Showing posts with label kocour varnsdorf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kocour varnsdorf. Show all posts

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!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale Ales

Pale Ales, whether English, American or of the India sort, have formed a large part of my drinking this year and form a nice little juxtaposition to the situation with Pale Lagers - the first 6 months of the year saw the occassional decent Pale Ale, while the second half has been a veritable flood of the stuff. I am sure some will find it too vague to lump together the various pale ale styles into a single grouping, of course not forgetting styles like bitter here, but it works for me (minor aside, does any one else find the BJCP style guides a bit hair splity?).

From a very strong field, the following three beers stood out:

In my final month in Prague I was unemployed, having been made redundant, and was researching for my book, The Pocket Pub Guide to Prague (available very soon). On the days when Mark and I weren't sitting in various drinking holes, taking notes and pictures (which I have been setting in the text and they are fabulous!), you could often find me in Tlusta Koala just round from my flat imbibing this simply wonderful IPA. Seriously hoppy, served perhaps a tad cold but just right for the warm early summer afternoons, it was the refreshment of champions, or at least this champion of Kocour.

Recently I went on a day trip to Northern Virginia's breweries with Dan from
CVille Beer Geek (most of the breweries were disappointing to be blunt), one of the highlights of the trip though was the Kybecca bottle shop in Fredericksburg where they keep a good stock of beer. It was there that I picked up a bottle of Sierra Nevada's gorgeous Torpedo. I am discovering that I like hoppy beers which have a good malty body, Torpedo is almost its perfect expression.

Charlottesville's best bottle shop/pub/nacho place is the magnificent Beer Run (seriously, the nachos are awesome and they have Fuller's Vintage Ale for just $9.99!!!) and it was here that while waiting for Mrs Velkyal to return with her ID and for the friends we were meeting that I decided to have a swift half of the Bell's Two Hearted Ale, and I was blown away, simply a gorgeous beer full of the citrusy flavours you expect from an American made pale ale, but with a subtle spiciness behind it and that sweet maltiness that I love.

Again a difficult decision to make, and for the first time this year a Fuggled award comes across the Atlantic, but only just. The Fuggled Pale Ale of the Year is:

  1. Bell's Two Hearted Ale

One of the best discoveries of the last six months and simply good beer.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Beers to be Cloned or Bettered!

Last week I picked up the current edition of Brew Your Own magazine as something to read while chilling out by the pool and enjoying the Virginia evening sunshine. On a side note, we have had fantastic weather here since arriving from South Carolina, temperatures in the mid 80s (high 20s for my European readers), and almost wall to wall sunshine. Ideal for sitting by the pool and reading.

Anyway, back to beer, this edition has a selection of clone brews for both the all grain and extract with grains brewer, which got me thinking about the beers in this world I would love to eventually learn to "clone". So far in my homebrewing ventures I have mainly messed around with established styles, such as the smoked chocolate porter I did last time round.

Even so, here are a few of the beers I would love to clone - on that basis that I can't buy the original here in Virginia:

One beer I either want to emulate or better is the English Pale Ale from Primátor, which was Mrs Velkyal's favourite beer when back in Prague, so to have something of that merit would be a cap in the feather!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Picture Time

Just a few pictures I took on my mobile phone recently

U Slovanské lipy - probably my favourite Prague boozer.

Kwak - nice glass, nothing special in it to be honest.

Zvíkov Raspberry beer - I wonder why brewers bother with this stuff sometimes, not awful just dull

My favourite kind of Kocour glass - an empty one, with a fresh one on the way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Go! Drink! Now!!!

Sorry to say, for my readers outside of Prague this post will bear so little relevance to your life that it is almost painful.

I just got back from giving Mrs Velkyal and I's friends from Ireland the keys to our flat as they are staying with us until Sunday, so naturally I took them to a pub for lunch, in this case Zly ?asy. Little did I know that they have on tap the second edition of Kocour's superb V3 rauchbier.

Simply put, this year's edition is magnificent, packed with flavour and boasting a nice sour edge, and not so smokey that it feels like you are drinking gammon steaks.

