life through the lens
Oops, proof that I've spent a teensy bit on beer... a selection of labels I've picked up from around the world.
Gluten-free beers: As a Coeliac I'm actually allergic to virtually all these drinks. Oh dear. But gluten-free beers are gaining popularity, and just as important, they're tasting better! See the bottom of this page for a selection.
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Not sure where in Andorra the Boris beer is brewed but it's Andorran for sure. The rest are brewed by the Arinsal-based Alpha Brewery.
Armenia has some good wines, including a couple of dry whites above, but it's better known for brandy (above right) which was a 10-year Ararat, though I much preferred the 5-year.
Prestij was the only Nakhchivan beer I came across, a good beer - gone are NZS and Naxcivan beers, as are the cheap pivo bars mentioned in the Trailblazer's guide. Shame. Mirvari is a suprisingly cloudy local white wine but tasted fine.
There's a few bars in Bahrain, with Ethiopian barmaids serving European beers such as Heineken.
Six monasteries in Belgium produce Trappist beers: Westmalle, Chimay, Orval, Achel, Rochefort and Westvleteren. In addition there's two Trappist breweries in Netherands, one in Italy, one in USA and one in Austria.
Westvleteren 8 and 12 respectively
Mongozo Pilsener and Daas are gluten-free beers. Daas Ambre is excellent.
Baarle's beer is brewed in the Belgian enclave rather than the Dutch. But of course! The brewery is De Dochter van de Korenaar on Pastoor de Katerstraat.
An unfiltered Sarajevsko beer from Pivnica HS, a beer hall right next door to the Sarajevskaya brewery in Sarajevo
Erster is brewed in the north at Tuzla, BiH, while Mostarsko is from - you guessed it - Mostar
Nektar Pivo is brewed in Banja Luka in Republica Srpska, while Jelen is a Serbian beer but is also sold in Republica Srpska
Hercegovina has plenty of grape fields and makes several wines, some of which are pretty good. This white wine from Mostar, however, was rank
Bulgarian wine (above left) isn't bad, and they also do cider (above middle) but it's better known for rakia (grape brandy) - however the one I had, Peshterska below left, was so bad i couldn't finish it. Splash out!
Castel is ubiquitous in French West Africa.
There's now a couple of craft breweries in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Beer Co as well as the Typhoon Brewery
Colombiana is not quite a beer; actually it's nothing like a beer. It tastes like Colombian Irn Bru.
Hajducko is Croatian football team Hajduk Split's very own beer
Like many countries there's been a boom in craft beers. Pozoj IPA is a great hoppy beer from Zagreb.
Croatian white wines
Pilsner Urquell (in German. In Czech - Plzensky Prazdroj) was the world's first pilsner beer, brewed in Plzen in West Bohemia.
Don't confuse Budweiser Budvar or BB Budweiser with its US namesake Budweiser. American Budweiser took its name from the original Ceske Budejovice brew after equating it with top quality beer, resulting in a naming rights battle.
Becherovka is a herb liqueur famous in the Czech Republic and beyond, made from the spa water at Karlovy Vary.
Happy Joe is a cider. Tuborg and Carlsberg are the ubiquitous, bland beers but there's plenty better alternatives, including Vesterbro (top and second row) brewed at one of the bars near Tivoli. Faxe must be aimed at students and winos - it's a litre can of 10% beer; ouch!
The plastic cup is full of glogg, a Scandinavian version of mulled wine. The first one I had was disgusting, the second pretty good.
Coisbo is a brewery with bar-restaurant in Odense. Strictly, Mikeller's beers (glass of Christmas IPA, right) are Belgian - he's a Danish brewer brewing in Belgium/USA (for financial reasons?)
There's only a handful of places licensed to sell alcohol in Djibouti. Bottles of the Dutch Heineken were on the menu (below).
