A Random Walk Down Memory Lane
A couple of months ago we decided it was time to give our Beer Traveler passports a hiatus. We’ve had a long and pleasant relationship with All About Beer Magazine, almost seven years now. We’ve loved reporting about our travels and the many wonderful establishments that have opened their doors to us as they shared their stories and the fruits of their labors. But, as the old adage goes, all things good things must come to an end.
And it’s no different with us. We no longer travel as often, so we decided it was time to pass the Beer Travelers notebook, keyboard and torch. Once we made that decision, we started to think about our final column. Then, all of a sudden, the memories of so many establishments returned like anxious children demanding attention. We also realized that there are so many more places we wish we could have told you about, but didn’t.
Some closed before we had the chance to mention them, some never conveniently grouped with other establishments, and others fell victim to the dreaded word-count police. We’d be remiss if we signed off without telling you about at least a few of these places. So, without further ado, here’s our walk down the memory lane of not-quite forgotten places you may enjoy.
Most Unusual Landmark: Brouwerij ‘t IJ. If you find yourself in Amsterdam, be sure to visit. The brewery occupies the site of an old bathhouse in the eastern corner of the city, but it’s located next to an old windmill, which makes it oh-so-convenient to spot as you’re riding the tram. IJ is the nearby river. The house beers are organic Belgian-style ales that won’t disappoint. The interior is spartan, but the atmosphere is friendly and laid-back.
Establishment We Miss Most: 20 Tank Brewing. For years, 20 Tank served up incredible brews on 11th Street in San Francisco. It was a place we returned to frequently, often several times during a trip to the Bay Area. On one occasion, we drowned our sorrows there while watching the Michigan Wolverines lose a key game. Unfortunately, the brewpub succumbed to a landlord who decided to cash in on the real estate boom in 2000. The dot com era gave us a lot, but it also took away. R.I.P.
Best Beer Garden Experience: Waldwirtschaft, Munich. There is no better way to spend May 1st than in a German biergarten. It’s not just a national holiday, but it’s the day the Maibock is tapped. Residents gather to sit in the sunshine, listen to music, dine on grilled chicken and sausages, and just plain have a good time. Watching multiple generations toast, sing and laugh together is a subtle reminder that American liquor laws are draconian. Ein prosit!
Beer Festival You Must Attend: Great British Beer Festival. You can count on the weather gods to deliver London its hottest week of the summer, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. Often referred to as the World’s Largest Pub, here you’ll find at your fingertips Britain’s largest collection of ales, ciders and perries—most of which you’ll never see anywhere else except for a few miles from the brewery. They serve by the pint and half pint, so you’ll need to plan your quaffing carefully. Luckily, the festival is five days long, so you can sample at your leisure.
Best Brewery Tour: Cantillon Brewery. It’s located in downtown Brussels, but this family-owned operation still relies on a 500-year-old process that utilizes local wild yeasts to turn out traditional gueuze, lambic and hard-to-find faro. The brewery doubles as a museum; a self-guided tour takes you past the brewing equipment and explanations of how these historic styles are made. And yes, there are free samples at the end of the tour.
Best Place to Pair Beer and History: Crown Liquor Saloon, Belfast. The beauty, detail and history are breathtaking in this Belfast landmark. Paul’s Irish grandfather and English grandmother told us stories about “The Troubles,” which came to life as we absorbed our surroundings. The saloon sits across the street from the former Europa Hotel, the most rebel-bombed site in the city. If you’re into political history, you can imagine yourself debating with friends inside one of the famous snugs. Even if you’re not, the restored glittering artistic detail deserves a visit in its own right.
Second-Best Place to Pair Beer and History: Mendocino Brewing Co. Ale House. Welcome to the appropriately named town of Hopland, CA, where wine country gives way to redwoods. Mendocino began life here in 1983, using the brewing equipment and yeast strain from America’s first post-Prohibition micro, the New Albion Brewing Co. Although brewing operations have moved to Ukiah, this historic little bar still draws a funky clientele of tie-dyed locals and beer travelers making their way along U.S. 101. Don’t forget to sign the guest book at the bar.
Biggest Tap Selection: Taco Mac, Decatur, Georgia. This beer haven is worth a stop when you’re in Atlanta. The legend about buffalo wings coming south is true, as are the reports of an enormous beer selection. There are 90 plus draught lines and over 250 bottles to choose from. Also on tap: SEC football, which pairs well with a pint, a plate of pub grub and old friends. Psst… while you’re in Atlanta, be sure to visit the Cyclorama, too.
Best Travel Respite: The Frog & Rosbif. After a week or so of drinking wine with the Parisians, we longed for a beer. Although Paris has a few of its own brasseries—the word means “brewery” in English—we found The Frog & Rosbif, in the 2nd arrondissement, to be a sanctuary of Anglophiles. It’s easy to slip away here and find yourself surrounded by hearty ales, fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding and, of course, football scores and the latest league table.
Best Sunset: Whalers Brewpub. Tucked away in what seemed like an out-of-the-way location in Lihue, on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, we watched the most beautiful sunset ever here. A hurricane destroyed it along with much of Kauai not long afterwards, and the brewpub never came back to life. We don’t remember much about the beer, but boy do we remember the view.
Best Special Effect: The Mechanical Löwenbräu Lion. Yes, we’ve mentioned the lion before, but our memories of standing outside the Löwenbräukeller in Munich one night many years ago during Starkbierzeit listening to a giant mechanical lion say “LU fen brow” still brings us to tears laughing. It helped, of course, that we had consumed several liters each of potent doppelbock.
Finally, an enormous “Thank You” to everyone. Thanks for reading all these years. Thanks for writing to us. Thanks for coming up to us at festivals, saying hello and toasting your favorite brewery and brewer with us. We’ve enjoyed it all.
If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, give us a holler and we’ll show you around our local watering holes and introduce you to Michigan’s craft beer. We’ll still publishing BeerFestivals.org and recently started a blog by Ludwig, our beer drinking lion mascot, which can be found at LudwigRoars.com. Don’t be a stranger. Most importantly, keep drinking craft beer and supporting your local breweries.
Until we meet again, cheers!