Sunday, 14 October 2018

A welcome Return to Blogging

Here we are, entering the second quarter of October 2018 and I still have not blogged about anything that has happened since our trip to Poznan last November!. How rude of me. This is partly due to my work and free time balance, as well as a gradual change in my drinking habits. With the allotment, grandchildren and jobs around the house taking some precedents, my habits have been slowly going from “Big Nights Out” to drinking in leisure at home, enjoying the garden and sampling beers delivered from beer suppliers Flavourly, Beer52 and Honest Brew, along with others sourced from the Cleethorpes beer shop, Message In A Bottle, as well as any additional beer shops we come across on our travels. I must admit that the supermarkets seemed to have upped their game too when it comes to supplies of better quality bottled and canned beers. The Beermonster does still manage a trip out to the pub, from time to time,mostly away from my hometown, and, because of that, there are tales to be told. I will now try to expand on these tastings just a little further.

Now open. Docks Beers
Brewery and Taproom, Grimsby.
First of all, though, a little bit of better news from our local beer scene, namely North East Lincolnshire. The Craft and Real Ale offerings has, at last, started to improve slightly over here in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Axholme Brewery have managed to expand its availability of their cask and bottled ranges into more pubs in the area, especially their Cleethorpes Pale Ale Cask. They have also just put the finishing touches to a second brewery, this one in Grimsby, between the main shopping area and the town's dock, which will go by the name of Dock Beers.There is also a Tap Room bar on site. I can't wait for my first visit. Meanwhile, up in neighbouring Cleethorpes, The Counting House, and Arthur's House and a new and relocated Society Bar have all emerged to plump out the growing craft beer and cocktail offerings in the resort. We have visited The Counting House on a couple of occasions, which is housed in a former bank in Sea View Street. The range of beers, which isn't huge, usually contains one of the Axholme Brewery beers. There are plenty of cocktails on offer though. During a couple of our trips to Cleethorpes, we have also popped into The No 1 Rereshment Rooms on the station, which is not to be confused with the other excellent real ale bar situated on Cleethorpes Station, the No 2 Refreshment Room, or Under The Clock, as it is known. The No 1 has a good selection of cask ales, spread over two bars, and the clientele are very welcoming. Although the upholstery, on our last visit, certainly needed an upgrade, the memorabilia spread around this multi-roomed bar certainly adds to the character. We usually pop into The Bobbin whilst we are in the resort, and, on our last visit, we opted to go for each of their three new craft cans on offer from Cork's Franciscan Well Brewery (part of Molson Coors). First up was Friar Weisse Wheat Beer,4.7%, which had a fruit and clove aroma, which is followed by citrus, some yeast and soft spice. Next up was Chieftain Irish Pale Ale, 5.5%. This one has a solid malt backbone, with tropical fruit, hints of vanilla, some citrus along with a nice hoppy lift at the back. Last up, Rebel Red Ale, 4.3%. Plenty of caramel throughout, with some berry fruitiness coming through at the end. It is, at last, looking a slightly more promising beer scene in our neck of the woods. One only hopes that this continues.


