26 Feb 2008

Almost like a second home

The reason why Špejchar is here will be obvious to people who know me, and know where I was living until now. Špejchar is my (former) village's restaurant. Actually, there are a couple more, but they are not worth mentioning.

It is a place where they know me and my wife by name, where they greet us when we walk by. It is the place where I go with my ceramic pitcher when I fancy drinking točené pivo at home. It is the place where we celebrated our wedding. It is the place where they ask us about our families and jobs and about our future house. It is the place where I go with my wife or friends that visit us to have something to eat or drink when we don't feel like cooking anything.
And although all that would be enough to make any place one's favorite, Špejchar is in itself very nice. It is the oldest standing building in Velké Přílepy. Originally stables dating from the 16th century (even the stairs leading to the upstairs room are a historical monument, being the original ones). Of course, since then it has been appropriately refurbished to accommodate a restaurant.

The furniture is really rustic and very comfortable. The walls are decorated with old agricultural tools and from the thick wooden beams on the ceiling hang a multitude of witches. All of that, together with the tiny windows that barely let light in, the candles in rustic metal candlesticks and even the uniforms of the waitresses give the place a very nice country atmosphere without being a theme restaurant.

During the warm months a patio opens in the back and another in the front. The one in the back is my favorite, on the one side is not at the street, and on the other, I can sit in the shade of a leafy and ancient chestnut tree.

The food is not bad at all. Nothing sophisticated, just solid hospoda food; but some things can be really good.

They stock two beers Pilsner Urquell and Starobrno 10° (though occasionally they offer special ones). I always go for the latter. Great session beer, perfectly drafted, goes down so well, specially in a warm afternoon. I just love it!

If this was not enough. The owner, Mrs Ponertová cares a lot about her restaurant, each year se adds something new; in spring, putting flowers everywhere and seeing that the playground for children is in good condition.

My wife always remembers the first time I took her there. We hadn't been together long. The moment she walked in she loved it and felt very well, and she always wanted to go back again and again. A couple of years later we were sitting almost at the same place we chose that day, eating together the wedding soup. Maybe the witches in Špejchar still have some magic in them...

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

23 Feb 2008

The thunder on the shelf

Thus is the English translation to Hrom do Police, a hospoda lost in the streets of Vinohrady, a residential quarter of Prague full of restaurants, cafés and hospody for all tastes and budgets. There is also very interesting architecture from the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. A very nice place to wander around tree lined streets and escape the crowds in the centre.

It was on one of those wanderings that I came across this place, well, actually, I came across a sign announcing it. What made me change my route was the logo of a brewery.
Měšťanský pivovar v Poličce, Polička for friends, is an almost unknown brewery in Prague. Which is a great shame. Fortunately the brewery is the owner of this hospoda, so you can find there all their line.

When getting to the corner of Moravská and Chodská, you can see the sign with the logo of brewery. The first impulse is to walk right to the door directly below, which would be acutally a mistake, since it belongs to some kind of herbal shop. To find the restaurant it is necessary to walk a few more meters down Chodská.

Minding your heads, you walk into a gloomy room. You might feel as if you have travelled back in time, to sometime in the 80's. The music adds to the atmosphere. The dial seems to be stuck on one of the many radios that play exclusively pop hits from the second half of the 80's and first of the 90's. Very popular among thirty something Czechs, it seems to remind them of those heady days right after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Not my cup of tea when it comes to music, and made worse by the fact that these radios seem to have a compilation of hits from the period and they simply play it random over and over again.

When reading the menu you might start feeling that you are in some sort of bizarre theme restaurant. Which is enhanced by the food. I've been there many times and the best the food got was to decent. Sometimes, plain bad.

Fortunately the service does not follow the general style. It is pleasant, efficient but relaxed and, on occasions, sincerely friendly.

