10 Oct 2016

Prague Beer Week Grand Finále - a Review

The first Prague Beer Week was held between 3 and 9 October through a series of events around town with beer (or craft pivo, as they said in their press release, sigh!) as their only, rather flimsy, connection. It culminated at the weekend with the Grand Finále, a tasting festival at Kulturní Sportovna in Smíchov; the only event I attended, on Friday.

(Disclaimer: I had a press pass, which meant that I didn't have to pay the 100 CZK admission fee, was given 5 tokens and the glass without paying the deposit. To be honest, I wouldn't have gone otherwise. I'm not keen on tastings—I much prefer drinking—and, mainly, because I'm against paying a admission fee so I can get into a place to buy beer.)

Kulturní Sportovna is a repurposed old warehouse next to the Na Knížecí bus station that doesn't seem to have been refurbished much beyond what was needed to make it functional. It was the perfect venue for an event of this kind: welcoming, rustic, unpretentious and with a bit of a country-pub vibe; certainly much nicer than a luxury hotel, château or an exhibition hall.

At the left of the entrance was the place's permanent bar and opposite it was installed a mobile bar that prepared beer cocktails. Between them there was basically an empty space. Food was provided by a food truck parked outside, by the entrance. The Czech beers were tapped from a long, U-shaped, bar put behind a column in the middle of the hall, while the foreign ones could be found in the cellar.

Not being the audience of this type of event, I can't evaluate the atmosphere fairly. I didn't like the music much (my problem only), but they played it at a moderate volume and you didn't need to scream to talk to the person next to you.

It all felt very professionally organised. There was plenty of sitting room, with picnic tables around the taps with the Czech beers, and some more seats and tables downstairs. There were also a couple of tanks to rinse the festival-issued glass, a Teku (really ugly, if you ask me, and tasting from it was not better, or worse, than from pretty much any other type of glass; but it's trendy and has a tall stem that makes it automatically fancy). At the entrance you were issued a card listing all the beers on tap, with their styles, Plato and ABV; very useful to help you choose what you'll drink next, instead of walking around the bar.

Everything seemed to be working in good order, at least in the couple of hours I spent of Friday. My only quibble was the lack of water to rinse your palate between samples. Pitchers on the tables or at least a water fountain would've been a fine detail, especially since many of the beers were really packed with flavour.

The range of beers was superb—45 beers from 15 breweries/brands (10 domestic, 5 imported)—with enough diversity to make everyone happy. There were Pale and Dark Lagers, a Weizenbock, PAs and Stouts of various persuasions, even sours.

Since drinking a tasting sample of a session strength beer is a waste of time, and beer, I stuck mostly to the heavier hitters. The Czech beers I had—No Idols DIPA from Clock, Asfalt from Zhůřák, Superfly India Saison from Falkon, Morion Stout from Albrecht, Zichovecký's Weizenbock, Permon's Russian Imperial Stout, and Sibeeria's Sweet Jesus—were all very good to excellent; though perhaps served a bit too cold, especially those Stouts. The only discordant note was High Diver, an IPA brewed by Next Level Brewing, from Germany, which I thought was awful. I ignored the other foreign beers. They cost two tokens; too expensive for stuff I didn't know anything about. Which brings me to the one thing that bothered me:

The price.

The tokens were 35 CZK and each would buy you a tasting sample of a Czech beer. Though the size of the samples appeared to be pretty much up to the tapster, I was mostly served 0.2l. That works out to almost 90 CZK for a pint. Way too much; and ridiculous for some of the beers listed. It's considerably more than what you'd pay for Matuška or Falkon (two of the most expensive brands in the country) at places like BeerGeek or Zlý Časy—which won't charge you 100 CZK to get in. A 25 CZK price tag, though still far from cheap, would have been reasonable. Really, for that kind of money per volume you can get, at not few pubs in town, one litre of some truly great beers (or craft pivo, if they want to call them like that), a couple of which were also served at this festival.

But as I've said, it was a very well put together event, and the organisers deserve praise, prices notwithstanding. Thank you for the invitation.

Na Zdraví!

