Showing posts with label czech republic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label czech republic. Show all posts

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Session 140 - Of Swans and Bulldogs


The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.
As the host of this month's Session, I have a confession to make, I have no idea where to go with our common theme of Czech beer. There are so many potential avenues for my post today. I could talk about how that very first half litre of Budvar 10° in a ?erny Most pizzeria has lead to a life long appreciate of the youngest of the claimants to the Budweiser name. I could talk about Kout na ?umavě's magnificent 14° tmavé that was the inspiration for Morana, my first brewing collaboration in the US with Devils Backbone. I could regale you dear reader with tales of kicking kegs of rare, at the time, beer styles with noted beer writers like Evan and Max. I could even ramble on about my ongoing mission to find an American made Bohemian Pilsner worthy of the name, thankfully there are a couple available in Virginia - looking at you Port City and Champion Brewing.

As I pondered what to write, I took to looking through pictures that I took in the Czech Republic during the ten years that I lived there, pictures in general and not just beer. In many ways life in the Czech Republic revolved around my favourite institution, the pub. I love the fact that the Czech language has at least 5 words for pub:
  • hospoda
  • hostinec
  • pivnice
  • hosp?dka
  • vy?ep
Naturally plenty of other words for drinking dens have crept into the language, "bar" and "lokál" being two of the more obvious examples. I am sure there are some out there that would want a taxonomical definition of the difference between a hospoda and a pivnice, but it would largely be an exercise in splitting hairs, and thus pretty pointless. The fact remains that the Czech hostelry is to the Czech Republic as the church is to the Southern states of the US, ubiquitous and largely indistinguishable one from the other.


From my experience the pub is the epicentre of Czech life, not just a place to go for a drink. It's the place where after some time you get to know the staff, if not by name then very much on a nodding acquaintance level. If you go often enough to particular places your regular tipple is on the table just as you take off your coat and they will keep on coming until you tell the servers to stop, a tricky proposition when the next beer usually arrived with a finger or so of the current one still in the glass.


Czech pubs are just as much a sociable place as they are a social centre, let me give you an example. You walk into a bar and there are people sat at every table, here in the US you do one of two things, wait for a table to open up or try somewhere else, in the Czech Republic you find the table with enough space for your group and ask if the seats are taken, if not you join that table. There is something about that friendly exchange with a stranger that I miss, maybe because it was this way of doing things that helped me overcome the crippling shyness of my teens and early twenties. When your beer comes, you cheers your new table mates and on you go, knowing the cheers will be reciprocated. In that interaction strangers become acquaintances, and sometimes even friends, and so the pub achieves one of its great purposes as society's greater leveller.


Throughout the decade of writing Fuggled I have no doubt waffled at length about my favourite pubs in the Czech Republic, Pivovarsky Klub where I met Mrs V, Zlatá Hvezda where I watched Liverpool twice a week most weeks during the football season, or even Bruska, the place with just tankové Pilsner Urquell on tap, but that was irrelevant because it was a damned good pint every time. One place though that I rarely seem to have mentioned, and also the beer that pulled me there time after time, is U Buldoka - in fact a quick search of the site shows that I have made passing reference to it all of twice. The beer that I drank in U Buldoka was always Zlatá labu? Světlé Kvasnicové pivo 11°, brewed by Pivovarsky dv?r Zvíkov. Whenever I throw my mind back to the many, many half litres I drank of this beer, two descriptors come to mind, sherbet and pear drops. Zlatá labu? 11° was a lovely, lovely beer - having not had it in nearly ten years I can't comment on what it is today - and U Buldoka was a great place to sit for an afternoon and just merrily drink your fill.


