A recent trip to Amsterdam made me think about the places we choose to drink and the way that affects our enjoyment of the experience.
In particular, two locations stood out as being worlds apart.
My better half, having surprised me with the trip, had done the research and came up with a great bar to visit.
The place we went on a whim was exactly the opposite.
The researched pub was a heaven for beer lovers. Admittedly for those beer lovers with reasonably deep pockets – let’s not forget this was a specialist bar in one of the world’s most popular cities (and the FC Barcelona club shop had one football shirt selling for €165 – not a cheap city!).
However, I knew from the moment I walked into Olgod, on the Carrer de l’Hospital, that it was going to be a very enjoyable afternoon. Not only did it have more than 20 beers on tap – all laid out by styles, but it also offered beer cocktails and served food.
The beers were from around the world, but also included some local choices, and, for those who are either indecisive or simply, like a kid in a sweet shop, find themselves paralysed by choice, there are beer flights. Five tasters of a third of a pint each, at a total cost of €15.
Ok, so that’s €3 for each third. I know breweries that offer the same volume for a third at their taps. It’s not cheap.
But it’s a bigger experience than that. You have a very knowledgeable guide through your choices and a fairly quiet environment in which to enjoy the beers at your leisure.
Seriously, if you are ever in Barcelona, put a visit to Olgod on your itinerary. Next time I go, I may even venture onto the beer cocktails board.
Now, the other choice was a different matter altogether.
Dante depicted nine layers of hell. He had clearly never experienced an Oktoberfest.
I hadn’t, either, until we stumbled across one that was taking place just off the Placa d’Espanya. I genuinely didn’t know what to expect. A quick search on Google (thank you EU for eradicating roaming charges) showed entry was free. The queue was short. I was excited.
Having ditched the bottle of water and the snacks we’d been carrying, we gained entry.
Then, to my horror, we entered the main area and I had instant flashbacks to another night to forget, in a bierkeller in Nottingham, earlier this year. Had it not been for the fact that, on that previous night in question, we had all paid up front for a "beer" (crap lager) and food, I would have walked from the bierkeller much sooner than I did.
The second someone, with or without a microphone, starts shouting “oggy oggy oggy”, that’s game over for me, and for my mate, who was first to his feet and out of the door the second he had finished his food. It’s just noise, formalised “fun” and, well, not a good beer experience.
So when I realised what I had walked into at Barcelona Oktoberfest, and checked out the very small selection of beer (none of which I would have chosen to drink anyway), it was right back out of the door, begrudging the discarded water and snacks as wasted, rather than as a sacrifice worth making.
Sometimes, enjoying a beer can be as much about the environment as it is the ale. Personally, both my bierkeller experience and the Oktoberfest visit ranked about as low as it goes on both counts.
I’m glad to say, Nottingham has a great array of really nice pubs serving cracking beer, and Barcelona has Olgod, for which I would return to the city on its own.
Ok, I accept that some people might love an Oktoberfest and hate somewhere like Olgod, but I will tell you now, they are wrong. Or have already had way too much to drink.
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I’m 44, I don’t (always) have a beard (partly because when I try it is patchy, has gaps, with ginger and grey bits) and don’t take a clipboard to the pub. So, I’m not the stereotypical real ale fan of old, in the style that I was always told to look out for...read more