Showing posts with label beer run. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer run. Show all posts

Monday, December 30, 2019

Fuggled Review of the Year - Drinking Dens

Moving on from the beers of the year to the places in which I drank them, and with an utter absence of ceremony, I give you...

  • Beer Run - Charlottesville
  • Port City Brewing - Alexandria
  • South Street Brewery - Charlottesville
Honorable Mention:

Kardinal Hall - Charlottesville

Rest of USA
  • Barley House - Cleveland, OH
  • Olde Mecklenburg Brewing - Charlotte, NC
  • Fraunces Tavern - New York City, NY
Honorable Mentions:

Scholz Biergarten - Austin, TX; Gordon Biersch Brewing - Atlanta, GA; Bar America - San Antonio, TX; Hofbr?uhaus Cleveland - Cleveland, OH

Rest of World
  • U Slovanské lipy - Prague, CZ
  • Hostomická nalévárna - Prague, CZ
  • Brauerei Spezial - Bamberg, DE
Honorable Mentions:

Schlenkerla - Bamberg, DE; Airbr?u - Munich, DE; Brauhaus Ernst August - Hannover, DE; Pivovarsky klub - Prague, CZ; Cromarty Arms, Cromarty, Scotland

Given that this was the first time I had visited many of these cities, it is no wonder that there are so many new pubs on this list. I own the fact that I am an abysmal beer tourist, I simply don't plan my trips around breweries, tap rooms, and pubs, I find out where I am going and then arrange the booze around that. One thing that is clear though is that I definitely have a soft spot for places in the US that harken back to central Europe. My final three boozers though for 2019 are:
  • Beer Run - Charlottesville
  • Olde Mecklenburg Brewing - Charlotte, NC
  • Hostomická nalévárna - Prague, CZ
This is actually a much harder decision than choosing the various beers of the year. Beer Run is basically my local and I love a couple of hours just sat at the bar talking with the staff. Since Mrs V and I started stopping at the 8 acre biergarten that is Olde Mecklenburg, our trips to South Carolina have a genuine thing to look forward to with the driving, the thought of a couple of jars of quality Germanic lager in a proper beer garden after 5 hours of driving is a delight. My one afternoon with Evan in Hostomická nalévárna back in October will probably be my favourite individual session for many a year, it was simply perfect. However, I don't feel I can base my decision on a single visit, and so the Fuggled Drinking Den of 2019 is Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, a more perfect place to drink great pilsner, superb altbier, or cracking hefeweizen is hard to imagine.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Czech It Out!

Think rare beers.

Think legendary beers.

Think Budvar.

Now rename it Czechvar, and if you go to Beer Run on Sunday, you can get it on draught.

Yes, you read that correctly, on tap. As in fresh, not bottled. None of those dodgy green vessels here.

Nope, Budvar, sorry Czechvar, from a keg.

Not only that, but if you are a fan of dark beers, they also have have Budvar Dark available (in bottles). Yes you read that correctly, a genuine Czech tmavé is available for purchase in Central Virginia.

Beer Run is open right now, I think, so what are you waiting for? You know you need Czech dark lager in your life to tide you over until Sunday?

Sorry for the lame pun, but it had to be done.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Day for Drinkers

I have a confession to make. I broke my 'no going to the pub on St Patrick's Day' rule last night. having had a fairly quiet shift at the Starr Hill tasting room, a colleague and I popped into McGrady's a quick pint - seriously, the shift was insanely quiet, apparently the lure of half price pints of America's most award winning dry stout was not strong enough. I have two main reasons for not darkening the door of a pub on March 17th each year, one of which I covered in this post, and the other being the pub is packed with people who rarely if ever go. St Patrick's Day, or International Amateur Drinkers Day as some refer to it, is like Midnight Mass for many people, the one time of the year when they actually attend.