Stella and Sakara are OK beers. I didn't taste Meister (Max is 8%) but had a go of Pharaoh and Five Stars - both were available at all-inclusive hotels and tasted like it (as in, cheap). Similarly the white wine at all-inclusive hotels was rank bad, but the one on the Nile cruise (Obelisk) wasn't bad at all. Bolanachi is some sort of excuse for brandy but just tastes of alcohol (and again available at all-inclusive hotels) - add a mixer!
Ethiopia also produces its own wine. I had a red wine which wasn't bad at all. Try tej aswell, a home-made honey wine, which is available in differing potencies.
I found a dearth of beers on my first few visits to France, but wow, French Flanders in the north is the place to go for great beer similar to Belgium.
Page 24 is a quality beer brewed in Arras, love it. Ch'Ti is the local name for the Picardy region of France. Pietra is from Corsica.
Sambadoro beer is a Brazilian beer but it was the one I got hold of. I'll have to check further but I don't think French Guiana makes its own beer. Virtually everything is imported at high cost, food especially.
Below is Equatorial Guinea's Lito-Cola. I bought this at a shop in Bitam, Gabon near the Equatorial Guinea border.
MTA9 (beermat above) is an excellent craft beer bar. The cloudy cider looking drink above is Rkatsiteli,sold to me as a white wine but looks far more like the common local amber wines, made from the skins of white grapes. It tasted chemical to me - not a good sign! But Georgia has many good white and red wines, as well as excellent brandies - below right is a 6-year Sarajishvili. On the left is a white wine next to a shot of chacha (middle = a mini-bottle of chacha) which is a powerful fruit brandy like grappa.
Lots of wines above and below, as well as brandies, vodkas and fruit vodkas. Below is also a Stalin red wine (awful taste, as expected) as well as Saperavi red and Tsinandali dry white (good). Also below is Askaneli brandy, a VERY sweet brandy served with lemon to counterbalance - if you like sugar then it's not bad! But couldn't have more than a couple..
I bought the last one in Scotland - drink several and you won't remember how old you are.
I had the Zotler beer in the former German - now Russian - enclave of Kaliningrad
Feldschlosschen is the most popular beer in Busingen but it's a Swiss beer. On the right is a Busingen wine, though the fermenting and bottling are carried out elsewhere - at least the grapes are Busingen!
Gibraltar doesn't have a brewery. Many of the beers available are from Britain and Spain, especially Cruzcampo.
El Dorado rum is an award-winning rum. The Banks label above is actually a Barbados one, but it's also the main beer of Guyana.
A draught Soproni lager in Budapest
Alcohol is illegal in Iran. At the land border customs asked if I had 'any alcohol or sherry'(?). But you can get hold of alcohol if you know who to ask..
Delster is an Iranian non-alcoholic beer. The second label, Anjoman, isn't a beer at all but a carbonated yoghurt drink I bought in London. An acquired taste is the best I can describe it as.
The only one of these genuinely made in Iraq is the first one, a litre bottle of Arak made in Baghdad. The second spirit purports to be Iraqi but it's made in Greece to an Iraqi recipe. The beer labels are all bought (and drunk, of course) in Iraqi Kurdistan but they're brewed elsewhere.
Bitburger is on sale in Deutscher Hof in Ainkawa, Erbil. The Krombacher is from the Sports Bar in Suleymaniyah Palace Hotel.
These bottled waters and soft drinks are all from Iraq. Zain is from Baghdad.
Years ago there were pretty much three beers in Israel - Maccabee, Goldstar and Nesher (all above). But the craft brewery scene has rocketed. Goldstar have launched an unfiltered version of their lager, above right.
The two Meadan beers are gluten-free and the only commercial beers I've seen made from chickpea and buckwheat.
My favourites were Malka (below right) from Yehiam in northern Israel; Shapiro have a great hoppy beer on draft at Abraham Hostel in Jerusalem; Negev's amber ale (orange label, bottom left); and Herzl's two blue and orange labelled beers above - one an IPA, the other the honey-flavoured Dolce de Asal.
Campione is too small to have a brewery. Like Busingen the most popular beer is the Swiss beer Feldschlosschen.
