Beetroot and smoked Wensleydale risotto

I tried beetroot risotto back in the summer in Le Petit Bar, Monaco (pictures below). I liked it so have come up with an easy to cook version with a Yorkshire twist.

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Recipe
Soften an onion in a touch of oil (I used rapeseed – olive will do) and a pinch of salt. When it starts to soften, add two grated beetroot and keep cooking until that softens too.

Add a knob of butter, wait for it to melt and then half a bag of risotto rice. Normally you’d cook until the rice starts to go see through, but the beetroot might stop that!20161008_161830

At that stage, a ladle of stock from a pan you have simmering – I used vegetable bouillon but you could use chicken. When the first ladle evaporates, add another and repeat until the rice is cooked, stirring frequently.

At the end, crumble in some Wensleydale (I used Tesco smoked for extra flavour) and keep stirring till it’s melted.

Serve with a few shavings of Parmesan or more Wensleydale crumbled over the top.

More about Poland – Krakow and Warszawa

A week off from work and the wife was working so another trip to Poland.  I visited a number of bars I’d been to before along with some new ones.

An earlier article – ‘The Polish beer explosion’ contains information about Multi Qlti and Grodzka 42 in Krakow which were visited again.  At the bottom of that page ‘Warsaw to follow’ didn’t materialise…

Pubs visited on this trip (some new, some visited on previous visits) included…

Tap House – Pracownia Piwa i Przyjaciele

Świętego Jana 30,  Kraków
Mon – Thu 14-01; Fri-Sat 14-02; Sun 14-01
Smaller measure pricing: Excellent

Brewery tap for the Pracownia brewery.  Around 20 beers featuring their own along with the likes of other Polish brewers and some of the big players from further afield.  Not a bad bar really.

Browar Lubicz

Lubicz 17J, 30-001 Kraków
Mon-Thu 12-00; Fri-Sun 13-01
Smaller measure pricing: Excellent.  Tasting tray available

On the site of an old brewery, this new brew restaurant has only fairly recently opened.  They seem happy enough to serve drinks only – the food looked quite tasty too.

Core range of beers – some better than others along with seasonals too.

Kufle i Kapsle

Nowogrodzka 25, Warszawa
Mon-Thu 14-02; Fri 14-04; Sat 12-04; Sun 12-00

Smaller measure pricing: Ok.  Tasting tray available which is good value

One of the small group of bars that are close by in this part of Warszawa.  Serving beer from 10 keg lines and 2 handpumps, there’s a good range and the staff are knowledgeable, as they tend to be in the ‘craft’ beer places.  The place can get very busy so get there early to get a good seat!

Piw Paw Parkingowa

Żurawia 32/34, Warszawa
Mon-Sun 24hrs
Smaller measure pricing: interesting

The first of the Piw Paws to open, with a range of 57 keg lines, 4 handpumps and a mere 200 bottles.  Fancy trying all the beers?  Well, they’re open 24 hours and sell three measures of beer – 1.5l bottles that are filled using an adaptor on the tap.  The more usual 1/2 litre glasses are available along with a tasting glass containing a mouthful for the princely sum of 1zl – about 20p!  Each time I’ve been, staff don’t seem to mind serving multiples of these tasting glasses.  Can get quite busy.

Piw Paw BeerHeaven

Foksal 16, Warszawa
Mon-Sun 24hrs
Smaller measure pricing: interesting

The second branch of Piw Paw to open, bigger than the original serving 95 taps. Similar formula to this branch but serve food too.  Staff seemed a little more hesitant serving the tasting thimbles but I had asked for quite a few!

Piw Paw Mazowiecka

Mazowiecka 9, Warszawa
Daily 10-02
Smaller measure pricing: interesting

The newest branch to open with around 65 taps and not open 24 hours.  By the time I’d visited this branch, there were some duplication between branches.

Jabeerwocky

Nowogrodzka 25, Warszawa
Mon-Thu 13-00; Fri-Sat 13-02; Sun 15-00
Smaller measure pricing: so-so.  Tasting tray good value

Another bar in the Piw Paw / Kufle i Kapsle area.  17 beers and fairly basic food.  Yet again, a good selection.  Lots of good information listing the beers and styles etc.