Thankfully the beer drinking day for regular pub goers is just around the corner, because April 7th is Session Beer Day. I am sure most of you already know the definition of 'session' beer, as proposed by Lew Bryson and thoroughly approved of by me (I am sure Lew sleeps all the more soundly for knowing that), just in case though a session beer is:
  • 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
  • flavorful enough to be interesting
  • balanced enough for multiple pints
  • conducive to conversation
  • reasonably priced
Session beers are an essential part, in my unhumble opinion, of a good pub, given that pubs are places where people go to meet friends, talk, play pool, all over a few pints of something tasty. I guess this is one of the reasons I fail to understand the mindset of people who want 'more bang for their buck' and drink several pints of imperial IPA because it gets them drunk quicker. While beer is an intoxicant, I am not convinced that beer 'culture', and especially pub culture, is about getting trashed, it's about being social, and beer lubricates the sociability of the scene.

Anyway, last year both Beer Run and McGrady's here in Charlottesville had a decent selection of session beer, including Williams Brothers simply wonderful Scottish Session Ale, which I think I drank McGrady's out of last year. Hopefully this year will see more session beers on tap as well as more pubs having something available. Although this ad is for whisky, I love one line in particular.....'all hail to drinking man!' (or woman, obviously, yes thank you Stan)

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Touch O' Ginger

When I was a kid, my mother seemed to always have a bottle of Crabbie's Ginger Wine in the household bar, and from time to time we would be allowed to have a glass of said libation, liberally topped up with lemonade and served with ice. Alcohol in our family has never been something taboo, as such myself and my three brothers all grew up with a healthy respect for drink. Sure, such a way of raising kids might not go down well with the po-faced do gooders who think childhood should last into your twenties, but it doesn't seem to have done us any harm.

Anyway, back to Crabbie's, Saturday was a friend's birthday and Mrs V and I joined our friend, her husband and a few other souls at Beer Run to celebrate. When the time came to leave and drive home to watch Doctor Who, I picked up a 6 pack of Pilsner Urquell, and out of pure whimsy a couple of bottles of . Yesterday afternoon Mrs V and I sat on our porch and surveyed the freshly mown lawn, kindly mown by a neighbour as we don't have a mower yet, the only thing missing to complete the scene was a glass of something cold, not fancying beer I popped open a Crabbie's, spritzed with a dash of lemon juice.

Having taken my seat, I drank long from the glass and memories of childhood flooded back. Sure it wasn't the Crabbie's Ginger Wine and lemonade that I remembered, but it was pretty damned close and so refreshing. Simply put, it was delightful, and I think I'll be back at Beer Run in the near future for more, especially at only $2.75 a bottle.

To just top off the nostalgia, here are The Corries singing The Portree Kid, which mentions Crabbie's Ginger Wine...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good While It Lasted

We were driving back from Waynesboro on Sunday afternoon when I got a text message from fellow beer drinker and former beer blogger Dan to tell me that changes are afoot at one of Charlottesville's leading beer emporia.

It turns out that the guys that own and operate Beer Run have decided to dispense with their beer engine and install an additional three regular taps in the space being freed up. I won't hide it, this makes me sad. Many of the best beers I have enjoyed since moving to the US have been on cask at Beer Run, Joker IPA from Williams Brothers, Sierra Nevada's Torpedo and a barleywine from Cricket Hill that was obscenely easy to drink.

Now, I realise that enjoying cask conditioned beer is something of a minority interest in the beer loving community this side of the Pond, but the thought of the only place in town offering beer the way god intended being South Street Brewery is somewhat depressing. Admittedly I haven't been to South Street for quite some time, so maybe their beers have improved, but last time I allowed for that possibility I had the most depressed 90 minutes of drinking in my life, so I am not holding out much hope.

