21 Aug 2014

Just a beery moment

It's early afternoon, or late lunchtime, if you want, at U Slovanské Lípy (I still miss the old, beer minimalist boozer, but Vodouch and co. have done a great job with the place—I love coming here, and I wish I could come more often than I do). I've just finished my food (it was very good) and I look at the tapster for the first time—I didn't see him when I walked in—he looks familiar.

It takes me only a couple of minutes sips to remember. It's the bloke that worked at Pivovar U Medvídků, also as tapster, six years ago, or so. We became kind of friends. We shared tastes in music, and whenever I dropped by there and he was on duty, if the place was quiet, we would sit down and chat about this and that. There were a few times that I ended up quite pissed after those visits—Laďa, the Brew Master, would give me beer, while Laďa, the tapster, gave me shots of slivovice home-made by someone from his family in the East of the country.

He vanished at some point, and I never knew what happened to him, and never felt like asking, to be honest. But it is him there behind the bar, and he's looking at me now. Not staring, mind you, but I know he is because he's got the same expression I must have had only a few minutes sips ago “I know this guy!”.

I've made up my mind that I will go to greet him on my way out (I'm not the sort of person who likes bothering people when they are working), when I see him coming my way, carrying two glasses of beer. He leaves them on a table near mine, turns around and stops right by my table.

We point at each other, with a crooked smile, and almost at unison we say each other's name.

The crooked smiles become wide and we embrace, briefly, like two old friends who, because of the dictates of life, have not seen each other for quite a long time.

Just one of those beery moments.

Na Zdraví!

20 Aug 2014

Lovely beer day with the family

Last Saturday I took the family (or rather, the missus, because she didn't want to take the bus, drove us) to Únětický Posvícení at the local brewery (where else?).

We arrived shortly before two and, even though the weather didn't look too promising, there were already a lot of people—both the patio and the restaurant were full, the only place with still plenty of free seats was the old stables, which have been recently turned into a taproom and where the main part of the event would be taking place.

After procuring ourselves with grub and booze, I talked a bit with Štěpán and Lucie Tkadlec, the couple who are running the brewery. They told me a bit more about the renovations on the main building, which include changing the roof and, more interesting still, giving the building its original looks back, which, if this picture is anything to go by, will look great. I also talked a bit with the Brew Master, Vladimír Černohorský, always a great pleasure.

By the time a barrel took the stage, literally, the stable was full. The village's alderman gave the official start to the day's festivities. After a few words and a bit of singing, the barrel was tapped—it looked the ones we took to Bavaria–and everyone got a pint. As in previous years, Posvícenské Pivo is an 11.5º Amber Rye Lager that I was very much looking forward to drinking.

A bit (two or three pints) later my wife took Nela to see the theatre performance for children in the brewery's attic. I stayed behind, talking to some people, but not for long. At the insistence of Černohorský I joined the Posvicenský Pochod, which would take us first to the memorial to the young men who died in that idiocy of imperial proportions that was WWI, and later to the chapel of Jan Nepomucký (St. John of Nepomuk), where the keg we were carrying on an ancient looking wooden cart was tapped.

The chapel is located in a very nice spot overlooking the village. Unfortunately, it's not in the best of shapes—quite neglected, with the walls inside covered in graffiti—but there's little the village can do about it as the chapel still belongs to the Catholic Church. However, they were able to restore the column and the statue of the saint by a large tree, opposite the chapel.

We stayed there a bit longer, sipping our beers, in the now very pleasant weather. When the keg dried up—which didn't take too long—most of the party left. I was enjoying myself a lot and decided to stay until the march went back to the brewery.

As we resumed our way, the assistant brewer was told to go fetch some bottles to drink at the next stop, the local cemetery, where something really cool happened.

We were standing by the cemetery's chapel, next to an apparently unmarked grave. It's headstone had long since disappeared, replaced by a large rosebush. The alderman was telling us that the grave had belonged to the local Fielder family and that, according to the records he had consulted, it was the resting place of one of the last brew-masters of Únětický Pivovar before it was closed after WWII, though he admitted that, without the headstone, he couldn't be 100% sure. Until the sun came out from behind a cloud revealing, almost as if by magic, the name Fiedlerový carved on the stone lid of the grave, which nobody had noticed.

We drank to the memory of that man and went back to the brewery. All feeling really good about ourselves and what we had seen.

Back in the brewery I joined my family again, and there was a lot more drinking, friends and fun. We danced to the tunes of a pretty good cover band and stayed until 9 in the evening or so. It was really a great day.

One of the many things I like about Únětický Pivovar is the way it has become a part of the life of the village. It goes beyond marketing wisdom, Štěpán and Lucie live there and are themselves part of the community. They want their business to prosper, of course, but they also want the village they live to be a better place for everyone.

Na Zdraví!