So, for those of you in Prague, get to Zly ?asy or anywhere else they advertise V3 and enjoy the champion elect in the Fuggled Review of the Year Rauchbier category - yes it will take a magnificent beer to beat this one!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rotund Antipodean Marsupial

I am not sure if ethno-pub is an actual term, but they are everywhere. Think of your home town, is there an Irish bar? Is it called The Dubliner, the James Joyce or Molly Malone's? If you are British and live outside the UK, does where you live have pubs called The Lions, The George and Dragon or The Rose and Crown? Prague is full of ethno-pubs, I even know of a couple of pubs that declared themselves to be distinctly South Bohemian, and the names above are, or were, examples of the city's various ethno-pubs. However, I am fairly sure that wherever you live, you don't have an Australian ethno-pub called the Fat Koala, or as it is in Czech, Tlustá Koala.

The thing with Koala though is that it is really a British style pub with a couple of Foster's signs and cuddly toy koala's scattered about to add "authenticity". For those of us who have been in Prague for a while, there is a very good reason for this, it used to be a British pub, called The John Bull, and all around the pub you can see John Bull Bitter stickers, and even a couple of handpumps - how I wish they were being used rather than purely decorative.

Having once been a British pub, the decor in Koala is classic British, lots of dark wood, stools at the bar, an area with comfy seating, and if I remember rightly, a snug upstairs - though without the one way glass for watching the indescribable lower orders whilst quaffing one's ale. The bar itself I think is one of the best in Prague - solid wood, with glasses hanging of it and a nice array of taps - the pub mainly sells Staropramen, as well as Kelt and Velvet from the same stable. Of course, being an Aussie pub, they have Foster's - despite the fact, I am assured, that Foster's is almost non-existant in Australia itself. So there we have one of the reasons that Koala gets on my regular pub list, it feels a bit like home, and everyone likes to go home once in while regardless of how long you have lived abroad.

While we are on the subject of decor, I have a confession to make - I love the old time metal signs that advertise beer. My particular favourite is the Budweiser Urquell sign I took a picture off last year. The walls of Koala are covered in these kinds of signs, and not just for Czech beers, but all manner of things; Irish stouts, soap and even tyres.

Given my well documented distaste for Staropramen, why do I include Koala on the list? Beyond of course the decor and historical interest, after all who goes to a pub to look at the furniture? There have been two main reasons over the years for going there, it used to be the only place in town where you could get cider, or at least something resembling it, Strongbow - and in the middle of summer there are times when even beer won't quench a thirst like cider can. These days though I can buy cider at the Cider Club, or even easier for me pop Marks and Spencer for a few bottles of their simply superb Organic Cider. If I fancy something different, then , as well as British ales, sells Magners Irish Cider. Put very simply, I go to Koala because it is the only pub near me that always has something on tap from Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf.

Simple really, a pub where I like the surroundings, and they serve beers from one of my favourite brewers in the Czech Republic - and they even have the right shaped glasses for serving British style ales in! Importantly they seem to have worked out how to pour an ale so it doesn't take 10 minutes, and you don't have to order your second when you are a third of the way down your first, although out of habit I generally do so anyway.

So if you are visiting Prague and can't be bothered with trams and metros to find a pub with excellent craft beer, just go to Koala and have a Kocour. If you want a map, drop me an email.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Manifesto Emerging...

Drinking beer is great, writing about is fun too but I really don't want Fuggled to become a mere diary of the beers I drink. I think that is one of the reasons I decided to make my own beer, to get a greater appreciation and handle on the process of making the drink the world loves. The joy and wonder I got from watching little bubbles of CO2 plop out of the blowoff tubes was unexpected, as was my frustration at slopping beer over the floor because bottling was more tricky than I imagined - hence yesterday I went and bought one of the jerry cans with a tap on the front.

Of the six bottles of EDM I managed to fill on Sunday, the stronger of the beers is still bubbling occasionally so I am leaving it in the fermentor an extra few days, I got great delight to see that they have dropped bright, and my beer has very little cloudiness in it. I still don't know how fully how it tastes, but we shall see in a couple of weeks once conditioning is done.

All this though has led me to think more about beer than I ever used to, how it has developed and changed, particularly in the Czech context at the moment. Some questions that have popped into my head of late:
  • Why was Plzeň beer so bad before 1842?
  • What beer did the Bürgerliches Br?uhaus Budweis originally make?
  • What were the various monasteries in Prague brewing?
  • What beer styles is Prague water naturally suited to?

