Showing posts with label velkopopovicky kozel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label velkopopovicky kozel. Show all posts

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Session 135: Sepia Tones

As the host of this month's Session, I feel a tad embarrassed that having stepped in at the last minute it has taken me a few days to get my own post written and posted. Life with twins.

As I said in the initial announcement, I wanted us all to engage in a little beery nostalgia for those lost pubs and beers that were part of our formative years as beer drinkers. Melancholy and its attendant nostalgia comes easily to those of us with Highland roots, booze often just brings it into a sharper focus.

Let me tell you a story. When I was 19 I left the safety of life on the Isle of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides for the bright lights of Birmingham. It was the first weekend in October if memory serves, and I started college, studying  for a degree in theology at the Birmingham Bible Institute with a view to becoming a minister of religion. Moving from an island with a population comfortably south of 1500 to the second largest city in the UK cramming about a million people into little more than 100 square miles was, erm, interesting to say the least.

On that first Sunday in Brum all the single students went for a walk around the Edgbaston area to get our bearings, wandering from Pakenham Road, where we lived, to Calthorpe Park and back. Making our way toward the Bristol Road we passed a McDonalds, next to which stood a  fairly nondescript box of a building on which hung a sign that said 'The Trees'. I took a mental note to return when I had a moment and see what delights lay within.

A couple of afternoons later I snuck off for a pint. My memory of The Trees is that it was a run of the mill residential area boozer, and that they had Caffrey's on tap, and I loved Caffrey's at the time. A couple of afternoon pints at The Trees became my routine, I guess I should have known even then that the fact I just wanted to have a couple of jars away from people at college was a pointer that I would never really realise the aim of being a minister. Maybe then I could have gone elsewhere for my degree, and studied something that deep down I wanted to, history or German for example. In a weird twist of fate I later learnt that my older brother's then girlfriend had once been a barmaid at The Trees.

The Trees is gone know, demolished, the land awaiting redevelopment, though the McDonalds remains. A sign of the times perhaps.

Let me tell you another story. When I was 23 I again left Benbecula for a major city. This time I went to Prague, reasonably freshly minted BA (hons) in Theology in hand, recently broken up with my then fiancee, and with my parents encouragement not to get stuck in the relatively empty north west of Scotland. I was off to train as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language, with a plan to spend a year in Prague and then go off to different countries every year, before heading home to become a minister, I still clung to the vaguest notion of faith then. However, now I didn't worry about heading to the pub for a bevvy, the long moralistic arm of the Free Church minister's disapproving righteous scowl couldn't make it to central Europe (I wasn't Free Church but the church I went to, while independent, had lots of connections in the Free Church on North Uist).

That first Sunday afternoon in Prague, having arrived that morning on the 24 hour bus from London (I hate flying), I sat in a pub/pizzeria in ?erny Most with a 4 cheese pizza on my plate and a half litre of Velkopopovicky Kozel in my glass. Kozel was still independent back then, before merging with Pilsner Urquell in 2002, and the beer was like nothing I had drunk before. A lager that was packed with hop flavour, finishing with a clean bite, and so moreish it would have been remiss not to have at least one more, no wonder the first phrases I mastered in Czech were 'pivo prosím' and 'je?tě jedno'. While most of my friends stuck to the ubiquitous Gambrinus, I hunted out Kozel wherever I could, and happily one of the main expat brunch hangouts, Jama, had it on tap.

Kozel was the genesis of our theme for this Session, as this week they announced they are getting rid of the Kozel Premium, the 12° lager in their range, and sepia toned memories of those first years in the Mother of Cities came flooding back. Much like the beer, it was bittersweet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Happened?

Later this year I will be 37 years old, which means that for more than half my life I will have been drinking legally. Ever since that first, legal, pint of Guinness in the Dark Island Hotel back home on Benbecula, I have had a taste for beer. Oh alright then, I was known before I turned 18 to enjoy the occasional can of whatever muck was available, Tennent's Lager most often, though also the odd Budweiser. I was never one of the "sit in the bus shelter on a Friday night drinking whatever we could persuade the older kids to buy for us" set, but I had a beer from time to time.

Bit of a digression there, but anyway, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post listing five beers that changed what I drink and how I think about beer. Another slight digression, but one thing that hasn't changed is the kind of place I enjoy drinking in, pubs, proper pubs, not bars or clubs or glorified restaurants, but pubs, even if they are something of a hen's tooth over here. Without wanting to sound like a complete curmudgeon, here are a few beers that I once loved, which now leave me disappointed...

In 1999 when I moved to Prague, Velkopopovicky Kozel was something of a minor beer celebrity. I had heard so much about this pale lager which was so unlike the Carling and Fosters most pubs served in Britain, it had a real hop bite to it. My first pint was at the sports bar I went to every weekend for ten seasons and I loved it. Eventually the brewery was bought by Pilsner Urquell and in turn Pilsner Urquell was bought by SABMiller, and so began the desecration of a once lovely beer. When I left in 2009 I found a Kozel bar whilst out walking and popped in to sample the wares, and while the 12° was ok, the rest of the range was thin, insipid and a mere shadow of its former self.

The other beer I drank a lot of back in my early Prague years was Gambrinus, the picture here is their 11° Excelent. While Gambá? was available as both a 10° and a 12° beer, it was the 10° that you saw most often - most pubs would have three taps, Gambrinus 10° on one, with Kozel ?erny and Pilsner Urquell taking up the other two. Again Gambrinus was something of a sad story, perfectly drinkable for many a year and then around 2006 strange things started happening, it became thin and noticeably watery. I am not sure when they started watering down a 13° beer, post fermentation, to create the 10° and 12° but they should never have started.

