Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wilderness Euro Extravaganza!

Day 1: We landed in London, having little knowledge of the area. Patrick and I had been to London once before but only for 13 hours, so we had little experience. Day one, we decided to not contact anyone we knew and just wing it (tourists!). You know, to view the city as a newcomer. We did this mainly to find out what was good and bad with an unbiased opinion.  We learned a valuable lesson...As many good pubs as there are in London, there are double the piss poor pubs. Fosters on cask? The worst fish 'n' chips you'll ever have? Conglomerate owned? CHECK. However, when it's bad it's bad and when it's good it's incredible. Having been annoyed with a few old timer and touristy pubs, we made our way to The Euston Tap in the old Euston train station. This place is legit in every way. We were met by a lovely couple who greeted us as: "The Arizona Beards", which was awesome. We digressed into several pints from Buxton, Siren, Kernal, Brew By Numbers, Beavertown, and many more local breweries.  We wandered into Camden Town and enjoyed the night having pints and meeting new people.


Day 2: We headed to Logan Plant's brewery, Beavertown Brewery, where we were set to brew a collaboration red saison with sour cherries and currants, along with Mikkeller and TO ØL.








 Logan
may be the son of a rock legend, but to us he is a world class gent making world class beer.



Jen, Beavertown's head brewer, immediately greeted us with a smile and took us to discover a "Full English" breakfast.



My lord, their traditional breakfasts are massive and awesome! Back at the brewery, we got the full tour. Their new kit (brewery) is only 3 months old and they are still working out some minor tweaks. The beer was stellar, so things are fitting right into place for Beavertown. Midway through the morning, and a few pints later, we were presented with the Hop Bucket Challenge. I'll post the video of this idiocracy :). Just imagine all of us uncomfortably covered in hop sludge!
Eventually, we made our way to Logan's BBQ joint,  Dukes,  and had a freaking FEAST.

  Mikkel, as always, destroyed meat like it was his last meal. This is by far the best meal in London that we had. We loved everything about Dukes and will forever remember this meal!
We went late into the night, having great libations. Tore from TO Øl might still feel that one! This was easily one of the best days of the trip, and let me tell you that we are honored to call Beavertown Brewery our friends. Each and every one of those beautiful people makes that company amazing. Cheers guys, thanks for having us!






Day 3-4
As memory fades in and out, I reach to reminisce on these two foggy days. We visited pubs and breweries such as:Pressure Drop, 5 Points, and The Cock all in Hackney.
 Several times we got lost, only to bury our face in a cask ale to regain composure. 


 These couple of days is where we really got to see the north side of London and fell in love with cask ale. It's quite a unique city with massive amounts of beauty,
diversity, and culture. Our good friends Neil, Sarah, and Lucy from Team Brewdog reached out to us and became our drinking mates for those nights. They talked us into a last minute flight to Aberdeen, Scotland and of course we obliged! So, onto the Brewdog mother ship and the land of Whiskey!


Day 5-6: The Grey Land.
Low lying clouds, fog, monotone granite buildings, paired against dense, green rolling hills. It's a dreary, yet, charmed world. Aberdeen birthed Brewdog's flagship beer bar, and that's where we headed first. This is a unique city, with oil in dem hills, which took a normally sleepy town into a haven for oil crazed businessmen. It brought gobs of money to an otherwise lifeless town. As always, the Brewdog bar (this one being the original) was set up quite nicely, and we enjoyed a few pints.

We wandered the seaside town from there, stopping at various places. 6°( a Belgian beer bar)

and CASC (a wide variety of Scottish Whiskey and beer bar)

were both notably great as well.
A side note on Patrick and I traveling abroad, or in general for that matter: We won't ever be called timely, organized, or even prepared, but damn do we have more fun than most! A Last minute trip to an oil rich country with an influx of business people weekly would normally garner a hotel room booked in advance. Nope. On our landing approach to the Aberdeen Airport,  Patrick and I decided we would sleep in a park. And by golly, did we ever sleep in a park!
What a great, cold, and damp experience. Don't worry we were prepared with thermarest pads and airplane blankets. Upon waking, we headed to Ellon, where the Brewdog production facility is.
Jon, a brewer there, guided us on a tour of the endeavors brewery. It's grown quite a bit over the years and there was lots to see.
Honestly though, what an incredible company with amazing, kind, generous, funny, and fun loving people. They truly are the pride of Scotland. We met Martin, one of the two crazy brains behind the behemoth which is Brewdog. Trust me, this brewery is all passion, and their head brewer, Bowman, a good friend with the thickest Scottish accent around, is doing amazing things up there! A special thanks to Brewdog Neil, Lucy, and Sara for all your hospitality! We left, I'll admit it, exhausted, dazed, and confused!
  But we must push on....

