Anyone who regularly looks in on beer website RateBeer might have come in for a bit of a shock in the last few days. A good friend of mine – Sam aka ‘TheGrandMaster’ – has just returned from what I like to call a ‘beer sabbatical’, a couple of years living and traveling through Europe with his trusty Good Beer Guides as tourist books. As of this morning, he’s got 1,135 beer tasting notes on the site – tomorrow he’ll probably add Epic Pale Ale to the mix.
Before the three-month journey returning to New Zealand, Sam sent me a few of his thoughts on European beery highlights and lowlights. You can see more – under the Pubs and Beer Stuff label – at his blog.
There were so many highlights (the pic, of legendary Brugge bar ‘t Brugs Beertje, is somehow not one of the ones he mentioned) but to pick a few: the many beer festivals he attended in England, his 30th birthday pub crawl of St Albans, The Fat Cat pub in Norwich, Bamberg and it’s amazing rauchbier, driving around and visiting small farmhouse breweries in Belgium. And, of course, converting the odd lager drinker to real ale! From what he’s mentioned, in the brief chat we’ve had since his return, Argentina’s beer scene may end up alongside those highlights.
He tells me that Greece is the lowlight of his travels – but just by a whisker over Morocco. It was depressing to find that every fridge in Greece had nothing more than bottles of Mythos (the local brew), Heineken and Amstel. Although Morocco was essentially worse, he had no expectations to find any beer there – especially given that most of his time there was spent in the middle of the Atlas mountains or, worse, in the Sahara.
Sam picks Emerson’s Bookbinder – the beer he served at his wedding – as his desert island beer and is very eager to get into it again now that he’s back. I’ll be interested to see what his highly developed palate thinks of the Dunedin bitter, which has changed considerably in the time that he’s been away. He rates Woodforde’s Wherry and Crouch Vale Amarillo up there too. So, given that he is so obviously he’s a fan of session ales, I expect he’ll pop down the road to Galbraith’s as soon as he gets a chance.
Sam was the Society of Beer Advocates only overseas member. Now that he’s back in New Zealand we are looking for someone to take over that role. If you’re on RateBeer in the near fuure, send Sam a message and welcome him back. We need more advocates like him.