On Friday, Beer Blotter offered its 300th post! Over less than a year has elapsed since we first went public on BeerBlotter.com. We have a had a blast so far, and we look forward to much more ahead.
In almost 11 months, we have managed to put up more than 300 stories (this article is #302). From our editor’s first beer review of Lazy Magnolia’s Jefferson Stout to Mark Leavens’ review of sandwich board art over at Atlantic Crossing – we have come a long way.
While we look forward to big changes over here, we wanted to take a look into the past and discuss the three biggest, and most memorable, moments in our short history. We have visited Belgium, Holland, France, Canada, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans, Cleveland, New York, Washington DC, Portland, Chicago and more – all in that 11 month period.
These three moments stick out the most:
#3 — Beer Blotter Spawns From the New Orleans Beer Arrival & A Chicago Surprise
If you have ever visited New Orleans, you are probably aware that its almost impossible to find a good beer. You are almost assured of being stuck drinking some fruity concoction of a massive amount of liquor. Not anymore.
We visited New Orleans in the beginning of last November with little knowledge of any beer scene. But, we stumbled our way through bar after bar and discovered that craft beer does exist. In fact, we were floored with what we found; hope for a good future was established.
While we were in New Orleans, our editor was surprised with a no notice flight up to Chicago. It was her first visit – and a great opportunity to see an amazing world of craft beer. We visited the Publican, drank Three Floyds at the Map Room, bought a bounty of beer at Binnys and took in a Browns v. Bears game, before returning to New Orleans.
Upon returning, we decided to launch this site. Beer Blotter was born over a pint of Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout and NOLA Hopitoulas at the Avenue Pub. From that moment – 300 articles followed.
#2 — The Crew Visits West Flanders
The entire crew decided to throw down and take an excursion to Belgium, back in March. We planned the trip for a period of 12 months, holding epic Belgian beer tastings once a week until we left. As part of the trip, we decided to visit Germany, France and Holland as well.
Every day was filled with splendor. From the iconic bottle shops, to the revolutionary brewers, Belgium brought us to our knees. We saw Cantillon in Brussels, visited Moeder Lambis during its opening week, drank gallons at De Molen, sorted through bottles at Paters Vaetje, and gifted a Pliny the Elder to Hane at De Gans.
But, nothing was more epic than a one day visit to West Flanders. I had caught a pretty vicious cold that had put me out of commission for a few days, but I refused to allow it to defeat my trip to Westvleteren to catch Westy 12. I sucked it up, chugged some orange juice, bought some nose spray (so i could taste again) and we took off for West Flanders.
When we arrived at the Saint Sixtus Abbey in Westvleteren – my cold cleared up. Whether this was an amazing intervention of the almighty himself or simply an incredulous recovery – we will never know. But, it all came together as my first Westy 12 was placed in front of me.
From there, we trucked on to St. Bernardus, visited a brewer’s cottage in Woesten, drove to France to sample Escambeq’s best (with a brewer who could not speak English), drank De Struisse’s finest in a living room at De Zon and enjoyed splendid wonders from the private collection of Alvinne’s owner. I’m unsure that this day could ever be eclipsed.
#1 — The Closing of Water Street Brewing & Alehouse
The number one moment is not a happy one. But, it certainly had a profound effect on me.
For days I labored over visiting my favorite beer spot before it would shut its doors, for the final time. In the end, I didn’t go. The horror was too much for me to handle.
If you never got a chance to read the hardest post I ever typed, take a gander now. For purposes of brevity, I will not relive the words that came to mind when I head that Water Street Brewing would close down. But if you were around me for those few days – you know it was always in my mind.
Bars come and go – that is for sure. Some bars leave way too early; that was the case with Water Street. Because of a legal spat that keeps the former Water Street brewing space vacant to this day (we just saw the space this past weekend and its still not even close to re-lease), Water Street was forced into early retirement.
