Monday, March 7, 2011

Farewell, dear beers of Europe...

Selecta XV- San Miguel- Spain - 6.2%

Pinky: For anyone who doesn't know (which is probably everyone reading this), I've been lucky enough to spend the last nine months living in Europe, more specifically in the UK and in the Netherlands. The final few days of my European adventure was spent in sunny Barcelona, where the beer choice was literally reduced from dozens of beers to "cerveza?" ...Apparently the majority of restaurants only carry one line of beer, such as the San Miguel pictured above or a chilled Estrella Damm. Well, they do the job on a hot sunny afternoon sitting by the waterfront.

Following my time in Holland in particular, I wanted to say a fond farewell to some of the fantastic friends I made, who will of course be hard to replace back in Canada. Leffe Radieuse, your dark fruity attitude always brought a smile to my lips. Delirium Tremens, your spicy nature and love of pink elephants kept us all amused. Mongozo, you were always my mother's favorite, where your sunny disposition reminded us of Hawaii. Bruges Zot, who always played the fool, I thought I should tell you that you look better blonde than brown.

Of course, this doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to all of the North American brews that will soon venture onto my path. I'm especially excited for upcoming visits to such beer-friendly places as Portland, Oregon this summer. Mostly I am going to miss the immense history behind many of the European beer: each brewery, beer and beer name has a story and I'd like to share a short story of a particular brewery.

Koyt- Jopen- Holland- 8.5%

Jopen beer comes from the city of Haarlem in North Holland. In 1992, the Stichting Haarlems Biergenootschap was founded with a mission was to re-create traditional Haarlem beers, where brewers have registered with the city from as early as the 14th century. Haarlem is also where generations of my family have lived (the Dutch side) on the old Brouwer's Canal (that's right, it translates into 'Brewer's Canal' in English). My ancestors clearly had good taste.

My final beer before I left Holland was the Jopen Koyt ('koyt' is the Dutch name for 'gruit'/mulled beer). The Biergenootschap found two recipes in the Haarlem city archives, including the recipe used as the foundation for the Koyt. The recipe dates to back to 1407, where a blend of spices and darker malts give it a sweet, heavy taste. The herbal aroma is quite unique to to this beer, with a rich but not overpowering input of 'gruit' (creating enticing notes of ginger, licorice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and treacle). It was a perfect final beer to mark the end of my time in Holland.

And now I am back in Canada, where I will certainly miss the abundance of belgian blondes, dubbels, tripels, saisons... I loved them all. Luckily, I also love amber ales, nutty brown ales, sweet caramel blondes, hoppy IPA's, fresh wheat beers and rich espresso stouts to name a few.'s good to be home.

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