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I would love to be planning out the year's travel about now, but it's not happening. When an array of Eastern European beers showed up in Craft Central last month I bought a selection in the hope they would help sate my wanderlust a little.

The first stop is Slovenia, and a double IPA from Lobik called Why Dip? The hops are an intriguing combination of local varieties, Styrian Goldings, Styrian Wolf and Styrian Fox. It's 8% ABV and a juicy orange colour in the glass. The aroma is very orangey too, with a little touch of savoury garlic but not too much. There's no sign of that alcohol in either the texture or flavour, it's light and breezy, bursting with zest and overall quite fun to drink. The savoury side raises its unwelcome head again in the finish, but again there's enough going on to cover it. After the orange-juice foretaste there's a sweet candy-chew finish. This isn't the most complex beer in the world, but it's clean, balanced and very approachable. I'll take it.

It's amazing how hefty a 500ml can feels when you've become accustomed to 440s. We've moved to Poland, and the Nepomucen brewery. Multicultural is branded a "California IPA" which had me expecting west-coast style, so I was discombobulated by the egg-yellow hazy job which poured forth. It smells juicy and gritty, suggesting we're back to very ordinary NEIPA here. The trilogy is complete with the big dollop of garlic sitting right in the middle of the flavour, flanked by sharper spring onion. There's a modicum of juice in the finish, and a little citrus bitterness, however these up-sides are fully weighed down by the garlic and harsh grit. So it's not bland, and packs more of a flavour punch than its mere 7% ABV suggests, but it's not great. In part that's because it's not what I expected when I pulled the tab, though even in the hazy IPA stakes it's a nope from me.

For an abrupt change, Nepomucen also has a Forest Sour. What does that mean? Blueberries and spruce, apparently. It's a purple emulsion in the glass, topped with pink froth. There's no lactose here, and it's only 4.7% ABV, but it's still nicely full bodied, bulked out with wheat malt and wheat flakes. The sourness is nearly non-existent but for once I don't mind. The blueberries add a generic sort of tart sweetness, although it's the spruce that really gives this beer its character. The central flavour is a gorgeous wintery herbal thing, all pine needles and with overtones of ginger and thyme. Yes, it's a flavoured novelty beer, and you can forget about any malt or hop features; I loved it, though. Sometimes subtle and complex can take a backseat and allow fun to be the driving force.

Our final destination is Hungary, and the Mad Scientist brewery. Like a lot of Irish beer fans I've come to associate this outfit with the weird dessert beers they ship with the Boxtravaganza boxes in summer. It feels a bit odd to be drinking a straightforward hazy IPA, but that's what Mad House is. It smells sweet and orangey, like a fruit chew, so I was expecting sticky but it's surprisingly thin. It is only 5.5% ABV so maybe that's to be expected. It's not as sweet as I feared, with a kind of sherbet and pith effect, finishing savoury with a touch of spice. I had to put in a bit of work to identify all this, however, as it's really not very assertively flavoured, to the point of being a little watery. It's inoffensive fare, but for €5.50 I think I'm entitled to more than that.

The last beer is another in the latest unnecessary new beer style: cold IPA. This one, Megageil, is 5.9% ABV, pale yellow with a faint misting of haze. The aroma is extremely dank: that almost fetid rotting vegetal funk certain hops give off. The varieties are not named. It's a lager all right, a clean and crisp base encouraging easy drinking. And then there's the hops, pulling the flavour in all sorts of directions. The funky side is there, though calmer than it seemed from the aroma, and it's offset by a sweet candy-chew fruit aspect. There's not much bitterness, just a few pinches of fennel or anise, before it finishes with a spicy black pepper flourish. It's a fascinating combination, though even as a lager it's a bit busy. I found it hard to relax with this one -- the lager-cleanness gives the hops too much free space to run riot. I shouldn't be surprised that cold IPA has a lot of the same inherent problems as IPL. Expect more cold IPA on these pages regardless.

That's the end of today's trip. I see some interesting things from other points east have arrived in Craft Central lately so it won't be long before I'm off on another virtual beery trip.