Saturday, August 2, 2008

Top Ten: Favorite Cities

The monthly not-usually-drink-related Lew's Top Ten. This month, a truly off-the-top-of-my-head list of the cities and towns I most like to visit or have most enjoyed on a single visit. Thoroughly me-centric, and I'm not anywhere near as well-traveled as I'd like to be...but it's what I've got. As always, the list is unranked, in the order I happened to write them down, and as I've done in the past, I cheated a little by shoving some close cities together.

1. Portland, Maine. The first time I drove into Portland, it was 72°, blue sky with a few clouds, and I bought a paper and looked at the want ads. Just a marvelous city, surrounded by water, fed by the water (and B&M Beans), and blessed with some solid beer joints. A little gem.




2. Chicago. Cathy and I have been enjoying the blazes out of Chicago for quite a few years now, thanks to WhiskyFest Chicago and our good friends, George and Sue Sarmiento, both Chicago natives who have shown us some of the fun to be had there (and Frank E., and Terry and Monica Sullivan...yeah, all you guys). Great museums, the Lake, the German joints (and Polish joints, and Ukrainian joints, and Swedish joints, and Irish joints...), and some truly excellent beer spots. A great city to walk around in, to dine in, to have a hell of a time in.

3. San Francisco. Simply gorgeous, in a way most cities only hope for. The Bay's a wonderful window on the world (and Oakland), the bridges are inspiring, and there are bars here that have been serving for well over a century. The people are very interesting and friendly (friendlier than I remember from the 1980s, actually), the food is outstanding, and the romance is palpable.
4. Portland, Oregon. Only been once, can't wait to return. Portland has a smaller beauty, and an intense desire to better itself that is much more appealing than it sounds. One of the best beer scenes in the world, of course (although believe me, guys...we know you know...), and a happy worn-in attitude about it.

5. Bamberg. How can you not like a town with so many good breweries, so much history and preserved architecture, walkable and beautiful? I'd go back every year if I could.






6. Toronto. Good beer in excellent places, great transit, old buildings, the St. Lawrence Market, and vibe just shimmering off it. And of course, The Lake, right there, which Toronto makes the most of. Love visiting this town, any month of the year.








7. Düsseldorf/Köln. I picked both to avoid the arguments, yes. Hate to disappoint the folks who told me to skip Köln (and kölsch) and just stay in D-dorf and drink altbier: I love both, and I particularly love the places they're served. Actually, if I were going to go on where they're served, Köln might have a slight edge, if only because of numbers. But truly, both wonderful places, -- not just for beer, for people and architecture and setting and history -- and I'm hoping to make them a yearly visit.




8. Ghent. I really am picking Ghent over Brussels, after only one visit to each. It may be because I was a bit overwhelmed by Brussels (may be that I was a bit over-served there...), but mostly it's the canals and the look of Ghent. I'm a sucker for water, and Ghent has so much of it. It's also of a more manageable size than Brussels for a first-time visit. My opinion may well change (especially after I get to Brugge), but for now: top ten.


9. Madison. Spectacular lake setting, and when it's really on, it's beautiful here. The people are wonderful, the beer culture is the closest thing to Germany I've encounted in the U.S., and the brewpubs rock. Another town I'd re-locate to in a heartbeat.

10. Washington/Baltimore. I hate the heat, I despise humidity. These towns can be miserable with it. But I love them; DC for the bustle, the international character and attractions of such a relatively small city, the Smithsonian, the embassies, and all the goings-on. Baltimore is special for its real personality, a town that has as much individual character as Boston or New York, some great beer bars and brewpubs, a gorgeous ballpark, and the whole harborside thing, and the exceptional seafood. Always happy to visit these towns; need to do that again soon.

31 comments:

---Guy said...

Bamberg absolutely, but no mention of Berwick, also known as "Bamberg on the Susquehanna"???

I'm shocked.

Lew Bryson said...

You get me another brewery -- hell, you get me a bar with any craft beers beside Sam Adams! -- in Bamberg on the Susquehanna, and we're golden!

Seriously...how hard is it to get tickets to a Bulldogs home game? I'm hatching a warped plan in my Incubrainabator Of Beer.

