I'll admit it, I don't know nearly as much about beer as I do about wine. But when I'm at a bar or restaurant, I usually go for a beer, preferably something local. Wine is always overpriced and usually vapid, while beer rarely disappoints. When I travel, I really get a kick out of trying local beers. So, on a recent trip to Iceland, Denmark and Germany, I tried as many different local beers as I could. The labels were sometimes hard to read, and the beer lists were frequently translated into Gobbletygook, so most of my beer selections were based on nothing more than pointing to a tap or a ordering whatever the guy next to me was drinking.
Iceland doesn't have many beers to choose from, and many of the bars in Reykjavic serve the same few selections. But what they do serve is quite good. In Copenhagen, I couldn't find a beer for less than $10 in the entire city. The dollar is worthless, apparently, so I to practically cash in my 401k to buy a draft. That said, I tried some incredible beers in Denmark. It's rare that a beer really stops me and grabs my attention, but that happened more than once while sipping beer in Copenhagen. The brown ales I had there were unbelievably good. I didn't drink as much beer in Germany, because I was there mostly for the Mosel Valley's riesling, but what I did taste was quite good. I'm not sure how many of these beers are available in the United States or other countries, but there are a few here that I will perpetually keep an eye open for. Cheers!
Egils Gull (draft, Iceland)
Sweet, green apple and honeysuckle flavors, mixed with a rich malty note. It has a little bit of tang, no and no bitterness. I enjoyed this beer at a place called the Cafe Paris in Reykjavic.
I had these two beers at an amazing little hole-in-the-wall fish and chips shack called, simply, Icelandic Fish and Chips. Fresh, beer battered cod that melts in your mouth and delicious beer... truly a great combination. The dark lager was superb and complex, with a creamy body and delicious caramel and malt flavors. The finish was full and creamy.
Kaldi Lager (bottle, Iceland)
The regular lager bottle was much lighter in body, and had much more of a bite to it. I enjoyed the pear and Granny Smith apple flavors.
Fano Vadehav Brown Ale (draft, Denmark)
My first order of business in Copenhagen, was to acquire a cold beer and a big sandwich. I found a great place called Dia Man Ten located on one of a dozen plazas beside a snaking canal. I had some sort of roast beef sandwich that seriously rocked me, but this beer was surprisingly good as well. It was a beautiful dark ruby color. The palate was bold with dark chocolate and caramel malt ball flavors. It was almost like a stout, commented my girlfriend, who, truth be told, is quite the beer aficianado. And she was right. A lovely ground coffee flavor came out on the finish. It was simply a phenomenal beer, and probably the best brown ale I've had in my life.
Ravnsborg Ale (draft, Denmark)
So, according to the translated English menu, this beer is a "brown-red ale." I don't really know what that means, but I do know that I love this beer. It reminded me a lot of an Irish red, but with more bite. It was so fresh, and had that great bitterness to it to balance it out. As far as red ales go, this is way up there, and I sure hope I can find some of this in the States.
Jacobsen Brown Ale (draft, Denmark)
I enjoyed this lovely brown ale on the grounds of the Rosenberg Castle in Copenhagen. Surrounded by a moat and flower garden, it was quite a beautiful spot to enjoy a beer on a warm September day. This beer is apparently made by the Carlsberg Group. Malty, dark bread aromas. The palate is really malt-driven, with lots of dark rye bread flavors. This is so much richer and more complex than the English brown ales I'm used to drinking. The caramel and barley flavors carry onto the finish. Complex, but it maintains a freshness. If the Fano Vadehav brown ale is my favorite, this is number two.
Carlsberg Jacobsen Extra (bottle, Denmark)
I sipped this pilsner while my girlfriend walked around the Danish Design Museum. My feet were tired from roaming around the Rundetarn and half the city of Copenhagen, and this beer was a great respite. Bitter and nutty on the palate, with a very dry finish. This beer packs a punch, which I like, but it lacks complexity. It hit the spot though. Carlsberg describes this as a "luxury pilsner" brewed with German hops.
Carlsberg Pilsner (draft, Denmark)
One of my favorite go-to pilsners. Classic, as always.
Astra Pilsner (draft, Germany)
This was my first time tasting this pilsner from Hamburg. What better place to taste it than the infamous Reeperbahn. What a party town Hamburg is. I never knew it was so crazy. It's an underrated town that apparently produces a great pislner. It starts off with green apple, and leads to a strong, bitter finish, which is long. This pilsner has some love handles on it. Plus, I love this beer because its logo reminds me of the logo from one of my favorite bands, the Bouncing Souls from New Jersey.
Köstritzer Schwarzbier (bottle, Germany)
For a dark beer, this had a light auburn color. It was very hazelnut-driven on the palate, with a very creamy body. I was expecting a bit more, but this was still enjoyable.
Holsten Edel Pilsner (bottle, Germany)
My girlfriend and I drank this Hamburg beer after a full day of driving from Hamburg to Southwest Germany. It took almost twelve hours and involved several highways that dead-ended in the middle of nowhere. So I was exhausted when I finally popped this beer. After an incredibly long day of travel, this beer was like some sort of magic elixir. It was crisp and tangy, with gorgeous green apple flavors. It had a smoothness and creaminess that I don't usually get from pilsners. This was a beer to remember, and one of my favorites from the trip.
Astra URTYP (bottle, Germany)
This beer is made at the Hamburg harbor by Carlsberg, which apparently has its fingers in some Deutsche breweries as well. This pilsner had a creamy body, with lots of golden apple flavor. The bitterness is sharp, almost mouthpuckering, and carries onto the finish. I enjoyed this, but my girlfriend thought it was a little overdone.