Best Brews with a View; There's a World of Beer out There, Discovers Shirley Sinclair

Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia), April 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

Best Brews with a View; There's a World of Beer out There, Discovers Shirley Sinclair


THE right-hand index finger slowly moves down the list of German beers and comes to rest at an untried, unfamiliar name.

"Zwei Radler, danke," we tell the waiter, holding up two fingers in case our accent gets in the way of our order.

Moments later, two steins appear before us in the Munich beer hall.

Hubbie downs a few gulps and for the first time in his adult beer-drinking life, he grimaces.

"Try that," he insists, pointing at my beer.

I can count on one hand the number of full glasses or pots of beer I have ever consumed. This is my first attempt at a stein.

"Not bad," I reply after a sip.

He tries another taste, just to be sure, then announces deflatedly: "It's a shandy."

Not realising "Radler" is German for a type of beer with lemonade (otherwise known as bier mit lemonade) is the only mistake we make as we drink our way across Europe.

While tour buses filled with 20-somethings set out daily on a mission to drink, drink and be merry in a blur of 20 countries in 30 days, we aim to be a little more refined and discerning during our three-and-a-half-month trip.

We want to savour each mouthful of liquid refreshment and photograph each new beer encounter while still able to enjoy the atmosphere of every drinking establishment.

Europe has such a wide range of brew styles and locally produced favourites in each region of every country that you can take a stab at just about any on the beer menu and rarely go wrong for taste.

All you need to do is ask the local knowledge behind the bar to narrow down the choices.

And even "single lingual" hubbie soon learns to ask: "Dunkle Weizenbier?" - when in German-speaking countries for the dark wheat beers he seems to prefer.

But our plan to take things easy nearly comes unstuck early at The Beerwall in Bruges, Belgium.

This place (at Wollestraat 53) is enough to turn any normal man and woman into wide-eyed Homer Simpsons, muttering: "Mmmmmm. Beer."

We take our time looking at the gazillion bottles behind glass that take up one full wall of the long entry passage.

Once in the bar area, we pull down the brew explanations that hang from the ceiling, place our order and then try to find a table in the popular terrace area overlooking the canal - nearly causing an international incident with a cocky American who wants the same best seat in the house.

We finally settle in to a lazy afternoon by the water with the pink elephant label of the Delirium Tremens (a spicy amber ale from Gent's Huyghe brewery).

We find the Gouden Carolus (a full-bodied dark brown ale with a sour/fruity aftertaste from the Flemish town of Mechelen) goes down easily, too, on this hot summer's day.

In the street cafes and restaurants of Bruges's Marktplatz later that night, the Kwak - a Flemish beer from the family-run Bosteels brewery - dominates the tables, more so for the quirky hourglass-style drinking vessel on a timber stand than necessarily the amber ale contents. Leffe Brune - produced in Leuven, east of Brussels - soon becomes a firm favourite among tourists for its dark, aromatic, full-bodied taste.

Bruges is also where we are introduced to Trappist beers.

Trappist-certified beers are brewed in Trappist monasteries, produced by the monks, with profits used to support the monastery and its social welfare programs for the community. Six of the eight Trappist breweries in the world are in Belgium.

One of hubbie's favourites is the dark and sweet Rochefort produced at a Trappist monastery in the Ardennes that is best consumed amid the grandeur of Brussels' Grand Place.

Belgium has about 180 breweries of varying sizes and takes its beer-production seriously, so it's no wonder Belgian beers are consistently among the world's most awarded brews.

And we soon learn that the quality and shape of the glass can also improve the taste - just like crystal wine glasses. …

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