Showing posts with label flying saucer columbia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flying saucer columbia. Show all posts

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pubs Are Great

As I am sure you are aware, last week was Thanksgiving, and Mrs V and I jumped in the car on Tuesday afternoon and went to Columbia, SC, to spend the holiday with her family. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday and the shops have insane sales which encourage slaves to consumerism to unleash their base natures in random acts of violence. I went to the pub instead, and walked seven and a half miles into the bargain, for which I got an over fizzy pint of Boston Lager, a St Bernardus Abt which smelt distinctly of caramelised bananas, and Left Hand's wonderful Sawtooth utterly abominated by the use of nitro. Oh, I almost forgot, I got a bloody huge blister as well. At least the bratwurst in a bun was top notch.

Despite the less than stellar drinking experience, my few hours sat in the Flying Saucer in Columbia, reminded me of why I love going to the pub. I was sat in a comfy, battered old armchair with my book, lost in the world of the Scots language with barely a care in the world. The Saucer wasn't wildly busy, there were a few people in watching the American Football, the service was efficient and in the midst of it all I could shut everything and everyone out for a wee while.

On Saturday night we met up with friends at Hunter Gatherer, Columbia's only brewpub and quite possibly my favourite place to go for a drink in the city. Again it was everything a pub should be, a laid back atmosphere, efficient staff and good food and booze - their ESB is fast becoming a favourite of mine, and their seasonal stout was a good solid offering. Thankfully one of the things that gets right up my nose didn't happen. There have been occasions when the service in a pub has been abysmal when they discover you won't be ordering food straight off the bat.

Both these trips to the pub got me thinking that there is so much more to a good pub than just an impressive selection of taps. A proper pub is place where you can socialise with your friends or bury yourself in the corner with a book and really doesn't matter because you get well treated either way.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sitting At The Bar Pays Dividends

On Friday afternoon,  Mrs Velkyal, myself and our 9 month old Cairn Terrier named Honza, piled into the car for the 6 hour drive to South Carolina. We were going down for Mrs V's grandmother's birthday, and in the process dropping off entries for the upcoming Palmetto State Brewers' Open homebrew competition - both mine and for James of A Homebrew Log (I will be writing about more of his beer next week).

As ever when in Columbia, I wanted to pop round to the Flying Saucer for a few beers, which we did after dinner on Saturday. Having been asked for ID, we stepped through the door and every table in the place was taken. If we had been in the Czech Republic this would not have been a problem - sharing tables being perfectly normal. There was a couple of places at the bar and so we headed there. Now, if you read this blog regularly you will know that I like sitting at the bar rather than at a table, however, and perhaps I am just slightly crazy here, I like to have been to a place a few times before I do so.

Having got comfortable, we perused the written menu. Initially I wanted to continue my milk stout jag with Duck Rabbit's version, but they were out, so I settled for their porter, I honestly can't remember what Mrs V had. The DR Porter left me underwhelmed, too light bodied, pale of colour and generally like a brown ale for the mood I was in. I tried a few samples of things, the barman being excellent on that front, unlike his blonde eye candy colleague who didn't know what a K?lsch was. There was though a tap handle that kept drawing my eye, North Coast Brewing's Old Stock Ale, and the barman bought me a sample - thick, chewy, malty goodness! This was what I had been craving all day without realising it. I ordered a pint, and got told it came in halves because it is something like 12%abv - just a side thought, nobody would bat an eyelid if I ordered a bottle of wine, so why not serve pints of barleywine/old ale?

I think I may have found the ideal winter beer, and need to stock up on wherever I can get this stuff - I am hoping that when we head south again in a couple of weeks for Thanksgiving that I will be able to get some at Green's or similar. Apart from discovering this singularly delicious beer, I was again reminded of the value of sitting at the bar - Old Stock Ale was not on the written menu (the disparity between the menu and beers available was startling really) and without sitting there I would never have known it was available. The moral of this tale - printed beer lists are only of value if they are kept up to date.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why Bother?

I was well prepared for a week of limited drinking when in Florida last week, not just because previous experiences with Floridian beer had been so comically bad but because I find that I don't drink much beer when it is hot. Of course I had a couple of 6 packs of Boston Lager in the fridge for evenings, and later on in the week I picked up a case of Honey Porter, also from Samuel Adams, which was a decent enough beer. One thing I wasn't prepared for though was a trip to the Daytona location of the .

I was well prepared, notebook, pen, phone camera all sorted, I even remembered to save the pictures I took of the beers in the sample flight, the plan was to write a "
7 Beers, 21 Phrases" type post. I scrapped that plan, evidently, sometime between finishing the sample flight and getting tucked into a cheeseburger. Why scrap the plan? Were the beers bad? Were the pictures hilariously awful?

