Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Craft Beer in Barcelona

I have a crush on this boy in Barcelona.

Don't laugh! I'm totally smitten (check my twitter) and, when I wasn't posing bottles for beerporn or biking around the city on a beer treasure map hunt, I was heart shaped eyes staring at the boy.
Romantic longing is a great motivator for travel.

And so is beer hunting.


Barcelona, like a lot of places around the EU, is budding with craft beer interest. The culture is spreading! So much so that new things are opening up every few months.

Newest of them is BlackLab brewing. An American influenced brewpub with a trendy handsome American head brewer, outdoor seating around the corner from the beach and some guest beers to compliment their fairly well done house brews.

Although I skipped out on the brewery tour (8.50€ for an hour long tour with the brewer, a tasting flight, half pint of beer and a souvenir), I had some great chats with staff and regulars.

I could get used to this kind of service.

The Dry Stout was pretty killer. Vanilla notes, well balanced and perfect on the palate for the style. I had a few, while the coffee people aeropressed.

"Go to Caravelle, get the beer map, bring back beer."
                        -the boy

I have to find a paper map to find good beer? What kind of circus is this place? He said that I wanted the map, I wanted to use Google, but then... I do love a beer mission. Me and my rental bike headed out to find the map that would tell me where to where the hidden beer was to be found.

Caravelle does collaborations with Krut. The beer is fairly basic but well done. Caravelle itself is like a day bar/café type place with fancy type font and a home made feel. Lots of people on their computers, three draught lines and friendly staff. And.. The map.

I paid 3.50€ for this treasure and didn't regret it for a moment. The boy was right, I wanted the map.

Rosses i torrades houses everything you want. The owner was charming and helpful, they have some tap times, mikeller hop vodka and a great selection. I picked up silly stuff :

It wasn't an Ipa, just as it said. Blah sweet Belgian style yeast with a bunch of hops. Il drink it, but I won't like it.

This little guy is the coolest thing ever. No idea where to find more, but it was 2€ and effing delicious. I want more!

I used the map throughout my two days in Barcelona but also relied heavily on local insights. One of my new friends tipped me to check out Mosquito - craft beer and dumpling. Of course.
Food, service, beer and intelligent beer serving staff, Mosquito Tapas wasn't on the map, but it's better that way.

Hidden beer bar heaven!

Look out for a bunch if this brand :

It's the local macro and the massive brewpub is somewhere. I've been before and was superficially entertained. Kid level stuff. Back to the real beer hunting.

Also :

Garage Beer Co. is a killer new local micro brew with a local to sample stuff.

Edge Brewing is getting bigger and better. A proper brewery with a wise range and fantastic team. I have a vid from my tour there on the ol' YouTube if you want some moving pictures from the place.

Ale & Hop is brilliant. Go. Stay. Eat. Talk with locals and outstanding beer geek staff/owner. Buy bottles. Repeat.

All in all, I can say Barcelona is on the rise in traveling beer geek sustainability. You can survive there, although there is a lot of craft beer, the map will guide you and you'll be impressed.

Feel free to drop me an email at Nitch@tastingnitch.com if you're heading that way and I'll connect you with my beer expert nerds in the area.

I'm off to go wash the heart shapes out if my eyes and get back to reality.

Paris beer week is coming up, folks!


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Crackin me up!

Mrs. Mardi (my work wife for those of you just tuning in), just got back from a three week vacation in the American homeland. Birthplace of hipsters, bubblegum kush and mecca of craft beer : Seattle.

Okay, okay, maybe Portland is a better fit for the descriptors but she was in both places and she had much entertainment. Most importantly, she brought back beer.

Or cider :

2 towns CiderHouse

First of all the labeling on the can is so extremely northwest that it's almost tragic. HARDCORE CUTE LIBRAL YOU CAN'T HANDLE THIS!

And then you have the liquid itself... Let's just say it's a one time thing. Rhubarb tart with a lingering sweetness and an under lining note of barbie plastic.

My friend here has a nut allergy. He is dangerously close to this nut. 2 towns CiderHouse is in more danger than he is of crossing the line. Take a step back Pacific north west people and make sure what your doing isn't 100% nutty crazy brain stuff.

Other then that, keep up the good work!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Smoke Signals

   GIRL Night Home Alone!