What about the beer, you say? Gorgeous! A true beauty. Nuanced, but with character; it doesn't need to scream in your face to get your attention, without demanding more attention than you are willing to give, it's almost impossible to get tired of it. In fact, with the exception of the desítka I had when we arrived, it was the only beer I drank for the whole day (Wow! Being at a beer related event and sticking to only beer for the whole day, who would have thought you could do that?).

6 Aug 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen. Rejoice!

I've started writing the second edition of The Pisshead's Pub Guide. I've still got no clue when I finish it—it'll depend on my workload, the one that pays the bills, and some developments in the local beer scene (more on that later). But I'm quite excited, and so should you.

Not much will change, really. There will be a few new crawls—three or four, maybe more—and it will have a index at the end, sorted by brewery. With so many good and interesting places to choose from, the selection criteria will be a bit stricter, and I've also decided that the crawls will not be longer than 5 pubs (though, as you can imagine, that might change).

The one thing that has me worrying, though, is the news I've seen these days. According to Pivovary.info, there are six brewpubs that should be opening before the end of the year-beginning of the next. That in itself isn't a problem, far from it, but knowing how things go here, many of those dates are, at best, wishful thinking. Pivovar Vinohrady, for instance, was planned for April this year, but last I heard was that it'd open in October, which could easily mean April next year.

Most of those brewpubs will be located in the outskirts of town and, open or not, it'd be almost impossible to put them in any of the crawls I've planned, but there are a couple that, provided they turn out to be good, could be included. There's also one that will be a brewery almost symbolically as their beer will be contract brewed in Kácov and they will have a 60l, or so, kit that will mostly be used to make beer on demand; the place, on the other hand, looks quite interesting for what I've heard, so it might still be worth a visit.

Anyway, if you' think there are pubs, cafés or restaurants that should be in the guide, let me know. And if any of you out there happens to be a publisher, don't be shy.

Na Zdraví!

3 Aug 2014

It happened on a Friday afternoon

The previous three months were insane work-wise. I'm not complaining (well, not much). As a free-lance translator, it is almost mandatory to take as many jobs as you possibly can because you never know what the next month will be like—especially now in summer—but this time it had got to a this-is-a-bit-too-much point, and one part of me was glad to see there would be a (hopefully not too long) break, at least as far as big translations is concerned.

That break started a couple of Fridays ago, when I finished and e-mailed the last couple of jobs I had. I was looking forward to to the first weekend without any work in more than two months, but I was also very, very tired, mentally tired. I was worn out and I thought I beer would do me well.

It was too hot to be outside, and the idea of walking to the pub in that temperature looked as attractive as a visit to the dentist. I grabbed a bottle from the fridge, carefully poured it in my earthenware mug, put some music on and my feet on the desk, it was time to unwind.

It didn't work out. When the mug got empty, my brains still felt like the engine of an ageing, slightly overloaded hatchback going up a steep hill.

“Fuck it!” I told myself and grabbed 50CZK from the wallet. The missus was downstairs, doing some work at her computer, when I said to her “Jdu na pivo”, she only answered with a nod, and didn't even ask me to take Nela or the dog with me, as she usually does.

I braved the heat—most of the way to the pub is shadeless—and dragged my feet to U Hasičů. I greeted and exchanged a few words with the regulars, while paní hospodská expertly poured my desítka.

I sat in the shade of a larch birch, sipped my beer while letting my mind wander off, paying attention to almost nothing besides the rustle of the leaves. The procedure was repeated for the second pint, after which I took the 50CZK out of my pocket, paid and walked back home.

It wasn't until I was almost around the corner from the house that I realised that my feet weren't dragging anymore. I felt overall lighter, in body and mind, looking forward to preparing something nice for dinner, hoping that my daughter would help me.

A couple of beers at the pub. Try it some day, it can do wonders.

Na Zdraví!

1 Aug 2014

A conclusion after a quick visit to MMX

Pivovar MMX is one of those many brewpubs that've opened in the last few years that I never felt I needed to visit. I can't really put a finger on why; the place is fairly easy to reach from Prague—Dobřichovice has an excellent train connection, and the place itself isn't too far from the train station— and I don't remember any particularly good or bad reviews about it, in fact, I don't remember drinking any of their beers (which makes me wonder whether it isn't one of these).

Family matters took us yesterday to Dobřichovice and when were discussing where to go for lunch, I suggested MMX, to which everyone agreed.

A short and pleasant walk along the river later, we arrived to this fairly large complex that includes a hotel. The brewhouse is in a fish-tank-like room separated from the restaurant by the hotel's reception. The restaurant is very spacious and luminous, with a minimalist decoration that gives it almost the feel of an office building canteen—though with far better furniture. It fits very well the general architecture of the building, and I can see people liking it, but I'm not among them, my problem, I guess.

We sat outside, though. Service was very good—quick, professional, attentive and pleasant, they made you feel welcome without any fake smiles or pretended friendliness. The food—one of the daily specials—was a just a few notches above the 'Just OK'.