13 Sep 2016

A Beer Run to Uhřiněves

A couple of days after the beer run in Slaný I decided the weather was nice enough to go have a look at Pivovar Uhřiněves, or rather, Pivovarská, the brewery's restaurant.

Getting there was a piece of cake, a 20 minute ride on a City Elephant train from Hlavní Nádraží that didn't cost me anything extra, as the line is part of Prague's public transport system. From the Uhřiněves station is only a relatively short, though not very pleasant walk, to brewery. (Though it was a bit longer for me. I turned left on Prátelství, the town's main thoroughfare, when I should've turned right—I had last looked at the map two days before, and my memory failed me. And it could've been more pleasant and a bit shorter, if I had noticed the alley just a few meters to the right of the station, that I hadn't noticed on the map, actually).

Based on what little I could find about it, the history of Pivovar Uhřiněves is very similar to Unětický Pivovar's: originally opened in the second decade of the 18th century and closed down in 1949, after being nationalised by the Communist regime, following an attempt to put it back on track after WWII. According to what a friend involved in the project had told me last year, the brewery's resurrection was partly financed by EU funds, and one of the conditions of the grant was that the brewery be up and running, commercially, by November. That deadline was not met (and I wonder how they sorted that out, I will have to ask at some point), and the brewery wouldn't have its official opening until last April.

The first thing that caught my attention when I finally reached the restaurant was its beer garden. Pretty big by Czech standards and a proper garden, with massive chestnut trees and the works; hands down, one of the most beautiful I've seen in this country. Yet, I went to sit inside, because.

Inside was somewhat smaller than I had anticipated. If you come in from the street (and not from the garden, as I did), you are welcome by a fairly spacious taproom. There are two other rooms to the right, and a loft above, closed during lunch time. I grabbed a table in the taproom, near the door, by a window.

The service was flawless and the food, though not memorable, was far from disappointing. I even had spontaneous company at the table: a bloke with his 10 year-old son. He told me he knew the pub before being taken over by Pivovar Uhřiněves (or perhaps, becoming again part of Pivovar Uhřiněves, as it seems to have been originally opened as an outlet of the original brewery), adding thta it was better now. Unfortunately for him, though, he had driven there and had to make do with some nealko pivo, but he was curious about my opinion on the beers, as I believe you are by now.

I started at the lowest echelon of the house's Balling ladder, with Alois 11°; a Světlý Ležák that sits comfortably half way between a Desítka and a Dvanáctka, not only ethylicly but also sensorily. A perfect example of everything that can make a Pale Lager great. I skipped one step of the ladder, to stay in the same chromatic field, and chose Alois 14° as my second course. People who rate and review beers solely on the basis of tasting samples will probably judge this one as bland and boring. However, since most of them don't understand beer all that well, their opinion should be disregarded. It does start a bit bland, yes, but it opens up after a couple of sips and becomes a subtle and fairly complex beauty; almost bi-polar, with a deceiving drinkability contrasted with a sharp edge to remind you what you are dealing with. This is what I imagine a proper Exportbier would have tasted like.

A rung lower in the Balling ladder is Alois 13°, a Polotmavý. Given the bar set by the other two, this one fell a bit short of the expectations. There was nothing technically bad that I could notice, but it lacked the fullness and roundness I enjoy so much in this type of beers. Fortunately, Porter 16° had enough muscle to compensate for its amber sybling's lack thereof. What a beauty this Porter of the Baltic persuasion is! Everything that there is to love about the style, brought to you with panache and skill. It would be perfect if it was available in a full, half-litre portion instead of (only) in 0.4 l; but to be fair, that's not the beer's nor the brewer's fault. Regardless, I sometimes think it is a pity that most Czechs seem to be more willing to drink a dodgy Ejl or ČIPE than an excellent dark lager like this; brewers can hardly be blamed. I guess we have to cherish the few that are around, and support the brewers that make them, instead of running after the latest novelty. Maybe I could start an awareness campaign, with hashtag and all. I even have a name: #BlackLagersMatter or #BLM, for short. Looks catchy.

All in all, coming to Uhřiněves was a good decision. All the good references I had of the brewery—enough to make me break the six month moratorium with new minipivovary—where confirmed. And if you don't feel like making the trip, Pivovar Uhřiněves has a pub in Vinohradská, but I haven't checked that one out yet.

