Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Photoblog: A beery weekend in Boston

A two week holiday started with a weekend in Boston. Beer was not the primary focus of the weekend initially but it soon became apparent that Boston is a damn good beer town. 

Jetlagged we arrived on Friday night and only had the energy to have a couple of Harpoon IPA's in the hotel bar. Too jetlagged to take photos stupidly but the beer was stunning.

Saturday after a long morning of gym breakfast and sightseeing we came across this little gem.  Refreshingly frank staff and reasonable beer list (or so I thought at the time, we got much better later)

A Harpoon Octoberfest seasonal was dispatched and Harpoon jumped a few more places up my favourite breweries. 

Back to sightseeing.

We were in the town of Sam Adams, however no mention of beer on the statue :-(

McCormick and Schmicks looked to have potential with decent craft beer and beer wars events, to be kept in reserve for Sunday night.

 You get what you pay for!

We did not stop here for a drink although it seemed to have a large number of pumps and some interesting beers - but so obviously a tourist trap.

Hotel bar was closed so we hit Rock Bottom.

A brew pub but as it turned out a semi-national chain.

Still, there were some interesting beers to be had. 

 It had some of the fastest moving bar staff I have ever seen.....never seen anyone work so hard behind the bar.

Some great customer service as well. The big glass was Mojo IPA and the small glass was an unasked for taster of the Rock Bottom IPA as comparison. The Rock Bottom was a better beer.

And look at the size of that plate of Nachos!

We had to leave Rock Bottom to meet a couple of friends in another great beer bar.

The Public House had an amazing beer list. This is only 1 page of about 5.

 There were a few reminders of earlier photoblogs.

And could not resist a glass of the Houblen Chouffe...

...but beer of the night was Wilko Tango Foxtrot by Laguintas. A light black IPA, a hoppy Porter and Imperial brown ale? Who knows and one of the most aptly named beers I have seen and impossible to photograph.

After a few WTFs the night got a bit blurry...


...and I even let myself be photographed!

I still found one more photo to entertain myself on the way home.

Sunday started slowly with just a touch of hangover. Where better to work it off than queuing at a Boston institution for Brunch.

The queue was long.

but there was method to the madness.

And a mighty fine end product....yes that is a waffle with bacon and blueberries!

We were soon on to Fenway Park where I had a good tip for some more nice beer.

The Boston Beer Works had a great range of beers.

The money shot was a Double Pale Ale, tasted like a world-class IPA to me.

 The wife liked the Bluebeery ale, with added blueberries. 

Final destination was a return to McCormick and Schmick. They have a great range of local craft beers all locked up in a beer safe! Somewhat annoyed that none of this beer is offered to the diners in the restaurant they get a generic 6 beer range tucked away at the end of the cocktail/spirit list so we ended up drinking a decent bottle of wine instead.

We did at last find the attached bar and beer list and the best beer of the weekend. Harpoon Brewery Leviathan Barleywine, the ultimate nightcap, huge hop character and bags of sweet malt, all integrated perfectly. 

Harpoon rocketed from nowhere to my top 5 breweries in one weekend, does anyone import this stuff to the UK? 

Boston was an excellent place for a weekend. I'm sure I only scratched the surface and will be interesting to see how Brooklyn and Rehoboth match up.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Photoblog: Belgium - Beer, camping, rain, old tanks and F1

Seven of the guys set off to Spa with two goals in mind: watching some F1 racing at the best circuit in Europe and drinking some of the world's best beers, not necessarily in that order.

First stop Brouwerij St. Bernardus, just inside the Belgian border in Watou.

Marco Passerella, the marketing manager, arranged a tour of the brewery. A great host and full of useful information.

As on all good brewery tours, a sample or two was presented. A triple (above) and the Westvleteren-like Abt 12.

Negotiating some purchases before we left.

Next stop a little tavern on the way to Spa for food and of course more beer.  The driver's on the lighter stuff.

The passengers (soon to be asleep) on the slightly heavier beers.

 The next day in Spa: some ominous skies.

We got slightly wet on our walk back to the campsite.

Still, we were soon off to Achouffe to the Brasserie d'Achouffe and a glass of the Chouffe Houblen. Supposedly the original Belgian IPA, forerunner of Raging Bitch and Queboid perhaps? Regardless, probably my favourite beer of the weekend.

Other beers were consumed including a Royal Chouffe, which I think was La Chouffe with a large shot of Creme de Cassis.

The brewery tour was a slight disappointment when compared to the St Bernardus on the previous day. Still the Houblen was so good that two were downed in quick succession.

Beer was sourced for the evening at the campsite, including (possibly) my first taste of a Faro, a sweetened lambic with a complex sweet and sour taste. 

The next day at the circuit was a bit damp.

Some of the side races were interesting...this was the 500m pit to pit tyre pull.

The weather did eventually clear up.

Another night another beer or 5. Not sure what the toilet roll was doing on the table!

Next day, race day was much better weather wise.

Side races today included the 500m totter in red high heels, over the same course of the previous day's tyre pull. The main event was a good race: Vettel worthy winner, but barnstorming overtaking from Button gave us Brits something to cheer on.

We decamped to Mons for a final night in Belgium. Straight into a "Tanks in Town"  event.

Not unlike the UK, the beer choice in the restaurant was poor: Leffe was the the best choice, the rest being Carlsberg and Juplier. Still, tasted good after a long drive.

But some good beer was sourced back in the main square.

Maison De Brasseurs is an atmospheric little bar. A reasonable beer selection served well in the correct glasses. Worth a visit if you are in Mons.

Final day and back to Watou and a trip to Noel Cuvelier's Farm Shop. Noel is close to retirement and he doesn't normally open on Mondays, but we happened to arrive just as he was accepting a delivery, so he agreed to open the shop for 30 mins. 

Some people got excited by this news....

...others shopped. We spent 700 Euros in about 45 mins so I'm sure he was glad he opened.

Some of the beers: a surprising number of sour beers there. Still if I can't get IPA's I have to get by kicks somewhere.

Anyone heading to Belgium, go to Watou. The Brouwerij St Bernardus and Noel Cuvelier's Farm Shop are two must-see attractions for any beer fan.