There’s absolutely no hiding it. One of the most joyful parts of travelling to a new country is the prospect of a new beer to embrace your taste buds. Whether you’re in the dry heat of Africa or the frosty winters of the Czech Republic, there’s just something special about ordering the local beer. Luckily for me, there have been plenty of these over the past two years of jetting around the globe, so, as I return from each great journey, Baldock’s Global Beer Bible will recruit more and more reviews of the sweet golden nectar. So, where do I start?
Budapest, Hungary: Borsodi
Funnily enough, I’m in Budapest and instead of tucking into a meaty goulash, I’m sat on the floor eating a curry with my hands. Traditional and cultural, sure, but this isn’t why I came to Hungary. Then I break from my lamb korai, the spices override my tongue slightly and I’m in need of a drink to lay my taste-buds to rest and cool off. They’ve suffered enough. I scan the menu and see Tiger, Kingfisher and Borsodi. “One Borsodi please, that sounds Hungarian.” It was, after all, only my first night, and my friends had dragged me off the scorching streets for a scorching curry. I hadn’t had time to review the country’s different brewskies.
I need not order anything else for my remaining five days. From noon until dusk, Borsodi was the only liquid my body needed to keep itself hydrated and cool. The defined tang stood out as far as beers I’ve sampled go, and that’s pretty cool for me, a bit of actual difference. Most countries offer an array of beers, but the likely outcome is that they taste like a cheaper version of a warm, tinned Fosters. Hungary had it right, and my word was a Borsodi the perfect trophy after a day of dirty work clambering through the underground caves of Budapest. The oddest beer to date, but it wouldn’t be Budapest if it wasn’t odd.
Normandy, France: The Stubby, Finkbrau
Living the dream on a holiday season in France introduced me to millions of new experiences, but one of the finer things was a Finkbrau stubby. For the best six euros you’ll ever spend, in return will be a crate of 24 small, funny shaped lagers, but do not be fooled by the amusingly cheap price tag. Whether it’s a cold one with the BBQ on outside your mobile home or on the beach watching the sun go down, a small but tasty Finkbrau is a great French perk. In fact, the beer is so great, it’s where I get my nickname from. This portable beer cannot be found on tap, but it can be found in my top three world beers for sentimental value. I’ve had many stubbies on my travels, but the one I remember most fondly was my first. One day into the season and down on the beach at St Aubin Sur Mer… I can still taste that first sip, but that might be because I’m writing this post with a stubby in hand.
Moshi, Tanzania: Kilimanjaro Lager
I’m sweaty, muddy and sat on a humid coach, beaming with exhaustion and thirst. The coach is bringing me back from the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, and is taking me to the Springlands hotel, the place where I can finally get my grubby hands on a cold, famous and pretty unique beverage. The bus halts up, and we exit slowly into the bar for a celebration dinner as each and every one of our team had summited. A plateau of Tanzanian street food awaits, and there, standing out amongst the vivid colours of beef and banana stew, I spot the snow-capped peak I’ve previously stood upon. This time the peak was on a label, but I for one could not be more pleased. 5 days of isolation from the world and beer, I put the bottle to my lips to try Tanzanian’s most sought-after taste. Creamy, smooth, refreshing, rewarding, relaxing, thirst-quenching and absolutely breath-taking. Kilimanjaro Lager, from that first sip, became my favourite beer on the planet.
Prague, Czech Republic: Pilsner Urquell
Ah, the most recent beers I have enjoyed along the road. Funnily enough, most of the countries I have visited have played host to their summer period during my stay, but not Prague. Hitting around minus seven degrees most days, the thought of a bitter cold beer contrasted to the normal craving one would endure in sweltering city temperatures. This was of course, until two hours after landing, my first sip of Pilsner Urquell. The world’s first golden lager, Pilsner is a beer for any time of the day. I’ve previously stated that my time in Prague was occupied with endless underground bars brimming with a thick layer of smoky haze and 90p pints. Visit the clock tower? Pilsner. A walk around Old Town square? Pilsner. Sledging down Petřín hill in the snow? Pilsner. A city of beer with one of the best beers I’ve certainly tasted. Smooth and served with a lot of head, the Czechs have themselves an unbelievably tasty national beverage.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Heineken
The Netherlands is more commonly known for its legalised weed and infamous red light district. Don’t get me wrong, they’re one heck of an experience, but not quite the Heineken Experience. Seriously, a museum about beer. For beer lovers, this is what these European cities are about, and after learning the history and processes of making a brew, you’ll really want to send one down the hatch right away. They even teach you how to drink it properly, a lesson in life I will never forget. As for the lager, Heineken is one of those beers you can have anywhere. On the beach in the bottle or from the tap in the bars. It is the golden nectar of the Netherlands, but also a whopping hit in France. Biere Peche is an alternative Heineken, a standard pint poured from the giant, icy sculpture branding the Heineken star with an added dash of peach syrup. Try it, it’s not quite a Heineken, but it isn’t half bad.