Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Day in Zurich

Day in Zurich - MR

Sometimes when a company travel system chooses the cheapest tickets, odd things happen. Such as a 13-hour layover in Zurich. However this gives one time to stash their bags in a locker, wash up/shave in the airport bathroom, and head out on the train.

Besides the sights and sounds, was able to try - at the Zurich Kornhaus a
Feldschlösschen Original Bier

Then a short walk to the Cafe Lang for lunch and a
Chur   Churerbier
Salzburger     Stiegl
Locher            Appenzeller Schwarzer Kristall 
(called a Swiss Stout but more of a Schwarzbier)

Last but not least the At the Amboss Rampe brew house for a
Amboss           Weizen

 Then home.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mumbai India - MR

Every few years I travel to India for business; usually Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Now there are several interesting things about India, that you may or may not be aware of.

First, in late May, it is hot. I mean hot. But that's obvious.  Also, the spiciness of the food can sneak up on you; I mean it's delicious but if you are not used to it, watch out!

Also, I have been told that there is a tradition where Indians "treat visitors like gods" and they do. A great example of that was the weekend excursion to the microbrewery in Dombivli - Gateway Brewery. Now as a backstory, there is not much in the way of beer in Mumbai, there are large breweries, but (almost) no brewpubs or microbreweries, but that is slowly changing. And fortunately the nascent change was actually observable and palpable; lets see what it's like in 2-3 years.

Anyway, on the way to Dombivli on May 25, it seemed like a cakewalk, as the driver - Santosh - said he was from the town. But as it turned out he did not know where the brewery was. Santosh did call one of the owners - Krishna. Well, he didn't just clarify the directions, he and some friends led us there. 

Along with an associate from Belgium - Jon, and his wife - we had the "rupee tour" and then had some sampling. 

Very unusual for a small brewery, they have a spice roaster, where they roast their own grain.

Was able to try the following, which will hopefully be for sale soon:
Like That Only - Pale Ale
White Zen - Berliner Weisse

Like That Only "Batch 1" - Pale Ale 
This was highly filtered which took some of the flavor out of it; but still great. Jon described it as "benchit" (sp?) which was Flemish(?) for "sister-f*cker".  Anyway, back to the beers:
Reclaim - IPA
It was interesting to try an IPA from India as opposed to one going the other way! As is customary, a gift was brought and - surprisingly - one was also provided. 

What a fantastic event, to be at the birth of a brewery.

After Gateway, it was a bit of a letdown to go to the British Brewing Company back in Mumbai. 

Although it will be a brewpub, it is not currently producing beer. What was interesting is that an iPad is the menu! With lunch, had a:
Kingfisher Draught in a pub can
Foster's Lager (brewed by Skol India)

The food was very good, but the manager was asked why they aren't brewing any beer yet. They do have plans, but that hasn't happened yet. I did suggest that - should they want to carry a local microbrew - to call Gateway. Hopefully they can hook up and make some Mumbai beer geeks happy.

As a postscript, later we heard that BBC did contact Gateway; and as Krishna said it. "If you can make it all the way to our brewery, you are a true beer geek, Pleasure is all ours."

That night, back at the Renaissance hotel, dinner was at the fantastic buffet restaurant. 

 Some amazing dishes, many from different regions of India. Sampled the "not hottest" curry, and was inspired by an ancient Saturday Night Live skit to post the following on FB:

As he bit into the semolina-crusted chicken slathered in red pepper paste, he felt his lips immediately swell, then burst, showering nearby diners with blood.

His gums ignited, blackened, and peeled back from his jaw, exposing bare bone, which subsequently crumbled into ash.

Tears began shooting from his eyes with the force of a fire hose; steam blew from his ears - cartoon style - and his internal organs suppurated, liquefied, and squelched out through various alimentary orifi.

In spite of all that, with his last coherent thought as the remaining internal organs began to shut down, he smiled and said to himself "this is f*cking delicious!!"

However, ironically (to steal a joke from Saturday Night Live, back when it was actually funny), the manager stopped over and said (N.B. Indians always mix up Westerners first and last names): "Oh Mr. Mark, a thousand pardons; that was only the medium-spiced curry!"

The next day, besides the Gandhi museum and the Gateway to India...

Plans were afoot to stop in at the Barking Deer Brewpub, Mumbai's first brewpub. 

The brunch buffet was awesome, with a lot of really nice small finger food and other items. 

