Iraklio (Crete) – One Legendary Night in Heraklion

The Bus Ticket from Chania to Iraklio was purchased yesterday, just in case. In theory I had an allocated seat, if there was a throng this should at least guarantee I get on the Bus. This is the disadvantage of travelling alone, one cannot deal with the luggage whilst the other secures the seats.

Four hours, approximately one hundred kilometres, slow. There was a brief stop in Rethymno where I stayed in 1998, we were making good time. I could see Iraklio in the distance when Marg phoned, we were over a half hour ahead of schedule. How can people board at intermediate stops if this is how they run things?

Hotel Lena was chosen because of its proximity to the Port, the Bus Station is across the street from the Port. I believe Marg and I stayed at this hotel in 2004 when our flight arrived too late to make it worthwhile to progress to Malia. That was a good night, Greece had just become European Champions, there was a buzz about the place. We watched a replay of the match at a Taverna in a Square. Who knows where? This was the beginnings of the digital age, 35mm film was still in use, so few photos in comparison to the present.

Doris gave me the key to room 103, one number less than Akali Hotel, still only one power socket. Bert, on reception, could tell for some reason that I am Scottish, a pleasant chat, but Hector was on a schedule.

Curry Park was a few blocks away, the alternative was in Hersonisis on the far side of Iraklio, next time. The Hector was fed, but not amused. To quote a Benny Hill character – Why you not rissen?

I had three venues mapped out worthy of a visit from The Bier Traveller. The intention was to go to the furthest away first then work my way back. To my surprise, walking up the narrow pedestrianised street from Curry Park, I found myself outside Utopia Cafe/Beer. What appeared to be a Bottle Shop was at the end of a line of windows, presumably – the indoors. I entered the Shop to find a decent array of Biers, nothing to set the heather on fire. The fridge had a selection, it would have to be Deutsche Bier – Schlenkerla Marzen (Brauerei Heller, Bamberg, Bayern), at 5.1% one of Bamberg’s finest. I made my selection known then looked for a way in. Doris gestured to the seats across the way, all outdoor, some in the shade.

You can sit anywhere.

Not there.

The best shade was at a larger table, so can people not sit together? I was moved nearer a group of females, all smoking.

Do you want to pay €4.50 or €7.50 for the full service? I was asked.

I looked at the Doris, what could – Full Service – possibly include?

Nibbles, apparently. I don’t need Nibbles, I have just eaten.

The Schlenkerla was an assault on the taste-buds after the Blandness of Eurofizz, or the Excellence that is Septem. How I would have preferred to drink my Smoked Bier in smoke-free surroundings.

One Bier here was enough, Hector had a Micro-Brewery to visit. I hit the highest part of the town and recognised nothing. Google Maps took me down a small side street to Crop Roastery-Brewery. There was quite a crowd outside, the majority in a small park area opposite, neat. There was a Bar on my left as I entered, and coffee house to the right.

Bier? I said to a young chap, he handed me a clipboard. He pointed to the first page and clued me in to the fact that these were the Draught Biers. The far end of the Bar looked like the optimum place to sit, at the Bar, out of the way. A Couple sat at a window table immediately behind the last Barstool, to sit there would have been, uncomfortable, nosey. I took the stool at the corner nearest.

Psaki IPA (Solo, Heraklion, Crete) at 7.5% with an IBU of 50, looked like a good starting point. Instead of pouring the Bier from the Tap, the Barman produced a Bottle. A Disappointing Curry, You can sit anywhere, and now Bottle instead of Draught. I think the Barman sensed my angst. The Bier at least gave off a decent quantity of Hops, there was a sharp taste with a hint of Orange.

Behind me to my left a voice suggested to the Barman that I should sample a Solo / Whirlpool Collaboration. A decent sample of New England IPA came my way. At 6.0% this IPA was surprisingly – Thin – the Hops were not intense. A Light coloured Bier, but Cloudy, it was Fine, – The Voice – assured me that it is rated.

I decided to return to familiar ground, it has been two days since I last enjoyed a Bottle of Septem (Eoboea, Hellas) 8th Day (Mera), in doing so I had demonstrated my knowledge of the Greek Craft Beer Scene. The Voice approved my choice.

The girlfriend departed, meet Dimitris, one of three owners of Crop Roastery-Brewery. In the short time I had been there, my interest in Bier had become apparent. Dimitris took up a stool around the corner, half blocking the Bar entrance, his prerogative. The Calling Card was given albeit the Bier-Traveller on the reverse side is in a much smaller font. Curry-Heute is me.

It was agreed that I must try more of the locally produced Cretan Bier. I had to ask about the name of the premises, I saw no Brewing Plant, but a huge Coffee Grinder where this could have been. Perhaps there had been brewing done here, perhaps there will be Bier produced at a new plant on their behalf in the near future.

The Barman produced a Bottle of Solo Imperial IPA for Dimitris and Hector to share. At 10.00% and with an IBU of 100, I may have gotten around to this, later. This was now, still early. This was a – party in a bottle – full on Hop Flavours and no astringency at the back of the throat. So Dry, one could do damage with this.

For reasons unknown, some Hops and Wheat – The Crop? – were produced for my amusement, a glass of something – clear – too, I would keep this until my departure. Time to share another Bier.

Next up was a Bottle of Night Vision (Noctua, Athena, Hellas) a Black IPA that tasted of Chocolate, oh yes! The 7.2% hardly mattered after what came before.

I had to get two things off my chest. Why do the Greeks have – no smoking – signs and ignore them? Even at Crop Roastery-Brewery, a Chap sat a few metres away on the Bar side of the room smoking indoors, which of course is illegal. Dimitris said they have to tolerate this on the Bar side of the room but not the Coffee side. As a servant to nicotine since his youth, Dimitris has now seen the error of his ways and vapes, as a stepping stone to quitting altogether. Good man, spread the word amongst your fellow countrymen. The price of Greek Craft Beer had to be mentioned, I related the farce that is the pricing at Bermondsey and also told the story of Kernel who no longer open their Bar to the public. I was informed that in Greece, Bier tax is based on original gravity – Plato – not the final alcohol by volume (abv). This suits Mythos-Heineken who produce weaker Bier.

The one Scottish Craft Beer stocked at Crop Roastery-Brewery was dismissed quickly.  We do not like how – they – do their business.

The untouched Raki was replaced with a Larger, Colder one. The Barman was now fully part of – The Company. Prokopis related that prior to working here, he had no awareness or knowledge of Bier beyond the mass produced. Both he and Dimitris are counting on more locals discovering what is happening on the Bier Scene. It is their livelihood.

The Raki was called – Fouriarisshe who is in a hurry. (I hope these notes are accurate, at the time of writing I discover that the Solo Imperial IPA is also called this.)

It was time for Hector to stand Dimitris a Bier. He recommended another Solo, this time the Porter. With an IBU of 30, this 7.0%-er was very Smooth, Dry-ish, another pleasant taste experience.

Hector was shown behind the Bar, the fridges and the storage area where the Key Kegs are stored. By this time there was three of us at the Bar, a Russian Chap joined in as and when.

A Liquer was produced – Diplomatico – A Venezuelan Golden Rum, Wonderful! Having checked the price of a bottle, this was thoroughly appreciated. This had become one of those – most memorable nights.

*

A Bottle of House Coffee and a t-shirt that will never fit me were put in a bag, Hector’s Takeaway. To say I had been well treated would be the classic understatement. I had already considered that Marg should see Chania next year and discover what she missed. Heraklion is now firmly on the radar, Hector has to get back here. February 2018? What are winter flight prices like to Crete?

Any sensible person would have tottered off home, Hector had another venue to check out.

Bier O’clock was downhill in the direction of my Hotel. Located in a busy side lane, this was in the hub of it all. I found a space at the Bar.

A charming Lady served my Affligem (Affligem / De Smedt – Heineken) and also gave me a generous portion of Tortilla Chips and the tastiest Chilli Dip I have ever experienced. Not Spicy, when is Spanish-Mexican ever Spicy? No Kebap for Hector tonight, in fact, there have been no late night noshes this trip. This 6.8% Blond was sipped, it had to be the last Bier of the day, I was enjoying it here, Uriah Heep, you don’t hear them often in a Bar.

And so to Santorini.

The venues visited today:

Crop Roastery-Brewery – 4 Aretousas st., Iraklio, Crete

Beer O’clock – Par. Minotavrou, Iraklio 712 02

Utopia Cafe/Beer – Chandakos 51, Iraklio 712 02

Curry Park Indian Restaurant – Chandakos 58, Iraklio 712 02

Posted in Heraklion - Iraklio | 1 Comment

Chania (Crete) – Five Nights in Chania

Wednesday, June 21st

The Longest Day

The Summer Vacation, – The Big One – planned last September as soon as the summer flights from Glasgow to Chania were released, and even the accommodation at Akali Hotel paid in advance, non refundable. Marg announced that she wanted to play hockey in Dublin this weekend, so it goes.

A transfer from the airport was arranged on the Ryanair website, cheaper for one than a taxi by far. Imagine my delight when my Bus turned out to be a Taxi, Mercedes at that. The Hector was whisked towards Chania moments after clearing passport control.