The Consortium in Louth.
One of our days out earlier this year was to The Capital of The Lincolnshire Wolds, Louth. This visit was days after the last snows of a very long winter, and saw the last vestiges of the white stuff still draping over the the base of the hedgerows, and the River Lud angrily thundering through town, brown and moody looking. We have been to this market town many times before, and I have also reviewed most of the drinking establishments within it. This time, after a meal in The Woolpack, followed by a couple of beers in The Gas Lamp Lounge, we wandered back into the centre of town to the recently opened microbrewery and micropub, The Consortium. This former coffee shop is the smallest bar in Louth, and probably one of the smallest in Lincolnshire. Although space is at a premium in here, the ambiance is friendly and the decor tasteful and fitting with the ethos of the place.It has a good half a dozen cask brews on offer, some of which are The Consortium's own. The beers we sampled in here were all from the house brewery. I started with a 3.9% Lincolnshire Porter, a nice plummy porter with just an edge of coffee at the back and a nice dry finish. Jane went for King Lud, 4.4%, a nicely crafted Pale Ale, with a citrus fruit over a balanced bitter-sweetness in the main which leads to a zesty bitterness at the back. Whilst Jane stuck with her choice, I went for Consortium Brewing Co's Street Beer Series IPA, 4.5%. Although not quite as punchy and hoppy as some IPA's, this was still a good refreshing brew. Red berries and some soft fruit combine well with zest and leads to a crisp finish. 
After our session here, we decided to visit a pub that has won many Real Ale awards over the years, The Brown Cow Freehouse, in Newmarket. Being short of time, the last bus was due to leave in 30 minutes, We quickly ordered our drinks, Fuller's London Pride, which we enjoyed in the packed surroundings of the bar before rushing back to the bus station. The beers all seemed to be in good order, the bar staff are friendly and, by the size of the portions on the plates, the food is well received by the many punters who frequent this freehouse.
What a good day we had experienced yet again, and we often wonder why we don't nip on the bus there more often, although the 40 to 50 minute ride back on the bus with no toilet does suggest one reason!


The Cosy Club's interior
Jane and I (well, Jane really) decided on a bit of pre-holiday shopping, and, as we hadn't been there together for a while, we opted for a day out in Lincoln. Arriving by train, we wandered up towards the High Street area to do the retail therapy bit before heading to our first pub of the day. We decided to give The Cosy Club, housed in the recently renovated Corn Exchange building, a look. This is a wonderfully and sympathetically decorated bar with original marketplace advertising on the walls joined by paintings of the custodians of this former trading place. I would feel the need to grow and wax a fancy moustache if I were to be a regular here, such is the authenticity of the surrounds. On our visit the only cask ale on was The Lincolnshire Brewing Company's Cheeky Imp, a 4.6% nutty and malty Bitter with a nice bitter-sweetness throughout. Part of the profits go towards Lincoln City FC's Future Imps programme. Being a Grimsby Town fan that was a big sacrifice to make in the name of beer reviewing, but the beer did win. Next up, whilst my Good Lady visited another couple of shops, I was let off the reigns for an hour to do my own bit of exploring. My next port of call was The Dandy Lion Alehouse, in Newland. In here I chose a Lagunitas Day Time Ale,4.6%, a nice floral and citrus IPA style brew, with a wonderful lemon sherbert like tickle in the dry finish. The pub has a relaxing feel, and is quite modern in its interior design. After this it was back to the hustle and bustle of the centre, and another bottled beer in The Curiosity Shop, situated at the beginning of The Strait. Inside, the decor is best described as shabby chic, I suppose, but an amiable warmth is forthcoming from the bar staff. My beer of choice was Brooklyn East IPA, weighing in at 6.9%. I sat outside and savoured the bitter opening to this one, which is followed by a hint of treacle sweetness and some citrus zest. There are hints of dark fruit in the depths but citrus and zest are the main players. Nice. 
The cask beer flight selection in
The Carinal's Hat.
Now reunited with a happy shopper, we popped across the road to The Cardinal's Hat. I have previously reviewed this pub ( Here and also Here 2) so straight on to the beers. Jane had decided to keep to cider in the main today so that was  an easy pick. I decided to go for the Beer Flight, four of the 1/3 pint measure sampler cask beers for £5.25. My selection was Pentrich Brewing Rain of Ruin, at 9% a lovely big and punchy Imperial Stout, 4.5% Factory Pale Ale from Manchester Brewing Co, and two from Dukeries Brewery. These were Lord Furnival Strong Golden Ale, 5.1%, and Castle Hill Best Bitter, 4.2%. All four on my flight were good solid beers and certainly well looked after. The food is good here too. We shared a platter of meats, which came with bread, olives etc. Fed and ready to go, we took a gulp of air before marching from here up The Strait and Steep Hill towards its summit, and our next bar, BeerHeadZ. Another first visit to this bar, and what a place! I counted 15 cask and craft keg pumps and a fridge full of more craft ales. We sampled three beers in here, First up was Fyne Ales Loch & Key, 5.5%, a nice brew with soft flavours of citrus, berries and just a touch of pine. This was followed by a Kinver Brewery Kinver Egdge, a nicely balanced nutty 4.2% Bitter, with soft hops at the back. Jane, meanwhile, deserting the apple juice, had the Wellbeck Abbey Brewery National Treasure, a Golden Ale of 5.4%. Although nothing exceptional, it was still a solid brew with a medium biscuity sweetness and dry and bitter finish. Our next stop, the final one at this altitude, was The Lincoln Tap House and Kitchen. There is a lovely roof terrace here, which gives a nice view over Bailgate and towards Lincoln Cathedral. The bar, downstairs, hosts 10 different pumps and from these we ordered a Beavertown Neck Oil, 4.3%, a light, crisp and refreshing Pale Ale and an Aspall's 5.5% Suffolk Dry Cider, before taking in the view. We, finished our drinks, bathed in sunshine but with an edge of coolness still in the air, and decided it was time to retrace our steps towards the bottom of Steep Hill, grab a final drink or two, before moving on to the train station. On the way down the hill, towards The Strait And Narrow pub, we popped into The Crafty Bottle Beer Shop, this was for MY retail therapy. After picking up a few little treats for home we settled ourselves in the large but cosy interior of The Strait And Narrow and ordered our drinks. This time it was Waen Brewery Lemon Drizzle, a 3.7% Golden Ale with, obviously, a cake and lemon tang to it, and a 4% Timmermans Peach Lambic. A sweet and fruity ending to our Lincoln visit, and, besides a slight bag malfunction which enforced a hurried game of "Chase the Bottle" down the lesser slope of this area of Lincoln, our enjoyable day out uneventfully came to a close. We boarded our train back to Grimsby in the knowledge that our next big day out would be in the warm Mediterranean sunshine of Paphos.....but that is another story.

