Showing posts with label kout na sumave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kout na sumave. Show all posts

Friday, December 28, 2018

Beer and Breweries of 2018

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me.....time to get my review of 2018 done and dusted while she continues with tiling the kitchen backsplash. Of course, you dear reader as someone who doesn't work in a seemingly growing number of brewery marketing departments know that the 12 Days of Christmas run from December 25th to January 5th inclusive. As has become a tradition in these here parts at Fuggled, I'll be highlighting the best pale, amber, and dark beers from Virginia, the rest of the United States, and also the rest of the world. From said august list I'll pick the Fuggled Champion Beer of the Year, which comes with a quite immeasureable financial prize, as well as my Champion Brewery of the Year, with a prize equal to that of the champion beer. So onward to the runners and riders, so to say...

Pale
  • Virginia - South Street Brewery Shake Your Teal Feather Pilsner
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Southern Gothic
  • Rest of World - Pivovar Kout na ?umavě Koutská 10°
  • Honorable Mentions - Rothaus Tannenz?pfle, Gordon Biersch Czech Pilsner, Sierra Nevada BFD, Schlenkerla Helles, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted
I think this category will always be dominated by pilsner style lagers, while it is true that stouts were my first beery love, pilsners are the highest form of the brewing craft that I can conceive of. With nowhere to hide, getting a pilsner right is the make of a truly great beer craftsman. I have to admit though that the champion pale beer would have been much harder to choose had my employer not decided to send me to a conference in New Orleans. It was during that trip that I reacquainted myself with Koutská 10°, a beer that I have missed more than any other single beer from the Czech Republic in the nine and a half years since Mrs V and I swapped Europe for Virginia. It is simply perfection.


Amber
  • Virginia - Three Notch'd No Veto Brown Ale
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Tumbler
  • Rest of World - Fullers ESB
  • Honorable Mentions - Alewerks Tavern Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Winter Warmer Lager, St. GeorgenBrau Kellerbier, Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, Stable Craft Brewing Britchin Brown
This autumn was all about brown ales, so stretching the definition of "amber" a wee bit to the darker side admittedly. The kick started with Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, and then just kept on going. If only American taprooms, brewpubs, and other beer outlets didn't serve the stuff at the temperature of penguin feet. The highlight of my brown ale kick was getting word from the guys at Three Notch'd that No Veto was back on tap after something of a hiatus, and then confirming that it tasted better than ever, once you leave it to sit for a bit and lose its chill. A worthy winner then.


Dark
  • Virginia - Three Notch'd Mild Marker 20
  • Rest of US - Anchor Brewing Porter
  • Rest of World - Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout
  • Honorable Mentions - Guinness Original, Murphy's, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, JosephBrau Winter Brew, Sierra Nevada Stout

Having mentioned beery loves earlier on, the dark beer of the year is very much a harkening back to my early days of beer drinking, indeed Guinness was my first legal beer, and I pretty regularly pick up 12 packs of the CO2 carbed versions of the black stuff. The highlight of several such cases this year was the 200th Anniversary Export Stout, apparently brewed with black patent malt rather than roasted barley. I am not sure what difference that makes, but the beer itself is a luxurious mix of coffee and chocolate, with a silken body, and roasted bite in the finish that is the very epitome of a great Guinness, let alone a great stout.


Fuggled Champion Beer of 2018

There really was no doubt what would be the Fuggled Champion Beer of 2018 was there? Rolling back the years to my old life in Prague, Pivovar Kout na ?umavě Koutská 10° was a veritable revelry of nostalgia, great beer, and a longing to return to the Czech Republic and drink it in its native land once more. In an era of craft beer where novelty ingredients (aka "silly shit"), murk, and one offs seem to be the order of the day, it is good to know that out there are breweries making a handful of beers, and making them seriously, seriously well. I would argue that any drinker incapable of appreciating the simple perfection of Koutská 10° should just give up on beer right now and go find some other fetish for their affectations.

