Travel becomes so much more fulfilling when there’s a goal in mind, a path to follow, and a beer in hand. One thing Europe has been doing for a long, long time is making beer. The Christian monks used it to get people to come to church. Soon after, it became the backbone of European society.
I sat down with contributing editor for Draft Magazine, Joe Stange. Joe lives and works in Berlin, Germany, where he studies, writes, and lives beer. He’s also written two very useful books about beer and Belgium. The first is called Around Brussels in 80 Beers, a nifty guide for hitting Brussels with some knowledge about their local brews before getting flabbergasted by the massive variety available. The second is the co-authored The Good Beer Guide to Belgium, a comprehensive primer to the best pubs, cafés, breweries, and beers in Belgium. Joe has also guest judged beer competitions in Belgium, the UK, and the good ol’ US of A. The guy knows beer.
We decided to meet at a new gastropub over in Kreuzberg, Dolden Mädel. Here’s what he had to say about traveling to Europe and finding some really special beer experiences:
As an American who is thinking of coming to Europe and loves beer, where are the real places to find beer and brewers who are wholly unique?
There are five pilgrimages that people from the States should make in Europe. Bearing in mind always, that as Americans we tend not to have that much vacation time–couple weeks a year if we’re lucky. Obviously it’s not cheap to come over to Europe. So you want to make it count.
What I would hone in on and reconnect with are the European folk beers. You don’t need to come to Europe to drink their American-style craft or their IPAs. You’ll pay extra for those when you could be sitting in the rural cafés with the folks that are still drinking the same old fashioned, flavorful beers that inspired our beers. The beers that they’ve been drinking for centuries. You know, they pay a couple euros for a half liter. I think that’s the experience. Sometimes the beer geek loses sight of the importance of the experience. They like to collect beers: Like, “I went to this place, I drank that beer in some big city craft beer bar.” But, that’s…so what? You can get almost any beer you want in the mail these days. More and more tap houses have 50 or 100 taps, and crazy bottles lists.
You can get what you want, except the experience. You have to go there for the experience.
With that in mind, I would look at 4 beer countries plus a couple wild cards–The UK, Belgium, Germany, The Czech Republic (which doesn’t get as much respect as it deserves), and I would say Italy these days
I have to take a picture of this one. It’s murky as hell! We have this running gag of Twitter now #murkshaming for when you see beers that aren’t clear. To me, that does NOT mean they’re bad at all. But, some people have fetishized the clarity of the beer.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
Okay, let’s start expensive and work our way toward cheap. What’s going on in the UK?
It’s really difficult to nail things down in Britain. There’s a pretty exciting contention and debate going on there now about traditional cask ale, which activist are working hard to preserve and promote.
What is that exactly?
We’re talking about when you see those hand pulls that they crank to pour it into your glass. The beer is coming directly from casks in the cellar typically. It is what you would call “living beer.” It’s got yeast in there that’s allowed to settle down. That’s part of the craft of the cellarman to take good care of that cask in the pub, and to not allow any extraneous Co2 to touch it. It changes the flavor, especially in these subtler, lighter ales.
Now you see an increasing excitement about keg/craft beer–like we are seeing internationally. The Campaign for Real Ale, which alongside slow food, is one of the most successful consumer food movements. They’ve basically revived cask ale from near death and completely resuscitated this method of serving beer. It’s beautiful.
I think we have a generation of younger people who grew up with it now. They’ve been drinking beautifully boring brown bitter. It’s dad’s or grandpa’s beer now. They want something more exciting. They want something different. So this is where you have small breweries making these big hoppy beers, sour beers, more extreme flavors, and more variety.
That’s the key thing, people want variety. They want something different. I don’t want something different. I travel to get something different.
When I go to Britain I want cask ale. You can’t really get it anywhere else. It’s just not done properly. It’s such a beautiful thing to drink that’s meant for drinking over the course of a day and evening. It’s lower in alcohol. It is what we call session beer. Cask Ale is the ultimate session beer.