So many questions, and so I will spending a lot of time reading, asking questions and if I find the answers, trying to re-create some old Bohemian beers.

But why stop there? I am glad that brewers like Pivovar Náchod and Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf are broadening the range of styles available on the Czech market, but what about brewing old style Bohemian beer as well? Why must the Czech market be so enslaved to pale golden lager?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Beer of the Year

So there we have it, my overview of the year. I have left out many excellent beers, many beers which I hope to try again before too long. That list includes many new beers to me, such as:

And of course a number of favourites that I will buy regularly:

To choose my favourite beer from 2008 is an exceptionally difficult task, and I do so in full awareness that I am being entirely subjective. My beer of the year is thus the one that has given me the most pleasure, the most instruction in all that a beer can beer and the most inspiration as to what I can do with my own beer making. As such, my beer of the year is more than just a drink of the year, it is also a reflection on the brewery which has in many ways defined my beer drinking in the last year.

Therefore my beer of the year, and by extension my brewery of the year is:

  1. Pivovar Varnsdorf for their Kocour V3.

Flying the face of your culture is always fraught with danger and laden with potential booby traps. Flying the face of Czech brewing culture and tradition is like voting Conservative in Scotland. Well done the guys (and most especially the breweress) for being true to their stated aim of not being boring.

May you prosper in 2009, and far beyond.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Rauchbier

I had my first ever smoked beer this year, the classic Schlenkerla M?rzen from Bamberg – it was a revelation. I had never come across smoked beer before, although with a bit of thought and research I realized that many beers prior to the invention of coke, the fuel not the soft drink, would have had a smoky flavour to them.

The discovery of smoked beers had got me thinking about the kinds of beers I will make, and my first beer I plan to make in 2009 is currently a smoked mild – admittedly using a mild kit and chucking in a mini-mash of smoked malt. It has also got me thinking about the different flavours that would be imparted by using different fuels, such as oak and more especially peat – I wonder if a stout made from peat smoked malt would more closely resemble the early porters and stouts which so took Ireland by storm, perhaps though I am simply indulging my love of whiskey and wanting the same peat flavours in my beer?

The shortlist for smoked beer of the year in the Fuggled world is as follows:

The Purkmistr Rauchbier was one of my favourite beers at the Slunce ve Skle festival back in September, not as in your face as the Schlenkerla M?rzen but still with a distinct smokiness and with the excellent drinkability of all the Purkmistr beers I have tried.

From the Schlenkerla stable the Rauchweizen is the best, again it is not as in your face and the M?rzen but the sublte smokiness coupled with the classic banana and cloves of a wheat beer make for something eminently intriguing.

Kocour take the credit for V3, although it was a collaborative beer, aged in Tokaj barrels from Hungary. Full bodied and with winey elements mixed in with the taste of sausages – this was a beer which tick boxes on almost every part of the tongue.

Of the three, one stands above the others in terms of originality and vision, and on those bases, as well as just being a damned fine beer the winner is:

  1. Kocour V3

This is an annual special – unfortunately the next time it is made I will be living the US, and unless I can find some way of getting it to South Carolina I will spend many a day pining after it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale Ales and Bitters

After years of drinking lager, it has been a pleasure to once again drink ale on a regular basis. Despite the fact that I have had some very nice ales here in the Czech Republic, most of the pale ales and bitters I have enjoyed in the last 12 months have been an integral part of my trips to the UK and Ireland.

I have enjoyed re-acquainting myself with old favourites as well as discovering stuff from breweries I had never heard of before. However, it was the newcomers that made my short list of 3 for this category (and believe me I agonized over leaving some of my favourite beers out). The three contenders for my pale ale/bitter of 2008 are:

All of the pale ales I have tried from Pivovar Varnsdorf have been excellent, whether the English Pale Ale, the American style Pale Ale or the India Pale Ale, which I first had at the Slunce ve Skle festival in Plzeň. The IPA gets the nod over the others because of the wonderful fresh citrus flavours and the fact that it is an endlessly wonderful and easy drinking ale.

I had the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale whilst in Galway last month, having heard from many people that it is the standard against which many pale ales are judged, and it is a beautifully crafted beer – one which when I am living in the States will be as permanent a fixture in my cellar as possible.

