Friday, December 29, 2023

Fuggled Boozer of the Year

Originally I considered doing a "brewery of the year" but as I don't want to drag this year end review into 2024, or try you good folks' patience with endless posts about 2023, I ditched it and decided to just have boozer of the year as my final fling, especially as this year I have travelled outside the US a couple of times, so a rest of the world category is actually a possibility.

My definition of "boozer" here is pretty all encompassing, places where I can get a full serving of beer, whether that be a pint, half litre, or 12oz bottle, so brewery tap room counts as well as a cafe with decent beer selection. A Prague park bench at 2 in the morning with bottles of Bernard from the potraviny though doesn't count, mainly because it was bloody cold. Onward then to the places...

  • Caboose Tavern - Vienna
  • Devils Backbone Basecamp - Roseland
  • Patch Brewing - Gordonsville
Honorable mentions: Kardinal Hall - Charlottesville; Beer Run - Charlottesville

There are some places that are just special to me, and every single one of the boozer in this list are places I go to regularly and that I love drinking in. In several of them, I know the staff well enough that it is almost a stupid question as to what beer, or at least beer style, I want to drink. One place though stands out simply because I am convinced my drinking life over the last 14 years would be all the poorer if it didn't exist. I am talking, of course about the original Devils Backbone brewpub down in Nelson County. While the campus, for want of a better word, is far more extensive than it was in 2009, it has maintained the vibe of an Alpine lodge, especially when the weather is dreich outside and the fires are going. On our last few visits I have become somewhat misty eyed looking around at the now worn in and comfortable building and how much I love going there. It helps that Jason makes some of the best beer in Virginia, and founder Steve's vision is very much being honored to this day.

Rest of the US
  • Live Oak Brewing - Austin, TX
  • Olde Mecklenburg Brewing - Charlotte, NC
  • Savage Craft - West Columbia, SC
Honorable mentions: Hofbräuhaus - Pittsburgh, OH; Hunter-Gatherer Hangar - Columbia, SC; Scholz Garten - Austin, TX

I love beer gardens, especially beer gardens that have air conditioned tap rooms as well, which is basically every beer garden in the South. Life in this part of the world would be awful without air conditioning. I have a particular fondness for the kind of beer garden that has large mature trees that dapple the sunlight, water stations dotted around, a kids play area, and some of my favourite beer to boot. Every time Mrs V and I head to South Carolina for some family function, we drive within a mile of Olde Mecklenburg Brewing and their 8 acre beer garden in the heart of Charlotte. Now, every time we are driving to or from SC, we stop and stretch legs, have a beer, and let the kids run around for a while in the play area. We are so enamored with Olde Meck, that even though it is 4.5 hours into our 6.5 hour drive rather than the midway point, we always stop there, and look forward to it muchly.

Rest of the World
  • Hostomická nelevarna - Prague, CZ
  • U Slovanské lipy - Prague, CZ
  • Fjöruhúsið Hellnum - Hellnar, IS
Honorable mentions: Dobra Trafika - Prague,CZ; Únětický Pivovar - Únětice, CZ; Café Captein & Co - Amsterdam, NL.

No surprise here that the list is dominated by pubs in Prague, Czech beer culture speaks to my soul, and I always feel deeply at home in a traditional Czech pivnice, hospoda, hostinec, pick your Czech word. It is also not a surprise that the best boozer in the rest of the world is the place where I had my favourite session this year with my favourite people. Obviously then I am speaking about Hostomická nelevarna (sorry Evan), where my friends an I revelled in world class beer, great snacks, and the kind of time that only a great pub can produce.

That is also the reason that the Fuggled Boozer of the Year is also Hostomická nelevarna, a pub so small that I could in theory recreate it in one half of my garage if I had the skills. It is everything a proper old school boozer should be, unfussy, unpretentious, maybe a little rough around the edges, but with world class beer and the classic Czech vibe of being a place dedicated to the drinking beer with friends. 

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