I was puzzled as to why the uphill direction from Akali Hotel took me back towards the Venetian Port. Little more than five minutes to the periphery of the Old Town, I had chosen well, the benefits of an early booking. In 1998, Hector spent two weeks in Rethymno some 50km to the east. I spent one afternoon and evening here in Chania, it clearly had more to offer, I even spotted a Curry House! I knew one day I would be back here, pity it was on my lonesome.

Beef Stifado and a Greek Salad was foremost in Hector’s mind, I have come to learn that too many Greek Restaurants are simply Grill Houses, they do not cook the Traditional Dishes. Lithos was the first place I found on the waterfront which had Stifado. A half litre of Mythos (Mythos/Carlsberg, Hellas) was presented, 5.00% in Greece. It must have been poured into a warm glass, the Eurofizz did not have that much needed Ice-cold Bite, tepid Lager, I could taste it, an awful after-taste. How much of this have I drank over the years?

*

Until recently, I could not eat Fetta Cheese, now I can handle it, occasionally enjoy it. Fetta may all look the same, it varied considerably in quality, the small piece atop my Greek Salad was OK. The Stifado arrived before I was ready, is this it? No sign of – clay pot cooking – here, just a Beef Stew with the most minimal of sauce. In Curry this would have been welcome, I wanted much more. This was as poor an example of Stifado as I have encountered. Like the Bier, the meal was tepid, it may have been hot once. It became a struggle to eat the last morsels, and finish the Mythos. Not a good start.

Rudi’s Beerhouse

Assuming the Tavernas would sell nothing beyond Eurofizz, I was determined to seek out something decent. The usual sources flagged up Rudi’s Beerhouse on the eastern side of the Port. Passing the Byzantine City Walls, I was at Rudi’s in moments. A sign outside gave the warmest of greetings: Septem – Pale Ale  (5.2%) vom Faß, and at an acceptable price.

Around midnight, The Bar was empty, nobody was outside either. Rudi, Mein Host, was behind the Bar, washing up. His Lady invited me to sit anywhere, I chose a central bar stool. If this was going to be – My Local – for the next few nights, I may as well begin as I mean to go on.

On studying the array of fonts, the Septem was not apparent. The end Tap I would discover is used for rotating Biers. With Saaz and Nelson Sauvin Hops, this was a Mellow, but well-hopped Bier, very pleasant, and a huge difference from the Domestic. As Rudi became free from his duties, so we began to chat. There was an array of Bottled Biers along the far end of the Bar, the Large ones would be out of my price range no doubt. My Database reminded me of my favourite Greek Bier: Septem- 8th Day (Mera). Rudi explained that Septem have a Bier for every day of the week, and on the 8th Day, Bier was created…

First encountered at Beer Time (Athena) last year, Septem – 8th Day at 7.0% has Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra Hops. This IPA is Perfect, so Smooth, so full of Flavour, I could easily drink this every day. I now fully intended to. This has to be one of my Favourite Biers of all time. It may well be worth coming to Hellas just to experience this, and not as expensive as Craft Beer in Italia, or Deutschland.

Burniston

Rudi spent some time-out at the laptop behind me. He showed me the famous – Elevator sketch – I introduced him to more Scottish TV Humour – Chewing the Fat. Yes, this would be – My Local.

Thursday, June 22nd

The nights are fair drawing in…

After a late night, I was in no hurry to get up. Actually 02.30 was not late given that I had started the day in BST. The hotel bed was comfortable, there was minimal noise from outside, no street noise which impressed given that Akali Hotel is on a main road. Curry for Brunch was the plan, Namaste is on the same street as Hotel Akali, a five minute walk away from the town centre, such planning.

The Glasgow Real Ale Festival (G-RAF) started today, the first one I have missed working at, next year, it is written.

Frustratingly, there would be no Curry for The Hector until later, time to go back to the Venetian Port et environs and re-acquaint myself with Chania in daylight. The Hinterland of the Venetian Port proved to be quite varied, it would take a while to master these streets. I stumbled across an historic Synagogue but chose as ever to go no further. Nobody was calling me.

Late afternoon, it was declared – Bier o’clock, but where to spend my Shekel? I had seen how active some of the waterfront Tavernas had been at night. Happy Hour it said at Plateia, they had Alpha (Athenian Brewery, Athena, Hellas) at 5.0% on draft, this had to be better than Mythos.

Plateia had – Wi-fi – too which should no longer be an issue given than Roaming is now free, however, I don’t think 4G has fully come to Chania, uploading photos last night was almost impossible without.

The Alpha hit the spot. No nasty after-taste either. With a view west over the Port, this was idyllic, another Bier, and the price was right.

Breakfast was much later than intended today, as ever the full report on my Curry eating exploits is recorded hereNamaste.

The walk to and from Namaste was interrupted by stop off at every Pharmacy en route. I need to buy more finger bandages. Three days ago, whilst washing the windows, I damaged my right forefinger. The fingernail was removed at The Vale of Leven Hospital, Hector has been quite sensitive since. Most Pharmacies admired my dressing but had nothing to offer, eventually one had gauze that was guaranteed not to stick. This should be useful when my National Health supplied dressings run out.

Arriving at Rudi’s Beerhouse @22.00, a few were sat outside. Rudi was preparing the Snacks he serves as well as serving the Bier. The Septem Pale Ale Lager was still on, a good place to start. The discussion with Rudi about Bier continued. One of the closest of the bottles in the array on the Bar was Saison Dupont (Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes, Belgium) at 6.4%. Cuvée dry hopping – the label said. I was expecting some thing – Sour -Tangy – at least. This Bier tasted Dry and a bit Hoppy, there was also the distinctive German bier taste, Deutsche Hopfen no doubt.

This Bier tastes as if it was brewed on the German-Belgian Border – I said to Rudi.

Not a Bier I would recommend, so it was time to return to – The Best. The more Septem 8th Day I have, the more I enjoy it. If this was available back home in Glasgow, it would go down a storm, way better than anything I have tasted from Bermondsey too.

Friday, June 23rd

Having paid for ten breakfasts, I thought I had better make the effort. The Orange Juicer took a moment or two to suss, after that there was no stopping The Hector. Why does freshly squeezed Orange Juice look and taste so different from that which comes in Bottles – not from concentrate, why concentrate?

The pool at Akali Hotel is quite inviting, sadly Hector is under instruction to keep his forefinger – dry and clean – until the wound heals. A towel was provided for taking outdoors, a sunbed chosen, a good book continued. My Life in Parts – by Bryan Cranston, better known as Walter White, Heisenberg even. We are the same age, his life has been quite different from mine.

After an hour of – controlled exposure – it was time to head towards the Old Town of Chania once more, two more days of this. I passed the Indoor Market before heading down towards the waterfornt.  Near the Synagogue, I stopped at Restaurant Kritamon for an Ice Cream. The Menu was brought, sod the Ice Cream, I’m having Seafood Spaghetti. With Mussels in the shell, and Prawns aplenty with Bits, this was a serious interpretation. The Sauce was immense, Basil-rich. How come it never turns out for me this way when I use Fresh Herbs? Easily the Best – Seafood Pasta – I have ever eaten. 

To walk this off I tried to get late afternoon photos of the Venetian Port, including a – Self-timer. Pity I blocked that which I was trying to appear in.

  Bier O’clock

I enjoyed my visit to Plateia yesterday, chatting to everyone via Social Media, drinking Ice Cold Alpha in a frosted glass. The Bier may be everything I would avoid at home, when the temperature is in the 30sºC, it works. Wandering back to Hotel Akali, I passed a shop with – Columbia – sportswear blazoned on the exterior. A pair of their – special shoes?

No, we only stock sandals.

 Rabbit StifadoRudi had advised me that – Rabbit Stifado – is better than Beef. In my wanderings I had found a Source on the waterfront in a traditional looking Taverna – Amphora. The outside seating was busy, I could not take a table there and so pointed inside. The Chap was happy to accommodate me at one of the few inside tables where only another couple were sat. Eurofizz was ordered, the Rabbit Stifado, then I thought, – I’m here to dine. Taramasalata to start, a half litre of House Posé to wash it down, what the hell? It cost little more than a Bier.

Normally one shares Taramasalata, and the accompanying Bread. When the Stifados arrived, I knew I was in for the long haul. The Stifado was served Hot, yay! More sauce than at Lithos too. The Brown Meat on the Ribs was Excellent, full of Flavour. The Whiter Meat on leg-bones not so. As Dry as Chicken, as Bland as Chicken, not so good. Is this the correct Blog?

The Posé Wine was cool and refreshing too, only one Bier required.

Once it was evident I had had enough, the plates were cleared, I was preparing to depart, the Waiter had another idea.

A Complimentary Shot is the custom, I received a Vial the size of a Kölsch Glass, full of Raki. Superb! All for me, nobody else, it’s mine, I’m finishing this, any more?

I checked the legs before taking my first steps, just in case. I walked around the harbour, the sun was setting, the waterfront was stowed.

A quiet night at Rudi’s Beerhouse was anticipated. It was Wednesday, so why not have the correct – Mera? Septem’s (Eoboea, Hellas) W-Day, Wednesday Wheat IPA at 6.0% followed my usual Septem Pale Ale Lager. With Waimea, NZ and Vic Secret, Oz, I hoped for more. Bring on the 8th Day.