Fuggled Champion Brewery of 2018
  • Virginia - South Street Brewery
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Rest of World - Schlenkerla
Their name has popped up in every single category, whether as a regional winner or an honorable mention, they are in my opinion the most dependable craft brewery in the United States, and as such I am willing to go outside of my comfort zone and try beer styles I usually avoid with other breweries - yup looking at you double IPAs and co. Following on from 2017, Sierra Nevada Brewing have indeed kept up the good work and are very worthy winners of the Fuggled Champion Brewery for 2018.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Session 142: Last Orders


This month's Session, the last of its ilk, is being hosted by the venerable Stan Hireonymous of Appellation Beer, and plenty of excellent books. Stan's theme for this month is formally titled "Funeral Beers", though he did also suggest that "one more for the road" would be a suitable theme, either way, the session is over, last orders has been called, and there will be no after hours lock in. Stan asked us all to:
Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.
When I lived in Prague, there was a pub that was a very regular haunt, the magnificent proper boozer that was U Slovanské lípy. I spent many a merry time there, draining half litre after half litre of the Koutská Desítka that I wrote about yesterday, but I always ended the session with the same beer, a half pint of Koutsky tmavy speciál, an 18° beer that was the perfect nightcap, or as Evan would describe it "simply miraculous".


Pouring an inky deep black, topped off with that firm ivory head, you know just from looking at it that this is a serious beer. No silly fripperies, no flashy gimmicks, just a Baltic Porter as Baltic Porter should be.

As I close my eyes and try to remember the beer's aroma, it has been almost a decade since I had it, the overwhelming recollection is that of a rich bitter chocolate, backed with the punch of an Italian espresso.

As you almost come to expect from a Baltic Porter the flavours are the usual suspects, again the chocolate is there, the coffee, perhaps a merest hint of soy sauce, for a salted caramel umami thing. The hops are in there mainly for bittering, but you know they are there, as a light spice comes through in the finish, but this is very much a glorious rich dark chocolate cake with espresso ganache filling. It's just as well the hops are there though as without them the beer would be an unctuous overly sweet goo, with the beer adding layer upon layer in your mouth as you drink.

This is a beer to linger over. Sure it is only a malé serving of 300ml, or about half a pint, but chugging is most assuredly not the order of the day, it is 8.5% abv after all. Even though the session is ending, there is no need to rush over the last beer, and there is always the knowledge that there will be another session, maybe by another name, in the not too distant future. Not sure where, not sure when, not even sure who will be there, but in the words of the old Scots song:
So fill us a tankard o nappy broon ale
It'll comfort our herts and enliven the tale
For we'll aye be the merrier the langer that we sit
For we drank thegither mony's the time, and sae will we yet
To bring The Session to its end, the song from which the verse above is taken.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Get Your Kout

I spent the early part of this week in New Orleans at a conference. Given the early start on Monday, and the late finish on Tuesday, I ended up being there from Sunday afternoon to yesterday morning. With plenty of downtime in airports, I decided it would be a good idea to get a sense of beer options for a few post flying bevvies. I own the fact that I am not overly fond of flying, so something to relax over is always welcome.

It was on the advice of one of my Twitter friends, the ever lovely Amie, that I decided to look up a place called The Avenue Pub. A quick scan of the website had me thinking it would be my kind of place, then I checked the beer list....

Oh goodness me, right there, magic words....Koutská Dvanáctka.

A beer I love was going to be on tap about a mile from my hotel, it was a no brainer, I knew I would be there as soon as possible on Sunday evening. Having checked into my hotel, chatted with Mrs V and the boys, and showered the grime of flight away (why does sitting around in planes and airports make you feel grubby?), I decided to walk to the pub.

Thankfully the place wasn't overly busy, so I grabbed a stool at the bar (bar stools!!!!), and asked the suitably hirsute barman if they still had the Dvanáctka? My heart sank for a moment when he said 'no', but the 'no' was merely the preface to 'it's the ten that we have'.

Oh goodness me.....even greater magic....Koutská Desítka.

For those in need of a refresher, a desítka is a beer with a starting gravity of 10° Plato, usually about 4% abv (take the ABV and times it by 2.5 is a pretty good way to work out the Plato starting gravity of a beer), and in the case of Koutská Desítka a beer I drank a lot of, and I mean a lot of, when I lived in Prague. When I would go to U Slovanské lípy the desítka was my beer of choice, I spend many afternoons and evenings there with an assorted cast of folks, including Evan Rail and Max of Pivní Filosof, drinking pint after pint of what I regarded as the finest pale Czech lager in the world.


