Showing posts with label pivni filosof. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pivni filosof. Show all posts

Monday, March 17, 2014

Anything But Utter Nonsense

A few weeks ago I got an email from an old drinking buddy, attached to said email was his new book. The drinking buddy was Max, perhaps better known as Pivní Filosof, and the book, The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer, co-written with Alan from A Good Beer Blog, and referencing one of my favourite authors.

With fewer than a hundred pages, I thought it wouldn't take that long to read it, but life has a way of getting in the way of pleasures like reading, and thus I only finished it yesterday morning. As the subtitle suggests, this a rant about the way 'craft' beer is perceived by its fans and the snake oil salespeople that peddle its myths, lies, and videotapes.

Couched within a series of conversations between the authors, in various drinking contexts, the book looks at many of the themes that surround the 'craft' beer industry; pricing, beer culture, the definition of 'craft', and various other instantly recognisable motifs. There is a supporting cast of well known bloggers, including a quick mention for Fuggled (on page 72), as Max and Alan bar, and continent, hop.

I found myself nodding in agreement often, as the authors round on the daftness that surrounds 'craft' beer, especially the banality of a sizeable portion of its fans and acolytes, in particular the difference between tasting beer and drinking it. While I like a flight in a new brewery, it really only serves one purpose, to help me choose a pint to drink afterwards. Probably my favourite episode in the book is the kidnapping of an archetypal 'craft' beer geek, and the de-programming of his craft sanitised mind.

Having had the pleasure of drinking with Max, reading the book reminded me of sitting in places like Pivovarsky klub, Zly ?asy, and U Radnice (where he, I, Evan Rail, and Rob finished off a keg of Primátor Stout), and speaking with him, which was always fun.

The book is engaging, raucous, and overall a good read. It identifies many of the issues that I have with the current state of much of the 'craft' brewing industry, and associated hangers on. If you feel uneasy with much of the conversation around the beer industry, then The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer is essential reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Defining 'Good'

Yesterday my good friend, and once upon a time drinking buddy, Pivní Filosof, tweeted the following:
"Too many people trying to define what "craft beer" is or isn't, not enough talking about what makes a beer good..."
So, I thought that what would be a better way to mark the 750th post on Fuggled than to finally try and define 'good' beer? I am perfectly aware that I might be on a hiding to nothing here, but here goes.

Firstly let's think about words for a moment, what does 'good' mean? Well, if you do a search on, you will see that it lists many possible meanings as both a noun and an adjective. I won't list all the options here, but if you click the link then you can check them all out for yourself. One thing I will reference here though is the etymology of the word, which apparently comes from Old English:
"god (with a long "o") "having the right or desirable quality,"
Apparently the Old English is itself derived from the Proto-Germanic 'gothaz' meaning "fit, adequate, belonging together".

Using the definition of 'good' as something which has the 'right or desirable quality' brings us rather quickly to the sticking point in trying to define 'good beer', what is the quality in your beer that is 'right or desirable'? Ultimately 'good beer' is a very personal thing, something unique to each drinker, which then raises the question, what is 'good beer' for Velky Al? Let me answer that question.

The 'right or desirable' qualities that I look for in a beer can be best summed up as:
  • flavourful
  • balanced
  • refreshing
I realise that even within that fairly short list there are any number of personal preferences as to what constitutes flavour, balance and refreshment, but as this is my definition of good beer, let me attack those one at a time.

I like beer that tastes good, again that awkward word 'good' pops up. Good tasting beer to me is one where you can taste the elements of the beer as expected for that particular style or type of beer. If I am drinking a stout for example, I want to be able to taste the roastiness, coffee and chocolate that you expect from that kind of beer. Likewise if I am drinking a Vienna lager, I want none of the roastiness of stout, but rather the toastiness that comes with using Vienna malt. You could argue that it is about 'authenticity', is this really how stout, pilsner, mild or whatever is supposed to taste like?

I sometimes wonder if 'balance' is becoming something of a dirty word in the beer word, in much the same way 'session' is interpreted by some as meaning 'insufficiently sexy'. In my definition of 'good' beer though, balance is important, mainly because I like drinking beer. I am not the kind of person who is happy to go to a beer festival and sample 10 to 15 2oz samples, I prefer beer festivals where you order a half pint, or a full pint, and you stand around drinking and talking with friends. In my experience, beers which are imbalanced are not beers that I want to drink more than a single serving of. An absence of balance normally, though not always, means that a shit ton of hops have been dumped in making the experience of the beer like sucking a grapefruit. Alternatively imbalanced beers can have too many hop varieties, and when I read the hopping list of some beers having 7 or 8 different high alpha hops I can't but wonder if the brewer is simply having a lupulin wank.

