Showing posts with label north coast brewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label north coast brewing. Show all posts

Monday, September 12, 2011

Of Pilsners

Mrs Velkyal and I went to a wedding at the weekend.

The bride is a colleague of Mrs V, and when they started working together we discovered that her then boyfriend, now husband, had lived for a time in Prague, a time which overlapped with my ten years in that most beautiful of cities. When chatting at a party, comparing notes really, you could say, we learnt that from about 1999 to 2001 we went to the same pubs and clubs, knew a few of the same people and had quite probably shared a beer or two. Through the groom, Mrs V and I have been introduced to a few other people with a Prague connection, and again one of them is someone that went to the same clubs and pubs, and in this case definitely someone I shared a beer or two with. I am getting convinced that the City of Charlottesville should enter into a twinning arrangement with a city in Czech Republic, Plzeň for example or ?eské Budějovice, although Jablonec nad Nisou has a similar population, and is an excellent place for a beer.

Anyway, given the Czech connection, there was bottled Pilsner Urquell available at the reception, and it went rather quickly as those of us still being clawed by the Old Mother dived in. Now, I am quite happy to say that Pilsner Urquell is best drunk in Plzeň itself, preferably kvasnicové, failing that then tankové. However, even pasteurised and in a green bottle it is a damned sight better than many a "craft" pilsner that is available unpasteurised in this neck of the woods. As you can imagine, our little Prague coterie indulged in much nostalgia infused revery about the beers of the Czech Republic from the late 90s to the early Noughties. Themes such as how great a beer Velkopopovicky Kozel was back then, how even Braník was a decent brew, especially the tmavé and lamenting the passing of the pubs and clubs we all got hammered in with much abandon, the Marquis de Sade, the Radegast beer hall and the original Iron Door nightclub (there is kind of a successor but it has never been as good as the original).

Once the Pilsner Urquell had been polished off, we moved on to the other pilsner available, North Coast's Scrimshaw Pilsner - just a side note, one of the best things about this reception was the complete and utter absence of beer from one of the big American breweries, the tap selection was from Allagash, North Coast and Bluegrass Brewing Company, and bottles from Legend, Port City and a few others I can't remember. It was interesting to go from Pilsner Urquell to one of the imitation pilsners and compare, and the most immediate thing I noticed is the absence of a firm hop bitterness that I grew to love about proper Czech lagers. There was a touch of butterscotch, but nothing overwhelmingly drastic, and so I drank shed loads of it, especially as it is bang on style with an ABV of 4.4%. So, yes I drank a lot of pilsner on Saturday night, though managed not to fall over, throw up or do anything else to embarrass myself, which is usually the sign of a successful drinking session.

Yesterday though I felt rough, rougher than I have in a long time. Perhaps as I get older it gets more difficult to drink in quantity and rely on that lifestyle drug of choice, paracetamol, to get me through the next day. As I lay on the sofa nursing a hangover, I read bits and pieces from the Oxford History of Britain and Stan Hieronymous' Brew Like A Monk. A phrase that hit me from Stan's book was something along the lines of "you can't make a great beer from numbers" and I wonder if that is one of the reasons so few craft breweries over here fail to make good pilsner - I almost wrote "great pilsner" but even just plain "good" is hard to find at times.

A great pilsner is not just about having an OG of 1.048, 40 IBUs and 4.4%ABV, it is about the intangibles of the triple decoction mash, the letting the beer lager until it is ready, the judicious use of Saaz hops whilst telling the accountants to sod off worrying about the cost of using only Saaz. If making a great pilsner, or any beer really, was just a case of following the numbers, I'd have been brewing my own pilsners by now, but it isn't.

Perhaps with lager style beers it isn't enough to be passionate about brewing, a brewer needs to be passionate about lager in particular. To quote the Gospel writer, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also".

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.

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...