Showing posts with label bruska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bruska. Show all posts

Thursday, February 14, 2013

In Praise of Singleness

Last week I walked into one of my favourite pubs in Charlottesville. The barmaid was at the taps pouring a beer, so I took a seat at the bar and allowed myself a cursory glance at the menu, I knew what I wanted. The barmaid turned, wandered in my direction and placed a glass of what I wanted right in front of me and asked how I was doing. For the first time in almost four years I didn't have to ask for a beer, the right one just came. Obviously the barmaid had seen me coming into the pub and knew what I have been drinking most since I finished my booze fast, Samuel Adams Alpine Spring. Being known to that level in a pub is, at least for me, a good thing. So, Tracy at McGrady's I take my hat of to you as a superior practitioner of your craft.

That little vignette of life popped into my head yesterday as a result of a Twitter chat about pubs in Prague. I commented that several of the pubs I would frequent in that most beautiful of cities had just one beer available, usually it was Pilsner Urquell, and how nice it was to be able to go to a pub, know exactly what you wanted to drink and that it would satisfy every time. There would be no umming and ahhing at the beer menu clearly written by Franz Kafka in his most verbose magnificence, no starring blankly at a wall of taps trying to find the needle in an IPA stack that I would actually want to drink. Nope, very simply you walk into the pub, acknowledge the barmaid/man and wait a couple of minutes while he pours you a pint.

One pub in particular, at least in my experience, ticked all the boxes for guaranteeing a good session. Tasty beer, tankové Pilsner Urquell, well kept, they had several awards for the quality of their pour, efficient staff, two fingers to go, here have another and keep 'em coming, a crowd of locals enjoying good beer but primarily enjoying the company of their friends (which is after all the whole point of the pub). That pub was called Bruska, it is up in one of Prague's suburbs, and it is a place I never once regretted going to.

Having a single beer on tap, though admittedly I think they had bottled non-alcoholic Birell, can be one of the most challenging things for a pub to do. Your regulars will come to know the beer very, very well, so you better have a good one. Also, because your regulars will come to know the beer very, very well, you better keep it in tip top condition because they will be able to tell when the lines need a clean or something is just not quite right.

Sure it is nice to go into a drinking hole and have a choice of 25 or 30 taps, assuming of course it isn't just 24 or 29 variants on American pale ale of differing India-ness plus Guinness, but there is much to be said for going to a pub knowing that the beer you will be drinking will hit the spot, every time. That you won't spend time trawling through the beer list and ignoring your friends. That is the mark of a quality pub.

Picture credit: taken from my book 'Pocket Pub Guide to Prague', picture by Mark Stewart.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Context, context, context

One of my favourite subjects at university was hermeneutics – the study of texts and how they function, in fact one of the questions in my final year exam in hermeneutics was “what is a text?” Probably the most important word in hermeneutics is “context”, the environment from which a text is born, to which it addresses itself and the world in which the reader interprets that text. Now, I am not attempting to claim that beer is a form of hermeneutics – although I think that it would actually be quite simple to do so, especially with regard to the hermeneutical circle – essentially that you can only understand the whole text by understanding the parts, and that a proper understanding of the parts is possible only by understanding the whole. What came to mind yesterday was that the context in which you sample a beer has an inevitable influence on your opinion of said beer.

Once again I find myself committing heresy by admitting to not being a big fan of Pilsner Urquell, the original and in many people’s minds still the best lager on the planet. In my early beer drinking days I found it too hoppy and bitter to enjoy as a regular drink. As a result of this I preferred its next door neighbour, Gambrinus, or Kozel, which eventually became just another brand in the SABMiller stable. Since I have become something of a paradox in that I drink far less now that I used to when I was in my 20s but now I drink far better, I have started to respect Plzeň’s contribution to world merriment and joy, and it is no longer heard of that I won’t drink the stuff – actually in the right circumstances I quite enjoy it.

Usually if I am in the mood for an Urquell, I am in the centre of Prague and in the vague vicinity of U Pinkas?, the first pub in the city to sell the golden nectar as far back as 1843 – such moods generally strike me in the middle of summer as U Pinkas? has quite possibly the most adorable beer garden in the city – sandwiched between the pub itself and a historic church. Last night’s mini-session, I only necked three pints, came about because I met up with the photographer for my recent wedding, to collect the prints we ordered to create our wedding album. I suffer from a weakness known as “just the one syndrome”, so when the photographer asked if I fancied a quick pint, I said “sure, why not?”

The pub we went to was one his locals, called Bruska, which has Pilsner on tap from a tank rather than from a keg. The first thing that struck me about the pint when it came was that it was slightly colder than usual, which was a benefit as it was smoother going down. Also the beer held its head better, I am a fan of head on my lager and so when it just vanishes just as the waitress is leaving the table I worry that I won’t be enjoying my pint. So while the taste was the same, the drinking was better. Such is the value of a good pub, while not wanting to denigrate the value of skilled barstaff, it is the care with which a bar treats the beer that has become something of a passion for me. Lines being cleaned and beer being stored at the right temperature have become important considerations, so that while I might not drink more than 5 beers in an evening, I want each one of them to be enjoyable.

So it was I enjoyed three quick pints with a friend, in a typical Czech pub - something which I for one hope never dies out in Prague, or worse becomes a cliche of itself.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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