I think the most fun place to drink right now is not in London (although London is a hoot for lots of reasons). I recommend Kent, southeast England. Near the seaside, centered around an area called Thanet. This movement that has sprung up called micropubs. Micropubs are throw backs to the old days of front room/living room pubs, neighborhood and village pubs.
Pubs, not just in Britain but everywhere, they got big over time. Big companies bought them, and they had to compete with each other, and they had to become impressive. This is bringing back the small ones. They have a laser focus on well-kept cask ale, friendliness, and local snacks (like local cheese, pork scratchings). Rarely do they cook. Food is not the point at all. It’s atmosphere and beer. They serve beers from local brewers. It’s also cheap, two or three quid for a pint.
One of the more interesting facets of these micropubs is they all have an ethos: no piped in music, no tvs, no smartphones. If you know this going into it, then you know you’re going there to drink beer and talk. It is a social environment. You’re in a rural area so the people will be tickled to death that you found their pub.
Are there any specific Micropubs you like to go to? Or is it just a matter of wandering around and popping in any place?
There are hundreds around England now. Every year the numbers grow because people have really caught on to the idea of the micropub movement. There are dozens in Thanet. The one you can single out would be The Butcher’s Arms, the first one. He hasn’t been doing it that long, we’re talking eight to 10 years. No one copied his style for a while. Eventually he gave a talk at a Campaign for Real Ale, and light bulbs started going off. People realized the beauty and elegance of the idea. It’s a tiny place. It’s not a rule, but most of them are tiny. The walls and ceiling is just loaded down with tacky junk (laughs), including lots of boughs of dry hops and old beer adverts. It’s developed its character organically.
So, before we leave the UK, if you didn’t have time to make it to Herne and Kent and you just had time in London, what could you do there do give you a similarly authentic experience?
London has so many great pubs of all stripes. You can do worse than relying on guides from the Campaign for Real Ale. They have excellent pub guides that really focus in on London as well as the broader UK. You’re going to get really well-kept ale and atmosphere in those places.
London has this other thing going on now with this explosion of new breweries. There are 70-odd breweries now whereas 10 years ago, there were just two. They are what we would call “craft breweries” for lack of a better word. They’re new wave breweries trying to do things that they couldn’t get before in England.
With so many microbreweries popping up, where do you find the ones where people care about the product and not just cashing in on the scene?
I think that one that can be really well relied upon is the Kernel Brewery in South London. They make technically excellent beers under these railroad trestles, which started a trend down in Bermondsey. I think the most interesting thing they do are these historical recreations of old recipes that they bottle. They used to do open visits every Saturday. But I think it became to much of a shitshow. It was too popular. It’s part of what is now called the Bermondsey Beer Mile, which was a cool in thing. But now everyone’s caught on. It’s great fun. But these days you have to wait on lines to just get in the breweries. It’s become…
A piss up.
Yeah, a piss up. But it is fun. Part of the fun is that all of these breweries are under the railroad arches in these spaces that used to be garages or storage and small industrial sites. They started allowing small breweries, and they allowed them to have visiting hours. It was a great way for small brewers to set up shop without spending a fortune on London real estate.
So all these places are super small? No one has a million barrel output and huge export?
They are catching on. You’re starting to see some of them exporting. Weird Beard and Beavertown are ones you see even in Berlin now. Siren, Brew By Numbers…some clearly are well backed financially and they came in with more ambitious plans. Others are people that really just wanted to start a brewery and put their hearts into it. Sometimes that turns out beautifully.
View this post on Instagram
#Friday is finally here! That means a new #blog & a new #video. When @chocoralie suggested a @ukbrewerytours #microbrewery tours we jumped on it. Post going up later today….once we've got our act together that is. This shot is from @southwarkbeer in #Bermondsey. Also on the trail: @anspachhobday, @fourpure, @partizanbrewing and @montys_deli #bermondseybeermile #tgif #beer #london #cheflife #vlog #foodie #chef #smokeandsalt #photooftheday #chefstagram #funny #chefsofinstagram #brewerytour #craftbeer #craftbrewery #weekend
Let’s move to the continent. Belgium, the mountaintop for beer.