For a moment I feared that it wouldn't be the Proustian Madeleine I imagined, but that first mouthful was nostalgia in a glass. Soft malt backbone, the gentle lemongrass bitterness of Saaz, the snap of a quality lager....for moments in time I was transported, reminded again of the great beers that drew me away from the mass market brands of Gambrinus and Staropramen. Back then there were no pastry stouts, fruit infected infused goses, or barrel aged imperial IPAs, but there was Koutská Desítka, such a simple, beguiling, and bewitching brew, intoxicating in so many ways.

I left the pub having reveled in memory, knowing that my future would include another trip, this time on Tuesday night having wandered briefly the gaudiness of Bourbon Street. Earlier that day I got talking to another attendee about beer, and had mentioned both beer and place to him, sure enough he turned up with his wife - the first person I have ever actually seen using Untappd in public. As we talked beer she confided that she used to love IPA, especially the hazy New England slop that is the rage these days, then her epiphany came, she just wanted a Pilsner Urquell and all the hop bite and delight that comes with it. Koutská Desítka found a new fan that night, I rekindled the flame of a long lost Czech love, and I saw that there are plenty of folks out there eschewing the new for a taste of classic, traditional, well crafted beer.


I headed to bed cheered, but still had to fly in the morning.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Into the Woods

Last night saw a rather large thunderstorm roll over the Charlottesville area. Being something of a non-fan of Thor smacking Mj?lnir against his anvil, I took refuge in my beer cellar, sat myself down on an unopened case of beer, and began to read. My material for this delve into sanctuary? Evan Rail's latest Kindle eBook, "Beer Trails: The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest".


Without wanting to steal Evan's thunder, because each and every one of you needs to go and buy this work, this is all about my favourite Czech brewery, and the brewery that if I never drank another beer from any other brewery I would still have a rich and flavourful beer life, Kout na ?umavě. If i remember rightly, and there is a fair old beery fog to claw my way through, it was Evan himself who first recommended I head up to U slovanské lipy to try Kout's beer, and what occurred was simply obsession with first mouthful, both for the pub, which was a right Czech dive (aka the perfect pub), and the beer. There were many more nights spent in U slovanské lipy with Evan, Max, Rob, Boak and Bailey, Mrs V, and a raft of other folks that I insisted on dragging up there to try the beer, usually finished off with a malé 18° tmavé...

One thing that really comes through in Evan's prose is his sheer passion for the brewery, its history, and their products. You can't help but get the feeling that Evan thoroughly enjoyed writing this book, such passion for the subject makes the book an absolute delight to read. I may have mentioned this in my review of Evan's last eBook, but reading his work is almost like being sat in the pub with him, talking about beer, from that perspective it is clear to me that Evan is a writer with a clear, authentic, and unforced, voice.

The book also recounts a tale about an American writer wanting information for an article about the tmavé style, which brought a smile to my face, because said writer was Nathan Zeender, and the article in question included my tmavé recipe. Such a small, and friendly, beer writing world we live in. For those with long memories, Nathan joined Jason and I at Devils Backbone the first time we brewed Morana.

There are plenty of other episodes recounted in the book, each revolving around that wonderful, almost anachronistic brewery in the wilds of Bohemia, but to find out what they are, you need to pop over to Amazon and spend literally a few bucks (seriously, $2.99 for a work of this quality is insanely cheap), and don't wait for a thunderstorm to read it. Find your favourite pub, that serves your favourite beer, and listen to the voice you will recognise instantly.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mmmmm.....Lager.

You know me by now, unless this is your first visit to Fuggled, in which case welcome, I am a lager drinker, nay a lover of lager. Whether it is a Bohemian Pilsner, Schwarzbier, Vienna or Baltic Porter, the lager 'family' of beers is the one I like to spend as much drinking time as possible with. That's not to say that warm fermented beers aren't wonderful as well, but just that beer that takes its own sweet time to be ready is my preferred tipple. Given a bank of taps pouring pale ales in various states of Indianess, stouts, porters, brown ales and wheat beers, if there is a solitary good lager available then I will gladly ignore everything else, even if it is super rare, super strong and aged in gorilla snot barrels.

