Internet imbibing: Belgiuminabox

Writing before Christmas on the joys of sour beer, and the importance of Belgium in their survival and revival, inspired me to top up my reserves. Earlier research had led me to Belgiuminabox.com, an online retailer based in Antwerp. The experience was a memorable one, the drinking likely to be even more so.

Run by beer aficionado Kurt Verblest, Belgiuminabox offers a near unassailable selection of Belgian classics and rarities at prices rarely seen this side of the English Channel, if they ever appear at all, and with the inclination and ability to ship worldwide.

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Truly Local drinks for local people

A recent planned visit to my sister’s place in Norfolk led to an unplanned visit to a fine outlet for interesting, and sometimes fairly alternative, tipples.

Truly Local in Stalham in north east Norfolk – only a few miles from the drowning village of Happisburgh – has already found a modicum of fame through the patronage of Prince Charles who made an impromptu visit to the 15 month-old shop in February.

It would be wrong to describe Truly Local – which is run as a not-for-profit business – as a specialist drinks outlet, however. The shop sells local produce of many kinds sourced from within a 35 mile radius of the shop (which in practice means that half its catchment area is actually underwater – still there’s nothing to stop seafood being part of the offering!). Shop manager Mick Sims explained that while the 35 mile radius might seem arbitrary it was in fact a cunning ploy to enable the shop to sell whiskies from the The English Whisky Co. Ltd.’s St. George’s Distillery in Roudham.

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The Essex Cider Shop: getting fruity out east

Christmas, New Year and long into January haven’t been especially festive times here at Tipple Towers. A nasty and persistent bug not only dented my enthusiasm for sampling and blogging but cauterised my palate to such an extent that anything I could taste more closely resembled a pint of creosote or furniture polish more than it did a fine beer or whisky.

So how best to ease myself back in now that some kind of a recovery seems finally to be in effect? Well I’ll have to put my reviews of some long-aged special bottlings on hold, probably until next year end (Malheur Bière Brut, Duvel Triple Hop and Achel de 3 Wijzen were all lined up for consumption but gained another stay of execution). Instead I’ll pick up again on the off-sale scene for quality beverages I’ve previously explored through my visits to Beers Of Europe and SlowBeer, this time with a rare outlet devoted to cider and perry.

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Beers of Europe: car booty call

I promised I’d provide details of my recent haul from the excellent Beers of Europe. Well, here you go. Mainly beers and mainly from the UK, Germany and Belgium. A few oddities from elsewhere, bought either for interest or novelty value (as indeed were some of the Brits), also found their way into my stash. Photos are arranged by loose themes, although more research has revealed a few flaws in the pattern.

Britain first.

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Beers of Europe: a grand day out

I’ve ordered mixed crates of bottled beer from Beers of Europe before but a combination of a work-free Friday and noticing online that it had received some hard-to-get (and much-desired-on-my-part) Belgian bottles led me to visit the company’s retail premises in person.

Open to the public seven days a week, Beers of Europe is located on a typical industrial estate in Setchey just south of King’s Lynn in Norfolk. The warehouse is fairly well situated for visiting continental brewers or receiving stock via eastern England’s ports (including King’s Lynn) but I can’t say for sure that that’s why it’s in Norfolk. Still, it made for a pleasant and at times interesting drive, especially passing under US military jets from RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

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Wizards of Oz part one: Hawthorn bottle bonanza

Tokyo had provided a tantalising view of how far the Japanese craft brewing movement has come in the last few years. But ten days in Australia prior to that had given me a much better opportunity to appreciate of how good beer can inspire new devotion and put down new roots.

Despite being a beer-loving nation Australia had, until recently, largely forgotten (or perhaps ignored) its brewing traditions and past. But as one of my first blog posts on The Alternative Tipple implied, that has now changed.

Going back to Australia after a gap of thirteen years proved just how much the situation has altered for small brewers. On my previous visit to Melbourne, what had looked like becoming an entrenched if fairly small scale part of the overall brewing scene (if Michael Jackson’s Pocket Beer Book was to be believed) was in fact petering out. Only a handful of new wave breweries looked like making it into the new millennium. On top of this, many of the more interesting old brands were fighting a rearguard action to stay alive in a country that had rewritten its brewing history around endless bland – if perhaps fuller-bodied than many – interpretations of international lager.