First Craft Beer and BBQ

(Budapest, Hungary)

Budapest is creepy, Budapest is quirky, and  Budapest is beautiful, but for the purposes of this article Budapest is delicious!  We spent the night before strolling through markets, eating our fill of langos and goulash, and drinking our fill of the cheap stuff in ruin pubs, so you know we had to track down some quality craft.  Before we get to the beers- shout out to First Craft Beer and Hedon Brewery (next week) for being the ONLY breweries open in Budapest on Saturday and Sunday.  To everyone else- what kind of hours are those?!  In my mind- these two breweries are clearly at the top of the “burgeoning Budapest beer scene”.

We started off with a standard.  Some breweries do IPAs better than others and there’s a vast variety of styles out there, but we tend to try at least one or two at each location. Evergreen IPA was really piney (duh) throughout, but surprised us with a sweet malt or caramel backbone.  It’s not really well balanced- almost like two beers just blended together- still, tasty.

Next up was Double cherry.  Not sure what made it a double unless it was double the cherry:  There wasn’t a high abv or barrel aging involved, bit it was amazing! This brew isn’t a wheat ale with some cherry, it’s not a cherry IPA, it’s straight juice.  Delicious.

Another IPA: Karaoke star was mellow with a light floral taste followed by mead-like honey qualities.  It doesn’t taste it, but smelled very dank like a heavy NEIPA.  Nothing to write home about, but holds it’s own.

Double cherry was so good that we gave their other fruit ale a try.  Blueberry ale didn’t disappoint- this one tasted like the berries were just smashed right in the beer.  Much like the cherry above- tons of puree without being too sweet.  Really nice brew.

Oktoberfest gross.  A sad end to a great lineup.

All in all, I give First Craft Beer and BBQ an 8.3 out of 10.

Egészségére!

Eggenberg Brewery/Cesky Krumlov Historic Pivovar

(Cesky Krumlov, Czechia)

Last month, to take a nice fall trip away, we stepped into the fairytale that is Cesky Krumlov.  From a picturesque castle/chateau to quaint cobbled alleyways, this town has it all, and to top it off?  A 400+-year-old brewery!  The brewery has gone through some changes over the years- most recently being renamed Eggenberg Brewery, but it was originally a part of the 14th century Klaster Klarisek Monastery.

We started off making our way through .5l of each of the 3 beers available on tap, split a full roast duck with bread dumplings, and managed to snag an additional variety pack on the way out the door.

Eggenberg Light managed to be lighter and taste worse your standard pilsner.  No thanks.

Svetly lezak, or light lager, is a typical Czech pilsner.  Not my favorite, but managed to be better than most of the pack.  Since moving here I find them all to be balanced and drinkable, which is what Czechs like, but not many follow that up with any flavor whatsoever.  Eggenberg comes through well on this one.

Nefiltromany lezak, meaning unfiltered, is an interesting twist on a pilsner; think unfiltered wheat.  It didn’t taste like a wheat ale, but I’d describe the addition of flavor characteristics given to the beer the same way.

Much like the Rosenberg from which he descended; Petr Vok fell a bit flat as well.  They should’ve tried some noble hops (haha).

Tmavy lezak, meaning dark, is described as a German dunkel.  Interestingly enough:  I thought Cerny and Tmavy meant the same thing here, but they have a distinction.  Cerny should be lighter and a little sweeter while tmavy is darker and maltier.  This dark lager was just that:  malty, slightly roasted and the perfect beer for a crisp fall evening.

Nakoureny Svihak translates to “smoked dude”.  Though I initially thought this was just a goofy google translation, sure enough, this super-smokey, balanced brown ale was my favorite of the bunch.  Coffee and toffee at the beginning with just a hint of salted caramel in the finish.

Eggenberg Old Czech Style wasn’t bad, but it just seemed a bit like a cross between the light and the unfiltered lagers.  Maybe just how the older recipe turned out?  I think we should have ended with ol’ smokey.

