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

6 May 2016

Pilsner Urquell is Looking for a New Owner

I can't have been the only one who last year exclaimed “Well, fuck!” upon learning that the same people who fucked Staropramen—and other brands in several countries—were going to own Czech Republic's flagship beer.

Fear no more!

As, I reckon, most of you must are already aware, in order to placate those pesky EU anti-trust regulators, ABIB has undertaken to divest a bunch assets in Eastern Europe, among which is Plzeňský Prazdroj—apparently, getting rid of Grolsch, Peroni and Meantime was not enough.

What I find most interesting is that this is basically the same thing ABIB did back in late 2009, when they sold to an investment fund a bunch of breweries in Eastern Europe that included Staropramen—which happened about a year after the merger with AB and, if I recall correctly, at about the same time that rumours about their interest in SAB-Miller were beginning to go around. That can't be a coincidence.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, really. The ageing Central and Eastern European markets are stagnant at best, and, save a couple of exceptions, there aren't brands with any value outside their respective backyards—'I really fancy a glass of that famous, generic Hungarian Lager,' said no one ever. It's the developing countries the Brazilians are after, which still have massive potential for growth.

The question is who will buy the package. The other big boys—MC, Heineken and Carlsberg—are out of the question; unless they're themselves willing to divest in the same region, which I doubt. The money seems to be either on Asahi, who've already committed to buy Peroni et al, or an investment fund, like in 2009.

When the news of the mega-merger came out, some people—myself included—speculated whether the new conglomerate would shut down one of the four breweries that Prazdroj operates, with Kozel being the most likely candidate. We had no basis for that, other than it being what corporations of that ilk tend to do—ask Heineken, for instance. Will that be the case with these yet-to-be-known new owners?

If I had to choose, I'd pick Asahi. They are more likely to be in for the long run (and they are already in the business of beer), whereas an investment fund will probably restructure the package in order to sell it for a profit a few years later, just like CVC did.

Brace yourselves, interesting times are coming.

Na Zdraví!

PS: It's really amusing to see the mental contortions of those crafotphiles who really, really hate it when Craft breweries are sold to macros, but see no problem with they loose their “Indie” status to a investment funds.

19 Apr 2016

A Couple of Beers at Easter

We spent part of the last Easter Holidays in Strakonice, with my wife's relatives. On Sunday we headed to Sušice, a town about 30 km away. The weather was gorgeous and the ride was very enjoyable, as expected in the secondary roads of South Bohemia.

Sušice is a pretty cute town, with with a well-preserved historical centre and a lovely park next to it, on an island on the the river Otava. Unfortunately, it was still too early in the season for the beer garden to be open, otherwise it would've been perfect (it's a proper beer garden, mind you, under large trees and not a bunch of tables on a parking lot).

After walking around and let the dog run unleashed for a bit, we headed to the centre to get some food. We picked a random restaurant in the square, Restaurace Gloria. Quite unremarkable, it was, set in a vaulted cellar. It looked like a place that once may have had ambitions, which were never quite materialised. The food was just OK, and they had Svijany on tap.

Back when I started with this beer writing thing, almost a decade ago, seeing a sign of Svijany was enough to get me excited. A lot has changed since then? the brewery has, I think, doubled its size, and not without some growing pains. It is said they started using HGB to make up for the lack of capacity, while they physically expanded. In any case, I lost interest in their beers and, from drinking them almost on a daily basis—at least their 12°—I now only choose them w hen there's nothing better at hand—as was the case in this restaurant.

The waiter cocked up the order for my first pint and brought me Kněžna, Svijany's dark beer. I don't remember when was the last time I'd had it, but even when Svijany was my favourite brewery, it wasn't a fan—too sweet. Wasn't I surprised! It was totally different to what I remembered. More chocolate and roast and less caramel. I wondered if they've stopped using saccharine to make it (I haven't checked, BTW). It was followed by 450, a beer they launched a couple of years ago to celebrate the (alleged) 450th anniversary of the brewery, brewed with hops Saaz from their own hop yards. I'd had it only once, and I thought it was mediocre. Not this time. It was lovely, a textbook Světlý Ležák: crisp, clean, fresh, with the right mouthfeel and enough character to draw some of your attention. Maybe its time to revisit Svijany, I thought as we left the restaurant.