Drinking is primarily about refreshment, whether after a day of manual labour or sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen, both require refreshment and there are few feelings in the world as wonderful as that first sup on a pint at the end of a day. A refreshing pint can just as easily a stout as it can be a witbier, indeed when I was laid off last week I found the couple of pints of Left Hand Milk Stout I had at McGrady's very refreshing, especially as one definition of 'to refresh' is 'to cheer' and I certainly felt happier after the pints than before.

Thankfully with those criteria of 'good beer' there are many individual beers that I consider 'good' and am more than happy to drink, regardless of corporate structure, method of dispense or style. Good beer is really something intangible, indefinable in some ways, as it is, in the final analysis, what the individual likes to drink.

Perhaps that is why more people want to try and define 'craft beer' because that is, seemingly, an easier task, though as I have written about before, a pretty daft one.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why I Blog

I have always enjoyed writing, and I hope it is something that I am not too shabby at. I make no claims to be anywhere near the standard of my favourite authors, Umberto Eco, Nick Hornby and Andrei Makine among them. However, in addition to my regular ramblings about beer on here, I occasionally write on another couple of blogs, one about whatever pops into my head and the other about philosophy and religion. Writing has always been part of my life, when I was a practising Christian I had about 30 poems published in various magazines and anthologies, as well as writing music reviews for Cross Rhythms magazine. I have written technical documentation, articles about real estate in Prague and sales proposals, I am even trying to write a novel, though that is going through a major mental revision at the moment.

It is just shy of four years ago that I wrote the first post on this blog. In that first post, I said that my posts could consist of:

"posting pictures and stories about beer, and most importantly the people that my journey brings me into contact with".

When I started blogging there were only two other beer bloggers that I knew of in Prague, Evan Rail and Max Bahnson. At first I read them, then met them and today I feel honoured to call both of them my friends. In various constellations we have shared many a beer, and to this day they are two of the people I miss most from Prague. Many a Saturday afternoon finds me wishing I could send either of them a text message and arrange to meet for a pint at Pivovarsky klub or Zly ?asy.

In November 2008 I realised a long standard ambition to visit Ireland. Mrs Velkyal had a friend that had married an Irishman, and so as we had a long weekend and it was close to my birthday we flew over. The Irishman was to become the author of The Tale of the Ale blog, and since then we have shared several beery adventures. One trip took in the delights of Prague, Brno and Southern Moravia, while more recently me met up in Paris to wander the streets and down many pints. During our initial trip to Ireland we went to Galway and found the most perfect pub on the planet. Sheridan's on the Docks, now sadly departed, had Budvar and Galway Hooker on tap, a peat fire and the rugby on the tv, it was simply idyllic. At the end of the trip Mrs V and I met with the eponymous Beer Nut and Barry, an Irishman writing about beer life in Germany having Bitten the Bullet.

Within weeks of moving to Charlottesville, we had met with one E.S. Delia, and his lovely wife to be, whose blog Relentless Thirst gave me plenty of insight before moving over. Eric had commented on Fuggled before we moved and invited us to his rooftop tasting. Meeting and getting to know Eric has been one of the highlights of life in Virginia.

I could wax lyrical about the people I have met, and friends I have made as a result of beer, but one story stands out. As you may know I work at the Starr Hill tasting room occasionally. Last year, I was there for my one day that month and my colleague asked me to come and chat with a customer, a fellow Brit. A couple of minutes later my colleague asked me where I thought the customer was from. Given the slight London/Estuary thing going on his voice, I assumed he was from the south-east corner. The customer's response was "I'm Scottish", and through a series of questions and stunned responses it transpired that we had both grown up in the Outer Hebrides, from adjacent islands and he had been 2 years ahead of me at school. We know a lot of the same people and happened to meet in the brewery on the one day of that month I was working. He is now my regular drinking buddy here.

That's what beer means to me, and by extension blogging about it. The people I have met. Beer people are good people, and this blog has opened many doors to meet them. That then is what drives me, writing not just for myself, but for the people I have met and hope one day to meet.