Na Zdraví!

Pivovar Uhřiněves – Pivovarská Restaurace
50°1'46.881"N, 14°36'18.711"E
K sokolovně 38 – Prahe-Uhřiněves
+420 267 711 949 – info@restaurantpivovarska.cz
Mon-Sat: 11-24, Sun: 11-23

PS: I've actually checked out the place they have in Vinohradská. It's quite OK, and the beers are in top form, at a good price.

6 Sep 2016

A Beer Run in Slaný

I was going to go alone, but the day before, a Monday, I got a surprise text message from an old friend I hadn't seen for awhile. I told him my plan and he said he'd loved to join.

We met at the agreed time at the Veleslavín metro station, right when the bus was pulling over. After an uneventful but comfortable half-hour ride, we got off that the Slaný bus station. A short walk took us to Továrna Slaný, a new minipivovar that had opened in February in a repurposed industrial building—hence the name—where Jakub Veselý, of Pivo Falkon fame, is acting as head brewer.

For some reason, I expected the pub to look different. Perhaps an open space, with higher ceilings and the bar either all the way to the back, or right by the entrance. Instead, it is spread in spread in several rooms, making it bigger than it looks at first, with a very small taproom to the left of the door; all in dark wood, including the furniture. It's a bit too generic for me, and—like the the font of the brewery's logo—too similar to a Pilsner Urquell Original Restaurant. But that is, at the end of the day, of very little importance, especially when both the service and the food we had were very good.

They had four beers on tap. I started off with Továrenská 10° světlé, one of those beers that has everything it should, but put together wrongly. There was bitterness at the beginning, followed by a too generous dollop of almost caramel-like sweetness that swiftly moved aside, pushing everything away with it, leaving a watery finish where maybe the bitterness should have been. Unsatisfactory, that's the most accurate evaluation I can give it. Kruták 12° světlé, the one that followed, had those very same things, but more evenly spread and in a thicker layer, of course. It was a textbook example of a proper Světlý Ležák. Loved it really. I finished lunch, which was spent talking about the most varied topics—one almost randomly leading to the other—with Salzberg 12° tmavé, a dark lager that masterfully straddled the boundary between the sweet and the roasty. Incredibly enjoyable. I didn't bother with the fourth, the 15° IPA, Protektor, which was only served in 0.3l for the same price as a half-litre of the rest. I don't understand why they do that (and I wonder if the production costs of an IPA are that much higher to warrant such price difference). My mate had it, though, and said it was good.

The balance overall is very good and well worth the bus ride there all by itself. But since we were in Slaný, it would have been a sin not to drop by Pivovar Antoš.

The weather had decided to finally honour its threat by the we left Továrna. It was not pouring down, yet, but we were beginning to get wet as we walked down Wilsonová, towards the centre. It was in that street where a sign caught my attention. It announced Zichovecký Pivovar, the venue of the World Beer Idol competition I had judged back in January. It was at the entrance of Hugo Bagel Café.

After considering it for about two seconds, we went in for a stopover. If someone had shown me pictures of the place and told me it was in Vinohrady or Holešovice, I would've probably believed it. It had the look and decoration that has almost become a standard of the new breed of bar/café/pub hybrids that have been popping up everywhere in Prague. The food we saw being carried to other tables looked very nice, too, and the service was brilliant. The beer, on the other hand... I ordered a 10° from Zichovec, it was only a shadow of my fond memories of it, I suspect it wasn't as fresh as it should. My mate ordered Matuška Apollo Galaxy, and he was very happy with it.

Not the sort of place you'd expect to find in a mid-sized Czech town, a very pleasant surprise indeed and, hopefully, part of a wider trend throughout the country.

The rain had intensified during our stopover and was now really annoying, and was not of much help for getting my bearings when we walked into Slaný's Old Town. I realised I wasn't sure about the brewery location relation to where we were, and we actually bumped into it after making what I thought was a wrong turn.