Day 6-7
We had met Buxton Brewing's Colin, Jake, Dennis, and Jeff in Copenhagen at Mikkeller's CBC in May. You'll never guess it, but we really hit it off with these guys! Go figure! One night in particular, we rambled on of a bacon, maple, chipotle stout named Dragon "Tips" ( right ;) ). So, that was the brewing agenda. Upon arriving to the quant and charming town of Buxton England, Colin, the brewmaster, drove us through the stonewall lined country side. This is truly the old world! The rolling hills, the dense forest, the black birds, the greenery, the stonewall lined roads, the perfectly rolled hay bails...it was quintessentially perfect. We ended up at an old pub at the top of a mighty hill for a few cask ales.
Seriously, this was top 3 moments of the trip! We eventually made it to the butcher shop to buy the bacon for the collab beer. Upon arrival, the butcher exclaimed, "Bacon in Beer?! Now, that will be good!" We made it to their production facility and met up with possibly the funniest man in all of brewing, Jake. His handsome mustache and legendary wit will put a smile on any person's face!
We all went out and had dinner at the Buxton Pub where the food matched the greatness of the beer. Those boys at Buxton are making some of the best beer in all of Europe!
No cell phones or TV, just chatter and banter. We headed out for one of the funniest, laughter filled evening of our lives. After quite a few pints, Jake taught us a game wherein you start in a football stance and heave at each other while trying to hit each other's elbows. Imagine us in an awkward dance-like match,  slapping toward each other's elbows. We were kicked out of a few bars, like proper bearded men! Then onto Monk,
a beer and cocktail bar that kept us "busy" until the sun came up. That place is a real gem!
Brewday at Buxton started with Patrick laying mangled on the floor beside the bed and myself dazed and confused.

 We were quite knackered to say the least.
Jake was pounding on our hotel door yelling, "Are the Americans in there?" Seriously,  dude is a freaking riot! The brewday was so much delirious fun. We doused ourselves in cold liquor to turn our brains on.

 Colin is a madman on that brewstand, and he brewed like the great brewer he is. Jake and I went to retrieve his guitar, because, well of course we had to improvise a song dedicated to the collaboration!





Oh my, so many good times were had.
Colin, Jake, and Dennis are some of the best people out there. Our one big regret is we didn't spend more time in Buxton! (Travel in the U.K is slow moving and prevented us staying to long in one place)
We finished that night with a flight back to London
at a bar called Last Resort. A jam-packed basement bar with all 90's and early 2000's American rock. Everyone screams out the songs in pure teenage angst and emotion. It was a great way end to the U.K. We did not sleep and boarded a plane for Geneva!



Day 8-10
SWITZERLAND.  OH SWITZERLAND!

Webster's has it all wrong. The definition of beauty is certainly lying somewhere in the Swiss Mountains. Traveling from Geneva to Yverdon by train reminded us that A.)Traveling Europe can be very expensive,  B.) Remember to check the train schedule! C.) We don't know French or German! D.) Traveling in Europe will build quite a bit of cultural awareness.  We arrived at the Yverdon train station with zero knowledge of the area and little communication ability. We managed to contact Raphaël,  the owner of Trois Dames Brewing in St Croix, Switzerland,  who drove down the mountain to retrieve us. Now, Raphaël's nickname, "madman" was given to him by us due to his ever moving, ever changing nature. I promise, we mean that in the nicest way possible! He bounces passion and ideas all over the place like a room full of dodge balls and you're the fat kid. On our way up the mountain to St Croix,  Patrick and I had a few jaw dropping moments due to the spectacular scenery. The curvy accent had flowing streams and waterfalls running in every direction, right next to the road. The Alps were behind us and the Jura Mountains in front. Château style homes became more prevalent as we gained elevation.
We learned that Absinthe was historically a Swiss creation and Raphaël wished to share ideas on a brew with some of the absinthe herbs. We agreed upon a black saison with the absinthe plant and fennel.
He took us to an absinthe museum
and we learned quite a bit about this amazing, misunderstood (in American culture) beverage. A farmer brought down the herb so we could brew with it the next day. Now that's service! Wow it smelled amazing!