This month's Session is being hosted by the guys at Brewpublic and the theme is "what drives beer bloggers?".

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Local - Guest Blog

Ah, Prague, city of a thousand spires, the golden city, the place I still think of as being "home" (in some loose, woolly sense of course). A city of writers, thinkers and drinkers, Kafka, Havel and Hrabal. A city with pubs on most street corners and some in between corners in case you need refreshment from one corner to the next. Enough with the misty eyed reminiscences, this week's guest blogger is often known as Max, though perhaps more often known as Pivní Filosof. I have shared many a pint with Max, not to mention beer spirits at festivals in Plzeň, so it is my pleasure to hand Fuggled over to him for a few hundred words.

Other than the pub in the village I lived at the time (a great place where we had our wedding reception and we still visit every year on that day's anniversary), my first local in Prague was U Pětníka, a small pub near the Dejvická metro station.

I was introduced to it by a friend and it was love at first pint. The place is rather small, welcoming, with solid food and great atmosphere. They also had very good Staropramen 10o tanková. I spent many a great evening there, until InBev decided to turn the Smíchov brand into the Czech version of Brahma, which made me go in search of greener pastures.

By that time my beer horizons were expanding and one day I came across Pivovarsky Klub, which became my local after the first sip of I don't remember now which beer. At the time, this place was something unheard of, six taps! and all with stuff from small and micro breweries. I would go every week just to see what was new. I made friends there, got in "ahoj" terms with some of the staff and sometimes could spend hours chatting with them or the owner. What a great place, to this day, and it would still be my local if in April 2008 I hadn't found Zly ?asy.

Today this pub in Nusle is almost an international celebrity. It was ranked by RateBeer among the Top 40 pubs in the world and it came out in first place in a recent survey carried out by a Czech newspaper. Things were very different three and a half years ago. The pub had just come out of its contract with Staropramen and Pilsner Urquell and were just getting into the "?tvrtá pípa" thing. They had Kácov and a couple more things, but not only I felt this was just the beginning of something good, but the atmosphere of this cellar reminded me a lot of U Pětníka's and made me realise how much I was missing a place like that. It didn't take much for Zly ?asy to become my new local.

With time I've met many of the regulars and I know that whenever I drop by for a pint I will find someone to chat with. I also have to honour of always having a place at the ?tamgasty table and also to be counted among Hanz's friends. He's Zly ?asy's owner, a great guy who knows a thing or two about beer and loves and loves what he does, but above all, who wants to do things the best possible way. I've talked to him countless times about his plans, his ideas, I've even helped him find suppliers for some of the imported beers, always sitting in that deep cellar, beer in hand.

Since that first visit I've seen Zly ?asy grow to become what it is today, one of the finest pubs in the world, but at heart, it is still that same neighbourhood dive I fell in love with back then.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Of Horses and Ships

My good friend Max over at Pivni Filosof is asking the following question today on his blog:

"If you had a brewery with a capacity of 3-5hl a batch, what sort of beer would you have as your "workhorse"* and which would be your "flagship" and why?"

As a beer lover and homebrewer it is the kind of question which inevitably crops up fairly often, usually though in the context of the kinds of brews that would form the core range. Having to decide though on two beers to really be the heart of the line up is more challenging.

As with any business plan, it is important to consider your market and what they expect when they drink beer from your brewery. It would be all too simple to say, I live in America therefore I need a big hoppy pale ale. You have to remember that I live in Virginia, and so what are the local beer tastes? Given the success of the core ranges of Devils Backbone, Starr Hill and Blue Mountain, one thing is clear - lager has a following in this neck of the woods.

Again it would be too simple to extraoplate from that and give in to my love of Czech lagers by making my workhorse something akin to Budvar or the magnificent Kout na ?umavě desitka. I am not convinced that the majority of the American public really understand pilsner lagers, equating them with brands like Miller and Budweiser.

Dark lagers though are very much taken to, if our experience of brewing Morana and the Barclays London Dark Lager at Devils Backbone was anything to go on. Both 10 hectolitre batches sold out in less than a month if I recall. Thus I would  make my workhorse beer a Czech tmavé.