It was nice to be indoors, and nicer still to be back in this brewpub after maybe two years. Nothing had changed since my last visit, fortunately (though the company has expanded with a second, larger production facility in the outskirts of town). The service was every bit as good as it had been in the previous two places, and they also had a Desítka on tap, Rarach. It was by several lengths better than the previous two; excellent, actually. Likewise with the Polotmavá 13°. Sometimes, I wish Czech microbreweries focused more on beers like that and less on IPAs, but I guess they aren't as sexy, (or profitable?). Regardless, I capped my Slaný beer-run with Tlustý Netopýr. I didn't mind (too much) that this Rye IPA was only available in 0,3l portions (it's only a 17° beer!), at a price even higher than the previous two's for a half litre—I fancied a small beer anyway, and, with six pints already under my belt, I was past caring. Besides, the beer is excellent and was a perfect bow to a great day spent catching-up with a good friend.

Whether alone or in company, Slaný is definitely a very good destination for a beer day-trip out of Prague.

Na Zdraví!

Továrna Slaný
50°13'43.028"N, 14°4'40.694"E
Wilsonová 689 – Slaný
info@tovarnaslany.cz – +420 312 522 822
Mon-Thu, Sun: 11-22, Fri-Sat: 11-23

Bagel Café Hugo
50°13'48.153"N, 14°4'51.795"E
Wilsonová 585 – Slaný
hugo@bagelcafe.cz – +420 734 154 250
Mon-Thu, Sun: 10:30-22, Fri-Sat: 10:30-23

Pivovar Antoš
50°13'47.938"N, 14°5'19.052"E
Vinařického 14 – Slaný
kontakt@antosovakrcma.cz – +420 731 413 711
Mon-Thu: 11-23, Fri-Sat: 11-24, Sun: 11-22

19 Aug 2016

Five Years of Únětický Pivovar

It's an early Friday evening in mid-August and, in spite of the iffy weather, I'm sitting in the courtyard of Únětický Pivovar, waiting in the company of a Desítka for the owners, Lucie and Štěpán Tkadlec.

They arrive a few minutes later, riding their scooters, just when my půl litr is dangerously close to being empty. I'm here to interview them on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the brewery's resurrection (which was celebrated in May).

My hopes to have a serious Q&A session with them start looking more uncertain than the weather when Lucka insist we drink something stiffer than beer. But I don't know what I was expecting; I'm sharing a table with friends who happen to run a brewery, and who also like having a tipple every bit as much as I do, if not more.

After the three beers and the three glasses of Single Malt Scotch arrive, and after the “Na Zdraví!”, I somehow manage to get the interview started with some background questions.

They both began working at Pivovary Staropramen in 1998, but in different parts of the company. Lucie was in the financial section, doing internal audits. Štěpán was in the labs, and later would be in charge of the bottling line and then of technology investments. They wouldn't meet until Lucka was tasked with the implementation of SAP.

Lucie would leave the company after their first daughter was born, Štěpán, a couple of years later; he needed a change. He would set up an event management company, but still felt they needed to “do something”.

By then, they were living in neighbouring Roztoky and would frequent the wine cellar that still operates within the old brewery complex. It was during one their wine runs that they got the idea to restore that building to its original purpose.

They were lucky. Firstly, because the building was in a pretty good shape—at the time it was used to store dairy products. Secondly, because the owner wanted to part ways with the company that operated the storage facilities. In 2010, contracts were signed and hands were shaken. The total investment to get the brewery up and running would be 40 million CZK (about 1.6 million EUR then). Unlike not few new breweries, the financing didn't come from a crowdfunding campaign or government or EU grants. Part came from bank loans, the rest, from two investors—friends of theirs, who remain part owners.

The drizzle has become a nuisance with no intention of going anywhere. We grab the glasses and move inside the brewery's pub, which has been set-up in the old floor maltings, built in 1711, the oldest part of the complex.

When we sit at their favourite table, Štěpán and Lucka excuse themselves, they must sort something out with the manager of the pub—the Chef is leaving and they need to talk about who will be replacing him. The pub, by the way, is also run by the Tkadlec. As Lucie explains, they have it under a subsidiary company to get a clearer view of the accounting. It barely breaks even, she adds; it does fantastically well at weekends, especially in Spring and Summer, but not many people come during the week—something I can attest. They wouldn't think of closing it, though. For them, it is an important part of the brewery, and not only as a showroom for their beers. Every year, they sell 1,000 hl at the taproom, half of which in PET bottles, but places like Vzorkovna, the bar at the National Technical Libray, Pražán (in Výstaviště Praha Holešovice) and Kavárna Liberál sell even more.