Cafe Bla Bla

Nowogrodzka 25, Warszawa
Mon-Thu 14-02; Fri 14-04; Sat – Sun 12-04
Smaller pricing measure:  better than good!

Yet another bar near the others in this area, but even though the address is Nowogrodska, it’s not actually on Nowogrodska – you’ll find it a few doors up on the pedestrianised area towards Aleje Jerozolimskie.  There’s only 10 beers and they don’t do tasting glasses like the others in the area.  However, they don’t seem to have caught on that with some of the beers, the price per ml for a smaller glass is cheaper than a bigger one, so if you prefer a pint, you’ll pay more!  Staff not as knowledgeable as other places but a nice little bar with a good vibe.

Beerokracja

Marszałkowska 99/101, Warszawa
Mon-Fri 16-00; Sat-Sun 16-??
Smaller pricing measure:  ok

An interesting place and only over the road from the Novogrodska crowd.  I arrived just before closing time but the guy serving was happy for me to score another couple of beers while he was tidying up, although he spent more time chatting and trying to improve his already excellent English!  Seemed quite a nice place.  Beer range seemed to feature some smaller, rarer Polish breweries.

Bierhalle

Nowy Świat 64, Warsazawa
Mon-Thu 12-23; Fri-Sat 12-23:30; Sun 12-22
Smaller pricing measure:  ok

Part of a chain of identikit brew pubs.  Shiny brew kit, female waitresses in Bavarian style outfits…  When I arrived, they’d already stopped doing food but it looked at.  Beers very average.  Not a lot to say really!

Bermondsey Beer Mile

Yesterday, I visited the Bermondsey Beer Mile (here’s a map).  I’ve heard a lot about it so thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.  For the uninitiated, much of the railway line out of London Bridge is built up with arches underneath.  Some of these arches are road and pedestrian tunnels but most are small businesses – including a number of breweries and beer ‘places’.

I followed the route the opposite way round to most of the maps, so jumped on a train to South Bermondsey which was ‘interesting’ as Millwall were at home and that’s the nearest station to their ground!

I missed out Fourpure – sorry guys!  Nothing against your beer but you’re slightly off route and I was already pushed for time, so first stop was EeBria to try a couple of beers from Orbit as they had a tap takeover.  Good beers, reasonable venue and had a nice chat to Orbit’s brewer.

Next stop was a few arches down at Partizan.  I like their beers generally – a good selection of styles and aren’t afraid to do crazy things with fruit, herbs and the like.  However, first grumble of the day – they only served beer in two-third pints.  I didn’t want two-thirds – I wanted one-third.  What if I wanted just a half.  No – I had to drink the measure they wanted me to have.  I still had one though and took away a couple of bottles.

Moving on, next stop after the longest walk on the route would have been Kernel, but they no longer open as a tap, only as a beer shop and close at 1400.  The reasons are on the picture shown on Stonch’s Beer Blog.  More about Stonch’s beer blog later…

Not too much further was Brew by Numbers.  I was looking forward to visiting there as I like their beers but unfortunately, and grumble number 2, was the queue.  Yes, it’s great that they’re doing well and people want to visit, but a queue that was snaking out of the brewery and had at least 40 people in it was crackers.  There weren’t that many staff serving so it was moving very slowly indeed, so I opted just to get a couple of bottles to takeaway as that had a separate queue.  If you’re always that bust, and I’m told you are, then why not do something about it?  Put extra staff on; become ticket only; do a Kernel and not open at all.

On the opposite site of the railway but via a walk via the nearest tunnel, was UBREW – a different concept with them renting out small scale brewery equipment, space and expertise to allow budding brewers to pop along and brew their own beer – home brew I suppose, but not at home.  They did have some of the bottles brewed there on sale, but they weren’t priced.  The draught beer were all brews from elsewhere and a repeat of grumble 1 – beer only served in two-third pints.

After UBREW ubrewand on the home stretch was The Bottle Shop.  They had a really good selection as well as Moor beers on draught (tap takeover) along with a few others.  Good news as they offered beers in sizes the customer wanted, apart from the really strong ones which were only available in smaller measures.  One beer I chose only had prices for half and pint, but they were happy to serve me a third – thanks!