It is, isn’t it? It’s sort of like the hallowed ground. It’s the place that had great beer well before the rest of us caught on that beer can be fun and full of variety. Belgium has been doing it for decades…centuries really. It’s sort of an outgrowth of the fact that they were constantly invaded. Yet no one was as foreign as those “jerks” at the next village. They just kept up their own style. Their regions just kept up their own beer types. So even in this tiny country you have this incredible variety of flavor, color, strength, and stories.
I think that in Belgium it’s hard to pick just one beer to go after. But I think that the world’s most interesting and complex drink is Lambic beer.
So what is Lambic exactly?
Lambic is technically beer, although it is aged like wine. It is spontaneously fermented. This means they don’t add extraneous yeasts. Instead they have a very elaborate and old way of brewing the beers, which is largely wheat based (about ⅓ of the grains are wheat). At the end of the fairly long brewing day they pump it up into this shallow tray; often up in the attic of the brewery with the windows thrown open so the local Pajottenland air can blow over it. That’s the sort of magical explanation. Then they put it away in the barrels and age it for 1-3 years. They then blend it with the young and old to make this perfect acidic, but balanced sparkling drink called Gueuze.
Now, back up a little bit it’s not just the magic in the air. A lot of it is the microflora and microfauna that you find in that attic room. It’s also what is already living in that barrel. These are repurposed wine and sherry barrels typically. Sometimes they’re repurposed beer barrels. They have a large number of critters with Latin names in them that produce different types of fermentation. It takes months rather than days to develop.
View this post on Instagram
Grote dorst. #grotedorst #lambic & #geuze #puntobirraviareggio #puntobirra #jointherebellion #craftbeerordie #craftbeer #craftbeerporn #instabeerofficial #instabeer #beerstagram #beertography #beergasm #beergeek #beeradvocate #beerlovers #beertime #drinkcraft #untappd #goodbeer
So there’s a lot of microbiology going on?
Yes. Or you can call it magic! I do.
Yeah, I like calling it magic…As Arthur C. Clarke said, technology will get to a point where it is indistinguishable from magic…
Yes! Obviously there is such huge interest these days in these types of beers that there are definitely dissertations written on this. People are getting down with microbiology more than ever before. So you can learn it if you want to.
The place that the Lambics come from is Brussels and Pajottenland. Pajottenland is the region that hugs Brussels like a letter C to the north, west and south. It was the river Senne that gave life to the myth, which is partly true, of Lambic beer.
So, let’s say you’re heading to Belgium, where do you go to really see this being done and drink it with people that love it?
The ideal recommendation is to rent a car and drive all around Pajottenland, visiting the breweries and cafés. There’s a sort of respect for nostalgia there. There’s a great Lambic café in a town called Beersel, just south of Brussels. It’s called the Oude Pruim. Five generations of the same family have been running this place. It has barely changed over that time. They still serve cask Lambic and it costs just €2. That’s for a beer that took two years to age in a barrel. It’s just incredible. Why do people pay $50 a bottle in fancy bars for this stuff when you can go there and get it for €2!?
Yeah, that’s an amazing price. Plus, it’s a tiny province, so you can hit more than one in a day.
Yeah, some of the towns are a ten-to-fifteen minute drive from each other. The most fun are the cafés where you still have your old fellers in their flat caps. They’re teaching pigeons to sing on Saturdays for competitions. They’re all cycling crazy. It’s so classically Belgium.
If I were to nail down one must visit place, I’d say the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels. It’s a ten minute walk from Gare du Midi. They have been a great global ambassador for Lambic beer. They created the Lambic museum and got it on the map. They open up to visitors 5-6 days a week. During the colder months you can go to an open brewing day. This is when you can ask questions and talk to the brewers and team, and see Lambic being made. You can sit in their little café and taste the beers. You can buy some to take away. It’s really inexpensive. Cantillon is probably the most sought after of the Lambic brews worldwide these days among the aficionados. So, you can pay a pretty penny for those beers in the States now.