Well, no, the pictures are ok, nothing special mind. The beers were generally alright, nothing beyond alright that is, and in the case of the Tatonka Stout and the PM Porter barely scraping into the alright status which is of course a mere one step above "meh". Of the seven beers on the flight, just one was decent enough to order a pint of, though I didn't bother. The Brewhouse Blonde is a smooth K?lsch style beer which was nice in the Florida heat. As someone who is not an avowed hop head, I was left wanting more hops in most of the beers available, and in the case of the porter and imperial stout, I wanted more body and oomph as well.

So the beer was uninspiring, that's not a crime at all - after all I am sure that we all know places where the beer doesn't do anything for us. However, I have never before been in a brewpub which sold beer other than it's own, and personally I find that a little disconcerting. Walking into the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was not a set of nice shiny tanks, no copper brewing kettle or any other brewpubesque things you expect to see. The first thing in your line of sight is a bank of tap handles, tap handles for various breweries from around the US.

Perhaps I am just being a little idealistic, but if I owned a brewpub which brewed beer that has won a raft of awards, I wouldn 't be selling mass produced beers at the same time, especially not Bud Light, which I saw a couple of people drinking. From my exceedingly unscientific review of what people were drinking in the vicinity, only 4 or 5 people from about 50 were drinking beer at all. 2 were the Bud Light drinkers, 2 were myself and Mrs Velkyal, while the final drinker was supping on something pale golden. Every one else was drinking soda of some definition, and the place was full, full of fizzy pop drinkers - real fizzy pop that is, not piss poor lager.

This all got me to thinking, a dangerous habit for sure. The food was ok, nothing spectacular, and I can think of several better places in Daytona for food. Why then go to a brewhouse restaurant if you are not going to drink beer? Could it be that going to a brewhouse is the cool thing to do these days, so people go despite not having any intention to try the beer? If that is the case, what does it say about the "craft beer industry" in the US as it becomes more and more mainstream? I left BJ's very disappointed, not because of the beer, but because so few people were actually even trying it, and it seemed as though the restaurant gave patrons as many opportunities not to bother as possible.

Thankfully we stopped in St Augustine on the way back to South Carolina, and as usual we went to Rendezvous for a beer, or two. We discovered that Mrs Velkyal's mother likes raspberry lambic, that Left Hand Milk Stout is pretty damned nice, and that Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale is everything Newkie Brown can but dream about. Back in Columbia itself naturally meant a trip to the Flying Saucer, and yes it is as good as always, and in Amanda, we had an excellent waitress, and revelation beyond revelation, I finally found a pilsner worthy of the name - Victory Braumeister Pils - Saaz.

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.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beer Geek or Pub Snob?

Something that has been going round my head a lot of late is the question of whether or not I am a genuine beer geek, a term I have come to loathe, or am I in fact a pub snob? I am fairly sure that the two are opposite faces of the coin when it comes to the beery world, and perhaps this is heresy but I don't particularly enjoy drinking in the comfort of my own home, without mates to chat with (real, live mates that is, rather than my online buds - as great as they are), barmaids to flirt with and the general buzz and hubbub of a good pub.

Due to various, utterly boring and not worth repeating here, reasons, I have not really discovered much about pub life in Charlottesville, but whenever I come down to Columbia, there is one place that I simply must, absolutely have to, go to - Flying Saucer. I have waxed lyrical about Flying Saucer several times before, but last night it simply went up yet another notch in my estimation. Did they have new beers? Well yes in fact they did, they had my current favourite pale ale, Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Were the staff superb? Yes, our beer goddess last night, Caycee, was magnificent, when I eventually get my own pub, then staff like her are exactly what I would be looking for, her and the world's best barmaid as far as I am concerned, Klara from PK. Are these the things that heightened my appreciation for Flying Saucer? Not in the slightest.

When sitting in PK with Evan, he once told me that to really understand a beer you need to drink it least 4 times. Pubs are the same, you have to go several times to really judge whether this is a pub you would go to regularly. Simply put, the consistency of excellence I have experienced at Flying Saucer in Columbia makes it my favourite pub in the city, and makes me wish we had one in Charlottesville.

I don't know if the beer tastes better in the pub, I don't want to get into the whole draught vs bottle debate, but the beer is so much better when it is with good friends in a good environment. God help us if beer ever becomes an aspirational, niche product that you sit, sip and contemplate like some pretentious wine buff. With places like Flying Saucer in the world, that dark day is kept at bay.

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...