Anspach & Hobday - spot the stout!
Anspach & Hobday – spot the stout!

A couple of doors down is the Anspach & Hobday brewery.  Again, beer in whatever measure you wanted and I opted for three thirds as there were some really exciting sounding beers – I had Experimental IPSaison, Sour Dryhop and White Coffee Milk Stout.  If you’d closed your eyes and drunk the latter, you’d have sworn that it was dark!

Last stop was Southwark Brewery.  These were a bit different as most of their beers were cask – nearly every othersouthwark during the day had been keg.  Again, beer in any size the customer wanted and plenty of space to sit down.  There was something about Southwark though – it was so much more chilled than most of the other venues.  Their beers weren’t necessarily the best – I’m not saying they were bad but the quality everywhere was good but for me, a good beer experience is not just about the beer – it’s about the venue, staff, ambiance, toilets and so on.

As Stonch said in that blog post – ‘beer bloggers Boak and Bailey reported on this phenomenon, quoting beer enthusiasts whose noses have been put out of joint by “boozy stag dos” and “huge groups of lads getting pretty drunk”. I’ve done the Mile twice, and on both occasions that was certainly our game: getting hooned up on a sunny day’.  Yes, I saw all of that, along with people who were just ‘there’ – they clearly there to be seen.  In one venue, a tweed jacketed youth came in with two pretty young women – only he had a beer and at that didn’t really didn’t seem to like either.  They had no interest what so ever.

To one extent or another, that was pretty much the same everywhere to one extent or another, apart from Southwark.  People were there for the beer, not to be seen.

So – would I go again?  Maybe.  Bearded hipsters I can put up with.  People who don’t really enjoy being there I can’t.  Brewers / shops – employ extra staff if you need it and serve beer in glass sizes that people want, not that you say.

 

 

 

 

Everyday’s a festival in Leeds

I like Leeds.  There’s an amazing selection of pubs within minutes of the station.  In fact, out of these 7, the furthest one is no more than 3 minutes walk away!  Yes, there are other great pubs but when I do my Leeds mini-crawl, these are the ones that feature.  Why bother trekking further afield or visit a festival – there’s nearly 100 beers available!

Brewery Tap

18-24 New Station Street, Leeds LS1 5DL
Mon – Thu 12-23; Fri-Sat 11-00; Sun 12-22:30
Beers: 6 cask, 7 keg, bottles

One of the Leeds city centre outlets for Leeds Brewery beers and also brews their own lager on site.  A reasonable selection of beers but can get very busy.

Friends of Ham

4-8 New Station Street, Leeds LS1 5DL
Mon-Wed 11-11; Thu-Sat 11-00; Sun 11-22
Beers: 4 cask, 10 keg, bottles

For the last two years, Friends of Ham have been my top UK beer ticking pub!  No mean feat when you consider it’s a half hour train ride away.  A great choice of beers and knowledgeable staff.  Prices aren’t the world’s best, but not really much different to others in the area – you might pay more than you would normally, but then you wouldn’t neck a something like an 11% stout!  The tasting trays can work out to be excellent value, especially for the stronger beers.  On the other hand, you pay for what you get- usually great beer served by people who know what they’re on about (gormless staff is one of my gripes – see this post).

Tapped Leeds

51 Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 5EL
Mon-Wed 11-23; Thu 11-00; Fri-Sat 11-01; Sun 11-23
Beers: 13 cask, 14 keg, bottles

Certainly the biggest venue in my mini crawl of Leeds, this place doesn’t do things by halves.  27 draught beers, 100+ bottles, pizzas freshly cooked in a proper pizza shiny pizza oven, oh – and they brew their own beer on site.

Again, an excellent range of beers – sometimes too good and they sadly don’t sell third pints, except for the strongest beers.  Once again, great staff who know what they’re on about.

The Griffin

31 Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 5DF
Mon-Fri 11-00; Sat-Sun 09-00
Beers: 4 cask

Bit of a change here at The Griffin.  All the other pubs so far have been part of the ‘new wave’ beer movement.  This place is definitely more old school.  It’s owned by the Taylor Walker group.  Quite often, the beers aren’t uncommon but it still has great 1870s architecture.