Or, you can save by not buying several bottles over the course of a few years and buy a plane ticket. Go there yourself and have the experience…then you can say you did as well.
View this post on Instagram
Bruxelles, Day 8. Cantillon Brewery in Belgium. Took a quick trip up to Belgium before flying home to the States. Toured the famous family owned, spontaneous fermentation craft brewery. Drank a few lambics along the way. #latergram #europe #traveling #craftbeer #lambic #brussels #travelgram
To Germany, the land of beer…
I think a lot of young Germans today think that their country doesn’t have a great variety of beer. There is a big anti-Reinheitsgebot movement going on now. It’s been getting press in German newspapers. I understand where they’re coming from. It’s a ridiculous law. You shouldn’t be stopped from putting weird things in your beer. Germany has a long tradition of putting weird things in beer.
What is the Reinheitsgebot?
The so-called “purity” law that you are only allowed to use water, barley, hops and yeast. There are exceptions and loopholes. Like, for a wheat beer there’s an exception, but only if it’s top fermented.
The Reinheitsgebot has only been enforced here in northern Germany since just after the turn of the last century. Germany used to have the diversity of Belgium, particularly in the northern Germany. There are all kinds of strange and historical Prussian beers that have been forgotten. The Reinheitsgebot was strictly Bavarian for centuries. Then as part of various political compromises the Bavarians basically hoisted it onto the rest of Germany. You still see beers that somehow survived like Leipziger Gose–a lovely light, sourish, salty wheat beer from Leipzig that has orange zest and coriander in it. It’s weird and delicious and now really popular in the States. In Germany you can’t find it.
The one place I would really go in Germany is around Bamberg in Franconia. Among beer geeks Bamberg is famous for the rauchbier, or smoked beer. That’s only part of the story. For whatever reason really old Franconian lager beers have survived. It is still possible to go down there and drink in these rural country taverns. You pay €2 for this beautiful, bitter, malty unfiltered beer.
You get this feeling that what you’re drinking now is not that different from 200, or more, years ago.
I’m really fascinated by Kellerbier, which originally got that name simply because you got it from the keller. The keller being a cellar. Not cellars of houses, but caves dug into these woody, shaded hillsides planted with Chestnut. Once you step into one of these cellar you’ll get an idea how lager came to be what it is today. It’s naturally cool in there, allowing the yeast to make the lager what it is. It’s developed. It’s evolved.
Let’s explain a little bit about the difference between ale yeast in Belgium or Britain, which is quite expressive and fruity, and this German yeast. Lager yeast tends to be very clean, which means there are no yeast flavors when it’s done right, instead it emphasizes the hops and malt. You’re tasting the basic ingredients of beer more.
Another side effect of these kellers is that people figured out that not only is the best place to store beer, but it’s an excellent place to go and drink it. So in Franconia “Keller” is synonymous with “Biergarten.” If you say you’re going to the keller, they know you’re going to the beer garden. There are lots of beautiful beer gardens down there with excellent playgrounds if you bring the kids. They all have nice shady tables to sit at with beautiful beer served in steinkrugs (thick mugs). And you’ll be paying peanuts for amazing beer. It’s just a great experience.
View this post on Instagram
Nürnberg gezimden beri hiç aklımdan çıkmayan bir bira çeşidi varsa o da keller bier’dir. Öğlen başlayıp akşama kadar içilir bu. Burada bulunca affetmedim. 1-2 bira daha patlattıktan sonra Das Meisterstück’e veda ettik. Ama yine geleceğim.. Almanya’nın başka şehrine de gezi planlasam, üşenmeden gene sana geleceğim Das Meisterstück.. Yarın Altes Müzesini anlatacağım bugün daha fazla paylaşım yapıp sizi bunaltmayayım Görüşmek üzere :) #food #foodporn #instafood #gurme #yum #yummy #mekanlar #gourmet #ke #foodie #seyahat #gezi #foodpics #foods #foodgasm #almanya #sosis #restaurant #yemeiçme #berlinstagram #instagood #berlin #yemek #gurmex #foodgram #restoran #dasmeisterstück #bavyera #kellerbier
Are there any places that are still classically set up that stand out in your mind to visit?