A small group of Chaps came in and sat two stools along from me at the Bar, one was from the USA, the rest local. Inevitably there was intercourse. We could see we were all here to enjoy Bier, after-all, there’s nowhere else in town. The American flashed the cash.

A Large Bottle of – Trappist Holiday Ale (Spencer Brewery, Massachusetts, USA) at 9.0% was purchased. He was – on expenses – and couldn’t get this at home. A Soupçon came my way: a Brown Ale, the most expensive Bier I have ever tasted (sorry, Graeme, the record is broken), with a full body and a slight sweetness, it was Kwak in disguise.

Have I mentioned that Septem’s 8th Day (Mera) is my Favourite Bier brewed in Hellas, and is rapidly becoming my – Very Favourite Bier?

Saturday 24th

Today, The Hector left Chania, only for a while. A Curry House was reported along the coast at Platanias. A World War II Shelter, now opened as a Museum, was another attraction. Breakfast was missed again, last night I started watching Season II of – Better Call Saul. Having bought the DVD a few weeks back, I only recently realised this gives the bonus of watching via wi-fi. Why could I not simply download it? I know why, as if… Michael will have Season #3 waiting for me when I get home. It was a late night.

The plan was to reach Platanias around 15.00, according to Google Maps, the Shelter closed at 16.00. It was a steep climb up to – War Shelter Platanias. It was closed.

Open daily, 10.00 until 12.00, then 17.00 until 20.00 – said the sign. Google Maps has been updated. I went looking for the Curry House, open at 17.00. Nothing much happens in Platanias before 17.00 then. There was only one thing for it, a walk along the Beach. Ugh!

The island just offshore became a focal point of the walk – Agioi Theodoroi, it had caves. I like caves.

Facing the walk up the hill, again, I decided not to arrive at the War Shelter in a sweat. The highest Taverna in Platanias is Vigli, a worthy objective. Only small Bottles of Pepsi were available to quench the thirst, two ordered. It was Ice Cream, time, no Seafood Pasta today. The view from Vigli is magnificent. One’s eyes are always drawn towards Agioi Theodoroi, the island landmark. Inland, I was certain the mountainous peaks were – Pyramidal Peaks. Crete must have been glaciated, though exfoliation may well have shaped the landscape further since the last Ice Age.

At 17.00, Hector was at the gates of the War Shelter, alone. At 17.15, a car drew up, the Volunteer for this shift. I was taken inside and given the briefing about the now – Museum. Mein Host told the fond memories of his seniors re the Scottish troops who were based here after the Axis Occupation.

It was cool inside, at each of the three exits were plagues of insects, waiting for fresh blood. A simple display, but worth the climb up the hill (twice) as I related to the couple who replaced me.

Bathed and changed at Akali, it was time to hit the town. Plateia once more served up some much needed Ice Cold Eurofizz before I headed for the serious stuff.

Once more I checked out the Brew House Speak Easy Bar on Akti Tompazi, the waterfront. Google Maps were happy to accept my verdict that this place has gone, Taverna Ta Chalkina may well be occupying their space. Rudi was quietly pleased when I said the Brew House had gone, a rival no more. It had never been a Brewery anyway. He told me that many venues do not last the year. Corporation Tax in Greece is 50%, people in Greece pay tax?

Tonight’s new Bottled Bier experiment was Charma Pale Ale (Cretan Bewery, Chania, Crete) at 5.5%. A golden orange, it was meant to have a Citrus flavour, this came very slowly as did a hint of Hops, it was at least – Refreshing. Sources dispute the abv. Rudi had it at 5.2%, Ratebeer at 6.0%.

Rudi plays Jazz most of the time. Around 23.00 the venue next door drowns out his mellow music, they are loud and are not meant to be. The police pass every so often, a Chap strategically placed at the end of the street gives warning, down goes the music, and then moments later… Corruption, in Greece?

We’re closed tomorrow – was a casual remark made by Rudi’s Lady in reply to a something I said. I thought she was joking, alas not. Sunday closing, even in Summer. Would this Septem 8th Day (Mera) be last until Athena?

Four good nights supping Excellent Bier.  My thanks to Rudi for entertaining me.

Sunday 25th

Today I was determined to do the Chania City Bus Tour. The Chap outside the Bus Station was apparently doing his utmost to make this difficult. A Bus was on stand, it would not leave for another thirty minutes, he sent me away. I arrived back in good time, no Bus. Another wait, a delay, then finally.

The Bus headed to Souda, the modern Port for Chania, I’m glad I did not believe the blurb I had read elsewhere, there is nothing to see.

What I did learn was the extent of Chania, with a modest Beach to the east but a much more impressive stretch to the west at Nea Chora.

Not only that, given the shape of the coastline, it was nearer Akali Hotel and Namaste to which I promised to return. Nea Chora looked to be a hive of activity, there was a sense of a Promenade, and the customary stretch of Tavernas. Was there Bier?

After a hot Bus Tour it was most certainly time for a final visit to the Venetian Port and Ice Cold Alpha at Plateia. My second Curry at Namaste again took me by surprise, a rare – Wow – moment. Thereafter I headed to the western extremity of Nea Chora and worked my way back.

At night, Nea Chora was remarkably different, quiet, almost seedy. No Bier called, after four good nights I felt perhaps I needed a break. Better Call Saul has caught my imagination, I need Season #3, soonest.

Chania  –  The Venues visited:

Rudi’s Beerhouse – Kallergon 16, Chania 731 32

Lithos – Akti Kountourioti 7, Chania 731 00

Plateia – Akti Tompazi, Chania 731 32

Kritamon – Kondilaki 38, Chania 731 31

Amphora – Akti Kountourioti 49, Chania 731 31

Namaste Indian Restaurant  –  Kissamou 186, Chania 731 00

Akali Hotel – Kissamou 55, Chania 731 36

Platanias – The Venues visited

Vigli – at the top of the hill

Krisna – Authentic Indian Restaurant (PEO Kissamou Chanion 102, Platanias 730 14

War Shelter Platanias

 

Posted in Chania, Platanias | 2 Comments

Kippen – Fallen Brewing Company – Jars in Memory of Jason

Fallen Brewing Company – Station House, Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland FK8 3JA

Martyn offered Hector the last two seats on the bus to Fallen Brewing at the start of the week, Dr. Stan would be my – Plus one. This would be Hector’s first – State Bar – outing, Martyn was determined to continue the excursions that Jason had started in bygone years. A £2.00 pint of Soda Water was my aperitif before the 13.00 departure.

For reasons nefarious, we headed north west via Stockiemuir and a View fit for a Queen, driving round two sides of the Campsies. It hasn’t rained in the West of Scotland for ages, we were in for another fine day.

Arriving at the Brewery just after 14.00 we were greeted by Paul Fallen the owner, unfortunately he had to leave us. I had a mental picture of an abandoned train station, and a brewing plant on a platform. A short embankment with a sandstone brick outcrop was the only evidence of what might have been here once upon a time. Imagine a railway line connecting Balloch and Stirling, that there was one, and it was callously closed, belies logic. Thank you, Dr. Beeching.

Jamie, the sales and marketing manager, took us around the plant and explained the brewing processes. Fortunately we had nobody to ask twenty minutes worth of questions requiring forty minutes worth of answers as we had on a CAMRA Trip to Caledonian some years back.

Au Biere

Two taps had been set up outside. Having sampled nine Fallen Ales prior to this visit, it was hoped that Chew Chew would be on, it was. Chew Chew and Platform C are two of my favourite Cask Ales, the latter being IMHO the best Ale on offer at the recent Paisley Beer Festival. At 6.3%, Platform C was deemed to be too much for a session, it was waiting for us back at the State Bar. Grapevine at 5.4% does not have the same – Hop Hit – as Platform C.  This is where most of us started, Martyn doing the honours initially. Thereafter it was help yourself; the Chew Chew at a modest 6.0% took a huge hit. This Salted Caramel Milk Stout may be the antithesis of the IPAs that I generally seek, however, it has brought me back to my roots, for my most of my life I have drunk Stouts and Porters.

Some went to see the canning machine in action, an opperchancity to take up a spot at the Bar with Dr. Stan and Alan. A bottle of Big Raspberry Dog Chew at 10.0% appeared along with cans of The Big 1 at 8.5%. The Dog Chew has – in your face – Fruit. The Big 1 is an intensely hopped IPA, very dangerous. A blank can also appeared, talk about – blind tasting.

The merits of – cans – were discussed, the way ahead it appears now that they are given a lining so that the Bier does not end up tasting metallic. Dr. Stan admitted to buying party tins of Watney’s in his youth, this of course will go no further.

The Chew Chew was finished, we would never finish the Grapevine in the allocated time. One lemonade bottle was the only receptacle for a Takeaway, Martyn commandeered this. We were back at the State Bar just after 18.30, Platform C please.

Thanks to Martyn for arranging this great day out, where next?

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Katowice – An Evening at Browariat, Plus

Direct trains are possible from Kraków to Katowice, in the evening. Steve and Hector needed to pass two hours between checkout in Kraków and check-in at the Katowice Hotel. This necessitated an hour’s travel north on an Inter City train, a change at Wloszczowa Polnoc, then another south west to Katowice. Two hours with complimentary tea, coffee, water, in the most comfortable of trains. Who needs a direct Bus?

