Showing posts with label zly casy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zly casy. Show all posts

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.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Future of the Pub

It has been suggested to me that I am more of a pub fan than a beer geek, and I guess that is a fair comment in many ways. All you need to do to understand this fact is look at the 40 boozers and bars that I chose from the many in Prague to go into my book. There are a few well regarded beer geek hangouts which didn't make the cut, simply because I didn't enjoy going there when I lived in the city. Conversely there are a few pubs that serve generic macrobrew that I enjoyed going to, in spite of the beer, because they had a good atmosphere.


One of my friends of Prague posted this slideshow about how pubs have changed in Prague since the Velvet Revolution and it got me thinking about how pubs changed in the 10 years I lived there. One of the first pubs in the city that I went to regularly is called Planeta ?i?kov. Back in 1999 Planeta served Lobkowiz beer, but today it is just another Staropramen pub. I guess these pictures are fairly recent, and it still looks pretty similar to the days when the manager of the language school I worked for would get drunk and sack everyone. A very good reason not to go to Planeta these days is the minor fact that right opposite it is the venerable U Slovanské Lípy, a proper boozer with awesome beer at insanely low prices.


Of course the slideshow and accompanying commentary by and large lament the changes in pub culture brought about by the free market, whilst ignoring the advances that the free market have bought to the Prague beer scene. Without the free market, would a place like Zly ?asy be able to offer beers from around the world, including Left Hand's magnificent imperial stout? Perhaps I am going out on a limb here, but without the free market would consumers be able to choose to go to a non-smoking pub like Pivovarsky klub? Let me clarify that though by saying I do not, never have and never will support a blanket ban on smoking in pubs (and I say that as a non-smoker). Sure it is nice to go home from the pub reeking of only booze instead of booze and smoke, but I have always held the opinion that I know when I go to the pub that people are likely to smoke, and so I make an informed decision whether or not to go.


As much as I hate to see pubs shut, and during a decade of drinking Czech lager I saw many of my favourite watering holes disappear or change under new management, I come to the conclusion that if the pub is to survive then it needs to adapt to the market place. One of the curses, for want of a better word, of the craft beer movement, at least here in the States, is that craft beer is more expensive that macrobrew. A pint of Pabst Blue Ribbon costs about $2.50 here in Charlottesville, whereas something from Samuel Adams usually runs to double that, and very "exotic" beers can cost as much as $15 a pint. In effect craft beer, at least in the US context, becomes a niche product only available to those sufficiently well off to pay for it, and runs against the grain of beer as the everyman drink.

The economics of beer drinking in the US is viciously slanted against pub culture, especially when the economy isn't doing so well. People will still drink, sure, but I wonder how many people are abandoning the pub simply because a 6 pack is a cheaper option than a couple of pints? Perhaps this explains why many people here brew their own beer?


An average batch of homebrew for me costs about $1.75 a bottle, and even my recent barleywine will stretch that out to only about $2.50 a bottle. Thus it was with interest that I read on about North Dakota possibly allowing home brewers the possibility of getting a license to sell their beer at trade shows. I think this kind of legislation is an excellent idea, and of course it promotes the free market (so no doubt the big brewers would be horrified at all the extra competition). Given the possibility of selling their wares, homebrewers would be encouraged to improve their procedures and recipes. If I could sell my beers for just $0.75 more than cost then I am making a little cash out of my hobby, and hopefully giving people something reasonably priced and good to drink. Now imagine you could get a license to sell your beer on draught from your kegerator, in your garage or basement, suddenly we are seeing a return of the public house.

Perhaps, and this is just romantic surmising I am sure, the future of the pub is a return of beer as a cottage industry?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ultimate Drinking Experience?

On my way home from work yesterday, admittedly via a slightly circuitous route, I popped into the local Barnes and Noble to see if they had the latest editions of the various beer and brewing magazines that I like to read. There was a new edition of Brew Your Own, which is fast becoming my favourite beer related magazine, and as I already had the current edition of All About Beer, I picked up their special edition Beer Traveler. Having driven the rest of the way home with Rammstein in the CD player, I was looking forward to reading about the places where "serious beer lovers" should go in order to get oneupmanship points on the rest of the world.

Naturally I wanted to see what they had to say about the Czech Republic and there was some stuff about Plzeň, for some inexplicable reason it was spelt "Pilzn" on the map Stan Hieronymous' was using (name and address of the cartographers please, so I can send vicious email claiming ignorance!), and about the Eggenberg brewery in ?esky Krumlov, a place where I saw this most interesting of signs:


Of the rest of the special, I was most interested in the 150 Perfect Places to Have A Beer, a list of which purports to tell the dedicated beer traveler where to find the finest beer drinking experiences. Now, I am not sure how they compiled this list, though I somewhat doubt it was as thorough as the Good Beer Guide, but a couple of things intrigued me, other than why their software couldn't handle some of the diacritics in the Czech pub names.