Cheers and Keep it "Real"

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Doing the Poznan. Our trip to Poland.

The Town Hall
In November, The Wife and I had a few days booked off together and, after looking around for a cheap UK break with no success, we decided to see what was on offer a little further afield. We found that Eastern Europe was very affordable, with flights as cheap as £12-99 each, each-way from nearby Robin Hood Airport.
"Fancy Poland?" I asked Jane,and having given her brief lowdown of what I knew of the area, bolstered with a few stories shared with me by a former Polish workmate, Evek, it was agreed we would give it a look. Our chosen destination would be the city of Poznan
Poland has long been a country that has intrigued me. It is situated at the northern crossroads of Europe, which has meant it has become pivotal in the expansion plans of many a neighbouring state. Skirmishes there have been plenty. The changing face of Northern Europe over the last 250 years ago has mostly seemed to include either the partitioning, annexing or redrawing of the nation's boundaries. That is not to say that Poland, or its people have just rolled over, no, far from it. Brave is a word often used in describing the Polish in the history books. This, though, is a beer blog, so I shall leave the rest to those more qualified.
Our flight, with Wizz Air, which was late evening,checked-in, boarded and departed on time, We soon arrived in Poznan just after mid-night, got a taxi to our hotel, Hotel Vivaldi, and, being that we had enjoyed a few relaxing beers earlier in the day, before turning in, we settled for a mini-bar Lech for a nightcap, which was crisp, refreshing with a nice bitter uplift at the back. It is a basic lager, no frills, brewed in Poznan, albeit under the Japanese Asahi umbrella, and, well, not a lot more can be said. We would have almost five full days to explore the city, starting after a good nights sleep.
Poznan is quite a well appointed city for things to do, with a myriad of museums, castles and the like for those with an interest in history, along with galleries, huge parks and at least a couple of big retail therapy centres, for those with other wallet draining pastimes on their minds. Most of the facilities can be easily reached by the local trams. The starting point for most visitors, and the Jewel in the Crown, is Stary Rynek (The Old Market Square) with the postcard perfect Town Hall and its picturesque former Merchants' Houses which envelop it. The Town Hall plays host to two mechanical butting goats, which are a big tourist magnet here, especially on the stroke of  noon, as they emerge from the clock tower and perform their party piece. The surrounding buildings are a mixture of bars, restaurants, craft and souvenir shops, and gives this area a nice busy and bustling feel. From this central point, the streets spread out like a spiders web and it can be quite easy to find yourself if not lost, then certainly in a different place that you thought you were! Mind you, most of theses streets can offer more drinking and eating establishments to rest in and regain ones' bearings.


