Showing posts with label primator. Show all posts
Showing posts with label primator. Show all posts

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh for crying out loud!!

Love 'em or hate 'em, beer styles are part and parcel of life for the beer aficionado. Styles should be a product of a communal consensus as to what makes, for example, a stout a stout rather than a porter, and while I sympathise with those who see limited value in styles, they do give a frame of reference, a sitz im leben if you want to get hermeneutic, for what are the accepted parameters for a beer.

The one thing though that makes me rant and rave about beer styles is when beers are misplaced within the beer category world. Take for example the current edition of All About Beer, which I pick up from time to time at my local Barnes and Noble. This edition has a "Buyer's Guide for Beer Lovers" about the many varied strains of lager out there on the market place, such styles as "pale lager", "pilsner" (I promise not to get into provenance and authenticity here), as well as a few bock variants.

Gripe number 1 is putting Primátor Premium Lager in the pale lager category, while Staropramen Lager apparently belongs in the pilsner category. Now, those of us who know something of the Czech brewing scene, and if I am mistaken I am sure emails will be arriving fairly quickly, will know that when a brewery from outside Plzen labels their beer "premium", then you can be fairly sure that it is their 12o version of the original, especially when said brewery also has a lower gravity lager available.

Gripe 2, when giving a history lesson, please, please, please get your history right. When describing the Baltic Porter category, apparently "traditional lager-making breweries along the export route [from the UK to Russia] developed their own version of the style". Firstly, the style was developed in the UK and was picked up as a top fermented beer in the 18th century by brewers on the route. It wasn't until many breweries switched over to bottom fermenting in the second half of the 19th century that Baltic Porter became a predominantly "lager" style beer, though some places still make it as a top fermented ale, mostly in Sweden.

Gripe 3 - this is a quote from a review for Colorado K?lsch, which describes k?lsch as being a "response to the popular pilsners being produced in the Czech Republic in the 1840s". Historically speaking, bollocks, bollocks and more bollocks. There was only 1 pilsner being brewed in Bohemia in the 1840s, strangely it was a beer called Pilsner, from the town of Pilsen, to use the name of the city at the time. There were no doubt other lagers aplenty, but only one pilsner. Secondly, there was no Czech Republic in the 1840s, there was Bohemia, a multi-ethnic part of the Austrian Empire (the Austro-Hungarian bit turned up in 1867), the Czech Republic however didn't exist until 1993 to be strict about these things.

My last gripe, or rather the last gripe that I will share with you good people, came from the regional winners of the USBTC winner for the "Bitter/ESB" category in the Mid-Atlantic/Southeast region. The beer in question is one I have written about before, Starr Hill's Pale Ale. Now, Starr Hill Pale Ale is a perfectly decent pale ale, it has plenty of the citrus hoppiness you would expect from a pale ale made in the US - anybody else seeing my issue here? If I were to put Fuller's style defining ESB next to Pale Ale, they simply would not be considered expressions of the same style. Whoever decided to label this beer a Bitter/ESB (and don't get me started on the differences between Bitter, Best Bitter and ESB), really needs a trip to the UK to discover the glories of Bitter in its natural environment.

Here endeth the lesson. The lesson being "get your bloody facts right!"

Now that I have calmed myself a bit, I am planning which beer to have this evening as the doctor says I can have a beer a couple of times a week - will it be homebrew, Budvar or a nice hoppy American IPA?

The agonies of choice.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Wheat Beer

Ah wheat beer, that once disregarded style which has become my preferred summer tipple - though I must admit a preference for German style weissbier as opposed to the Belgian wits, not sure why to be honest, that's just the way it is.

My three contenders for this award are:
I only discovered the Sierra Nevada Kellerweis a couple of weeks ago when Mrs Velkyal and I were down in Columbia, South Carolina, for Thanksgiving, with our friend Dr Gary having come over from the UK. I was planning to write a full post about the beer, using the title "The Importance of Being Authentic" because of the many American wheat beers I have had, this is the only one that bore any resemblance to the Bavarian style, and it comes with a lovely dose of hefe to swill into the beer.

Primátor's Weizen was a regular tipple for much of the first 6 months of the this year, whether on tap or in the bottle - it is really easy drinking and always satisfying. I said before I moved to the US that I already knew this would be one of the beers I would miss from the Czech Republic, and so it has proven.