Without being mean, any brewer can chuck more hops into the kettle, or add spices to secondary and get something that is at least drinkable, but it takes a master brewer to have the confidence to brew a great lager, such as Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, Victory Prima Pils, or Kout na ?umavě 18° (it also takes a master brewer to do the whole extra hops and spice thing well without turning the beer into a flavour mess). We can argue all day about the merits or otherwise of decoction mashing, for the record I think it makes a better beer though I know at least one of my favourite lagers is done with infusion mashing, but one thing is clear, lager is a labour of love, and if a brewery does it properly then it ties up capital and equipment for a very long time.


Take Budvar for example. I remember reading that each batch of their flagship 12° lager takes 102 days to make, from start to finish. Primary fermentation lasts 12 days and then the beer sits in the lagering tanks for 90 days, that's three months, 12 weeks (1 week for each degree of Plato as used to be the norm), just sitting around. Would most people recognise a difference if they brought it out after 60 days? Probably not, but some traditions are worth keeping regardless of what science tells us with numbers.

Brewing, any brewing, is not just about the numbers. Sure your pilsner might have a starting gravity of 1.048 (12° Plato), you might even have gone crazy and hopped it to 40 IBUs but it might still suck because there is too much alcohol from the yeast over attenuating and making it thin in the body (more alcohol is not always a good thing). Perhaps you used some high alpha hops for bittering rather than Saaz all the way through. Perhaps you didn't wait for the lager to tell you when it was ready and just pulled it from the tanks after 28 days regardless. Lager, in  my thoroughly unhumble opinion is not something to be taken lightly, and one of the reasons I brew them so infrequently is simply because I want to do them justice and I don't really have the equipment to do so.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy living in this part of Virginia, I have access to great local lager whenever I want it, made by brewers who do it properly and rightly win awards as a result.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Revelations

5 beers that made me think differently about beer:


Bishop's Finger, the beer that got me started.


O'Hara's Stout - still my favourite stout, decent on nitro, a dream bottled.


Kout's 18 degree dark lager - the perfect end to many a session in Prague, dark lager is not just for the ladies you know!


Schlenkerla Marzen.....mmmmm rauchbier


Devils Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils, Americans can, and do, make good pilsners, it's just difficult to find them sometimes.

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, March 16, 2011

Touring the Brewery

I never really know what to make of brewery tours. Sure, when I work at Starr Hill, I do the occasional tour of the facility and wax lyrical about the process of brewing beer, but I must admit there are few breweries that I would absolutely want to tour.


In ten years living in Prague I didn't go on the brewery tour at Plzeň, at the time I didn't see the need - I did however enjoy their wares in the brewery pub. When we went to Ireland back in 2008, I felt no urge to go to St James' Gate, though I enjoyed pints of Guinness in Dublin, Galway and points in between. The closest I got to a brewery tour before moving to the States was sitting in the brewery bar at U Medvídk? while they were at work creating their magnificent Oldgott Barrique. I have of course had the pleasure of seeing up close and personal the workings of the Devils Backbone brewhouse, with its decoction kettle and various other bits and bobs.


This whole train of thought came about because a friend asked me what breweries in the world I would really like to visit, in terms of looking that their process and equipment rather than just going to a tasting room or pub to drink their beers - something I do thoroughly enjoy, especially when the tasting toom is as nicely set up as Williamsburg Alewerks. So without further ado....


1. Hook Norton, Oxfordshire, England

From what I understand, Hook Norton is one of the few, if not the only, remaining tower brewery in the United Kingdom. A tower brewery used gravity to move through the brewing process, so basically you start at the top of the building and work your way down. The brewery also has a 19th century steam engine, and I love steam engines. It also helps that Hook Norton make several of my favourite beers, including their Double Stout.


2. Kout na ?umavě, Czech Republic

I know I bang on about how much I love their beers, and so what better reason to go and see the old buildings that house the production of some of the world's best beers (I was going to say just lager, but I think they are better than many an ale as well - hence people who deride lager are idiots in my world - here endeth the lesson). Part of me would also love to see where my good friend Evan put his foot through the floor without spilling a drop.

Just a couple there, where would love to go?

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Wish List

When I go to a bottle shop I am instinctively drawn to the British beer section, swiftly followed by the "European" section - I say "European" because you sometimes get the feeling that there are only 5 types of beer: American, British (usually with Irish beers included, though not mentioned specifically as "Irish"), Belgian, German and "European" or "Other". It is in the "European" sections that you find Czech lagers more often than not, although I have seen them in the German section, oh such delicious irony.