That sounds amazing just in the name alone!
They have more than a dozen kellers on this one hill. A few are open year round. Most of them open only in the summer months. There are a handful that only open for this great big party they have called The Annafest, which should be on any beer drinker’s bucket list. I mean, forget Oktoberfest! This is where it’s at! So all of these kellers (beer gardens) are attached to actual kellers (caves) where they keep the beer cool. Just to sit under the shade, drink some kellerbier, eat some sausage, and take in the atmosphere of the Kellerwald. You know that the beer you’re drinking represents the roots of what has become the world’s most successful beer style.
Let’s say you’re in Munich, where would you hit up for the best beer?
I’m an Augustiner man. That’s not to undercut the other big industrial breweries that are there (and they are big and industrial breweries in every sense, and owned by huge international conglomerates). The beers are still quite good. For me, the Augustiner beers are more flavorful. There is the fact that they are still independently owned. Maybe that’s part of what makes it cooler to like for some. I don’t know. I think that particularly their Helles when it’s coming from the Holzfass (the barrel) in their beer halls…there’s just something about that beer. It’s very subtle. Then you get it on gravity and it has less bubbles in it. It’s so soft and rich. I can sit there in one of those places all day and drink that beer. I love that beer.
Let’s move to another Lagerland… The Czechs.
So in terms of opportunities to drink great beer, it’s hard to beat Prague. Fresh Pilsner Urquell is the best. The best Pilsner Urquell is fresh Pilsner Urquell. You have the opportunity to drink it on the tour at their brewery in Plzeň direct from their cellars. But, Prague has a wider variety of traditional beer that you can try in all sorts of very cool pubs. Plus it’s a great city in its own right to visit.
In the Czech Republic they rate their beer by degrees, what’s that mean?
It does represent alcoholic strength. Basically, your classic would be the Světlý Ležák 12°. That’s your great, middle of the road lager. If a brewery is not doing that well, then it is not considered a good brewery. That’s the one they have to nail because that’s what everybody drinks. They also do a 10° which is a really nice lower alcohol. Then 14° is their version of a bock beer, and still that’s only 5.7% or so.
We have gotten to where we call these dry-ish, pale lagers from anywhere Pils. I think the word has sort of lost currency when we’re talking about Czech beer because Czech beer is better. The Czech pils, or světlý ležák, is being brewed in more old fashioned way, and more robustly with the ingredients. They grow their own Saaz hops that I think is often very poorly imitated abroad.
The world’s imitation it tastes nothing like the real thing.
I think what makes it special are two things mainly: decoction and embracing hops fully. A good Czech lager is hoppy. It may not be hoppy like an in-your-face IPA. But it is still a hoppy beer. Decoction is a way of cooking malt during the mash. They literally remove some of the soupy mash (ground up grains and warm water) and they boil it. This is like cooking meat on a hot pan, it develops these caramelized characters that brings out more of that malt flavor. It gives the beer a richer, sweeter taste: not sweet like sugar, not sweet like caramel malt (which is a short cut for Pale Ales). It’s a light dry crisp beer with this kind of sweetness that’s malty and honeyed that is balanced with bitterness. A lot of the Czech pilsner have a bitterness between 30 and 40 IBUs, which is above average.
So, you’re in Prague, where do you go to drink the unpasteurized, fresh beer?
Prague has these tank bars (tankovna) where they take the unpasteurized beer and ship it as quickly as possible from brewery to pub. Once there, they fill up tanks with these plastic bags. As they drink the beer, the bag shrinks so that no oxygen gets to the beer until it hits the glass. The idea is that you’re drinking it “brewery fresh.” Prague has tons of them. Just look for the Pilsner Urquell bars. Lokal is a great one.
I love Lokal…excellent food, old school laid back atmosphere, amazing beer. What else can Prague offer the beer pilgrim?