What I go there for, though, is the beer. And very good beers they have there. Polička is not the most innovative of breweries, but what they make, they make very well. It is particularly interesting to be able to compare the normal Otakar 11° (4.2%ABV) and Záviš 12° (5.0%ABV) with their kvasnicové versions and see how different they are.

Normal Otakar looks like a typical Czech golden lager. The nose is fruity and mild minty notes in the back. Fruit is what predominates when drinking it, but now joined by some hints of vanilla. The finish is short and very herbal. Its kvasnicové version has a cloudy golden colour with a nose of sweet green apples. The flavours are more bitter and herbal with the fruit now appearing in the finish.

Normal Záviš looks basically the same as its little sister. Apples, pineapple and some citrus notes can be felt in the nose, all of them mild, but with character. In the mouth is herbal and dry, very refreshing and with very few sweet notes. Kvasnicové, on the other hand has a nose with very interestingly balanced herbs, fruit and spice. It is still herbal to the taste but a less dry. The lovely finish is bitter but at the same time has vanilla notes. Delicious.

Except for the kvasnicová, all beers are available bottled to take home and keep on enjoying.

Such is the power of good beer. Will make me go back to this place of mediocre food, tacky music and weird atmosphere. There should be more like it.

Hrom do Police
Moravská 1434/40
120 00 Praha-Vinohrady
moravska.hrom@seznam.cz

21 Feb 2008

Past, present and future

It was going to be Svijany, but because their brewmaster was not going to be able to make it, the brewery decided to cancel their presentation at Pivovarsky Klub. It was replaced by Regent, the brewery from the Southern town of Třeboň.

Regent is one of the oldest breweries in the Czech Republic. It was established in 1379, in a monastery. Like many others it's had a turbulent history and passed through many owners. By the end of the 19th century it was one of the biggest breweries in Europe, with a capacity of 5m hl a year. After a peak of 10 million hl before WWI its luck started to run out. It's production fell considerably when exports to Vienna all but stopped after 1918. Things didn't get better during the war or after. As the rest, it became a state company during the Communist regime, and it wasn't until 2000 that the brewery regained its independence.

Today is one of many medium sized bottlers that struggle to stay afloat in a market dominated by the big three and their beers, unfortunately, are not very easy to find in Prague.

Regent brews all their beers using water from their own underground sources and in most cases, they still use open fermenters.

After a really fancy welcome drink, Rambousek with Chestnut Honey, the event proper started. The brewery was represented by two brewmasters, an old one, almost retired and a young, brand new, very energetic one who very enthusiastically and with a few words too many told us about their brewery and their beers.

Most of the line was presented. Petr Vok being the only missing. But this 13°balling beer is only brewed for festive occasions.

As it has become custom. We started with the nealko. One of the brewery's new products. Unlike almost all nealko I have seen or tasted, Renegát has a golden almost amber colour and a pretty nice taste. It drinks almost like a refreshment with some honey notes.

It was followed by osmíčká. This kind of beers fermented at 8°balling flooded the market a few years ago. What was once "table beer" became the drunkard's choice. Usually available at supermarket chains and with prices around 3CZK, most of them are between the forgettable and undrinkable. Fortunately, this one is closer to the former. Still is better than many industrial eurolagers out there.

It was the turn of desítká (10°balling 3.9%ABV). It is refreshing, and a nice session beer. Has a pleasant flowery nose and a mild taste with a short and bitter finish.

Jedenactká (11°balling 4.6%ABV) has a more fruity nose. The flavour is just a little more intense than the previous one. Sometimes I wonder why breweries put on the market two products that are so similar. Neither of them is bad, but one seems to me redundant.

Dvanactká (12°balling, 5.0%ABV) is considered by the brewery their flagship. A mistake as I see it. It is a tasty beer in its category, with a pleasant fruity nose supported by flowery notes. It is refreshingly fruity when drinking it and has a nice herbal finish of medium bitterness.