As for my flagship beer, I think this is the right venue for allowing my preferences more rein, and so this decision is easier in many ways, though my market still needs to be considered. I love history and brewing beers based on recipes from years gone by, so my flagship beer would be something from the 19th century, some from Scotland perhaps, something to confound the expectations of know it all beer bores who think Scottish beer is all about sweetness and a lack of hops. I would recreate William Younger's 140/- ale from 1868, which Ron Pattinson wrote about.

So there you go, a dark lager and a historic beer to mess with peoples preconceived notions of a nation's brewing traditions.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going Round the Bend

This weekend I will be going to my first beer festival since the wonderful, and pissed up, Slunce ve Skle in 2008 - when I first met Pivní Filosof, Honza Ko?ka and some random Czech bloke insisting that none of beers at the festival were as good as Pilsner Urquell, even as he was putting them away with the best of them. That was also the night when I went and bought a bottle of beer liqueur which was 28% and tasted like boozy Benedryl - I liked it, as did Pivní Filosof, though I believe he has no recollection of this.

Now, unlike the entire twitterverse seemingly, I am not flying up to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, rather I am driving down the road to the slightly less metropolitan Scottsville for the somewhat more local event, the River Bend Beer Festival. I am perfectly prepared to say that big events like the GABF have their place, it's just not the kind of place you are ever likely to find me, simply because I hate huge crowds. It doesn't matter what the event is, I have some kind of mental cut off point where I don't want to be surrounded by a massive crowd. The same is true with things like open air markets, I like them, but I will deliberately go early in the morning to avoid the crowds (the fact that generally you get the best stuff then is entirely incidental).

I also find that I like the ethos of an event such as the River Bend Beer Festival because it is about Virginian craft beer. The event will be showcasing 11 Virginian breweries, including 3 of the local brewers, as well as having live music during both sessions on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I mentioned in a previous post that the Tops of the Hops event here in Charlottesville was slightly disingenuous in advertising 150 craft beers being available, and then including the likes of Pilsner Urquell and Blue Moon in that list, whereas River Bend are committed to Virginia beer and only Virginia beer - supporting local companies.

One of the brewers whose wares I am particularly looking forward to sampling is Shooting Creek Farm Brewery, having heard good things about them from a couple of people. I have also heard good things about Jefferson Street Brewery from Lynchburg, and I need to correct the fact that I have never tried a beer from the St George Brewing company down in Hampton.

I will be at the festival on Friday night, when they have their Connoisseur tasting session, partly in a business mode because the company I work for are sponsoring the event, and we also re-designed the festival website. So for my local readers, if you are going on Friday night, pop over to the Category 4 table and say hello, but most of all come down and support Virginia's craft brewers.

By the way, both pictures were taken at Slunce ve Skle, it was bloody freezing that day, but bloody fantastic as well, which is also this weekend and I believe there is something starting in Munich this weekend as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Homebrewers of the World Unite!

I had a thought yesterday evening, and yes it hurt. I guess most of the people who read Fuggled are more than just beer lovers, they are also home brewers - I know for a fact of at least 10 regular readers who also make their own brew, not to mention the two or three professional brewers who are also part of the Fuggled community.

Several of these home brew/pro-brew bods have given me invaluable tips and advice for improving my beer making, whether discussing ingredients, brewing techniques or methods for dispensing the amber nectar. It was this sense of community that got me thinking about organising an international home brewing project.

The project would be something along the lines of the multi-blog beer reviews I have done in the past with blogs like Pivní Filosof and The Bitten Bullet. However, instead of writing about the same beer and posting our review on the same day, this project would be to brew the same beer, on the same day, each brewer using their own preferred methods (whether all grain or extract with grains) and each brewer using their preferred yeast. The beer in question would sit in primary fermentation for 14 days before being bottled, then after 3 weeks of conditioning, each participating blogger would review their brew - whether they do it just themselves or get a group of people to try the beer and give their views would be entirely up to their whimsy.

Assuming the people I am thinking of would be interested in such a project we could have the same beer brewed in the US, Ireland, the UK, Germany and maybe the Czech Republic - it would also give us more insight into water differences, the influence of yeast on the same base ingredients and various other interesting questions. For those of us in geographical proximity to participants, we could trade beers and then write about those as well.

If you are interested in taking part in the project, then either leave a comment to this post, or drop me an email. The sharp of sight among you will have noticed a poll in the top left of the page, to decide which style of ale we will make (that is my only executive decision, we will be making an ale as opposed to a lager - largely because I don't have the technical necessities to do so!). You we see on the poll that to begin with I have rather broad beer styles to select from, the next decision will be which beer type from within the chosen group will be made.