The first Porter Balticki
from Brovaria
With all this in mind, on a cold November morning, we walked into the city's old town, which took around 30 minutes, and a couple of directional adjustments, to experience what was on offer. After a good look around at the picture perfect surrounds, we entered our first bar of the trip. This was Brovaria, and after a very polite welcome from the bar staff, we were soon seated, looking out on the Stary Rynek, Jane, warming her hands on a coffee, whilst I sampled an excellent 9% Brovaria "Porter Balticki". This brew was full of roasted coffee and dark chocolate flavours with a good back taste of sweet dark fruits at the finish. I was really surprised at how easy this one slid down, it was incredibly easy drinking for a beer of this ABV. A quick check of the watch saw noon arriving, so we finished up our drinks in favour of what was on offer atop the Town Hall. After the duo Capra cranial entertainment, we relocated to our next bar. Pijlnia Wodki i Piwa, just away from the square in Wroclawska, gives the impression of an old 1960's style American Drive-in, but with a noted East European slant. Again, the welcome was genuinely warm. In here we sampled Zamkowy Brackie, 5.5%, a rather sweet and creamy pilsner with a reasonable back bite of bitterness, and the slightly malty and grassy Warka Classic, also 5.5%. Both beers were more than OK, and were setting us up nicely. Guliwers Bar, opposite the Town Hall was to be our next port of call. The beers in here all seemed to be Polish major brands, so we shared three of the Tyskie (Asahi) Ksiazece brews. Ksiazece "Czerwony Lager", 4.9% has slight caramel opening and then leads through to a slightly bitter-sweet and floral finish. Ksiazece "Chiemne Lagodne" is a 4.1% dark Lager, and the taste has a nice touch of bitterness throughout, balancing an IPA type backtaste of resinous hops, with yeast esters just coming through to balance it further. The final of this trio was Ksiazece "Zlote Pszencizne", a golden wheat beer offering, which was bright, slightly fruity and had a reasonable hoppy backtaste, 4.9%. To be honest, I have had better beers, but I would not hesitate giving them another go if lack of options dictated it. Feeling a bit peckish now, we headed to get some street food before having another drink. We decided to try zapiekanka, a sort of foot long Polish pizza. Very nice, with a topping of mushrooms, cheese and a chilli ketchup being my choice. Grazing done, we headed back to Brovaria and sampled Brovaria "Wheat", a beer full of little jabs of flavour, some fruit, then a hint of spice, a bit of citrus. The beer is quite complex but not overly so. Brovaria "Pils", is an acquired taste. Slightly astringent, some viscous traits and a mish-mash of fresh, but slightly conflicting citrus flavours. It isn't bad, but just sort of tries too much to please. Overall though, not a bad first day. Now the walk back to the hotel faced us. We headed this way, then with a surety we were going correctly, turned a corner, and another and.....Oh, this doesn't look right. A few more twists and turns later, punctuated only by finding an excellent Craft Beer shop and exchanging views on my map reading skills with the long suffering Jane, we finally, and luckily, arrived back at our hotel. We put some beers in the fridge, which I will review at the end, chilled out ourselves and then headed to the hotel's bar. Jane was on G & T's tonight, so I plumped for Kolobrzeska Fabryka Piwa "Colberg Black Lager" , 6%. A sweet malt opening, with plummy dark fruits at the back tantalise the tongue but do not overpower all else. The finish is long and pleasantly bitter-sweet before a waft of dryness satisfies the palate still further. I liked this one, in fact I liked this one a further couple of times!