Schneider Weisse first came across my path this year when the parents' of one of the Mrs Velkyal's kids in Prague brought a few bottles back from Germany for me one weekend. Of the various German weizens I have had this is one of the most packed with flavour and given that Beer Run had it on tap last time I was there I indulged in several pints, lingering over and enjoying each and every one.

An extremely tricky decision this one, extremely tricky, but when it comes down to it there can be only one (said in a faux franco-scottish accent):
  1. Schneider Weisse
Similar to the choice of O'Hara's yesterday, sometimes only a classic interpretation of a style will do.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lights! Darks! Cut!

I wonder if you are anything like me. I guess you are in some ways, after all you are reading this blog, so I guess you like beer, I like beer; perhaps you brew your own, as do I - though I hope yours turn out better than my last effort; but do you pick up beer in the shop purely on the strength of having a funky bottle or label? I have done this to great effect with CDs, for example I picked up the Envy of Angels album by The Mutton Birds purely because I liked the atmospheric photo on the cover. It was that whimsy which took hold of me in Florida in July and as a result I bought a bottle of something called Mississippi Mud.

Reading the blurb, this was a "black and tan", a blend of a robust porter and a continental pilsner which I found intriguing as I always thought a black and tan was part pale ale and part stout, but I guess any blend of light and dark can be called a black and tan - thinking here of the guys in the Starr Hill tasting room on Saturday who blended our stout with the special saison we had on tap. Czechs do a similar thing with a pale lager and a dark lager, which can be an excellent alternative to drinking the straight up pale lager, most definitely the case at Zlata!

But what of this goodly looking 1 quart (that's almost a litre there for the Brits/Euros/RoW) bottle in front of me?

Well here goes with the Cyclops fun and games:

  • Sight - deep crimson, tiny ivory head
  • Smell - toffee, chocolate, light lemoniness
  • Taste - smooth chocolate with crisp lager bite
  • Sweetness - 3.5/5
  • Bitterness - 3/5
What a lovely surprise this was, almost like a slightly more bitey (is that a word?) Hobgoblin, it has all the big flavours you associate with a porter but a slightly thinner body that makes it very easy to drink. Part of me would love to dry mixing Pardubicky Porter with Primátor Exklusiv or similar to make the ultimate big hitting Czech black and tan (without the legal strictures of making a ?ezák with beers of the same gravity of course)!

As I say, it was the bottle that caught my attention here, and the bottle itself will be put to good use for making starters for my homebrew so hopefully I can avoid stuck fermentation in the future.

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!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Praise for My Favourite Breweries

Last year Primator won Best Lager in the World in the World Beer Awards, in this year's edition of the awards the guys from Nachod get more praise for their range of beers.

First is the World's Best Oatmeal Stout for the new Primator Stout, which Evan, Pivni Filosof and myself have enjoyed many a fine pint of (note however that the brewery themselves class it as a dry stout!).

They also won World's Best Marzen/Oktoberfest for their very quaffable 13 degree amber lager.

Fuller's weigh in with a World's Best Special Pale Ale, namely their wonderful 1845 - a rich delight of a beer which belies its strength.

Also given a "World's Best" is the fantastic Gold Reserve from Lovibonds - well done Jeff!

Good to see brewers like Lovibonds and Primator getting the recognition they deserve beyond their core markets, and of course seeing the likes of Fuller's keeping up their reputation.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Tipsy Terrace Tasting

One of the most pressing things to get done this week before moving on was polishing off the varied beers still sitting around Mrs Velkyal and I's flat. My problem though was how to do it? I had basically three options:

  1. sell them
  2. give them away
  3. drink them

Admittedly I did give a few bottles away. However, I decided that the most prudent way of dealing with the situation was to drink them, but better to gather a few friends keen to try different beers from around Europe and introduce them to some of these delights. Thus it was that last night I went round to my good friend place to sit on his expansive balcony with another couple of guys and attempt to get through 25 beers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Scotland, England and Denmark.

Unfortunately we only managed to get through 14 of the beers, some pictures of which grace this post.

