Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What we did on our holidays.

It's been a funny couple of weeks, right enough, but we pressed ahead with our trip to Berlin.

It was the occasion of the (snappily named) Global Association of Craft Beer Brewers inaugural Festival and Competition, so we got a party together (us, the boy, our friend Claire, and her boy) and piled onto the easyjet bound for Schönefeld. Once past the hours of chaos which is security at Manchester, things settled down rather.

It's not my first visit to Berlin, last time I was there the wall was in bits, but there were still technically two Germanys. So quite a lot of changes. I always liked the place; Berlin's now the largest city by extent in Europe, but the population density is practically half that of London. So, lots of green space and water, and not so very crowded. Always ranks highly in quality of life surveys. Jolly good transit system. Lots of English spoken - and this is important to me since my command of German extends to "bitte", "dankeschön", and a lot of pointing and smiling.

We were staying in an apartment a spit away from the Brandenberg gate, handy for sight-seeing - which is what the rest of our party did while Becky and I went to the thing.
Not covered in marzipan

Anyhoo, the "Globals" (as we'll now call them), had staked out an excellent compact venue at the Alte Börse Marzahn. Now, I read that Marzahn had "got a name for itself" back in the day. I didn't get to see what has happened (if anything) to any ghastly blocks of flats plonked down around windswept wastelands. But there's a fair bit of regeneration going on, at least where we were: "home to a community of artists, chefs and other creative engineers". Two breweries within 25m of each other, one a brewpub (Marzahner Bier), the other not (Bierfabrik) Decent little conference space, nice big room for tasting, all arranged around an open-air market space.

The first day was mainly judging (for me) and listening to presentations (Becky). All good. I was tasting "Belgian-style Wits" and a whole load of "Pale Ales". The wits? One was a pretty good Weissebier rather than a Wit, so we couldn't score that one very well. One of the actual wits clearly better than the others (I thought), but the standard was pretty blinking good.

The "Pale Ales" were hop-forward and in the modern style - of course. And again, the standard was very good. You can see the results here. After tasting 22 beers, I went out to sit in the sun, just in time for the rain to start. Which carried on until the evening when the awards were presented. This is why we're looking so damp (but happy) in the awards photos.

Next day (with much better weather, hot and sunny) was more presentations - I gave one on "Sustainability" - and the public festival.  The Globals ran the main bar, and brewers ran little satellite stalls selling their wares to an enthusiastic and well mixed crowd.

Overall? Well, we won awards*, so of course I'm going to say it was great.  But you know, it was great. Hundreds of beers from 20-odd countries.  Nice spot. Great beer. Lovely people.  If you were there, you know what I mean. If you weren't, why not?

*Awards? Yes indeed, best Fruit (or veg) "Damson", best Belgian-Style Dubbel or Triple "Furness Abbey", a bronze for the "Dry Stout" And a special trophy (that's the bottle thing) for judges favourite or something (again, "Furness Abbey", I think).