Becks is a popular beer in Seborga but of course its German not Seborgan. Of all the wine shown here the only genuine Seborgan wine (i.e. made in Seborga) is the first one (top left) which is made by the family owners of the local olive oil shop. The others have Seborga labels but are made in nearby towns.
Considering Jordan is a Muslim country, Petra beer is a rather potent 8%. The Dutch beer Amstel is brewed in Jordan under licence.
Barbican shown here on the Red Sea coast at Aqaba, is a malt drink from United Arab Emirates,
A non-alcoholic malt drink
Peja is the dominant beer in Kosovo, followed by Prishtina. Sabaja are a craft beer company that were hard to find! I eventually found their porter at Soma, an excellent - and very popular - bar restaurant in Pristina.
The small bottle above left is slivovitz, a potent plum brandy from the Patriachate of Pec, a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Peja (aka Pec). Stone Castle is a good Kosovan wine, and the last one is a shot of raki, similar to the slivovitz.
I bought these two in Mitrovice, a city divided into Kosovan and Serbian settlements. North Mitrovice is predominantly Serbian and these are Serbian beers. Having said that the first one tasted disgustingly sweet so maybe it's a malt drink.
Byblos beer is passed off as Lebanese but it's brewed in Cornwall, England. Almaza is the real deal.
Non-alcoholic Becks - so near yet so far. Another country which is officially dry, though again it's probably quite easy to get hold of.
Above right, Katedros is an excellent IPA beer brewed on-site at its namesake bar on Gedimino Prospektas, Vilnius.
The glass of red is Voruta, a blackcurrant wine from Lithuania. In the middle is a feisty 75% local spirit that burns the lips. Ouch! Forgotten what it's called - maybe Zalgiris?
Skopsko is the main beer of Macedonia, but the above left bottle The Man - Premium IPA is by far the best. It's a hoppy craft beer by Temov, the craft beer at Kolektiv Restaurant in Skopje's main square, as is the glass below. They also have a bar in the old town. The other three below are local white wines, all pretty good.
Carlsberg have a brewery in Malawi.
Malaysia relies on its neighbour Singapore for its most popular beer, Tiger.
Kinnie is a Maltese soft drink
Mauritania doesn't produce its own beers and there's very few places to enjoy a drink. Again it's Heineken that's the easiest to get hold of in the upmarket hotels.
The Merlot is a wine label straight from the cellars of Milestii Mici
Monaco 1905 is brewed by Heineken France in Rueil Malmaison, just outside Paris. In other words, not brewed in Monaco. But the Brasserie de Monaco apparently brews its own beer on-site, so check that one out on Port Hercule.
Above is a fancy casing for a bottle of Mongolian vodka. And very nice it was too.
Niksicko is the dominant beer with Onogost prevalent in the summer. Casper Bar brews Jugoslavija beer (the glass) in Budva, as well as Kasper - below - however I think this is imported from their Serbian branch.
A couple of decent local white wines..
Nagorno Karabakh makes plenty of fruit vodkas (above left), along with many wines, red and white (top right). And being ex-Soviet, of course there's normal vodka (above right and top left)
Like Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh has brandy. BH Brandy Co is based in Yerevan, Armenia, and makes Madatoff brandy so isn't Karabakh but was portrayed to me as Karabakh, maybe because they also make several Karabakh fruit vodkas.
I tried a shot of local favourite mulberry vodka, above, at Hotel Armenia in Stepanakert. Absolutely disgusting! The white and red wines, above and below, however were decent or good; below right is a white wine I had outside Seastone Hotel in Vank.
The only beer I saw in Nepal was San Miguel - in Kathmandu as well as being carried by locals in the middle of nowhere in the Himalayas.
And of course Heineken is a Dutch beer.
Baarle's beer is brewed in a Belgian enclave rather than Dutch, by De Dochter van de Korenaar.
Taedonggang is brewed in Pyongyang - North Korea bought the Ushers of Trowbridge brewery in England and transferred it lock, stock and barrel to Pyongyang, going into operation in 2002.