There was however one other beer on the list which I wanted the guys to try, the uninfected, though wildly over-carbonated, version of my Skippy Porter. I had previously only tried this beer with Evan Rail, who was very complimentary about it even though it erupted all over his kitchen floor. This time I was prepared, and opened the bottle in a flower pot, without flowers of course. Once again Skippy was a hit, with the guys saying it was one their favourite beers of the night, the smooth chocolate flavours I was aiming for were right up there, and the Fuggles bitterness was just right to add some bite. I initially thought that I wouldn't be brewing this beer very often, but given the reaction it gets I think I will have to simply refine the recipe and start making it in preparation for winter. I am finding now that I get more pleasure from my friends enjoying my beer than hoarding it all to myself in some attempt to save money on beer.

Thankfully I know that Mark and his family will be in the States for a few months at the end of the year, so our beer tasting will no doubt be repeated, hopefully with the added bonus of a couple of bottles of Strahov's Autumn Dark Special! On the menu already for when we sit on the patio in our new place will be my planned American style IPA loaded with Amarillo hops, also some more Skippy Porter as well as my first Irish Red Ale, tentatively called Mrs Velkyal's Red Hat.

Every prospect pleases!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Would You Do?

My good friend, and superb photographer, Mark recently asked me what styles of beer I would introduce if I were in charge of Primátor? What a challenging idea, and I am not sure how I responded at the time apart from saying I would introduce an imperial stout as their Christmas special rather than simply re-labelling their Premium lager. Having taken some time to reflect further on this question, here are some suggestions.

Primátor market themselves at the "Speciality Specialists", which given their excellent Weizen, Stout and English Pale Ale brands certainly marks them out from the rest of the Czech brewing - I should point out of course that there is Kocour and other micros producing great ales, but we are talking about a brewer with a more extensive reach here. With that marketing in mind, I would firstly slim down the range of standard strength lagers to just the Premium, Tmávé and the 13˚ Polotmávé. That would include ditching the new 11˚ lager, even though it is a good beer, after all if you are the speciality specialists, why do what everyone else including Gambrinus, Budvar, Svijany and Kozel are doing? Some will no doubt cry that there is a market, and true enough there is, but what is special about doing that which is becoming run of the mill?

Regarding the range of strong lagers, I would focus on the award winning 16˚ Exklusiv at the expense of the 21˚ Rytí?sky, and begin introducing it to export markets - particularly the new 33ml bottle version. I am thinking primarily here of the British and Irish markets where strong lagers certainly have their following, perhaps not the elegant eloquent quaffers like us though.

Thankfully the guys at Primátor have already started addressing one cause of confusion with their wonderfully rich 24˚ Double, which is now being sold as a Baltic Porter. Previously the label referred to it as a Special Dark Beer, while Ratebeer and BeerAdvocate list it as a Doppelbock and Euro Dark Lager respectively. With that slight confusion cleared up, this 10.5%ABV heavyweight can take on the likes of Pardubicky Porter - and indeed will be doing so in a taste test soon here, alongside the German variant Neuzeller Porter.

Having dealt with the current range, we turn to what new products would I introduce to their slimmed down selection of beers? Firstly, as I said above, I would start producing a special Imperial Stout Christmas Beer to replace the lame re-labelled effort currently used, and no that wouldn't mean re-labelling the Double and packaging it in a smaller bottle. As for other options it would be too easy to let my imagination run riot and suggest things involving rauchmalt, fruit or any number of weird and wonderful ingredients, but I feel that for a company the size of Primátor it is better to make excellent examples of recognised styles for an already conservative market.

As such I would probably look at introducing an IPA to the range, probably an American version with plenty of C-hops and Amarillo for citrusy zing. Given that they already make beer style from England, Germany and Ireland, perhaps looking for inspiration in the other major European brewing countries would also be a possibility - a Belgian Abbey Ale, a 90/- Scottish ale or a French Biere de Garde even?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pilsner and Primátor

I popped into PK last night and proceeded to horrify the staff by ordering a mineral water - I was out on Wednesday night and really didn't feel like more beer. Interesting news though for fans of Pilsner Urquell is that PK currently has the unfiltered version available, and to quote my friend who was drinking it "that is a completely different beer!". They also have the Purkmistr dark on tap as well, so well worth getting along to try them.

