Wednesday 15 July 2015


The white-haired man in the corner studies several newspapers, which are spread before him on the table as if they are maps for his cultural campaigns. Phew, there’s room for a plate and a glass though. He studiously chews his food, sausages, slowly and deliberately, a pen in one hand, a fork in the other; books to read, music to listen to, TV shows to catch, perhaps. An assiduous ticker. 

He wipes his lips with an ivory white napkin, scratches his chin, clean shaven, dimpled, takes a last sip of his Eden-Pils (fresh, lemony, light and noble, I have the same in my glass) and then asks for another. It is after all only brewed at the back of the pub. 

In this long, dark wooden panelled space, there is no music, just the murmur of voices and the scape of cutlery on plate. There are antlers curled around the lamps that hang from the ceiling, the aroma of sausages and the sour-sweet wrench of sauerkraut piled on plates. The bells of the nearby Dom sound the hour, honest and uncomplicated, an ancient liturgy heard every night since the metal was cast. On this night, the old town of Regensburg is easy going, local, quiet, unhurried and calm and the beer at Kneitinger has an equal serenity about it. 

And on the next day, the old town breathes again, lets its hair down, engages with the hordes who crunch their way down the narrow streets, glance and pay heed to the  medieval streets and the emerging remains that the Romans left, while we, my son and I, who is 16 now and can buy me a beer, sit in the garden of Eden that is Brauerei Spital’s, across the Danube on the island of Stadtamhof, with the spires of the Dom in the distance, and toast our good fortune to be here with Spital Hell — full-bodied, a shadow of lemony hop in the mid palate, clean, refreshing minerally, gently carbonated and with a creamy mouthfeel. And afterwards we walk across the Danube, and look at its pliable surface, a snake’s skin, dark green, and a carp, reddish brown, lazily breaks the surface, while the river continues on its way to the Iron Gates and the oblivion of the Black Sea. 

Monday 6 July 2015

Weekend (no not the Godard film)

Doing my talk on beer and travel, no cabbages were thrown
Weekender, Peakender, disturbing the fusty force that normally descends on a weekend, trains and buses and footslogging brings me in at Thornbridge Hall, come Friday evening. Tents beneath trees, an amiable army bivouacked, the aromatics of Thai, pizza and Mexican food emerging from a trio of food carts, keg taps and pump handles letting loose a torrent of beers: let’s see now, Tilquin gueuze is the perfect late morning beer, to see what it has to say to you; Tzara is the lunchtime beer, a sparkling, light, sunlit riff on a Kolsch, while as the day progresses it’s good to genuflect with Del Borgo’s Genziana; in the meantime tip a nod to the hop bursting happiness of St Erik’s IPA, clasp a glass of the wonderfully assertive Tart and perhaps end the day with a Jaipur X (or two). There were lots more beers of course but I wasn’t making notes. This is more than a festival with beer; it was about people, it was about families enjoying themselves (lots of kids running about, which was great); it is about friends getting together and traversing their lives over some great beers (some good friends of mine were there while new ones were made); it’s also about a celebration of a brewery that I have been visiting and kept in touch with since I organised a British Guild of Beer Writers trip there in 2005 (my note book had the sentence ‘they’ve got an Italian brewer’, which seemed so outrageous then; there was also a brewer from Scotland there, wonder what happened to him?). As the format of the beer festival changes, redefines itself, becomes more inclusive, becomes more open, Peakender is another direction for the beer festival to go. There was music, physical activities, suggestions of walks in the surrounding countryside, some football training for kids, talks (one of which I gave), films and a general sense of happiness and joy. I’ll be back next year (note to self: take an air-bed for the tent rather than a bone-bruising carrier mat).