Steven said...

Woo - Hoo! We beat out Bamberg!!

Steven said...

...and Madison? Might have to debate that one...

(okay, I'd debate Bamberg too, but I'm a Chicago homey, had to cheer)

Lew Bryson said...

Does no one read the damned post opener. "The list is unranked"!!!

Tom E said...

Portland, ME really is a wonderful town. The wife and I been up several times and love it. It's a small city, but not too small. Just right. Great beer bars, great seafood.

Baltimore is also a favorite of mine. There's no other ballpark that I've been to that has as many really good bars within easy walking distance. And over in Fell's Point, dinner at Obrycki's followed by several beers at Max's is just fine by me.

http://destinationbeer.blogspot.com

Steven said...

"Does no one read the damned post opener."

Shouldn't'a numbered 'em... ;-)

But I knew you weren't playing favorites -- how could you with that sort of lineup?

mybeerbuzz said...

I'm sure it was just an oversight to have forgotten Dublin? Home of St. Jame's gate, Jameson Distillery, Porterhouse, Messr's Meguire & Brazen Head....

Lew Bryson said...

No mistakes, dammit! This is my list, and it was tough enough making it as it is. The hardest part was actually not putting Philly on it. And Pittsburgh. And Brooklyn. And Munich. And...so on.

mr said...

How does a town, Madison, WI, that doesn't sell beer after 9pm make your list? What about the poor unfortunate travelers who get to their motel at 10pm? Ask me how I know how it feels?

Lew Bryson said...

mr,

Can't you go out to a bar? I don't generally rate on off-premise; after all, I live in Pennsylvania, where my off-premise beer life has been stunted for years.

Mark Andersen said...

You've got my five of my favorites on there: Bamberg, Dusseldorf, Portland, ME, Koln, Chicago.

I get thirsty just thinking about these cities.

sam k said...

Baltimore...I remember when it was the oyster capitol of the east, and the blue crabs still hold up their part of the bargain! That was also a time when there were no micros in the city, and National Premium was second to none. The locals can talk Natty Boh all they want. Once you drank Premium, there was no turning back.

My first trip, in 1978, got me to "The Block," and it opened my young eyes like nothing else. The smell of McCormick spices at the harbor, before it was a (decent) tourist trap. Nowhere else have I ever seen rowhouses whose front door screens were painted with semi-transparent landscape murals.

The amazing B&O Railroad Museum. Haussner's German restaurant, too. It was a freakin' classical art gallery that served great food! The city even has the most beautiful still-standing American brewery building; ironically, the old American Brewery on Gay Street, now a bad part of town.

Baltimore's always been close to my heart, and I go back every couple of years for the food, the great beer, and the feel, the smell, the taste of a great American city.

Thanks for including it on your list...and go to Cafe Hon for the Imperial Crab Omelet!

Lew Bryson said...

Separated at birth, Sam, separated at birth.

Joe said...

Indeed Ghent is a great town. Many similarities with Brugge, but more authentic and fewer tourists.

But IMO Brussels blows them both away once you know your way around (or have a good guide). I'd be happy to show you around next time you're in town.

Lew Bryson said...

Understood, Joe, but I did have a good guide -- three or four, all of them very familiar with the city. Sometimes I have an issue with city size, and just like a smaller town that I can get my head around. Ghent did that quite nicely. Like I said, though, I may well change my mind, and I look forward to the opportunity.

Tannhauser said...

Have spent many an evening traversing the streets of the Old Port in Portland, ME. And now with the relatively new opening of Novare Res, Portland can indeed boast one of the best beer bars in New England. Although their deck offers little in the way of a view, it just makes for better people watching, and conversation starters. Enjoy it while the summer months are here!

Kathy said...

Heart, be still -- how good to see my Madison on your list!

Now... have you made it to the Great Taste of the Midwest yet? I could get you a ticket -- busy Saturday? :)

---Guy said...

Add me to the list of Bawlmer lovers. Both my parents were born and raised there, and although I never lived in Charm City (located in the Land of Pleasant Living) I have spent a lot of time eating steamed crabs, oysters, Berger cookies and drinking National Boh and Premium.