We started the day with a hearty buffet breakfast, a walk around the extremely interesting Park Cytadela, stopping off at the Muzeum Ubrojenia and the War Memorials, before buying a multi-trip ticket for the trams. Shortly after noon, yes, we would miss the goats today, we were on the tram going back to the centre. Today I would have to embrace shopping into my day. First stop though would be Green Line, a cafe bar with an impressive selection of local beers, situated in Stary Rynek. We chose Fortuna "Imbir" (ginger) stout 6.1%, and Miloslaw "Pilsner" 5.4% to start. Fortuna "Imbir" has a slight cola taste at the start, then a rich stem ginger flavour comes through. The finish is medium long. I like ginger so I quite liked this, others may not. Jane's Miloslaw "Pilsner" is not an average tasting lager, floral herb opening, then a bright light sweetness followed by subtle hoppy bitterness. Very nice. I followed "Imbir" with Fortuna "Miodwe Ciemne" (dark honey beer), 5.6%. Good strains of honey sweetness greet the taste buds from the off, some malt follows, but honey is in charge. I found it quite nice, even for such a sweet beer.
The cathedral-like
Stary Browar
Following these drinks we wandered off to do some shopping, or rather I was encouraged to show my Good Lady where the closest of the shopping centre was. To be fair, I wanted to see it too, as it was housed in a former brewery. Stary Browar, was the home of the former Hugger Brewery from the mid 19th Century until around 1945. After being left in ruins it was partially reconstructed and in 2003 eventually turned into a shopping centre. Inside this mammoth, almost cathedral like, building, over 200 stores and restaurants are sited. A good amount of the original architecture seems to have survived. We decided to have another quick drink, back near the centre, and then jump back on the tram to our hotel, for tonight we would be sampling the local cuisine. Our last drinks of the afternoon were enjoyed in Chmielnik, a bar just away from Stary Rynek. This extremely well stocked pub, it carries an excellent selection of Polish craft brews, is surprisingly large on the inside, considering its street-front facade. It also boasts a decent sized beer garden too. On our visit, just at opening time, it was very quiet, but we were advised that peak times here see the place rammed. Jane's choice in here was Miloslaw "Marcowe", a 6% Marzen styled beer,which was reasonably tasty, some malt and bready hints coming through before a balanced dry hop finish. I went for a Miloslaw "Black IPA z Yuzu", 5.6%. There is a good roast malt hit at the start of this one, then a deep citrus back taste comes through. There is a slight resinous feel on the palate which I believe must be the Asian Yuzu fruit strains coming to the fore. Interesting, and not bad at all.
Restaurant tipples.
Later that evening we returned to the Old Town area for a quick drink in The Tropicana Bar, "Lech" and "Warka Classic", whilst our table at Wiejskie Jadlo Restaurant was readied. The meals in Wiejskie Jadlo are authentic, extremely appetizing and are not served in small portions. For starters we had Barszcz Zurek (soup in a bread bowl) and Bigos (hunters' stew) which were absolutely beautiful. We followed this with a mixed Polish meat platter to share. Oh my goodness! A huge pork cutlet and a steak each, plus a pork knuckle to share, along with all the trimmings, pickles AND Polish dumplings (pierogi) What a feast. We washed this banquet of food down with two local beers apiece. Jane chose the Ksiazece "Czerwony", which we had previously sampled, whilst I went for Browar Czarnkow "Noteckie Ciemne Pelne" 5.6%, a full flavoured brown ale which had lovely coffee taste, tempered with rich dark fruits. The finish was long with a good bitter dryness.


