I try to keep this blog focussed on travel stories, but I’ve exhausted my back catalogue of trips, and have no holidays on the horizon. So without further ado, I bring you a rundown of my top ten favourite beers from my travels kicking off with number ten, Hoegaarden.
The first of three beers from Belgium in my top ten, this 4.9% wheat beer with extracts of coriander and orange peel is one of the most distinctive tasting beers around. There are other Belgian wheat beers on the market, but with over 500 years of brewing experience, Hoegaarden is the best.
It is the Marmite of beers – you either love it or hate it, and I’m disappointed to say more people seem to hate it than love it. I fondly remember my stag-do in Ghent – it was a rule that whoever bought each round could choose which beer the party should drink. When I got my round in, I can still see the look of disgust from my friends when I returned with nine bottles of Hoegaarden – anyone would have thought I’d bought nine bottles of battery acid.
Not many beers can be said to have influenced your career, but Hoegaarden has certainly had an impact on mine. I was well on the way to a 2.i degree in Economics, and a successful career in finance beckoned, when Hull University introduced Hoegaarden on draught to its student union bar. Too many heavy nights, hangovers and missed lectures followed, and I graduated with a Desmond (a 2.ii) – it took me a decade to find a decent job.
All Belgian beers have their own distinctive glass, and Hoegaarden’s is one of the best – hexagonal in shape and extra thick to keep the beer cold. Needless to say, a few of these glasses have found their way home from the pub to my kitchen cupboard over the years.
These days, I couldn’t manage a whole pint of the stuff – half is enough, and a pint glass is ridiculously big. Some bars in Belgium serve the beer with a wedge of lemon – with or without the lemon, Hoegaarden is surely the world’s most refreshing beer and is ideal on a hot summer’s day.