This habit got me wondering over the weekend about the breweries whose products I would love to see available in Virginia, assuming of course that they aren't already elsewhere in the US. So here, is my wish list:


Kout na ?umavě, as I have mentioned many times, make the best lager on the planet. End of story. Full stop. To achieve this magnificent feat of zythophilic engineering there is no imperialising, no india-ising (made up word I know, but you know what I mean), but making great beer using excellent local ingredients (sounds like a story I know from history...). I have heard rumour that someone is trying to bring it in to the States, so hopefully rapture is near indeed.


Leicestershire based Everards make honest to goodness superb ales. Again you won't be finding any imperial best india bitter shite going on here, but traditional British bitters and ales, superbly made. They bottle, to my knowledge, 3 of their line, Original, Beacon and Tiger. Don't just take my word for how good their beers are, see here, and here.


I have raved many times about Lovibonds on here, Jeff was the first Brewer of the Week and yes my Lovibonds glasses are my favourites. The best thing to put in a Lovibonds glass though would be a Lovibonds beer, in particular the Wheat Wine you see in the picture, or the Henley Dark. I can't comment on the 69 IPA, because you can't get it here - but if past experience is any guide, then I look forward to it when I am home in Blighty come this summer.


A Kentish brewery making a range of lovely drops of ale that in my opinion deserve a wider audience. You see that bottle of Timothy Taylor Landlord in the back of the picture there? I would love to find that in a Virginia bottle shop as well.

These are just some of the beers I would love to see available over here, and maybe some of the distributors are listening. I can think of a few other breweries that I would love to see over here, purely on reputation as I haven't actually had any of the beers, Hardknott springs to mind, as does Dungarvan. What beers would you like to see available where you live?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber and Dark Lager

This seems to have been a decent year on the amber and dark lager front of things, with new offerings from one of my favourite breweries back in the UK, the continued excellence of many a Czech polotmavé and tmavé, as well as a few good lagers from the USA in this category, although if I am honest the majority of amber and dark lagers over here are as crap as the pale ones.

The three beers which make the shortlist for amber and dark lager of the year are:
Here I must make a confession, in ten years living in Prague, I went to U Flek? a grand total of once and that was back in June while researching for my soon to be released pub guide to Prague (released as soon I sort out a technical issue or two). I had avoided it purely because it is such a touristy place to go, had I known just how damned good the beer was, I would have drunk far less in my formative Prague years but drunk far, far better.

Whilst talking of seemingly touristy places to go, U Medvídk? will always be a place I love and hanker for, whether for the lashings of Budvar, the wonderful Czech food (if anyone tells you Czech food is awful then they are pretentious knobs with no idea about being a normal human being), and of course U Medvídk?'s own range of excellent beers. As lovely as it is from a bottle, Oldgott Barique is simply divine on tap in the secluded little brewery area of this labyrinthine pub.

As for the Kout na ?umavě 18°, a magnificent Baltic Porter which rounded off many an evening in U Slovanské Lípy, I have to agree with the august Evan Rail that it is "simply miraculous". Beautifully smooth and rich, like a dark chocolate cake which is sinful beyond words but oh so damned good, as I say, it rounded off so many nights out to perfection.

This is, again, a very difficult decision to make, but when push comes to shove, I usually go for a beer which I can drink several pints of, as such the Fuggled Amber and Dark Lager of the Year for 2009 is:
  1. U Medvídk? Oldgott Barique 13°
I had the pleasure many times this year, with various people I have been lucky to get to know as a result of Fuggled, to sit in the brewery side of U Medvídk? and polish off copious amounts of the Oldgott Barique - each and every every occassion as good as the beer lubricating the conversation.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale Lagers

My experience of pale lagers this year has been something of a mixed bag. The first six months of the year were in the Czech Republic, thus giving me access to endless amounts of quality pilsner style lager. The second half of the year has largely been one of disappointment in the American craft lager scene - seriously, almost every pale lager I have had here has been bland beyond description, with one exception.

