Pikes Pub: Europe was nice, but it's good to be home in Colorado Springs
Trips abroad are magical and fleeting. When the awkward strappy tan lines on your feet have faded, the chocolate stash has been raided and the Instagram likes have slowed to a crawl (but not a full stop - thanks, bots!) most people would let it go and return, with a wistful smile and full scrapbook, to their daily lives.
Not me. I drag it out. But at least you, unlike my family and friends, can shut me up at any point by turning the page or clicking away.
I spent almost a month in Europe, where beer is often cheaper than water. I didn't research what to expect from the beer beforehand. To the international pub crawlers who came before me, this may seem naïve. To those saving up, let's compare notes.
We had a quick stop in Bruges, because when you're that close to a country with beer so good that they name an entire style after you, you have to work it in. They had a good number of the krieks I'd been craving. I asked around for good places and regretted not doing more research, because several times when I checked in on Untappd, an app that lets you keep track of your beer, I'd had them before in the States.
Germany. I thought this would be the highlight of our beer excursions. And experience-wise, it was. But everywhere we went, one or two beers were on tap and usually the same style. I've gotten accustomed to going to breweries and restaurants where whatever you're eating, whatever mood you're in, whatever season you're enjoying - there's a style of beer for that. That concept isn't shared worldwide. I prefer dark beers and thought I'd see some, but in Germany, it was all wheat beers and pilsners, all the time.
The beer gardens did not disappoint, however. One in Berlin was right in the middle of Volspark Hasenheide, and we didn't know exactly where, so we went on a late-afternoon treasure hunt. The ice-cold, dirt-cheap hefeweizen was a perfect prize at the end.
In Munich, we posted at one of Augustiner-Keller's hundreds of outdoor picnic tables and drank those steins of beer, trying - and failing - to hold several in our hands at once like the waitresses at Oktoberfest do. Those ladies are superhuman.
I laid the groundwork for this evening by eating a pork knuckle roughly the size of my cat. My horrified vegetarian sister ate nothing but potatoes and was on the struggle bahn the next day. Leaf eaters, beware. It's a lot of beer.
We met up with a few rowdy fellow tourists and managed to get ourselves kicked out of the famous 16th century Hofbrauhaus. It's a long story, and I take none of the blame. You have two options there - light lager and dark lager. They were both delicious.
In Prague, it was all about their Pilsner Urquell. It was sold everywhere we went. Many locals told us to try it unfiltered at one specific restaurant near the Prague Castle, Lokal. We attempted three times, and each time the venue was so full, people were spilling out every entrance and exit into the street. It must have been good. If you've had it, let me know.
Budapest had its beers, and they were above average. I saw the greatest diversity of style there.
In summary, I went in expecting an American experience, but heightened. That was very ridiculous, in retrospect. Europeans have been producing incredible beer for far longer than America has been in existence, and our trends probably don't often register over there. What's on tap is on tap, and it's staying there.
But those big, beautiful chalkboards here in Colorado Springs' breweries with an offering for every palate were a welcome sight.