Beer in Situ: Birra Pejo

A long-overdue review of this great little beer place in the Italian Alps. It was so welcoming and became our home brewery for six weeks when we lived in Cogolo this summer.

The Pertinents

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The Family

This is truly a family owned and operated brewery. Often when we visited, Marco and Angela would be manning the brewery or the taproom (and most of the time, both!) while their children played. The grandparents also help out and the family even brings their new baby to work. It’s such a welcoming atmosphere.

The Water

“It would be a shame not to make beer with this water.” – Translated from the Birra Pejo website.

Cogolo is home to Acqua Pejo, a famous mineral water distribution centre which bottles from the source at 1400m altitude. We spent more than a month exploring the valley which is home to Birra Pejo and found more waterfalls than almost anywhere we’ve ever travelled. It’s second only to Iceland in this regard.

I love to imagine the waterfalls filling the water with great energy and sending it bubbling downstream to the towns, and being made into excellent beers.

The Beer

IMG_6953The styles that they produce at Birra Pejo are classic, but often with a twist. For example, their Alpina (named for the Stella Alpina, AKA Edelweiss flowers that are on the high alpine tracks nearby) features pink pepper in the brewing process. The Aquila belgian ale is our favourite of their brews, with a balanced malt profile and clean taste. They brew regularly and often make seasonal ales that are in very limited quantity. All the prices are quite the steal if one takes into account the handmade quality of the beer.

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This brewery is one of our favourites that we’ve found in all our beery travels. We hope to come back to visit some day soon.

 

 

Beer in Situ: CCraft Beer (Old Quarter Brewery)

Along one of the many beery streets in Hanoi, there is a giant log hanging over an open door. The place seems fancy, but there is blaring ballad music to draw in a sucker for the 80s like me.

Address:  45A Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hang Buom Ward, Hoan Kiem

IMG_6711We sat at the open window facing the bustling street, which provides a lot to look at while you sip. The craft beers are made by some of the staff, and have a really high quality taste. Something unique is in there, too. It’s as if there are Belgian brewing influences, but with a Vietnamese twist to the taste. I’d describe it as Belgian-y, sweet, and a tiny bit funky. Clearly, the yeast reacts to the local conditions in a unique way.

I’ve had a lot of craft beer in my life, and these are something new! Super delicious, too.

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The beers are named like a royal family, and we tried four of them. The best I had was the Emperor Beer, which is what I would call a Vietnamese Imperial Stout. It’s double fermented and infused with coffee and a few spices. Amazingly smooth and easy to drink despite the higher ABV.

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The guys at the place are helpful, friendly, and really know their stuff. They realised that we knew something about beer and immediately struck up conversation. After that, they gave informative descriptions of their beers and the processes they use. Great for beer geeks!

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We didn’t try the food last night, but I told the guys that we’d probably be back soon. Maybe we’ll eat a little there tonight. What a great experience for our first night in Hanoi.

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Beer in Situ: Seoul Double Feature

We spent a night in Seoul on our way out of town, and of course stopped by a couple craft beer places. We stayed in Insadong, which is a beautiful artsy neighbourhood that feels like Old Seoul.

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I even got to play around in a hanbok for the afternoon!

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It’s a wonderful part of town.

The two craft beer spots we went to were great, but the second one was greater in my opinion. Let’s get to it!

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Brew 3.14π

Address: 39 Donhwamun-ro 11na-gil, Ikseon-dong, Jongno-gu, 서울특별시

It’s hard to see the sign in the picture because this place is down a dark alleyway. Luckily, it’s also in Seoul. Therefore, there is no worry whatsoever that you will run into anything except a stray kitty or two down there.

Brew 3.14 is a pizza, chicken, and craft beer joint. Or joints? There are two small bars right next to each other, and the bartenders text back and forth to fill orders. We tried several of the beers and they were reasonably fresh and well-presented. I wished that they would pour a little bigger, but it’s typical.

We had a great time listening to the loud pop music videos on the TV and admiring the collection of money from all over the world on the wall. Overall, it’s good. We had just eaten a lot of 삼겹살 (pork belly barbecue), so we didn’t eat the pizza. It smelled good, though.