Oh, who am I kidding, every night of my life is a girl night and I'm not even entirely sure what that statement means anyway.
Cuz my idea of a 'cozy night in,' is to soak my feet in hot water while smoking a cigar, drinking a beer and judging the neighbor's music taste (because it's drowning out nerd session of the new Star Wars VII Trailer).

And tonight, my dear friends, I have a cigar that was hand transported from the Americas. North America to be specific. Florida, Cigar City Brewing to be exact.

My dear friends Jaclyn and Pierre from Bierocratie not only shared some of there killer American beers with me, they fed me, answered my French burocracy questions and then sent me on my way with a cigar. God effing bless them. Want to know how to win the heart of a Nitch? Well, that's how, ladies and gentle geeks; specialty craft beer, delicious food, insightful conversation, and cigars.

So, here I am with my stogie in hand thinking "gee, I wish I had a beer to pair with this moment." When I realize that part of the reason I have this lean figure is because my fridge only contains beer! And the best beer to pair with this moment? #perpetualpairings

Siren Craft Brewery - 



What I absolutely love about a beer like this is that makes zero sense. Dry-hopped smoked sour wheat ale. (insert all manner of bitter beer face men and confused people gifs)
I mean... Who thinks up this shit?

Can't complain though really, other than a lack of dry hopped character, which I would have persumed to present itself in the aroma, Smoke Signals starts out bacon, rolls into lemons and finishes a wheat shack. It's like a person who has been sitting next to a camp fire all day offers you a glass of unsweetened lemonade after you've been eating sliced wheat bread. I don't know in what world that situation would occur, but that's what's in the bottle.

The cigar is mild and rounded, a bit dry, but what do you elect from people who don't have a travel humidor.

I'm blessed, relaxed to the max and going to go troll YouTube.

Cheers to nights home alone (with the Internet!)


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Paris beer in the spring

The sun has just started blasting through the smog here in Paris and with the heat comes a change in wardrobe, a rush to green open spaces and the welcoming of warm weather beers. 

Officially I've put away my furs, knits and thick socks and pulled out the swim suit, rubber slippers and mini skirts! Nothing feels better than a massive intake of vitamin D, my dear seasonal weather friends. My white skin (newly steered of it's own winter fur coat) is oiled and ready for baking. 

Although I'm a year round Stout and Porter drinker there is something wholly satisfying about demanding the coldest, most refreshing beers the bottle shop has to offer. So, on my way down to Café Chilango I stopped by Bierrissm to say hello to Arthur and pick up something that would match my spring skirt and wicker hat.

While there I found out that they'll be offering low priced artisan beer on pression (aka on tap)! Since they are located in a beautiful and deliciously stocked covered market, their neighboring selections of food products makes it my next social day out destination.


Printemps en français means that the local population swiftly moves from complaining about the uncomfortable cold to complaining about uncomfortable heat.

To battle such hypocrisy, here are my three top spring beers 2015 :

Outland - West Coast IPA

Local brewer Yann, the maker of an another beer named simply 'merica,  knocks this 'dank & sticky' West coast style Ipa outta the park. Full of grassy, grapefruit pith hops and a lasting, rounded bitterness, this is THE California lovin' beer of Paris. 

Biere du Vexin - Blonde de Printemps

Although generally I avoid beers that style themselves as colors, this Ile-de-France beer naming itself after the season of hand holding and lady bugs, hits the right notes. Still a bread mouthful, as most blonde beer deliver, but lighter in body with cloying sweetness. If you're looking for a true example if spring time Parisian beer, here it is. 

Saint Cru - Tempete  du Desert

My initial transition skills when viewing this beer label had me thinking about tempting dessert items! Alas, (and much to my dismay) it means desert storm. Welcoming the inevitable meltdown that Paris is about to have in the summer, Tempete du Desert displays all the hallmarks of an American invasion. Another blonde but this time calling itself a 'Biere blonde pacifiste,' we get that same mouth coating and yeast heavy style but with a slight hop character. The middle ground between the two others, what we have here is a peace keeper and a thirst quencheder

So there you have it, my three top beers for the blossoming season. 

Link me yours via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or email, and if you're ever in Paris, whatever the season, let me show you around our nouvelle monde de bière ! 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mojito farts

Bear with me a moment while I go on an American expat in France /bartender rant of personal proportions.

I want to choke every single fucking French person that orders a mojito. What in the name of sweet baby Jesus happened in the history of French culture that has caused this mental sink hole of society?