Their beer didn’t blow me away- I know there’s a lot of beer purists out there, but to be frank, I think modern breweries are pumping out higher quality and better-tasting brews.  That being said:  I wouldn’t have traded our overall Cesky Krumlov or Eggenberg Brewery experience for the world.  All in all, I give the Old Cesky Krumlov Pivovar a 7.9 out of 10.

 

Vojanuv Dvur Pivovar

(Prague, Czechia)

Just a stone’s throw from Prague Castle; this quaint little brewery is a must-do on any Prague sightseeing tour.  They don’t offer flights or samples, so you’re going to have to down .5L each time you want to try a brew, but it’s worth it.  They also have absolutely delicious, traditional Czech food.

Don’t ask me how, but we managed to go there twice in the short amount of time we’ve been in Prague, so despite the menu changing, I ended up having all of their beers.

First up was Malostrasky Lager.  This classic Czech style cross between Pilsner and an amber lager is one of the best pilsners I’ve ever had.  Still watery and gross.  Every Czech person we’ve met: “Pilsner Urquell is literally the best beer in the world” Me: (Insert green, pukey emoji).

Next up was the house hefeweizen.  It wasn’t my favorite, but I found its graininess very interesting. It wasn’t unfiltered, but they managed to pack in some body to accompany the banana and cloves.

The 3rd brew on this list I had both times we went because I loved it so much.  Ruby Special is a traditional Vienna style lager and other than having a ton of caramel it offered a delicate balance between sweet and bitter.  Ruby is crisp and clean and really drinkable while still maintaining flavor.

The Editor’s favorite was the Milkshake Fruit Ale and though I liked Ruby better I can’t argue with her choice.  This brew is super smooth with a ton of creamy banana followed vanilla and cherry, like a pack of ’90s big league chew.

Second, to last was Mosaic IPA.  I didn’t hate it, but so far, Czechs are pumpin’ out the best IPAs.

Last up was Dark Raven.  Typically I like a heavy mouthfeel in my stouts, but this one packed enough flavor to make up for it.  Strong coffee in the beginning, while maintaining sweet malts and dark fruits throughout.  Thin but good!

All in all I give Vojanuv Dvur a 7.7 out of 10.

Nastravi!

 

Beer Tree Brewing Company

(Port Crane, NY)

I have a few things to say about Beer Tree before I fill you in on their brews.  First of all, this review is a couple of weeks late, so a few of their taps have changed since we were there, but we did so much beer exploration from August to October that it took this long to get it to the site because I try to review in order.  You know I take good notes though, so no worries there.  Second, this post is coming at an interesting time for Beer Tree since they’re currently under public scrutiny for a PR mistake posted on social media.  I try not to get involved with issues like this and take sides, but to the pesky social media warriors who insist on berating the brewery- I say stop being offended by EEEEEVERything and accept the apology because mistakes happen, to Beer Tree I say take a deep breath and keep pouring great beers. Third, I have to say I’m also mad at Beer Tree, but not for what you think:  I’m mad because it took me moving out of the country for the greater small-town southern tier to do anything cool!

On to the beer.  They’re pouring some great hazy IPAs that I’ve been missing the past couple of years, a couple of smooth sippin’ mainstays, and a tasty, experimental, stout rotation.

The first Tree branch was Tree Ultra Light cream ale.  I always try to test a brewery’s cream or wheat ale to see if anyone’s doing anything different.  Though Ultra Light went down smooth and easy there isn’t much else going on.  I could drink a ton of these, but wasn’t really impressed with the flavor.

The second was a killer juice bomb.  Pineapple Creamsicle was a true milkshake IPA.  I’ve had a ton of attempts at this in the past few years, but this one captured the essence of what a thick, creamy and fruit-forward IPA of this style is supposed to be.  Extremely well done.

