Monday, September 21, 2015

Kanaal Craft Beer Bar, Sofia, Bulgaria

This was an unassuming bar that you’d hardly find if you didn't know it was there (see the closed street door, shown in the photo), with a wide range of bottled beers available behind the bar, and knowledgeable staff who are able to recommend beers or ales in English (in fact, I suspect this is something of a haunt among English/American residents and visitors to Sofia). It’s a comfortable joint, too, and I’m a bit sorry I was only able to go there once on this visit.

White Stork, Original: a beer made by local Bulgarian brewery White Stork (Бял Щърк), this one is an orange-amber colour and slightly cloudy; the nose is full of ripe fruit, honey and flowers, and it’s peachy and pithy from the get-go on the tongue. There’s some indefinable hoppiness that kicks you in the face a bit, heavy like cough syrup, but not too strong or bitter. A gentle hint of synthetic candy in the swallow doesn’t linger very much. Promising start, but disappointing finish. (**)

Divo Pivo/Диво Пиво: another local beer brewed here in Sofia, the bar opened the bottle from the fridge, swirled it around, and poured every drop, yeasty sediment and all, into a straight glass, which in my opinioned ruined an otherwise very promising pint. It came out cloudy, medium amber, with brown-stained foam, and had a sweet malty raisin smell. Cold and sparkly, with apple-blossom and marmite-on-toast in the first first taste that led to crusty bread and lime zest in the mouth. A subtly charcoaly swallow was almost overwhelmed by swirling yeast. I'm sure this would be really nice if served more carefully, or from a settled cask, but even shaken like this it was still more or less quaffable. (**) (But probably deserves better; I'm guessing a **** if well-handled.)

Kabinet: this clear, light amber, Belgian style ale from Serbia has a fruity, floury odor. There is a sweet, strong cherry first taste, but then it becomes intensely pithy in the mouth, and has a coarse finish that lingers very nicely indeed. Good choice! (****)

Glarus, “English ale”: this one shipped from the coastal city of Varna, is copper-coloured, still and very clear. The nose is slightly sweaty, but fresh, with hints of old vine fruit, and the first taste has soft, dry caramelized cane sugar and orange pith. A musty sense of flightly off fruit hits in the mouth, lingering yeastily and crustily on the swallow. Quite quaffable, but not terribly memorable. To reassure my Bulgarian friends who asked: yes, it's a perfectly respectable English ale. (***)

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