From the very beginning, Štěpán and Lucka wanted the brewery to be more than just a company that made and sold beer. Their intention was to make it integral part of the community, the village of Únětice, They found a fan in the mayor, Vladimír Vytiska, who gave them his full support once he was acquainted with all four owners and what they had in mind.

Almost as if he had been waiting for his cue—he's a musician and member of the troupe of Divádlo Sklep—Mr Vytiska, joins our table for a couple of beers. Pint in hand, he tells me he loved the idea of restoring the brewery; in fact, it's something he had thought about already in the 1990s, but it didn't go anywhere. The brewery building was one of the assets the state put up for sale in the Big Privatisation that followed the fall the Communist regime, and towns were not allowed to bid for them; though he also admits that perhaps it was not the right time to set up a brewery like this.

The role Únětický Pivovar plays in the community can be clearly seen at Posvicení, the local parish fair that will be taking place tomorrow in the brewery's courtyard and repurposed stable, which I will attend, as I do every year; and not only because of the Rye Lager they brew specially for the occasion, but for the atmosphere (and also to see the mayor play the ukulele).

One of the things that really surprised me was how quickly they had the brewery going. They had taken over the building in November 2010, and the following May they already brewing the beer that would be tapped at the official opening in June.

It was almost a matter of life or death, they explain. Knowing they didn't have any further source of financing, they had to catch the summer season from the beginning to at least be able to keep their heads above water that first year. It was hard, it was mad, they tell me, but when they saw the crowd gathering in the courtyard for opening day, they felt it might had been all worth it, after all.
And they were right. That first year, they managed to brew about 2,500 hl, and it would take them only three years to reach the 10,000 hl/y that mark the legal limit for a brewery to be a minipivovar. A great part of it was thanks to hard sales work—going out and offering the product and the brewery—but there were times that the beer was able to put up a convincing argument all by itself. When I asked how they managed so relatively quickly to get their beers into old-school pubs like U Pětníka, they told me they had tried several times to speak to the owner—who also owns Na Urale and Na Slamníku—only to be stonewalled by the staff. They had pretty much given up hope until one day the man was cycling past the brewery, stopped for a quick one at the taproom and decided his pubs had to serve those beers.

Presently, Únětický Pivovar employs almost 30 people (including the pub's staff), most of them locals or from nearby villages. Last year they brewed about 12,000 hl and expect to make 12.5-13 thousand this year. Although Lucka drops a 20,000 hl figure for the not too distant future, they don't seem to see growth as an end itself, but rather, as a result. That being said, the brewhouse is already bursting at the seams, and sooner rather than later they will have to decide what to do with it: either add one or two more vessels, or replace it by a 50 hl one (the current is a 25 hl kit). One thing is certain, though, they have no intention of changing their approach to beer: 10° and 12° will be the only beers they will produce year-round, complemented by a few seasonal specials.

It wouldn't be possible to finish this interview without talking about Vladimír Černohorský, the brewery's first Brew Master, who passed away about a year ago. The first meeting of Lucie and Štěpán with this great (and much missed) personality of the Czech beer community was a classic: Černohorský, greeted them saying he admired people who would buy a brewery instead of a Lamborghini; and it got better from there. Ivan Chramosíl, who has recently retired after more than four decades at U Fleku, has joined the team, trying to fill the void left by Vladimír. He designed the recipe for the excellent Anniversary Desítka served last May. The day-to-day production, however, is in charge of Jan Lumbert, a really cool guy who's no rookie. Before coming to Únětice (where actually lives), he had worked 13 years as a brewer in Staropramen.