As a Geographer, I despise those who refer to places as being – in the middle of nowhere. Wloszczowa Polnoc was certainly somewhere and its station quite peripheral. Had our connection been cancelled we would have been well stuffed, no other train for hours.

Hector’s third visit to Katowice, the short walk from the Glowny to Katowice Hotel has become well trodden. Rynek is almost complete, the Main Square now boasting a large sign saying – Katowice -, just in case one was not sure. The Katowice Hotel in all its former Communist Era Glory, remains a must for Hector. The price is right, the wi-fi works, the Breakfast Buffet has all one would expect in a hotel with more stars. The view from the ninth floor was, well, Katowice. Some traditional flats, too many 1960s era monstrosities still dominate the skyline. However, modern buildings may block these in time. Katowice has a charm, one needs a sense of humour too.

Pizza was eaten in the shopping mall at the Train Station, the worst service I have ever experienced in a Pizza Hut. Today, Curry was not on the Menu, Polish Cuisine planned for later at the excellent – Krystalowa. The afternoon Bier Session would get underway as ever at Biala Malpa. Last time they had virtually no Tap Bier, it arrived as we consumed the little on offer. Today had to be better.

The once open yard is now covered, a Conservatory for those who desire foul air. Hopefully this means the Upstairs is now smoke-free.  As the only visitors, we would not find out.

The number of Taps and the arrangement had visibly changed since 2015. Fourteen Taps have become twenty one, including a hand-pull, one Cask Piwa. We asked the Chap for our desired style – Pale and Hoppy, not a silly abv. The choice was not great. Loco Loco (Browar Beer Bros., Polska) at 5.0% was an APA, hopefully up to scratch. It was indeed, Pale, Gold and Hoppy, but the Hops did not taste American. This was a distinctly German tasting Piwa, and not why were in Polska.

I asked for some of my Favourite Piwa in Bottles, no joy. Apparently they have sold a lot of IPA, APA, PIPA in recent days, the stock has run low. Is this a feature now of Biala Malpa, lots of Piwa, but not the best? A Bottle of Szotowe (Browar Spoldzielczy) at 5.2% was the best our Chap could come up with. A Dark Gold APA, it was thin and had a slight astringency.

We both supped Ale, Hector hoping his would go away. Once Steve had finished his Bier I left what remained. This was poor. Biala Malpa should be so much better.

Thanks to Ontap.pl, Hector had a new Katowice Bar to inspect, Kontynuacja, a Favourite from Wroclaw, now here. Siostra Bozenka which went down so well yesterday, was reportedly available. We would pass our chosen Restaurant en route. Krystalowa has gone, what a loss for Katowice. Like Hotel Katowice, it was a venue stuck in time, and so were the prices.

Two Siostra Bozenka were ordered, it went off as soon as the Charming Waitress started pouring. Steve and Hector spent the next ten minutes sampling many Piwa to find one that was – in the style – and would enable us still to walk out, unaided. We had a long night ahead of us.

Gruby Joe (Browar Jana) at 6.0% was definitely not – in the style. An American Stout, this Piwa was suitably Dry in Flavour and was not OTT in alcohol. The hoped for Chocolate or Coffee never emerged, still, perhaps what we had was needed after that which came before at Biala Malpa.

A Chap started his shift behind the Bar. PodgorzSiostra Bozenka at 6.0% was restored, all was well with the World. Steve and Hector were headed to a Happy Place, we had – The Hops.

March 1st, there was a semblance of the days becoming longer, being so far east in this time zone helped. When it was declared a sensible time to go and eat, we headed back from whence we had come to Restauracja Indyjska Masala House. Curry was not planned for today, but Hector had to take the Opperchancity to try the remaining Curry House in Katowice. Only afterwards did we discover the same Restaurant has a new Branch metres from Kontynuacja. We also passed a branch of Ministerstwo which is known from Poznan. And so the expansion of successful Bier Outlets is taking on a predictable pattern.

BrowariatAn Analogue Pub for Digital Times

Previous visits to Browariat have been well documented. Robert Klos made Marg and Hector so welcome back in 2014 that when Fahren de Polen was conducted in 2015, The Company came here en masse. Two Legendary Nights, a third surely awaited.

Hi, Hector! – was the greeting as soon as I walked down the few steps from the doorway. To be fair, our visit had been announced months ago when the flights were booked, and updates given via a certain Social Medium. It was not even Robert’s shift this evening. He took over from the Chap who had been serving the handful of Locals. Soon it was just Robert, Steve and Hector. A Pole and two Scots, with a Pub to themselves, what could possibly go wrong?

No. 1 on the Board of eight Tap Piwa was Brew by Numbers‘ (Bermondsey, England) 21/08. This 5.2%, Hoppy Pale Ale was so much – in the style – that Steve would stick to this for much of the visit. In passing, Robert showed us a Bottle of Partizan’s (Bermondsey, England) IPA. The label is clever. It was Bier from this Brewery which kicked off my first sampling of Bermondsey Bier on my first visit to Browariat.

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One of life’s great mysteries is the Kernel Brewery (Bermondsey, England) who stopped selling Bier to drink on their premises, despite being stowed every weekend. Perhaps their accountants may have something to say in the long term. The Opperchancity to drink their IPA – Citra Ekanuot at 7.3% on Tap, and at Polish prices, had to be taken. Again, another winner. One could easily have stuck with this, however, as we were at a Bier Emporium, Diversity would be the theme of the evening.

The Bottled Piwa at Browariat is not just there to make up the numbers, each one is there for a reason.

Robert presented a Bottle of a Collaboration Ale brewed at Jopen (Haarlem, Nederland). Get In The Sea! at 6.5% featured the Logos of Hopcraft and Waen, both Wales. Hector knows Hopcraft Gazza and Sue from Waen, this had to be sampled, but hang on, what’s happening?

A very familiar rumble was grinding out from the Browariat Turntable, Hector recognised the singer instantly. Malcolm Mooney, original Vocalist from Hector’s Favourite Band of all time! Can from Köln! My Connection – from Limited Edition, 60p worth of Vinyl back in the mid 1970s. Excellent. Hector has tickets to see Malcolm Mooney perform with what is left of Can in London next month. The passing of their Drummer – Jaki Liebezeit – has been mentioned in my humble web pages earlier this year.

The Jopen, Laverbread Porter, was Seriously Hoppy, a strange Bier, with a slight Chocolate Flavour. The abv belied belief, a potentially dangerous Bier to sup.

Next up, an Imperial IPA at a mere 10.00% from Tanker, Estonia. One would never have thought that Hop Power had this abv, full bodied of course, with just a hint of sweetness, this was a brand new taste experience. A worthy recommendation by Robert.

The Vinyl was varied and interesting. Hector was taken aback once more when Irmin Schmidt’s – Endstation Freiheit from Filmmusik Vol. 2 filled the room. Irmin Schmidt, from Can! To hear – Can – in a Bar is quite unusual. The State Bar (Glasgow) would oft feature – Ege Bamyasi – courtesy of Jason. Bir & Fud (Roma) treated Hector to extracts from the entire catalogue in 2016. Good Bier, Good Musik, Good Company. It was becoming a question of how much more time would Robert allocate us? He had a home to go to.

Schrönramer’s (Bayern, Deutschland) Russian Imperial Stout at a modest 9.5% followed. With a bit of Sweetness, no Coffee or Chocolate, this was another brand new Taste Experience. This was a Bier! This was the time of night to be drinking it.

Robert was by now enjoying his role as DJ. Country Mike’s Greatest Hits was as bizarre a collection of songs as one could encounter. Steve should adopt some of these arrangements for his beat combo. Who are the Beastie Boys anyway?

The Last Piwa

Uiltje’s (Haarlem, Nederland) Dr. Raptor at 9.2% was a wonderful Bier to finish. An Amber Cloudy Bier, with so many Hops, but not to its detriment, one has to question why this could not have been drunk earlier. However, this was far from being a Session Bier, definitely an – End of Session Bier.

Farewell

No visit to Katowice would be complete without a night with Robert at Browariat. He has suggested that we spend longer next time and make some Daytime Trips together. Robert, you’re on!

Until next time.

The Bars and Restaurant visited today:

Biala Malpa3 Maja 38 40-097 Katowice

Kontynuacja – Staromiejska 8, 40-013 Katowice

Browariat  –  Francuska 11 40-015 Katowice

Restauracja Indyjska Masala House – Mickiewicza 32, 40-085 Katowice

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A February Day in Kraków – Because We Can!

Kraków, it has been a while. Since the end of 2015, Hector’s Trips have been concentrated in the west of Polska: Wroclaw, Poznan, Bydgoszcz, Torun, Gdansk and Gdynia. Steve was given the challenge of finding a four day Trip to Polska, and so we find ourselves doing the reverse of the summer of 2015. Tomorrow is Katowice, then two days in Warszawa.

Arriving in Kraków just after 14.00 via a punctual flight from Edinburgh, it was most certainly Bier o’clock. Steve was staying at his usual haunt in Kazimierz, Hector took the cheap option of the Ibis Budget next to Kraków Glowny.

The first port of call was the first of the venues Steve had not been to. Ursa Maior proved to be a hit with some of our group in 2015, this was a good place to start since it opens earlier than the typical 16.00. Arriving first, I had the place to myself, what would one expect on a Tuesday afternoon in February?