Speaking of the Czech venues on the list, they were ranked as follows:
  1. U Flek? (Prague) - 14th in the overall list
  2. Kr?ma (?esky Krumlov) - 44th
  3. Czech Beer Festival (Prague) - 54th
  4. Pivovarsky klub (Prague) - 75th
  5. Zly ?asy (Prague) - 83rd
Really? Are you kidding me? The Czech Beer Festival is a better place to get a pint than Zly ?asy or Pivovarsky klub? Let me get this completely straight, in the mind of All About Beer, an over-priced beer fest swimming in mass produced swill is better than two reasonably priced pubs with an ever changing selection of quality beers? Apparently the Flying Saucer, of which there is one that I enjoy going to in Columbia, South Carolina, is ranked higher than all the Czech pubs, bar U Flek?. On what basis? Now don't get me wrong here, I like the Flying Saucer in Columbia, and have raved about it many times on here, but better than Pivovarsky klub? You're having a laugh surely?

What about other pubs and places I know and have enjoyed pints in? Well, Dublin's venerable Bull and Castle ranks 18th, while the Porterhouse in Temple Bar is 42nd (only 2 places above Kr?ma? WTF!) and that's it for Ireland, other than the Gravity Bar at St James's Gate.

As for the UK, I don't think I have been to any of the places on the list, but I am not expecting a case of existential angst over the matter any time soon, but if the list is to be believed, the best place to get a beer in the UK is.....the Great British Beer Festival. It would appear that great places to get a pint in the UK are limited to London, Sheffield and Stonehaven. Sorry Burton upon Trent, you have nothing to offer. Sorry Oxford, the Inklings clearly knew nothing about a good place or two to have a pint. Sorry Manchester and area, Tandleman is clearly ignorant of the lack of good watering holes in your neck of the woods. Sorry Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen (home to the BrewDog pub), Newcastle, Carlisle, Birmingham, Cambridge, Norwich, and so and so on.

Of course one man's pivní perfection is another man's hoppy hell, so list's like this must be taken with a large pinch of salt, and I allowed myself a wry smile at the many pubs I love and miss in Prague which didn't make the list. However, forgive me if I am overly cyncial, but surely the best place to get a beer in the world would be the only place you can buy Westvleteren with the blessing of the monks? Where does In De Vrede come on the list?

It doesn't.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On Reflection

As I have mentioned before, I was disappointed by the Czech Beer Festival, even though Mrs Velkyal and I stayed for about 8 hours on the day we were there. The experience of the festival and the parallel event held at Zly ?asy got me to thinking about my expectations of a beer festival, and how that differs from going to a pub with a wide range of beers available.

As I said in my post about the Czech Beer Festival, one of the things I would like to have seen would have been special beers made exclusively for the festival. As it was, not one of the breweries at the event felt the need to stand out from the crowd by doing something outside their usual line up, so thank goodness for the ales from Primátor. Perhaps this then is something that the guys at Zly ?asy can bear in mind should they do a similar event again next year – and if none of the breweries will make unique beers, then use their event as the launch for another version of their Zabiják z Nusly beer.

Probably the biggest problem with this year’s Czech Beer Festival was the choice of venue. The problem though wasn’t the actual location – after all the show grounds at Letňany are right next to the metro station, which is only about 15 minutes from the centre of the city. The problem was that when it rained, which it did almost every day of the event, the field very quickly became waterlogged. Admittedly Prague isn’t blessed with a plethora of venues for these kind of events – however I think an alternative really needs to be found for next year’s event. Personally I think Letna Park would be better, especially on its clay pitches, assuming of course that the tunnel being built is finished.

I realize that this is the beer geek in me speaking, but I would have liked to have the possibility of sampling a lot more beers at the Czech Beer Festival. It woud have been nice to be able to have the option of a 100ml sample rather than having to take the half litre or 300ml on offer. I wonder how many people were put off trying something new because if they didn’t like it then they had wasted 40k?, and so stuck to those beers they knew? Of course the Czech Beer Festival isn’t really pitched at beer geeks, although the welcome presence of micros does make it more likely that we would wander up at least once, but then as I have said before if I really want a grilled sausage and pint of something decent then I will take a stroll to my local, rather than go to a festival.

In reality the Czech Beer Festival is little more than an overpriced 10 day beer garden with a few fairground rides lobbed in for good measure (one of which was called “Staro?esky Loch Ness”, which translates as “Old Czech Loch Ness” – funny that, I don’t remember Loch Ness having anything to do with the Czech lands, whether old, new or faintly middle aged). In the same vein, I would think of the event Zly ?asy more of a “pivní akce”, the nearest I can get to in English there is “beer action”, than a beer festival – especially given that they have a wide range of Czech micros on their taps all year round anyway.

Of the two events, I much preferred Zly ?asy’s – but given that it is one of my favourite pubs anyway I have to take that into account, but it has certainly been a very encouraging start, and perhaps one that can become a regular event, perhaps one in winter showcasing dark beers would be a good idea? It is good that Prague has places like Zly ?asy, and Pivovarsky klub swimming against the tide and bringing a wider range of beers to beer lovers in the city, long may it continue.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bohaty nebo blazen?

I went to Zly ?asy yesterday on my way home from work - for some reason, of late every time I head over there to get more bottles, it snows. And boy did it snow yesterday in Prague, we enough to put London out of commission for months - about 4 inches!