Another DPRK soft drink
Pyongyang vodka - potent stuff! I never had a drink of the Long-Life Liquor Ryongjongsu but check out the ingredients down the left.
Drinking soju at the Hyangsan Hotel, Myohyang-san
The more expensive hotels and restaurants can ply you with imported beer, but there's no local commercial stuff.
Inca Kola is a sickly sweet soft drink
Above left is green wine - never heard of it! A better translation is young wine, this one being a white bubbly - drunk in Lagos. It was average.
Port in Porto of course! I never knew there were white and rose varieties, which of course makes sense, seeing as port is a mix of brandy and wine. That's white port above right, but drunk in Lisbon. I developed a taste for red tawny port..
Like many Middle Eastern countries Qatar doesn't produce its own alcohol, but imported beers are available.
As far as I know this Stalin-embossed bottle bought in Turkmenistan is Russian
Konigsberg is the local brew but micro-breweries are the way to go in Kaliningrad. The middle is one of the excellent local brews at Kmel in the Clover City Centre (pl Pobedy). Also try khrenovuha, a disgusting horse-radish vodka! The Queens Pub is, as the name suggests, a pub in Kaliningrad rather than a beer.
Below are beers on tap at the Pivovar micro-brewery on ul Nevskogo. The bottom photo is a supermarket stall selling various beers, including the local Altstadt.
I don't think there's a local brew on the island. Amstel's quite common, this one being straight from Amsterdam.
San Marino no longer makes its own beer, but Gradisca apparently used to be made in the country before moving to Italy. The second label is a Sammarinese wine.
The Tatras mini-brewery in Poprad brews a fantastic IPL (India Pale Lager) - the cute plastic bottle above is 1litre.
Below, in the capital, is another craft brewery (brewery=pivovar in Slovakian) producing Bratislavsky Leziak 12°. The clear shot glass contains a potent tasting borovicka, a berry-based licquer and definitely not my cup of tea!
The photo on the right shows Slovakian herbal liqueur Demanovka - similar to Czechia's Becherovaka - next to a Bratislavsky Leziak 12° beer. On the left is a honey beer next to a cup of hot Demanovka, which tasted a bit like liquid butter (sickly!). But I like the original, untainted bitter Demanovka, mimi-bottle below, along with the appealing Tatratea, a strong tea-based liqueur.
Lanius is a brewery in Trencin which offers many beers. Below are photos of draft Bohemian Ale along with a good Slovakian dry white wine (from Chateau Topolcianky?) and a shot of pivovica, a beer-based spirit.
There's masses of craft beers in Slovenia. Grim Reaper IPA was the only one I checked out - nice!
Estrella Damm Daura is a good gluten-free beer. Just let me find it in a pub!
Lybica is a relatively new beer brewed in the enclave. The scan on the left is a restaurant leaflet.
Alcohol is illegal in Sudan. Besides home brews, the nearest thing is the Egyptian non-alcoholic Birell and the French malt drink Moussy.
The two above are local Sudanese drinks.
Alcohol in Sweden is controlled by the government. Only drinks with 3.5% alcohol are allowed to be sold in shops (for example the Pripps Bla and Mariestads beers above). With the exception of bars and licensed restaurants, anything stronger can only be bought at a Systembolaget. Finding one in Malmo was a bit of a pain, as I think there's only three near the centre, but boy do they have a big selection!
The dark brown beer above left is a beer brewed by Falken exclusively for Guterhof bar restaurant in Schaffhausen. And it's far better than the bland Falken!
I took this photo at Port el-Kantaoui marina as the Celtia labels are pretty much ironed on.
Efes is also sold in Northern Cyprus
Tuborg is a Danish company (part of Carlsberg) but it produces both Tuborg and Fici in Turkey
Turkey produces several wines, with many vineyards in the south east. This is a locally produced red wine from Mardin.
Arassa is a good Turkmen vodka, whereas the Turkmen Konyagy is a rough brandy, but I liked the packaging.. Above right is a Bibijan brandy.