A place called Břevnov Monastery where they brew Břevnovský Benedict. You can make an argument that it is the world’s oldest currently operating brewery. That doesn’t mean continuously operated. Nobody can really make that claim. The monks of Břevnov took a one century break.
But even then, that’s back to what 800 or 900? So, over 1,000 years ago?
Yeah, they’re in triple digits. It was 993.
What’s special about their beer?
The flavor and the story. It’s in an abbey. When you go there, you see it’s an old baroque building now. It doesn’t feel ancient. It’s right next door to, like, a tire shop within the abbey walls. You look in there, and it’s like, “Oh, look a brewery!” Besides doing the proper decoction and getting a lot of flavor from the malt, they are using a hop that, for lack of a better term, is an “old vine” Saaz hop. Normally with hop plants you have to dig them out and replant them every certain number of years. These trees have been going for over 80 years. That makes them different than any other Saaz we get today. They have a really hard to define flavor to them…it’s sort of like chamomile. In the beer it comes out rather fruity. It’s one of those really compelling flavors. The beer is nice and bitter as well, but still balanced.
It’s the kind of beer you can drink a ton of and still on the tenth glass you’ll be trying to work out “what is that?” I love that combination of flavor and mystery. It’s such a lovely beer.
WILD CARD I: ITALY
Italy intrigues me. What’s going on there?
I don’t want to totally ignore the craft thing. The Italians were way ahead of the curve on it. They have their own strong culinary tradition on what food and drink should be, including the ways that they drink with food. They have made their own synthesis and done their own thing. I think Rome is as good a place as any to experience this. Plus you get to go to Rome, which is great.
They have a lot of their own excellent breweries that just don’t get that much international attention because they’re not Belgian or German. I think Rome has the best beer bar maybe in Europe.
Seriously, if I had only one night in Europe, just one night, this is where I’d go. It has a long name: Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fá.
I think it is just the right combination of great traditional European beers, new wave beers, and everything in between. The beers are chosen with impeccable taste. They only have good beers. And many of them are from breweries that hard to find in their own home countries. These guys search them out. They go to Franconia and pull out these great kellerbiers. They go to Belgium and bring home the best Lambics. It’s a great place to spend and evening then roam around and find some Roman style pizza afterwards. That would be a great night.
WILD CARD II: NORTHEAST FRANCE
What are a couple more places that you really won’t find anywhere else unless you travel there yourself?
I am tempted to mention Northern France. Particularly in the Calais area and town called Cassel. You have a few things that work really well. You have the awesome breweries that make an old fashioned farmhouse type beer called Bière de Garde. It tends towards grainy, hoppy, and dry. And that’s almost too broad a brush already. You’re going to get excellent food as well. I mean, it’s France. However you also have this Flemish identity up there. They have some unique country food like Potjevleesch, these jellied meats that come out of a jar. There are great pâtés and cheeses. Things that go nicely with beer.
The real attraction is the Estaminets. These old fashioned pubs with checkered-tiled floors and lots of character. They all have pub games like La Grenouille, or Toad in a Hole. You stand on the other side of the room and toss coins into a frog’s mouth. There are other holes and obstacles on there so wherever the coin lands, it’s goes down to a slot and counts your points. It is a really elaborate piece of furniture. There are always games. They love their games while they drink.
WILD CARD III: LITHUANIA
Lithuania is another place that is my fascination right now. I got to go there last winter. Belgian saison has really caught on in popularity. So brewers are always looking for new things to make craft beer-wise. Farmhouse Ale has gotten everyone’s fascination. It’s got this nice name. It sounds rougher and rustic.
What is a farmhouse ale?
It’s almost never made in a farmhouse of course. That’s the inspiration. If you think about it broadly, this is something that was done in many places. Farmers brewed because they had the ingredients. They needed something to do in the winter and something to drink in the summer. One of the places that this happened, and happened in a way that is almost totally indigenous in the way the beer has developed (because of particular historical circumstances, including the Cold War) is Lithuania.