So, let me know if you are interested, and cast your vote for the beer style to be made, and let's get this started.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The 300

People quite often ask me what my blog is about, usually the conversation comes out something like this:

"I write a beer blog"
"oh, cool, so what do you write about?"
"mainly beer, pubs and brewing at home"

I probably spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about this blog, which was fine when I was unemployed, but now I have to squeeze blogging time into the wee hours of the morning before Mrs Velkyal gets up and we head off to work together - an incurable romantic perhaps, but I love the fact that we head out to work together. The question, however, remains; what is Fuggled about?

First and foremost, Fuggled is about me. I have met some of my regular readers, whether by design or them turning up at the Starr Hill tasting room and telling me they read Fuggled, or even by complete random chance as happened one night in PK, I hope that my personality is evident from the things I write about, because they are some of the things I care about as well. I do have another couple of blogs, one dealing with my religious issues, and the other kind of a catch all for the stuff that doesn't go here or there. I love writing, and while I accept that I am not in the Douglas Coupland (imagine his beer reviews!) league, I think I am a fairly decent writer. I am something of an opinionated git at times, which I guess helps to keep the content flowing for a blogger.

Of course beer is at the heart of Fuggled, not necessarily craft beer, not even necessarily "good" beer, just beer, the people that drink it, the places they drink it in - I love to watch people and I love a pint, so pubs crop up regular in my wafflings (which you may have noticed is the number 1 label on here).

From re-reading my early posts, it is evident that the beginnings of Fuggled was my ambition to make my own beer - to start with I wanted to make stout because in April of last year it was difficult to get stout in Prague, and what there was would mean going to one of the Oirish bars in the centre of the city. Out of my plan to make my own beer came wandering around various pubs in the city and discovering lots of good beer and plenty of good people, especially Rob, Evan and Pivni Filosof. So home brewing is very much key to Fuggled, I don't always post my recipes or even tasting notes, but it is always there, lurking in the background.

So there we go, in some small way, Fuggled is about me, my tastes in beer, my home brewing experiences, my thoughts on pub life wherever I happen to be at the time. As for today's title, nothing to do with Spartan warriors, but rather than since 10th April, 2008 I have now written 300 posts - a small milestone for sure, but one I am happy to have got to, and hopefully the next 300 will be just as much fun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Better in the Bottle

A few weeks before Mrs Velkyal and I got on the plane to Atlanta, I was sat in PK with Evan, drinking the Primátor Weizen, commenting that it was one of the beers I knew I would miss - really it is that good! Evan mentioned that an esteemed beer blogger/writer (can't remember who it was though) wasn't unduly impressed with it when he had it on draft. Evan then said something along the lines of wheat beer generally being better from the bottle, which of course goes against the grain of so much received wisdom when it comes to beer, but I have to agree.

Most of you probably know that I work at weekends for the Starr Hill brewery, where I serve samples of the brewery's range to visitors, just little 2oz servings of each. When I went to meet the guys there about the job they treated me to a sample of all the beers available in the tasting room, including their wheat beer pictured above. The Love is a perfectly respectable wheat beer, clean, refreshing and enough to make me long for proper bratwurst from an imbissbude on the streets of Dresden (just outside Hauptbahnhof there is a fantastic little snack stand that does a sublime currywurst). I say proper bratwurst because the "brats" I have bought in the shops over here are nothing like the bratwurst I grew up on as a kid in Celle and have an ongoing love affair with (yes, yes I am a Germanophile).

Every time I am working, I have to explain exactly what a wheat beer is, usually followed by the question "what is in the other beers then?", and tell visitors that the bananas and cloves they are experiencing are perfectly normal, and that the slight bubblegum touch is also ok, often much to their wonderment.

Perhaps it is the comfort of drinking at home, although I much prefer being in the pub, even if I am not paying "Tesco prices" to use Cooking Lager's oft mentioned phrase, but I am convinced that The Love is a better beer from the bottle than from the tap. The banana and clove are as present as on tap, but there is just something more lively, slightly more in your face when you pour it from the bottle, and perhaps a touch more body, which fills out the beer perfectly.

