Thursday, June 14, 2012

Turkish "Brewpub"

Some casual web searching revealed that, in addition to one small chain of Istanbul-based brewpubs, there was another brewpub in Turkey - in the city of Alanya.  And I was going to spend a night there!  The website even seemed to hit all the usual notes for a brewpub:

Unfortunately, the day before my intended visit to the brewery was spent enduring acute traveller's diarrhea during a baking hot seven-hour bus ride along an insanely windy coastal road while people all around me vomited from motion sickness.  (When they hand out barf bags before a bus trip, steel yourself.)  The fact I was able to trudge out to the pub at all is testament to my dedication to craft beer.

Red Tower Brewing is located along the Vegas-like main strip in Alanya, an overpriced and overdeveloped holiday haven for Euros.  But if you like urban beach holidays, I suppose it's what the doctor ordered.

Why yes, I DO need a lunch cruise aboard a three-storey plastic ship-of-the-line featuring a giant, glowing-blue-eyed viking head on the stern...

Strangely, Red Tower is supposed to be one of those huge multi-level clubs with a different theme per floor.  As it turns out, only the rooftop lounge (great views) and the faux-fancy patio restaurant they own across the street are open - the remaining levels are essentially empty.

Fingers crossed - I'm sending out good vibes to you, Red Tower

It has the fake tanks behind the bar, that's a start

Hmm, four levels of empty - at least this floor had chairs

Mrs. Hoplog and the rooftop lounge

Nice view down the Alanya strip

Equally nice view the other way to the iconic Red Tower itself

Despite the stomach bug, I needed at least a bit of nutrition, and at least a sample of Turkish craft beer, so we decided to hit Red Tower's patio restaurant despite the alarming prices (our first day back on the tourist route).

They didn't serve a lot of Turkish food, mostly "international" dishes like spaghetti bolognese and schnitzel.  (A poor showing given Turkey's fantastic food options, but I guess the tourists get what they demand.)  My bad stomach required something plain, so I tried the spaghetti napolitan - both the most expensive and the worst meal I had had in 3 weeks of Turkish travel (i.e. salt and noodles).  The decor and trappings suggested a decent dining experience, but this place was clearly a tourist cash grab.

But there was still hope for the beer, right?

Contrary to the website's claims there were only two beers on offer: "light" (pilsener), and "dark".  Everyone at the restaurant was drinking wine.

We were able to get a sample of each before buying.

Dark on the left, pilsener on the right.  No, that's not a hefeweizen, it's a really CLOUDY pilsener.

Ah, I'm afraid you have some work to do, Red Tower.  Your pilsener is opaque, and I can feel the suspended yeast souring my tongue as I drink it.  The dark is not much better - not a terrible beer, but a poor recipe that suggests chocolate and caramel before quickly fading into a watery mess.  Better recipes and  better processes are needed - it's really just mediocre homebrew right now, and I think I'd prefer an Efes.


Now I know Turkey is not a brewing nation.  They're a Mediterranean nation, so they should be making wine.  Beer is not really a traditional Turkish product, despite the modern-day mass consumption of Efes in Turkey.  So I really appreciate anyone's efforts to brew a non-pale-international-lager beer in Turkey.  It must be an uphill battle.

However, I think there's more to it at Red Tower.  My guess is that a restaurant magnate needed a hook or a twist to attract people to a new restaurant/bar.  Seeing the success of brewpubs in North America, I imagine this person decided to duplicate the look and feel and features of a brewpub, even down to website design.  Wham, bam, a license to print money in brewpub-free Turkey, right?  Unfortunately, the number one thing a brewpub needs is OK beer, and I don't think Red Tower has it yet.  Perhaps understandable, since brewing requires some specialized skills.  However, producing OK food is NOT rocket science, and in my experience Red Tower isn't even doing that, despite its mid-level price bracket.  So it seems to me the "brewpub" name/scheme is just a differentiating label, and there seems to be little interest in providing a good eating or beer drinking experience at Red Tower.

So with a heavy heart, I turn my thumbs down for Red Tower.  Not recommended.

Sympathy beer that Mrs. Hoplog and I took a couple of disappointed sips from.  It looks lovely, but unfortunately looks are deceiving

Unbelievably, I think it's possible to do worse in the food department in Alanya:

Do they serve all those things mixed together in a bowl?

If you're looking for good food in Turkey, I say get acclimatized to the culture in the well-travelled western parts, then take a (very cheap) internal flight to Gaziantep.  It's the pistachio and baklava captial of the world, and their food has a long history, crazy variety, and is both unbelievably good and very inexpensive.  The only price is that English speakers are rare, and you might get some looks if you aren't wearing pants.  (Well, I suppose that's true anywhere, but in this case I was wearing shorts.)  You still won't find great beer, but you'll be so happy gorging on cheap, fresh, wonderful food that you won't notice.

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