17 May, 2009

The ├ślfestival in Copenhagen, Denmark

This weekend was the ├ślfestival (Danish beer festival) in Copenhagen. The fest is not just for Danish beers though, they had beers from the U.S., Italy, Sweden, Germany, England, Belgium along with Danish beers of course and probably a few other countries I am forgetting. All totaled there were probably over 1,000 beers and it had to be if not the best, probably the second best beer festival I have ever been to. The Danes really know how to run an efficient festival and make it a fun experience. There was not much in the line of drunk frat boys roaming around screaming and dropping their glasses like we get at fest in the U.S. Ok..there was a little of that but not much!

I had not planned in advance to go to the festival but after finding a pretty cheap flight from Brussels and a tiny and inexpensive hotel in Copenhagen, I was off on my own to the fest. My flight left Brussels at 7 am so I was up and out of the apartment a little after 3 am on the road to Brussels. The drive is very quick when there is hardly any road traffic. A short 1 and 1/2 hour flight and I was in Copenhagen. Another 10 minute train ride from the airport and I was in the center of town.

After checking into the hotel, I was off on a little shopping mission. When Paula and I visited Copenhagen back in August she fell in love with some cool rubber Scandanavian boots called Viking boots but she did not buy them and has regretted it since. We looked online but were not able to find these Viking boots for sale anywhere near us in Luxembourg. So when I decided to go back to Copenhagen for the beerfest, Paula made sure that I would look for these elusive boots. I did and I found them and brought home 2 pairs for her and I got 1 pair for me for good measure!

The festival started at 2pm on Friday but before heading there I had to make a shopping stop of my own at one of the best beer stores in the world, Olbutikken, run by the brother of the brewer at Mikkeller in Denmark. I had a bag full of beer I brought over from Luxembourg to trade with the owner Jeppe so I grabbed one of the free Copenhagen city bikes and peddled myself the mile or so from the hotel to the store. They were set to open up at noon and I figured I would get there a few minutes early but was surpised to find a line of about 20 people deep waiting to get in! I headed to the back of the line to wait out the opening. Once inside it was very tight but I managed to get a nice selection of very hard to get beers and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the fest.

My hotel was only about 200 yards from the main Copenhagen train station so after a quick walk and a 10 minute train ride I was at the festival location. It was about 3pm on a Friday so the fest was not as crowded as it would be later in the day so I had a good run of the place and whatever I wanted to sample at the time. With the price of admission you get a nice little tasting glass, 10 tokens for samples and a handy little festival guide with descriptions of every beer for sample, all 1,000 or more! Now 99.9% of the descriptions were in Danish which I can't read but at least it said what style each beer was and it also pointed out the times for special keg tappings for limited beers so I made a handy little list of my must have beers.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday I was lucky enough to sample about 56 of the worlds best and most extreme / cutting edge beers, many of which will never be sold in bottles or will not make it the part of Europe where we live or to the U.S.

Check out pictures from my weekend fest trip to Copenhagen

Check out the list of beers that I was lucky enough to sample in Copenhagen

10 May, 2009

Weekend in Brugge

After our time in the Netherlands, we headed up Saturday morning to Brugge. No trip to Belgium or the BeNeLux is complete without a trip to Brugge, the Venice of the North as they say. We roamed around Brugge, along with masses of other tourists, on the hunt for great beer and food and some sites as well. Paula and I just spent the night in Brugge and then part of Sunday afternoon before returning to Luxembourg later on Sunday.

One Day in Delft

After spending 2 days and nights in Utrecht with our friends Andrew and Tracy, Paula and I went with them to Delft, just under 30 minutes from Utrecht. We had a hotel right on a canal and we were off on a nice day wandering around the city, taking in the sites, doing some shopping and eating and drinking of course. Delft is famous for their blue and white tiles and other Delftware as it is called. They also have some nice antique shops to visit.

05 May, 2009

Roaming Around Utrecht and the Countryside with Friends

This past week we were happy to see our friends Andrew and Tracy come to visit us in Luxembourg for a weekend before they head to Liege in Belgium and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, before meeting back up with them a few days later in Utrecht.

They arrived on a Friday in Luxembourg and we stayed in our flat and had a bit of a traditional dinner that we eat in Luxembourg which consisted of amongst other things...sausage and beer! On Saturday we took in some of the sites in Luxembourg City for the better part of the day and then we headed off to Orval in Belgium for lunch and a visit to the abbey. Later that evening we headed back into Luxembourg City for dinner at Mousel Cantine which is a great Luxembourgish restaurant in the Clausen section of the Grund.

After going back to work for Monday and Tuesday, Paula and I packed up the little hatchback and were off to Utrecht, where Andrew and I used to live along with a bunch of other American's and folks from all over the world on a special project. This trip was all pleasure...no work...or at least not that much work. Just a bunch of emails on my Blackberry. We arrived in Utrecht after about 3 and 1/2 hours on the roam and just in time for lunch.

After parking the park and checking into the hotel, we jumped on a train to Bodegraven, a little town about 20 minutes outside of Utrecht to visit a great Dutch brewery called De Molen which just happens to be in an old windmill (molen). We arrived just in time to have lunch and a few beers. As expected, the food and the beer were fantastic and the scenery was cool as well. There were no other patrons in the restaurant at the time so we got great attention from the brewer dude except for when he went out shopping and outside to smoke. After lunch and a few drinks we headed into their small but stacked beer store where I was a kid in a candy store! They have beers from all over the world including their own beers, tons of hard to find Belgian beers, American beers and a nice selection of beers from Scandanavia. I think I purchased something like 12 or more bottles, several big ones but we came prepared with a bottle bag and a backpack.

On the way back to the train we stopped in a bike store and Paula bought a nice set of saddle bags with flowers for her bike back home. Then we jumped on a train for Utrecht and to meet Andrew and Tracy at our hotel.

Check out our pictures from De Molen

After a quick stop at our hotel in Utrecht, Paula and I headed out through town to the main shopping, eating, drinking and general good time area right along the beautiful Oudegracht canal. We were on a mission to find some seats at Cafe Belge which is my favorite bar from the days of hanging out in Utrecht back in 2000. This bar has a great view of the canal and a fantastic Belgian beer selection and is really a locals bars. We arrived and were lucky to find a table right at front with 4 seats for when Andrew and Tracy arrived a bit later. Thanks to newish smoking laws in the Netherlands, the bar was smoke free so we were able to enjoy our beers without the extra taste in the air! Andrew and Tracy arrived maybe an hour later and we had a few more beers before heading off on a little walk down memory lane through the little streets of Utrecht. It was nice to pass by some of the shops, restaurants and bars that we used to frequent in Utrecht.

We were also in the middle of Queen's Night which is a crazy party night before Queen's Day. They were setting up all kinds of stages for dancing and late night partying when we were walking through town looking for a place for dinner. There were also a bunch of boats floating down the canal with partygoers and a few dudes sitting on couches in front of stores, drinking beers. Good party atmosphere. We updated up having dinner on the Oudegracht at Casa Di David which is right on the water. This was one of our favorite restaurants when living in Utrecht a few years back.

More words to come soon....

In the meantime, check out pictures of our Utrecht wandering and pictures from our biking adventures!