Tmavé is the one that should be the flagship. It was in the past considered the best dark beer in the Czech Republic, and it was also very appreciated abroad. The secret is the water, which is ideal for brewing a dark beer. It is of very dark amber colour with an interesting nose of dried herbs and caramel notes in the back, when drinking it there is roasted cocoa and some notes of very strong black tea. The finish is long, bitter and very pleasant. It stays in the mouth a few minutes after finishing the glass. Despite its 4.4%ABV, this is a beer with a lot of character and flavour, just as I like them.

Prezident (14°balling 6.0%ABV) was almost unknown to me. It didn't blow my mind, but I liked it. It's got a syrupy nose and when drinking it I felt intense very ripe tropical fruit with a long bitter finish. Rich and with some complexity. It can be good to pair with certain foods.

You might have noticed that I haven't mentioned the colour of any of the beers. It is because, with the obvious exception of the dark, all of them have the same pale golden colour. Not a bad thing, but it did catch my attention.

There were two left. The surprise of the evening, Mary Jo and the almost brand new 16° poltomavé kvasnicové.

I had already tasted a cannabis beer y wasn't too impressed by it. In fact, I said that it was more marketing than beer. Therefore, I wasn't expecting much from Mary Jo. Like Hemp Valley Beer, it is a golden lager flavoured with cannabis flower extract. Currently it is only produced for the export market, but the brewery has plans to start selling it locally. The first thing that surprised me about this beer was its aroma. Even without seeing the label anyone would notice that it's got something unusual. Many would be able to identify it without much problem. The smell of cannabis is very intense, almost covering everything else. When drinking it the forbidden weed still predominates, giving the beer pleasantly peppery notes. The finish is pretty long and very herbal. I liked it and it surprised me. I hope to see it in the Czech market soon.

Sestnacká (16°balling) breaks the colour uniformity. A kvasnicové amber with an intense nose full of tropical fruit and syrup. When drinking it starts fruity and sweet and finishes citrusy and somewhat complex. A nice beer to drink slowly.

Regent is a brewery that had its glory days and would certainly love the have them back. That is unlikely. However, if the market allows and with the hand if their new and young brewmaster (who wants to start brewing a rye bee), the future looks interesting. Of course, we the consumers are the ones who will have the last word. I hope we will be sensible.
Na Zdraví!

20 Feb 2008

Hemp Valley Beer

This was a beer that I had been curious about for some time. I hadn't drunk any beer from Pivovar Nová Paka that I could say impressed me, still I had to have a go at their Hemp Valley Beer. One of the least traditional beers in the Czech market. Its ingredients, barley malt, hops, sugar and cannabis flower extract, weed for friends.
Considering that, as mentioned on the brewery's website, this last ingredient comes from valleys in the Swiss Alps, I don't think it is of the kind most of us would like, but from the plants without their active ingredient, THC.
Anyway, I was expecting something different than the usual.
When pouring it we have a spongy, not very compact, head of intense white colour. Not very persistent, but it doesn't go away immediately. The nose of that of a typical golden lager, more on the sweet side, with something in the back that is hard to identify, but does not add much. The colour is also that of a typical golden lager. Not very carbonated. When drinking it things stay pretty much the same. A Český Ležák that is decent but no big deal. With 4.5%ABV it is light and easy to drink. The finish is the thing I liked the least, it leaves a not very pleasant bitter aftertaste. The beer doesn't gain in intensity as it goes down.
On the label there is a medal that the beer won at a competition of products made with hemp. I don't know what kind of competition it had, though I'm sure the award was deserved.
In a nutshell, it is just an OK lager, and that is exactly its problem, it is nothing special when should be. It is, in fact, more marketing than beer. I don't recommend it, unless you are really curious.

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

17 Feb 2008

High expectations

Žatec, a town about 90km from Prague whose German name, Saaz, carries a lot of meaning for lovers of good beer.