Did you do this Hemingway?!
Free beer to anyone who can give me a verifiable answer!

Some say it was Hemingway.

Others blame the Mojito Mania on a rivalry between Bacardi and Havana Club.

All I know is that it doesn't matter what the weather is, where they are or what they are doing. Age, gender or class has no effect. French of all types will walk into a shitty pub or a high end cocktail bar and, usually as a knee jerk reaction to not knowing what they want, will order a mojito.

For those of you who might not know a mojito is a lovely cocktail with a complicated history which is often much disputed but world over one of a bartender's most hated drinks to make. The general basics of the drink are sugar and lime, muddled mint, rum, ice and soda water. The techniques, proportions and quality of each of these items can vary but ... and here is where the French go all whacky nut sauce on me, IN FRANCE there are a few things that MUST happen.

And they are deplorable :

1. Roughly cut some unwashed limes. Any level of freshness will do but about three chunks is good. The amount of lime from the fruit isn't as important as having something to abuse your mint against.

2. Place limes in glassware of any medium to large size.

3. Pour in sugar syrup from this bottle (see photo left). It is always this bottle. Nothing else.

4. Abuse the mint like it cheated on you with your best friend. I mean, smash the shit outta the stuff. Quality of the mint doesn't matter nor does what part of the plant you use. Stems, sticks and stink are all allowable because, as we've discussed, you're going to beat it to a pulp. In fact! There isn't always a need to even really muddle the mint so much as throw a hand full of it in and puree it while you chat with your bar friends. Likewise if you just want to whirl it around with the same knife you used cut the limes, that is acceptable but French generally always prefer to abuse.

5. After the mint has been officially put in it's proper place, time to add alcohol! 1 oz of agricole rhum is in order. Attention! This is rhum not rum and is distilled from sugar cane not molasses so the smell might knock you around a bit, but more likely than not, the sensory numb orderer will demand that there is no alcohol in the drink. Ignore them, French style.

6. Here comes my least favorite of all the steps and yet, it is one of the most important this style of mojito- crushed ice. NO OTHER ICE WILL DO. People will complain. Mojitos are served with crushed ice! So pull out your hand cranked crusher or mash the cubes in a shaker tin but never skip this (completely useless) step!

7. Pour in fizzy stuffs. Preferably Perrier or Limonade (7up/Sprite) but just whatever is on hand - fuck it.

8. Straw. The straw is so that the customer may immediately poke, jab, swirl and otherwise continue to abuse the mint.

Poking the mojito is also a very important part of what the French enjoy about this particular drink. You can stand by a bar with mojito in one hand, straw in the other and shriek about politics while cramming your plastic stick into a heap of mistreated mint and foul limes. Ice shards have long since melted, rhum has entered the blood stream and now is the time when, even though the glass is empty the lowly bartender may NOT remove the glass. Trying to take away a dead mojito from one of these people is like prying your keys from the fingers of a teething baby. It ain't guna happen without a lot of whining and possible damage to your hands. It will always incur a fierce glare, and quick snatch of the glass, followed by a "uh... c'est pas fini!!" They will use that, oh so essential straw to poke and suck at the desecrated mass at the bottom of the glass before consenting to have it removed for cleaning.

Mint some how makes general population think that they are getting something "fresh." As we have covered today, there usually isn't much fresh about French mojitos. Stop ordering them. Stop making them. Not all bars SHOULD have the ingredients to make a mojito. Put away the ice crusher, order both lemons AND limes, tell your customers that it's fucking raining outside so, unless you are running a place like Dirty Dick, don't order tropical drinks!

I'm done now... Thanks for letting me get that out. 


Back to the beer :

Tasting Paris Craft Beer - La Levallois by Brasseurs du Grand Paris

Yeah, that's right, Paris brewers make sessionably great beers! Mild, floral hoppy and delicately hoppy sweet Brasseurs du Grand Paris has been making their La Levalloise pale ale since before I set foot in the Paris craft beer scene, and with their new Outland collaboration, they continue to be a staple of the local beer scene.

Come with me once more into the cave of biere as we do things you can't do at home, bwahahaa. Unless you live in Paris, that is :

Brasseurs du Grand Paris

La Levalloise

Dig into this Beer Geek meet that I had with Fabrice from Brasseurs du Grand Paris and Will from Bierevolution when I was first living in Paris.