After a relatively quick stopover at a café, also in the square, we crossed the river, heading to (?), a hill offering a fantastic view to the town and the surrounding countryside.

A few metres after leaving the bridge behind, I spotted a sign pointing to a “minipivovar a restaurace”, one I'd never heard of.

Back when I started with this beer writing thing, almost a decade ago, if seeing a sign of Svijany was enough to get me excited, coming across a brewpub I didn't know about would've sent me in an almost ecstatic frenzy. Now that I think of it, though, I don't know how likely coming across a brewpub I didn't know about would have been then. Microbreweries were relatively few and far between, and I would've surely done some research before heading anywhere—and I would've done my best to try to steer the trip in the direction of a brewery. But things have changed greatly. I stopped following the news on new openings a few years ago; not only because it's almost impossible to keep up—a new brewery seems to pop up literally every week—but also because at some point I became disenchanted.

All that being said, there is something left of the ticker in me and I wasn't going to walk past a brewery without having at least one, and maybe put some bottles in my rucksack.

Pivovar U Švelchů opened in 2014. The pub looks very nice, with plenty of wood, exposed masonry, and an overall style that, though modern, won't look outdated in a year or two. It was also a lot more lively than the restaurant we had been to, and it made me wish I had done some homework; lunch here would've been more fun, I thought, until I had their Světlý Ležák. It was crap: way too carbonated, sweet where it should've been bitter and bitter where it should've been sweet, empty in the middle and with a pinch of burnt cable to add some complexity. They had three more beers on tap, including an IPA (of course), plus a few bottled; I didn’t bother with them. If they aren't able, or willing, to put together a decent Světlý Ležák, the rest can be fucked for all I care.

To be honest, though, it's entirely possible that I was unlucky. Had I dropped by a week earlier or later, I could've found a good, or even fantastic beer. It's the microbrewery lottery, and many owners seem to be happy with it; as long as people keep on coming, they've no reason to worry, or improve things, for that matter.

Minipivovary like this are the ones that make you appreciate regional brands a lot more, especially when they have become so commonplace. They aren't fancy, envelope-pushing, řemeslné and they are struggling to keep up with the trends—if they bother at all—but by the most part they remain reliable and well-priced, a safe haven from europivo, lottery ležák and overpriced IČE alike. We should be grateful for them.

Na Zdraví!

Restaurace Gloria
49°13'54.089"N, 13°31'11.310"E
Nám. Svobody 6 – Sušice
+420 608 246 869 – info@voky.cz
Mon-Sun: 10-22

Pivovar U Švelchů
49°13'44.886"N, 13°31'27.045"E
Nuželická 25 – Sušice
+420 725 840 119 – info@pivovarsusice.cz
Mon-Thu: 10-22, Fri-Sat: 10-23, Sun: 10-21

21 Mar 2016

Back to the roots reviews: Pivovar Narodní & Pivovar U Dobřenských

As a personal policy, and unless I'm given a good reason to do otherwise, I wait at six months before I decide to give a new brewery my money. My days as a novelty chaser and ticker gone, and I want to have some degree of certainty when I buy a beer; there's plenty of very good stuff on the market to waste time financing crap.

That time has passed (a month or two ago, actually) and, not having any reason to do otherwise, I decided to finally pay visit to Pivovar Narodní and Pivovar U Dobřenských; both, brewpubs making beer happen in Prague's Old Town since last summer.

Pivovar Narodní actually opened its doors in spring, basically next door to the National Theatre, but it would take them another couple of months to fire up the mash tun. They weren't particularly open about that fact, and the beers they sold were from Kácov; whether it was something contract-made or relabelled is not clear. The brewing gear, by the way, is originally from the now closed brewpub in Průhonice, and I think the package also included the brewmaster.

