Showing posts with label czech beer festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label czech beer festival. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ultimate Drinking Experience?

On my way home from work yesterday, admittedly via a slightly circuitous route, I popped into the local Barnes and Noble to see if they had the latest editions of the various beer and brewing magazines that I like to read. There was a new edition of Brew Your Own, which is fast becoming my favourite beer related magazine, and as I already had the current edition of All About Beer, I picked up their special edition Beer Traveler. Having driven the rest of the way home with Rammstein in the CD player, I was looking forward to reading about the places where "serious beer lovers" should go in order to get oneupmanship points on the rest of the world.

Naturally I wanted to see what they had to say about the Czech Republic and there was some stuff about Plzeň, for some inexplicable reason it was spelt "Pilzn" on the map Stan Hieronymous' was using (name and address of the cartographers please, so I can send vicious email claiming ignorance!), and about the Eggenberg brewery in ?esky Krumlov, a place where I saw this most interesting of signs:

Of the rest of the special, I was most interested in the 150 Perfect Places to Have A Beer, a list of which purports to tell the dedicated beer traveler where to find the finest beer drinking experiences. Now, I am not sure how they compiled this list, though I somewhat doubt it was as thorough as the Good Beer Guide, but a couple of things intrigued me, other than why their software couldn't handle some of the diacritics in the Czech pub names.

Speaking of the Czech venues on the list, they were ranked as follows:
  1. U Flek? (Prague) - 14th in the overall list
  2. Kr?ma (?esky Krumlov) - 44th
  3. Czech Beer Festival (Prague) - 54th
  4. Pivovarsky klub (Prague) - 75th
  5. Zly ?asy (Prague) - 83rd
Really? Are you kidding me? The Czech Beer Festival is a better place to get a pint than Zly ?asy or Pivovarsky klub? Let me get this completely straight, in the mind of All About Beer, an over-priced beer fest swimming in mass produced swill is better than two reasonably priced pubs with an ever changing selection of quality beers? Apparently the Flying Saucer, of which there is one that I enjoy going to in Columbia, South Carolina, is ranked higher than all the Czech pubs, bar U Flek?. On what basis? Now don't get me wrong here, I like the Flying Saucer in Columbia, and have raved about it many times on here, but better than Pivovarsky klub? You're having a laugh surely?

What about other pubs and places I know and have enjoyed pints in? Well, Dublin's venerable Bull and Castle ranks 18th, while the Porterhouse in Temple Bar is 42nd (only 2 places above Kr?ma? WTF!) and that's it for Ireland, other than the Gravity Bar at St James's Gate.

As for the UK, I don't think I have been to any of the places on the list, but I am not expecting a case of existential angst over the matter any time soon, but if the list is to be believed, the best place to get a beer in the UK is.....the Great British Beer Festival. It would appear that great places to get a pint in the UK are limited to London, Sheffield and Stonehaven. Sorry Burton upon Trent, you have nothing to offer. Sorry Oxford, the Inklings clearly knew nothing about a good place or two to have a pint. Sorry Manchester and area, Tandleman is clearly ignorant of the lack of good watering holes in your neck of the woods. Sorry Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen (home to the BrewDog pub), Newcastle, Carlisle, Birmingham, Cambridge, Norwich, and so and so on.

Of course one man's pivní perfection is another man's hoppy hell, so list's like this must be taken with a large pinch of salt, and I allowed myself a wry smile at the many pubs I love and miss in Prague which didn't make the list. However, forgive me if I am overly cyncial, but surely the best place to get a beer in the world would be the only place you can buy Westvleteren with the blessing of the monks? Where does In De Vrede come on the list?

It doesn't.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On Reflection

As I have mentioned before, I was disappointed by the Czech Beer Festival, even though Mrs Velkyal and I stayed for about 8 hours on the day we were there. The experience of the festival and the parallel event held at Zly ?asy got me to thinking about my expectations of a beer festival, and how that differs from going to a pub with a wide range of beers available.

As I said in my post about the Czech Beer Festival, one of the things I would like to have seen would have been special beers made exclusively for the festival. As it was, not one of the breweries at the event felt the need to stand out from the crowd by doing something outside their usual line up, so thank goodness for the ales from Primátor. Perhaps this then is something that the guys at Zly ?asy can bear in mind should they do a similar event again next year – and if none of the breweries will make unique beers, then use their event as the launch for another version of their Zabiják z Nusly beer.

