Showing posts with label zatecky pivovar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zatecky pivovar. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Missing Something?

I am fairly sure that were you to do a straw poll of beer lovers regarding their favourite beer style, you would see beers such as Double or Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout or Barleywine dominating. Naturally I am partial to a drop or two of the heavy hitters, particularly Imperial Stout and Barleywine, but I wonder sometimes if an obsession with beers that are exceedingly hoppy, strongly alcoholic or a combination of both is indicative of being unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of life?

Recently I have had the pleasure, through the good graces of the cyber world, of introducing a few people to ?atec Bright Lager, also known as Blue Label. So far everyone who has tried it has loved it, and in one case it is now available at a local pub here in Charlottesville, Court Square Tavern. One of my friends on trying his first ever ?atec as "amazing" and said that he was "floored" by how good a properly made, Czech style lager is.

This got me thinking about how to tell a great brewery from a good one, and for me it comes done to one simple thing, how good are your basic beers? Whether we are talking about a Bitter, a Pilsner (whether German or Czech), a hefeweizen or a Pale Ale, I think it is these beers that tell you more about a brewery than their special edition Imperial IPA with countless IBUs and several other things that can mask off flavours. In the classic styles there is no room for hiding, so get it right and you're on to a winner, get it wrong and you're on a hiding to nothing.

As a case in point from the American context, take Sierra Nevada. Their big hitters, such as Torpedo, are really fantastic beers, and many of them line the shelves of my cellar, but even though I love Torpedo, I can drink their Pale Ale all night quite happily. The same goes for Kellerweis, their hefeweizen which bares more than a passing resemblance to Primátor Weizen it is that good.

Getting simple styles right is, in my world, the sign of a truly great brewer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things I Didn't Expect

I think the technical phrase for the jolly little surprises that come your way in life when you cross the ocean to take up a new life is "culture shock". I have been having it in spades in the last couple of weeks, and in almost every possible situation; pleasant immigration officers at Atlanta airport (those of you who have dealt with the Czech Foreign Police will no doubt know to what I refer); shops with nine million flavours of yogurt, but only one plain white; churches as ubiquitous as pubs in Prague; the feeling of not really being so "velky" after all; the list could go on and on.

A couple of things though stick in my mind, I will deal with the negative first off. Yesterday Mrs V and I went to her aunt's for dinner, as they don't drink we obviously weren't going to buy a bottle of vino as a gift, so in to Walmart we jaunted for a bunch of flowers. Walmart is another culture shock after 10 years of soul destroying Tesco - the variety of almost everything available is mind boggling at times, and the fact that someone packs your shopping bags for you and wishes you a pleasant day, a welcome change from the sour cashier in the Tesco on Narodni asking if you have a note smaller than 200k?, the near equivalent of $10.

The nasty shock though is Walmart's new alcohol sales policy - anyone who looks under the age of 40 must provide ID in order to walk away with their favourite tipple. Thankfully I keep a form of ID on me, but I find it remarkable that for 19 years after coming of age, people will be required to prove they are legally allowed to buy alcohol. No doubt Walmart and many of their ilk will cite insurance policies and the inevitable criminal prosecutions that would follow selling alcohol to minors, but if you are going to have such a ridiculous policy, why make someone who is clearly over 21 produce ID like some wannabe under-age booze baron? What happened to innocent until proven guilty, to trusting people to use their discretion?

The positive shock though was on going to to see what lovely crafty beer goodness they had, and seeing beers from a raft of my favourite British brewers; BrewDog and Wychwood to name but two. But on one aisle I found several Czech lagers that I hadn't expected to see in a million years, including ?atec, B.B. Burgerbrau (from the original brewery in Budweis! hint: it isn't Budvar) and Staropramen. Happily though, Budvar seems to be quite readily available, so when I have the urge to drink a good lager again I know I can get hold of something worthwhile.

Perverse as it may sound, I was actually quite glad to see the presence of Staropramen in the USA as it allows me to do a couple of taste tastings comparing the worst of Czech mainstream lager with the mainstream lagers here, the likes of Budweiser, Miller and Coors - masochistic I am sure, but certainly worth it for interest's and comedy's sake.

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...