Galway Hooker was a beer that was very close to the top of my list for trying during the trip to Ireland. Again a very crisp and refreshing beer, and one which I heartily wish was available in bottles so that it could be enjoyed by more people than those very lucky souls in Galway and the few towns in Ireland where it is available on tap.

Again a very, very difficult choice, but my pale ale/bitter of the year is:

  1. Galway Hooker

Worth jumping on a plane to Ireland for.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rev ale ation

Seeing as though last night was Mrs Velkyal's school Christmas soiree, I nipped along to Pivovarsky klub to try a couple of interesting beers on tap. Luckily when I arrived there was a space at the bar, the downstairs area being used for one of PK's club nights.

I had checked PK's website in the afternoon, and saw that they had an American IPA but it wasn't stated who made it and I remember Pivovarsky d?m once made a Double IPA which I hadn't really enjoyed that much. When I heard that it was from Kocour, there was no question that I was going to get along and have a couple. And what a lovely beer it is, a huge nose of citrus, flowers and grass and a big refreshing kick of bitterness which I imagine would cut through the stogiest of foods with consummate ease, all of this backed up with a gentle sweetness and a long dry finish. Fabulous, simply fabulous.

I thought though it my duty to try the other specials they had on tap, other than the Delirium Christmas, which I couldn't justify spending silly money on. So next up came the Opat 17° Christmas Special from Pivovar Broumov, which looked like one of those peel-less marmalades (an abomination in my opinion - the marmalade, not the colour of the beer). The nose reminded me of various Christmasy type things, the sweetness of honey and a light spiciness of gingerbread, with just a subtle hint of vanilla. It was quite sweet, and a little syrupy, and I felt it could have done with a touch more bitterness. As the drink wore on, I am convinced I got a whiff of glue - not sure what was going on with that, but certainly it was there.

I decided to leave the light beers behind and go to the dark side to try the Rambousek 16° Christmas Special. Watching it being poured, I was thinking - "looks like a stout, head like a stout, hurrah, more stout!". Boy was I wrong. The nose was simply not what I expected, instead of the heavy coffee and chocolate smells I was expecting, there was a very nice floralness about the nose, although eventually some coffee and treacle made it through. And what a fantastic taste this stuff has, a rich sweet maltiness, like burnt toffee, all cut through with a gentle bitterness. Another wonderful beer - which I may have to pop round with a plastic bottle to get filled up and take home to Mrs Velkyal, to my mind it was possibly the best Christmas beer I have had.

I guess whatever I drank next would have had a hard act to follow, but having chatted for a bit with Pivní Filosof I opted for the Holba ?erák, a 14o amber lager which to be perfectly honest left me cold. It wasn't bad, but it could have been so much more. Perhaps I am comparing it too much with the magnificent Hukvaldy I had last month, but this just wasn't up there for me.

I do have a minor gripe though, and I have made this gripe before I think, but three of the beers I had only come in measures of 0.3l for 35k?, the equivalent would be about 60k?/£2.00/€2.40/$3.00 a half litre. For very strong beers I can understand selling a smaller measure, but for the American IPA then what possible justification is there for not selling the full half litre? It was the same situation with Primátor's magnificent stout, which was sold just up the road at U Radnice for 22k? for the full half litre.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Czech Stouts

For all our ravings of late about Primátor’s newly released stout, this particular beer style is not new to the Czech market, nor are Pivovar Náchod, its makers, the only Czech brewer making the black stuff. Just after I first moved to Prague way back in the 20th century, Pra?ské Pivovary came out with a stout called Kelt, which at the time was a very welcome substitute for Guinness, my beer of choice during my student days. Pivovar Varnsdorf, under the Kocour brand, also make a stout, which I have written about previously, as do Minipivovar ?amberk.

Yesterday afternoon as Mrs Velkyal and I made one of eclectic dinners, in this case a variation on the theme of cottage pie, basically being minced beef in Kelt with a mashed potato topping, I decided to do a side by side tasting of the three main Czech stouts – whilst listening to the Chieftains!

I decided to start with the Kocour. I love the way this flows from the bottle, almost like treacle, and with a rich brown head on top of the wonderfully opaque and fragrant beer. This was the first time that I had this from a bottle rather than on tap, and as bottled versions are done by hand, it bears a close resemblance to the draught version, with a lightly roasted coffee nose and slight cocoa notes. The beer is smooth and easy drinking and would certainly be a beer that I would drink regularly. One thing I noticed though from the bottle is that the head disappears very quickly and left no trace of lacing down the glass. Being a Czech stout, it was interesting to read on the label that they had used Saaz hops.