My most fervent hope is that one of the other pubs in this town pick up the baton, buy the beer engine from Beer Run and run with it. In a different world, with ownership that actually understood pubs and pub goers, it would be perfect in Court Square Tavern. If I owned the Horse and Hound I would seriously look into it, imagine that a "British" pub that actually has something authentically British about it. As it is, I think the best place for a beer engine in Charlottesville would be McGrady's or just outside town, Timberwood Grill, where the homebrew club meets once a month.

Dan also mentioned that Beer Run were planning to ditch their proper pint servings because only one person ever drank them, surely there are other drinkers than just me that like a proper pint? Thankfully though, on that front he was kidding.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Running for Stout

International Stout Day is now but a day away. When I learnt about the project, I contacted several pubs in Charlottesville to see if they were doing anything special, and hopefully to persuade them that having multiple stouts available would be a good thing. For the sake of full disclosure, this may have been an act of unrepentant self interest - I love stout and am always happy to see more of it on tap in my favourite drinking holes.

Naturally, the first place I asked was Beer Run, and of course they have extra stouts on tap in honour of the day. Making a guest return is the world's most famous stout brand, Guinness, which has been replaced of late with a rotation of other stouts. Where would International Stout Day be though without a nod to Guinness?

Also on draft will be Founder's Breakfast Stout (I am assuming a little here as it was a picture of Breakfast Stout that Beer Run used to advertise their draft stouts). I have to admit that I have never tried this one before, it is, I believe, an Oatmeal Stout, so I imagine I will enjoy it muchly when I swing by tomorrow. The third stout on tap is Beer Run's regular strong stout, Bluegrass Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Stout. I don't often partake in the Bourbon Barrel, mainly because at about 9% abv, it packs too much of wallop to have a few pints and then drive home.

In a nod to the history of stout, Beer Run will also have a few porters on tap - and while talking about the difference between the two styles, I recommend Martyn Cornell's excellent post on the subject. On draft will be porters from Flying Dog, Troegs and Left Hand.

Plenty of dark goodness to be had then at Beer Run. What are other Charlottesville pubs up to? What about your locals? Anything good going down to honour my joint favourite beer style?

Late update: just heard from the guys (or possibly gals) at Beer Run, that there will be no capping fee on any bottled stout tomorrow! Trust me, they have an excellent selection to choose from.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Thursday Drop

Mrs Velkyal had some friends round last night in order to put together their costumes for various Halloween bashes this weekend. Seeing the opportunity, I pottered off to Beer Run, book in hand, hoping for a place at the bar to sit with a fine libation, or two, and while away a couple of hours.

Eventually a space opened up at the bar and I perched myself, half pint of Samichlaus 2006 in hand and Hogwaller sandwich in tow - the Hogwaller is simply sandwich heaven, bread, ham, bacon, cheese, mustard, a finer companion for beer is hard to imagine (though maybe some caramelised onions would work in there as well?).

The half pint of Samichlaus lasted about an hour and a half, at 14% it is not something you want to be chugging, and with the minging hangover from a growler of Legend's 15.9% barleywine in mind, I wanted to savour the beer. I didn't take pictures or tasting notes, but it was deliciously boozy, sweet and smooth yet clean as all good lagers are.

This got me thinking about strong beers in general, and a thought flashed through my mind that cold fermented beers are perhaps better suited to extreme strength than their warm fermented cousins. It could of course just be my acknowledged predilection for cold fermented beers in general, but I find powerful lagers so much more pleasurable to drink than boozy ales.

Once that half pint had been supped and savoured, I ratcheted down the gears a fair bit for a pint of Left Hand's Sawtooth, which is one of my favourite British style ales being made in the States, I would love to see it on cask sometime. I rounded off with a pint of Donnybrook Stout from Victory, by now well into a discussion with a guy at the bar about the book I was reading.

