11 Dec 2008

Bad weather vs. Good beer

The weather was still misserable, hadn't changed a bit since the day before. We stayed in our room watching TV until it was time to check out. We had slept well and breakfast had been plentiful. We didn't have any reason to rush, we had agreed with Filip to meet at 2.30.

In the end, we didn't have any other choice than going to the centre. Fortunately, it had stopped raining when we found a place to park, so we went the part of the town that we had missed the day before. We strolled by the place where the city's fortifications had been, now a wide boulevard lined with trees that at some point goes around the surely more colourful in Spring Žižkový Sady.

Hunger started nagging my wife. It was already 12. The day before I had seen a restaurant with the Svijany sign outside, and another one with Ferdinand's, both almost next to Velké Nám. We chose the former, that was the nicer looking from the outside. It was closed. It was already well past 12 (its opening hour) and the doors were still locked. Went to the other one instead, and arrived just in time. The place was almost packed. All the tables by the windows were taken by a group of 10y.o. boys and two adults. The booths by the wall were also taken. There were only some chairs free at a long table in the middle of the room where some old people were sitting. We asked them if we could take two of the free places and, I think, they nodded. As soon as we had sat more old people came in, and more and then some more until all the empty chairs were taken and a couple were even left standing. They were Germans or Austrians and had picked this place, U Ferdinanda d'Este, to have their lunch.

To make things worse, there was only one waitress doing her best to serve everyone. I almost had to tackle her to get a menu. She apologised saying that she thought we were with the group (man, do I look that old? Maybe I should shave). After both children and ancients had left (the latter being a lot noisier), the place became really quiet. The food was simply forgettable, but the Ferdinand 12 tasted really good. We stayed longer than we wanted, it had started raining again.We met Filip at the agreed time and took the car to Běleč nad Orlicí to visit Minipivovar U Hušků. We were expected there by the owner and brew master Josef Voltr. Josef is a very nice and friendly bloke who has a lot of passion for what he does. He had to take over the whole operation when the previous brewer left last Spring. He showed us every nook of his brewery, starting with the ancient machine he uses for grinding the malt.
From there we went to the mashing room. There was nothing cooking that day, so we could have a detailed look at each of the kettles. But what Josef was really eager to show us was the screen of the brewing software. A friend who works in the brewing industry wrote it for him. The program monitors temperatures and mashing and boiling times as well as the working of the kettles. That allows the brewer to take care of other duties, or simply go home and laze around at home (that is next to the brewery). If his attendance is needed, the software will page him. The program is also prepared to monitor the fermentation (in open fermenters), only a few cables need to be connected for that to start working.
After looking at the fermenters (unfortunately empty), we went to the lagering cellar. There are three 2000l tanks there. Josef had already oredered two more to a friend to increase capacity and brew other types of beer.

Having finished the short, but really interesting, tour, we proceeded to the tasting. The only beer that is brewed at the moment at U Hušků is CAR, a světlý ležák. In summer also a honey beer, and sometimes a wheat beer, is brewed. The one we were drinking that day had been lagering since september (limited capacity and high demand only allow 25 days of lagering during summer, the place is very popular with local cyclist) and was simply spectacular. Unfiltered, had a full silky body, its flavours were predominantly sweet green apples, together with a hint of mind, the finish was orange and herbas, the nose very flowery and citrusy. A lovely beer of which we had a few. The most interesting thing, however, was when Josef gave me to taste escencially the same beer, but which had been lagering only for 14 days. It wasn't at all bad, almost identical to the eye (in the picture below, the younger one is on the right), but its youth could be tasted. What was well finished and smooth in the older one, here was almost raw and rougher, it was almost like eating a sweet green appel that has not fully ripened.
We spoke a lot about beer.  Josef, with not little pride, told me that every single part of the brewery, from the kettles to the contraption he uses for bottling is of almost home manufacture, either by him or friends. The funniest was, perhaps, the old fridge with two holes on the side to fit taps to dispense the beer at the right temperature. I asked him about the Gambrinus that is also tapped a the pub, he said it represents only 20% of the sales, they only have it for those fools that refuse to drink anything else.
My wife started complaining about the cold (it was freezing in the brewery) and it was getting dark. We still had the Christmas beer tasting. We bought a 2.5l bottle to take home and went back to Hrádec, me with a huge smile after having made a new friend.

Na Zdraví!
Minipivovar U Hušků
Běleč nad Orlicí 2

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

3 comments:

  1. Becoming a regular picture, you tapping a beer! Maybe you have missed your calling and should start your own pub.

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  2. It's actually the third picture I have of myself tapping beer, the first one is here. And I don't think I've missed my calling, I trully suck at it...

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  3. Well you definitely look the part - the skills I am sure would be quick to pick up.

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