My three contenders for the Fuggled Pale Lager of the year are:
The Blue Mountain Lager has been something of a life saver for me on those days when I really fancied a decent lager, how it didn't win any awards at the Great American Beer Fest is beyond me - perhaps the judges should spend more time in Germany and the Czech Republic before being allowed to judge lagers.

What can be said about Kout na ?umavě 10° that I haven't already said? Almost nothing to be honest, a 10 degree lager with more flavour and punch than many stronger beers is something to be savoured.

Discovering Zlatá Labu? 11° was one of my beer highlights of 2009 in general, it is quite simply a magnificent beer that deserves a far wider distribution than it has at the moment.

This is such a difficult decision, but for the second year running, the Fuggled Pale Lager of the year is:
  1. Kout na ?umavě 10°
Kout is the beer I miss most from the Czech Republic and to my mind the finest expression of the Bohemian Pilsner style.

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!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Das Problem mit Pils

Don't worry, I am not about to start posting in German, getting pasted I most assuredly can do in that noble language, getting posted, erm no. Call it what you will, pils, pilsner, pilsener (grammatically incorrect but there you go), pale golden lager is the dominant style in the global beer market. As Pivní Filosof has noted this week, the spread of pilsner style lager decimated many older brews as consumers flocked to the new product.

This week I have tried several American pilsners, including Brooklyn Pilsner, Victory Prima Pils and Thomas Creek Dockside Pilsner. Whilst they were all perfectly drinkable lagers, none of them came close to a Kout na ?umavě 10°, and this got me wondering about the difference between German and Bohemian style pilsners, but first a little personal background.

When I abandoned the shores of that Sceptred Isle for a far away land about which I knew nothing, I was a happy ale and stout drinker; the ale being Caffrey's and the stout, well there was only one surely, but I drank the other. Suddenly there is no Murphy's, that being the other, and the need for Guinness would have meant frequenting an Oirish pub filled with Brits trying to live their British life in foreign lands, which even after several years they would probably still know nothing. I don't think I ever had a Caffrey's, although there is a bar of that name on the Old Town Square. When in Rome syndrome kicked in and before you know it I am a fan of Velkopopovicky Kozel and Bohemian pilsners in general.

Here is I think the crux of my problem with pils in America so far, they tend more to the German pilsner style - which from my understanding of the BJCP guidelines is thinner in body, and drier in the finish when compared to the complex, malty, floral wonder that is Bohemian pilsner. This is of course to be expected if what I reading in Ambitious Brew is correct, and the American lager brewing industry of the 19th century was essentially German in character - though as with anything from that period in time, nothing is simple and clear cut.

Naturally, this means that more research is required. I will have to hunt out some Bohemian style pilsners made here, the medal winners at the Great American Beer Festival for example, and compare them against Budvar, as well as trying some well regarded German pilsners as a control group for my understanding of the American versions. In the time being though, it is time to spend a week in Florida converting my father-in-law to the delights of pale ale, most likely Sierra Nevada.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Question of Taste

In many ways the scribblings of a blogger, whether of beer or something else, are easy to create and substantiate. For even the most extreme comment you can find at least one person to back me up and say “I know what you mean”. Swimming against a tide is something I am not really bothered by, and sometimes I am very much aware that I don’t agree with fellow bloggers or beer lovers, about a particular range of beers. It is of course a question of taste.

I don’t hide the fact that I am not a fan of Klá?ter, for me it is nothing special, nothing to go screaming off to the shop at a great rate of knots to spend my 14k? on a bottle of – that’s 40p/$0.75/€0.50 for my British, American and Eurozone readers respectively. And while it may be a decent enough beer to have from time to time on tap, it is not something I would actively search out.

Last night, I decided to take Mrs Velkyal out for dinner. My wife is a pianist by training and in preparation for our move back to the United States she had just seen her piano of several years taken away to a good home. I knew that it would be better to take her out for a meal and a couple of beers to take her mind off the loss of the Joanna. So I got the address of the new place in ?i?kov selling the beers of Pivovarsky dv?r Chyně from Pivní Filosof and dragged Mrs V. up the hill for something to eat and drink.