A thoroughly pleasant evening finished at home with a pint of Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout from a growler, listening to the Peatbog Faeries on Spotify and with my wee Cairn Terrier at my feet. I can of no better way to spend a Thursday night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I honestly can't remember if I mentioned this before, but Charlottesville's best place for beer got rid of Guinness. It used to be the case that Beer Run pretty much always had Guinness on tap, but when they had a keg of O'Hara's Stout on instead for St Patrick's Day I mentioned to the owner that I was fairly certain most people would happily drop 50 cents extra for an O'Hara's instead of Guinness. Whether or not this had any influence on the resultant dropping of Guinness I don't know, whatever the cause, Beer Run now has a rotating stout tap.

As Mrs V was having some friends round for knitting and nattering last night, I took the opportunity to pop along to Beer Run for a couple of pints with a friend, Dan. On the stout tap last night was , which at 3.7% abv is an ideal post work beer, it really was a simple choice and 4 or 5 mouthfuls took care of the first pint, a proper pint that is, you know, the big ones.

I am a big fan of Donnybrook. Sure it might not be the most sexy, extreme beer on the planet, but it is a well put together beer for drinking with mates in the pub, and therefore pretty much perfect. It's the kind of beer that doesn't intrude on the conversation, doesn't butt its way into your thoughts by being tastebud strippingly hoppy, doesn't have you swilling it around trying to identify the aromas.

It is stout, pure and simple. You know what you are getting and can get on with the real reason for going to the pub, socialising.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Austria. Thuringia. Bavaria. California?

There are some breweries that never, ever, fail to impress, or at least make beers that I enjoy and want to drink multiple pints of. Word on the street is that one such brewery is looking to open an East Coast operation and one of the options is just a few hours south of where I live. I am, of course, talking about Sierra Nevada, who, rumour has it, have a site near Roanoke as one of their options for the new operation.

My first beer from Sierra Nevada is the one in the picture, sat in the magnificent, and sadly defunct, Sheridan's On The Docks in Galway, watching Ireland play New Zealand with the supreme company which is The Tale of the Ale's Reuben and his wife. Before splashing the cash to buy it, I had sent a quick message to Evan Rail to ask his opinion, and he was right, it was a delight.

Since moving to the US, I have enjoyed every Sierra Nevada beer I have encountered, from the comforting autumnal Tumbler to the smooth yet zingy Glissade. Their stout and porter both make regular appearances in the cellar and the fridge, and I'm even partial to a drop of their IPA, Torpedo.

On Thursday night, there was a Sierra Nevada invasion at Beer Run. Every tap, including the hand pull was dedicated to Sierra Nevada. On a side note, I enjoy these "tap takeovers" because you get to see how good a brewery actually is as a result of lesser known beers being available. Having dropped Mrs V off at the library so she could crack on with her latest paper for her Masters degree, I headed over for a couple of pints.

A quick glance at the menu revealed the words that immediately make me want to try a beer, "lager", "pilsner", you know by the now the stuff I like. So a pint of Vienna Lager was ordered. I had never seen a Sierra Nevada Vienna Lager before, hardly surprising as it is one of their "Specialty Drafts" according to their website. 4 mouthfuls later and the glass was empty. That is one delicious beer, clean and crisp, yet laden with toasty malt sweetness. Had it not been for the limited time available to me, and the dark winkings of the Schwarzbier, I could have drank that all night. But turn to the dark side I did. The Schwarzbier was, um, schwarz, and roasty, full of flavour and just bursting with goodness and again with a nice clean finish. Perhaps this explains my love of lager, I like clean flavours. My final pint was the FOAM Pilsner, a German Pilsner, and a very decent brew it is too. Had it been served in a biergarten in Central Europe it would have been the lubricant to a night of conversation and revery.

I also did a side by side tasting of Torpedo, one from keg and one from cask. The cask version was sparkled, as is the correct method, and the difference was startling. The hop aromas were much more pronounced in the cask version than the regular keg, and the body slightly fuller. Whilst not a cask fundamentalist, if I was I would be pretty much teetotal in this country, I am yet to be convinced by the argument that keg is better for highly hopped brews. Every time I have the opportunity to compare the same beer side by side from keg and cask, it was been a highly hopped pale ale, and the cask was won hands down.

