsting me. (According to their website, it uses Munich malt as base.)

The table we're sitting at is a lovely old Schultheiss barrel. Which looks like it was in use until the late 1960's, judging by the inspection marks:

There are plenty of tattoos on display. That’s the joy of summer, seeing all the shitty leg and back tattoos people have disfigured themselves with. Lots of facial hair, too. But more moustaches and mullets than beards and buns.

Bernauer Torwächter Kellerbier (12º Plato, 4.9% ABV)
Pleasant spicy hop aroma. Bit yeasty. Not bad at all.

Bauer Schwarzbier (4.9% ABV)
Pleasantly roasty aroma and flavour. Very nice.

“That’s a bit odd, Dolores.”

“What is?”

“I thought Bauer closed several years ago. Yet they have their beers here.”**

I get all excited when I go past the stand of a polish brewery. They’ve got Grodziskie. Never had a Polish-brewed example before.

Złoty Pies Grodziskie
Yeah, it’s actually pretty right for the style: smoky and bitter. Only slight minus – not totally clear. Then again, neither was the one I collaborated on at Jopen. It tastes pretty similar to that beer, which we tried to make as authentic as possible.

Złoty Pies Setter Stout
Looks the part – pitch black, tan head. Pretty nice Stout – roasty, malty and a bit bitter. Not a bad attempt.

We stay and slowly sup for a couple of hours. Then take the tram M10 to Prenzlauerberg. Dolores wants to see an exhibition in Kulturbrauerei about everyday life in the DDR.

“Can’t you remember what it was like?” I quip. “Very funny, Ronald.”

It’s sad in a way, coming to an exhibition here. Because I can remember when this was a functioning brewery, operating as Schultheiss.

There’s a mockup of a DDR kitchen.

“Oh look, they’ve got the same egg cups as us, Dolores.”

“Everyone had them.” That makes me feel a bit less special.

When we’re done, it’s time to find somewhere to eat. A Vietnamese place. Had some nice Vietnamese food around this way last year. And I do love me some Vietnamese food.

Rather than us both trudge around, I stay and look after our stuff in Zum Schusterjungen while Dolores goes searching. May as well have a beer while I’m here. I go for Märkisches Landsman, a Schwarzbier.

I remember this pub from the 1980’s. It features in my very first beer article, a guide to pubs in East Berlin that was published in What’s Brewing in 1989. A random reserved sign on one table really brought back memories of the DDR days. There were always a few spread around, effectively putting out of service half the tables. Just because the staff couldn't be arsed to work them.

“I’m trying to remember if this was a communist pub or a Nazi pub in the 1930’s. It was one of the two.”*** Amazingly, Dolores can’t remember the place. I thought I was the one with the bad memory.

Dolores isn’t gone long. There’s a place a block and a half away.  I finish my beer and off we go.

Dolores gets a Pho. I have a beef noodle dish. To which I add a load of chili. Yum. Even better, they have bottled Augustiner Helles. I let Dolores try it. “Tastes like beer.” Praise, indeed, from Dolores. She likes her beer to taste like beer.

It’s not that late when we get to our hotel. So we go and sit on the roof terrace. Gazing out towards the Fernseherturm as the sun begins to set, colouring the clouds first orange then purple then finally inky black. The beer festival, despite being 400 metres away and there being plenty of large buildings inbetween, is audible. Glad we’re not staying on Karl-Marx-Allee.

“Did you ever go up the Fernseherturm?”

“Are you joking? They charged 5 marks. It took me two hours to earn that. A ridiculous price.”

Putting that into my sort of context, a half litre of draught beer was 1 mark at the time in East Berlin. I can see her point.

We don’t stay out late. Loads more to do tomorrow.

* While we were waiting to be married, I travelled to Berlin to see Dolores two or three weekends a month. Sometimes to sort out some of the documentation we needed to wed. Mostly just to meet. Jumping on a train in Amsterdam in the evening, I’d arrive at Friedrichstrasse at some ungodly early hour. 7 am or so. Then I’d have the fun of getting through the deliberately obstructive border regime. Dolores would be waiting behind the blank door for me. In Berlin you could get a 24-hour visa on the border. I needed two for the weekend. At 11:59 I’d go through Tränenpalast and join the queue to enter East Berlin again. An indeterminate time later, I’d pop through the door and (thankfully) always find Dolores waiting for me. Sunday evening, I’d take the night train back to Amsterdam. And go straight into work from the station. Neither of the trains had any sort of sleeper accommodation. Just compartments. When I was lucky, I got a whole bench to stretch out on. Otherwise, it was sleeping sitting up. Like being on a plane. But without the free drinks. After a while, I got to recognise people who were doing the same as me. Crossing straight back on a day visa. Dolores started to see the same faces every night her side of the border. Happy days? Ones I didn’t fully understand. And where I didn’t realise how fragile everything was. It all came crumbling down 18 months after our marriage.
** Bauer beers are currently brewed at Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf.
*** Zum Schusterjungen was the communist pub. Zum Hackepeter opposite (which no longer exists) was the Nazi pub.

Reichstagufer 17,
10117 Berlin.

International Berlin Beer Festival

Bernauer Torwächter
Rollberg 4,
16321 Bernau
Tel: +49 33 38 / 38 151

Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf
Chemnitzer Straße 5
09232 Hartmannsdorf.
Tel.: +49 (0)3722 - 71 91 - 0

Browar Złoty Pies
Wita Stwosza 1-2,
11-400 Wrocław,
Tel: +48 570 221 212

Zum Schusterjungen
Danziger Str. 9,
10435 Berlin.
Tel.: +49 30 4427654

Red Dragon
Danziger Str. 29,
10435 Berlin.
Tel.: +49 30 4429965