My favorite European beers and one for 007

I get quite a bit of traffic on blog posts about food and alcohol. Especially alcohol. Must say something about my audience.

I’ve been a red wine drinker for quite a long time now. Years ago, I tried to learn about regions and grapes and vintages and all that jazz. These days, there are so many great vineyards and terrific wines that I get a headache trying to remember the names and I’m not talking about having a hangover. If there’s an in-store tasting that I like, I buy that. Otherwise, I stock up on Australian blends that come in a double bottle or a nice, crisp New Zealand Sauv blanc if I want something white, Spanish cava if I’m overdue for a glass or two of bubbles. If I can afford a single bottle splurge, I read the wine notes tacked onto the shelf in the shop.

A few weeks ago, we had a nasty heat wave here in New England. Nasty in the sense that the temps were above 75 F (24 C), the top of my comfort range. I had spent time at each end of the day getting a jump on yard chores that normally wouldn’t require attention for another month and as the sun began to work its way towards the horizon I had a thought that had not appeared in my brain for YEARS. ”This day needs to end with a beer”.

Odd thought, that. My favorite summer drink is my own sangria. Red wine, o.j., a splash of Grand Marnier and a good measure of either lemon or orange seltzer. It seemed too early for sangria, hot spell or no. This day needed something different. Something universally summery. A beer. A really cold beer. In a frosted mug.

Off I went to the package store (that’s New England-ese for what New Yorkers, among others, call a LIQUOR store and is known as an off-licence in the UK). Shortly thereafter, two six-packs sat on my kitchen floor. One was Sam Adams’ regular brew. The other was Staropramen from Czech Republic. Staropramen won the toss. Frosted mug, oddly enough,  always at the ready in the freezer. Aaaahhh!

I’m going to have to keep testing the Staropramen. Molson/Coors has bought the company and I don’t trust them to keep the formula the same, understanding full well that the stuff I buy in the USA is nowhere near as good as what I had in Prague!

I make it a point to sample the local ABV as much as possible when I travel. Fullers London Pride or Directors or whatever English (sorry, Scotland, and apologies to Monty Python but Theakston’s is crap) or bitter is on draft when I’m in the UK, especially if it’s one I’m not familiar with.

Netherlands? Oranjeboom. I’ve also had Grolsch but skipped the Heineken. I plan to have that next time I’m in Amsterdam, now that the Heineken brewery is open for tours that include free samples!! That was not the case last time I was there.

Belgium? Kriek. (I didn’t get to the Half Moon brewery before closing time in Bruges). Next time I’m in Belgium, there’s a boatload of catching up to do. I did have some yummy dark  Westmalle in London a couple of years ago but that wasn’t really cheating because I had it at Belgo, a Belgian restaurant.

Estonian beers? Tartu’s LeCoq and Vilu dark.

I might have wanted to sample some Murphy’s when I was in Limerick, but I felt obligated to stick with a pint. For those who don’t know, a pint is what you ask for when you want a Guinness. And yes, you can draw a smiley face in the foam and it will still be there when you’ve drained your glass.

In Prague, I sampled Pilsner Urquell (arguably the most widely available Czech import in the US), Staropramen, Budvar and Krusovice (which I have yet to find stateside).

So, the early spring heat wave brought me full circle with the Staropramen. A new way to conjure up travel memories.

Here is the link to the earth-shattering story that 007 is gonna be drinking Heineken in the new James Bond movie. Works for me! From the Daily Mail

One last alcoholic note… This is what I call a bike ride!! Brilliant idea, CAMRA, as long as the bike lanes are wide enough. It’s on my list if I ever start riding moving bikes, rather than that stationary thing at the gym.

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