An acrostic poem and a haiku about Belgian beer*

What appeared to be the keg storage shed at Dupont.

What appeared to be the keg storage shed at Dupont.

*Some advice commonly given to inexperienced writers such as myself goes a little like the following “If you need to write and can’t get started, just start writing words” I have in the past used this technique as a bit of a brain dump onto the page but even this did not help me over-come my inability to write about what I learnt and what I loved in Belgium. I still could not get anything of sense to paper. As a last ditch effort I took it way back when I was a wee lad prior to all of my beer drinking and decided an acrostic poem might have the answers. I wrote the haiku for fun after I got on a roll.

Very pretty and well worn in mashtun at Brouwerij Slaghmuylder who make Witkap-Pater beers.

Very pretty and well worn in mashtun at Brouwerij Slaghmuylder who make Witkap-Pater beers.

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Copper open fermenters at Liefmans brewery. Because that is how they do it. 

Copper open fermenters at Liefmans brewery. Because that is how they do it. 

 

Brewed without any rules

With care, love and attention

Ensure the right glass.

 
Orval in an Orval glass with some Orval cheese on an Orval tray. Yes!!! I am pretty stoked about that!

Orval in an Orval glass with some Orval cheese on an Orval tray. Yes!!! I am pretty stoked about that!

London trends and... Cider

It is said that you can find anything you want in London. That now might not be far from the truth when it comes to beer.  Usually at the front of trends, it seems as if London as a whole realised they had blinked and missed the start of craft beer in other trend setting towns and have raced to catch up. The biggest trend in the new trend of craft beer was hops. Lots of hops. American hop centric beers were what everyone was brewing and what everyone was loving. It was like the whole city had just American hops for the first time and were going lupulin crazy! Breweries and brewpubs are popping up everywhere and those who saw the trend early have expanded rapidly and beyond belief. Chatting to one of the brewers at an extremely popular brewery he told me they sold a very majority of their beer within 20 miles of their brewery and their brewery was under a railway arch in an industrial area.

While hops were easy to seek out, what was harder to find in London was great traditional beer. It seems that before ‘new beer’ was on trend all of the rest of beer was out of fashion in London. Beer was just cheap pints of fizzy yellow liquid used to was down the scratchings at the pub. However, with a little help from my friends I was able to find a few great pubs serving local cask ales which I drank along with some pork pies. What I didn’t expect was to find was bunches traditional British cider being poured at the same places. Being a brewer of beer, but a lover of all fermented drinks I knew nothing of cider and asked a bunch of questions. They were each labelled clearly with alcohol strength and by the dryness of the cider which I figured out (through trial) was more so the degree to which the tannins were balanced by residual sugar. The publican told me some were clean and some were funky-and they were. They were also completely diverse and delicious.

4 Cs' of Yorkshire

Sunny day in Masham

Sunny day in Masham

Cask Ale

Yorkshire is a county in the north of England and is home to some of the most widely-known of British breweries. Samuel Smiths and Timothy Taylors to name a couple. The beers made in Yorkshire are not far different from anywhere else on the island with breweries sporting assortments milds, pale ales, bitters, IPAs, porters and stouts. They just seem to make them their own way. They use water from their own wells, hundred-year-old copper brewhouses and open fermenters to best serve ancient top fermenting yeast strains (sometimes the open fermenters so old they are made from slate.) The beers are best served from cask, pulled through a sparkler to give some spritz and solid half inch of white creamy foam. If you ask a local what the best beer in the world is they will point to the one they are drinking.

Craft Beer

You would think that in an area where such a high quality beer is and has always been produced there would be very little uptake of new styles of beer, but you would be wrong. My visits to Northern Monk in Leeds and Magic Rock in Huddersfield proved this wrong. Both are making American/new world inspired beers and nailing it.

Their taprooms are great and their local support is fantastic. To take modernity one step further a highlight in Leeds was bustling hip bar that served craft beer and Indian street food, an amazing combination that should not have spent so little time together.

Countryside

The Yorkshire countryside is stunning with rivers, lakes, drystone walls and little cottages spotting the rolling hills and green fields. Whether driving between small towns or perhaps on the train between stops on your own Ale Trail, the scenery is just as delightful as… a well-balanced pint of bitter.

 
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Curry

I love the passion for tradition in Yorkshire. Tried and true local breweries and pubs are treated with reverence and respect. But newer trends are not completely rebuked. The migration from south Asia in the 20th century has turned Yorkshire cities such as Bradford into a curry hub! If as a visitor you were not convinced of their prowess, the numbers do not lie; Bradford is the reigning Curry Capital of the UK and has held the title for 6 years running. A British tradition which is wholeheartedly embraced in Yorkshire is a late night curry after an evening enjoying fine beverages. At first I was hesitant but after sampling a few midnight kormas served with a naan as big as the table you just cannot deny the satisfaction of heading home to bed with a belly full of delicious curry.