We had agreed that today would see us(?) do some Christmas shopping at the big Posnania Shopping Centre, a 20 minute tram-ride away. With this in mind we left Hotel Vivaldi in torrential rain and eagerly waited for our tram. As usual, it arrived on time and we were on our way. In Posnania there are over 200 boutiques, 40 cafes and restaurants as well as many medium-sized stores. Whilst my beloved would be bargain hunting, I had my own agenda, a visit to Bierhalle. After our initial wander, we decamped to the Man Creche so the main event could begin. This is a bright and airy two-storey bar in a German style. The beers are unfiltered and unpasteurised. We started of with a 400 ml Bierhalle "Pils", 4.9%, whilst I indulged in a 1 Lt glass of 4.8% "Dunkel". The "Pils" was lightly bitter at the start, some grassiness with just a hint of spice at the back. The "Dunkel" had bready hints, some nuttiness all wrapped up in a nice sweet caramel body, ending with a nice spike of bitterness. Left to my own devices, I followed up with the smaller 400 ml Bierhalle "Weizen", 4.8%, which started out with a nice sweetness, before yeast esters and lovely soft fruit come in to play.There is more fruit at the back and some herbal aromatics. I really enjoyed this one.Next was Bierhalle "Pumpkin Ale", a nicely spiced ale, cinnamon, nutmeg and the heat of ginger were definitely evident, and complimented the maltiness and light floral hoppiness. 5.8%. Jane had now returned and was indulging in another "Pils". On paying neither of us could believe how little it all came to. All that beer for just a few pennies over £12-00. Cheap as chips. Shopping done, with a few Christmas pressies for the Grandchildrenin hand, we headed back to the tram stops. With the weather still bad, we decided to head straight back to the hotel and come out later for a bit of a night out.
Piwna Stopa beer board menu
Early evening saw us heading back out towards the highly acclaimed Piwna Stopa bar, just away from the centre. With it still being relatively early, we were surprised at how busy it was. Along with a roaring log burner, and plenty of people, we were greeted by  an array of local, national and world bottled beers as well as 16 beers on tap. This was taking Craft Ale seriously. We decided to try the taps, firstly having a 6.5% German brewed Aecht Schlenkerla "Rauchbier Urbock", a lovely brew with sweet caramel leading you to a nice smokiness, almost like a Christmas ham!, and Browar Stu Mostow "WRCLW Pils", 5% which was a touch biscuity, with grapefruit  coming through at the back, making it more an IPA, I thought. Second up were a lovely heavily fruited Brown Porter (although it poured very clouded off-white) called "Lost Berry" from Maryensztadt 5.2%. We also tried "Jack Strong", a 7.6% Imperial IPA from the same brewer, which had a big bold malt flavour, some herbal traits and a rich sweetness. The finish is increasingly dry and makes it quite moreish. Next up was The Brothers Bar, a much quieter place just 5 minutes walk away. There was a reasonable selection of keg beers in here, but not much in the Craft line so I opted for a Czech brewed Zubr "Schwarz" a 4.1% Dunkel, which was bitter-sweet with a delicate, almost floral hoppy finish. Jane had a small shot of the local Soplica hazlenut liqueur, which, by the smile on her face, went down very well. Draft Board Game Pub was the next bar of the evening. This is a quirky place, Craft Ales at the bar and an area downstairs for games devotees. Serious stuff if you play. We ordered our drinks and then popped downstairs, out of curiosity, and were amazed at how focused these players were. The games are all free and some are still being developed there before going on to be enjoyed in the outside world. Apparently we were rubbing shoulders with World Champions in a Star Wars game. Our host, who was there to show interested parties how to play, was excellent company and took the time to just chill and discuss Polish life, history and an insight into the following day's Independence and St Martin's celebrations. What a nice guy. Browar Za Miastem "Wlasne Sprawy American Pale Ale", 5.6% was my selection from the bar, which I found solid enough, some nice sweet malt then hints of sour bitterness at the back. "Tyskie Gronie" was Jane's favoured tipple. By now we were getting peckish. We decided to head back to Stary Rynek and were invited in to sample the delights of Rynek 95 Restauracja. Goose, all the trimmings was offered, at a price one could not refuse, so we were soon sat downstairs, in the catacombs, almost, waiting for our meal.To go with the food Jane had a "house" beer, by this time my memory chips had started to go on the blink, so I can't quite recall which Polish lager it was. I, of course, could remember, through my memo app and photo evidence, my choice. Paulaner "Hefe-Weissbier", a Dunkel which imparted nice sweet malty flavours with fruit and bready yeast coming through.
By this time, we were both getting a little tipsy, so decided one more bar and a taxi back to our hotel was the order of the day. One place high on my list was Basilium, just a stroll away from Stary Rynek. Off we went. Good decision. This was a modern bar, that had a brilliant selection of local brews and a very, very knowledgeable barman. The clientele were extremely friendly, and the
Basilium, Great bar, good beer.
ambiance very relaxing. In here, after suggesting our preferences, we were served with our beers, and went to sit with the locals. Waszczukowe "Lycha Zbycha Whiskey Stout", 6.9%, a beer with a smokey peat vein running through with slight coffee and light chocolate at the back, was my first beer, which was followed up by another from Waszczukowe, "Ruda Maruda". This Red AIPA, 6.2%, has a balanced caramel opening as bready notes and some citrus gradually ease through. The finish has slight tropical fruitiness, a reasonable hoppy bitterness with just an edge sourness. We could have stayed here longer, enjoying good beer and friendly conversation but it was Polish Independence Day the following day and Saint Martin's ( swiety Marcin) Day in Poznan in particular, which would feature a colourful parade, street food and, of course, the locally produced and certificated croissants, or "rogale" which are eaten in great numbers, and we would like to experience it.


