Bruges is one of my favourite cities in Europe. Ethereal cobblestone lanes, canals, medieval Flemish architecture, magnificent squares, a towering belfry, secluded parks, and even a few windmills make for an enchanting ambience you won’t find in many other cities. And there’s no shortage of churches and museums for those who like a shot of culture as a prelude to their beer. Speaking of which, Bruges’ narrow alleys conceal many a hidden oasis where you can relax from the hard work of sightseeing and eating all that Belgian chocolate.
All good chefs know that the appearance and presentation of food is just as important as the flavor. If a steak is an unappetizing shade of gray, it will seldom be appreciated, even if it’s delicious. It’s the same with beer; a great deal of the perception and appreciation of beer comes from the way it looks. Everyone likes to see a sparkling, clear European pilsner, Oktoberfest, or pale ale, and even dark styles such as stout and porter look a lot better when they are clear black instead of muddy brown.
Just ninety minutes from Munich by train, Regensburg is an eminently walkable city where you’re never far from a brewery, beer garden, or Bierkeller. It’s also an ideal base for visiting Kloster Weltenburg and Schneider Weisse in Kelheim, and for exploring the woodlands cradling the Zoigl tradition of the Oberpfalz. Though not a beer pilgrimage site like Munich or Bamberg, Regensburg boasts nearly half a dozen breweries, a Bierkeller, and the famous Wurstlkuchl, a tiny Bratwurst house adjacent to the Stone Bridge. But it’s Regensburg’s riverside beer gardens that really shine. Both the Spitalbrauerei and Alte Linde beer gardens serve up stunning views of the cathedral, the Stone Bridge, and the medieval Altstadt — some of the best beer garden views anywhere in Germany.
Most pictures courtesy Jackie Lawrence
There are a lot of competitions, like AWOG (Amber Waves of Grain) in Buffalo area we’ve always wanted to get back to, but timing and distance have prevented that. We finally did get back to Knickerbocker in the Albany/Saratoga Springs area. When New South Brew Off started Millie got to go, and that’s a good thing because that’s one of the clubs we are members of. But I was always up north helping to run Old Forge BIG Beer and Odd Ale, a competition I started. So I couldn’t judge.
Of all the things COVID has done the one good thing I can think of is, since I needed to come home to be with Millie, I was able to judge NSBO too. So, after two weeks quarantine were over because I came from Tennessee, mead test on Long Island done, both places drained for the brutal winters, home I sped, boat in tow. And straight into prejudging for New South at Amber and Jerry Wood’s castle in Clarksville, TN.
Clarksville, Tennessee, of the many great things Clarksville is it’s a military town: Fort Campbell, 101st Airborne.
I didn’t bring the boat. So no boating around in Jerry’s backyard. But I’ll bet Jerry Wood’s pup: Bear the Saint Bernard, and the puppy edition Roxy, would have enjoyed the trip. Everyone say, “Hi, Bear!”
Of course, as judges, we don’t get to see most of the preparation, for obvious reasons. We don’t need to know who entered what. Of course one of us just got home so… not possible. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary: New South Brew Off”