Next week however, U Radnice in ?i?kov is having a special week of beers from Primátor and according to the board outside the pub they will have the following:

There were possibly some others but I can't remember them off the top of my head. Definitely not a bad start to my minimum two months of leisure as a victim of the credit crunch.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Herold Wheat Beer, Contender?

I was right royally bored out of my mind on Thursday afternoon.

Mrs Velkyal was at work and I had done everything that needed doing that day, so I bought myself a copy of the Guardian and headed to Lipy for some Kout na ?umavě and to see if I could complete the crossword quicker than usual - 12 minutes is my average (and yes I mean the quick crossword in G2, cryptic crosswords are not something I excel at).

With the crossword done, I arranged to meet Mrs V at Pivovarsky klub for dinner as I simply couldn't be bothered with going to the shop and cooking, plus I had a craving for some Primátor weizen, but they didn't have it on tap that day, rather their weizen of choice was the born again Herold wheat beer.

As you can see from the picture, although it is from my mobile, it looks like a fairly standard weizen. Indeed, it smells and tastes exactly as you would expect from a bog standard weizen, bananas, cloves and so on. Nothing special really in my book, but not bad either - a perfectly acceptable wheat beer and it is great to see more choice for beer drinkers here, but on this form not likely to cause Primátor any sleepless nights.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Eurovision Wheat Contest

I guess you have to be European to really appreciate the Eurovision Song Contest, or at least if you are British, have grown up listening to Terry Wogan making sarcastic remarks about the voting habits of various nations - Cyprus always gives Greece 12 points and vice versa, that kind of thing.

Thus it was that Saruman and I decided last week to taste at the same time the various wheat beers knocking around my flat from around the continent, all four of them. Ok not exactly a representative sample, but still the competitors were:

We started off with Curim from the Carlow Brewing Company, makers of the wonderful O'Hara's stout, I had high hopes. Oh dear, not what I was expecting at all. It pours golden and clear, but the white head scarpered sharpish. The nose was laden with bread and actually smelled rather stale, no spicy notes or citrus delights to get the senses going. Taste wise it was more like a strong pilsner than a wheat beer, and it had a light floral touch, but this was an all round disappointment.

Next up Britain's entry, Henley Gold from the Lovibond's brewery near London. Again this one poured clear and golden - although I believe it is not filtered, the head was white and quite loose. The nose was much better than the Curim, with classic banana and clove notes dominating. In the mouth, again cloves, spice, muted bananas but with a dry crisp finish, which I found very refreshing. I felt though that the flavours were a bit muted and could benefit from being ramped up a bit.

Closer to home then, the Czech entry. Pours a nice cloudy orange, with a bit white rocky head - classic weizen. The nose is quite heavy on the cloves, with bananas subtly but noticably in the background, also a dose of citrus, which carries on in the drinking and is then joined in the chorus by a refreshing hop bite. Very refreshing and very drinkable.

Germany's entry, Masiel's Original, pours a darker cloudy orange than the Primátor although it has the classic big white head. Again the nose was dominated by spicy cloves, though underlaid with more citrus than banana in this case. When it comes to the drinking, citrus is the dominant flavour, and you get a nice tingly feeling in your mouth. Very nice, crisp dry and refreshing.

It was interesting that Saruman and I both agreed on the order of preference for the beers, that being:

  1. Primátor Weizen

  2. Maisel's Original

  3. Henley Gold

  4. Curim

A quick word about the Henley Gold, and I say this as a fan of all the beers I have had from Lovibond's, I feel the beer could be so much more, however I wonder if it is held back by the reaction you would get in most English pubs to being given a cloudy pint? Does it lose something in the absense of yeast in the pour?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Manifesto Emerging...

