Category Archives: England

Airports

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I recently read a book that included a rant about airports based on uncomfortable seats at the gates …. what? Who waits at the gate? Airports are all about the bars and the passengers who hang out at them. I’d probably hate airports too if all I did was sit at the gate. But instead I pad my arrival time, and especially my connection time if I’m going through a place that has beer not available in Massachusetts, to make sure I have a chance to check out the beer options. Over the years my quests have become increasingly rewarding, and some of them are even worth sharing.

This post is a work in progress that I will update as I travel. Airports are listed alphabetically by city name.

But first, a nod to impromptu romance:

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Flirting in the Sky – Boston to San Francisco

Check out what some clever person decided to offer on cross-country Virgin America flights in the photo above. Of course it’s terrific to find 21st Amendment on an airplane list- but even better is the option to send one to another seat.

The Airports

Boston’s Logan International Airport, Massachusetts, USA (BOS)
Terminal E, upstairs and before security

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I usually prefer to drink after security, but on this particular day I was at the airport for my Global Entry interview, which takes place in an office next to Dunkin Donuts near baggage claim. I was an hour early and found this internal pub called Dine Boston Restaurant at the dead end of a hall on the departure floor. Not only did the Green Monsta hit the spot, the hummus plate was the best one I’ve ever had in the states, with fresh artichoke and house-made pita. Apparently the menu is a collection of different New England chefs’ best dishes. What they’re doing at the dead end of the airport is beyond me.

Keep in mind that the terminals in Boston are not connected, which means once you’re past security you are stuck with the beer in that terminal. Logan does have more beer options than this, but as I tend to fly out in the early mornings I rarely get to explore them. (Not because I am opposed to breakfast beer, but because they’re not open yet.)

Chicago O’Hare, Illinois, USA (ORD)
Terminal 2 self-serve Connect to Chicago; Terminal 3 Publican

At O’Hare you can walk to any terminal after going through security. This is particularly helpful if you are flying out of Terminal 1, since it doesn’t have any worthy beer options yet.

As you walk to terminal 3- which is your destination since the opening of Publican- you get to try a gimmicky self-serve craft beer station on your way through Terminal 2.

It’s a bit tricky, because it’s not actually self-serve. You have to buy a card from the bar tender at the horse-shoe shaped bar sitting off to the side that corresponds to how much you want to taste. The tastes are pre-measured, so you can help yourself to all four options or a full glass of just one. You’re not supposed to keep the card, but apparently my crestfallen look was convincing.

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The downtown Chicago Publican is a true “homage to oysters, pork, and beer” yet my expectations were not high for the airport branch. But as you can see by the menu, this stop is worth adding hours to your Chicago layover.

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Gatwick, England (LGW)

Gatwick was recently called out for being one of the worst airports in the world for delayed flights, and my experience is consistent with that reputation. But it’s nice to be stuck here. Judging from a three hour delay to Amsterdam in the summer of 2015, I can tell you they have worked on making it a great place to wait. You can access everything once you are beyond security.

 

It has, among other places, this conveyer belt sushi restaurant. The turnover is high (because everyone’s flight is delayed so they’re stuck eating) which means the sushi is made constantly. I didn’t see any fish sit for more than a few minutes, and you can order individual fresh pieces of whatever you want. They serve a delightful Belgian-made saison called Kagua (that says “authentic Japanese craft beer” on the label). It’s just right with sushi.

San Francisco International Airport, California, USA (SFO)

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In the public space between International A and Terminal 1 is the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. The stacks, filled with aviation history and a few maps, are on the second floor. You can access them by appointment so plan ahead. The rest of the area is filled with exhibits open to all, including these showing what people used to drink on planes.

 

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Dig the cocktail glass with its practical wide base and stem to make it more likely your drink will stay in the glass instead of on your lap during turbulence.

Tampa, Florida (TPA)
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An actual brewery making beer at the airport. Cigar City has a wee 1.5 barrel brewhouse to make a beer only available to passengers. They have other Cigar City offerings as well, and oddly some macro options. You know which one to get.