By the time we begin exchanging anecdotes about our late friend Černohorský, other people have joined the table and the interview has fully become just another session at a pub, with the conversation drifting here and there and friendships being reinforced and established, while Štěpán fills in the lagering cellar a copper Mazák with Posvícenský Speciál, the 11.5° Rye Lager that will be tapped tomorrow; and it goes on until past closing time. (Fortunately for me, one of the waitresses offers to give me a ride, otherwise, getting back home would've been a bit of a problem.)
I won't pretend anything resembling objectivity. I have a special relationship with Únětický Pivovar, one that goes well beyond their beers. I know how hard Lucka and Štěpán have worked to get to where they are now, and I believe the same can be said about everyone working there. Their success is very well deserved.

Na Zdraví!

10 Jul 2016

Shouldn't We Ban Booze First?

The other day, the people of Cerveza Artesana called their followers, both in Facebook y de su their web page to sign a petition to, basically, have the European Union ban glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, IIRC.

The argument is that it is a carcinogenic substance, according to its categorisation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer – IARC, who include it in Category 2A – Probable Carcinogens, together with red meats, drinking maté at more than 65°C and being a hairdresser, among other things.

What's funny is that that same list includes in Category 1 – Known Carcinogens, together with smoking, carpentry, plutonium and exhaust from diesel engines the product that Cerveza Artesana actively promotes from their very name: alcoholic beverages.

It is not my intention to accuse these people of being hypocrites, I don't think they are, but they are ignorants. They have basically copypasted the same old arguments of the fear mongers, without questioning them, let along checking up the information. Otherwise, I doubt they would have referred to the IARC list, not only because it indicates that they are encouraging the consumption of something “more dangerous” than what they would like to have banned, but also because they would have been aware that the WHO and FAO have issued a joint statement saying that that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.

The problem here is that the meaning or purpose of the IARC list is either not taken into account or thoroughly ignored, mainly be media's thirst for bombastic headlines and clickbait. However, and as this video clearly explains, what those categories indicate is mostly a hypothetical risks: under certain conditions (exposure level, dose, etc.) this product/substance/activity is known to be carcinogen, probably or possibly is carcinogen, it has not been determined it is carcinogen, is unlikely to be so. To put a clear example: a couple of pints after work or a fag after a shag do not pose a cancer risk, just like eating bread made with flour from wheat sprayed with Roundup.

But sensationalism does not give a fuck about logic. A few months ago, the world was shaken upon learning that that traces of glyphosate had been found in the most popular German beers. The HORROR!

Though, if you go a bit beyond the apocalyptic headlines, or go around looking for more information, you'll come to a very different reality. Kevin Folta offers a sober take on the issue: the concentrations of glyphosate found in the beers are between 0.46 and 29.74 ppb. In other words, there are people who expect us to shit our pants because of some negligible doses of a “probably carcinogen” found in a product that has 50,000,000 ppb of a “known carcinogen”

Honestly, it's about time we cut that shit. If regardless of all the deaths caused by alcohol, we have no problem accepting the fact that it does not pose a serious health risk when consumed in moderation, why are we still afraid of a substance that has been proven to be effective and safe when used as indicated?

Na Zdraví!

PS: I sometimes wonder whether this campaign against glyphosate (which is patent free) is not orchestrated and financed by a producer or patent holder of an organic pesticide. (You see how easy is to come up with a conspiracy theory?)

31 May 2016

On Abstinence, Ritual and Apathy

I felt I'd been drinking a bit too much in the previous weeks—more than what I usually drink, which might be already too much. I was thinking of taking a few days, perhaps a week, off the booze after Vysmolení (where, by the way, I had great time! Thanks everyone at Černoskotelecký Pivovár for letting me crash at the brewery, like every year—and this one in particular, for carrying me to bed). The Jurassic hangover I woke up with the next day made the decision very easy.

To be honest, I don't know what I was expecting of this attempt, but it wasn't hard; at all. Yes, there were times when I fancied a beer, especially while preparing dinner, but they were fleeting moments; as if I suddenly realised that something was missing from the alchemical ritual of transmuting produce and other ingredients into something greater than the sum of their parts, only to see that it's not that important; its absence wouldn't affect the outcome.

By the third day, I think, what I was feeling wasn't thirst or cravings or withdrawal; it was apathy. My interest in beer was no greater than that of any other topic I like reading about. Maybe it was a defence mechanism—you can't crave something you aren't interested in (it also helped that I had a pretty busy week that didn't leave time to hit the pubs. Though I did walk past a couple of old favourites, without feeling tempted to walk in). In any case, I wasn't counting the hours or days that I'd spent without a drop/until I would taste beer again.