Bundobust

6 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ
Mon-Thu 12-23; Fri-Sat 12-00; Sun 12-22
Beers: 1 cask, 12 keg, bottles

Wowee – what do you get if you mix beer (mainly keg) and Indian street food?  Bundobust!  Now, I’m still not entirely convinced about mixing spicy food and beer, but these guys at Bundobust do it remarkably well.  The food isn’t your standard run of of mill ‘Indian’ but more authentic South Indian vegetarian food.  Back to the old ‘great beer and great staff that know what they’re on about’ again.  Just watch out for the beer on the permanent Mikkeller tap – it can be pricey!

Head of Steam

12 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ
Mon-Thu 11-00; Fri-Sat 11-01; Sunday 12-23
Beers: 7 cask, 11 keg, bottles

Bit of a strange mix this one – it’s more of a traditional boozer that has a number of keg taps, but tend not to be new era British keg beers but rather more run of the mill Belgian, German and American ones – not that there’s anything wrong with these.  Yes – knowledgeable staff.

Scarbrough Hotel

Bishopsgate Street, Leeds LS1 5DY
Mon-Thu 10-00; Fri-Sat 10-01; Sun 08-22
Beers: 8 cask

And – the final pub on the route (or the first if you go the other way round) is the Scarbrough Arms.  Definitely one of the old breed of boozers but as can be expected in a Nicholson’s pub, not a bad beer choice at all.  Sadly, not in keeping with the knowledgeable staff though- with some of them it’s quite difficult to get them to understand your order.  One plus point is the Nicholson’s mobile app that gives cut price beer!

 

Beer count: 43 cask, 54 keg.  Grand total – 97!

The Polish beer explosion

Over the last two, maybe three years, the beer scene in Poland has exploded. No longer do you have to make do with the international ‘blands’ of the likes of Zywiec or Tyskie, there is now beer worth drinking. There were the occasional exceptions – like CK Browar although the quality and service seemed to have got worse and the occasional beer gem like Zywiec Porter – hard to find but currently in ratebeer.com’s top ten of Polish beers.

A great help in hunting down beers in Poland is ratebeer.com along with beerpubs.pl (English language version: beerpubs.com). The latter is geared to beer in Poland and is run by an ex-pat, James Eastwood (more about him later!). It contains listings of anywhere worth drinking in Poland and those that aren’t.

One big grumble is pricing. Quite often bars price smaller measures of beers at not much less than the larger ones – it was common to see 0.5l at say 12zl and 0.3l at 10 or 11zl (1zl is currently about 20p). I know it’s not a huge amount to start with but it’s the principle. I’d rather try a few smaller beers than be lumbered with one big one. Quite often too, beer is only available in bottles. Normally, this is no great hardship in the rest of Europe as they tend to be 250ml or 330ml bottles, but in Poland, 500ml is the norm.

Some of the places I’ve visited are below – some on this year’s trip and some around a year ago. On the places I tried draught beer, I’ve made a note whether the pricing for smaller beers is daft (maybe only 1 or 2zl less for a small one), so-so (lower in price but still not proportionate) or fab (no ‘tax’ for trying smaller measures) . Pretty much all of them have free wi-fi.

Grodzka 42

Ul. Grodzka 42, Kraków
Mon-Sun 17-??
Smaller measure pricing: not known
Arrived just as the member of staff was opening the doors to be met by a waft of stale smoke and damp. Dark and dingy, this rock bar may appeal to some but wasn’t quite my cup of hertbata. They’ve got a reasonable selection of beers though at competitive prices.

BeerGallery – Dominikańska

Dominikańska 3, Kraków
Mon-Fri 14-00; Sat-Sun 14-02
Smaller measure pricing: daft
Visited here last year as well as this and on the face of it seems to be a reasonable bar. This year though, the staff were a bit surly – very old school Polish and when I tried ratebeer.com’s current number one Polish beer, it was just thrown into the glass and the all important sediment left in the bottom. They’ve got a great range of bottled beers but for some reason they wouldn’t tell me who brewed the house beer, apart from it was a brewery near Poznan.

