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Before heading to Westford, Massachusetts for the Blues n Brews Festival on August 21st, stop over in Syracuse, New York THIS SUNDAY, August 1st, for the Middle Ages Brewing Company’s 15th Anniversary Celebration!

Some important details:

- FREE outdoor event!
- Time: 2PM – 8PM
-  Location: Leavenworth Park – Syracuse, NY
- Live music by: Enter the Haggis, Hot Day at the Zoo, and Dark Hollow
- Do we have to mention there will be Food & Drink?
- Again, it’s free!

Let us know how the event is and send in your pictures so we can see the action!

Who’s going to be in the Boston area in August??

If you are, you should come out to the 9th Annual Blues n Brews Festival on August 21st at Nashoba Valley in Westford, MA!

There will be a bunch of regional craft brews, including 50 Back, which generously donates 50% of all proceeds to 5 military charities. Check them out here!

If that’s not enough to tickle your fancy, enjoy some top blues bands, awesome food, raffles, games & more!

The Rhine River cities of Cologne and Duesseldorf are separated by a mere 25-minute train ride and several centuries of contempt.

“You might say we don’t like each other,” says Arno Fries, a tour guide at the Dom Brewery Museum in Cologne. Residents of both towns site a long list of divisions: dialect, history, culture, and economy, even distinct styles of ale found nowhere else in lager-loving Germany.

Cologne was settled by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago and is now a working-class center of German industry. The old city sits on the west side, the historically civilized Roman side, of the Rhine River. Its most cherished landmark is the majestic 515-foot tall Cologne Dom (cathedral), which lords over the skyline and the west bank of the Rhine. It was the tallest building in the world in the 19th century. It’s said to house the remains of the Biblical wise men, making it a pilgrimage site for Christians and a regular stop for Rhine River cruise ships.

Duesseldorf was founded in the 13th century on the heels of a power struggle for Cologne. The old city sits on the east side, or the old Barbarian side, of the Rhine River. It grew into a financial and administrative center and today is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. Duesseldorf’s skyline is dominated by modern office buildings and its most well known attraction is the glitzy Koenigsallee – the “Ko” – a thoroughfare lined by fashionable shops, malls and cafés.

“Cologne oozes tradition, history, solidity and earthiness,” says Horst Dornbusch, a Massachusetts resident, Duesseldorf native, and author of the book, “Prost! The Story of German Beer.” His hometown, meanwhile, “embraces modernity, elegance, class and style.”

Courtesy Wikipedia.org

The cultural divide could easily be lost on first-time visitors. The beer divide is more obvious. In Duesseldorf, the local beer is a frothy, fruity dark ale called alt (“old”) beer. In Cologne (Koeln, in German), the local style is a sparkling, crystalline golden ale called koelsch. (The Cologne dialect is also called Koelsch.)

Alt is the more flavorful and more interesting of the two styles. But koelsch can claim more international prestige. It is one of 400 regional specialties – and the only beer – protected by the European Union. Koelsch can only be made in Cologne much like champagne can only be made in Champagne.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

You will not find koelsch in Dusseldorf or alt in Cologne. Their respective beer cultures, however, have more in common “than either side wants to admit,” says Dornbusch.

Cologne and Duesseldorf are the only major German cities where the predominant beer styles are ales. The north Rhine does not have the cool, mountainside “lagering” caves that made cold, lager brewing possible in places like Bavaria before refrigeration.

Beer in both cities is served in small 0.2 liter (7 ounce) cylindrical glasses called “staenge,” while beer waiters are called “Koebes” – a derivation of Jakob, a common German name. The Koebes constantly make the rounds from beer barrel to table with specially designed trays that hold a dozen glasses of brew.

Both cities also boast charming, pedestrian-friendly altstadts, or old cities, with pubs that offer house-made beers in the local style.

The best alt beer pub in Duesseldorf is Zum Uerige (1 Berger Strasse). The beer is rich, deep and complex, with a pronounced hop character. Inside is a rambling pub where beer is poured from wooden barrels. Outside, large crowds spill out onto the street to drink.

Im Fuchschen (28 Ratinger Strasse) boasts a large pub and restaurant and is the best alt beer brewery for food. The house specialty is eisbein, a boiled leg of pork to be slathered with mustard. Its alt is full of roasted malt flavor. The third altstadt alt beer pub is Zum Schlussel (43 Bolker Strasse). Like Uerige, it has tables on a busy pedestrian street. Its beer is comparable to a fruity and genteel English pale ale.

Outside the altstadt is Ferdinand Schumacher’s (123 Ost Strasse). It’s alt is dry and frothy, with a long bitter finish. Almost all restaurants and pubs in Duesseldorf serve some of the commercially made alt beers. Two of them, Schlosser Alt and Frankenheim Alt, can be found occasionally in the United States.

In Cologne, the best koelsch is served at Paffgen Brauerei (64-66 Friesen Strasse), a large, Bavarian-style beer hall a short distance west of the Dom. The beer is soft, powdery, and the most well hopped and flavorful of the koelsch beers.

Fruh am Dom (12-14 Am Hof) is located in the shadows of the Cologne Dom and is the most charismatic of the koelsch beer pubs. It’s an old, cavernous beer hall and restaurant that seats some 1,000. On the southern end of the Cologne altstadt is Malz Muhle (6-10 Heumarkt), a small brewpub with a lightly malty koelsch.