Pivní Filosof has mentioned on his blog that we trekked out to Chyně for lunch a couple of weeks back, with the Everards brewer and his wife who were over in Prague on holiday – I fear taking them to several of Prague’s brewpubs may have turned it into something of a busman’s holiday however. The beers that day really did nothing for me, only the 14° dark held out any hope. Unfortunately our trip to the restaurant in Hotel Victor did little to dispel my apathy towards Chyně. Of the three full beers I had, again only the 14° dark satisfied me, the light of the same strength was too buttery for my tastes; the 10° light beer was thin bodied and to my stout mind insipid. It would be easy for me to dismiss my opinions as the ravings of a stout and ale man if it were not for the fact that I have drunk 10° lagers for most of the last 10 years, and have had several which have a complexity of flavour which would put many stronger beers to shame.

In fairness to Hotel Victor, the food we had was quite nice, decent onion rings although dips of various kinds would be nice, an acceptable goulash and Mrs V’s chicken schnitzel tasted as good as it looked. They also had very pleasant service, the lady working the pumps was friendly, helpful and attentive and those are invaluable attributes in waiting staff. As we waited for the bill I suggested that we head the 200m up to U Slovansky Lipy to finish the night with a couple of Kout na ?umavě beers – admittedly in order to show her the difference between Chyně and Kout, were we ran into Iain and Ian of Pivní Filosof commentary fame.

Over pints of Kout's simply magnificent 14° dark and 12° kvásni?ák we discussed our various opinions about Chyně and I had to admit that I am simply not a fan, to howls of disbelief. However we soon worked out that the main difference between my opinion and that of various others is that I like beers with a bitter bite. I am, as has been noted, very much a stout, bitter and pale ale drinker. I like my beers to have a good hoppy bite and a full body, Ian (sorry guys can never remember which is which) is my polar opposite, can’t stand bitter or stout and yet loves Chyně. I should however say though it is not that I think their beers are bad, as in Gambrinus bad, but just not my thing.

So yes my opinions are simply that, an answer to the question of my taste.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Welcome Break

I gave myself an extended weekend, took last Thursday and Friday off. I wasn't planning to get out of Prague or do anything special, I just decided to take a couple of days off and enjoy laying in my bed longer than normal.

The laying in bed plan was partly because on Wednesday night I had arranged to meet with the brewer of Everards in the UK, who was over in Prague for a few days with his wife. So Mrs Velkyal and I spent the evening at Pivovarsky klub enjoying their company and various rather nice beers - my personal favourite was the American IPA made by Pivovarsky d?m.

During Wednesday night we arranged to meet up on the Thursday for a guided tour of some of Prague's brewpubs, which actually turned out to be just Pivovarsky dv?r Chyně and U Medvídk?, where we went up to the brewery part of the pub and sat dranking their excellent Oldgott Barrique, whilst watching a fresh batch being made - that was certainly fun! I also learnt that it is actually possible to talk for 9 hours straight about beer, and after we had gone our seperate ways I went to U Slovanské Lípy for some Kout na ?umavě lagers - as you can imagine, Friday was spent generally recovering at a very slow pace.

Drinking with a professional brewer is definitely something I would recommend, especially when you have heard people raving about a particular beer and then the professional highlights a couple of problems with the beer, and their possible causes, as happened in Chyně. Plus with Everard's being one of the larger regional breweries in the UK it was interesting to get a different view on the tie than I have heard from most people, a subject I have been mulling over and will no doubt come back to.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Business Model?

I am now one week into my annual month off the booze, although that doesn't stretch to month away from pubs - how would I watch Liverpool overwise? Mind you the beer in Zlata is so comically bad at times that I know I could take a lifetime vow of abstinence and go there everyday without fear of temptation (for those interested, they sell Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell - some of my mates have switched to Urquell as a result of the Gambrinus).

I have been told several times that I should just drink non-alcoholic beer for the month, but that feels like cheating to me. So I sit in the pub with a coffee and a mineral water, while I tell friends what beers to drink - and feel sickly jealous inside, despite being beatifically serene on the outside. This was especially true on Monday as a friend was getting stuck into her second Hukvaldy 14° polotmávé. Even more so last night when in U Slovanské Lípy introducing a friend to the delights of Kout na ?umavě.