The Love very much embodies what Evan and I were discussing that afternoon in PK, and is a very welcome part of my little cellar of treats. Popping open the bottle you see in the pictures last night just brought that whole conversation back, and made me a little nostalgic for the many sessions I had with Evan, Rob and Pivní Filosof in various bars in Prague.

If you haven't already, have a look at the Fuggled calendars(the Lulu links in the corner) and buy one - great photography and a good present for your beer loving mates!

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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bombed and Hacked

Yesterday, after work and a couple of errands, I met up with Evan, Pivní Filosof and Rob - with whom I have shared many enjoyable drinking sessions (including the infamous finishing off of a pub's remaining Primátor Stout and wondering why it was labelled as "coffee beer"). The aim was for Evan to introduce us to the delights of the American IPA, more specifically the IPAs of the Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, also into the mix, as an example of a more straight IPA I brought along a few bottles of Belhaven Twisted Thistle.

Being completely disorganised yesterday, I didn't bring a camera with me, nor did I bring my tasting notes book, so you'll get fuller descriptions of the beer on the blogs of the other guys.

We started out with the weakest of the quartet, the Twisted Thistle, which is made with Challenger and Cascade hops and weighs in at only 5.3%. I thought it rather nice IPA, the kind of beer you could happily sup away on all night.

Next up was the Stone IPA, and this was a world apart from every standard British IPA, not to mention every Czech made American IPA I have had in Prague. Big on the hops, and it was at this point that I discovered what marijuana tastes like, apparently. I have never been one for smoking, although I love the smell of pipe smoke. I was expecting a lot more citrus and bitterness - to be honest I was expecting it to be like sucking lemons, but it was suprisingly smooth and while not a beer for a Friday night session at 6.9%ABV, it was certainly very drinkable, and one I would like to try on draught.

Following on from the standard Stone IPA was the Cali-Belique IPA, which from what I understand is basically the normal Stone IPA fermented with a Belgian yeast, hence the name. The difference that the yeast made was very pronounced, again the apparent marijuana touch was there, but this time I was reminded of the Rochefort ales, with lots of cocoa on the nose. As the four of us sat around the kitchen table, we discussed using different yeasts with the same basic ingredients and seeing what the results would be - which has me concocting all manner of plans for my homebrew when I get to the US in the summer.

The last of the Stone brews was Ruination. Evan had warned us that this would be last as the bitterness would effectively render our tastebuds redundant. Again I was expecting something quite different on the bitterness front, and found that the maltiness of the beer, despite playing second fiddle to the hops, made the beer quite smooth and refreshing.

Throughout the tasting session we all had cans of Pilsner Urquell available, so that we could compare the hoppiness of a beer we all know quite well with that of the IPAs on the table. To put it bluntly, by the time we got to the Ruination, the PU was distinctly awful, and smelt rather similar to the boiling wort at U Medvídk? last Thursday. With time winding down on our tasting session, and our tastebuds being gently soothed by Bernard ?erné, Evan decided to open a bottle of his hacked Porter. Very interesting, but I will let Evan tell the full story of this experiment when he gets round to it.

Rob and I then sloped off to Pivovarsky klub to finish off their version of an American IPA - in the interests of research naturally. In a similar vein to last Wednesday and Thursday, there really are few pleasures as worthwhile as sitting with fellow beer lovers drinking excellent beer and discussing whatever comes up.

To sum up, a wonderful evening.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Primátor Stout Update 2

Thanks for this information from Pivní Filosof.

Primátor Stout can be bought at the Billa on Korunní in Prague 3 - see the map:

The Billa is just on the corner of Korunní and Sobetecká.

The price is 18.90k? per bottle, plus 3k? for the bottle itself - so essentially 22k? for very nice stout.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Liquid Lunch

Something I have not done in a long time is have a liquid lunch, however I had to meet up with Pivní Filosof to give him a bottle of , so we met up in Zly ?asy and had a couple of pints while we were at it.

The highlight of the lunch was the magnificent Hukvaldy 14o amber lager, and what a pint it was! The glass placed in front of me was filled with a beautiful dark brown beer topped by a tight knit white head that basically stopped any aromas getting through, although as the head lessened there was a distinct toffee touch to the nose. Drink this stuff was pure nectar, like sticky toffee pudding in a glass, smooth, sweet and with a fragrant bitterness which offset the sweetness perfectly.