But, like all great combatants, Water Street may rise again. Their Facebook page has provided snippets of hope to those of us who yearn to have Queen Nina pour us another IPA. Recently, Nina announced that Strange Brewfest would return this year! This was an amazingly welcoming sign that Water Street is still alive and kicking – somewhere.
300 posts of Beer Blotter has brought us this far and we vow to keep it going. In the next month, we hope to have our new site running, filled with gobs of media and more user friendly resources.
Stick with us, please. We’ve enjoyed your company.
Lurking in the shadows of summer beer festivals is the Seattle International BEERFEST. Mark your calendars for July 2-4th for this epic, yes, epic outdoor beer loving, beer gazing, beer drinking event.
We are talking beers from all over our fine country plus the rarest of the rare, beers from all over the globe. Over 150 beers from 15 different countries to be exact. Now you know why I’m saying “epic.”
Let the world unite under the pretense of good craft beers at Seattle Center next weekend. Its going to be magical and not to be missed. With over 150 beers, I am unable to review them all. However, I present you with four top five lists since that seems to be an easy way to organize the blog these days.
1. Top 5 breweries to try from the USA
2. Top 5 breweries to try from outside of the USA
3. Top 5 beers you should try
4. The 5 rarest of the rare
Hopefully that will cover the basics, but for the full list and all of the details visit the 2010 Seattle International BEERFEST’s website. And just a note, there is no particular order to the “Top 5s.”
1. Top 5: US Breweries To Try
Although this is your chance to try some rare, undeniably authentically amazing beers from other countries, I have to represent. After all, the USA did make it to the second round of the World Cup! So my reasoning behind choosing these 5: Festivals are a place where you want to capitalize on those beers you normally cannot obtain and those that have several options. Therefore, the breweries are on this list for mainly those two reasons, plus of course, they are awesome.
- Cascade Brewing Co., Portland, Oregon- amazing sours beers and once in awhile Uber Tavern will get a few kegs, ONCE IN AWHILE. They are showcasing two mystery beers, which are almost certain to be some wild yeast infected, wood-aged masterpiece. Save your tickets for those.
- Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, Colorado- The beers that are pouring, you can buy in bottles, but rarely do you get to enjoy a Oak Aged Chocolate Yeti (read our review) on tap. Also, try their IPA!
- Deshutes Brewing Co., Bend, Oregon- Black Butte XXII- its new and its here!
- Dogfish Head Brewing Co., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware- although this brewery is getting more popular by the minute, this weekend 90 min IPA, the 120 min IPA (take it easy on this one, its 21%!!!!) and World Wide Stout will be pouring, so if you missed WWS at Brouwer’s Back to Black during Seattle Beer Week, now is your chance for redemption.
- New Old Lompoc Brewing Co., Portland, Oregon: This is another brewery that although located 2 hours south of Seattle, rarely shows up on tap. Try their barleywine and save on the gas!
2. Top 5: The Foreign Brewers To Try
Now onto more worldly things….the following breweries produce high quality beverages. I will write a little snippet, if you will, on each brewery just for your enjoyment.
- Mikkeller, Denmark: Mikkeller makes beers of all styles and they are all amazing. A line of single hop IPAs, an IPA that combines 10 hops, a-m-a-z-i-n-g-l-y flavorful and thick stouts as well as your finest Belgium styled beers. And, no big deal, but they are pouring 6 beers, one of which is Big Worse (their incredible barleywine).
- Dieu du Ciel, Canada: Amazed that the two beers they are pouring are on tap – Peche Mortel Imperial Stout and Rigor Mortis, a Quad.
- Nogne-O, Norway: If their amazing trademark brand doesn’t entice you, then their innovative beers will. Cant go wrong with a beer from Nogne-O, especially the Batch 100 IPA.
