One of my favorite topics. I could wax philosophic on beer for days. Just ask anyone who knows me.
Until last Sunday, I hadn’t found a place in Georgia to go for some more different beer. You see, Georgian beer is quite delicious (and potent), but it’s basically all pilsener-style. Back at home, the beer I most preferred was a sort of hybrid pilsener/caribbean style beer, if you could imagine that, but I also really enjoyed having a wide variety of ales to select from. Longhammer IPA and Goose Island Honker’s Ale sit right at the top of my Ale heirarchy, but let’s don’t discount Sam Adams Seasonal Ales, some of Brooklyn Brewery’s more obscure stuff, and of course most of what Allagash and Abita make. That’s six beers from six states, all amazing. Yeah, I miss American beers.
Then there’s also my imports. Smithwick’s being chief among them – I used to drink gallons of that stuff. Second – only because it’s relatively hard to find – was Boddington’s Cream Ale.
Anyway, the point is, it’s hard to get anything even remotely like any of these beers in Georgia. That’s why I was so happy to finally get to try Kaiser Brau.
The first weekend that I got back to Georgia – before I caught this awful cold – I got a few friends together to go down to the Bavarian Brauhaus. The place is sandwiched between Shardeny and the river, basically right in the area where all the posh glamourous people hang out, but it’s a tiny bit out of the way. I was made to understand that the Bavarian Brauhaus brews their own German-style beers on the premise. I love microbrews and breweries, and I’d been dying to try this place.
The menu is very Bavarian – lots of sausage and schnitzel and stuff – but I felt that I just had to try the hamburger, seeing as I am on an epic quest to find the best burger in Tbilisi (I still haven’t found it yet…). It was good. Like, really good. It comes with bacon and cheese, and all the other crap on the side, so I didn’t have to ask for anything special or peculiar. I also ordered the mixed breads and the garlic butter – yeah, it’s weird for me to go into a German restaurant and pay, individually, for both bread *and* butter, but it was definitely delicious. Anyway, I also got to try the garlic bread – it’s great: totally loaded with garlic.
But, of course, the most important part of the experience – my whole reason for going there – was the beer. And oh, the beer.
I tried all three. The filtered, unfiltered, and dark. Dark was, by far, my favorite. Filtered was good and enjoyable – it was bold, darker than a pilsener, and very bready. Unfiltered was a little too unfiltered for my tastes (I actually tend not to like unfiltered beers, so this is no surprise).
Now, I’ve tried Taglaura beers, both regular and dark. They have a sort of tinny metallic taste to them that I don’t really like, and also lack balance. Wow – I’m getting ahead of myself. Taglaura is, bizarrely, a chain of microbreweries (there are at least three that I’ve seen) that serve Georgian cuisine along with their own special beers. They’re the go-to if you ask any Georgian where to get good beer or dark beer. However, I can’t really recommend them – although the food is good, the beer is sort of disappointing, and there are probably better values to be found if all you want is Georgian food and beer.
Anyway, Kaiser Dark was sublimely good. It was smooth and sweet and hoppy and profound, and it managed all this without hitting a single wrong note. It was what Sierra Nevada Pale Ale promises to be on the first sip but then never lives up to. It was never bitter, or astringent, or metallic, or really obtrusive in any way, but it still had a boldness that pilseners can never achieve. It’s a session beer for a lover of dark beers, which is a rare find in this world.
Maybe I’m romanticizing it – I’ll have to go back for repeated samplings just to make this more scientific. Anyway, the beer was great, the food was great, the company was great, and I had a great time. It was, basically, the perfect welcome back to Georgia.
Of course, the downside is that it’s twice as expensive as Natakhtari, my Georgian beer of choice. At about 3 lari for a half liter, it’s not exactly out of my price range, but I can’t go there every day. Still, for a once-in-a-while event, I’ll definitely be going back. I give Bavarian Brauhaus and their beer Kaiser Brau my highest recommendation – it’s a place that ranks up there with my favorite New York spots.