1 Aug 2008

Ignoring the giant, well, almost (III)

First part
Second part

When I walked out of U Rytíře Lochoty I noticed that there was a bus stop right in front of the door. Both the 32 and the 40 could take me back to the centre. Brilliant. The 40 arrived shortly, and in less than fifteen minutes I was getting off at Pilsen's main square Nám. Republiky. It is a very nice square, really, with its impressive Gothic church and the beautiful (Neo?)Rennaisance building of the city hall. I'm sorry I didn't take any pictures. The camera was running out of battery and I wanted to save it for the important stuff.

I located Rooseveltová, a street in the northeastern corner of the square, and followed it until going over a brige. From there I went to a parking lot that can be seen on the right. LOTR was behind it.
Like Purkmistr, it is a hotel - restaurant - brewery. I walked around the building until I saw some tables outside, then I wen to through the first open door I saw, to the left of it there was a bar.
I was a bit confused at first. The place was empty, it wasn't very big. In fact, much of the room is taken by a U shaped bar. All the tables are tall and small. It's modern, yet not cold. I picked a table in one corner and soon a girl, whom I thought was a patron, came to take my order. I went for the beer that she discribed as a "lehké polotmavé 11°" (light amber). The price, not bad, 28CZK.
A few seconds later I had on my table what was in fact a beer of light amber colour, with no visible carbonation and topped by a thick and creamy white head. Notes of grain, fruit and mild yeast enticed the nose. It had a silky mouthfeel that caresses the palate, where, at the beginning, moderatedly sweet flavours can be felt that then evolve into a dry bitter finish. I really liked this beer. It is of the kind I would like to have in the fridge when coming back home on a hot day. I couldn't resist the temptation of having another one. I went to the bar to order it, and also to ask if they brew anything else. Not for now, I was told, but there will be a dark 11° ready by Christmas.
While I was enjoying the second pint of this lovely 11° I started chatting with the couple that was in charge of the place. Both very friendly and interested in what I was doing there, where I am from, and what I thought about Gambrinus. They were glad to know that I liked their beer and invited me to have a look into the bowels of the brewery.

It is new, it opened last March, and small. Neverhteless, it is pretty interesting. Fermenting and lagering are done in oak barrels. According to what the brew master (who looked like some sort of hippy Gandalf) told me, the beer lagers for up to two months. We went up the stairs, to the restaurant. The kettles are there, and how beautiful they are! Mandatory bronze, but partly encased in what looked like a kachlová kamna, one of those wood fired ovens that used to be very common in country houses.
We went back to the bar. I didn't really feel like leaving, I liked these two people, but it was time to say good-bye, with the promise of going back. I wished them good luck while at the same time thinking whether, if they are successful, it would be possible to expand the capacity of the brewery, which didn't seem too big. I hope so.

Later, while looking at the photos I had taken that day, I noticed something that I had missed. I banged my head on the desk, how could I have forgotten to ask? I tried calling, but the person who picked the phone was not able to give me any answer. Is that beer bottom or top fermented? Look again at the picture above.

But my tour wasn't finished yet. I had one more stop before taking the train back to Prague.

My (successful) plan had been to visit each of the three brewpubs that are currently open in Pilsen, while snubbing Pilsner Urquell. But not stopping at Šenk Na Parkánu would have been almost a cardinal sin. Because that is the only place in the world were Pilsner Urquell Nefiltrované is tapped.
Let me remind you that much of the huge success of the original Pilsner Lager was due to its looks, intense golden cristaline colour, which could be fully appreciated with the glassware that, thanks to contemporary technological advances, had become affordable for the middle classes.
The Nefiltrované subverts an important part of Pilsner Urquell's concept as designed by Josef Groll. The result is a spectacular beer. Foggy, but keeping the colour. The nose is cereal and Saaz, both intense and perfectly balanced. It can almost be chewed, it's a symphony of fruit, citrus and flowers. Amazing!
After enjoying every molecule of it I rushed to the train station, while its delicious finish slowly vanished. I also started to think. It's impressive that the biggest and most famous brewery of the country where the most beer per capita is drunk bothers to brew something so delicious. However, at the same time I was asking myself, why can't this beauty be enjoyed everywhere in the country? Why most consumers have to be happy with the every day more one dimensional Pilsner Urquell from a barrel?

I had a beautiful day, regardless of the squizofrenic weather. At times I felt like in my backpacking days in a city I barely knew, naviganting its public transportation system and getting my bearings from maps to help me live new experiences. Pilsen by itself is a nice destination for a day-trip. It's easy to get there from Prague, and the reward from the bother is big. Not to mention being able to drink unfiltered Urquell. But the whole lot is well worth it.

Na Zdraví!

Pivovar Purkmistr
Selská náves 21/2
326 00 Plzeň-Černice

Pivovar U rytíře Lochoty
Karlovarská 103
323 17 Plzeň

Minipivovar Na Rychtářce (LOTR)
Truhlářská 10
301 00 Plzeň 3

Šenk Na Parkánu
Veleslavínova 4
301 14 Plzeň-Vnitřní Město

4 comments:

  1. Great series, Pivero! And don't be ashamed, it's hard to resist the temptation of some unfiltered Urquell. I would've loved to try it, but didn't make it to Plzen.

    To me, the Pilsner Urquell is decent in its current format, but from what I keep hearing, the unfiltered version is incredibly delicious. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll be lucky enough to try that for a long time. Guess I'll have to live vicarously through your story! Cheers!

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  2. Thanks! I am not ashamed, actually, I'm really glad I was able to drink that beauty.
    Though in its pasteurised, filtered format PU is very far from being one of my favourite beers, I must admit it is still one of the best in the among mass produced beers.

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  3. Just my little opinion: I feel that the normal Pilsner Urquell that I can buy here in Scandinavia is great. It is even better from tap, so I envy you living in the Czech Republic who are able to drink it more often. The unfiltered versions sounds very tempting, and I hope to drink it some time. I would also like to try the other beers you have tested in Plzen.

    Cheers!

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  4. Don't get me wrong, I believe that for a mass produced beer, Pilsner Urquell is still a fine brew, perhaps, together with Budvar, unmatched in its category. But it is not as great as the people of SAB-Miller will like us to believe, at least not anymore. There are finer beers here in CZ, but they don't have the massive marketing and PR budgets, nor the corporate muscle to make themselves so well known.

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