Imbibe Hour


Friday, October 29, 2010

Imbibe Hour hits the road in Hungary Part 1

It was time for a vacation. I do like to travel and visit foreign lands and set out to Europe again but to areas I thought would be interesting and perhaps not peoples first choices (like France, Spain, England etc..). Interesting is putting it mildly how the experiences came out. There were some good, some bad, but all of it highly memorable. They also provided opportunities to imbibe (in particular one stop that was a key destination I had desired for its wine) and much to write about. More on that soon...

My first stop was Hungary, and I landed first in the capital city Budapest. Arriving jet lagged from New York I took a private arranged ride from the airport, being whisked away through old gray buildings with highly decorated columns, narrow cobblestone sidewalks, and crossing the Danube to the Buda side of the city over one of it's many gorgeous bridges. My wife and I arrived at our hotel and the imbibing commenced almost immediately.

In our hotel room was some basic dry white wine, nothing too crazy to write up about but it was certainly nice to kick back and drink something after such a long flight. However, the next morning we were given a complimentary gift of bubbly at our first breakfast. The picture you see above is of a very common bubbly called BB semi/dry from Balaton Boglár. This one is described as a medium dry sparkling wine (you can't call it Champagne of course...) and it was fairly good. Crisp, sweetness to taste but a little sweeter than I expected for a "medium dry" but even some fruit. It reminded me of Chandon actually but the bottles cost a heck of a lot less if you buy it at the store, and its probably a better value than Chandon. So far the imbibing conquest was going well, so what else did I run into?

Well Hungary has beer. Yup no kidding.. who knew huh? Of course it has beer and there were many macro-brews that seemed to be common. Dreher was the one I seemed to find all over the country. Dreher is a Pillsner. So how is it? Actually fairly decent. Good color, excellent head, some decent lacing, some possible wheat smell (that doesn't mean necessarily there is wheat used in the beer. I am not sure.) on the nose and very faint citrus, but it has that sweet fakeness and felt some sweet possible corn-like taste also in the palate to myself. Decent lacing, not too carbonated either there was some hop finish but very faint. For a macro produced beer this was actually ok, and it's also quite cheap. I'd grade it a B- maybe C+ slightly better than average.

There are many other beers that you could get at probably any sort of supermarket to imbibe on. Yes you can get basic alcohol at pretty much any supermarket in Hungary. It's one of the many reasons I enjoy Europe because it is so easy to imbibe there. Quite often in Europe, the beer and wine is cheaper than water (which you have to pay for in restaurants). It makes for interesting days when you're not drinking water that's for sure.

There were other things to grab that seemed to be abundant as well besides beer and wine.
One of the most interesting finds in Hungary fell in the spirits category, the classic Eau Di Vie, or specifically a fruit brandy that is common known as pálinka. Pálinka comes in many flavors and I tried several. Things is they were all pretty much similar at least the ones I had pictured here. Big burn, and the fruit component on pálinka seems to be more of an aftertaste after swallowing, not a taste you feel on the palate at all. Problem with that is that they all start to taste the same. However, the apricot pictured here had the most flavor, the others were all fairly marginal, and the Bodza (I don't know what that is I think it is Black Currant) I really found kind of bitter and not very pleasant to drink. Doing some research here at home, it appears pálinka comes in varying degrees of quality depending on the producer which there seems to be many. This producer pictured here I believe is Szicsek. Left to right is Blackberry, Peach, Apricot, Cherry and I think Black Currant.

So after a few days things were starting off well on the imbibing trail, but is this really all there is for Hungary? Of course not. What I did know before going is that Hungary is primarily a WINE consuming nation, and there will be more about that soon... but first I had to go through an imbibing hell here and back first. I did live (although barely) to tell you the tale. Stay tuned my friends and I will tell you all about it.

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