I went back to Malta again for a few weeks this winter, I’ve been a regular visitor for over 30 years now. Don’t know what it is about the place but whatever, I just keep going back.
So whats new? Not a lot really.
The Hole in The Wall, Sliema is still, by a country mile, my favourite bar.
67 Kapitali in Valetta is still the best place for a pint of draught beer, including stuff like Magic Rock, €6.50 for 50cl (almost a pint) or €4.50 for 30cl (just over one half pint) and the closest you’ll get to the full range of the Gozo based Lord Chambray ales. They’ve got the Nebula Brown Ale on hand pull now, which is I believe a first for the island, albeit drawn from a unpressurised keg. Anyway, it’s a nice place to have a beer or a bite to eat too and a chat with Dominic. I thought there had been a tweak to the house Kapitali DIPA, punchier, cleaner tasting, better altogether. Dominc confirmed Lord Chambray had changed the recipe slightly since my last visit. I had intended to visit the brewery, I even got within 200m of the ferry at Cirkewwa at least once during January, but for a multitude of reasons never made the crossing to Għawdex.
Gugar is still pleasantly wacky and you can get a pint bottle of Cisk for €2.50. Although I usually prefer draught beer, Cisk is far superior in bottles, the draught isn’t as sharp and clean on the palate as the more carbonated bottled version. Gugars’ Maltese vegetarian food is absolutely wonderful too, and you never know who you’ll end up in discussion with.
I visited a few new places, worthy of their own posts, which will follow.
One of the highlights was meeting up again with John Borge-Barthet the brewer and owner of Stretta. He’s gone into the business full time now and presented me with a selection of the three brews he’s producing. The two original beers and an Anniversary beer.
John said he wanted to make something strong with a bit of body, something you could drink now or store away and age it. It’s a 10% Quad and he went back to Italy to brew it. There’s only a thousand bottles and I really wanted to take one home to save. Thing is, with my luck it would only blow up or something in the case on the way home so it got supped on the balcony from a wine glass.
What an excellent beer. I’m not going to go into Gilly Goolden territory other than to say it was extremely complex; malty, fruity, roasty. As nice a beer as I’ve drank for a long while and up there with the best. Top marks John and thanks for a cracking evening, as ever the conversation turned to anything other than beer.
The only ‘new’ beers I saw were from a Polish brewery from Lebork, called Hop Heads. I’d come across other similar sounding brewers, but not these. In a word, decent beers. As with anything on Malta, their beers are available because they’ve managed to get an importer and a distributor on the island – forget it otherwise, unless you’re going to ship it in the back of your van from Italy and then go door to door; I wouldn’t bother.
I see 31 different beers on their website, I saw half a dozen different ones , in various Maltese bars. I tried, Rowing Jack, Black Hop, King of Hop, New England DIPA and Crazy Mike. All very good, especially on an island where a decent non mainstream bottle fridge is mainly Belgian.
I think it was Rowing Jack which was the Punk IPA alike, but Crazy Mike a 9% DIPA did it for me. Well it did it for me altogether one night when a mate from the UK popped over for a week. Proper nice beer when enjoyed sensibly though, and only €6 a pint bottle in HITW.