We awoke quite early and I immediately set about prising my tongue off the roof of my mouth before having a couple of cups of coffee, slowly nearing a state of readiness for the day. We eventually left the hotel, jumped on the tram and headed off to the aptly named Saint Martin's Street. The weather by this time was awful, but the street food was interesting, tasty and very traditional, and the parade was well worth catching. Colour, firecrackers, smoke and a glimpse of history mixed with the aromas of the food stalls made for a quite a spectacle. We were glad we joined the throngs of locals on their big day of celebrations .
Still slightly hungover from yesterday's imbibing, and now rather cold and damp as well, we decided on a quick drink and then back to the hotel. Our hostelry of choice was to be one of the two Ministerstwo Browaru bars. This one is just off St Martin's Street. The place was very busy, and only had one member of staff on at the time of our visit. I went for a local "dark" ale whilst Jane chose a lager styled beer. Because of the lively and hectic nature in this crowded bar, caused by the day's poignancy, observance, merrymaking and jollification, I failed to note with which beers we were supplied, but needless to say, both were excellent. We would have stayed for more but being cold, wet and still quite weary after last night's excesses, we decided to head back to the hotel. Once ensconced in our room, Jane settled down to watch a Polish film with Polish subtitles about the post war independence, whilst I settled down to write up my beer and pub notes whist enjoying a glass of Soplica, and one of my shop bought beers.


