Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Proud Beer Heritage of Luxembourg

What comes to mind when you think of Luxembourg?  I know, trick question, you do not think of Luxembourg. And, why would you?  It is the smallest country in the European Union with about 1000 square miles.
I am here for three nights doing some beer hunting and learning about the country.  They speak French, German and Luxembourgish, which is similar to German, but mostly they speak French.
What comes to mind for me when I think of Luxembourg are the famous cycling brothers Andy and Frank Schleck.  You may know them from a little thing called the Tour de France or Liege-Bastogne-Liege, or any number of famous cycling races.  Amazingly enough, for the two guys who put this miniscule country on the map, there is virtually no trace of them as far as souvenirs, public tributes, displays or commercialism of any sort, which is too bad.  I would have bought a hat or a shirt, or something.  I visited their nearby home village of Mondorf and discovered their home cafe, which did have some photos of them and some other momentos.  It was pretty cool, really cool.  I admire cyclists such as like the Schleck brothers.  The physical fitness level, endurance, stamina, disicpline and mental tactics they have are beyond me.  I do not know how they do what they do, but they do, and this is simply amazing.
I should mention that Mondorf is bang on the French border, so these guys are almost French.  You could probably throw a rock from their homes into France.
But, back to the reason I am here,  beer.  How do I put this...while trying to remain listed Mousel Zwickelbeier number one...and they were is also made by AB this is from where you have to lower the bar of expectations.  Most of the beers here are pale lagers or what some people call Euro pils.  There are some wheat ales.  There are some Belgian, German, Mexican and Portugese imports, too.   It is what it is.  Having said that, my visit to the old taproom of the former Mousel brewery was one of the highlights of my visit.  Mousel is now brewed outside of Luxembourg City, but the Mousel Cantine remains with its wood panelled walls and carved wood details, murals, nostalgic photos, classic oak bar, and stunning old-world atmosphere.  The food and service are excellent, too.  I had mushroom pasta and ling cod for lunch.  If you visit only one place in Luxembourg, make it the Mousel cantine for a meal and a heavy  ceramic stein of Zwickelbeier, which is an unfiltered lager, that has some flavor to it beyond the common pils found here.
The rest of the old Mousel brewery grounds and buildings have been turned into a Disney Land of thumpin, bumpin, techno beat night clubs.  One is called the Big Brauweri and still has the giant steam machines and other gadgets anchored forever in place in the floors of the old building.  People just dance, eat and drink around it all.  This equipment survived two World Wars, it can withstand someone hurling on it.  Wed., Fri. and Sat. are the big party nights.  I do not know how Thursday fell out of favor.
I tried a bunch of other local beers, too--Bofferding, Ourdaller, Simon Regal, Battin Gambrinus,  Diekirch Grand Cru and Christmas beer.  The latter three, all AB Inbev products.  Nothing jumps out at me.
I also visited a brewpub in Bascharage, rhymes with cah garage, called Brasserie Meyer.  They brew Beierhaascht beers.  A helles, dunkel and an amber.  All clean, distinct and brewed to their German styles.  The place reminds me of an American brewpub in atmosphere, except the building also houses a hotel and an incredible butcher shop.  If I had only had a refrigerator...or a barbeque.  Except for some tastey hunters sausage, I did not eat there, but  food looked superb.  This town is also home the the giant Bofferding brewery, which only takes large groups with reservations, so, I did not get to visit their taproom.
It is hard to do this Euro melting pot of Luxembourg justice in a short blog, but it is worth a visit with its history, architecture, scenery, fortresses, fine cuisine and, proud, historic, but limited beer culture.  I based out of the Youth Hostel in Luxembourg City, which is really more of a hotel than what most Americans think of when thinking of youth hostels.  European hostels have retooled themselves to appeal to adult travelers and its working.  This is one of the best I have visited, complete with a really nice restaurant and very helpful staff.  I highly recommend it and other hostels, too.  Luxembourg is very user friendly.  As an example, you can ride buses anywhere in the city and country for only four Euros a day.
This morning I woke up and realized that I had left my boots, and my  only shoes with me, in the lobby the night before when I was drinking a beer, tired and working on the internet.  I came downstairs and they were gone.  A sinking feeling.  My only pair of shoes in Luxembourg gone and now I am barefoot.  How do you go shopping for new shoes, when you have no shoes?  It is a sinking, embarassing, perplexing and yet somehow a  humorous feeling.  I had to tell my innerself, “Stu, do not laugh.   This is have no shoes.  Seriously, dude, you are barefoot.”  After I asked the front desk for the second time, turns out someone had turned them and once again I was with shoes.  They just did not see them the first time they looked.  
Note to self--pay more attention to where you take off  your shoes.