Would I visit again? Last year I would have said yes (and I did!) but now? I’m not so sure. It’s easy to be overtaken in a fast moving world such as this.

Multi Qlti Tap Bar

Szewska 21, Kraków
Mon – Thu 14-02; Fri-Sat 14-03; Sun 14-02
Smaller measure pricing: between so-so and fab
Wow. This place is great. Knowledgeable staff (inlcuding Gosia from Krakowbeertour) and a superb range of 20 draught beers and lots of bottles. They give a 10% discount before 20:00 if you ‘Like’ them on Facebook and as I only spotted this at 19:52, I took advantaged and lined a few up! I went back on my second night and found four or five new additions to the menu. Great location

Tap House Pracownia Piwa i Przyjaciele

św. Jana 30, Kraków
Mon-Thu 14-01; Fri-Sat 14-02; Sun 14-01
Smaller measure pricing: so-so
Another reasonable bar just a few steps from the main square with a good range of beers, With most (if not all?) from the Pracownia brewery. The reviews on beerpubs.pl (to me) don’t seem fair. The decor was minimalist, but that’s the nature of the place

TEA Time

Smaller measure pricing: fab
ul. Dietla 1, Kraków
Mon-Fri 12-23; Sat-Sun 12-01

See separate post

Strefa Piwa

Smaller measure pricing: daft
Józefa 6, Kraków
Mon-Thu 16-23; Sat-Sun 16-02; Sun 16-23
One of the older, more established bars over in Kazimerz. I’ve been in twice and always seems so quiet. Staff seemed a bit surly but again the beer selection was good.

Omerta

Smaller measure pricing: so-so
ul. Kupa, Kraków
Mon-Wed 16-00; Thu 16-01; Fri-Sat 16-02; Sun 16-00
Another of the bars that have been at the craft beer game for a bit longer. A nice bar, seems quite quirky with great staff and once again a good selection of beer. Running out of things to type now! Only thing to let it down is once again the pricing for smaller measures.

Chmiel Beer Pub

Smaller measure pricing: bottles
Stradomska 15, Kraków
Mon-Sun 16-??
Difficult to find – through an archway, round a corner and down some stairs. Apart from a couple of ‘fizzes’, all exciting beers are bottles. A fairly reasonable selection but nothing that couldn’t be found elsewhere. There’s supposedly a large selection of pinball machines to play on but I didn’t see them. I don’t know why, but there was just something about this place that I didn’t connect with.

Viva la Pinta

Smaller measure pricing: daft
ul. Floriańska 13, Kraków
Mon-Sun 12-??
Outlet for Pinta beers along with beers from other breweries great food. I had the bigos and it was excellent. Nice modern interior, good beers but yet another let down by silly pricing.

Warsaw to follow…

Edge Brewing, Barcelona

Edge Brewing, Barcelona

Carrer de Llull 62, Barcelona 08005
Metro: Bogatell L4-Yellow Line
Open Doors: Fri 18-22. May be open on other days.

My wife and I visited Barcelona and one of my aims was to suss out the growing beer scene in the region. Overall, we were a little disappointed in what we saw but Edge Brewing was a delightful change.

They have an ‘Open Doors’ event on a Friday, but we weren’t there on a Friday. Following an exchange of emails, we were told to just pop along one particular afternoon and we could visit the brewery.

We arrived, wandered in and were met by Alan who showed us the shiny new brewery equipment. We had a quick chat about what he was trying to do with the brewery before heading to the bar. Yum.

They had no less than 10 of their own beers on tap, with a similar range available at the open doors event. We tried all of the beers available before settling on a couple of large ones of the ones that we enjoyed. I don’t generally make notes on the beers I’ve tried but they were all in excellent condition and a good range of styles. Too many breweries concentrate on just one style of beer – generally pale and hoppy these days but not at Edge.

All in all, a great afternoon chatting with Allan (and the brewery assistant whose name escapes me!) sampling probably the best of the beers we’d tried while we were in Barcelona.