Komes in Motownia
Our last day in Poznan, for this trip, was now here. We went down and enjoyed another hearty and varied breakfast in the hotel. We decided another walk into town and a visit to Stary Rynek would set us up for the journey home. The weather was bright, sunny but cold and pleasantly bracing, which added a little haste to our meander. We were soon back in the centre, ready to bid farewell to the familiar facades we had become very acquainted with during our stay. We wandered round, took some more photos, bought a few goat related souvenirs and then went for a drink. This time we chose to try Motownia Premium Bar and Pub. We were, again, warmly welcomed into the large and friendly bar and soon decided on our drinks. Jane went for "Grzaniec Galicyjski" (the local mulled wine) whilst I went for Fortuna "Komes Baltic Porter", 9%. The "Komes" has a really big dark chocolate backbone with a fair lacing of liquorice and some dark fruit. There is a slight sourness which helps raise it further.The finish is dry and the high ABV is well hidden. This was followed up by a Fortuna "Mirabelle" (Plum) beer, 5.1%. Another enjoyable brew from this brewery which was full of fruity flavour. A sweet, almost jammy, plum taste sits proudly on top of a good malty opening, alongside a mild tartness. What a nice, satisfying fruit beer.
Time was ticking, so we decided on a last visit to Basilium before heading back to our hotel to pick up our bags. On entering we were remembered and greeted as regulars. The barman recalled my tastes, and which beers I had experienced last time. I was offered a local dark beer I had not had before, Browar Waszczukowe "Grazyna Sprezyna Toffee Stout", 4.5%. a beer which has a reasonably sweet malt opening, with that toffee pushing through. Some chocolate is evident, as is vanilla. Jane opted for a locally brewed cider which she assured me was very good, if a little sweet. My last one in here was Kingpin "Fake Lancelot", a Saison of 6.3%. Peach and sweet caramel at the start give way to more fruitiness, some fresh grass and a good bitter and dry finish. A nice way to round off our final afternoon in Poznan's beautiful and historic centre. We headed back to pick up our bags from our hotel, and await our taxi back to the airport. I decided on a bottle from the hotel bar whilst we waited. "Latarnik Rewalski", a Wheat beer of 4.8% from Minibrowar Kowal. Slightly darker than some wheat beers, but certainly not in the dunkel envelope, there was some lovely fruit flavours going on in the glass, orange, slight peach were especially noticeable, with just a modest coriander hint at the back. This was to be the last Polish craft ale we were to sample whilst in Poland, although we did pick up some at the airport's duty free counter to sample back in the UK. As we sat in the airport departure lounge, grabbing a quick 5.6% Zywiec Premium we were pleased we had decided to try the Polish hospitality and experience all those great beers and friendly , embracing pubs along with the good hearty meals. We will be back again to try a few more, no doubts about that.

The "extra bottles, and Duty Free.

On Wednesday's alternative route-marched return to Hotel Vivaldi, I mentioned we came across a Craft Ale shop, one of the various Duzy Ben stores which are dotted about the city. Well, it would have been daft not to pop in! We picked up 5 different beers in here to sample back in our room. The selection of local, national and international beers and ciders within was very good, as was the medley of wines, liqueurs and spirits. Fortuna "Miloslaw", one of the beers already reviewed, was among the quintet of beers. The others were, Zywiec Group/Heineken "Warka Strong", a sweet malty Strong Pale Lager, 6.5%, with a slight metallic edge, some nuttiness comes through in the sweet roast malt finish. Not bad, to be fair. "Puola/Polska Finish Export Stout", 8.8%, a collaboration brew from Browar Wasosz (Poland) and Humalove (Finland) is a stout brewed with Lingonberries which was dark, rich and has a good punch of bitter fruit and the warmth of fortified wine coming through. Some coffee enters the fray towards the long dry and mildly bitter finish. Very nice. Browar Jana "Porter Baltycki", 8.8% was another excellent offering. There is a lovely cherry fruitiness at the outset of this one, which combines well with dark chocolate and just a hint of roast malt. These flavours carry on to the finish which is medium dry. Doctor Brew "Yellow Bourbon Dark Lager, with coffee milk", 4.9%, was an earthy tasting beer, some vegetable traits and the mildest tang of coffee. Not to my liking, I'm afraid, but hey ho!
We also managed to pick up a further 4 Polish Craft Ales, purchased from the airport's Duty Free franchise, to taste when we got back to the UK. All of them were from Browar Zamkowy Cieeszyn.(also under the Zywiec umbrella)
First was their 9.8% "Porter", a brew which has a bready, biscuity taste at the back of a choco-coffee opening gambit. Some roast malt and nutty hints and very well hidden alcohol strength. "Mastne" is a 5.8% "Traditional Ale" and also comes under the guise of "Brackie Mastne" Caramel sweetness is the first sensation to hit the tongue, then a medium bitterness before a drying medium finish. "Double IPA", 8%, had tropical fruit over caramel at the start with some grassy highlights. A slight spice warmth appears on the  palate and then leads you to a mildly bitter-sweet finish. Marvelous. Last up was their 6.2% "Stout". Just a touch thin and watery, I thought, but there are nice rounded spikes of spiciness and chocolate, caramel and a hint of nuttiness. The finish is dry with a touch of sour tartness. All in all I found these beers not too shabby at all. They were all worth tasting, and quite varied.

Until the next time, Cheers, and keep it "Real"