Next up was The Art of Balance.  The name says it all here: AoB smelled incredible, wasn’t too sweet or too bitter, and has an incredibly present hop and malt profile.  I tend not to put much stock into beer rating anagrams (#AAMFO), but if I did this one ticks off all of the boxes.

The final IPA leaf to fall was Into the Forest.  Not a bad IPA at all, but tough to follow those last two.  Not to mention- based on the name I was expecting some floral and pine, but with what was obviously galaxy hops came a citrusy and tropic nectar that finished with semi-sweet stone fruits.

Let me preface this last beer with the fact that I love that the premise of this site is to visit breweries, wineries, and distilleries on location, all over the world.  There’s a ton of bloggers and YouTubers out there who I like to refer to as ‘whale chasers’.  A bunch of craft beer Captain Ahabs running around only looking for the biggest, badest and highest-rated brews on ratebeer and beeradvocate.  Those people would miss out on this yoohoo in a pint glass.  Banana Pop wasn’t as thick as I’d like an imperial stout to be, but every drop gushed with chocolate-banana smoothie.

All in all, I’m glad there’s a spot like this close to my hometown now, but more importantly, it’s great to see a local, independent brewery with friendly customer service pour great beers and pushing the boundaries of craft beer.  I give Beer Tree Brewing an 8.9 out of 10.

Mikkeller Brewing- CPH

(Copenhagen, Denmark)

I’ve had a few of Mikkeller’s beers already.  They’ve collaborated with breweries all over the world, they’re not hard to find in the US, and 1 or 2 of them rank among some of the best beers I’ve ever had, but to be able to have them on tap?  AT the brewery IN Copenhagen?  This visit was awesome.  We had an 8-hour layover, so we wandered around the stunning Nyhavn Warf, had a bite to eat, and made it back to the airport to get, accidentally, really drunk before our overnight flight.

Noteworthy Mikkeller beers I’ve had in the past are:

  • Beer Geek: Coco Shake
  • Beer Geek: Vanilla Shake
  • Beer Geek:  Brunch Weasel
  • Barrel-Aged George

This trip we started off with a flight, then two more pours and finished with a great can.

The first on the list was their Airport Farmhouse Saison.  This one interested me because it wasn’t just brewed in Copenhagen, but they also have a line of 3- 5 rotating beers that are brewed IN the airport.  This brew had some lemon peel and peppercorns for sure, but what I loved about it was its crisp freshness.  Maybe it was the placebo effect, but my mouth truly believes that the beer that came out of that tap was less than a week old.  Great beer.

The middle of the lineup was Scour Scandinavia.  This brew started incredibly tart and dry, but finished with a mellow sweetness that I would liken to an overly ripe pineapple.  Really, really well done.

Next up was Tattoo Inked #2.  There was definitely some citrus and sweet peaches with a creamy mouthfeel in this one, but with the addition of the lactose to make it thicker and sweeter I think they went a little overboard and ruined the balance.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t my favorite of the day nor is it on the list of favorite hazy IPAs.

Mikkeller’s Beer Geek line never disappoints and though oatmeals aren’t my favorite stout style Beer Geek Breakfast holds up.  BG breakfast comes through hard on the nose and the first sip with espresso and dark chocolate, is smooth throughout and finishes with a complex bitterness.

I wanted to give George a try to see if the base stout (pre barrel aging) holds up and because it’s been a while since I had it.  George is a thick, oily stout with a great mouthfeel, tons of cocoa, chocolate and dark fruits.  It smells great and tastes even better.  This is a great stout already and if you can imagine, even better BA’d, so get your hands on it if you can.

Lastly, not on tap, but still amazing in a can: cocoa, vanilla, maple Beer Geek.  If anyone could criticize this brew they could say that it is too sweet and syrupy.  I couldn’t drink too many, but as a stand-alone brew?  I loved it.

