A good friend of mine is heading to Europe for a month to enjoy a much needed vacation – I am very jealous, but happy for him. I have always wanted to see the sights, enjoy the history, marvel in the architecture, and sample the beers fresh from the old world. For now I will have to enjoy the beers vicariously through Calvin – keep your eyes open for the good stuff mate!
Calvin is not as much of a beer geek as I, so I thought I would give him a hand and point him in the right direction. So here is a brief list of some of the beers and breweries that you should look out for in the different cities you will be venturing too, Calvin. I have never been over there, so if anyone has some suggestions, please drop them in here.
London, England: One of the world’s historically rich beer nations is known for full flavored, but only moderately strong beers. The notion of a 5% standard does not exist, and you will see beers as low as 3.5 or even 2.5% commonly served on draught. There is a plethora of great beer to be found in England, but keep you eyes open for:
Elgood’s: Elgood’s is now one of England’s most progressive breweries in the British Isles – the 5th generation of family brewers are still though brewing beers the traditional way. Look for the Black Dog (a 3.6% Mild Ale with solid malty roast and a rich hop backbone) and the Greyhound Strong Bitter (a 5.2% Strong Bitter with dark fruit, brown sugar and roasted malts all over).
Fuller’s: One of the most widely known of all English breweries is also probably the best traveled. We get many Fuller’s beers here in the bottle, so don’t waste your time. What you should be looking for is a Fuller’s pub. They will be serving beer via Hand Pump and on cask. This style of beer originated in England, and many consider it the only way to drink real beer.
JW Lees: Since 1878 this Manchester brewery has produced some of the most traditional, as well as most striking English Ales. Many of their vintage beers that you can find now are aged in whisky barrels and date back to the early 2000’s. Try the Moonraker (a 7.5% Barleywine with big fruit, roasty malt, and a semisweet dry finish) and the Bitter (this classic English bitter is 4% with layers of creamy malt and a clean citrus finish).
Meantime: One of England’s newest award winning breweries produces some remarkable beers. Their modern branding and bottle design helps them stand out in a country filled with heritage. Look for the Chocolate Beer (a 6.5% crisp malty beer with clean flavors of chocolate and vanilla) and the India Pale Ale (this is 7.5% and should be a proper representation of the original pale ales brewed for India).
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Amsterdam is not necessarily known for their beer, however the Dutch do love good beer, and as such there is a great supply of it. Many of the best breweries will be small and largely unknown, so you should keep your eyes open for small, hole in the wall pubs serving their own beers on draught.
La Trappe: This is the only Trappist Brewery outside of Belgium, located in Eindovenseweg Netherlands. You should be able to find their beers at least in bottle all across Amsterdam, I highly recommend the Witte (a refreshing Abbey Witbier at 5.5% with soft fruity sensations and a clean wheaty finish) and the Dubbel (a 7% Belgian Style Dubbel rich in fruity malts and soothing with a creamy mouthfeel).
Scheldebrouwerij: One of the oldest Dutch Breweries is expanding rapidly and still produces some massively flavorful beers. Keep you eyes open for Schoenlappertje (a 6.5% fruit beer brewed with blackcurrants that has a bright, sweet fruity flavor with a balancing touch of acidity) and Strandgaper (a 6.2 amber beer with biscuit, orange and elderflower flavors and a clean peppery finish).
Lindeboom: Since 1870, the country’s smallest surviving lager brewer has produced some of the best Pilsners to exist. Go try the Venloosch (a 5% Altbier with a sugary and fruity aroma but a dry and hoppy taste) or the Oud Bruin (a 3.5% fruity dark beer that it totally unique to the Netherlands).