But here I am, early afternoon on a rainy, late-winter Tuesday. The interiors have been heavily influenced by the Potrefená Husa school of interior design, but it kind of works, even with the display of souvenirs by the entrance. Maybe it's the large, wood (or coal?) fired grill on one side. The bar is also at the entrance, but has no room to perch. The only place for a quick beer on the go is a repurposed barrel standing under the stairs leading to the loft. There's another, rather nondescript, room further in and a beautiful beer garden in the back—closed, of course.

There's quite a bit of people for this time on a weekday—many are locals—and most aren't drinking beer (there are five German speaking kids 20 or so, who've all ordered Coke!). It takes me a bit too long to order my first pint as there's only one waiter on duty and it seems everyone has arrived pretty much at once.

There are three beers on tap, or rather, two and a half: a Světlá 11°, both filtered and unfiltered, and a Polotmavá 13°; the only beers they make, and all sold in bloody 0.4l portions.

I order the filtered 11° first, wondering why would a brewpub bother with filtering and which of the two versions sells better. In any case, what I'm brought is not what I could call a good beer. It is served way too cold, to the point that it almost numbs the tip of my tongue, and I start to suspect it is not an accident: there is a mild, but persistent note reminiscing of a cheap beer out of a PET bottle unfamiliar with the inside of a fridge, bought at a small Vietnamese Večerka in a summer afternoon. I don't want to know what it tastes like once it catches some temperature.

The rawer version follows. To be honest, I don't notice much of a difference in the looks, but it tastes better, and it's been served a bit warmer. However, there's something not entirely right. I feel I'm listening to a symphonic orchestra with a flute player missing out his part; unlike Dr. Lecter, I can't figure out which. Whether it's the off note of the previous beer still clinging to my palate, I can't say.

I close the session with the Polotmavá 13°. Unlike the other two, I don't find anything wrong with this beer. Nor anything particularly right. It's the beer equivalent of a veteran bank clerk who has long run out of fucks to give and now does the bare minimum to keep his job.

Overall, it was an unsatisfying experience. I'm sure Pivovar Narodní will do fine as a business: the food I saw looked nice, the service was good in the end, the prices are reasonable and they have a prime location. But I find it redundant. For this kind of beers, I'd much rather go to the relatively nearby Vinohradský Pivovar or Bašta, where I will get a full portion of better beer at a better price, or even the neighbouring U Medvídku.

Let's hope U Dobřenských turns out better. It has to, it's considerably more expensive.

Pivovar U Dobřenských is located in the premises formerly occupied by a similarly named, but short-lived pub that served Kout na Šumavě, in the namesake street that, for some reason, I always seem to have trouble to find. Like Narodní, it'll take them a month or two after opening to get the brewery to work. Unlike Narodní, you could be 100% you would be drinking their beers and not somebody else's with a different jacket.

What sets this brewery apart is their use of unconventional ingredients in all their beers, but not in the Opat fashion—an otherwise finished product flavoured with extracts and syrups—but they actually brew with those ingredients: tribulus terrestris, sage and sea-buckthorn. Their price is another thing that sets it apart: depending on the beer, 65 and 72 CZK bloody for 0.4l portions—about 80 and 90 for a half litre. It thought it was the most expensive, until I saw Strahov's updated price list.

The pub itself it's more my type; it's gorgeous in fact. Vaulted ceilings, exposed masonry, wrought iron, the brewing gear and the tanks and the custom-made taps, and the fireplace create a beautiful ambiance to sit, at least in the taproom. The other room, with more tables, though still very nice, is bland in comparison.

The only people when I arrive are a waiter/tapster and a group of four, of whom two seem to be either the owners or associates of the owners, talking business—Matuška and Hendrych are mentioned in relation to a pub or café, but I can't bring myself to follow the conversation too closely, the excellent Jazz they're playing keeps on grabbing my attention. The one thing that really surprises me is that smoking is allowed in the taproom.