My only wish is that these lagers were more regularly available in this neck of the woods. It is clear that not only do Sierra Nevada make some exceptional ales, their lagers are right up there as well, but sadly not getting the distribution and praise they clearly deserve.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Truth of Session Culture Is Out There

There is a bar not more than 7 minutes from my flat, well, a grill that has a draft beer selection, but still, it is well within walking distance. I have to confess though that I have never gone to said bar and grill, even though I have driven by it many a time on the way to Beer Run or Court Square Tavern, or just going to the same strip mall to get Chinese take away. All I know about this bar is the name, The Lazy Parrot, it's reputation and the fact that it is opening a barbecue area in the near future. I guess they must be doing something right then.

I was mulling this over the other day when in the middle of a twitterlogue about session beer - you know the kind of thing, what is the appropriate abv level for session beer in the USA (for the record, I agree with Lew Bryson that 4.5% is acceptable, but then I am a cultural traitor extraordinaire). Suddenly it hit me, taking Lew's definition of session beer, that the USA has a vibrant, thriving session beer culture, it's just that the self-appointed arbiters of taste chose to ignore it because it doesn't fit with their narrative.

More than 50% of beer sold in the US is "light lager", along the lines of Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light, all three of which have an abv of 4.2%, just 0.2% shy of Pilsner Urquell's 4.4% but streets away in terms of bitterness. Clearly then, there is a market for session beer, there are drinkers out there who want a low alcohol brew which they can enjoy several of in the pub before heading home.

This is not to suggest that I am about to start drinking mass produced light lager on a regular basis, but it does point to a fact which seems to get lost in all the macho posturing of much of the craft beer world - people like to drink beer, in pubs, with friends over a period of time. I would suggest however that if craft beer is to truly worry the big boys, then perhaps with the ever growing awareness and acceptance of craft beer, it is time to take the fight to their doorstep. Sam Adams Light is an interesting step in that direction and at 4.1% abv is ideally set to challenge the more established light lager brands (and in my opinion a darned sight tastier and I will be doing my utmost to convert my father-in-law to it). By the way, I am not convinced that the big boys are worried, after all everyone has their price and the big boys have the money to buy independent breweries.

This also got me thinking about how easily we generalise, assuming that our experiences and preferences are the norm and can thus be extrapolated out to all of the society within which we live. Coming back to the comment about there being no market for low strength beer in America, the figures clearly show otherwise. I have more time for a brewery that says something along the lines of "that's not the market we are targetting", but to claim the absence of a market at all is to misunderstand the reality of the market as a whole.

Call it what you will, I am happy with the term session beer for sub 4.5% beers, the fact remains that demand is out there for lower than average strength beers, which people want to sit in the pub and drink with their friends over a longer period of time. Clearly the likes of Samuel Adams and Devils Backbone are listening, and responding with tasty beers that are low in alcohol and insanely drinkable (if you are in the area get down to Devils Backbone and try the Ale of Fergus while it lasts), here's hoping for more to catch on.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Charlottesville Pubs

This weekend, Mrs Velkyal and I had guests, namely Mrs V's best friend and her husband, who drove up from Greenville in South Carolina to spend a few precious hours boozing with us. Just how much boozing it is possible to cram in to slightly less than 40 hours is quite impressive really.

Naturally we took them to our usual hangouts, Friday afternoon a few pints in Beer Run - where they had the wonderful O'Hara's Irish Stout on tap, and the red incidentally - much nicer on tap than in the bottle. Just a minor aside, a pint (yes, a proper pint) of Guinness is $6, a pint of O'Hara's was $6.50. 50 cents difference between a quality, Irish made product and Guinness? Just a hint chaps, ditch the Guinness and have O'Hara's as your standard stout! Sure some people might moan a bit for a wee while, but I defy anyone to taste them side by side and not be won over immediately.