All Piwa here is from Browar Ursa Maior itself. Drapenzik (Predator) was a Light, Blond, Session IPA; a gentle, Hoppy Bier, a good start to the day. The Megaloman at 6.2% was the Bier which took some prisoners last visit, no sign of this today.

With only six Taps on here, the call of the eighteen was heard loud and clear.

Ontap.pl had been consulted, Craftownia stood out as the new venue in Kazimierz worth visiting. The line of Taps was perused, Stone’s IPA (Berlin, Deutschland) was tempting, but I had this at Source in Berlin recently. The Chap behind the bar proved to be most useful. Challenged with recommending a Hoppy IPA at a sensible abv, Browar Podgorz – Siostra Bozenka at 6.0% was just the job. With an IBU of 70, this matched Ale Bowar’s – Rowing Jack – and Artezan’s – Mera – which are the yardsticks.

On split levels I would explore the premises later. First the Piwa – Gosh! This was bang on what we look for. Hoppily Heavenly – this had all the required Hoppy Bitterness, and was not OTT in strength. There had to be another, after all, there was no guarantee we would find this again.

The Barman was engaged, he and his colleague who was on the laptop, have been here since April 2016. In 2015, Viva la Pinta stood out as being my favourite Kraków venue. It would now be hard to beat Craftownia, they are also not tied to sourcing Bier from one Brewery.

Having bought a Tram ticket down to Kazimierz at the Tram Stop, we found no machine for the return. A Lady standing at our stop assured us tickets could be purchased on board. How can one be expected to remember every City’s Systems? Is it not about time we had Uniformity, an EU Directive? Dare get on a Tram in Edinburgh without a ticket!

It was time for Curry-Heute!

The Indus Tandoor fulfilled most expectations, as is written.

The Tap House is the Brewery tap for Pracownia Browar. To have eighteen Taps on from a single Brewer is quite a feat. Markovy Resperator (5.6%) was deemed to be a Session IPA. After what came before, this felt too Thin, too Easy. The Piwa was being sold in 0.4l glasses which felt small. Having failed to find anything – in the style – to compete with Siostra Bozenka, it was time to move on.

Viva la Pinta

Viva la Pinta is notionally a Brewery Tap for Browar La Pinta though other Brewers are represented. This venue made a huge impression when I was last in Kraków. To see it on a winter’s night was quite different from the height of summer, all were most decidedly indoors. As we walked down Florianska, I gave Steve the challenge of spotting the entrance, no chance. This was not helped by the planks which took one from the street to the inner courtyard. By springtime the entrance may be more obvious.

Browar Artezean’s (of – Mera – fame) Pacific Ale at 5.0% felt like a sensible choice, we still had plans to visit other venues, no point going for the 9.0% Piwa. The Pacific Ale, an American Hopped Bier had bite, but not the most powerful of flavours. Our Standard had been set earlier at Craftownia.

House of Beer

For old times sake we had to go to House of Beer. It was as busy as it always is at night. The Hector Palate needed cleansed. Ale Browar had just the job. Johnny Sour at 6.2% only had an IBU of 15. This puzzled, we are always learning. Bitterness and Sour are on different scales. The colour may have been off-putting, the Bier did its job.

Standing at the end of the Bar, we could see the array of bottles, one stood out.

Can you see what it is yet?  Hint – The Knack

A Wild Goose Chase

Ontap.pl shows Wezze Krafta (Dolnych Mlynow 10, Kraków) as having twenty five Taps. This was a new venue for Hector, it had to be explored. A ten minute walk westwards from House of Beer took us to the address. Here is the proof we were there. At the time of writing, they still claim to be open. We saw no sign of a venue at this address, and here is a problem in Polska, it could have been anywhere. Next time in daylight.

Having wasted VDT, there was nothing for it, the walk down to Kazimierz on top of our detour commanded a taxi. Minutes later we were at what remains one of Hector’s all time favourite Kraków Pubs, Strefa Piwa.

Strefa Piwa

Rowing Jack was evidently not in town today, Siostra Bozenka was, it had to be. And so we stayed until after midnight when it was clear it was time to go, guess who was last out?

Steve walked the few metres back to his Digs, Hector had no problem finding a taxi at the market, back to the Ibis Budget. The Bar in the Ibis-proper was still open for another twenty minutes. Hazelnut Wodka, a Nightcap.

Tomorrow in Katowice, Robert will be waiting for us at Browariat.

The Bars and Restaurant visited today:

Ursa Maior – plac Wolnica 10, 31-060 Kraków

Craftownia – Krakowski Wielokran – Swietego Wawrzynca 22, Kazimierz, 31-060 Kraków

Tap House – Pracownia Piwa i Przyjaciele – Swietego Jana 30, 31-018 Kraków

Viva la Pinta – Florianska 13, 31-019 Kraków

House of Beer – Swietego Tomasza 35, Stare Miasto, 31-027 Kraków

Strefa Piwa  –  Józefa 6, 31-056 Kraków

Indus Tandoor – Slawkowska 13-15, 31-016 Kraków

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Halifax – A Town Now On The Radar

After an Excellent Lamb Handi at Sarina’s (Queensbury-Bradford) en route to Halifax, Howard, Dr. Stan and Hector continued on Bus 576 towards Halifax. Sit downstairs if you don’t have a head for heights, some of the drops beside the road are a bit hairy.

The Pump Room is located across the road from Halifax Bus Station. Six Cask ales were on offer, the Stillage behind the Bar; five Taps for Keg offerings also featured. A former shop unit judging by the shape of the premises, there was a sufficient variety of seating styles.

Yakima Chief West Coast IPA at 5.2% from Bob’s Brewing Co. (Hightown, W. Yorkshire) ticked two boxes: a Local Ale, and in-the-style. Suitably Dry, with some Hops coming through, a painless start to the day.

Being early afternoon, it was apparent to the Barman that we were not here for a session, but to tour the Bars of Halifax. He listed the other Microbars that have opened in Halifax in recent times, and offered directions. Dr. Stan was leading the way, The Man from Bradford had programmed him, what could possibly go wrong?

A couple blocks up the hill lies Halifax Town Hall. Behind this landmark building, adjacent to the entry barrier, lies The Grayston Unity – aka – The Grayson Perry. The most attractive ale on offer was from The Hop Studio, a Pale Winter Ale at 5.0% called Fire & Ice. This would be my third Ale from The Hope Studio (Elvington, York), add another to the list of Excellent Ales!

Fire & Ice had the distinctive Flavour of American Cream Soda, quite strange.

We sat in the room off the Bar, a Living Room by any other description, complete with watchdog. This was as relaxing a setting as one has ever encountered. The settee was 1960s – hideous – however, getting out of it took determination, comfort of sorts. We could have sat here all day, clicked our fingers and have Ale brought, in our dreams. Man you’ve got to move on, Man you’ve got to move…

The Alexandra Beer House was the next port of call, a ten minute walk along one of the main shopping streets of Halifax and passed the Halifax HSBC, very confusing. Google Maps showed it near the Theatre, it still took a bit of lining up to find the correct side street.

The downstairs is indeed very much a Bottle Shop with Bottles of Bier from everywhere on shelves from floor to ceiling. With only two Taps the choice of Cask was limited. Squawk (Ardwick, Greater Manchester) Pale Ale at 3.9% was the better of the two. With El Dorado, Chinook and Simcoe Hops, what more could one desire, the same at 5.5%?

We sat upstairs in what was a strange room. The homely Singer sewing machine aside, the seating was limited. If this place ever got busy, would people stand up here? I may never know. By the time we had finished our Pint, the odd charm of The Alexandra Beer House kicking in. They didn’t have Hanssens Kriek else I would have been dragged out.

With this area of the Map now within our grasp, we used a side lane to walk the few metres uphill to the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe. This was the most Traditional looking Bar we had visited today, yet much smaller than the typical Bar. We had arrived in the middle of a Black Ale Festival. The Victorian Craft Beer Cafe is a Multi Tap Bar with as many Keg Beers as Cask, something here for everyone.

Titanic (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire) Plum Porter was on offer, an offer not to be refused. At a very modest 4.9% this does not pack the punch of say Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, however, it has all the Flavour one could hope for and more, Plum indeed.

For the first time today we were in busy premises, thus the photographic record was restricted. Already there was the feeling that this would not be our last visit to Halifax. Four Micropubs, each with their own merits, it was time to try to the well-established.

Heading back towards the Town Hall, The Gundog was located with ease. This was stepping back in time, a Multi Room Bar with five Cask Ales.

Thunderbridge Stout from Small World Beers (Huddersfield, Yorkshire) at 5.2% had full on Chocolate and Coffee, truly Excellent. Two things were confirmed at this moment: Hector is starting to enjoy Stouts/Porters as much as IPAs these days, Huddersfield is becoming a Bier Mecca.

We took seats in a small room at the front of the Pub where – other Chaps – were also congregated. We were engaged by – The Chaps. Our Purpose of Venture was related. Dr. Stan asked how long it would take us to reach The Cross Keys at Siddal on the southern edge of Halifax. It sounded as if it was within relatively easy reach,but a hike nevertheless. We were advised that if we were going to The Cross Keys we should also visit Shears Inn.

We headed south, down Calderdale and reached the The Three Pigeons. This was probably only a few minute walk form the Train Station, but we had not passed this today, bearings were being acquired. The Three Pigeons is an Ossett Pub, a feature which ten years ago would have had us in raptures, no more. With nine Cask Ales on Tap, a reasonable array was on offer.