 We continued up a very steep single lane mountain road
to reach a local mountain chalet for dinner. On the way up, we dug into hillside for roots that are traditionally used in absinthe,
which really brought us into our Wilderness realm. Saying this place has breathtaking views is an enormous understatement!  Panning across the horizon, the views of the Jura mountains with somewhat dramatic, low lying storm clouds dropping into the green valley below, were simply breathtaking.  Cows lined the ridges, and they were all wearing little handmade bells that sounded like hundreds of wind  chimes ringing in unison.
 See this all come together is an experience I will never forget! It was a symphony of nature's wonder.

 As we walked into the quintessential Swiss Chalet for dinner (this, after we had charcuterie at another chalet) we sat at community picnic table style. You see, most places in Europe share space in restaurants.
People bring their dogs, conversations, and NEVER their cell phones! It's especially this way in the chalets. This particular establishment served one thing: Swiss Beignets. These are world famous and they have not changed the recipe for 70 years! What a treat! Oh my, we loved it. We then hiked to the ridge of a mountain and watched the sunset over the Swiss Alps. Truly unbelievable!
We awoke the next morning to yet another
chalet breakfast of another amazing indigenous cheese related breakfast (forgot the name). Topped with an egg, and served with local spring water, YES!

You see, there was never talk of low fat, gluten-free, sugar content, etc... They live off of the agricultural values of the land. The cows have an incredible history with the mountain towns (too much for me to share) and they are used mainly for their milk. Pigs
and chickens were all behind each chalet, and bread was always being made and meat was always hanging for curing. This was a true local culture experience.

We eventually headed to the brewery where we met, Mike, the head brewer at Trois Dames. What a great guy! Raphaël asked us to help taste all the beer in his barrels ,and, well, we obliged!
After indulging in barrel aged beers, we took an afternoon hike on the high peaks,
and it was the most gorgeous land we've ever seen. We even went spelunking
into black cave and watched the storms roll in.









 An incredible adventure! 






Lets fast forward to dinner because it was so memorable. Now imagine this: Driving with Raphaël and his lovely wife Sylvie up a narrow mountain road at sunset,  as a full moon rises over jagged peaks. Mountains dropping into green, rolling valleys surround your peripheral. It actually was quite a romantic moment for Patrick and I!

We pulled up to the small chalet, which was advertised as having the world's best fondue by Raphael and Sylvie.




 It was lit only by little burning oil lamps hanging over each table and they serve a beautiful white wine made from Swiss grapes. The room is small and dimly lit. No WiFi,  cell service, TV, and no bar. Just 6 cozy community tables. The fondue comes in a house made bread bowl and consists of Gruyere cheese made from the local cow's milk. It also used some spices grown hillside. It's lit underneath by hand to melt the cheese and you pick away at the bread bowl as a table. Oh. My. Lord. I am ruined forever. Fondue will forever be average at best! The tastiest cheese I've ever had.  Every meal ends with a digestive, which is basically distilled herbs.
We walked back to the car and roaming donkeys were blocking the way out! So we pet them and laughed as they stubbornly stood there. What a beautiful evening with the Mettlers. They are seriously great people!






Day 9-10
 We brewed the collab dark absinthe saison
and made deliveries with Raphaël.


 The madman brews a bit, packages, sales, cleans, books, and delivers in a small van. This was truly a great day seeing more of the country side.
OK, I am tired of typing, so let's end this! 
We headed back to Geneva for an evening and flew back home. I left out SO MUCH but I hope you all get the gist!
The great adventure has come to an end as all great adventures must!