I didn't complete the week, however. We had a trip to Ríp planned for last Saturday with the families of some of my daughter's classmates. It was a fine day, despite being around way too many children (anything more than one—my own—is way too many, actually).

After walking a couple of kilometres between fields from the Ctiněves train station, we climbed that legendary hill from the steepest side. I was the first to make the summit (that sounds grandiose; it's only a bit over 450m high). At the top, there's a wasted opportunity that passes for a watering hole; a place run by professional notgivingashitters who know that the people who make it all that way up will eat and drink whatever crap they are sold (to give them credit, though, the prices are at least reasonable). As approached it, I told myself Fuck it! I'd proven that I can go days without booze and suffer no consequences, and went to get a beer. It'd be a sin not to—some rituals must be observed to their fullest.

The beer they have is Bakalář (perhaps because they get it cheaper than others, or it's the only company willing to deliver there), served in plastic cups, of course. After patiently queueing, I got my velká 11° and found a place to sit under a tree and enjoy my reward.

It was crap. You can't see the taps from the window, but judging from the looks of the head, my pint was not served in one pour, and I'd wager that a no small part of it was the drips from previous pours, as the beer was likely foaming too much; all dispensed from taps that I doubt are cleaned as often as they should.

I finished it, I was really thirsty and needed to drink something more than mineral water, but I didn't feel like having a second one, I had an ice-cream instead. Yeah, that's how crap it was: after almost a week of not even sniffing a beer, and having walked several kilometres and climbed a hill in the middle of a warm, humid day, I didn't feel like having a second pint.

But the day didn't end there.

After a rather funny situation with the train back to Vraňany, where we had left our cars (the train that we were waiting Vraždov had broken down, but the machinist came to pick us up with a bus and took us to another station, where he would get another engine running so we could go to our destination), the day went on at the house of one of the families of the group. When the rain stopped, we made a fire in the garden to roast špekáčky, while the kids played. The host went to the local pub to fetch some beer with a couple of empty plastic bottles. I was offered some, which I gladly accepted; more out of politeness than crave—again, the ritual. It was Svijany Fanda this time, and was OK, but after finishing the small glass I'd been given, having another one didn't even cross my mind—apathy had once more taken over.

Since then (Saturday evening) and now (Monday late afternoon), I've only drunk one of the bottles UzenejŽitnýVideňák (a.k.a. Mad Max, the beer that Pivovarský Dům brewed on my recipe, or idea) that had been lingering in the fridge for 10 days, while watching a film last night; almost ritually.

What did I get from all this? I don't know, really. Not drinking for a few days is fine—and I'm sure my liver appreciated it—but not something to be proud of. Perhaps what I've realised is that, at least for me, beer is more than anything else, a part of a ritual: cooking, having dinner, a reward, an accessory in a social meeting. Come to think of it, that's nothing new.

Na Zdraví!

13 May 2016

A Reminder for Next Saturday, 21/5

This Staruday, 21/5, Černokostelecký Pivovár is hosting the 5th edition of Vysmolení, one of the two local beer festivals I can be bothered with going (the other being its sibling event, Vykulení, in Septermber). It just has pretty much everything I believe a good beer festival should:
  • Free entry—paying an admission fee to buy beer? Fuck that!
  • A fairly limited but well chosen range of beers, several drawn from wooden barrels.
  • All the beers are available in proper, half litre portions—to drink in earnest.
  • Plastic cups for those who can't be arsed with the inconvenience of a glass, while those who don't mind it, can either buy a glass on site or bring their own (provided is marked).
  • It's not too crowded and the venue is great, and outdoors.
  • The music doesn't start until later in the afternoon, by which time you are probably quite pissed and don't mind it.

In addition, you get to see master coopers practising their craft and visit the brewery proper, which is in the last stages of its reconstruction.

As every year, I'm very much looking forward. Spending a whole day drinking good beer among friends is always a great pleasure. See you there.

Na Zdraví!

How to get there? Buses 381-387 leaving every hour from Háje to Kostelec n.Č.l.,nám