I was hoping that they would have beers from the N?rrebro Bryghus in Denmark, and I was not to be disappointed. I got a bottle each of:
  • La Granja Stout
  • Bombay Pale Ale
  • North Bridge Extreme
I also picked up another bottle of BrewDog's Paradox Smokehead to replace one I gave to a friend. A couple of pints were also in order, first up the Harrachov Franti?ek, a banana laden delight, and then the Kácov 12° pale lager, which went down nicely as well. Chatting away to the barman and, I assume, the bar owner I mentioned that I had bought a bottle of La Granja Stout on Saturday whilst at Pivovarsky klub which had set me back 385CZK (that's €13.75/£12/$17), at which they stated that I must be rich (bohaty), to which I replied "rich or mental".

Hence the title.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beer Bloggers Picnic

Saturday evening was spent in the presence of fellow bloggers Evan and Pivní Filosof as well as Boak and Bailey, who were over from London on a tour of Germany and the Czech Republic. Being good hosts, we hope, we arranged to meet up and introduce our visitors to some of our favourite pubs in the city, starting with Pivovarsky klub, where the highlight for me was the very nice Granát from Pivovar Pardubice. After a while we walked up into ?i?kov to drop into the very recently opened U Slovanské Lipy, Prague’s first pub selling beer from Pivovar Kout na ?umavě.

U Slovanské Lipy is very unlikely to win any style awards, and is definitely not the kind of place for those ex-pats for whom trips to the Potrefena Husa in Prague 3 is living dangerously. Sitting down at a table I was taken back to pubs in Southern Bohemia, where a previous girlfriend came from – a proper Czech pub, with great Czech beer, what more could anyone ask for? Well to start with we asked for a round of their desítka, 10° golden lager, and what a grand beer it is, putting to bed the idea that desítka is a weaker version of a brewery’s flagship dvanáctka, that’s 12° to non-Czech speakers.

Following hot of the heels of our drained glasses was the 14° dark lager, quite easily the best lager I have had in a very long time, whether light or dark, regardless of strength, this was just simply magnificent – worth the walk up the hill just in itself. Having made the required ohs and ahs about the dark, we progressed on to the 12° kvasnícové, also a very good beer and just too easy to drink – what lucky people they are in ?umava, not only do they live in a beautiful part of the world, but they have a great local brewer to enjoy. Last up was a round of small glasses of the 18° Baltic Porter. Again it was a nice beer, brimming with flavour, however for me it just didn’t reach the heights of the dark lager. If we didn’t have plans to visit Zly ?asy, I could happily have stayed and nursed several more pints of the dark goodness.

Zly ?asy provided with one of the most unexpected experiences of my beer drinking life, a Klá?ter worth drinking, in this case the 12°. I am a convert? We’ll see. Unforeseen circumstances, involving forgotten keys, meant that I had to call it an early night at around half ten. There are few more pleasurable nights to be had than sitting around drinking superb beers with good company, which without exception has been my experience of all the people I have met through this blog so far, and I am very much looking forward to the bottle of Gose which Boak and Bailey brought over from Leipzig.

Friday, September 12, 2008

These are Evil Times

Last night I went back to Zly ?asy - which literally translates as Evil Times - largley because I was curious to try the corn beer which was advertised on their website. Yes you read that correctly, corn beer. This is one of the products of Pivovarsky Dv?r Chyně just outside Prague, which is, according to their website, the first Czech brewpub and is located in former monastery buildings. The beer itself is a pale golden colour with a good thick head, which didn't disappear faster than a politician's morals in the face of potential power. Tastewise it is difficult to really explain, I was hoping that it would taste something like cornbread - Mrs Velkyal being from the South means I have been introduced to all manner of delicious food, biscuits and gravy for breakfast? Yes ma'am! But my expectations were dashed, it tasted like the vast majority of Czech lagers, which is certainly not a bad thing, but I was hoping for something different, maybe even revelatory. It was however a lot smoother than many Czech lagers of a similar strength, it was an 11°. By the end of the glass though I was pondering something different.

That something different came from the east of Prague, near Pardubice, to be precise the small town of Medle?ice, home to the pivovar of the same name - it was their 12° dark lager. I have become something of a fan of dark lagers over the last year, in particular the offerings from Eggenberg, Chodovar and the absolutely wonderful ?tramberk. When I first arrived in the Czech Republic I was told in no uncertain terms by various people, that dark lager was for girls, especially for giving girls large breasts. Anyway, back to the beer, this dark lager is thick, really thick and has a wonderful towering ivory head. It is very smooth with coffee tones, again there was a hint of plum on the nose and in the drinking. I rather enjoyed this beer.

Zly ?asy is becoming a favourite place of mine because they have somewhat obscure beers that even places like Pivovarsky Klub never, or very rarely, have available. There were another couple of beers on tap last night which I didn't try; the Kacov 10° lager and the Svaty Norbert Weizen which I had tried before. With a selection that changes quite often, this is pub that will be re-visited a lot.

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 ...

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