As for the house beers. I didn't know what to expect from them, which, to some extent, isn't that bad a thing—as long as the beer isn't undrinkable, you aren't likely to be disappointed.

I Started with the seasonal Pšenice 12° because thirst. A very conventional beer, almost to the point of shyness, but like the food, it had one job and did it well.

The Stout was also pretty conventional, unseasonally so, but with more of an extrovert personality, making at least an effort to impress. My favourite of the four they had on tap.

The other two were the 10º and 12º, both světlé, and both with a visibly heavy dose of caramel malts. They made me realise that caramel malts aren't a bit to pale lagers what silicon implants are to women. Most of them don't need any of that, but some have been convinced that they do. In some cases, you will probably not notice them, they are so well used they can cheat you into believing they are not there. That wasn't the case with these two beers, unfortunately, whose implants were of Andersonian proportions and, as such, diverted all of your attention from whatever it was that the rest had to offer. Yes, there are people, not few, who like big plastic boobs, but I'm not among them, my problem, I guess.

We spent the rest of the day bathing in the river, drinking ver well tapped Gambrinus under the sun, while the kids played in the park and later knocking down cans of Pilsner Urquell it my wive's relatives' garden while talking about stuff.

It was a very good day overall.

Na Zdraví!

Pivovar MMX
N 49°55.43062', E 14°15.52855'
Dobřichovická 452 – Lety
info@mmxpivo.com - +420 602 783 903
Mon-Thu, Sun: 11-23, Fri-Sat: 11-24

29 Jul 2014

Comfortably bland

Today I was in one of those rare good moods where I fancied trying something I don't remember hearing anything about, a světlá 11° from Pivovar Sedlčanský Krčín, and the best way I can describe it is, paraphrasing Pink Floyd,
Is there any flavour in there?
Just nod if you can hear me,
are there any malt or hops?
The pint was very well tapped, and there was nothing in the beer that could be considered really bad, or really good. It was halfway between everything, almost like political correctness in a pint; a non-denominational beer.

It had me wondering whether that isn't intended; as if the brewer believed that people are bound to repeat what they have forgotten.

And then I realised that there must be more than a few other, equally bland and joyless beers whose names I have forgotten.

Na Zdraví!

25 Jul 2014

On Rich and Successful People Wanting Free Money

You must've read already about Stone's crowdfunding campaign to raise cash to help them (or not?) with their expansion plans in the East Coast of the US and in Europe, and their response to the negative feedback they received, which reminded me of a high-profile professional athlete being forced by his PR to apologise for something stupid he said.

I won't comment too much on the almost arrogant, rich cunt, holier-than-thou style of the press releases and the video (and the “we are going to save German beer culture” bollocks I've seen everywhere on the internet) because I understand that it's part of Stone's marketing discourse. And because it is not what really bothers me about this

Reading the press release again (and suffering the video) I don't think Stone are being honest here.

In the best case scenario, they are (ab)using the crowd funding platform for marketing (and attention whoring) purposes. They aren't the first, and certainly not the last to do that. But it is still unethical, at least in the way it's being done.

Look at this other brewery, Freetail, who are also promoting themselves in IndieGogo. Not only they are doing it with a very clever satire, but likely is that they will not keep the money, as their campaign is set as “fixed funding”--the donations get refunded if the target is not met—while Stone's is “flexible funding”–they get to keep the money one way or another.

But that aside. Stone say that the projects will be carried out with or without the million dollars, which leads to me to believe that they already have secured the funding or are very much on the way to secure it. So why do they need that money for? To make beer? Really? I thought they were making beer already.

Neither of those breweries exist yet (they haven't even decided on a location for one of them!). It could take years until they start producing anything. And besides, what will those beers be like? Other than a bunch of marketing buzzwords, that is.

I'm not convinced. As far as I'm concerned, that million USD (4% or not, is still a fuckton of money for most mortals, and probably enough to get a fairly well equipped microbrewery going in quite a few countries) could be the cash they need to take one of those breweries to a new level, or to buy Greg a pad in Berlin, I don't know, and it doesn't matter. I feel there is something important Stone is not telling us. I feel that all Stone wants is free money from their fans, which they'll pay back, at some yet to be determined point in the future, with expensive beers that may or may not be good, because nobody knows anything about them yet, which the lenders will be expected to pick up themselves so they can get discounted merchandise or whatever. Doesn't sound like a very good deal to me.

But this is not of my concern, really. I am under no obligation to take part in this campaign anymore than I will be to buy their German made beers.

That being said, I'm sure that at least some of you are seriously considering throwing a coin in Stone's cap before they have started playing. Before you press “Donate”, answer this question: Aren't there any small breweries near where you live (or not) that are already making great beer and perhaps need your 50USD a lot more than Koch and co.?

Na Zdraví!