Above, Cigar City Pilot Brewer Hans Groberg gives me a peek of the brewery

Tokyo, Japan
Narita Airport (NRT)

I do not often fly first class, but when my connecting United flight from Mongolia through Tokyo’s Narita was cancelled, they booked me in first class on the replacement flight. In the airport, that meant I got to use the United Lounge, which has this:

 

Okay so it’s not craft. And let’s face, it- this machine probably has displaced at least one worker. But- look at that head! Perfect every time. I know- because I poured eight of them. I only had 20 minutes to revel in this technology, so I didn’t let anyone else use it. I handed the beers to people passing by. This is probably why they don’t let me fly first class very often.

Also in Narita (different trip) is a conveyer belt sushi joint. I could not resist. (See Gatwick)

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Yebisu also makes a stout, which I preferred- although I had to get it from a bar where they allowed smoking inside. Blech.

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Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Chinggis Khan International Airport (ULN)

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When a storm in Tokyo prevents your flight from leaving Mongolia, and the entire airport is smaller than most high school cafeterias, what are you going to do? Look closely! The tiny cafe has cold beer in the fridge behind the counter. I was disappointed to see American Budweiser. But then, on closer inspection, and right beside it, was – could it be? – yes! Authentic Budvar. I do not remember how long the delay was, nor did I care.

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Alice’s Drink (London and Oxford)

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Detail of Captain John Narbrough’s 1670 manuscript map of the Magellan Straits

LONDON

I visited London with the specific purpose of crashing a map lecture by Tom Harper at the British Library. It was not the only reason, but it was up there. I also planned to interview a globe restorer who recently wrote a lovely book called Globes. To see the Indigenous Australia exhibit at the British Museum, take the Tate-to-Tate ferry, sit in a box at the Royal Opera House to watch Falstaff. I cancelled my one beer adventure days before my departure because Meantime was purchased by SABMiller.

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Top floor view at Tate Modern, where they serve The Kernel IPA

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Yet I find beer travel to be inevitable. There I was in Tate Modern‘s top floor cafe, having just strolled through a collection that I kept comparing to the new Whitney‘s assemblage, when I turned to face the counter to order my coffee. Truly- I meant to order an espresso. It was before noon and I had a full day of walking London ahead of me. And who would have guessed that a major world class museum would carry a local small batch beer? Fortunately this is happening more and more often. The bottle selections were just beyond the server’s head at eye-level. Very clever.

My inner voice- an old man I call Sid- reminded me that vacations should be enjoyed in every way. My shoulders relaxed and I smiled involuntarily and probably a bit too broadly. “I’ll have The Kernel IPA please.” Not being American, the server did not raise her eyebrow, nor did anyone else. And so my impromptu beer tour of London began.

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My device was abuzz with advice. Stuart O’Dell of Teign Cellars in Newton Abbott made a quick trip to London to point out the finer brews of Craft Beer Covent Garden (I had already discovered the original Craft Beer Clerkenwell) including Soundwave by Siren. I was not completely surprised to learn from Shaun Hill that Siren’s brewer Ryan just joined Hill Farmstead, because everything I tried of theirs was more than good- it was special. Like your first Cigar City Humidor Series IPA is special. Or Shaun’s Flora. Or Yvan De Baets’ Brusseleir Zwët IPA.

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The Rake

Over the next week my tasty tour also led me to The Rake (above) which has a wonderful summer camp feel, Jerusalem Tavern where I ended up meeting a bunch of cool women drinking St. Peter’s cask beer and supporting a sculptor’s kickstarter campaign, the Holborn Whippet where a customer kept her dog on the counter and shared her beer with him, and a vermouth bar called Mele e Pere which is reviving the culture of sipping vermouth in London and soon will carry the elixirs of Carl Sutton.