- Cantillion, Belgium: If you are a frequent reader, then you know our love for this brewery, especially after experiencing it first hand. Authentic Lambics are brewed here. When you drink these lambics, you can taste the authenticity…it just tastes…pure. Iris is the only beer pouring, but my God, its on draft.
- Caracole, Belgium: This is a Belgium brewery through and through producing a White Ale, a Blonde, Amber Ale and Brown Ale. Of course, these beers are named for their color…their taste goes much much deeper.
3. Top 5: Beers You Cannot Miss
Now this is challenging- the top 5 beers you should try.
- Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast on draft! Had this a couple weeks ago in San Diego. Fixated.
- Mikkeller Big Worse on draft! And I am back to this brewery. That is what you get for being awesome and also pouring 6 beers. Big Worse is a barleywine and is on tap. A Beer Blotter favorite.We had Beer Geek in San Diego last month and Big Worse on the tap in Amsterdam – best on draft.
- Oud Beersel Oude Kreik: a cherry lambic pouring from the bottle.
- Both of Cascades’ Mystery Beers: take your pick, cannot go wrong. I know that’s two beers – but whatever.
- Nogne- O #100: a Double Imperial IPA on draft.
4. Top 5: Rare Ones Not To Miss
Now, on to the rarest of a the rare.
- Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Bacon: WHAT? BACON? Its out of the bottle but this is going to be unreal.
- De Molen Dispution Stout: We had the pleasure of visiting this brewery in the Netherlands. Every beer they crank out is top notch, this being no exception.
- De Proef K-O: Straight from Belgium, this “Knock Out” is a Triple weighing in at 10% (ok no more boxing puns).
- De Ranke Cuvee: Old sour beer from De Ranke blended with Girardin (another brewery in Belgium) lambic. This is being poured from the bottle. However, if you are in the mood for draft, De Ranke is pouring the XX Bitter which has a hop component with that sour funk you get from good ol’ wild yeast. Both beers are sure to impress!
- De La Senne Equinox: I’ve selected this beer because they are the perfect representation of the “new Belgian” movement across the Atlantic. This young brewer is situated in French Belgium, south of Brussels. They make remarkably progressive beers, while holding on to the classic Belgian styling. Try this beer, one of their best.
There are so many amazing beers and amazing breweries at this event. It truly is unfortunate that my liver and my bank account can’t support my trying every last one. Take notes, report back and let us know which beers you are excited to try. Leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Week 16 of 52
(020) 421 20 57
Dutch Beer Bar
BEERS ON TAP (at time of visit) —>
BOTTLE: We didn’t take note of everything, but the list was vast and had a large number of De Molen offerings.
FOOD OPTIONS: No food.
BAR OPINION: In the months preceding the Beer Blotter Euro-trip, a lot of research was done. A lot. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise. Anyone about to embark on a journey to a far off land would do the same. What did we research? Well, we have been very vocal about our priorities on this trip, so I will only rehash them briefly…beer, food, art/culture…well that’s about all that really matters right?
The Amsterdam portion of our trip was at the very end. By the time we had reached the ‘Dam we had already hit Antwerp, Brugge, Gent, Brussels, various locations in West Flanders, Esquelbecq (France, Brasserie Thierez), Dusseldorf, Leverkusen (Germany, Bayer Leverkusen soccer match), Cologne, Paris, Bodegraven (Netherlands, Brouwerij De Molen), and many places in between. Moral of the story…by the time we got to the ‘Dam we were nearly spent, and believe me, it pained us severely. We had all been really excited about Amsterdam, especially since we had chosen ahead of time to forgo any cultural aspects that she may offer. Not that they weren’t worthy, but the ‘Dam seemed like a place for extreme partying, and that is what we planned to do there (I guess that in itself is a part of the culture, but you know what I mean).