Then check out what I had to say about Brasseurs du Grand Paris (formally My Beer Company) and their Citra-galactic beer when I was living in the remote and far, far away French city of Orleans, boy was I excited to get ahold of something other than a Trappist beer!

Thumbs up for hoppy local beers and cave oriented beer reviews!!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#BroDogs 4 Life

You may have seen my recent modeling excursion at Paris Beer Week with #Beerstagram master Clemént.
They weren't real tattoos.

We are real BroDogs.

Having bonded over pints of Punk and Dead Pony Club (not to mention a tactical nuclear penguin or two), Clemént and I created a tattoo optional bond we refer to as #BroDogs4life.

The Brodog Circle Expands

I met James, a proper English type with a smart jacket and red socks as I was coming off the plane tryng to yawn and blow air out my ears. We were to share a taxi to the BrewDog brewery and James wanted to know if this dislike for Stella was enough to qualify him as a beer geek.

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of adding to my circle of irl beer geek friends while attending a meet, greet, drink and karaoke (or not) event at BrewDog in Aberdeen, Scotland. First off, let me say that it entire event was paid for by BrewDog, Sarah (of youtube fame) planned the gathering to show off BrewDog's newest toys to the beertube and blogger crew around the EU and, in full disclosure, they can buy my love all they want.

Do I think BrewDog can get a bit gimmicky? Yeah, but why not be.

Is Equity for Punks a good investment? The perks alone are worth the cash, if you have it.

Does this PR stunt change how I view BrewDog? Not in the least. I've always been a fan of BrewDog's ass in the wind style of doing things and have never had a beer that wasn't what I was expecting it to be. They are the Stone Brewing of the EU and, as long as they keep making good beer they can be as punky stange as they like.

Me? I came to meet beerubers, drink beer and get out of Paris for a day.

Aberdeen - Home of Dracula's castle

Amoung political talks of Scotland seceding from Uk and a vicious inability to pop my post flight ear canal, I was welcomed to Aberdeen, Scotland by a dismal wall picture of a stormy wharf with bold white lettering saying : This is Home. Setting expectations on a low level leaves plenty of room for pleasant surprises. Along the wall of welcome signs into the Aberdeen where also other points of touristy interest, including something about a singing cactus, oil fields galore and, much to my surprise, a statement saying I was now near the home of Dracula's castle.

Turns out that Bram Stoker used one of the local castles as a model for this book Dracula and it isn't hard to see how the rambling streets of grey stone housing could be used as template for a gothic novel. Aberdeen is seagull infested, smaller than a Parisian suburb and fortified to the teeth, even the grocery stores are made of solid battleship grey slabs of earth which gives the whole place a great authentic Hogwarts type of feel. The university may have been Adolf Hilter's favorite building of all time, but then he didn't get to tour BrewDog's new Brewing facility.

BrewDog's New Toys

James Watt threw a green vest at me and my English taxi buddy as we were rushed late into the brewery tour.

"What are the vests for?"
"So people know you aren't the brewer."

Not much chance of that, seeing as how I couldn't be mistaken for Stewart Bowman any more than Charlie could be mistaken for Willy Wonka. The six year veteran head brewer of BrewDog was all black metal t-shirt, hop head and bouncing beard as he guided us through the new industrial playground of the beer world's most hip beer company. There were people buzzing around, looking leisurely busy like oompa-loompas in trendy beanies, glasses and an assortment of finely maintained facial hair. Everyone seemed to have things to scrub and clean or crank and clank as the hiss and whine of the smoothly functioning brewery went about it's daily business.

Stewart warned us about large scale boil overs which, since its a home brewer's nightmare must be amplified by hecoliters. He told far off tales of how things used to be before they got everything they dreamed of and their plans for expanding even more in the future while I felt as if any moment one of the huge cylindrical tanks might pop open and we would all be drown in an ocean of beer (it happens). BrewDog's occupied work punks at one point wheeled out a cannon sized pump machine to begin a hoping process that could only be explained as excessive. After lots of details about yeast strains, beer styles and company motivation we were herded around by Bowman's jolly booming voice into an elevated glass box of a room where, a bit selfishly, I thought that the time had come for us to shoot into the clouds and he would then tell us that it was all ours.