As our guests had driven 6 hours to get here, we decided against a heavy night on the booze, and headed home to attack the cellar and enjoy Mrs V's home-cooked dinner - another aside, if you are of a crafty persuasion, as in knitting, crocheting and such like, Mrs V is now blogging about her stuff and you can see her blog here.

Saturday though was planned to be drinking day. Can you guess where we took them? Of course you can if you are a regular reader of Fuggled, but before we got there we ventured off our regular beaten track and found Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, where we enjoyed sampling their fruit wines and mead. I am coming to the conclusion that Nelson County is full of boozers and foodies and so if we ever buy a house here, then Nelson County is high on the list of places to look. Having sampled and purchased some stuff, and with me admittedly getting a touch agitated because I wanted a pint, we finally made it to.........yes, you guessed it, Devils Backbone, still the only place in the area we have taken every single, and married, visitor we have had. I won't bore you with details, but the Backbone has gathered another couple of fans.

Coming back into town, Mrs V had a work function to attend, and so her friend went with her and myself and Mr Friend were off to the pubs of the town centre. First on the list? Court Square Tavern. I am sure that I don't say this often enough, because I waffle about Beer Run and Devils Backbone so much, but this little pub is one of my favourite places in the city, and vastly under-rated. Here's why I like to head in on a Friday or Saturday night: top bar staff, cozy atmosphere and Czech lager, admittedly bottled, but still, I am partial to a glass of B.B. Burgerbrau as the pale lager from the oldest brewery in Budweis is called over here, and ?atec is always a decent pint as well. In the 18 months since I have been here, the Tavern has improved steadily and hopefully this will continue in the future.

Next up was South Street Brewery, a place I go to far less often than I probably should - especially as it is right opposite my office and opens at just about the right time for post work drinkies. The problem I find is that many of their beers are uninspiring and so I will often wander a little further from the office to go to Beer Run. However, it is one of the most beautiful pubs from an architectural point of view that I have ever seen. We popped in and I had a pint of their Aisling Stout, which I describing thusly: "looks like a stout, smells like a stout, tastes like a stout" - it hit the spot. And so on we went, with my taking a mental note that I should give the entire South Street range another try.

Our next watering hole was a place I have wanted to visit for a very long time, Horse and Hound, a British style gastropub (I hate that term with a passion - it tells you everything you need to know about the priorities of the business). Now, I am perfectly willing to accept that having not lived in Britain for more than a decade a couple of things may have happened. The British pub may have changed beyond all recognition or my nostalgia for the British pub has severely rose-tinted my vision. I was not impressed, not impressed in the slightest. The beer range itself is decent enough, but my experience of the staff was that they were surly and disinterested. Having had my pint (no not a proper pint) we wandered off to find somewhere else - with me muttering viciously.

And so we came to Escafe, another little place just round the corner from where I work, and conveniently opposite the venue of Mrs V's work function, which was slowly coming to its end. I like Escafe, it feels like a bar, and that's a good thing in my pub-centric world. Not pretentious, just simple. In there we ran into the other widowers of our better halves' function and then the phone rang and it was time to pull the plug and head home.

A good night out all told, my usual haunts lived up to their billing, one place will need revisiting and the other, well perhaps I shouldn't be so opinionated and hasty.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are You For Real?

On Friday afternoon I needed a pint. A proper pint that is, one that is 20 fluid ounces, or just over half a litre, as in 68ml over half a litre (for those outside the States, not everything here is bigger than elsewhere, their pint is a mere three quarters of the real thing). Thankfully the pub I frequent most often here in Charlottesville, and that not as often as I would like, now knows that when I ask for a pint, that's what I get, a  proper pint, in a nonic glass - my favourite shaped glass.