Keep up the good work!
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<%image(20141013-img_0008_b.jpg|500|375|Bar)%><%image(20141013-img_0013_b.jpg|500|375|Bottles)%>

Cask Pub vs Keg Pub

There’s a lot these days surrounding the cask versus keg debate. Personally, I don’t mind keg beer as long is it is good. I don’t like bad keg or cask beer, but I do like good beer, be it keg or cask.

However, in my travels around the UK, I’ve started to see a distinction between the types of pub that serve keg beers and those that are cask only. So many times, you can walk into a ‘traditional’ pub and ask what a beer is like, only to be met with “soz mate – I don’t like ale”. On the other hand, go into a pub that serves keg beer – ‘craft beer’ if you prefer – and quite often, staff know what they’re on about. I’ve just been into the excellent Friends of Ham in Leeds and a customer came in and asked for a particular type of beer. The server showed the customer which were which and then went on to describe what they were like. From what I understand, staff only get a job in this bar if they know and like beer. This though seems to be the norm amongst the growing trend of ‘craft beer’ bars.

So, even if you don’t like keg beer, if you pop into somewhere that serves both styles, you’ll probably get far more knowledge ‘behind the bar’ in one of those craft places.

Curry in a hurry!

Curry in less than 20 minutes? Here’s how.

The recipe featured on Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Curry Nation’ and was cooked by Mumtaz Khan Akbar of Mumtaz restaurant fame.

No actual recipe was given, so the amounts are guess work

Place the following into a cold wok

– 2 chicken breasts diced or sliced. I often use 3 or 4 chicken thighs instead
– 1 large onion very finely chopped or ‘whizzed’ in a food processor, along with ginger and 4 or 5 garlic cloves and a chilli if you want it hot
– 1/2 a 500g carton of passata
– large pinch of salt
– yogurt – I don’t know how much – I just use a ‘blob’
– 1/2 tsp asafoetida (not essential)
– 1/2 mug cold water.

Turn the wok on, bring to the boil and cook for 5-7 mins on a high heat.

Reduce the heat and add the spices – he used about a dessert spoon – maybe a bit more of ‘basar’ – if you don’t have that then use a heaped teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, paprika and garam masala and about half a teaspoon each of turmeric, fenugreek and chilli. Feel free to add more to taste! Also add another ‘blob’ of yogurt and 2 chopped tomatoes. At this point he also added a ladle full of oil! I don’t and the curry’s still fine though probably doesn’t taste quite as good. Lower the heat, cook for another 5 mins and add some chopped coriander just before serving. Feel free to add frozen peas at the end, or frozen spinach or tinned chickpeas when you add the spices.

Note: The amounts of spice are to your personal taste – I often use more than what I’ve said here.

Basar (or Basaar) can be found in all good Indian shops – in Doncaster, the shop at the bottom of Chequer Road sells it, as does Pak supermarket in Rotherham.

An easy curry recipe…

Time for a curry recipe. There’s not really a ‘name’ for it.

Slice a couple of medium onions (use more if they’re smaller) thinly and fry in 2 tsp of oil and a good pinch of salt. I use a nonstick wok but any large pan will do. Before they begin to burn, add a splash of water and continue to cook. Keep adding water and cooking until they become soft and medium/dark brown. Add 2 or 3 tsp ginger garlic paste (or the equivalent fresh) and 1tsp of fennel seeds and carry on cooking.

Once the onions are rich and brown, add 2tsp coriander powder, 2tsp cumin powder, 1tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, 1tsp fenugreek powder, 1tsp garam masala, 1 tsp fenugreek powder, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1 tsp paprika* and some salt. The mixture will be quite dry so add enough water to form a thin paste and cook for a few minutes until the water evaporates. Add around 125ml plain yogurt (I use fat free), mix well and cook for a bit longer.

If adding meat or potatoes, add them now. cook for 5 mins or so and add water to make the gravy a curry like consistency. From now, the curry will need to be cooked for about another 20 mins, or it won’t hurt if you cook it longer. If adding pre cooked vegetables such as peas, kidney beans, chick peas etc, add them 10 mins before the end. Also add another 1tsp garam masala now too. Check the seasoning and serve.

I think chicken (thighs) work well with this, but white fish would work well do. Try it and see what you like!

* increase or decrease spices to taste, especially chilli powder.