Alas, it was merely the lab and we were to be introduced to BrewDog's shiny new toy #1 : The Diacetyl machine. (Click here if you don't know what diacetyl is and why one would want an expensive machine to detect it.) This medical grade device is able to pull apart all sorts of chemical compounds and, as soon as they learn how to work it, they'll be using it is isolate all the things that make up a beer instead of just testing batches for Diacetyl. Ever-lasting-hopstoppers?

Shiny new toy #2 was a fully enclosed bottling line that cost more than the economic output of some small countries but was made in Germany and featured a finishing section where the bottles were gently splashed with water, softly blown dry, and then patted on the head by an official bottle inspector. #Fancy This new toy was setting in motion one of BrewDog's newest developments : Label change !

Shiny new toy #3 : Slightly embossed, hand designed by some trendy person who uses old school techniques and with the logo dog now sporting a less evil looking eye, the new labels are a welcome upgrade after more than 7 years with the old look.

James went around the group handing out Punk IPA fresh off the bottling line, like it was candy and, sipping at the bottles between questions, like inquisitive children, the tour was moved into the pub for snacks and chats.

I had a lovely talk with a family playing a Star Trek themed board game for family night because the attached brewery pub has board games, people use them and drink fresh beer. Yes, I could live here. There were off duty employees taking their post work pint and munching on an assortment of savory pies, while I began to get in some meet and greets with beer geeks :
Wane Dunne is the Irish Beer Snob

Sten Bentall does the Beer O'clock Show

Isla Mercer from Diary of a Beer Girl 

After a short nap at the hotel, which does NOT have a pool, we were on to see shiny new toy #4 : Musa For James Watt's new 'sort of hobby' he says,
"others play golf or do DIY, I have decided to relax and occasionally escape the BrewDog mayhem with Musa."

Escape we did. Me, and the rest of my newly appointed BroDog buddies filled out the reserved up stairs area, where we were artfully served pork and purple laced dishes paired with BrewDog beers of all styles. Sophie Atherton from A FemAle View does not like purple things in her food, but she does know how to say dirty words in French (bwahaha), Martin Dickie is unable to resist a few micro greens and so we created a hashtag to create word awareness #microgreens, Tony the BrewDog distribution manager as pulled in to explain the pairings because James had had a few and the chef finished us off with a view into his grand supply of Scot whiskey. Ask for the Lagavulin, BroDog.

As you may have noticed at this point, I didn't take pictures of the event, I didn't tweet anything and neither did I video record. I do have some audio samples of a local barmaid telling dirty jokes and some snippets of Jonny Garret from The Craft Beer Channel singing to his beer, but other than that I came into the event as an enjoyer of beer people. But, if you'd like a really awesome live blogging of the whole thing, check out The Beer Cast's Rich Taylor with his up to the minute commentary as it all happened!

Me, I got distracted by the local old man karaoke bar next door to Musa. Sir Tom Jones has nearly two pages of songs available - naturally. 

If I sound a little down about the whole thing in retrospect it's because I am the kid back home after summer camp. I love all my places of work and cherish fresh French baguettes to no end but being silly with great beer geeky people in a city that is experiencing unusually beautiful weather is the cookie that ruins christmas dinner. I appreciate BrewDog for setting up the event and showing how down to earth and yet completely Willy Wonka they are. Aberdeen may be called the Concrete City, but it's a fantastically friendly and heart warming place, full of thick Scottish accents and mountains of local beer love.

I didn't get to see the art performance that Darren Packman from Beer Sweden enjoyed with Martin later in the evening, but I did purchase a lovely cigar at the local pub to share with Steven Lamond from Beers I've Known. I then purchased Rob Derbyshire from HopZine a local dark beer that came with a plastic goat shaped charm and slurringly insisted that we film us reviewing it. Boy, I can't wait to see if there is anything useful in that clip. Not wanting to give in to the slow trickle of people heading back to the hotel, I shared some deep world views with John Duffy The Beer Nut, and with the help of Chris Hall from The Beer Diary and Sarah BroDog, tried to rescue The Craft Beer Channel's Brad Evan from falling asleep.

Cheers to all my new BroDogs 4 life, you've got a friend in Paris.

Cheers to BrewDog for supporting our craft beer drinking habits and sharing their new toys with us.

A big cheers to Sarah for running us all around in a timely manner!

And now,

Jonny singing love songs to his BrewDog :

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