Probably the biggest problem with this year’s Czech Beer Festival was the choice of venue. The problem though wasn’t the actual location – after all the show grounds at Letňany are right next to the metro station, which is only about 15 minutes from the centre of the city. The problem was that when it rained, which it did almost every day of the event, the field very quickly became waterlogged. Admittedly Prague isn’t blessed with a plethora of venues for these kind of events – however I think an alternative really needs to be found for next year’s event. Personally I think Letna Park would be better, especially on its clay pitches, assuming of course that the tunnel being built is finished.

I realize that this is the beer geek in me speaking, but I would have liked to have the possibility of sampling a lot more beers at the Czech Beer Festival. It woud have been nice to be able to have the option of a 100ml sample rather than having to take the half litre or 300ml on offer. I wonder how many people were put off trying something new because if they didn’t like it then they had wasted 40k?, and so stuck to those beers they knew? Of course the Czech Beer Festival isn’t really pitched at beer geeks, although the welcome presence of micros does make it more likely that we would wander up at least once, but then as I have said before if I really want a grilled sausage and pint of something decent then I will take a stroll to my local, rather than go to a festival.

In reality the Czech Beer Festival is little more than an overpriced 10 day beer garden with a few fairground rides lobbed in for good measure (one of which was called “Staro?esky Loch Ness”, which translates as “Old Czech Loch Ness” – funny that, I don’t remember Loch Ness having anything to do with the Czech lands, whether old, new or faintly middle aged). In the same vein, I would think of the event Zly ?asy more of a “pivní akce”, the nearest I can get to in English there is “beer action”, than a beer festival – especially given that they have a wide range of Czech micros on their taps all year round anyway.

Of the two events, I much preferred Zly ?asy’s – but given that it is one of my favourite pubs anyway I have to take that into account, but it has certainly been a very encouraging start, and perhaps one that can become a regular event, perhaps one in winter showcasing dark beers would be a good idea? It is good that Prague has places like Zly ?asy, and Pivovarsky klub swimming against the tide and bringing a wider range of beers to beer lovers in the city, long may it continue.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not Much To Celebrate

Friday afternoon saw the grand opening of the Czech Beer Festival here in Prague, an event which is scheduled to last until this Sunday - as Pivní Filosof has already mentioned on his blog, himself, Evan and I, along with Mrs V, went up for the beginning of an event which bills itself as "the largest gastronomic event in the Czech Republic", and we were not unduly impressed by what we saw:
  • 5 tents out of 6 with no beer (is it a coincidence that the "media tent" had beer?)
  • a general unavailability of the festival's currency, the tolar
  • a general lack of organisation

These things eventually got sorted out, but we waited nearly an hour and a half for our first beers. However, I think there are bigger problems with the festival than just poor organisation.

Firstly, the event lacks a back story - why does it exist? Why at this time of the year? It seems that somebody had the bright idea of putting a few big tents up in a field (a very wet field on Friday) and selling beer, and that's the extent of its raison d'être. I am sure that this comparison is not entirely fair, but from the get go Oktoberfest has had a clearly defined reason, to celebrate the marriage of the then Crown Prince Ludwig in 1810.

Also as part of the back story, it would be interesting, at least for geeks like me, to have the tolar explained - why that particular name? For those who have never seen the Connections TV series, a tolar, or "

Possibly though I biggest gripe about the event is the sheer dullness of the beer selection. Don't get me wrong, it is great to see the likes of Kout na ?umavě, Primátor and Rampu?ák at the event, but other than Primátor's Stout, Weizen and English Pale Ale, what was really on offer? Large amounts of pale golden lager, and not much else. Yes, Kout and Rampu?ák are good beers, but come on guys do something different and encourage me to part with my tolar, especially galling when just round the corner I can get Kout for 20k?! Perhaps the organisers of the event could include a condition for participation that each brewer has to make a special festival beer, with a different style selected every year? In 2010, along with all the golden lager, how about getting everyone to brew a bock for example, thus encouraging brewers to innovate, and consumers to experiment.

An event like the Czech Beer Festival could be so much more than it currently is, unfortunately it is nothing special and not something I would recommend people to bother with - rather I would give them a list of pubs with the same beers at reasonable prices to go to. If I compare it to an event like Slunce ve Skle, then it really has a long way to go before it matches up.

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