As for the American Brewery, next time you're in Berwick just ask and I'll show you the brass counterweight beam from the malt scale. And maybe someday I'll convince my mother to let me have some of the advertising materials her father created for Gunther Beer.

---Guy

---Guy said...

goI forgot to mention duckpin bowling, and rooting for Boog Powell, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, and the greatest third baseman to ever play the game: Brooks Robinson.

sam k said...

And Fort McHenry. Visit that beautiful outpost and admire the giant flag where it all started and you'll never hear the Star Spangled Banner the same way ever again!

We had duckpins back in western PA too; in fact, the Moose Brewery in Roscoe (along the Monongahela) made Duckpin Pilsener in the 1940s! They still don't hold up to New England's candle pins, though. Gotta play the dead wood!

You got salvage parts from American
(nee Weissner)? Must discuss over a Berwick Lager. Hope to see you soon, Guy!

Al Luccioni said...

Da simmer dabei! Dat is prima! VIVA COLONIA!
Wir lieben das Leben, die Liebe und die Lust
Wir glauben an den lieben Gott und han auch immer Durst!

Anonymous said...

Your next town to visit is Dingle Ireland ... it would land on anyone's list --- a market town and fishing port, Dingle has long been well supplied with pubs; in recent years the number has hovered around 52, and the variety is almost as great as the number.

Tim Hyland said...

Great list, Lew.

First, to second some comments on Baltimore (my former home): I completely agree about the city's personality. Baltimore is its own city in a way that most cities aren't. It's a wonderful place with wonderful people and some great places to drink -- Cross Street Market, Mahaffey's Tavern (you must stop there -- under the radar but good) and of course Brewer's Art.

Madison is also a great town. The midwest is where it's at.

Finally, I have to ask: Where's my hometown of Cleveland? Nicest people in the world and a great brewery to boot. Sadly, for whatever reason, I cannot find Great Lakes Brewing beer anywhere out here.

Cheers.

terry harmon said...

Brooks is probably the greatest DEFENSIVE third baseman to play the game but hte greatest overall 3rd base player of all time is of course michael jack schmidt. Easy.

Jeff Alworth said...

Lew, that may be a you-centered list, but there's a fair amount of me in it, too. My wife was born in the other Portland (your #1), and we head there biannually (or at least to somewhere in New England). I went to grad school in Madtown, and one of the finest experiences to be had is sitting at the Terrace at Memorial Union with a pint of Gray's stout. And of course, as a proud resident of Beervana (you may know it as Portland, OR), I am well-versed in its virtues. Since you've only been here once, I think it's time for another visit. First round's on me.

Al Luccioni said...

Will try again as Der, spricht kein Deutsch apparently. As far as Koeln goes, Paeffgen over on Friesen strasse is by far the best followed by Fruh Koelsch in my opinion. Koeln is by far the coolest stadt in Germany save for maybe Berlin in my opinion. It isn't very picturesque as it was bombed into oblivion but it is about a million times hipper than say Munich or Frankfurt in terms of atmosphere and the lack of typical German up-tightness. Da simmer dabei dat ist prima Viva Colonia!

Joshua said...

Ok, well if you can't say Philly 'cause you're a local. 'Cause I was gonna say why no Philly?

Lew Bryson said...

Sorry to frustrate you, Al: I was away on vacation and didn't update things, and all comments have to be approved before they show up (I had some real problem with one jackass posting rotten stuff about other people, so I had to go to moderation). Everything's up; I deleted your duplicates.

dgs said...

You. Didn't. Mention. Seattle.

YOU. DIDN'T. MENTION. SEATTLE.

Get thee to Seattle post-haste, good sir! In the meantime, I'm already plotting my payback: I will be heading to Belgium and Germany in September. And when I come back, I'll be in Seattle! Again! So there. :-p

Lew Bryson said...

Don, Don, Don...

I said it was a me-centric list, and the last time I was in Seattle was in 1973; we were there for about 6 hours. But, you know, a large part of the rationale behind these top ten lists is to prod folks into giving me suggestions for other "better" places...so thanks, I will!