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Dynamic Duo

Pivovar Náchod, makers of the Primátor brand, have one of the most diverse ranges of beer in the Czech Republic. As well as the standard lagers made by practically every Czech brewer, they also make a weizen, an English Pale Ale, a stout and a couple of big hitters – Exklusiv, Rytí?sky and Double, at 21° and 24° respectively. They also made this year's World's Best Lager - the 16° Exklusiv.With all the strength of a doppelbock, the 21° Rytí?sky is definitely not a session beer – unless of course you want your session to end early that is – it is 9% ABV! As you can see from the picture this is again a dark golden beer with a huge white head – and was supremely poured by Mrs Velkyal. The nose is quite delicate, with all the hallmark notes of Saaz hops. In the mouth however it is rather sweet and the mouthfeel distinctly syrupy although the slight bitterness comes through in the end, only to be smothered at the last. I found this an easier beer to drink than the Strahov Christmas Special, but only just.
The bully of the school yard however is the 10.5%ABV Double, a strong dark lager – which confusingly is called a porter by the Slovak labelling and a “speciální tmavé pivo” or “special dark beer”. It is certainly a very dark beer, deep ruby with a light coffee head that fades rather quickly. As expected the nose is grassy from the Saaz hops, as well as the slightest hint of caramelized bananas. Taste wise there is a distinctly burnt caramel flavour, with touches of bitter coffee and cocoa, the alcohol leaving a tingling sensation on my lips. Unlike the Rytí?sky, the Double doesn’t feel syrupy, despite the fact that it is very sweet. I imagine that this would pair up very nicely with the excellent mature farmhouse cheddar that the Cheesey shop sells.

I think I am coming to the conclusion that as much as I like flavourful beers, I am not a big fan of strongly alcoholic beers – especially when they only come in a half litre bottle. I never thought I would be saying this, but the Rytí?sky and the Double would be better in a 300ml bottle. Powerful and full of flavour, these are nice beers – but certainly not for regular sessions.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Wheat Beers

There was once a time when I didn’t drink wheat beer at all. I still remember the day when sitting with one of my best friends in a pub in Birmingham and he suggested I try a wheat beer. I found it so foul that I was tempted to pour it into the canal – for those familiar with Brum (probably the only major English city I would ever live in again) we were sat in a pub just behind Brindley Place waiting for a concert by The Mutton Birds, supported by a local band called Mudskipper. I had just got my degree in theology, my friend was about to take up a post as a youth pastor in Lancashire – it was the last time we saw each other, and the last beer he had (apparently).

Fast forward ten years to Pivovarsky klub in Prague, sitting with a friend of mine who spent a lot of his life in the West Midlands, and he suggested to me that I should try Sch?fferhofer – and my mind was blown away. I loved this stuff, and thought to myself, where has wheat beer been all my beer drinking life?

Thus this year has been one not only of discovering great ales and lagers, but also learning to appreciate wheat beer. I freely admit that still the wheats I like are from Germany and the Czech Republic, I am yet to find a Belgian wit that I like – given that it took me ten years to appreciate it at all, give me a break ok?

The three for my shortlist are:

Sch?fferhofer makes the shortlist simply because it was my Damascus moment, when I discovered wheat beer as something I wanted to drink and is still the standard by which I judge weissbier – whether that be right or wrong, the fact remains it was the first I liked.

Primátor make lovely beers in general and to my mind their weizen is the best in their range, better even than their stout and English Pale Ale. Admittedly it is more consistently better from the bottle than on tap.

I have only ever had two pints of Memminger, both of them in Berlin in May – for breakfast! A very nice, refreshing beer that I could imagine spending a hot summer’s day on Alexanderplatz drinking, preferably brought by a buxom German serving wench (thank goodness Mrs Velkyal knows what I am, and what, I like).

In the wheat beer stakes there is a clear winner, not just because I happen to love this beer but also because everyone I have introduced to it so far has raved about it too, including my mate that gave me my first ever Sch?fferhofer, therefore the winner is:

  1. Primátor Weizen

Find it, drink it, enjoy it.

    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.

    Friday, November 28, 2008

    Dark Month Quick Review

    So November is all but over, and with it my month of drinking predominantly dark beers. I haven't written about everything I have tried this month, so here is a random collection of thoughts on the various brews I have tried:

    Most drunk in the month: Primátor Stout, yes it is very nice, and no I am not on a stipend from Pivovar Náchod.

    Most enjoyed of the month: O'Hara's Stout from the Carlow Brewing Company, from the bottle that is, the remaining bottle I have in the cellar may be opened tonight in celebration.

    Discovery of the month: Hukvaldy 14° amber lager, pure nectar.

