On November 5 I fly to London, where I will begin a two-country odyssey that will take me north to Edinburgh, then to Belgium, and then back home on November 29th. (I hope to keep blogging at each stop, probably briefly but with more multimedia than usual.) I've scheduled stops at around two dozen breweries, including some of the bigs (partial list: Fullers, Greene King, Rodenbach, Dupont, Orval) as well as some of the less-known. I will tour some of the great brewing regions, and am excited to see the museums in Burton and Poperinge (hops). I've even lucked into a guided pub crawl in London (where I'll be joined by a certain American cask ale brewer thanks to amazing, uncoordinated synchronicity).
Even the process of setting up the trip has been hugely illustrative of how different beer regions are. Britain has many more massive breweries and, owing to its huge market, is focused far more on the domestic end (in this way, it's like Oregon). Belgium has dozens of wonderful artisanal breweries, but a small domestic market dominated by pilsner (70%, according to Tim Webb). So they depend enormously on exports.
The British leg of the trip is quite tightly scheduled. In Belgium I've got more freedom to roam. Since I know a great many of you have traveled there before, I thought I'd inquire: have you had transcendent experiences you'd like to share? Must-see pubs or restaurants I'd be fool to miss? Of course, I've been researching this already, and my copy of Good Beer Guide to Belgium is already dog-eared so I'm not going in cold. Still, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
2nd annual Beer Wars IPA Fest
8 hours ago