Abbeydale’s Deception (Sheffield, Yorkshire) at 4.1% would have been the choice once upon a time, time to try something I hadn’t had. Chinook from Fernandes (Wakefield, Yorkshire) at 4.0% was Blond, Soft-tasting, not demanding. If one is having Hops, one needs a helluva lot more. The Breweries which established themselves around the start of the twenty First Century may have got themselves in a rut having to maintain the production of what was – New – when these Hops arrived from the USA. Still, The Company has fond memories of visits to the Fernandes Brewery Tap in Wakefield.

The Three Pigeons is again a fine example of a Traditional English Pub with rooms off the main Bar area. Why this style of purpose built Pub never caught on in Scotland may be explained in the depths of history.

The walk south continued, we reached Holdsworth Mill. Google Maps wanted us to walk into an abyss of darkness, no way. We took the lit option an behold here was Shears Inn – Halifax Best Kept Secret – is their claim. You would not find this place by chance, em, we just did.

With three Taps, all selling Timothy Taylor (Keighley, Yorkshire) it had to be Landlord at 4.3%. How sensible we have been today, nothing silly, yet.

With this tried and tested Ale, we took a seat in the very comfortable surroundings. This place has clearly been here a long time. The list of Tapas/Starters caught my eye, and then the Mains, Marg would love this, I thought. Shears Inn has accommodation, I resolved to bring Marg here to stay, this very year.

We were still unsure how to get out of the Mill complex and find The Cross Keys. A Chap came out of Shears Inn, we asked, he pointed across the River Calder and up the slope. Somehow the three of us were in the back of his vehicle and were being driven up to Siddal. Wonderful. It would have been no more than a five minute walk, the drive was two. We also saw the route which was equally important.

The Cross Keys dates back to 1913, another Traditional English Pub. Salopian (Shrewsbury, Shropshire) Flashback at 6.0% was the standout Ale on offer. With Simcoe and Equinox Hops, an absolute winner. We had more, Dr. Stan announced this would be his last. Hector and Howard had other ideas. The Young Lady behind the Bar sorted a taxi for Dr. Stan, it was a bit far to walk. We stayed on. We were informed that the Landlord is also a lover of Strong, Pale, Hoppy Ales. Alas, he was elsewhere this evening. We had a Bier, we had a Pub, both worthy of note, we would return.

The Morning After

Yvonne had been texted, – We suggest a stop-off at Halifax for an hour en route to Huddersfield.

It took a while for the implications of this to take hold. It came to pass that Hector, Howard, Craig, Yvonne, Mags and Neil descended upon The Cross Keys, Flashback was still on. The Company were unanimous, – This is The Pub!

The Bars visited today:

The Pump Room – 33 Northgate, Halifax HX1 1UR

The Grayston Unity  –   1-3 Wesley Ct, Halifax HX1 1UH

The Alexandra Beer House   –  17 Alexandra Street, Halifax HX1 1BS

Victorian Craft Beer Cafe   –  18-22 Powell St, Halifax HX1 1LN

The Cross Keys   –  3 Whitegate, Siddal, Halifax, HX3 9AE

Shears Inn  –   1 Paris Gates, Halifax, HX3 9EZ

The Gundog  –   48-50 Crown St, Halifax HX1 1JB

The Three Pigeons Ale House – 1 Sun Fold, Halifax HX1 2LX

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Praha – Three Days in January 2017 – Day 3

+4°C !

After an hour or so doing – the sights – around Stare Mesto, The Bier-Traveller had to return to the hotel room at U Medvidku to remove a layer, a rise of 18°C, very noticeable. I had a quick look into the main Bierhalle just in case Steve was having a sneaky pint. In the end I texted him, he was a few doors along the corridor. Neither of us had any interest in Pivo before 14.00.

We took the Metro to Jiriho z Podebrad, no BeerGeek today, the destination was a venue which Hector holds close to his heart – the Birthplace. Pivnice U Sadu is where a certain story was told back in 2007 which resulted in the moniker – Hector – being applied to yours truly, ten years. We did have a Birthday Cake back in 2012, I had to at least visit sometime on this Trip.

Hello can I help you? – was the greeting from the staff member nearest the Bar as we entered. Ten years ago we all enjoyed our visit. Last time we left due to the incompetence of the staff. The tone of today’s greeting was not right. The smell of tobacco hit one in the face, half a dozen customers, every one was smoking, wtf.

You have no non-smoking area! – I asked rhetorically. Had it not been for the – special occasion – we would have left immediately.

That was the last intercourse with him, a Waitress would serve us, eventually. Again, walking would have been a consideration, there are plenty of other venues nearby. Sadek (Nefiltr) (11°) would be our solitary Pivo here. It turned out to be most pleasant, and despite the excesses of the past two days, went down very well. The Sadek was suitably dry, and cloudy as one would expect from an Unfiltered Bier.

It was Steve who borrowed from – Breaking Bad – to compose the celebratory photo.

Lipanska is a well known Tram stop to Hector. We headed over the Square towards it to find the Tram which would take us to Bulovka and hence Pivovar U Bulovky – Richter Pub. Having established we were going in the wrong direction, I decided to return to my strength and employ the Metro. Up to Palmovka and Tram 10, tried and tested.

My memory of Pivovar U Bulovky is of being a bright, modern, very Germanic Bierhaus, set in an open area. Imagine my surprise when we stumbled upon this modest establishment. Yes, I had been here before, so where is the venue in my head?

Most tables were reserved from 17.30 0nwards. An hour or so for a couple of Biers would be sufficient. We had a choice of four.

The IPA (15° / 6.5%) was the obvious starter. Ten years ago I would no doubt have gone for the Svetly Lezak, even then my Weissbier Obsession was waning.

The description of the IPA mentioned – Citrus – I could taste the Hops were from the US, but not necessarily the Hops I wanted, could be better, if a Bier can be overdone, this was.

The Vanocni Special (15° / 5.9%) truly was – Spezial. Smoky berries, a unique combination of flavours, I would return just to have this again.

Another Bier was an option, but there are other places to visit this evening. More importantly, there had been no Curry-Heute! Yesterday we passed Indian Happy Tandoor, research suggested it was well worth a visit. It was! With Quality Curry and a Unique Bier within minutes of each other, it looks as though Pivovar U Bulovky will be a – must visit – venue on future trips.

There was no messing about after the Curry. The Metro from Koblisy took us back to the City Centre in minutes. Our Holden Tours of the last two days had not included Restaurace Kulovy Blesk, this impressed back in 2015.

Kulovy Blesk was stowed. The heated/enclosed – outdoor – area was fully occupied. We went downstairs, no joy, but at least we managed a glimpse of the Main Bar. There was nothing for it… Excuse me, mind if we join you?

No more hand holding at our table tonight.

Bad Flash – Hop Wings – APA (12°) appeared to have the required pedigree. Sadly, it was relatively thin, even watery. The Pivo was decidedly dry, but had no distinctive flavour. It is possible the taste buds had been overloaded with Smoky berries and Marinated Lamb.

Steve took a different path, I returned to the familiar. Matuska – Raptor – (15°) had a much fuller body, the hops were evident rather than pronounced. This was a step in the right direction.

Now where?

Illegal Beer had not been visited, Jama I am led to believe is closed. Wherever we chose next had to be excellent, it would be the last venue of The Trip. The walk along and up to Dno Pytle was as done in 2015. The main room at the front was half full. As I approached the end of a large table, Mein Host pointed to the far table where we had sat two nights ago. He moved his Lady so that Steve and I could take our places. Excellent, and so was the Bier. Lissa – Huera IPA – once again kept us going until we decided it was time.

As we left I shook Mein Host’s hand. This is a my favourite Pub in Praha. I spotted Kraus – Bock – (Hirschaid, Bayern) in the fridge for tomorrow, Friday. Steve and Hector were there the day after – The Tapping – back in November. Dno Pytle has the best of Czech and Deutsche Bier.

If the Tram heads towards the river, we’ll get off this time. As long as it does not turn south.

When the Tram turned south, so we baled. It was a fair hike in the pouring rain to IP Pavlova, the Metro was off, Taxi!

We were too late for the Pivni Bar, there is always Reception!

And so ended three excellent days in Praha. In 2007 I was there three times. I need to go back again this year.

The Breweries and Bars visited today:

Pivnice U Sadu – Škroupovo nám. 1282/5, 130 00 Praha 3-Žižkov

Pivovar U Bulovky Richter Pub – Bulovka 373/17, 180 00 Praha 8-Liben

Restaurace Kulovy Blesk – Sokolska 13, Nove Mesto Praha – 2

Dno Pytle – Vinohradská 1485/63, Praha 2 – Vinohrady

Pivovar U Medvidku – Na Perštýne 7, Praha 1 – Staré Mesto

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Praha – Three Days in January 2017 – Day 2

-14°C had taken its toll. Hector woke in the small hours feeling as if there was a rock in his left eye. The bathroom mirror revealed nothing, the streaming eye and the pain continued all night, and all day thereafter. Should I have brought the – long johns – to supplement the thermal trousers which have been de rigeur even in Blighty since last November?