To the right of the can of Gonur is a label attached to it, something to do with duty-paid I think. The draft beer is Garagum, from the British Pub in Ashgabat.
Gin and whisky in small plastic bags are commonplace in Uganda and Malawi. The whisky tasted more like industrial alcohol to me but Waragi is a passable version of gin.
Barbican is a 'non-alcoholic' malt drink which tastes nothing like beer.
There's no Emirati alcohol produced commercially, but you can get imported beer and Guinness at hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai aswell as, amongst others, Dubai's Irish Village.
McEwan's used to be a Scottish beer but now it's brewed in England
The smallest whisky bottle? And Punk IPA, one of the best tasting beers!
I love this label. First World Problems - too true!
These two wines from Samarkand, red and white, were palatable as long as they were cold (yes, including the red).
Holy Water wasn't available..
The last three were bought in London. The best beer experience in Vietnam however is sitting on miniature plastic chairs on the roadside sipping dirt cheap lager from a tank full of home brew, cooled down with a huge block of ice.
Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco and the beers sold there are Moroccan or European. Flag Speciale was the main (Moroccan) beer available in Laayoune.
The Belgian Daas Ambre used to be my favourite gluten-free beer, however it's been usurped by several others (see below). But it's definitely a beer with plenty of flavour. The Blond's pretty good too, with that typical Belgian beer taste. Please let me find gluten-free beers in a pub, a British pub!
Hambleton's GFL is made from sorghum as well as the usual barley malt. GFA is the best of the two. The Spanish Estrella Daura Damm is becoming widely available in UK supermarkets as well as La Tasca tapas restaurants, and it ain't bad.
The two Israeli Meadan beers are gluten-free and the only commercial beers I've seen made from chickpea and buckwheat.
The Belgian Mongozo is bland and Carlsberg's Saxon (below) is their typical weak dish water. The Czech Celia is a decent pilsner as is Green's. Green's also brew an OK golden ale.
Brunehaut Tripel is a strong tasting beer, definitely worth a try (photo above taken in Delirium Bar, Brussels)
Scarborough Fair IPA used to be my favourite gluten-free beer, by Yorkshire outfilt Wold Top (PIP's now my number one, below). But then I've also found Yorkshire outfit Brass Castle's sorghum-based Hoptical Illusion, as well as Danish Mikkeller's Belgian-brewed I Wish IPA, both superb hoppy beers. Against the Grain is also by Wold Top, another tasty one. So much choice - at last!
Hoptical Illusion is a brilliant gluten-free and vegan sorghum-based beer from Yorkshire, England. 'I Wish IPA' and Vagabond are also excellent hopped beers. Monty's is a decent Welsh ale but really good when straight from the keg, as I had at their visitor centre-cum-pub in Montgomery. Mikkeller is a Danish 'gypsy' brewer who travels around, making his mark with fine beers where he can, usually in Belgium. Mikeller, or Die is lovely.
Westerham Brewery make several gluten-free beers, including the appealing Hop Rocket. To me, the rest are middle-of-the-road stuff.
I wasn't too impressed by Green's beers until I had these three, all quality. The Grand IPA is the first IPA which I feel might be too bitter, but the dry-hopped lager is better, while the blond ale has a superb, Belgian-style taste.
Hop Zij Met Ons is a brilliant hoppy IPA by Jopen, brewed in Haarlem, Netherlands.
First Chop's Pip is a brilliant hoppy citrus beer loaded with taste. And the IPA-style Redwell Pale Ale is pretty good.
Above, a glass of Mikeller's Christmas IPA on draft in Copenhagen was a good one. In fact all of Mikeller's beers are quality.
Coisbo is a brewery with a bar-restaurant in Odense
The draft version of the session ale was refreshing, while Jubel Peach below tasted more like a sour snakebite/fermented soda. FC Helles is another First Chop lager.
YES is the best low alcohol/alcohol free gluten-free beer around (not that there's a lot of competition in that niche market). At 0.5% strength it tastes very similar to a normal IPA.
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