One of the delights of U Buldoka in winter is the big green thing you can see in the picture above, which I got from the U Buldoka website. That my good people unversed in the ways of Central Europe is a masonry heater, used for radiating heat throughout the room by virtue of a fire in the belly of the beast. These things are phenomenal at keeping a room warm, and so sitting a good distance away in the middle of winter becomes an art form in itself. Come summer, the fire is not lit, so it makes a handy place to prop yourself up against and use for stashing empty glasses. When I was writing the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague, several of the pub tours just so happened to pass close to U Buldoka, so my photographer Mark and I would finish up the chosen route for the day and then pop in for a pint or several, well ok then, just several. U Buldoka has so many of the things that I associate with a "good pub", dark furniture, dim lighting when the evening comes (nothing worse than glaring light bulbs to ruin a place's atmosphere), good beer, efficient staff, and simple but filling food. There are times when I would like nothing more than to take my twins for a stroll along the Vltava, perhaps from ?ech?v most down to Smíchov, crossing the river a couple of times, finishing up at U Buldoka for a well earnt pint or several, oh who are we kidding, several.


May be one day Mrs V and I will get back there, until then there are always the wonderful memories.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Session 140 Announcement - #Pivo


The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.

I was wondering to myself what the theme would be for this month's iteration of The Session, and so on looking at the list I realised that there was no theme for October. A quick scan through themes passim revealed a glaring topic omission, so I pinged Jay and Stan and hey presto they agreed to let me host The Session again!!

In the autumn of 1999 I jumped on a bus at London's Victoria Bus Station and spent the next 20 or so hours making my way across Europe to the mother of cities. The Czech Republic, most specifically Prague, would be my home for the next ten years, although my original plan had been just one year and then moving on to visit as many former Soviet countries as possible, best laid plans of mice and men, and all that jazz. I still remember my first Czech beer in situ, I'd had a couple of Czech lagers as a college student in Birmingham, a half litre of 10° Budvar in a little pizza place among the paneláky of ?erny Most. Beer was to be part and parcel of life for the duration of my stay in the country I still wistfully think of home. That my dear readers is the theme then for The Session this Friday, Czech beer. You could write about any of the following:
  • reminiscences of a trip to the Czech Republic
  • a Czech beer that is your go to drink
  • lesser known styles of Czech beer, tmavé or polotmavé for example
  • the booming craft beer scene in the Czech Republic
  • small Czech breweries that deserve a wider audience
  • a beer you love inspired by Czech styles
So let's has a love song to Bohemia and her beers, the land that gave us the original pilsner, and so much more.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Downright Demanding

Over the last couple of weekends, Mrs Velkyal and I have hosted a couple of parties at our house. The first, on the 27th October, was to mark Czechoslovak Independence Day, which is on the 28th but we felt a Saturday night would be better, and the second was our house warming.

In the last year or so we have found a group of Czechs and Slovaks living here in the Charlottesville area, as well as people descended from those most august nations, and we will meet up once in a while. Although Mrs V and I are neither Czech nor Slovak, neither do either of us have the required ancestry, we have become kind of adopted Czechs by virtue of our years living in the country, and we love the opportunity to break out our rusty language skills.

My best friend, whose wife is Slovak, came down from DC for the weekend, bringing with him all the essentials to cook gulá? - basically a cast iron pot, tripod to go over the cobbled together fire pit, copious amounts of pork and beef and a few hours to stand around, beer in hand watching my favourite central European food being made.


Obviously no Czechoslovak party would be complete without beer, and there was plenty. Just the day before I was laid off, I put in an order with Market St Wine in Charlottesville to get a couple of the remaining 80 cases of Port City's Downright Pilsner especially for this party. People also brought Pilsner Urquell, Staropramen and Lagunitas Pils, and my best friend brought a bottle of 5 year old Kosher Slivovice - that's damned fine plum brandy!

The Downright Pilsner went down an absolute treat with the assorted Czechs, Slovaks and fellow travellers, as it should do given that it is pretty much spot on for a Czech style pale lager, 4.8%, 43 IBUs of Saaz, unfiltered and just downright good. It is very much a contender for the Fuggled Pale Beer of the Year - an award unencumbered with value, monetary or otherwise - and as such I really hope, nay I plead, that Port City don't let this just be a one off, but brew it again. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is the best of the Port City beers I have had, just edging ahead of their amazing Porter, and I would love to see it as part of their core range of beers.

Yes, it is that good.

Monday, June 25, 2012

In Praise of Familiarity

Earlier today I sat down to write a post for this blog and my mind was blank, what should I write about? What would people be interested in? Questions flashed through my mind and no answers came forth to announce themselves. So I had a cup of coffee, read the news on the various websites from which I glean my knowledge of world events, the BBC and the Guardian mostly, caught up on the football gossip, hoping to see that Liverpool had sign Gylfi Sigurdsson.