    Over-hyped beer of the month: Porterhouse Oyster Stout, it isn't bad, just not as good as I expected, even then it is streets behind Wrasslers XXXX.

    Confusion of the month: Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter and Oatmeal Stout, are they supposed to have a slightly soapy taste to them? Someone help me with that.

    I am sure this weekend will see several more darks enjoyed, though I may not write about them all, but I do have a special treat planned for Sunday, which is St Andrew's Day. I will be opening one of my bottles of BrewDog Paradox Smokehead in celebration.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Czech Stouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Primátor Stout Update

    I got an email this morning from Pivovar Náchod telling me that their excellent Primátor Stout will be available from the following supermarkets in Prague:

    Hypernova in Pr?honice and Nové Butovice from December 10th to the end of the year, also in Kaufland, although no date was specified.

    The stout is also part of a special box set of 8 beers which will be available at Kaufland from December 6th, and Tesco four days later.

    I am sure stocks will go quickly.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Things filed under Misc

    So many things have been sitting in the back of my mind lately, muttering "when are you go to write about ME?" - thankfully not literally otherwise I would be very worried.

    One such thing has been Mrs Velkyal and I's alcoholic experiments, of which there were three:

    Of the three projects only one can be regarded as a success, the dandelion wine. As I commented a few months ago, it already tasted great when we bottled it. However, the recipe we used said that it needed to be left to age for 3 months, which was the first weekend in November. We actually opened our little taster bottle during last week, to discover that it tasted even better! Having just the tiniest of sips - we are taking it to France for Christmas - it is full of citrus flavours, is very sweet, and very, very alcoholic! As we don't have the equipment to gauge the ABV, I am guessing here when I say it is at least 25%. It actually has a similar effect as a nice single malt whisky in that it radiates heat through your body only when it gets into your chest! Yes it is lovely stuff, and something we will be making again.

    As for the other two projects, both were failures, and in the case of the mead an unmitigated disaster. The mead actually tasted awful, was thin and acrid, so all 3 litres were poured down the lav - I will however try again to make mead, but this time I will use a different recipe, and I will use a different yeast.

    The beer hacking was a case of plenty of fizz bang excitement followed by a damp squib. My intention to infuse the stout with cinnamon and clove flavours certainly worked a treat as the nose of the previously unadorned Kelt was now laden with traditional Christmas scents, unfortunately it tasted dull and lifeless - the beer was flat and so another litre of booze went the way of the U-bend.

    Another thing that needed attending to was the growing collection of Primátor beers in my fridge, in particular the Premium which I had never tried before. What a lovely lager this is. As you can see from the picture it pours a dark golden colour with a rocky white head, the nose is full of the classic Czech Saaz floral notes. The beer itself was crisp, I would eve say it was slightly tart with a nicely rounded body, a very refreshing lager, which could quite easily become a regular in the fridge - if only my local Billa sold it!

    The third thing that needed seeing to was making a start on the dark beers in my cellar which form the core of my Dark Month, so it was that on Monday night I agonised over which one to open first - the winner being Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter, which is pictured above. This one is a wonderful deep ruby colour, bordering on black, and the head was a frothy dark tan. The nose was really interesting as the first thing that hit me was soy sauce, which brought to mind the Pardubicky Porter, however there were also light coffee hints and eventually something which brought to mind the kelp beds on the beaches back at home, which I am assuming was from the seaweed finings used in production. The pre-dominant flavour though was of caramelised bananas, one of my favourite desserts, as well as dark chocolate and a light coffee taste. This was a very smooth beer and one which I enjoyed sipping whilst watching the Daleks and Cybermen try to take over the world!

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008


    I still feel rough. But after about 8 pints of Primátor Stout last night I think I deserve to feel crappy - thus began my month of predominantly dark beers.

    Originally it was going to be the month of only dark beers, but Pivní Filosof insisted that I try the 18o Jihlavsky Grand, which is labelled as a pale lager on the PK website, but is more of a dark amber than pale. Very nice it was too, smelt and tasted like honey and reminded me of Gottschalk from the monks of ?eliv, but with carbonation.

    From my thoroughly unscientific research I reckon that the stout was the most popular beer last night, with about half the people in the top room drinking this excellent beer.

    Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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