Things seem to be going well for the guys at U Slovanské Lípy, the place was doing a very brisk trade - I would say the place was about 75% full. Seeing as though it is only about a 15 minute walk home, I decided to brave the cold (it was about -15o Celsius I believe) and conduct a little experiment. I had a quick gander through the window of evey pub I went by. Every other pub on the way home through ?i?kov, Prague's pub central, was practically deserted - barely a soul out "enjoying" Gambrinus, Staropramen, Braník or Stella.

Could there be a correlation here? Excellent beer at good prices makes a pub a place people want to visit regardless of the time of year. I still marvel at times that the magnficent 10o pale lager costs 20k? ($1, £0.70, €0.76) for a half litre of loveliness.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale Lagers

Yes there are still a couple of weeks of drinking time left this year, but as I will be in France and the UK in the coming weeks I am not sure how much posting I will get to do after this week.

As you would expect, living in the country where lager is king, I drink quite a lot of it. Once upon a time I drank, and enjoyed, the mega-brands - Gambrinus, Staropramen and Kozel. Those days have been consigned to history for various abominations; diluting the beer after fermentation, using corn syrup as an adjunct, just generally trashing one of my favourite beers.

This year though I have discovered a wealth of pale lagers, of varying strengths, which I enjoy and which restored my once flagging faith in pale lager. My top three though are:

The Kout is so well made, and for a 10o lager it is bursting with flavour, and the only pub in Prague with it on tap is a ten minute jaunt from my flat, and it costs an insane 20k? for a half litre (that's $1/€0.80/£0.70 at current exchange rates).

Purkmistr is worth the trip to Plzeň alone, and I am probably being controversial here but it is the only light lager from that hallowed city which is actually worth drinking (cue comments about the unfiltered and unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell available at the brewery - that doesn't count as it is not commercially available as far as I am aware).

Yes I have a soft spot for Primátor, and their 12o is a very nice and drinkable lager, and again very cheap in the Billa near my office.

It is difficult to pick just one to be the Fuggled Pale Lager of the Year - a prize unburdened with history and monetary value - but the award goes to:

  1. Kout na ?umavě

Simply the best lager in the Czech Republic.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beer Bloggers Picnic

Saturday evening was spent in the presence of fellow bloggers Evan and Pivní Filosof as well as Boak and Bailey, who were over from London on a tour of Germany and the Czech Republic. Being good hosts, we hope, we arranged to meet up and introduce our visitors to some of our favourite pubs in the city, starting with Pivovarsky klub, where the highlight for me was the very nice Granát from Pivovar Pardubice. After a while we walked up into ?i?kov to drop into the very recently opened U Slovanské Lipy, Prague’s first pub selling beer from Pivovar Kout na ?umavě.

U Slovanské Lipy is very unlikely to win any style awards, and is definitely not the kind of place for those ex-pats for whom trips to the Potrefena Husa in Prague 3 is living dangerously. Sitting down at a table I was taken back to pubs in Southern Bohemia, where a previous girlfriend came from – a proper Czech pub, with great Czech beer, what more could anyone ask for? Well to start with we asked for a round of their desítka, 10° golden lager, and what a grand beer it is, putting to bed the idea that desítka is a weaker version of a brewery’s flagship dvanáctka, that’s 12° to non-Czech speakers.

Following hot of the heels of our drained glasses was the 14° dark lager, quite easily the best lager I have had in a very long time, whether light or dark, regardless of strength, this was just simply magnificent – worth the walk up the hill just in itself. Having made the required ohs and ahs about the dark, we progressed on to the 12° kvasnícové, also a very good beer and just too easy to drink – what lucky people they are in ?umava, not only do they live in a beautiful part of the world, but they have a great local brewer to enjoy. Last up was a round of small glasses of the 18° Baltic Porter. Again it was a nice beer, brimming with flavour, however for me it just didn’t reach the heights of the dark lager. If we didn’t have plans to visit Zly ?asy, I could happily have stayed and nursed several more pints of the dark goodness.

Zly ?asy provided with one of the most unexpected experiences of my beer drinking life, a Klá?ter worth drinking, in this case the 12°. I am a convert? We’ll see. Unforeseen circumstances, involving forgotten keys, meant that I had to call it an early night at around half ten. There are few more pleasurable nights to be had than sitting around drinking superb beers with good company, which without exception has been my experience of all the people I have met through this blog so far, and I am very much looking forward to the bottle of Gose which Boak and Bailey brought over from Leipzig.

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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