If only every lunchtime were so good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunshine in a Glass - Part Deux

I came to Plzeň with a very definite plan in mind; stage one, drink Purkmistr beers on the Friday night; stage two, drink the others on the Saturday and try everything available; stage three, have enough material to write at least five blog entries. Stage one was an abject failure, for reasons I mentioned yesterday, i.e. they had different beers than were available in their pub on the Friday night. Stage two was reasonably successful, I enjoyed beers from at least 5 of the other brewers attending the event, and one brewer in particular has found a special place in my beer drinking soul.

One of the most challenging things of Saturday was writing down my notes about each beer, it was somewhat chilly and looking back at my scribblings, some of them are indecipherable. Anyway here are my assorted highlights, leaving aside Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf, which we will deal with tomorrow. First up was the "Staro?eské bilé pivo" from the Pivovrek Velky Rybnik, bilé pivo here means wheat beer and it was actually rather nice to see them using the old name for wheat beer – once upon a time wheat beers were “white” and barley beers were “red”. The beer itself was very reminiscent of the German style wheats I have learnt to thoroughly enjoy over the last year or so. It poured a cloudy dark yellow with a nice white head, the nose was clearly citrusy, which carried over in the first mouthful, tart and refreshing – it would have be perfect on a sunny day, which unfortunately Saturday wasn’t.

One of the brewers I was particularly keen to try out was Kout na ?umavě, which Evan Rail has waxed lyrical about over on Beer Culture. They had three beers on offer, and so I plumped for their filtered 12° lager, and a very nice chat with I assume the owner. I am sure the virtues of Kout na ?umavě have been extolled in many places, but this for me was as close to Bohemian lager perfection as I have ever experienced, pouring a dark golden with a tight rocky head. In the mouth it was sheer lager delight, I am not sure I have enjoyed a pint of bottom-fermented beer so much for a long time. Pivní Filosof had told me that this was a good beer, and boy was he right – for anyone who thinks that lager is pale and insipid this stuff should be made compulsory drinking.

Next on my list of notes is a 13° dark lager from ?elezná Ruda, a very dark beer which had a light tan head that never fully disappeared. Sticking my nose into the glass, having bought a nice 0.3l Purkmistr glass specially, the overwhelming aroma was Italian roasted coffee, which was complemented in the mouth by the gentlest chocolate flavour, which made the beer very smooth in the mouth and a very satisfying drink. One of the highlights of the day though was a 14° wheat beer from U Rybi?ek in St?ibro. Unlike the Velky Rybnik wheat, this one came served with a slice of lemon chucked in the top. When I got back to our table, where myself and Pivní Filosof were happily swapping beers and making notes, one of the Czech guys at our table was horrified at the sight of the lemon floating in the beer. Even with allowing for the lemon, this had a sweet citrus nose, which reminded me of thick cut orange marmalade, a fact which was backed up by the taste. Again a refreshing wheat beer, but being stronger than others I have tried was more filling.

As a result of these various tastings I will be wandering around the Czech Republic to try out the rest of these brewers beers, in particular I am looking forward to getting down to Kout na ?umavě and enjoying copious amounts of their 12°.

One thing that constantly came to mind on Saturday was the fact that Czechs make wonderful beers, yet the vast majority of Czechs are convinced that mega-brands like Gambrinus and Staropramen are fantastic. So entrenched is this brand loyalty that at the festival one of the guys at our table was almost feverish in his claims that while the beers available were good, they were not as good as Pilsner Urquell. Yes Czechs make great beer, but the mega brands are not among them and the wider audience the smaller brewers can attract the better. After all, is this not one of the key tenets of capitalism, that competitions improves consumer choice? But consumer choice is worthless without consumer education.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunshine in a Glass - Part 1

As I wrote about on Friday, I spent this weekend in Plzeň so that Mrs Velkyal and I could go to an event called Slunce ve Skle, a microbrew festival whose title translates as "Sunshine in a Glass". Although the event itself was on Saturday, we went on Friday night and stayed in the Purkmistr Hotel and Brewery. My plan was to try all the Purkmistr beers on the Friday night, leaving Saturday free to enjoy the offerings from the other brewers.

So Friday night Mrs Velkyal and I enjoyed a very nice dinner, both of us are fans of fried cheese – on Friday I had fried Niva, a type of blue cheese. All the Purkmistr beers I tried on Friday night were 12° and I tried the pale lager, amber lager and the dark lager – all three of which are wonderful beers.