I repeat, “planned”. Planned way in advance, without thought of how we would feel after staying up late every night drinking and waking up early every morning to exercise and get a start on the new day’s travels. Bottom line, our trip was grueling. It had to be. There was no way around it. One’s opportunity to travel to Europe is very limited, thus one must pack many things in. I doubt this truly needs explaining. In a nutshell, I…we need to go back. I get teary-eyed just thinking about the prospect of returning. Our experiences have taught us many things, and would surely yield much in a second journey, especially in Amsterdam, where I feel we failed to completely engross ourselves in what it offered.
Never-the-less, there was not a single beer related establishment that I had on my “must visit” list that we missed. How was this list conjured? You will surely not be surprised to hear that ratebeer had a hand, as well as the great Amsterdam Top Ten site. Number 1 on all of our lists? You guessed it, ‘t Arendsnest! Why? Check out the description on the Amsterdam Top Ten site:
One of the very few bars that [s]erve only beer from Dutch breweries. 350 different beers, not counting approximately 250 seasonal beers such as Bokbier, brewed by more than 50 breweries in different parts of the Netherlands. The owner is very knowledgeable and together with his enthusiastic staff is more than happy to provide his customers with information and recommendations.
We knew that this place would provide us with an ample selection of beers that we had never heard of and could never get in America. A true Dutch experience to say the least, just what we were after.
Just prior to arriving in Amsterdam we stopped for dinner at De Molen. This was after a very long drive from Paris, so not only was it late but we were tired, full, and a little buzzed. We decided that we would keep this first night a bit low key, which meant a trip to the number one on the list (which luckily was just a few blocks from our hotel) and a trip to one of the other non-beer related things that you have to do in Amsterdam: a weed cafe. You know…because it’s legal there.
Anyway, we write about beer so we will concentrate on that vice. After sifting through the rainy evening air, along gorgeous shop lined alley-ways and down streets that flank the many canals that bisect the city, we came to stand before ‘t Arendsnest. Finally, we had arrived. Once entering, any and all stresses were lifted from our shoulders. Not only was it dry, warm and bright inside, but it was invitingly cozy and bustling with the soothing din of the local clientele. The lighting, the design, the decor, all aspects of The Eagles Nest fit in just right with what we needed at that moment.
As you can see from the draught list above, our hopes of finding “strange” Dutch brews were realized here, just as we had hoped. Other than the only Dutch Trappist brewery La Trappe (Koningshoeven), Urthel, and the De Molen/Mikkeller collaboration brew Mikkel & Menno that we had discovered just prior to arriving, everything on the list was foreign to us. Though the bartender, like almost everyone in Amsterdam, spoke near perfect English, the place was pretty packed so we didn’t have much time to inquire about many of them. We ordered mostly blind (remember, the use of American iphones is pretty much negated in Europe). This is probably for the better. Sometimes going blind, being spontaneous, is more fun.
The Jopen Hoppen and Extra Stout were both procured. A quick word on the Hoppen – almost any time the word “hop” is alluded to in Europe, Americans need to proceed with an open mind (Alvinne is a clear exception). Something what may be considered extremely hoppy in Europe would be considered a weak pale ale at best to us. The Hoppen fit that mold. The Extra Stout on the other hand was really thick and delicious and would stand up against any American stout.
The Hertog Jan Grand Prestige, a big 10% ale was sampled, along with the Jubel Joop III Tripel, also made by Jopen. One of the favorites of the night was the Emelisse Espresso Stout which had a huge mocha colored head with massive bubbles. Oh I wish I could indulge in one right now! A few De Molen bottles were enjoyed as well such as t ‘Ooievaartje – a fruit lambic and, quite possibly the gem of our visit – Bloed, Zweet & Tranen, or Blood, Sweat & Tears. B, Z & T is a dark concoction that uses smoked malts and minimal hops. It can, quite deservedly, be found in the Netherlands top 50 beers on ratebeer.com.
In conclusion, ‘t Arendsnest was a must visit for Beer Blotter in Amsterdam, and should be a must visit for all beer lovers.
