I'm still drinking!

Dear beer fans,

This blog's been a bit silent of late. I apologize. I can assure you that it's just because I've been lazy - I have not stopped drinking my way through the world's great and not-so-great beers.

Since last time I wrote I've been skiing and to Japan, though sadly not simultaneously. I've already drafted a magnificent blog post about the beer scene in Japan, so I won't spill any beans about that.

Instead, I'll write some words about the beer I'm drinking at this very moment. It's a Polish beer which one of my local friends here (who happens to be Polish) gave me, and it's not bad. In fact, it's very drinkable indeed, especially accompanied by a pizza and the thirst generated by a long run. The beer is called "Zubr". Polish is an interesting language. Unlike the Russians, they use the familiar Latin alphabet, but they seem to have developed a strange love for weird consonant combinations such as "zcz" as in the city "Szczecin". This part of Poland used to be German until WW2 and called "Stettin". I appreciate that Polish is an entirely different language to German, but I still suspect that the Poles decided to name this city the way they did just to get some cheap laughs from the foreigners trying to pronounce it.

Back to the main issue, which that I'm sitting here drinking a bottle of Zubr. This beer is slightly darker than the normal "pilsner" style, and the taste is quite malty. Apparently, it stems from the city of Bialystok, though the letter L has a strange line through it which I'm reliably informed should be pronounced "aarrgghh", though I'm not quite sure if I trust this information 100%. The label at the back has some additional nuggets of information such as "Najwiekszy w stadzie Zubr" which clearly means "make sure you fridge is full of Zubr". Well, you could do worse.

Two empty Polish beer bottles
My Polish friend gave me another beer too, called "Tatra" (now there's a tip - if you're planning to give me a beer, why not give me a couple, and you'll get twice the number of mentions in this famous blog?). Tatra is actually a mountain chain which forms the natural boundary between Poland and Slovakia, though the beer itself is brewed by one of the biggest brewery conglomerates in Poland, namely Zywiec - which again is owned by our (surprise, surprise) Dutch friends at Heineken. This beer was also quite good, a touch less malty than the Zubr if I remember correctly, but nevertheless very drinkable. In fact, both beers clock in at a respectable 6% alcohol by volume, and they also arrive in very satisfying 650ml bottles, so a couple of these should set you up nicely for the evening (unless you're planning to drive anywhere).

Poland is apparently Europe's 3rd biggest beer producer after Germany and Britain, and there are about 70 breweries dotted around the country. Compared to Germany this isn't impressive, but overall it's not bad. I've tried around 20 different Polish beers over the years, and they tend to be quite safe - seldom very memorable for good or bad reasons, but often refreshing and quite tasty. In conclusion: Poland is a very interesting country with a history nobody is envious of - it has been erased off the map, resurrected, had its population decimated by war and had its borders shifted repeatedly westwards - and the beer scene is pretty decent though not quite up there with the great beer nations of Europe.

Well, that's it for today. Tomorrow I'm off to Austria for a week's skiing, which inevitably means "sampling" a few hectolitres of beers whilst jumping up and down together with 997 other crazy people listening to the exact same apres-ski music selection we've heard the last 10 years. It'll be tremendous fun. If I remember anything afterwards I may write a blog post about it. Auf widerskien!