Once upon a time I drank smoothflow ales, I liked them and then I moved away from Britain and didn't have the option. Perhaps they were always bland, watery messes, but I have a sense that in the 13 years between leaving Blighty and sitting in my Charlottesville living room this morning, they have got worse.

Over to you then, what beers did you once love and now find disappointing?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Beer Commercials

Friday mornings are pretty easy. Get up, walk dog, shower, shave, read beer blogs, go to work. While I was sat in the comfort of an armchair, I read the latest post from Tale of the Ale. The post is mostly about the Beer Bloggers Conference that took place in London last weekend, but the thing that caught my attention most was the new advertising campaign from the Czech branch of multinational beer conglomerate SABMiller, better known as Pilsner Urquell.

I am sure that if you know anything about the history of Pilsner Urquell you will see the glaring omissions and logical flaws in the advert. Actually if you know anything about the history of beer, you'll know that the "world's first golden beer" claim is also a pile of shite (the first pale ale was marketed in the early 18th century). Any way, as it is a Friday and I am in a fairly chipper mood, I am not going to rant about these things, after all who really expects truth and historical veracity in an advertising campaign? Also the fact that I rather like the advert, it is certainly well done and if it encourages more people to drink Pilsner Urquell, go to the Czech Republic and try the unpasteurised version and then demand its availability in Blighty, that can only be a good thing. No, I think today I will just post some of my favourite beer commercials, and we'll start with the other internationally renowned Czech beer, with a quick language alert for the faint of heart....

While we are on mass produced Czech beers....

Jumping across to Blighty....

and finally, down to Australia....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Watered Down Awards?

There are very few things that I hate with a passion. Nationalism is one, jazz is another. But the one thing that irks me beyond measure is ignorance, especially the willful kind of ignorance that refuses to listen to reason and will deny anything that flies in the face of a world view regardless of facts. Oh and I also think it is stupid to declare something the "world" whatever when the entrants are overwhelmingly from a single country.

I picked up the latest edition of All About Beer magazine at the weekend, along with the latest edition of Culture (a magazine about cheese), Bernard Cornwell's "The Archer's Tale" (it was called Harlequin in the UK), and the Barrytown Trilogy by Roddy Doyle, as I needed some poolside reading for Monday as it was a public holiday here. I have ranted before about the errors that crop up in the magazine, usually in the guide to various styles of beer (in this edition I felt like raging about them getting the British flag wrong on one of the pages, but I am not sure how many people would actually notice that the Cross of St Patrick isn't correct). As usual with All About Beer, the articles were interesting and well written, so what got my goat this time? Nothing about the magazine per se, apart from the complete list of winners from the World Beer Cup.

Before I get into it though, yes I understand that the awards can only be given to those brewers who take the time to actually enter the competition, but I think a concerted effort needs to be made to get more breweries to enter the competition, and while we are at it, I would love to see the complete lists of entrants for each style. Let's take the Bohemian Pilsner category. The winner? Golden Pilsner by the Morgan Street Brewery, a beer I haven't yet tried, but will have to make a effort to do so. The silver award went to Gambrinus Excelent, with bronze to Velkopopovicky Kozel Premium, both of SABMiller, though listed under the Czech subsidiary name Plzeňsky Prazdroj. Really? The second best Bohemian Pilsner in the world is Gambrinus Excelent, and the third is Kozel Premium?

Ok, sure, Gambrinus Excelent isn't entirely awful, as I posted about before, but the second best Pilsner from 43 entrants? I can only assume then that the 40 beers that didn't win anything in this category were rank beyond words, hence I would love to see the list of entrants so that I can avoid wasting my money on anything that can be beaten by a SABMiller product. Given that the standard Gambrinus came second in the International Style Lager category, I can only assume that an "international" lager is one that is watered down after fermentation and pretty much devoid of taste.

Perhaps what is required is for regional competitions to produce local winners, who are then forwarded to the global competition? Thus you would have the best Pilsner, as an example, from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania going head to head against each other for the award at the World Beer Cup - think of it like the World Cup about to take place in South Africa, a genuinely global award.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Getting My Goat

I guess everyone, if they are honest, has a major industrial beer brand which they once loved and now lament that it simply isn’t as good as it used to be – in particular when the brand is question was once an independent brewer. For me that brewer is Velkopopvicky Kozel, who today are one the components of SABMiller’s Czech operations, along with Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus and Radegast.

Back in 1999 as a fresh college graduate who had decided to teach English in Prague for a year before going back home and to the “real world”, I discovered that Kozel was the kind of beer I really liked. It helped that back then it was the beer on tap in Zlatá Hvězda, so I drank copious amounts whilst watching Liverpool. I liked that it was a clean and crisp lager, with a good hoppy bite – I didn’t try the dark back then, which I regret now, having had it recently and thinking it was pretty dire.

Then the brewery was bought by Pilsner Urquell, who in turn got bought by SABMiller and the bean counters took over – sorry if there any accountants reading this, but in future please stick to counting what comes in and goes out rather than changing, some would say ruining and I would agree with them, a lovely product in the name of “extracting brand value” from it.

Last night I went for a stroll in the gathering rainy gloom, and stumbled upon a pub called Kozlovna, and out of sheer nostalgia headed in for a pint of their 11˚ Medium – which you can see in the picture. Nothing spectacular, nothing awful either, but it is nice to see a pub or two dedicated to the Goat. Still though, I have the urge on occasion, like the kid who has kicked his ball into the neighbour’s garden, to ask if I can have my goat back.

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...