I had hoped to find some outstanding beer bars during our recent trip to Ireland, France and Belgium, but the places we ate seemed to care more about the food — and maybe the wine — than the beer.

But I still had some pretty good beer.

Ireland, our first stop, can be summed up in one word: Guinness. We didn’t stray far from Dublin, actually visited the Guinness Storehouse, and drank Guinness at every stop. During a previous trip to western Ireland, we had Beamish, Murphy’s and Smithwick’s, but in Dublin, the offerings seemed to be Guinness or Budweiser. We stuck with Guinness, and enjoyed every one.

In Belgium (where it is based) and France, every bar features Leffe, which is part of the Stella Artois family. I drank Leffe in Paris, Caen, Bruges and Brussels. Leffe Blonde is available in Maine stores, but I hadn’t had much of it, if any. It is slightly sweet but still crisp, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Leffe Brune is tastier and richer, with a little bit of hops, and I enjoyed it too. Both have 6.5 percent alcohol.

In Brussels, I went to a hotel bar where everyone had been drinking for a while as part of a retirement party. The retiree bought me a Leffe 9, boasting 9 percent alcohol, a good rich flavor and a fairly heavy mouthfeel, and a Leffe Trappist Ale, which was even more intense. It was quite nice.

While in Bruges, after not finding the local beers I was looking for in the restaurants, I went to a beer store and bought two traditional Belgian beers: Belle-Vue Gueuze and St. Bernardus Prior 8 Abbey Ale.

The Belle-Vue was a bit cloudy and sweet, and did not taste like the gueuze I have had before and since. It just did not have the intense flavor I expect, tasting a bit more like a wheat beer.

The St. Bernardus Prior 8 was a richer, more flavorful ale — a Belgian dubbel with aroma of figs and dates, and a good rich maltiness with some good carbonation. Nancy detected an aftertaste she did not like, but I didn’t find it.

Our first night in Paris, we opted for two French beers — a Pichon and a Monaco Twist and Shout. I had never heard of either, but the Pichon seemed to be a fairly straightforward lager with good flavor and color, and a nice carbonation. The Monaco Twist and Shout was a light fruit beer.

I assumed I would be able to check these beers on the Internet when I got home. I know Pichon exists because I could buy beer clocks and coasters online, but found nothing about the beer itself or the brewery. The beer label said it was from Strasbourg. I didn’t even get that much from the Monaco.

Later on in the trip I had a 1664, another lager I liked quite a bit and had not tried before. After our trip, son Zachary picked us up at Logan in Boston and served us pizza and beer, and the glass he gave me had “1664” on it. He has a friend who has spent a good part of his life in Germany and Ireland, and he likes 1664 a lot. It is the flagship of Kronenberg Brewery in Strasbourg. That made me wonder if there is a connection to the Pichon.

In short, my beer experiences in Europe were not quite as exciting as I had hoped they would be, but we were busy doing other interesting things. And I’d love to get more information about the Pichon and Monaco.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer who lives in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

[email protected]


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