We thought we would start out our bevy of reporting on our trip to Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands with a short set of our “Top 3” in Belgium and beyond.
There were three members of BeerBlotter.com on this trip, so its impossible to come to a verdict about the ranking of the Top 3 at this point. Perhaps by the close of our two weeks of stories on the journey, we will have formed a consensus. For now we are simply providing what we believe to be the best 3 places to visit in a particular category.
Please note: we did not visit everything, we couldn’t. Though Belgium is only about 90 miles across, there are so many places to visit. Those venues are not bunched in any easily manageable way, especially the breweries of West Flanders. Thus, we will expose our limitations – we can only rank those places that we visited. Later in the week, we will be providing reviews on each establishment visited, so you will be able to get a better idea of what was visited.
Also, we are stating the names of these places in Flemish or French so that you can find them on a map/online easier.
So, here we go:
Top 3 Breweries to Visit:
1) Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Heule, Belgium
2) Brasserie Cantillon, Brussels, Belgium
3) Brouwerij De Molen, Bodegraven, Holland (Ok Ok its not in Belgium – its in the Netherlands. But its so amazing!)
***Brasserie Thiriez in Escambeq, France – very cool too, if you speak French***
Top 3 Beer Bars to Visit in Belgium:
1) Paters Vaetje, Antwerp, Belgium (Amazing atmosphere and great bartender)
2) Poatersgat, Bruges, Belgium
3) Moeder Lambic, Brussels, Belgium (new, incredible)
Top 3 Beer Bars to Visit in Holland:
1) Cafe Gollem, Amsterdam, Holland
2) ‘t Arendsnest, Amsterdam, Holland
3) Beer Temple, Amsterdam, Holland (for the variety – and if you miss the USA)
Top 3 Places to Enjoy a Beer in Belgium:
1) ‘t Waterhuis Aan De Bierkant, Ghent, Belgium
2) Picobrouwerij Alvinne’s Loft, Heune, Belgium
3) ‘t Poatersgat, Bruges, Belgium (cmon, its in a medieval cellar)
Top 3 Beer Lists in Belgium:
1) Kulminator, Antwerp, Belgium (vintages really help)
2) Cafe Cambrinus, Bruges, Belgium
3) Bier Circus, Brussels, Belgium
Top 3 Bottleshops
1) Willems, Grobbendonk, Belgium (ridiculous, go here)
2) Picobrouwerij Alvinne, Heune, Belgium (worldwide selection)
3) De Bier Temple, Bruges, Belgium
Top 3 Beer Experiences in Belgium:
1) Drinking Nuclear Penguin & Sink the Bismark with owner Davy Spiessens at Picobrouwerij Alvinne
2) Enjoying Westvleteren 12 at In De Vrede Cafe on the St. Sixtus Abbij
3) Tasting young gueuzes and special lambics at Brasserie Cantillon
***Checking out the cooling cellar at Moeder Lambic was cool too***
Top 3 Places for a Meal in Belgium (Beer Involved Venues)
1) De Gans, Huise, Belgium
2) Bier Circus, Brussels, Belgium
3)Brouwerij De Molen (Holland) & Brauerei zum Fuchschen (Germany) (again neither in Belgium, but damn good)
***We didn’t make it to Den Djiver in Bruges – we dont have 100.00 for a meal***
Top 3 Belgian Food to Eat
1) Toast Cannibale (raw beef across bread)
2) Witloof Casserole (Belgian Endive with Ham and Cheese)
3) Stoemf (potatoes, sausage, herbs and vegetables all mashed together)
Top 3 Issues with the Current State of Belgium
1) Construction in Ghent! (the entire city is under construction – kind of killing the ambience)
2) non-uniformity of business days
3) unknown/spontaneously selected opening and closing hours (its always a guessing game)
***Note: We were there during off-season, and we knew that, so the hours/days issue is partly our fault***
There is more to come. I’m sure I forgot to rank many things. We will try and wrap it together soon.