Google revealed I may have burst a blood vessel in the eye, pain I can tolerate as long as I know as it will end. Eyes heal quickly. Another legging layer would not be out of place, where was Howard? He has a pair at home, never worn. Ricky was here without a hat.

Steve managed Breakfast, Hector was keeping the appetite intact, the Curry House was visited twice on my last Trip to Praha, it had to be the place to eat first thing today. The Man from Bradford had another idea. He was due to meet me at the Curry House but found a cheaper deal at Prague’s only Sri Lankan Restaurant. Steve had Breakfast, he would amuse himself until summoned.

How the four of us ended up at the Curry House is written. It was now time for The Holden Tour to continue. Tram 10 from Palmovka to Kobylisy (spotting Indian – Happy Tandoor en route) where there was also a Metro Station, also connecting with Bus 200 to the outskirts of Praha. Pivovar Sedivak was the objective.

Alighting at the appropriate stop, it still took Google Maps to pinpoint our intended locus, yes, Pivovar U Sedivaka is located at the bottom of a block of flats and also goes by another name. With two versions of Pivovar Sedivak already in use, why give a third? Why not? Pivnice Grey – the name used by Google Maps until Hector stepped in.

The first thing that hit us on entry was the – Fug – one often discusses how bad – the old days were in Pubs – there were only a dozen or so customers in the L-shaped venue, but each and every one was engaged in – the thoughtless habit. Just what Hector‘s runny eye needed.

The Waitress came over after a few moments. Hausbier – was asked for by The Rickmeister who was so chuffed with himself for getting us here. He was effusive about – Holden Tours.   On Hector’s Horrible Holidays, smoking is not tolerated.

The Pivovar Sedivak (10°) is an Unfiltered, Light Bier. That it was not sweet at all, gave Ricky more to boast about. When the dry after-taste kicked in he was on a roll.

Hector’s moment came when the Lovely Braufrau appeared and the photo was captured. She told us she had created the Recipe for the Dark Pivo on offer, we had to try it.

At 14° the Cerne (Dark) had more body than the alternative and was again not Sweet. The reality is: all Dry Pivo can be appreciated, enjoyed even.

Due to the time getting out here, the sun had long since set when it became time to leave. Was it actually warmer than when we arrived? Hector would have put us all on the Metro at Koblisy, The Rickmeister insisted on a Tram. Alighting at Charles Bridge there was an attempt at recording the moment. The snow was falling thick and fast, confirming it was warmer, enough to bring the UK to a standstill.

U Dobrenskych was our next venue. Hector was here briefly in October 2015, the Bier was sweet, smoking totally spoiled the visit. I suggested we take a table in the lower room where I believed the air remained clean.

Having studied what was on offer, for Hector it had to be the Salvia Stout, Ricky too. Stewart took the Lemongrass Ale option. Despite telling Steve enough times, he would still go for the Tribulus. Or would he?

Such was the time taken to be served, and the number of times The Chap serving passed us, ignoring us each time, we nearly walked. Even after the Order was given, walking was still considered. He was – Slow!

The Salvia Stout (14° / 6.0%) was so much better than the Tribulus, it wisnae’ sweet. A full bodied Stout, this I believe would be the Bier to have here. Stewart passed his Lemongrass Ale around, no thanks. Meanwhile Steve pretty much hated his Bier. It was too sweet. Someone should have told him.

One Bier was enough, it could have taken all night to get another. Back outside the snow had stopped, however, the streets were ankle deep. Next stop should have been Pražský most u Valsu. We found it easily, but not the door. Eliminating the obvious we entered a business entrance well round the corner. A Reception was underway, not for us evidently. A Private Party, next time.

Pivovar Narodni was not far to walk and did not take long despite the underfoot conditions. My visit here in 2015 was all too brief, the Bier not that impressive. It was still early evening, had we travelled more than we had consumed Bier? Upstairs to the one free table which would accommodate us.

Expectations were not high, the house-branded Czech Lion – Lezak – Nefiltinovany – (11°) had been sampled on my first albeit brief visit. Steve took one sip, the expression on his face said it all. Hector’s turn – Diacytl – this was horrific. As a Brewer, Stewart was forgiving, methinks Ricky was not bothered. If we were staying it had to be something different.

Christmas Monkey (14°) was advertised everywhere as the current Seasonal. With Amarillo Hops and a full body, it tasted way better than the Lezak, but that was not difficult.

It was about time we found a truly worthwhile Pivo this day. Ricky had never been to the Beer Museum at Namesti Miru, he was scathing about the Original due to being – the smokiest place in Praha. The Master of the Tram found a suitable conveyor outside Pivovar Narodni, Namesti Miru here we come.

It’s expensive here – was a fair comment. Having to walk through the smoky bar to reach the non-smoking larger room still mystified.

Lucky Bastard Pale – APA – American Pale Ale at 5.2% was the Bier which spoke to The Hector from the Menu. This Unfiltered Pivo was too thin, a higher abv would surely bring out the Hops? In the end, a Hop Blast of sorts, was achieved.

There may have been many Biers to choose from here , but nothing on the List really stood out. There are better prices and better venues.

It was a short walk across the Square to Pivnice Nabidka, better known as 20 PIP Craft Beer Pub. The air was clean, the place was stowed. Stairs beside the Bar led to a Mezzanine, possibly an upstairs proper. We were told there was no space. Tables and stools were cobbled together, the four were seated.

Roddiny pivovar Zichovec – Mosaic Ale – (12° / 5.5%) hit the spot instantly. Full of Hops, a sensible strength, this was for us, a great session ale. There was more.

Noting that some people had come downstairs and not returned, I did the necessary and went upstairs to verify the availability of a table with four chairs. Checking back downstairs with the Barman and Waiter who had served us, I conveyed that we were going upstairs, with our Tab. More Bier, and maybe some more again. This was the Bier we had been looking for all day.

There was an incident when it came time to leave. The Chap serving us upstairs was not bringing us a Bill. We went downstairs to pay. The staff had lost all track of our tally. Ricky informed them that if they could not come up with a sensible number we were off. We wanted to pay, they still didn’t want money. In the end a compromise was reached, money changed hands. Staff stupidity aside, this is an excellent venue.

Ricky and Stewart disappeared to their cheap and remote domicile. Hector and Steve were served by the Metro, home in minutes, and back to our Night Bar at U Medvidku. Pivni Bar – is the official name of this venue.

Hector was last out of Pivni Bar, never fear, the Hotel Reception serves Residents.

More Old Gott, more photos. Tomorrow we will be two. Hector will be leading the way. Had I spotted the junction near which Pivovar U Bulovky is located from our Tram up to Koblisy this afternoon?

Day Three links from here

The Breweries and Bars visited today:

Pivovar U Sedivaka – Lodžská 765/15, 181 00 Praha 8-Bohnice, Czechia

Pivovar Dobrenskych – U Dobrenských 3, Praha 1 – Staré Mesto

Pivovar Narodni -Národní 8, Praha 1 – Nové Mesto

Prague Beer Museum at Namesti Miru – Americká 341/43, Praha 2 – Vinohrady

Pivnice Nabidka 20 PIP Craft Beer Pub – Slezska 1357/1, Prague 120 00

U Medvidku – Na Perštýne 7, Praha 1 – Staré Mesto

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Praha – Three Days in January 2017 – Day 1

Mr. O’Leary’s timetable meant that Hector was collected by Steve at 05.00 in time for our dawn flight to Praha. We arrived at our hotel – U Medvidku – before Noon, officially 14.00 was the check-in time. The Receptionist could not have been more helpful. Our rooms would be ready shortly, meanwhile we were invited to have a – Welcome Pivo. Well, we were staying in a Brewery! It was good to be in from the cold, Praha in January, -4°C on arival, dropping to -14°C by tonight.

Old Gott – Barique – at 5.2% was the first of what will no doubt be many Biers consumed over the next three days. Sweeter than one is used to, it had the body, no need to rush.

The room keys were forthcoming, up to the second floor it was. Quality accommodation indeed, a huge room with some interestingly named soaps provided.

U Medvidku is located metres from Narodni Metro Station which has been the focal point of many visits, from here I can find my bearings. It was deemed better to walk to my ritual first port of call – Novometsky Pivovar. Pivo and Chicken Wings, it has to be. The choice of Bier was Light or Dark, Novometsky Lezak at 11° has been enjoyed more and more over the years. Despite being just under the 5.0% mark, this Bier is full bodied, tasty and only a slight sweetness.

The Chicken Wings were more numerous but smaller cuts than I have been served over the years; with the Garlic Mayo, still something to savour. The Waiter offered us another Bier, tempting, but The Man from Bradford was nearby. Interestingly, the price of our Bier at Novometsky Pivovar was significantly discounted because we had ordered food, an excellent idea.

Go to Krizokova and turn left – was Mr. Holden’s instructions on how to get to Hostinec U Tunelu, which left? Google Maps can be very useful. After a couple of blocks and we could see a tunnel under the hill ahead, U Tunelu, just outside the tunnel, to where?

Ricky and Stewart arrived in Praha yesterday, it was sheer coincidence that our Trip would overlap by two days. Indeed, I was receiving texts yesterday to arrange a rendezvous for a Pub in Mala Strana. You’ll have a long wait – was my reply.