The pub in question is Beer Run, a bar, restaurant and bottle shop rolled into one, 2 minute drive from my house, delight. They also have a handpull, with a sparkler! Friday's firkin of fun was a barleywine from Cricket Hill, and it was delicious, far too easy to drink for an 8%abv beer. I needed a pint, the second one I wanted. So all seemed right with the world, a sparkled pint of barleywine, not cold, not warm, just right, pulled nicely and served by a smiling young lady - seriously, what more could you want in life? Perhaps being sat by a roaring peat fire, with my new Cairn Terrier puppy stretched out at my feet would round the scene out perfectly.

I love seeing handpulls in pubs, there are at least two such treasures here in Charlottesville that I know of, the other being in South Street Brewery. I am not a fan in the slightest of cold and fizzy beer - and people that try to give me a frosted glass are politely asked to return with a normal glass, thank you very much. If I want cold and fizzy, I'll drink Pepsi. Even when I am in the Starr Hill tasting room, I pour the Dark Starr Stout just after giving a group the penultimate beer for the day, so it can warm up and the lovely chocolate and coffee aromas and flavours can unlock and come to the fore.

Perhaps I am alone in this, but I often sit in the pub gazing at the beer engine and thinking about the stillage. I assume as most beers I have had on cask at both Beer Run and South Street are properly stillaged. Then my mind wanders back further in the process, to the filling and priming of the cask itself, and whether or not it is possible to use a regular Sanke keg as a cask? I am then filled with dread, am I being duped? Is this really cask conditioned ale, or is it just unfiltered beer, pulled through a beer engine?

At the end of the day though, it is the beer in the glass that is important, and every pint I have had in Beer Run from the beer engine has been a delight - especially the Joker IPA they had from Williams Brothers a while back, oh and the Two Hearted Ale from Bell's in Michigan, oh yes, mustn't forget Cricket Hill either - a brewery I will have to winkle out more beer from.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale Ales

Pale Ales, whether English, American or of the India sort, have formed a large part of my drinking this year and form a nice little juxtaposition to the situation with Pale Lagers - the first 6 months of the year saw the occassional decent Pale Ale, while the second half has been a veritable flood of the stuff. I am sure some will find it too vague to lump together the various pale ale styles into a single grouping, of course not forgetting styles like bitter here, but it works for me (minor aside, does any one else find the BJCP style guides a bit hair splity?).

From a very strong field, the following three beers stood out:

In my final month in Prague I was unemployed, having been made redundant, and was researching for my book, The Pocket Pub Guide to Prague (available very soon). On the days when Mark and I weren't sitting in various drinking holes, taking notes and pictures (which I have been setting in the text and they are fabulous!), you could often find me in Tlusta Koala just round from my flat imbibing this simply wonderful IPA. Seriously hoppy, served perhaps a tad cold but just right for the warm early summer afternoons, it was the refreshment of champions, or at least this champion of Kocour.

Recently I went on a day trip to Northern Virginia's breweries with Dan from
CVille Beer Geek (most of the breweries were disappointing to be blunt), one of the highlights of the trip though was the Kybecca bottle shop in Fredericksburg where they keep a good stock of beer. It was there that I picked up a bottle of Sierra Nevada's gorgeous Torpedo. I am discovering that I like hoppy beers which have a good malty body, Torpedo is almost its perfect expression.

Charlottesville's best bottle shop/pub/nacho place is the magnificent Beer Run (seriously, the nachos are awesome and they have Fuller's Vintage Ale for just $9.99!!!) and it was here that while waiting for Mrs Velkyal to return with her ID and for the friends we were meeting that I decided to have a swift half of the Bell's Two Hearted Ale, and I was blown away, simply a gorgeous beer full of the citrusy flavours you expect from an American made pale ale, but with a subtle spiciness behind it and that sweet maltiness that I love.

Again a difficult decision to make, and for the first time this year a Fuggled award comes across the Atlantic, but only just. The Fuggled Pale Ale of the Year is:

  1. Bell's Two Hearted Ale

One of the best discoveries of the last six months and simply good beer.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...