It's not as if I didn't drink anything over the weekend. I drank mostly homebrew admittedly, mainly my German pilsner, though with some lime witbier and the few remaining ?erny Lev Czech Dark Lagers chucked in for good measure. I worked at the Starr Hill tasting room on Saturday, and yesterday after painting in our new house I sat with a large New Belgium Fat Tire to wash down some Mexican food. There was no beer revelation, nothing new to tickle and tantalise the taste buds, nothing worth taking notes about, though I have practically given up on that particular activity, and you know that's perfectly fine by me.


While it is true that I have never been the kind of person to go chasing half way across town just to try a particular beer, let alone to another country, I wonder if at times I lose sight of that fact that beer is just part of life? Since leaving the Czech Republic almost three years ago I have come to cherish, and miss, the wonderful solid predictability of being able to walk into any of my favourite pubs and be guaranteed a beer I would want to drink. Whether it was ?těpán at Pivovarsky Klub, Zlatá labu? at U Buldoka or even Leffe Bruin at my nearest Potrefená Husa.


Don't get me wrong, I love going to the pub over here, but there is often an element of doubt in my mind as to whether there will be anything I am in the mood for, given the frequent rotation of taps, and the near constant chasing of the new thing, the latest big beer and that which contains the oddest ingredients.


They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but at the same time the familiar is a comfort, something reliable to go back to, knowing that it will be satisfying. Whether it is tankové Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic, London Pride in Southall or Samuel Adams Boston Lager here in the States, there is much to be said for those beers which are familiar, oh so familiar.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Snack Time!

"Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please".

Sure that might be something of a cliché, but it does illustrate that few things go together like beer and snacks. Here I am strictly speaking about snacks rather than some little pretentious morsel, usually in a tower, with a smear of cat's piss jus or some such silliness on the side of a square white plate the size of the City of London. Beer and snacks are just perfectly natural bedfellows, like bacon and egg or fish and chips, everyone I know gets the munchies when they've had a few pints, and on Saturday in honour of Session Beer Day I drank mostly Williams Brothers Scottish Session Ale.

In the pubs I frequent here in Charlottesville, snacks either don't seem to be part of the menu or are a mere dollar cheaper than a sandwich or main course. If I am at Beer Run and get the munchies I will often have their Hogwaller sandwich, which consists of ham AND bacon AND cheese, with a side of potato salad. If the venue happens to be McGrady's then a Philly Cheesesteak wrap with tater tots is in order. While they are both delicious, they are sometimes just too big for my purposes. So this got me thinking about the beer snacks I loved in the Czech Republic, and here are a few of my favourites.


Let's start off with Nakládany Hermelín, possibly my favourite cheese dish on earth other than just eating straight up extra mature cheddar. Hermelín itself is a soft cheese similar to Camembert or Brie, though normally sold as small wheels of about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. To make nakládany Hermelín you simply slice a wheel in half, lengthwise, and then marinade it in oil, garlic, onions, peppers and various spices. It takes about 3 days to be ready, though I know some people who wear you have to wait 2 weeks for the full flavour to develop. Once it is ready, spread it on some nice thick cut rye bread and have a pint of the best Pilsner you can find.

The one delicacy that I loved most when living in the Czech Republic was called ?kvarková pomazánka. ?kvarky are basically bits of fried bacon, though usually they come with a healthy dose of lard as well. Whip it all up with some eggs, onions and mustard and hey presto you have a lard and bacon spread which is utterly delicious on toasted rye bread, and serve with a pint of the finest Pilsner you can find.

Inevitably when you get home, having had many pints of finest Pilsner you can find, you might still have the munchies, and this is where topinky come into their own. Quite simply, take old bread - most Czech bread is rye bread - and fry it in oil. Once it is nicely fried up, rub cloves of garlic on the bread and enjoy. Personally I think this is best done at home rather than in the pub mainly because you don't want to be breathing garlic fumes over your friends, and it is definitely not recommended if you are out on the pull.