If the city was better taken care of, it could be a nice place to visit, specially during the summer months when the endless hops plantations are heavy with those magic blossoms. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

There is also a brewery in Žatec, as expected. However, visitors would be excused to fail to notice that since, even in the centre of town, the local beers are not easy to find.

Some years ago I used to go to Žatec every week for work. I was able to taste the beers then, but I didn't remember much. So I decided to buy a couple of bottles and see what they were about. Considering their origin, the expectations were rather high. The three I bought were Premium, Baronka and Xantho.

Premium (4.9%ABV) was the first to go down. It's of intense gold with a small head that disappears way too quickly, not a good sign. The nose is mild and malty with a bit of fruity notes in the back and very little character. I was actually expecting the flowery bouquet of the Saaz hops. Things don't get much better when drinking it. I didn't feel any distinctive flavours, the finish is almost not there. Feels more a vyčepní than a premium. On a thirsty hot day, I wouldn't turn it down, it's better than water, but not much more than that.

Baronka has a rather interesting history. On the label is the portrait of Baroness Ulrika von Lewetzow, from Třebívlice, a town not far from Žatec. This girl has some historical notoriety as, according to her memoirs, having been a lover of J.W. Goethe. According to her, the ralationship started when she was still very young and Mr. Goethe was already an elderly man.

There was a beer under this name. Brewed by Pivovar Litoměřice, until it closed down. Pivovar Žatec bought the registered trademark and started brewing it again a couple of years ago.

History aside and back to the present, Baronka (5.3%) looks certainly much better than its sister beer, and I don't mean the label. The colour is similar, but this time is capped by a compact and lasting head so white that it looks as if from a washing powder ad. The nose is more intense, with tropical fruit and mild herbal notes in the back. The same notes can be felt when drinking it. The taste is more intense than Premium's, but that is not much to say. It is a correct beer, fine when you are thirsty, though it seems to me that it wants to be more than just that. I had it a few days ago on tap, and I didn't notice much difference. An interesting silliness. Baronka must have one of the most beautiful caps I've seen. Instead of a logo, there is the portrait of the Baroness.

The name Xantho seems like something out of a voodoo ceremony. Actually it comes from xanthohumol, a chemical compound found hops. The brewery says that this beer has a high concentration of it and of isoxanthohumol, both having interesting medical properties.

It comes in a nice bottle that has a label that has some sort of holographic colors that sparkle in the light. Fermented at 14°balling and with 5.7%ABV, it is a very good looking beer. Dark amber and with an incredibly thick and lasting tanned head. The nose is ruled by coffee notes, with some caramel back there. Unfortunately, the flavours are not as intense as I was expecting and would have liked. There is some cocoa and coffee, but neither of them wants to step up and express himself as they should.

I still have two or three more beers from Pivovar Žatec left to taste. So far, the balance has not been good. I had expectations, and this beers have not delivered. Being from where they are from, I was expecting something with a lot more Saaz, their lack is almost unforgivable.

14 Feb 2008

U Sadu

Ah! Those first months living in Prague! The madness! How many drunken evenings with friends. Now they are part of a foggy, yet pleasant past. When I remember them I can't help but smile. I don't miss them, though. Actually, I don't know how I managed to survive them.

One of our favourite spots back then was U Sadu. Located in a quiet square, right around the corner from Žižkov's TV tower and very popular among locals. Once my life settled down a bit I stopped going. Not because of any bad experience. It just turned out that way.

One day I decided to go back. Historically U Sadu was a hospoda where Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell were absolute monarchs. At some point things changed, and if it hand't been for "The Good Beer Guide - Prague and The Czech Rep.", I might have never known about it. The hospoda was now a tankovná where Gambrinus and Pilsner are still the stars, but now there is a new friend. Primátor Weizen, the very good wheat beer from Pivovar Náchod, sold at 30CZK for a pint. They have also added both Master to the offer (30CZK/Amber 13°, 35CZK/Dark 18°). This makes a total of five beers on tap, which is in itself quite nice.
Fortunately the atmosphere of the place has not changed at all during these years. The same decoration with touches of dementia. Hanging from the ceiling and walls, covering almost every bit of available space are all sorts of junk, and I really mean all sorts, from agricultural tools to gas masks of different kinds. At first things can seem utterly chaotic, but there is some sort of order in it. Even when going there alone I don't get bored, there is so much to look at.