Taking Mrs Velkyal’s advice I opened my remaining bottle of Kelt, which in common with the Kocour version pours out very dark and thick, although the head is lighter and lasted longer. The nose was really nothing to write home about, very slight coffee notes and maybe a touch of caramel. Having tried a couple of pints of Guinness whilst over in Ireland last weekend I can better make a comparison of the two, and Kelt still stands up as a reasonable substitute, although the body is distinctly watery in comparison and there is a lack of the dry bitterness which I would expect from a real irish stout. Having said that, with the delight of finding Wrasslers XXXX and O’Hara’s, Guinness is no longer what I immediately think of when thinking of Irish stouts, Kelt then stands up to Guinness because it is an industrial stout that is neither offensive nor memorable.

Last up was the single beer I have probably drunk more of than any other this month, Primátor’s version of stout, which myself, Pivní Filosof and Evan Rail have described at length elsewhere. However, this was the first time I had tried it from the bottle rather than on tap. Again it pours thick and smooth, with a light brown head – which lasts far longer than the previous two, and is clearly more rocky than the Kelt head. The nose is more pronounced than both the Kocour and the Kelt, although it only just shades the Kocour whilst entirely eclipsing the Kelt. Like its tapped version, this is a very nice beer, with more evident coffee flavours and a fuller body than either the other contenders. Having said that, when comparing it to the real thing (O’Hara’s that is for those unsure of my Irish Stout allegiances), it is still lacking body and could use more oomph in the hops department.

The fact that I can even produce a side by side tasting of three stouts in the Czech Republic is in itself something to celebrate, and evidence that slowly brewers are realizing that there is a market here for ale as well as lager. You have to give Pra?ské Pivovary credit for bringing out a stout nearly a decade ago (even though I believe it is not top fermented), however the game has moved on and clearly Primátor and Kocour are at the forefront of the ale revolution, viva la revolution!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Excellent News

Whilst reading Beer Culture, I came across a comment which has filled me with happiness.

Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf, that myself, Evan and Pivní Filosof rave on about now have their first permanent tap in Prague.

The tap is at Tlustá Koala on Senova?ná, they currently have the excellent stout available, and the beer will change every fortnight.

Here's looking forward to Kocour getting the far wider acknowledgement that their ground breaking beers deserve!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

As has been mentioned many times on this blog, ale is something of a rarity in the Czech Republic. Thankfully we have Kocour making waves with their wonderful Pale Ale, IPA and Stout, the guys at Minipivovar ?amberk do an excellent Imperial Stout and now the makers of Mrs Velkyal's favourite tipple have added to their already impressive line-up by this week bringing out their own stout.

So this week's Beer Hero is:

Primátor - Pivovar Náchod for adding to the range of ales commercially available in the Czech Republic.

This will be joining the various stouts I have lined up for November's StoutFest!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Cream from the Cat

Last night I was at Pivovarsky Dum for the tasting session with Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf, where they presented 6 of their beers, most of which I had tried in Plzen at the Slunce ve Skle festival. However, I was looking forward to trying their 12 degree lager and Scottish Ale as well as re-trying their stout, which I had at Slunce ve Skle but by that point the note book was in my pocket and I was focusing on drinking.

The first offering was their unfiltered and unpasteurized 12 degree lager, which is a pale golden colour, Mrs Velkyal noted that it looked like sunflower honey, with a nice slightly off-white head. On the nose there was a touch of smokiness that put me in mind of the wonderful Schlenkerla Helles lager, as well as some cidery notes. Again like the Schlenkerla, the lager has a nice, crisp clean flavour, and the the first few mouthfuls are refreshing, although I found the body a bit thin for my tastes, even watery after a while. I found this to be quite bitter, with a low level of sweetness in the background.

I was really looking forward to the Scottish Ale as it would be a taste of home. The beer itself was brewed by a Scotsman who came over to make it. It pours a light brown, which put me in mind of McEwan's 70/- and had a smallish head which was a slightly darker ivory. There was very little on the nose, Mrs Velkyal commented that she didn't like what she could smell, and I thought it smelled like cigarettes. However, it tasted quite good, with a light caramel flavour, the only problem from my perspective was that is was a touch too bitter for a Scottish Ale and I would have liked to see more body and a fuller sweetness in the beer.