I begin the session with the sea-buckthorn beer, the first in the list. I'm brought a glass with a liquid so murky that it would be considered Proper Craft Beer in some places. The menu has explanations of the botanicals used. They might include tasting notes, but I choose not to read them; I prefer to go in blind, trusting my senses and not somebody else's. There is mild tart note, which I assume comes from the berries. It's well balanced, but I'm not too happy with this beer overall. It needs some polishing; though it's possible I'm drinking the bottom of a keg or tank. In any case, for this price I was expecting something that wouldn't tastes like a homebrew.

Moving a notch down the list is Tribulus, the most expensive of the bunch and the house's flagship. It looks considerably better than the previous: about the same colour, but almost clear. I've no idea what this herb is supposed to taste like, but if the beer was given to me blind, I'd probably believe it is a Pale Ale of some denomination brewed with a hop cultivar I'm not familiar with. In other words, it doesn't taste like spiked iced-tea but like beer, and a superb one at that. It's gorgeous, it prances around with joy, delighted to make your acquaintance and be at your service.

That leaves me with the Stout with sage. Stout is not the most aromatic style, and I'm very familiar with herb (we grow it in our garden and I use it a lot for cooking), so I can easily pick it when I get my nose close to the glass, it's a fairly intense, but at the same time, restrained aroma. In the mouth, fortunately, everything has a perfect balance, even if a bit more precarious. I won't bore with tasting notes, to get an idea what this beer is like, get a good Stout, rub the leaves of fresh sage on your fingers and imagine what those two would be like together, only better. It's muscular, manly, a blacksmith of a beer. I could drink it all day and never get tired of it.

Like Tribulus, Salvia Stout looks and tastes like the product of a Brew Master who knows what he's doing and it's not afraid to show it.

Although I'd heard good comments about the beers, their prices (and their portions) put me off coming before, but I must say that in the end it was money very well spent (at least in two out of three), which is a lot more than I can say about Narodní. I will come back to Pivovar U Dobřenských, and you should go, too.

Na Zdraví!

Pivovar Narodní
50°4'53.031"N, 14°24'56.807"E
Narodní 8 – Praha-Nové Město
+420 222 544 932 – pivovar@pivovarnarodni.cz
Mon-Sun: 11-23:30
Trams: 6, 9, 17, 18, 22 – Narodní Dívadlo

Pivovar U Dobřenských
50°5'2.632"N, 14°24'56.012"E
U Dobřenských 3 – Praha-Staré Město
+420 222 222 141 – info@pivovarudobrenskych.cz
Mon-Sun: 14-24
Trams: 6, 9, 17, 18, 22 – Narodní Dívadlo

PS: Apologies for the lack of photos. I left the camera at home. You'll find some at the brewpubs' webpages.

14 Mar 2016

The Tram Beer Challenge (5): Nákladové nádraží Žižkov - Perunova - I.P. Pavlova

Well, fuck!

I knew fate would eventually bring me to a stop I've been before. I was only hoping it wouldn't be so soon; and to Perunova of all places! (and I'm still burping U Kozla's cellar)

The problem here, and one I didn't take into account my first time around, is that the tram stops are very close together, even the ones in Vinohradská, which restraints me even more (in fact, I cocked up when I went to Restaurace Orion, but it's too late to bother about that now).

The nearest place is a rock bar that only sells Pilsner Urquell in 0.4l measures. I'd rather drink a full portion of Staropramen, which is what I will have to do, I reckon, at U Michála.

It looks like the kind of pub I would probably avoid even if it was the only one in town. Not only because of the brand they sell, it's simply unattractive an uninviting. It's quite small, with a Spartan decoration; almost as if they'd just moved and they were still waiting for some boxes to be delivered.

All that being said, the place is almost full, with a very lively crowd of fifty-somethings (being in my mid-forties, I get an irrational pleasure out of being the youngest person in a crowd).