During the warm months they put tables out on the pavement. It is very nice to go for lunch then since there is almost no traffic on the square. The problem is that it might make you want to stay, so it is better to go with time.

They also organise "culinary events", in which menus are put together following some sort of concept like Vepřové hody (pork feast). Never been to one there, but at other places, they are sometimes fun.

The service is also what it was back in my crazy days. Informal and, at times, a bit unpredictable, which in way is part of the atmosphere of the place.

The opening hours are very much out of the ordinary. 8AM - 4AM Mon-Fri and from 9AM at weekends. Let's say they just close to clean up a bit.

I'm really glad to have rediscovered U Sadu. It is one of those hospody ideal to go pivoing with friends while having a good time and good solid pub food. And it's not too shabby to go for a quiet beer in the afternoon either, or even to do some work, since there is a free Wi-Fi connection. Actually, there are very few reasons not to go to U Sadu

Pivnice U Sadu
Škroupovo Nám. 5
130 00 Praga 3
222 727 072
jsmeprovas@usadu.cz

11 Feb 2008

Svijanský Rytíř

I found this place a couple of years ago. I had client around the corner. One day I got to Letenské Nám. quite a bit earlier. I was walking slowly thinking about where I could go. The beer garden was one of the options, but I was afraid that I would simple loose track of time and be late. When I got to the corner of Jirečkova I noticed a beer sign that I had never seen before. It was that of Svijany. I was curious and had time, so I decided to check it out.

Once in, I ordered a pint, Svijany dvanátcka. Drinking it was like having an epiphany! I decided then that it would not be the last time I would go there. A bit later, I stopped for lunch, and I really liked the food. Since then, it has been one of my favourite spots in Prague.

Svijanský rytíř is a very pleasant place "semi basement". When crossing the door you are welcomed by an ordinary bar. Walking in an turning left takes you to a room that seems to belong somewhere else.

There are three very simply decorated rooms. The walls are painted with a warm sandy colour. The furnishing consists of thick hard wood chairs and tables. They are big and heavy and not too many. In fact, there is quite a lot of space between most tables, which gives the place a very comfortable feeling, and it is one of the things I like the most.

For those coming for the first time, the service can be a bit cold, but they are usually efficient and prompt. That is, unless you are in the back room on a busy day, then you might have to wait a bit.

The food is very good. For a neighbourhood place its quality can be somewhat surprising. Dishes are prepared with care and prices are more than reasonable. They also have a very interesting lunch menu that goes from a couple of česká klásika offerings to more unusual stuff like kangaroo steaks. They also have several fish options as well as pretty interesting salads. And their garlic soup! That thing could raise the dead! It is one of the best I've ever had.

But the beer..... Ever since that first day Svijany became one of my favourites. I would say that it was thanks to it that I started exploring with more attention the fascinating world of regional breweries. They stock almost the whole line, from the refreshing and tasty Svijanský Máz 11° to the powerful, but silky Baron 15°, including the outstanding Svijanský Kníže 13° and Kvasničák 12,5°. All of the beers are unpasteurised, all are different and all are very good. I like them so much that to drink at home every day I buy Svijanský Rytíř 12°, considerably better than those from the big brewers at a considerably lower price.

This is a place I like a lot, in fact, I go there for lunch almost every Friday as a kind of ritual. At times it feels like a quiet café, but it is still a nice spot to go for a session with friends or to take your partner for a relaxed meal. Thanks to their good food, brilliant beers and good value Svijanský Rytíř is very popular in the neighbourhood, so much so, that they can afford not opening at weekends. I guess nobody is perfect...

