28 April 2006


Last month I posted a review of Meantime Chocolate (here). Since then the Porterhouse reintroduced their Chocolate Truffle Stout as part of the March stout-fest so I thought I'd do a quick round-up of Chocolate Beers I Have Known.

I won't repeat my Meantime review: just to say it gets points for being different, but isn't a patch on normal chocolate stouts. My usual fallback in this genre is Young's Double Chocolate Stout, which is about as rich and creamy as bottled beer gets, and carries a big chocolate kick in the foretaste.

Yet even Young's pales in comparison to the Porterhouse chocolate stout. I'm not sure what the "truffle" element adds to it (about 500 calories, at a guess) but this seasonal stout is utterly sublime: very smooth, very heavy and very very chocolatey. It is definitely one of my favourite beers: a sure sign it's about to be discontinued.

And happy birthday to the Beer Nut Blog. One year and seven countries done: much more to come.

18 April 2006

The bland leading the bland

A quick round-up of some of the less notable beers I encountered on my recent trip to Greece, mentioned purely for completist reasons.

Mythos is the most ubqitous beer I noticed in Athens. It's the standard Mediterranean lager, generically refreshing. Mostly it was served in a frozen pint glass, yet developed what one might call an actual flavour when it warmed up slightly. The other common lager is Alpha, which struck me as blander yet: even when the sun hit it there wasn't much of a hint of a lager taste. Still, it does the job for that place and climate and I'm not complaining.

I travelled through Budapest and just had time on the way back for a swift pint at the airport. The choice was Stella, Beck's, Franziskaner, Leffe Brune or something strange called Borsodi. No contest, of course. Borsodi is pretty cheap and nasty, but when you're drinking it from a plastic cup under fluorescent lights in an eastern European airport it's the only appropriate drink. Just another sacrifice for this blog...

14 April 2006

First dispatch from the field

I'm in Athens for the next few days. Currently I'm collecting information on the standard beers hereabouts and I'll make a full report on them in due course. Yesterday, however, I visited the city's only microbrewery: Craft.

The decor is in the mock-industrial brewpub style, rather than the Anglo-German light-wood-and-hops motif. The beer is excellent. They do two fairly basic lagers: the pilsner is classic brewpub lager with that coarse, grainy microbrewed taste: backbone of the industry. Then they do "Athens Lager" which is a more refined, bittersweet, Austrian style beer.

Craft Red Ale is a Belgian-Abbey-style beer: aromatic, fruity and complex. The oddly named "Black Lager" is just like a light stout, sparkling rather than creamy, and full of the burnt caramel flavour that sets it apart.

The Weiss at Craft is a fairly good imitation of Erdinger, right down to the banana aroma, though perhaps a little lighter and softer.

My big find, however, is Craft Smoked Lager. As the name suggests, this is made with smoked hops for a real smoke taste: something akin to drinking a pint of smoky bacon crisps. It is marvellously strange and I look forward to finding another smoked beer to compare notes.

Craft, then, is a first-rate brewpub, and a real find here in southern Europe where beer is not taken as seriously as it should be.

11 April 2006

Czeching back

I went on my first beer-hunting excursion abroad back when I was 20. Prague was the destination, and there I discovered the wonderful Czech lager Krušovice. I hadn't seen it in a number of years since, so I bought a bottle recently to check if it is really as good as I remember.

It is. Czech beers, for the most part, are characterised by their rich full malty taste and relatively dark colour. Krušovice is lighter in colour and milder in taste but by no means lacking in character. It is one of the very few lagers that manages to be smooth and easy-drinking without tasting as though all the goodness has been brewed out of it. Krušovice is quality to the last drop. It's kind of gratifying to know, several years, many pints and thousands of miles after that first trip to Prague, that back then I knew good beer when I tasted it.

09 April 2006

Ultra vires

Cider is, strictly speaking, outside the remit of this blog. That's generally a moot point since you won't normally catch me drinking the stuff. However, Maguire's current seasonal is an organic cider called Blossom and I feel obligated to make a report.

Speaking as a non-cider-drinker, Blossom is not half bad. It has an extremely pale yellow colour and carries a very sharp, tangy, acidic flavour that is quite invigorating and refreshing. It certainly isn't sickly and cloying the way ciders often are. The biggest let-down is that it becomes difficult to drink when its temperatures rises above the icy coldness at which it is served. I found myself rushing to the end of the pint, and at 5.6% alcohol, that's not something I'd want to be doing several times in a session if I hoped to get out of the pub upright.

Blossom, I'd say, is ideal for sunny summer afternoons in the beer garden. It's just a shame that the only pub in the world serving it doesn't have one.

04 April 2006

All spit and no fire

Spitfire is a quite ubiquitous ale in England, but I never got around to trying it until recently. I was a little disappointed. It is a very very light beer, very easy to drink but lacking the robustness I expect in a bottled ale. Fine for the pub, I guess, but not one to take home.

The alternative is Ruddles County, which is stronger and more full-flavoured. However, for all its up-front robustness it is still missing something vital. Hops dominate the flavour, making it somewhat bitter but not enough to give it a firm character. The result is a beer that grabs your attention but doesn't quite know what to do with it.