I’ve only ever had one bad Mikkeller beer in my life and I’m pretty sure it was the fault of the person who cellared it before I drank it.  We started this journey, going on, 8 years ago and this truly ranks among the top 3- 5 breweries I’ve been to.  All in all, I give Mikkeller Brewing Company (Copenhagen) a 9.6 out of 10.

Forshdatd Altai

(Moscow, Russia)

We had a rather long layover in Moscow and thought “Might as well explore the city.” Wrong!  Interestingly enough, a tourist visa to enter Russia is $250.  Luckily, there’s a full-blown brewery right in the airport.  No, not just a cool bar with some crafts on tap, an actual brewery.  To make this Forshdatd Altai even better they have all manner of available meats from elk hotdogs to bear sausage.  Yep, bear sausage, because… Russia.  They’re a small brewery and only have five beers on tap, two of which were out, but we made out way through some meat and beer anyway.

First up was Cesky Dvorek:  A Czech style pale lager.  I’ve had lighter beers that I like, but if you’re going to compromise body and mouthfeel you have to come through with a flavor punch.  Unfortunately, this one didn’t really have much of either one.  I didn’t hate it, it was an ok, cold, front porch beer, but I wasn’t impressed.

Next was Polguyai! Rzhanoe or “Take a walk!” rye and it should’ve listened.  This, not pictured, deep amber ale had an interesting smokiness, but lacked the expected rye follow-through, or any sort of flavor at all for that matter.

Last was Irlandsky El which roughly translates to ‘I Ireland’.  Not sure what the name’s about, it’s definitely a Dunkel and nothing close to Irish, but tasty nonetheless.  This was, by far, the best of the bunch; with sweet toffee notes, toasted caramel and a well-balanced hops and grain finish.

All in all, it was an awesome experience and I loved the food, but 1 out of 3 beers isn’t too great.  I give Forshdatd Altai a 7.0 out of 10.

Helios Distillery and Brewery

(Naha, Okinawa, Japan)

The day after Ukishima, our final day in Naha, and coincidentally, our final brewing in Asia, we stuffed our faces full of ramen at a nearby, hidden-gem, and hit up Helios Brewery and Distillery.  With the exception of some age-old Japanese whiskey (scotch) distilleries and the region’s traditional drinks (sake, soju, makgeolli, etc) the existence of craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries is relatively new on the Asian continent.  Not so in the case of Helios;  they’ve been pumping out high-quality spirits and seriously-sippable brews since 1961.

Of course, we had a beer flight, but before that, we split our standard ‘vacation drink’; a mojito, made with Helios’ silky-smooth, white rum.  The mojito wasn’t great; skimpy on the mint leaves and sugar, but the straight shot of rum afterward was full of that cane sugar sweetness you’d expect,  very well balanced, and without the smoky aftertaste.

First up on the flight was Goya Dry.  Goya or “bitter melon” is all over Okinawa:  it’s in everything from breakfast to dinner, sodas, and even ice cream, and the native Okinawans attribute it to their high life expectancy rates.  What it did to the beer was add an intriguing champagne quality.  Think current brett-IPA trend without the hop characteristics.  It was really well done and actually left me with a lack of proper adjectives.  Imagine a cross between brut champagne, dry chardonnay, and crisp blonde ale.

Next on the list was a really bad porter.  I don’t know, sorry if you’re reading this, you’ve had it and you like it, the description says “mellow and drinkable”.  I got mellow and stinkable.

Finally, all was not lost, a special release called “Other Heaven” Red ale won the day.  Maybe after that porter, this one just wasn’t bad, but I choose to not be cynical.  Other Heaven was a great balance between sweet, caramelized malts, bitter hops, and a delightful cherry- toffee finish.  I’ve been lacking some good ambers in my life and this one truly hit the spot.

The rum was great, but the mojito was lacking, the 1st and last beers were great, but the porter was downright awful.  Maybe someone else might rate them slightly higher, but it’s tough to have one bad apple that is that bad of an apple, all in all, I give Helios Brewing and Distilling an 8.4 out of 10.