The highlight of the night for me was the stout. This stout is jet black and comes with a fantastic foamy brown head. The nose is full of roasted coffee and made me think of a fine Italian espresso, just wonderful. In the mouth it is smooth with the coffee notes balanced by a nice touch of chocolate and even a certain creaminess. The body was a little on the light side, which I actually found helped the drinkability of this beer. With a touch more sweetness than bitterness this is a beer I could merrily drink lots of - and the sooner it is a regular on the taps of Prague the better.

One of the things I really enjoyed about last night was comparing beers with Mrs Velkyal, it is said that women have better palates than men and so to get her input was interesting - for example with the stout, where I was enjoying the roasted coffee she thougt it teetered on the edge of burnt rather than roast. It was also a pleasure to finally meet Evan Rail, as well as seeing Honza from the brewery itself again. So a few hours with people who love their beer made it a throughly pleasant evening.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

Having raved about their beers earlier in the week, I think there can be no better Beer Hero of the Week than a company that not only makes wonderful beers, but also flies in the face of the mass market and produces ales in the Czech Republic.

So ladies, and gentlemen, I give you my Beer Hero of the Week:

Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunshine in a Glass - Part 3, nebo The Cat with the Cream

Beers from the Czech lands have been synonymous with bottom fermenting lagers for over 150 years. In common with most of Europe though, ales would have been the dominant form of beer prior to 1842 and Josef Groll’s Pilsner Urquell. Recent years however have seen a number of microbreweries experimenting with styles of beer more commonly associated with Britain and Ireland. The Primátor brewery in Náchod produces English Pale Ale, which is very well regarded, in particular by Mrs Velkyal. However a new brewery has come of the scene making a wider range of ales, including stout and IPA, that new brewery is so young they don’t even have a website up and running yet, Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf.

Whilst it is true that I like lager, I am by far a bigger fan of ales. There is more complexity, a wider range of styles and flavours to enjoy, so for a brewery to making ales in the Czech Republic is cause for hunting them out and trying them. I was very happy though to see that Kocour had their wonderful V3 Rauchmalt Special. This exceptional beer is dark brown with a creamy tan head, and the first impression I got on the nose was sausages barbecuing over an open fire – which actually was happening just a few feet away so I wandered off to find Mrs Velkyal on the over side of the courtyard to make sure. Many other rauch beers have an overwhelming flavour of ham, and V3 is no different, however the hamminess (is that a word?) is smoothed over by a sweet wine touch with also contributes to the full body of the beer.

While I was enjoying the V3, Mrs Velkyal decided to try Kocour’s American style Pale Ale - using Centennial hops - which is decidedly paler than the almost red Primátor product. I only sampled a mouthful or two of her beer and didn’t take any notes so I have to rely on Mrs Velkyal’s opinion which was simply “Primátor has competition”. I have to admit I love Mrs Velkyal’s approach to beer, it is much more down to earth than my near obsessive reading and experimenting, so when she enjoys a beer it must be worth further investigation – which will take place on Monday at the Kocour tasting session in Prague’s Pivovarsky D?m.

At one point during the proceedings, Pivní Filosof and I got talking with Honza Ko?ka, the owner of Kocour, who told us that he is planning a rauch porter and other ales are in the pipeline. Excited? Me? Pivní Filosof? Erm I think so. Honza also told us that once the American Pale Ale was done with they would be tapping their India Pale Ale. Cue encouraging Mrs Velkyal to drink more. With the APA was done, we moved on the to IPA, and what a taste explosion that was! The beer pours beautiful amber with very distinct orange tints although there was very little head. The nose was very hoppy, very hoppy indeed – lots of grass and floral notes. This is a good bitter IPA, which was almost like drinking a Seville orange – bitter and touched with sweetness as well. Usually Mrs Velkyal shies away from IPA as she is not a big fan of bitter beers, but she enjoyed this one very much, remarking that she had a Goldilocks moment with this IPA – finding one where the bitterness was “just right”.

