Thursday, July 5, 2007

Session Five - Atmosphere for Enjoying Beer...

Session Five is all about great atmosphere when drinking beer. The guys over at Hop Talk suggested that we blog about our favorite beer experience--that is, great places to drink beer and our favorite people to drink it with.

My wife and I try to book one European trip each year and as a result, I have had some incredibly memorable beer experiences. The most recent was in Brugge, Belgium. I purchased four bottles of Westvleteren 12, three made the journey home, but I had to have one in situ. I sat in the window of my hotel room with my feet dangling down toward the canal and enjoyed each and every sip--the beer exceeded my expectations. That was a pretty amazing experience.

Other memorable pints include: the bottle of Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale I drank on my wedding day while driving from the church to the reception in a Bentley; the Murphy's Stout I had in the middle of Killarney National Park in Ireland; a few pints of Samuel Smith's Extra Stout and fish and chips at the historic Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street in London (we pretty much had the place to ourselves); randomly finding Masala Mama IPA in Minnesota; and a pint and an Oude Jenever at the incredibly quaint, yet gritty t' Doktertje in Amsterdam (you can see some pics at

These were all amazingly unique beer experiences that I will probably never replicate, although I sure as hell hope I do some day. The beer and the atmosphere were great for each of these events and I experienced all but one of them with my best friend, my wife. The bottom line is that time shared with friends generally makes for the most memorable experiences.

For the last couple of years, my high school friends (and another good friend) and I have planned a late-summer weekend at my friends place on Biscay Pond in Bremen/Damariscotta, Maine. The location is amazing. The house is right on the pond and is perfect for kayaking, swimming, fishing, marathon Texas Hold'em poker tournaments, and of course drinking cold beer on the deck (actually we drink beer while doing all of the above listed activities). As an added bonus, the house is just a few miles from the ocean and the freshest seafood you can find.

We don't see each other nearly as often as we used to and the trip is just an opportunity to get together with the guys and act like jack-ass high school kids again. We pretty much just kick back, relax, and enjoy some juvenile buffoonery--most of our time is spent busting each other's balls about anything and everything. The one drawback is that the crew generally grabs Corona, Bud Light, or Coors Light as their drink of choice, which explains why I bring a case of Murphy's Stout. However, I think one of the boys has been converted and is slowly moving to the darkside. :)

One of the highlights of the trip is dinner at a great place called King Eider's Pub. My first time here was a fantastic surprise. The food is great, including some of the best crab cakes I have ever tasted, great burgers, and several fresh seafood specials. The atmosphere is very cozy--hardwood floors, low wood-beamed ceilings, brick, and a great little bar with just eight seats. The restaurant is in an historic building and broken into several sections (pub, dinning room and a great oyster bar), it feels very much like a comfortable home, and provides the perfect atmosphere for throwing a few back with your friends. The staff is very friendly and the service is great.

Damariscotta is a quaint fishing village over an hour from Portland, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked up at the taps and saw Ayinger Oktoberfest as well as some great local (Pemaquid Scottish Ale) and international beers. Then I took a peek at the beer menu and found Delirium Tremens, a few more locals, and an array of beers from Samuel Smith. To top it all off, they have a kick ass selection of single malt scotch, including a few "hidden treasures" with limited distribution. So there you have it, quaint atmosphere, good food, great friends, and some excellent beer, who could ask for more.

I could almost hear that classic old Lowenbrau jingle in the back of my head, "Here's to good friends, tonight is kind of special..."