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Friday, October 29, 2010

On the Rhine with The Brew Lounge, part 0.5

It will take some time to finally get into all that transpired from Amsterdam to Zurich. At least in the spirit of kicking things off (or procrastination, if you'd rather), here's a guide of where I'll take you over the coming weeks (probably months). The following list is the official itinerary for the cruise up the Rhine and Moselle rivers through Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Switzerland. Interlaced is Steve Beaumont's 'Beers on the Rhine' agenda. Prequel Days 1-3 How better to leave home before taking the train to PHL than to pay a 20 minute visit to TJs for a bon voyage beer? We even managed to squeeze in an informal tasting amongst five or so of us with my long-promised Maui CocoNut Porter that I brought back from Hawaii almost a year ago to the day. Changing trains in Philly at 30th Street Station gave us another opportunity for a birthday beer for me at Bridgewater's...and a light bite. After our red-eye flight to Amsterdam, we checked-in to our hotel, took a short nap, then set off to discover Amsterdam's canals, architecture, and pub culture over the next 48 hours. DAY 4: Amsterdam Welcome aboard after 48 hours of exploring everything that Amsterdam has to offer...well, not quite everything. DAY 5: Amsterdam In the morning, we took an excursion out to the country to visit the windmills, see a demonstration of manufacturing iconic wooden shoes, and stop at a cheese factory. After returning to Amsterdam, we headed out to Brouwerij 't IJ where Beaumont walked his beer group through a few beers and the planned itinerary for the following 11 days. DAY 6: Nijmegen We skipped the official walking tour and instead did a bit of our own instead. We walked around the Belvédère Castle and Tower and through De Hoge Veluwe National Park, saw local sites, and picked up some light snacks and beer from a grocery store for back on board. Speaking of on board, Beaumont conducted a pre-dinner tasting of Dutch Bok (Bock) beers. DAY 7: Bonn Again, we skipped the walking tour and I went for an early morning run through the city and along the river. The afternoon saw the Beaumont Beer Express head out for a few hours in Cologne, certainly one of the highlights, albeit too short, of the trip. Later, we drank a Liefmans Kriek in the room. An Orval too. Both purchased from the market in Nijmegen. Oh, and an Ithaca Brute and Tröegs Troegenator brought from home to be shared with new friends. DAY 8: Cochem We arrived in Cochem late after what felt like freshman-hazing on the river, where we got bumped back several places in line awaiting our turn for the locks. Here, we didn't do a whole lot save for a short walk around the quaint little town with (of course) a castle perched atop a large hill. Beaumont and the beer crew were picked up and driven to the Bitburger brewery; Patty and I took this opportunity for some down time. DAY 9: Bernkastel-Kues, Trier Trier was a nice excursion that strangely brought back zero recollection to my trip here in 1987. Nonetheless, back at the docking port of Bernkastel-Kues (one city on one side of the river, the other on the other side), Beaumont's beer group and I took a ferry ride to the Kloster Machern brewery and enjoyed a few beers on the site of a former abbey/monastery. DAY 10: Luxembourg Even the though this particular excursion was a bit of a bust in most our opinions, five of us beer volk broke off and found some champagne, mediocre beer, and prosciutto.....on a quiet Sunday morning in Luxembourg. Lovely, but a shame, because I understood that Mousel's Cantine would have been a fine sudsy stop. DAY 11: Rüdesheim – Rhine Gorge Stunning vistas of castles perched above the steep vine-covered slopes is how the tour company described this day of cruising the Rhine Gorge, beginning from Koblenz. A perfect day (albeit a bit chilly) for sitting on the deck, snapping pictures of castles and grapevines, and learning the legend of the Lorelei. It was a flashback to my trip here all the way back in 1987. On board, Beaumont conducted an Oktoberfest tasting of all six breweries that serve their beer at the annual festival. DAY 12: Heidelberg Heidelberg is one of Germany’s most beautiful towns. We participated in the official castle tour and then broke off to do a little shopping on our own before joining up with Beaumont and company at the Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg for an excellent tour and beers to sample. Steve wrote about it on his blog from the ship, check it out. DAY 13: Baden-Baden A 250-year-old casino was at the heart of the official tour excursion itinerary. Patty and I (and a new friend, Jerri) opted for the famous thermal hot springs and spa, then met up with Beaumont and the rest of the brew group at Amadeus Hausbrau in the heart of Baden-Baden. DAY 14: Kehl, Strasbourg We skipped the official walking tour of Strasbourg and instead did a walking tour with Beaumont to taste some beers represented at this year's Mondial de la Bière, which we missed by a mere day. Also, picked up some to-go beer from a decent bottle shop in the heart of lovely Strasbourg. DAY 15: Basel We took yet another pass on the guided tours which by this point we had grown fairly tired of (at least for the ones that we did join). Instead, we did something much more interesting and visited--wait for it--another brewery! This time it was Basel's Unser Bier, tucked away in a residential neighborhood south of downtown. It required two trolley rides to get there and the payoff was in the beer. DAY 16: Basel Disembark and onward to Zurich where we discovered its main train station has a bottle shop to rival many "normal" bottle shops, a Swiss/German brew house of questionable character, excellent Swiss chocolate, and pleasant walking around the visually appealing city of Zurich. These were a few things that filled our last day in Europe. Oh, and a 50-foot high glass-enclosed wine tower with "angels" flying around the tower to retrieve from the roughly 4,000 bottles within. You'll have to wait for the whole story! DAY 17: Zurich Flight home...because all good things must, as "they" say, eventually come to an end. And, if I ever manage through all of this material, here are just a few more topics that I've got in the works that you may eventually see one day. But, no promises. Providence for Beer; Meddlesome Moth surprise in Dallas; Sierra Nevada's 30th anniversary celebration; Pyramid's seasonal brews; and many more.

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