Seven Biers were on Tap at U Tunelu, all from Pivovar Konrad. IQ Nefiltr (11° / 4.8%) was recommended. Blond, but relatively clear for an unfiltered Bier, it was too sweet. When Ricky ordered food, there was the Opperchancity to have another Pivo. Spytihnev (14° / 6.0%) was full bodied, less sweet, a very decent Bier. I was warming to the Pivo and the venue. Ricky had also spotted that the Bier was discounted here also when food was ordered. One wonders how widely this is the case in Praha.

Being out of the City Centre, the pavements were still covered in ice. We took care walking back to the Metro, Jiriho z Podebrad was our destination Metro stop, but to which venue? BeerGeek? Fine with Hector.

Hector was here fourteen months ago as part of my two days spent with Fred Waltman. Being late afternoon BeerGeek was much quieter, I took the same table as I secured last time, from here one can see all.

Permon – Hopper Sorache Ace – (15° /6.3%) with an IBU of 50 was most comforting. There is strong, pale, hoppy Bier in Czechia, one just has to persevere. Sorachi Ace I now know is a Japanese hybrid Hop.

The electronic board featured Falkon – Double Idiot – at 9.3%, but who would order a Bier at this strength, this early in the day? Time to move on.

Trusting Mr. Holden can be dodgy at best. When he announced we were going to Dno Pytle next, all was well. Dno Pytle impressed greatly on my last visit. We took the Tram one stop down Vinohradska, it was slightly warmer in the Tram than the street, the temperature was plummeting. Entering Dno Pytle felt like going home. Mein Host was in situ, I enquired about Bier vom Faß, why was our entire conversation conducted in Deutsch, spontaneous. Mein Host has access to Bier from Franconia, two Barrels were cooling in the fridge. He did not take too much persuasion, one was tapped.

Fred told me that on Fridays, Bier from Löwenbräu-Butteneheim is served. What we were being served today remained a mystery for a few moments longer.

Lauterbachter (Lauterbach, Bayern) Nostradamus Doppelbock at a mere 9.0% had a well rounded flavour, was most certainly full bodied, and not at all sweet. Lauterbach lies between Augsburg and Ingolstadt, this was a new Brauhaus for The Hector.

Having put this on – for us – we had to have more. Dno Pytle filled up, the back rooms were occupied, there were more than enough customers to justify the Barrel. Eventually it was time to come down off the mountain, back to Czech Pivo. Beskydsky pivovarekLissa Huera IPA – (14° / 6.3%) had the Hops, Summit, Amarillo, Premiant to be precise. This was a great, hoppy, session ale in comparison to what came before. Seriously dry, grapefruit started to come through, Hector’s top lip was dripping. This was a Bier, we had more.

Things were becoming silly, Ricky announced that he and Stewart would have to take their leave having started so early. Steve and Hector had also started early with our – welcome drink – at U Medvidku.

Having been taken around today on – The Holden Tour – it was time for Hector to step up. The Tram stop was directly outside Dno Pytle.

We’ll take the first Tram that comes, as long as it doesn’t cross the river we’ll be ok.

As the Tram crossed the River Vltava, Hector decided we had better alight. The first Tram back took us to the Metro at Staromestka. Changing at Mustek for the second, or third, time today, we came to realise that the walk to take Line A to Narodni was longer than just alighting at Mustek and walking to Narodni.

The Night Bar at U Medvidku was the magnet. I have wanted to visit this for years, Unfiltered Budvar is what I believed I had seen advertised in the past. So, another Old Gott variant it was.

We took a table inside the Copper, crazy. Steve and Hector had lasted the day well, fuelled only by Chicken Wings.

Day Two follows here.

The Breweries and Bars visited today:

U Medvidku – Na Perštýne 7, Praha 1 – Staré Mesto

Novometsky Pivovar – Vodickova 20, Praha 1 – Nové Mesto

Hostinec U Tunelu – Thámova 396/1, 186 00 Praha 8-Karlín

BeerGeek – Vinohradska 988/62, Praha 3 – Zizkov

Dno Pytle – Vinohradská 1485/63, Praha 2 – Vinohrady

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Berlin – Stone Brewing – The Second of Two November Days

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With the day to ourselves, Hector was able to plan accordingly. We headed down the hill from Ibis Mitte to Alexanderplatz passing the Berlin Hofbräuhaus, the plan was to rendezvous here with Steve and Louise later. Firstly Marg had to be kept happy. I suggested the Hackescher Markt where there are a variety of suitable venues. Marg declared that if she didn’t visit the Brandenburg Gate then she would not consider herself as having been to Berlin. We walked along Unter den Linden from Friedrichstrasse, as ever there there was a congregation. What puzzles is how often the access through the Arches is blocked off, 10k runs, concerts, today something Turkish. Still, we walked across to – The West – because one can.

The Berlin Airlift

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The U6 was boarded south to Platz der Luftbrücke, other U Bahn Lines are available. This Square was considered to be the ideal starting place to explore Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof. Still unsure about what to expect, we were at the side of the massive terminal before it was realised that all of this construction was so. Boldly we walked in towards the Terminal, a Cafe was signposted, a dead end, Umleiting. A ramp disappeared into the bowels of the complex, it may be from here that the assembled Fighters emerged and went straight into battle in the latter months of WW2.

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Airside is now a Park, nefarious activities were underway. For a Saturday the area was quiet, the winter gloom couldn’t have helped. Standing in the middle of the main runway was another Historic Moment. The Berlin Population had a referendum in 2014 in order to decide what to do with this extensive open space on the south of the City Centre, the result, to leave it as is.

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The U6 was re-boarded at Alt-Tempelhof and taken to Alt-Mariendorf, the end of the line. From here it was a fifteen minute walk westwards along the Ring Road to the Old Gasworks. Stone Brewing is located in what is now an Industrial Estate. The building is a conversion, the Interior Designer had a field day, this is Bier Disneyland.

berlin-stone-brewing-bier-traveller-9The venue is huge and has diverse seating with rooms off. We selected a table which was booked at 19.00, a couple of hours for a couple of Biers should be sufficient. The IPA (6.9%) was first sampled at Open Baldin in Roma earlier this year, this was a must. To start with 6.9% felt daunting, Stone Go To IPA (4.7%) was therefore the first choice. With an IBU of 65, this was Absolutely Stunning. The Light Body, Dark Gold Unfiltered Bier hit the Hector Palate with a Vengeance. If one was here for a session, then this would be a worthy recommendation. However, time was at a premium, the IPA had to be had At Source. With an outrageous IBU of 77 this was more Bitter than the Go To IPA, but lacked the depth of flavour. This had the Body.

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berlin-stone-brewing-bier-traveller-6Meanwhile Marg, drinking wine, had ordered a couple of Starters to keep us otherwise amused. The Hot Olives were a new experience, the Dips worked well. The portions were Small, the prices were High. Indeed The Bill was on a par with what we paid for dinner soon afterwards at Swera, a Curry Haus. €6.90 a half litre is Pricey, and here we were At Source. Why can House Breweries not follow the example set by Cantillon (Brussel, Belgium) where prices at the Brewery are Discounted, Significantly?

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berlin-stone-brewing-bier-traveller-24We could have exited to the north and taken a faster S Bahn back to Mitte, however, releasing that Kreuzberg had a Cluster of Curry Houses, we returned on the U6 once more to Platz der Luftbrücke which was nearest to Swera from the South. Afterwards we headed North to Mehringdamm. We did pass a potentially other good outlet – Craft Bier – on this stretch, one for another trip. Kreuzberg may be a good place to reside, there’s plenty happening here.

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And so back to Alexanderplatz and the Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Those with the habit were draussen, Bouncers were also outside on this damp, chilly night. Hector used his Deutsch to convince the Chaps we had friends already inside. The Greeters at Reception let us go no further. Without a Reservation things are difficult, and this is November, what must it be like in the Summer? Go online and book! After a few minutes we convinced a Doris that a table for four should be allocated, we were marched to the rear of the Large Bierhalle, past the Band, to a table occupied by a couple from Newcastle. Ein Mass Helles (5.1%) was ordered, Marg stuck with wine. Deutsche Bier is Sweeter than Craft, but at €8.40 per litre, quaffable, a Session Bier.

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The layout of this Hofbräuhaus impressed. The raised and divided seating areas resembled the Festzelt at Wiesen. With an allocated Waitress, there was never a problem getting served, a worthy setup. The Newcastle Two departed once they had finished their meal. A Waiter rested a tray of Bayerische Cuisine on the end of our table, no way. Who could eat that?

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berlin-hofbrauhaus-bier-traveller-12Steve and Louise did not get past the Bouncers. Eventually I felt vibration in my pocket, Marg went out to fetch them. And so The Party began. We were permitted two, enough, especially given the plan for the next few days.  The Ladies had Ice Cream, and why not?

*

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Marg led the singing, people danced in front of the Band, the whole room of hundreds having a good time. Why is the UK mentality such that this would never work in Blighty without mayhem every shift?

Footnote:

poznan-shivaz-curry-heute-1On Sunday morning, Steve and Hector waved goodbye to Marg and Louise at Alexanderplatz, they headed to Schönefeld for their flight home. Steve and Hector? A train from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Poznan (€19.00). How did we get away with this?

The outlets visited today:

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Im Marienpark 23, 12107 Berlin

Hofbräu Berlin – Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 30, 10178 Berlin

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