Their beer was not ready yet, so instead had a:
Fullers - Black Cab stout
Estrella - 1906 Reserva Especiale

Gregory, one of the principals, chatted a while about the brewery and their plans. Let him know that the place was quite smartly done up, and the food was very good; the pictures do not do it justice. 

One of the brewers from Alaska brewing is the brewer, and the blonde was quite good. Even thought it was not for sale yet, was able to try the
Barking Deer - Blonde Bombay Bombshell*
(*provisional name)

After that it was back to the hotel. 

Now, to acquaint you with traffic in the Mumbai area. Traffic in Indian metropolitan areas is best summed up like this. Although a cacophony of motion and colors, the dance of vehicles in traffic is reminiscent of schools of tropical fish; they mingle and merge in an orchestrated ballet, without ever colliding.

And horns: schools of tropical fish, each one incessantly honking a f-ing horn.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Montreal Canada [MB MR MS]

In which MR and MS and MB sample many beers, run afoul of the local gendarme, find some unusual credit card policies, and enjoy an unplanned holiday. 

Bonjour, hier je suis... waitaminit, yesterday (2013-05-17) was the first day in Montreal. Now with any city you visit, the most important is to pick the cheapest hotel that is also the closest to the brewpubs and breweries.

First off, being 500 feet from a brewpub is a good start. Had lunch at the 3 Brasseurs (brewers) which is a boutique chain brewery.

Sampled a full flight - or "l'etchétéra" of their offerings.
La Blanche (white) - mild apples, very good [3,955]
La Blonde (blonde)
L'Ambrée (amber, you see, all the names are in French!)
La Brun (brown, we thought "bear" for a moment)
La Rye Pale Ale (ok, that was English) - a standout beer
Le Spring Fling (golden ale)

Next up was a tiny brewpub - Rēservoir. To cleanse the palate had some wonderful, fresh crisps.

Sampled the
Weizen - very good
India Pale Ale
Bière aux Cerises (beer with cherries)

Did get to speak briefly with the brewmaster, and made plans to be back to try their bottled Saison and *gasp* Barleywine.

Being hungry and as MB was staying in Chinatown, decided to try some Asian food. Stopped in at Déliceux Montreal on 1051 Blvd. St-Laurent. Great food, also had a
St. Amboise - Noir Avoine (oatmeal stout).
What was odd is that this restaurant did not take "American" (i.e. no 'chip and PIN') credit cards!! Thank goodness we had enough cash.

The next day - 2013-05-18 - was spent potentially exploring some breweries and brewpubs. One writes "potentially" as some breweries were closed, some did not exist (or it was a business address) and some were closed, until 3 PM.


Now what do you do when you are at a "don't walk" signal, and there is no traffic for as far as the eye can see? I mean, unless Doc Brown appears in his chronologically-enhanced deLorean, even a moderately fast tortoise could make it across safely. Well, turns out in Montreal, that is against the law. The local constabulary stopped and gave a reminder that this is normally punishable by a fine of $40; thankfully as ignorance is easy to forgive; there was no tariff levied! Merci!

Anyway, as food was needed, a brunch at L'Assommoir was needed. Fortunately their bar was open, and besides a fantastic vegetarian omelet, sampled
Okanagan Spring - Pale Ale

Unibroue - Blanche de Chambly, White Beer on Lees
Sleeman's - Rousse (Red ale)


Fortunately, les Brasseurs de Montréal (the Brewers of Montreal, sounds sort of dull in English?) opened at 2:30; let the tastings begin. Situated in an industrial area at 1483 Ottawa, les Brasseurs had quite a selection of beer, and not all were tasted, unfortunately. They also had a good menu of meals and snacks, and some crisps and cheese were purchased for palate-cleansing. They offered proper flights or "degustations" or "l'etchétéra", and beers tried were:
Griffintown - blonde ale
van der Bull - white ale
Clu Orientale - ginger / fruit ale
Rebelle Québecoise Ambreé - amber ale
London Ruby - red ale
Black Watch - Scotch smoked ale
Millésime 2103 - Belgian strong brown ale

Next up was Brutopia, at 1219 Rue Crescent, where the following were enjoyed:
Extra Blonde
Bitter Blonde - both ostensibly blonde ales, one was definitely more bitter
Honey - brown ale
Framboise - fruit ale
Maple Cream - cream ale
IPA - hand pulled or cask ale
Nut Brown - also on cask

