The Wine Anarchist does not exclusively drink wine, no he has also been known to partake in sipping a nice cool beer or some other beverage. There are a variety of countries claiming to produce the best beers in the world, the Czech Republic and Germany being strong contenders, but none match Belgium for variety, so the Wine Anarchist was only too glad to accept an invitation to the opening of a beer garden at the Kanaal Bar in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The barman and owner, whose name escaped the WA as he was indulging in the beers on offer opened this trendy place on 2 Madrid Boulevard a bit over a year ago, trying to offer the inhabitants of Bulgaria's capital (the Sofians...?) something a little different. Most of the beers are imported directly and there is a list of some 50 mostly Belgian beers.
Now running a relatively upmarket bar in Sofia is not easy in a country where average wages are around 350 Euro a month, so to the western visitor drinking at the Kanaal is a bargain. House beers are Grolsch and Hoegaarden at 2.50 Leva and 3.50 Leva respectively per bottle (1.25 and 1.75 Euro!). A popular drink is their own recipe of what they call a radler, a shandy to you, me and the Wine Anarchist: a little grenadine, a bottle of Hoegaarden, top up with some orange juice (if the WA followed this correctly in his slightly drunk state. With these basic drinks at low prices it is perfectly possible to have a most enjoyable evening without breaking the bank.
If on the other hand you want to try something different, it will obviously cost you a bit more, but prices still compare favourable to the rest of Europe. Specialist beers include Chimay Blue, Westmalle Dubbel and Trippel, Liefmans and Giradins Kriek (cherry beers), Duvel, Petrus Dubbel Bruin, Oud Bruin and Aged Pale, Rodenbach Grand Cru, La Trappe Quadrupel, Rochefort 8 and others. A good mixture of well known Belgian beers as well as some more exotic ones. As usual with Belgian beers, one has to be a little careful when inbibing as many of them are deceptively strong, but boy are they delicious!
In addition the spirit selection is equally eccentric and unusual, where clearly a lot of thought (and extensive tasting) has gone into. Gems on the spirit shelf include instead of the usual suspects Tyrconnel Irish Malt Whisky, Glenfarclas 15 year old and Heritage Scotch Malt whisky (one of the few independent whisky distillers in Scotland), Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, Wenneker Old Dutch Genever, Hendrick's handcrafted Scottish gin, Black Forest raspberry eau de vie, Italian blueberry and liquorice liqueurs. Unfortunately the Wine Anarchist did not have the stamina to drink himself through the selection, but that should be a good excuse to come back.
The clientele is mostly young, but the slightly ageing WA did not feel out of place. The decor is modern and clean and there now is a small garden to relax in. The staff are friendly and they speak English. Definitely a place to come back to and highly recommended if you find yourself in Sofia.
Kanaal Bar & Hostel
2 Madrid Boulevard