 

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O’Dell informed me that The Kernel Brewery is open only on Saturday mornings, but definitely worth a trip. I had planned to spend that day in Oxford, but decided I had time before my train. I took an Uber (my one taxi experience was an expensive and rude disaster) to a funky area called Spa Terminus. A long row of what look like industrial garages house all kinds of artisanal shops- some also points of production- such as Monmouth Coffee Company, Little Bread Pedlar, and Neal’s Yard Dairy.  It’s got a groovy feel, and the aromas will keep your nose quite happy. I wanted to move there, although I did notice a threatening number of baby strollers.

What kind of person drinks beer at 9:00am on a Saturday? (Other than a beer traveler on holiday and people buying bottles.) Apparently single dads. The only other two drinking customers plopped their kids down at the interior picnic tables, handed them gaming devices, and ordered full beers. Who am I to judge? I ordered the Table Beer, a 2.9% tasty wonder, only because I had to be able to read the train schedule to Oxford and get off at the right stop.

OXFORD

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This is a cake. No really- completely edible.

 

On the 4th of July, I donned a red, white, and blue skirt- my subtle nod of approval for the recent Supreme Court decisions and President Obama’s moving lead of Amazing Grace– and struck out to visit maps at the Bodleian Library, where CAMRA member, Charlbury Beer Festival organizer, and author of The Gough Map Nick Millea is in charge of the map collection. Being a beer person himself, he gave me great tips on where to eat (King’s Arms, where I had aged cheddar and pickle on oat bread) and drink (Turf Tavern). As I strolled into town from the train station, I went into the first bookstore I saw, found a few gifts to take home, and went to pay for them.

Me: “Wow.”

Large hairy male cashier busting out of an Alice in Wonderland costume, complete with blond wig: “I get a lot of that.”

I had accidentally discovered a party. It was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you see. And Alices were everywhere. I barely remember reading it, yet could not help but get caught up in it. No fewer than 22 venues had events, from readings and races to food fairs and a Hatter’s Cocktail Party. The lawyer in me loved “Alice’s Evidence” at The Story Museum, followed by dancing and the auction of the impossibly balanced cake above.

The trip was already worth it because of the maps and beer- stumbling on Alice’s Day made it unforgettable. In a fun yet weird science fiction sort of way.

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The Turf Tavern is a bit tricky to find. You will have to turn a corner at the end of a long passage- just like Alice- before you find the casks that say DRINK ME.

 

BACK IN LONDON

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My final beer stop was Camden Town, known for off-the-chart ridiculously delicious Helles. And for not playing well with others- but what do I know? Melissa Cole invited me- so off I went bearing beery presents from Russian River. The Helles (both filtered and unfiltered versions) was even better than I had hoped- so clean and refreshing, especially after a week of unintentional hop imbibing. (Isn’t that supposed to be an American thing?) And the company – lots of industry folks – was warm and welcoming.

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I even managed to meet a transplanted New Zealander, Stu from Yeastie Boys, who actually remembered my tweet about the beer he made with Dann and Martha of Pretty Things that I found at Hashigo Zake in Wellington. (See earlier post)

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Finding myself stuck in Gatwick airport for several hours waiting for the plane to the next leg of my trip (Amsterdam; post forthcoming) and having exhausted the Weatherspoon options, I found this quirky but surprisingly good beer at the sushi conveyor belt restaurant upstairs. It’s called Kagua. The fine print says it’s a Japanese craft beer. Brewed in Belgium. Huh? Regardless, it was terrific with the sushi. Between the sushi and the beer I could not find it in me to remain upset about my delayed flight. Very smart, Gatwick!

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And now for proof that I really did more than drink in England:

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Interior stacks at the British Library. Looks a bit like the Beinecke, eh?

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The ball attached to the Royal Opera House contains Yinka Shonibare’s fantastic ballerina- whose head is a globe made by Bellerby.

 

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Inside the British Museum

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Globe restorer Silvia Sumira in her studio.

 

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Inside the Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

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