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IMG_6695기와탭룸 Kiwa Taproom

This is a great little spot. We took pictures in the hanbok down the small alleyway, which opens up into a traditional hanok house that’s beer converted into a taphouse. I loved the mixture of old and new, with the gorgeous architecture and the Korean-style seating with low tables.

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I had a Gorilla Nut Brown Ale and Russell had two fresh IPAs. They don’t currently brew their own beer to serve (as far as we could tell), but the owners and servers are clearly obsessed about being authentically craft-oriented. It was very refreshing to be in such a great, authentic spot when even San Miguel lager is being labelled as ‘craft’ in Seoul these days.

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Wholly great. I wish it could be my local. Glad I could have a Gorilla brew again before moving on from Korea.

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Beer in Situ: Gorilla Brewing

UPDATE APRIL 2017: Please note that Gorilla Brewing is in a new, awesome space much closer to Gwangalli Beach.

Also please note that the guys running the place are amazing! They let me host a Beer School event in early April. You can check it out and ask me to lead one for you on this post.

Korea’s craft beer scene appears to be booming! When I lived here several years ago, the choices were basically Cass, Hite, or Cass. In 2016, the choices have expanded greatly!

Yesterday we visited one of the newest breweries in Busan, Gorilla Brewing. They are so new that I was the fifth person to follow them on Twitter! The brewery is a collaboration between the great CRATE brewing in London, so it’s a blend of a couple of our international homes.

Gorilla is near to, but not on, Gwangalli Beach in Busan. You walk toward the small hill near the far end of the beach (the Gwangan Station end) and past the famous live fish markets. Go past ‘The Motel,’ ‘A Motel,’ and ‘One Motel’ until you are in a newer residential area. Gorilla is in a smaller restaurant/office building on a quiet street.

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The experience is like being in an art installation, that happens to be a brewery too! They have clean lines and simple decor, with a few beers on tap. The food looked pretty good, too, although we didn’t try it yesterday.

We had the flight and a couple pints after, since the prices are much more reasonable than some of the other places in the area that sell craft beer. The best part is that this is real craft beer, not some imitation with watermelon artificial flavouring or the abomination that is Hoegaarden Rosé (and yes, that is sold EVERYWHERE in Busan).

The beers are English-style, given the influence of CRATE. The Pale Ale and the IPA are both well-balanced and clean finishing, but somehow would benefit from being slightly warmer (cask!). The blonde is inoffensive, if a little bit boring. Their best by far is the Stout, which is roasty and powerful like a silverback. It’s smooth and tastes of chocolate with forest fruits.

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We’ll definitely be back for more this year. Thanks for a great first visit, Gorilla!

Beer in Situ: BRU (Boulder, Colorado)

BRU is relatively new as a brewplace in Boulder. For me, it is, anyway. I spend lots of time away from the town of my birth, and new brewing ventures pop up all the time. I went to see this place in August with my mom.

We went for Happy Hour, and it was nice. In fact, a little too nice. The servers all wear long aprons and black, like it’s a fine dining place. The kitchen is open and there are wood-fired pizzas. The food we tried was fine, not fine (get it?). Why can’ta brewpub just be a brewpub and not try to be fancy?

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To me, it seems like someone moved to Boulder from elsewhere and opened a place that would be more suited to San Francisco or New York. That said, maybe they are trying something different because of the wide variety of casual beery places in the county and the state. Still, it wasn’t quite right somehow.

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The beers were tasty, if a little odd. The Red Rice in the ‘Merica lager doesn’t seem to add much complexity (it’s just a normal American Lager). The Citrum IPA tastes more like an English IPA than one from the USA, which is interesting. It think it has East Kent Goldings hops in there, making it a little earthy. The Rigley Rye is sweet for an IPA, but then rye has never been my grain. My favourite was the award-winning Loch Ale. It tasted like the wort one would make for later distillation of whisky.

Bru’s an OK beer place, but it’s not my style.