So what are your beer snacks of choice?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Some Advice for MolsonCoors

I realise that this is maybe somewhat cheeky, but I would like to offer MolsonCoors some advice.

It seems, if the news is correct, that they are intent on buying a company called StarBev. Perhaps the jewel in StarBev's crown is Staropramen in Prague, but they also own breweries in other Central and Eastern European countries as well as distributing a range of western brands in the region. Obviously then the purchase is to gain a foothold in the CEE marketplace, which happens to include the country with the highest beer consumption per capita in the world, the Czech Republic.

There is though, I believe, an opportunity for MolsonCoors to do something good for the beer world in Central and Eastern Europe through their purchase of StarBev, and in particular their Czech brands. Beyond Staropramen, the purchase of StarBev has brought Ostrovar, Mě??an, and most of all Braník into their portfolio.


Braník is something of a sad, cautionary tale of the pitfalls of privatisation and calamities of consolidation. If I remember rightly, when Staropramen in some form or other took over Braník they eventually shut the brewery itself, which is a lovely building overlooking the river in south Prague, and moved production to the main Staropramen brewery. The brands themselves became something of an underappreciated runt of the family and eventually their pubs started to disappear. Caught up in all this though was a legendary beer, the 12° ?erné pivo, or dark beer, reputed to have been a close second to U Flek?'s magnificent 13° tmavy. Unfortunately I never tried the Braník ?erné, though I believe it was until recently sold in Germany.

In some ways I guess I am out of concert with a fair few people when it comes to talking about the large brewing multinationals, I simply don't see them as some monolithic monstrosity which is the antithesis of good beer, and MolsonCoors are a case in point. Over the Christmas holidays I revelled in the delights of a beer called Worthington White Shield, an IPA of such outstanding drinkability that I really hope the rumours are true and it will be available Stateside in the coming months. Sure, MolsonCoors are never going to qualify for anyone's definition of a "craft brewery", but in White Shield they have a beer which makes an absolutely mockery of the idea that only small breweries make great beer.

It is my experience of Worthington White Shield that I think gives MolsonCoors an opportunity in the Czech Republic to revive a legend and bring back Braník ?erné from the dead, to once again be enjoyed by the beer loving people of Prague and beyond.

* the picture is not mine, it is the work of Hynek Moravec and used under the licence terms of Wikipedia, the original file can be seen here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Longing for Sunshine

If I were still living in the Czech Republic there is only one place I would be this weekend. Assuming I had survived more rounds of redundancy at my old employer, I would have been taking advantage of their generous "benefits" system and have booked Mrs V and I into a plush 4 star hotel for Friday and Saturday night.


Said four star hotel has a bowling alley, restaurant with excellent Czech cuisine (anyone who says Czech food is rubbish is an idiot in my world - pigs and beer, what's not to love?), oh and they have a brewery in the hotel as well. The hotel in question is called Purkmistr, which translates as "Slunce ve Skle beer festival.


Translating as "Sunshine in a Glass", this beer festival was the first I ever attended, and is the model for what I think of as a good beer festival. Not so big as to be intimidating, not too small so as to be quickly over, oh and it is more or less a drinking festival rather than a 2oz sample thing. Hence why I would be booking a room at the hotel for the weekend if I were going, recovery time in a nice environment and breakfast included.


At this year's festival there are breweries from Slovakia and the UK being represented at the event, as well as plenty of good small Czech brewers like Kocour, Matu?ka and Pivovarsky dv?r Zvíkov, makers of the magnificent Zlatá Labu? range of beers, which compare very favourably with those of Kout na ?umavě.


So, if you are within striking distance of Plzeň, jump on the train, then take the trolley bus out to ?ernice and enjoy excellent beer in a wonderful location, and from what I hear meet some of the UK's best beer bloggers as well!

Friday, May 20, 2011

What's in a Name?

Whilst looking through the pictures that are already on Fuggled, I rediscovered this little delight:


I took the picture at Hotel Pegas, a hotel and brewpub in the centre of Brno, the second city of the Czech Republic, during a trip down to Moravia in 2009. The sign was in fact one of a pair, unfortunately I didn't take a picture of the other, or if I did, I can't find it. The second picture though was a German version of the Czech sign, which translates roughly in English as "Original Porter from ?eské Budějovice" - or Budweis as it is also known.

