Saturday, August 29, 2009

Quiet Death on the Hatters' Street.

The nature of guidebooks is that they're out of date as soon as they're published. No surprise, then, that the 80 all-stars from Around Brussels have suffered their first casualty.

The Chapeau d'As, a quiet brasserie just two blocks from the Grand Place at Rue des Chapeliers 36, shut its doors a short while back. It had a brief but interesting beer selection, paneled walls with benches, and a Magritte-esque painted ceiling complete with derby hats blowing around a blue sky. It was a place of peace. Except that now it's being replaced by a Scandinavian restaurant. Whatever that means.

But guess what? There are new all-stars on the horizon. And hopefully a second edition in a couple of years or so. In the meantime, 79 out of 80 ain't bad.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Beer Mag on the Way from Belgium.

Howdy from the Ozarks, where I am kept fat and happy with a steady diet of barbecue, baseball and IPA. A little too quiet on the lake this morning. I can hear a train whistling over the hills yonder. Fish are biting. Or so I'm told. Today my only mission is to ride a Jet-Ski. Like I said, too quiet.

OK, check out this upcoming Belgian beer mag called Bubblzzz. It is theoretically possible that the name is less silly in French or Dutch than in English. I couldn't say for sure. Regardless, it's a beautiful magazine with lively writing. Its preview issue is ambitious, ranging from Trappist beers to Pierre Celis to Zythos to Lambics and more. I reckon the idea is to show advertisers the great potential here. Much of the photography is gorgeous.

And there's a glowing review of Around Brussels in 80 Beers (page 12). This is my favorite review yet, thanks to the phrase, "Joe a le flair d'un chien de chasse dopé au houblon," which is something like, "Joe has the nose of a hop-addicted hound dog."

How cool is that? Our beagle would be so proud if he could read it. Unfortunately Truman was born in Flanders, and has been raised as an American, so he can't really be bothered with French.

Gotta go. I think I smell Centennial, ever so slowly seeping out of one of those bottles in the fridge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Books Come to Life and Dance with the Janitor When the Shop Closes at Night.

Sitting on a farm in mid-Missouri, sipping coffee. Junior was hungry and it's damn early. Feeling strong and virile thanks to a steady diet of sunshine, lake time, red meat, and Boulevard beers. Also feeling like a salesman this morning.

I'd hope that Thirsty Pilgrim readers are a saturated market when it comes to owning the handy little guidebook, Around Brussels in 80 Beers. But I know that you have friends. And they, obviously, want to know where to get a copy of their own. Since you're too cheap to give them one.

Well, as you know, there's the instant mail order. Or if you're in Brussels there are a bunch of shops: Waterstones, Sterling Books, Filigraines, Bier Tempel, Beer Planet, Beermania, Delices et Caprices and a couple others. Still more to come.

Waterstones especially—and perhaps against their better judgement—has seen some potential in us. They bought a very large amount of books and put up a window promotion. Here you see the photographic evidence.

Mr. Jackson's books are below ours, but we won't let that go to our heads. And I don't think he'll hold it against us.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Today, a Sneak Preview...

Coming eventually: a TV documentary series hosted by Tim Webb, author of Good Beer Guide Belgium. What you see below is the very beginnings of the project. The man behind this little piece of magic is documentarian Taylor Brush, a fellow expat based in Belgium. There are funds to be raised and a lot of production to be done, which would in theory be seriously under way by next summer.

This is just the initial tease, with the slightly longer promo to come soon, as I understand it. But... very promising, no?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beer and Breakfast in Plain English.

Up at 4 a.m. Which is no big deal these days, thanks to Junior. Aiming to get to the station early. Train leaves at 6:59 a.m., arrives around 8 a.m. London time. A two-hour trip, but it's as if England has awarded me with an extra hour of life. So I spend it on breakfast. My old friend the Betjeman Arms at St. Pancras, sadly, is no longer open that early. Not until 10 a.m. Fine. I consult Podge's guide... not too many (pub) options this early... and I'm off to the Fox & Anchor.

This is a classy Victorian gastro-pub near the Smithfield Meat Market. (I thought I'd seen London meat markets before, having been out to the late night clubs. But no, I'm told this is an actual working market where foodstuffs are bought and sold. Interesting.) There are several pubs in London as nice as the Fox & Anchor, but one way it distinguishes itself is the morning hours for market traders and serious breakfasting. By the way, it also has six rooms and they look pretty damned nice.

Food. I could have gone with Eggs Benedict, but if I'm priming for a Great British Beer Festival, I've got to go with the proper English breakfast, don't I? Fried eggs, thick bacon, two sausages, blood pudding, beans, juicy tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, toast. I'm forgetting something. Oh yeah, a pint. In this case, a pewter tankard of Nethergate's soft, nutty and fruity Dr. John's Panacea. It was decent.

My next choice was even better: a Meantime Helles on draft. Lively, bitter and refreshing. Attention British people: If you must have a lager, consider that one.

More on the festival, probably, when I get the chance.

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's Not Easy to Type with One Hand.

The little feller is asleep in my other arm. He's the full-time job these days. So it's with some mixed feelings that I report to you the demise of Beers of the World, a nice little British magazine that had published my work a couple of times. I had hoped it would do so again.

It really tickles my wife whenever I make some duckets from this funny beer writing thing. One source of tickling has left us. Sad news in this house.

There is some able pondering here and here about whether this demise signals "the end of beer writing as we know it," as Mr. Tierney Jones said, and Mr. Hieronymus said again. The speculation: There's just not many duckets in beer magazines, therefore not many duckets in clever, long-form feature writing about our favorite subject. Meanwhile those pesky bloggers are giving lots of clever (and not so clever) writing away for free.

So, a question: Are beer blogs the future of beer writing?

God, I hope not. Here's the thing: I sort of dislike reading beer blogs. Sorry, guys. Ironic and true.

This here laptop, you see, is for work. Even if I waste lots of time on it, and even if the work is often lots of fun. Reading blogs feels like work to me. Cracking a book or a magazine, however, and putting up my feet... now that's leisure time. That's pleasure.

Now that I think about it, I don't even like writing about beer blogging. I'd rather just write about beer. For people who really like beer. Enough then.

Tomorrow morning, obscenely early, I'm off to London for an afternoon at the Great British Beer Festival. I hope to squeeze an article or two out of it. Something that would give somebody, somewhere, pleasure. That would help justify the price of the train ticket. And tickle my wife. And if I can't sell anything, well... I've got this other project here, in my other arm.

Just hope he doesn't expect to go to a nice college.

Worth noting: The recent launch of Beer Connoisseur magazine. At the moment it is essentially a collection of beer blogs. But friend and colleague Chuck Cook reassures me that there are plans for a quarterly print version to launch in November. Here you should read Chuck's recent column on the new Moeder Lambic.