Then on to BENELUX - Brasserie Et Café, at 245 Sherbrooke street west. BENELUX, for those who don't know it, is a sort of semi-mythical union of BElgium, NEtherlands, and LUXembourg from 1944, but certainly implies good beer from that region of Europe. And there was no disappointment. Besides a nice outside café area, the bar set up was a great place to quaff and chat, all while gustating:
Cigogne - pilsner lager
Gaïa - Belgian blonde
Lux Rousse - red ale
Yakima - pale ale
Cactus IPA
Believe they use Amarillo hops, which have a distinctive character, so you think Amarillo TX USA and get "cactus"; however Amarillo hops are only grown in Washington state.     [NOTE, the folks from Benelux responded: "Thanks for visiting us! great coverage of Montreal in places I haven't visit in a while. BTW: Cactus IPA is named after the bar for whom we contract brew this beer. No Amarillo in there: Simcoe+Citra"
Armada - brown ale
Armada - brown ale
Armada - brown ale
La Marge - Belgian stout
Mont Scharr - dark German pilsner
Grisette Saison Sûre - Belgian saison/farmhouse ale

Leaving BENELUX, headed over to the L'Amère à Boire on 2049 St-Denis. Deliberately did not want to try all their beers, as there were specific plans for MR beer #4,000, so only had their:
Odense Porter
Černá Hora - a blonde Pilsner

Then it was back to the Rēservoir, which had been visited previously, but had a beer with a great potential to be counted as "milestone" beer. Caesar, the very accommodating bartender, welcomed us back, and remembered the plans for beer 4k. First off, with some snacks, tried their:
Noir à L'Avoine - oatmeal stout
Cream Ale
...before settling on two special beers. Rēservoir bottles certain special beers (which makes sense given the style) in 750 ml, and has these for consumption only in the brasserie. First off, the

was a standout, and at 6.9 ABV was not a beer to drink without sharing. Fortunately, in any good beer bar there is a lot of camaraderie, so a couple of people near us were only too happy to be offered a pour.

The next of course was their

Barley Wine - barleywine ale [#4,000]

and the question is how good was it? Marveilleux! It could be even better, or at least quite different, after some aging. What was even nicer is the bottle - as a trophy - was allowed to be taken. Merci, Caesar!

Later the next day's evening - 2013-05-20 - it was out and about, starting with a fantastic hookah/cigar bar - Café Gitana - on the way north from Brutopia, and besides some Cbaños, shared a
St. Ambrose Cream Ale
Belle Gueule - pale lager

Also tried some Raki, an anise-flavoured Turkish liquor similar to Ouzo.

Next was the Le Saint-Bock Brasserie Artisanale, at 1749 Rue Saint-Denis. What was very unusual about this place was that they sell other beers besides the ones they brew. Asked the bartender to start with the lighter ones, and go down the list.

Trois Mousquetieres - Blanche - white ale
Brasseurs du Temps - La Saison Haute -- Belgian saison/farmhouse ale
Naufrageur - Houblons Sauvages - pale ale
Boréale - Trinquette 25 - golden ale
Boréale - Cuivrêe Boréal - strong ale
Brasseurs du Monde - Célébrante - Belgian blonde ale
Het Anker - Lucifer - Belgian strong ale (8%)
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Trâitre - ESB
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Stigmate - brown ale
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Sacristie - dunkelweizen
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Croisade - robust porter
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Porter Baltique - Baltic porter
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Naufrageur Double IPA
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - La Gargouille - Belgian brown ale
A L'Abris de la Tempête - Palabre du Pingouin - Eisbock (11.9%)
Broadway - Sherlock Holmes - stout
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Confession - red ale
LWS Brasseurs RJ - École Buissonnière - blonde ale
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Calice Cask - American IPA cask ale
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Saint Bock Special V - barleywine, aged in Chardonnay barrels, from 2011
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Saint Bock Special V - barleywine, aged in Pinot Noir barrels, from  2011
Le Saint-Bock Brasserie - Saint Bock Special V - barleywine, from  2011
As the latter 3 were shared with some other folks in the bar, they also shared a
Achelse Kluis - Belgian Trappist Brown ale from 2011

From there it was to the Le Cheval Blanc at 809 Rue Ontario Est; as the night was getting late (altho they are open until 3), we only tried their
Red Ale Americane - red ale
Also sampled a
Guldenberg - Bière d'Abbaye - Belgian abbey blonde ale
Armada - brown ale

Pretty good time in Montreal.