Showing posts with label gambrinus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gambrinus. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Happened?

Later this year I will be 37 years old, which means that for more than half my life I will have been drinking legally. Ever since that first, legal, pint of Guinness in the Dark Island Hotel back home on Benbecula, I have had a taste for beer. Oh alright then, I was known before I turned 18 to enjoy the occasional can of whatever muck was available, Tennent's Lager most often, though also the odd Budweiser. I was never one of the "sit in the bus shelter on a Friday night drinking whatever we could persuade the older kids to buy for us" set, but I had a beer from time to time.

Bit of a digression there, but anyway, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post listing five beers that changed what I drink and how I think about beer. Another slight digression, but one thing that hasn't changed is the kind of place I enjoy drinking in, pubs, proper pubs, not bars or clubs or glorified restaurants, but pubs, even if they are something of a hen's tooth over here. Without wanting to sound like a complete curmudgeon, here are a few beers that I once loved, which now leave me disappointed...


In 1999 when I moved to Prague, Velkopopovicky Kozel was something of a minor beer celebrity. I had heard so much about this pale lager which was so unlike the Carling and Fosters most pubs served in Britain, it had a real hop bite to it. My first pint was at the sports bar I went to every weekend for ten seasons and I loved it. Eventually the brewery was bought by Pilsner Urquell and in turn Pilsner Urquell was bought by SABMiller, and so began the desecration of a once lovely beer. When I left in 2009 I found a Kozel bar whilst out walking and popped in to sample the wares, and while the 12° was ok, the rest of the range was thin, insipid and a mere shadow of its former self.


The other beer I drank a lot of back in my early Prague years was Gambrinus, the picture here is their 11° Excelent. While Gambá? was available as both a 10° and a 12° beer, it was the 10° that you saw most often - most pubs would have three taps, Gambrinus 10° on one, with Kozel ?erny and Pilsner Urquell taking up the other two. Again Gambrinus was something of a sad story, perfectly drinkable for many a year and then around 2006 strange things started happening, it became thin and noticeably watery. I am not sure when they started watering down a 13° beer, post fermentation, to create the 10° and 12° but they should never have started.


Once upon a time I drank smoothflow ales, I liked them and then I moved away from Britain and didn't have the option. Perhaps they were always bland, watery messes, but I have a sense that in the 13 years between leaving Blighty and sitting in my Charlottesville living room this morning, they have got worse.

Over to you then, what beers did you once love and now find disappointing?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Watered Down Awards?

There are very few things that I hate with a passion. Nationalism is one, jazz is another. But the one thing that irks me beyond measure is ignorance, especially the willful kind of ignorance that refuses to listen to reason and will deny anything that flies in the face of a world view regardless of facts. Oh and I also think it is stupid to declare something the "world" whatever when the entrants are overwhelmingly from a single country.

I picked up the latest edition of All About Beer magazine at the weekend, along with the latest edition of Culture (a magazine about cheese), Bernard Cornwell's "The Archer's Tale" (it was called Harlequin in the UK), and the Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle, as I needed some poolside reading for Monday as it was a public holiday here. I have ranted before about the errors that crop up in the magazine, usually in the guide to various styles of beer (in this edition I felt like raging about them getting the British flag wrong on one of the pages, but I am not sure how many people would actually notice that the Cross of St Patrick isn't correct). As usual with All About Beer, the articles were interesting and well written, so what got my goat this time? Nothing about the magazine per se, apart from the complete list of winners from the World Beer Cup.

Before I get into it though, yes I understand that the awards can only be given to those brewers who take the time to actually enter the competition, but I think a concerted effort needs to be made to get more breweries to enter the competition, and while we are at it, I would love to see the complete lists of entrants for each style. Let's take the Bohemian Pilsner category. The winner? Golden Pilsner by the Morgan Street Brewery, a beer I haven't yet tried, but will have to make a effort to do so. The silver award went to Gambrinus Excelent, with bronze to Velkopopovicky Kozel Premium, both of SABMiller, though listed under the Czech subsidiary name Plzeňsky Prazdroj. Really? The second best Bohemian Pilsner in the world is Gambrinus Excelent, and the third is Kozel Premium?

Ok, sure, Gambrinus Excelent isn't entirely awful, as I posted about before, but the second best Pilsner from 43 entrants? I can only assume then that the 40 beers that didn't win anything in this category were rank beyond words, hence I would love to see the list of entrants so that I can avoid wasting my money on anything that can be beaten by a SABMiller product. Given that the standard Gambrinus came second in the International Style Lager category, I can only assume that an "international" lager is one that is watered down after fermentation and pretty much devoid of taste.

Perhaps what is required is for regional competitions to produce local winners, who are then forwarded to the global competition? Thus you would have the best Pilsner, as an example, from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania going head to head against each other for the award at the World Beer Cup - think of it like the World Cup about to take place in South Africa, a genuinely global award.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Mrs Velkyal and I visited Plzeň at the weekend, staying in a lovely hotel and brewery which I will write about tomorrow. We spent Friday afternoon and evening just lazing around, drinking the beer and watching a magnificent thunder storm from the comfort of the restaurant - although we were originally sat outside, but when the clouds came it was time to move indoors, and watch a video presentation about the building of the hotel and the brewing process.

On Saturday we decided to head into the city itself and visit the zoo and maybe go to the Pilsner Urquell brewery - I say maybe because I am not a big fan of mass guided tours, and in the end we didn't tour the brewery although we did have a few beers in the restaurant on the premises.

Anyway, we stopped into a little pizza place for lunch and as I was gearing up to order my usual Mattoni when in a place that sells Gambrinus or something similar from the SABMiller stable, I noticed that they had the Gambrinus 11° Excellent on tap and given that Evan said it wasn't bad, I thought I would give it a bash.

As you can see from the picture it was dark golden with a firm white head - which clung around for the duration, a pleasant change from the usual Gambrinus brews. The nose was rather floral and grassy, things were looking good at this point. Taste wise? Rather nice actually, a gentle malty sweetness coupled with just enough bitterness to round it off. I enjoyed the first one enough to have a second, it really was a nice drink - not something to get my inner beer geek into a lather of joy, but not something my inner beer snob would turn his nose up at either.

The thing I found most interesting with Gambrinus Excellent (bit of a misnomer but in comparison to the other beers they make, this is the nectar of the gods) is that it doesn't follow the same production method of the others, which are fermented at 13° and then watered down for packaging and retail.

Gambrinus Excellent reminded me once again that the big brewers can make a decent beer when they want to - after all they must have been doing something right to get big in the first place. It also made me think that sometimes we don't give the big boys credit for the decent beers they make, just as often we overlook the failings of the micros because we want to support David against Goliath.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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