You can see from picture that the brewery making this porter was Mě??ansky Pivovar, the brewery that today is known generally as Samson, though was originally called "Die Budweiser Br?uberechtigten - Bürgerliches Br?uhaus-Gegründet 1795 - Budweis". I am guessing from the fact that the sign was in both German and Czech that it dates from the period known as the Czech National Revival, which led to Josef Jungmann publishing the first Czech dictionary and eventually the building of the Czech National Theatre in June 1881 - the original building burnt down in August 1881 and was re-built and opened in 1883.

I don't know about you, but I find that sign fascinating on so many levels. Firstly the fact that it was made in both Czech and German pointing to the multi-cultural nature of Bohemia. Secondly, the brewery that produced the beer was using Budweiser as an appellation, and this before Budvar was even created in 1895 (so if anyone say Budvar is the original Budweiser they are wrong). Thirdly, and perhaps most intriguing was that the brewery was making a porter, a style more commonly associated with London and the Baltic region.

In the modern Czech brewing law, a porter is a dark beer brewed to greater than 18o Plato, about 1.076. However, it is dangerous to read the modern Czech interpretation of porter back into the 19th century, so what was this beer? I would like to posit a theory, and I am perfectly happy for it to be complete bullshit, but I think without much more evidence available (until I finally get round to reading a book I have on brewing in ?eské Budějovice pre 1895) I think it holds water.

As discussed elsewhere, tmavé up until the late 19th century was warm fermented. Even today if you go to the legendary beer hall U Flek?, their tmavé is distinctly stout like. From what I understand of that beer, the recipe is largely the same today as it was in the 1890s, but it is cold fermented and lagered. What is today called tmavé in the Czech lands bears an uncanny resemblance to porter, whether Baltic or otherwise. Was it then a version of porter that was poured down the drains of Plzeň that eventually led to Pilsner?

Obviously without the brewing records it is impossible to know for sure was Budweiser Porter was, but I am thinking that a little homebrew project to brew a Czech Porter would be interesting, and I have to do something with the 5 extra ounces of Saaz that I have knocking about in the fridge. When it comes to the yeast strain, I think a German ale strain is in order, something from Dusseldorf for example. I imagine that the beer would have enjoyed a long cool conditioning phase, somewhat akin to Scottish beers, and so once fermented in will sit in the cellar for a while.

Another project for an every growing list.

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, November 26, 2008

A Plea to Czech Readers

I saw this link this morning on expats.cz - so if you are reading this and love ale, contact these people with suggestions of British and Irish ales you would like to see available in the Czech Republic!

Click here to read the what they are after, and here to contact them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reflections

Well, the Primátor Stout on tap at PK is done with for the time being, replaced by Eggenberg Dark Lager, which is quite a nice beer in my opinion.

From what I have seen the couple of times I have been in Pivovarsky klub it proved to be rather popular with the regulars and as I have stated elsewhere, as has Pivní Filosof, it really is a very nice stout - I even suggested to the staff at PK on Monday that it would be good to have it on a permanent basis, and not just in bottles - the sooner they are available the better.

The last month or so has been very encouraging for me, having been surrounded by multiple variations on the theme of pale lager it is fantastic to see ale getting some attention. Of course there are the excellent Kocour beers as well as Primátor with it's EPA and now stout. Minipivovar ?amberk also make a very good stout, and an Old Ale which is apparently quite good. So the future for ale in the Czech Republic would seem to be bright, and despite the sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there is a demand for variety, and people are willing to give a good product a go.

Which begs the question, when will the supermarket buyers sit up and take notice? If the majority of buyers are anything like those of the Marks and Spencer franchise here, they are probably happily complacent and convinced that there is no market. Yet from my conversations with a wide range of people throughout the country I get a distinct sense that while the market for specialist brews maybe small, it is growing.

I am lucky that my local supermarket stocks most of the Primátor range, but if I want Svijany then I have to go to Tesco, if I want Herold I am completely at a loss - although I did discover that a small drinks shop just up the street sells Chodovar, the only non InBev/SABMiller/Heineken beer they have.

Would a Czech version of BeerRitz be viable?

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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