The last of the Kocour ales on tap was their stout. As I have recorded elsewhere I am a big fan of this beer style, and Kocour’s is a very good example. This pours beautifully dark, with a dark beige head and masses of chocolatey coffee on the nose, and smooth in the mouth. Thick and filling as a good stout should be, this was a wonderful beer deserving of a far wider distribution. I got to this beer late on in the day and it is another one I am looking forward to properly evaluating on Monday, hopefully drawn out of Pivovarsky D?m's hand pump.

Having only started production in the last year or so, the future augurs very well for Pivovar Koucour Varnsdorf. Here’s hoping that this is not only the beginning of a very successful business making great beers but also the beginning of drinkers in the Czech Republic having the opportunity to experience more than just lager.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Of Pots and Pints

Each year, on the second weekend in September, the small town of Beroun hosts a ceramics festival. Being just over 30km from Prague, Mrs Velkyal and I decided to spend the best part of our Sunday wandering around stalls perusing the wares of various potters, while eating freshly made doughnuts. What I wasn't expecting was to have a beer revelation. The centre of the square had a large tent selling Gambrinus and hot dogs by the dozen, out on the fringes though we came across a tiny stall selling beer from the Minipivovar ?amberk, which sells under the brand name ?amberecky Kanec - "kanec" means wild boar. On tap yesterday was a kvasnicové beer - which has fresh yeast added to it after lagering and which Mrs Velkyal enjoyed very much - and to my delight an imperial stout.

Both Mrs Velkyal and I speak Czech well enough that we can get by with most things we want to do, but obviously we don't speak Czech to each other, and it was the fact that we were speaking English to each other that we found out about the stout. To begin with I just ordered a kvasnicové beer, turning to Mrs Velkyal to ask if she also wanted a pint - at which point the owner of the brewery (I am assuming there) asked if she would like to try their "dark beer", when he went on to describe the beer and I heard the phrase "in the style of stout" I took an executive decision and gave the kvasnicové to Mrs Velkyal and had myself the stout - I love it when a snap decision reaps such fantastic rewards.
The Czech Republic is known quite rightly as being the home of golden lagers, but there seems to be a growing trend toward, or should that be back to, ales. Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf make some excellent ales, and the Kanec Imperial Stout was in my opinion a wonderful pint, and at 5.5%ABV not as alcoholic as some imperial stouts. As you can see from the picture, this is a very dark stout with a smallish light tan head - a thing of beauty in my book. The nose was full of coffee and in the mouth it was quite bitter but with enough maltiness to keep it from being overpowering, and thus the rest of the pint is smooth and thick and filling, almost like a strong coffee tiramisu. I was in half a mind to buy a bottle of water, ditch the water and ask them to fill the bottle with the stout, yes it was that good. I am fairly sure that before Mrs Velkyal and I leave the Czech Republic we will be paying a visit to ?amberk to try the other beers they have on offer.
Thus we wandered around the festival a bit more, looked at solid clay racoons and decided it was time to eat and being fans of traditional Czech and Slovak food we decided to have halu?ky, and by happy chance the halu?ky stand was next to the stall for Minipivovar ?amberk and so I did what any self respecting beer lover would do and had another pint of stout, and had a chat with the brewery owner, who seemed to be a real beer euthusiast who wants to make proper beers rather than using chemicals and other such additivies. Looking at the ingredients list on the label he gave me his beer sticks to the basics of brewing beer: water, malt, hops and yeast.

Unfortunately not all my beer discoveries yesterday were so pleasant. There was also a van selling beer from the Pivovar Berounsky Medvěd - the Beroun Bear Brewery. In the interests of science and having heard that their beer wasn't anything to write home about, I decided I would try their 11o lager. Perhaps it was an unwise choice after three very filling and tasty stouts, perhaps it was also the fact that it was sold by a surly barmaid who seemed to show no interest in the beer itself, but this stuff did absolutely nothing for me. The beer was thin and had a distinctly funky flavour that reminded me of my old nemesis Kla?ter, I have to admit I ended up chucking most of this one away, I just didn't want to drink it after I had downed about a third of a pint - it was that bad.
Having said that though, the outstanding memory of our trip to Beroun will be the fabulous ?amberecky Kanec Imperial Stout, and hopefully we'll being seeing ?amberk beers in Prague more often. And with my ideas for using beer in my cooking I plan to buy some wild boar and make a boar goulash with their stout!

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...