22 Oct 2008

Struggler

After having missed the previous two, I was really glad to be able to attend again the monthly beer tasting at Pivovarský Klub. This month it was the turn of Pivovar Broumov, Opat for friends.

In its many encarnations Pivovar Broumov has been brewing since 1348. And actually, it belonged to the Church for 600 years, until it was confiscated by the Communist regime in 1948, and then collectivised with several others into what would become Východočeské Pivovary, which would later evolve into Pivovary Hrádec Králove, until 1997, when it was privatised. Since then it will go through several hands until it landed in those of its current owners, in 2006.

Despite the energy and dedication that these new owners have been putting on their enterprise, the brewery is not having a very good time. Like most small regional breweries, it is having a hard time fighting the megamonsters and their less than fair play tactics. More so when even the restaurant owned by the town hall prefers to stock Gambrinus, rather than the local beer made be local people. How about loyalty.

Back to the beer. Opat is an old acquaintance of mine. Despite their occasional problems with consistency, specially with their tapped beers, I have always had a soft spot for them. Since the new owners took charge, the brewery has been coming out with some interesting products, at least in concept. Starting with their spectacular Christmas beer, 17° polotmavé and then a couple of flavoured beers that, though have never managed to win me over, are still worth mentioned.

There were six samples, starting with desítka, which surprisingly, isn't the best selling producto of the brewery, that honour goes to jedenactká, wich surprisingly, didn't make it for the evening. It pours a very pale gold, grass and grain in the nose, a rather sweeter taste than others in its category that is supported by some grain notes. The bitterness, like the taste in general is very mild.

It was followed by one of the new products in this new phase of the life of the brewery. I remember the first time I drank Opat Bitter, that was summer last year. It blew my mind, amazingly intense bitterness, unlike any other. It doesn't surprise me so much anymore, but I still think it is a very tasty beer, with a lot of character despite its meagre 4%ABV.

Opat 12 came third. I wasn't convinced. In the past (and I'm not speaking about long ago, but 2007) it was a more interesting beer, with more citrus notes. The one we got here seemed a more mature version of desítka. The aroma and taste was more round, but still too similar. It did improve when its nefiltrované kvasnicové variant was presented, from a PET bottle. The beer became more robust and the fruit notes richer, I still missed a bit more bitterness, but it was pretty fine just the same.

The star of the evening was the fith to come, Pepřové, pepper flavoured beer. I had tasted it a few months ago, draught, and I complained that it was more like aromatised with pepper than flavoured. Which is actually an almost constant complaint I have with Opat (and other brewers). They show the initiative to come out with flavoured beers in this so conservative Czech market, but they always fall short and you end up drinking an odinary beer that has some strange taste somewhere in the back that sometimes is hard to identify. I must say that the bottled version of Pepřové made me shut up. Everything that was missing from the draught version was there and there was plenty of it. The pepper, black I would say, is a lot more intense in the nose and fills the palate when drinking it. I don't think this is a beer for every taste (and why should it be?), but still it is very well made, the pepper never manages to overwhelm the rest of the drink, and its dry spicy notes are the last to be felt in the finish. Delicious. A pity that it is only sold in PET bottles, which are also almost impossible to find in Prague. The costs of putting it in glass bottles that are appropriate for an unfiltered kvasnicové beer are at the moment prohibitive for the brewery. I hope the situation changes.

And so it was that my expectations towards what I thought would be the cherry on the pie were pretty high. Coriander it was called. Another flavoured beer. Unfortunately it was only an illusion I had. It was draught and it almost made me forget the good time I'd just had with Pepřové to remind me of those constant complaints I have about flavoured beers. Again a pale lager, slightly cloudy and with an all too mild, let's say, exotic taste that is almost impossible to define, even if I had it clearly written on a sign right in front of me. A pity.

Between samples, the main partner and brew master of Pivovar Broumov told us about the above mentioned problems, but also about the success they are having accross the border. Broumov is very close to Poland, and it seems that the people in some villages near the border have adopted Opat as their own local brew. He also mentioned the plans the have of opening a beer museum next spring that will exhibit all the old machinery that is still hanging around at the brewery.

There were also two pieces of good news. The fist was that there are already two hospody that stock Opat on a permanent basis, one in Karlín, very near the Klub, and the other in Smíchov, not far from Andél, which I will visit as soon as I can. The second was that the new product for next year will be 14°Březňák that will try to recreate the namesake beer that won a gold medal in Paris in 1905.

I hope Pivovar Broumov can weather all their problems and that the enthusiasm and passion of people like Brew Master Jaroslav Nosek will turn into the success that the beer deserves.

There was another piece of good news, this one related to Primátor, but I promised not to say anything. I'm sure you will be able to read about it in Beer Culture that fortunately, is back online.

Na Zdraví!

2 comments:

  1. Was at Pivni club today and have to say the Coriander was fantastic. Extremely refreshing, typical Opat taste that i love and some kind of flavour that maybe wasnt very Coriander like, but still good. Maybe it,s a beer to start the night, not end it:)

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  2. Perhaps you are right. It was the last beer of the evening and I could have been tired. I will sure give it another chance.

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