Svijanský rytíř
Jirečkova 1014/13
170 00 Praha-Holešovice

10 Feb 2008

Master

The first time I drank both Master beers was at their presentation in Prague. At that time I was quite impressed by these new unpasteurised brews from Plzeňský Prazdroj.

I drank them a few times since, but without taking notes or using much of a critical eye. Now the beers can be found at many hospody and restaurants all over Prague and the Czech Republic, and they seem to enjoy relative success.

The other day I decided to have a glass of each, and this time to take notes. I started with Master 13°

Master 13° is an amber beer, with a nice spongy head. It has a nose of prunes, some fruit and herbal notes. When drinking it I felt nicely mild caramel notes with a long and bitter finish. It is a very nice beer, but in its category I like Primátor Poltomavé 13° Bernard Jantár better. I think both of them are more interesting and better accomplished.
It was the turn of Master 18°. This is a really dark beer, with a compact tanned head. I loved its nose, I felt baked apples and roasted coffee contrasting very interestingly. When drinking it there is coffee and cocoa very well integrated, yet identifiable, and then fruit achieving a beautiful contrast. The finish is bitter, with coffee taking the lead. It is a great beer. Its 7%ABV is brilliantly integrated. It caresses your palate. According to its creators, it is not a Porter, however it shares some of the characteristics of Pardubický Porter, but I would say it is very distinctive and also superior.

The most remarkable thing about both these beers is where they come from. With an undisputed market leadership, Plzeňský Prazdroj does not really have the need of coming out with a super premium brand. But they still did it. After paying a lot of attention to the trends in the market, they responded accordingly.

Their competitors on the other hand, seem to be living in another world. Budvar only recently has started promoting their dark beer, a product that they've been selling for a couple of years now, and in 2006 they came out with the mediocre Pardál. And InBev still is trying to make us believe that Stella Artois is a quality product, while continuing with the ruining of Staropramen, whose once decent Granát seems now to have joined the rest of the product line.

7 Feb 2008

Berounský Medvěd

The other day I was finally able to make my more than delayed second visit to Pivovar Berounský Medvěd. I had been there in May last year and liked the place a lot. I had planned to go back several times, but for different reasons, I had to cancel the trips. The other day things turned out in such way, that I had no other option than to make my way there.

So I went to Hlavní Nadraží and took the fast train leaving at 11:16AM. A bit more than half an hour later, I was in Beroun. I walked out of the station and turned left, my good mood started to improve when I saw the sign leading to the brewery as I was getting close to the bridge. Like the fist time I went, I couldn't help but smile when I walked under the bridge and got close to the entrance of the place where Berounský Medvěd is. Walking into a salvage yard to have a beer must be one of the most bizarre things one can imagine. But there it is, among twisted pieces of metal, old tanks and car parts, the only building that does not look like the stage of a horror film.

Walking through its door is like walking into another world. Dim light, the cieling supported by thick dark wood beams and columns that look as old as the world, the colourful tiles on the floor that look just as old and the walls decorated with frescoes, old beer ads and even a massive wood carving.
Walking slowly, soaking up the atmosphere, I went to one of the tables in the back of the room. The cute waitress came quickly with the menu and asked me what I wanted to drink. I ordered a 11° světlé, and then the lunch daily special,vegetable cream soup and roasted mutton in garlic with spinach and potato knedlíky. The soup was fine, though not memorable. The mutton was really nice, tasty and tender, I also liked the spinach and the knedlíky, though these could have used a bit more salt. Anyway, as value for money goes, at 65CZK for the special, nobody can complain.
Between the soup and main course the golden lager went down quickly and was followed by a tmavé 13°. This dark beer didn't impress me much. It is very good looking, very very dark and very very cloudy, with a creamy slightly tanned head. I could feel some cocoa and fruit on the nose. When drinking it, however, it is a bit boring, the cocoa flavour is not strong enough and the fruit is there in the back, like shy. With more intense flavours, this could be a wonderful beer, unfortunately, it is only potential.
Now, the golden lager is delicious. Deep golden colour and very cloudy. I could feel tropical fruit and yeast with subtle mint notes in the back. It's got a silky almost creamy body, fruit is what predominates and the finish is short but dry and intense. A brilliant beer, I had to order another pint.
But the best of the day was not going to such a cool place to have good food and great beer. When I left the restaurant I stopped to take some photos of the outside. While I was shooting a tank I heard a female voice greeting me. My first thought was that I had got in trouble because it wasn't allowed to make photos there. Very far from the truth. As it turned out, the voice was that of Ms. Hana Mayerová, one of the owners of the brewery, who was really happy when I told her that the pictures would be in this post.