First up was the pale lager, svetlé in Czech, which pours a beautiful golden and has a bright white head. In a country where practically every brewery makes a 12° light lager it is rather easy to become blasé about it. This one however was very nice, with a slight bitterness which makes it a very refreshing and easy to drink lager, in fact I could quite believe that it is too easy to drink – especially as I polished off 5 half liters of the stuff over the course of the next few hours.

Next up was the amber lager, polotmavé in Czech, which is slightly more red than amber and crowned with a tight ivory head, making smelling anything coming from the beer a near impossibility. I have become a fan of polotmavé in recent months, primarily due to the excellent 13° made by Primator, well the Purkmistr version is better. That is not to take anything away from Primator’s beer, but this one is very smooth and has a wonderful sweet maltiness offset by a gentle hoppiness. In common with the pale lager, this is a very easy beer to drink, and every drop is a pleasure.

Purkmistr’s dark beer, ?erné or tmavé in Czech, is very dark – sometimes dark lagers can be watery looking, but this one looked solid and had hints of burgundy and a tan head. There is a distinct hint of coffee on the nose, which is backed up in the drinking. The coffee though is not overpowering and in the background is the merest hint of cocoa. The body is not as full and strong as some over Czech dark lagers, but it is still a filling beer – ideal for a nightcap.

On Saturday itself came the Purkmistr guys also had a couple of specialty beers available, a blueberry beer, and a rauchbier, it also became clear that the weather had no intention of living up to the festival name, it was cold and grey - perfect weather for grilled suasages with the beer! The rauch pours a beautiful deep garnet colour and has a light tan head, which stops any hint of the smoked malt aromas from escaping from the beer, the touches that do manage to get out are very light. In the mouth however the smoke is far more pronounced, although nowhere near as in your face as a Schlenkerla M?rzen for example, and it does catch in the back of your throat. This is an excellent rauchbier, but not one that I would want to drink for a full session. The blueberry beer, bor?vkové in Czech was also very nice, red in colour and with a tinge of pink in the head, the nose was fruity but not in an overpowering sense, and in the mouth the blueberries were clearly to the fore, but without being so sweet that it became sickly.
All the Purkmistr beers were very good, and the hotel itself is beautiful and well worth shelling out to stay there. The event itself was excellent as well and in the coming days I will talk more about the various beers we tried, when I say we I don’t just mean Mrs Velkyal and I. We had the pleasure to meet Pivní Filosof, whose blog is an excellent read and heartily recommended. With the various friends we had persuaded to make the arduous trip out to Plzeň (some expats in Prague get vertigo if they leave the city centre), we ended up with a cosmpolitan group of a few Brits, a smattering of Americans, a Norwegian, a Venezuelan, an Argentine and a couple of Czechs. All of us enjoying superb beers and having a wonderful time – the more events like this that take place in the Czech Republic the better.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Klaster redux

I think it is fairly obvious by now that I am not a big fan of Klaster. I do however try to keep an open mind and so when Pivni Filosof commented that he really likes Klaster I decided that I should make an effort to go beyond the 12o on which I had based my views. Thus last night doing the shopping I noticed Klaster for sale, and I bought a bottle of their 11o - at the insane price of 12kc, which works out at about 40p for British readers, or $0.70 for the Americans, and the Europeans have it at €0.50.

Having chilled the bottle thoroughly, I poured it into Mrs Velkyal's Pilsner Urquell glass and got very little head - I don't know whether it is my pouring technique, the glass or the beer but with Klaster I always get a pants head - and I am of the opinion that a properly poured lager should have plenty of foamy joy.

So it was I took my first mouthful, and I was shocked that I quite liked it and I commented to Mrs Velkyal that perhaps I had misjudged Klaster, ok it is never going to be a regular drink I thought but it isn't that bad. However I was to be ultimately disappointed, as the drink wore on it became just another half decent lager - not one I would go out of my way to drink. By the time I got to the very end of the drink it had become decidedly soapy and I was once again left with a deflated feeling.

When I mentioned to Mrs Velkyal that I just didn't enjoy Klaster beers she reminded me that on our trip to the Eggenberg Brewery in ?esky Krumlov I wasn't too enamored with the pale lagers they produce, only to really enjoy their dark lager. So next I must hunt out a Klaster Tmave and continue the research.

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...