They love beer in Lithuania. Up in the north of Lithuania is sort of an unknown beer region. The kind of beer they brew is unique.
They drink a lot of lager like everyone else, a lot more actually. Not quite as much as the Czech’s, but they drink a lot. They have their craft breweries too. But then, they have old fashioned ale breweries.
The heritage of all of this is the farmhouse culture called Kaimiškas. Sometimes we call it raw beer or raw ale because it’s barely boiled, or usually not boiled at all. For beer that’s unusual: part of the brew is you boil it. From a sanitation standpoint, and presentation, there are a lot of good reason to boil. They don’t see the need. This is the way they’ve always done it.
They have their own heirloom yeasts that have been handed down generation to generation. Probably in the old days they shared amongst their neighbors. These days these yeasts are very peculiar and special, so families generally keep them to themselves. The origins of these yeasts are bit mysterious. Normally with brewing yeast, you refresh it every 3, or 6, or 7 brews or so. So you have a fresh yeast from the laboratory…a pure strain. With this they just recrop it, skim it off, and use it in the next batch. They skim it off, and use it in the next batch again, and again. So it behaves differently.
Wow, it sounds a lot like a sourdough starter.
Yup. It’s exactly the same principal.
They don’t use a lot of hops. The hops they use are a wild hop as it’s not really a hop growing area. It’s not about the bitterness. It’s about that fruity, yeast character. The beers are weird. Just weird. They’re not pretty. They’re murky. There is often very little foam or carbonation. If you were judging this in a beer competition, you’d give it terrible marks just because it looks bad. They also have a slight butterscotch character sometimes, which is considered a fault in an industrial beer. For rustic beers you make a little allowance for it. It’s an acquired taste. What it does, if you can get used to it, is it helps accentuate the malt. It gives it a richer taste. Because of the preserved proteins and different textures, it has a thicker mouthfeel as well. It’s one of those things that is just different, and I’m not sure why I like it, but I do. And I need another glass to figure out why.
[Time to order another beer. Joe orders a Schönramer Pils, I get a Ratsherrn Pils]
Last question, let’s look at what happened in Belgium recently. It seems from an American point of view when you turn on the news that “Europe is under attack!” You were recently in Belgium. What is it like after the events last March?
People are going about their business. They’re going to work. They’re going out to cafés and restaurants and bars. They’re packing them in. Meanwhile, yeah, there are military trucks parked outside the tram stations. Guys with big assault rifles are watching everyone, looking for suspicious characters. So it’s a bit weird. Plus the fact that many tourists have already canceled their trip, canceled their hotel rooms, and they’re simply not there. The center of the city is pretty empty. Because Brussels is the most recent victim, that’s where the effects are most concentrated right now. Paris certainly has the effect, and still does. Let’s be honest, by extension, fewer Americans are going to come to Europe this year. That’s really a shame.
I think we read too much in what we see in the news. Yes, there is a risk. But it is tiny compared to our fear.
I don’t want to paint a rosey picture because when you go on vacation you just don’t want to have to worry about stuff, particularly if you have kids. It’s one thing to chose as an adult to go someplace. It’s another thing to make that choice for your children. Having said that, the risk of being caught in an attack like this…is so small. In comparison to the things that have happened to Europe in the past, recent past, they’re tiny acts of desperation. Not that long ago Europe was a battlefield. Europe has been a victim of terrorism for decades now. So, in a way, this isn’t especially new. So… make informed judgements.
If you really look at it coldly, you’ll see that the airfares are low, hotel rates are low, and it will not be packed with tourists. Plus, the exchange rate is really good at the moment. This is actually a great time to visit Europe if you can deal with a realistic appraisal of the risk. I’ve gotten some criticism for saying it’s not a matter of if, but when more attacks happen. Of course they will. It could happen here in Berlin too. It’s not about that. Those attacks are so rare. More often than not it’s just another day where you’re sitting in the shade of some trees, drinking a beer, and fear never enters into it.
Well put. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and share some beer.
See you in Europe this summer!