I take a seat at the bar and order a Světlý—well tapped, it has to be said. The other geezers perched there are having a pretty good time. The one next to me is telling a story about a time he and his mate went to Austria and drank everyone under the table, back when the soudruzi were still running the show here. Does this man remember what those drinks tasted like? Did he care at the time what it meant to be drinking there, or going to Austria was just another day in the job for him? Those are things I would love to know, but would never dare to ask a stranger; and listening to the conversation makes me none the wiser as it has branched out into other, still alcohol-related topics.

The pub is still kind of ugly, but these people don't care. I have stopped caring myself, but don't fancy staying for a second pint; I feel a little as if I were crashing a party. I pay and go back to the tram stop.

Can you bloody believe it? I'm heading to I.P. Pavlova, again. This time, though, I know where I'll go.

If I recall correctly, Pivní Mapa opened a bit over two years ago, with 45 taps. I never bothered to go, but did walk past it a couple of times. The pub wasn't much bigger than my living room and looked like a kebab takeaway. Apparently, it was a takeaway of sorts. According to what I heard (but never confirmed), the idea was that people would come to have bottles filled to drink at home, making up for small premises. On paper, it looks interesting; unfortunately, however, the location was shit—almost at the corner of Legerova and Anglická, a place with hardly any foot traffic, where you can't even stop a car. Not surprisingly, the rotation was less than ideal (even when only 30 of the 45 taps were used at any given time) and it didn't take long for Pivní Mapa to draw comparisons with U Radnice.

What was surprising was finding out that it was still open; well, sort of. The premises I think it used to occupy have been turned into a kitchen studio. The only clue of its existence is the logo on a blackboard by the door of a pub next door, Sklípek U Munků, which also sports a Bakalař sign.

If this is indeed Pivní Mapa—and to be honest, I'm not sure*—their ambitions are far more realistic: six beers on tap (though it appears they have more some days). The place itself is in a deep, gloomy cellar and looks like the restaurant of a small town 3 star hotel. Other than the owner, a Russian woman in her 40s, and the lady she's having a business meeting with, it's empty (and quiet, the only sounds are the humming of a fridge or cooling system and someone chopping vegetables in the kitchen).even if it's been more than half hour since opening time, I've good reason to believe I'm the day's first patron. Saying that my expectations are low is an understatement.

The beer list features names that would've got me really stoked when I started blogging—Primátor, Litovel, Bakalař, Beroun. I pick Bakalař 12° and hope for the best.

Bloody hell! It's brilliant! The right temperature, properly tapped after flushing the line and rinsing the glass, tastes fresh and surgically clean; it's a textbook example of what a Světlý Ležák should be like. The best beer I've had so far in this game.

They've turned on the music, generic Pop of the blandest and most inoffensive sort (which goes well with the decoration, to be honest), and I'm still alone in the pub (if you don't count the book I'm reading, Cannabis a History, by Martin Booth). But I'm a fairly good mood, so good that I feel adventurous and, instead of getting another pint of Bakalař, I choose Berounský medvěd tmavý 13°. Like the previous one, it's in top form, and a real bargain at 30 CZK a half litre.

Two blokes, Russian or Ukranian, arrive as I squeeze the last drops of the dark beer and make me wonder what this place is like in the evening, and what kind of people patronise it. In any case, it's been a real surprise and a much welcome change, at least beerwise. Should check it out again some evening.

Back on the road, hoping I won't end up in Újzed again.

Na Zdraví!

Kafé Bar U Michála
50°4'30.685"N, 14°27'9.266"E
Korunní 86 – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 605 869 351 – michal.synek@gmail.com
Mon-Fri: 8-23, Sat-Sun: 14-23

Pivní Mapa
50°4'36.310"N, 14°25'50.220"E
Legerova 76 – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 721 250 180 – info@pivnimapa.eu
Mon-Fri: 14-23, Sat-Sun: 15-23

(*) Pivní Mapa's original website announced the move to U Munků. I guess I should pay attention to these things. On the other hand, nobody's paying me for that.