There are nearly two dozen koelsch beers made by large commercial breweries in and around Cologne. Reissdorf Koelsch is the most common one found in the United States.

Alright, so we rounded out the Top Beer Traveler Drinking Experiences with hippies, playboy bunnies, and guns, and we realize it’s pretty hard to top those, BUT at the same time, we know it’s pretty impossible for most to just drop everything and travel in the name of beer discovery. So, if you aren’t able to just take off globe trotting for some tasty brews, here’s something that may keep you distracted in the meantime…or tip you over the edge and throw that plane ticket on the emergency credit card.

We have found…the GREATEST Beer Website! Never mind just beer websites, but this site pushes the creativity and interactive experience boundaries for ALL websites in general. Basically, this stop on the intergalactic information super-highway blows our minds!

So even though it’s not a beer video, it’s definitely worthy of Tapping the Tube fame. Follow us!

1. The “schiesskellers” of Zurich: A Gun range & Barroom

Americans have this image of the Swiss as these meek little yodeling cheesemakers afraid to take a side. The truth is that Switzerland is the most heavily armed nation in the world. They practice what they call “armed neutrality” and their take on their neutrality is that even Hitler was smart enough not to f*ck with them: every able-bodied man is in the active or reserve military, all the buildings have bomb shelters  filled with rations, and the mountains are dotted with fortresses and cannons. Switzerland is ready for the Big One, folks, and when the dust settles only the cockroaches and the Swiss will survive. Certainly, they love their guns and love to shoot – a tradition handed down by national hero William Tell.

Since most Swiss are German speakers, they also love their beer.

One of the most unusual experiences of my beer-soaked life was visiting a “schiesskeller” – a shooting cellar – with my buddy Mike, who was working in Zurich at the time. A schiesskeller is a barroom with a shooting range.

I shit you not, our Beer Traveling friends. They even had a play area for children. We walked in off the street and, with rudimentary German, rented a Glock 9MM and a couple clips. Mike and I went to the shooting range, through a door right behind the bar, where people were firing off everything from small pistols to military-grade automatic weapons.

After we emptied the clips, we came back out, ordered a few beers and chatted up the bartender. He was Tibetan by birth but was adopted by a Swiss family as a child. After a few more beers we were great old buddies, so he handed us his own SIG Swiss Army rifle and a couple clips, on the house! We  emptied those clips, came back out and had a few more beers.

Beer and Guns!

(That’s me, left, and Mike, with the Tibetan-Swiss bartender and real-live rifles in one hand and mugs of beer in the other. What a country! Later that day, we asked the bartender’s family to adopt us, too!)

Honestly, I have no idea what kind of beer we drank that day (probably Hürlimann) – but we drank enough to catch a solid buzz. Whatever it was, I’ll always remember hanging out in a true modern-day Mantown that makes your buddy’s basement pool room a pink-lacy bitch-bin by comparison. God, I love those pesky little yodeling cheesemakers.

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What did everyone think of the count down? Do you have any top beer experiences that you’d like to tell us about, maybe something you think we should check out and document? Trust me, we wouldn’t mind adding a couple more beer drinking excursions to the list!

2. Pete’s Wicked Ale at the Playboy Mansion, Beverly Hills

When you’re The Beer Traveler, you get invited to all kinds of fancy beer shin-digs. Usually, they’re not worth attending.

But one invite stood out like a GQ cover model at a meeting of hunchbacked Parisian bell-ringers: Back in 2001, Pete’s Wicked Ale was re-launching its product line, and they were hosting the bash at the Playboy Mansion. Sign me up!

With my, ahem, “business partners,” the aforementioned Mike of schiesskeller fame and Beer Traveler bon-vivant Frankie C., we made a whirlwind trip from Boston to La-La Land for the big bash.

What a freak show: Hef has monkeys and exotic birds in his backyard, while the bathrooms were filled with condoms and jugs of Vaseline. We got to hang out and get photographs with the Bunnies in the famous Grotto and around the pad. (Frankie C. and I were also each about 50 pounds lighter back then, so we could walk around the place without the feelings of shame and loathing that haunt us when surrounded by hot women today.)

Sadly, the beer wasn’t very good – do you ever drink Pete’s Wicked Ale? – and the Playboy models were merely for show. As Frankie C. put it in his own inimitable way, “It wasn’t the coke-fueled f*ck-fest I had hoped for.”

But, hey, we could have been selling Pete’s Wicked Lighter Fluid and probably still would have made the trip.

3. Anchor Liberty Ale at the Anchor Brewery, San Francisco

The Beer Traveler at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury

The Lady Beer Traveler and I made a humanitarian trip to San Francisco several years ago, handing out soap and shaving kits to the filthy hippies who still infect the city like an old scab that won’t heal. After fulfilling our duty to mankind, we visited the famous Anchor Brewery, one of the original American “craft breweries.”

The Anchor folks were kind enough to give us a little tour, which included a look into its aromatic hop storehouse and at its cool old copper brewing equipment (most modern breweries use more modern stainless steel).

Anchor Steam might be its best known beer, but Anchor Liberty Ale is the brewery’s best beer: a highly hopped brew in the Northwest IPA style. And because hops taste best when fresh, the beer when sipped at the brewery taproom is mind-blowing: just a big, flowery aromatic beer with great bitterness. The Liberty Ale at Anchor was so good, in fact, that it kind of ruined me on drinking it anywhere else. Goddamned hippies.

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