Wetherspoons, third pints and the beer festival

Twice a year, JD Wetherpoon hold a beer festival. At that festival, third pints are available, and generally people have them in threes, although you can order different quantities.

CAMRA members receive a number of vouchers each year to use at Wetherspoon’s and these may be redeemed against a pint of real ale. Unless you want three thirds as the system doesn’t recognise it as a pint.

I emailed head office and they replied saying yes, vouchers were valid with three thirds (subject to a couple of conditions).  This is the letter.

Beer in France

I’m planning a few days in the sun in France and I thought it would be good to have a look at France’s growing beer scene. There’s quite a few small breweries in France, but they tend to be far and few between.

I discovered this map. “Great”, I thought. Until I found it terribly out of date. I looked along the south coast of France and found the following errors…
Mare Nostrum in Castillon is missing
– Though strictly not in France, Brasserie de Monaco is missing
– Au Royaume du Boeuf in Cannes is no longer there – I tried to call in 2008 and the picture on Google Street View looks less than inviting!
– ‘Brasserie of Marseille’ is closed – when I visited in April 2007, there was brewery equipment in situ but no brewing done – evidently the brewer had died and they couldn’t find anyone else to do it. Since then, the building looks to have changed hands.

Not good.

It looks like RateBeer is the place to be – and there’s even a map!.

Now… where to go?

Brugge

I often get asked about Bruges, or to be more correct, Brugge. It’d be hard to say which my favourite bars are in the city or which I think the best, but here are a few that are in close proximity to each other and should give the first time visitor a taster. There’s a bit of a problem in so much as some of the better bars only open in the evening, although there’s still plenty to go to. Many places serve a small (free!) snack of peanuts, small biscuits or even cheese!

To get to the city centre from the station (the P&O shuttle bus drops off here too) catch a bus. Buy your ticket from the kiosk (and the return trip too) as you’ll pay €1,40 per journey as opposed to €2,00 from the driver.

De Garre

De Garre 1, Brugge
(just off Breidelstraat down a very little alleyway – tread very carefully! )
Each day 11:00/12:00 – 00:00/01:00

Once you’ve found this tiny watering hole and managed to get a table, perhaps with a ‘stranger’, a must try is their house beer at a very deceiving 13%!!! A great way to start a mini tour of the town!

 

Brasserie Strijdershuis

Hallestraat 14, Brugge – just the other side of the town hall.
Open from 10:30

‘Only’ about 50 beers but the food’s good. The midweek cheap lunch menu is supposed to be excellent value.


Cambrinus

Philipstockstraat 19, Brugge – opposite corner of square to the road where Strijdershuis is
Open from 11:00

Lots of good beers and what looks to be excellent food too. Quite a decent size bowl of peanutty snack things too!

 

Brugs Beertje

Kemelstraat 5, Brugge
Mon, Tue, Thu 16-01; Fri – Sun 16-02
** Usually closed Tuesdays Jan – April

Tucked into a side street, Daisy and her crew will expertly guide you through the 300 or so beers. The only slight downside is everyone knows this is one of the best beer cafes in Brugge and probably also Belgium and so attracts beer tourists, ranging from the loud mouth typical tourist to the ones who can appreciate the cafe. It can’t be all bad as it attracts a few locals, including Black Beasty – he’ll be at the end of the bar drinking De Koninck!

Want to try a few more? Try these less touristy places…

Rose Red

Cordoeaniersstraat 16
Mon-Thu 10-11; Fri, Sat 10-00, Sun 10-22

It’s rare to find a bar in Brugge with decent beer and a beer garden. This place has both! Well, it’s more of a terrace surrounded by buildings, but it’s still nice on a sunny day!

 

Comptoir des Arts

Vlamingstraat 53, Brugge
Mon, Wed-Sun 18-03

Run by Bram, formerly at ‘t Brugs Beertje, this cellar bar has 90 beers, a selection of whiskies, funky music and art on the walls. Mind your head as you descend the steps (I’ve forgotten several times!)

 

Poatersgat

Vlamingstraat 82, Brugge (over the road from Comptoir des Arts)
Open from 17
Not sure why I like this bar – I just do! It can get quite busy later on at weekends, but there’s usually a table somewhere.