She was very nice and invited me to her office, where she gave me her card and some brochures while she told me a bit about the history of the place. When we walked out I asked her if I could have a look at the várna, the brewery proper. She took me there and introduced me to the brew master. A very friendly young man who very enthusiastically showed me around, telling me about every step of the brewing process, and even allowing me to peep into one of the kettles. What surprised me the most was that the wort is cooked using wood, being this one of the only two breweries in the Czech Rep. that still use this method (the other is Dětenice). I don't think this has much of an effect on the finished product, but makes this brewery something a bit more artisan like. As farewell, he gave me a PET bottle freshly filled with the 11° right from the lagering cellar. I got to the station right on time to take the train back to Prague with an ear to ear smile that would last me for the rest of the day.


The nicest thing about this bottled beer was that, though on paper was exactly the same I had drunk and loved with lunch, when I opened it to drink with dinner was quite different. The fruit was still there, but the finish had now more spicy notes, which made it more interesting.

For those visiting Prague and also for those living here, going to Pivovar Berounský Medvěd is a great alternative for a day trip. It can be easily combined with a visit to Karlštejn, since one of the trains that go to Beroun has a stop there; or it can also be part of a lovely bicycle ride by the Berounka river. On Both cases, the trip is lovely and really worth it, more so if it can be capped with some really good beer.

Rodinný Pivovar
Berounský Medvěd

Tyršova 135
26601 Beroun 2

1 Feb 2008

The Kingdom

I found Království, or the Kingdom, thanks to the Prague Pubs section in "The Good Beer Guide...". When I arrived I realised that I had walked past the door several times. The place is in the same street as the world (in)famous Akropolis, in the popular and atmospheric neighbourhood of Žižkov.

It is a small "semi-basement" with two rooms. I like this kind of places a lot, specially in winter. They invite you to stay, forget the cold and the weather while relaxing and getting warm. But it's not just that what makes you feel welcome from the first moment. Pleasantly informal service that would tell you what is on the lunch menu rather than give you a soulless piece of paper, and quite often smile at you. Actually, the lunch menu is not very long, three choices for main, plus a soup and something sweet, all for 89CZK. The food is nothing to write home about, but does the job quite well, specially the soups.

But what brought me there wasn't a need to find out what I could have for lunch in Žižkov. It was the beer. Most of the line of Pivovar Černá Hora, including the excellent Moravský Sklepní Nefiltrované, desítka 2007 for SPP, and Kvasar, another 2007 SPP winner.

Yet it isn't the the very good beer, nor the OK food, not even the heavenly home made slivovice what quickly made Kralovství one of my favourite places. It is the atmosphere, the feeling, almost from the beginning, of knowing it for a long time. I really recommend visiting this pleasant hospoda not too farm from the centre. Go with time.

Kralovství
Kubelíkova 36
Praga 3 - Žížkov

What a start!

The beginning of 2008 was impressive. From the first sip of the superb Florenc 14:14 to the delicious 11° from Berounský Medvěd that we drank yesterday with dinner, it was a wonderful month of January.

Down also went the brilliant Dopple-dopple Bock, not to mention švestkové and the always lovely OldGott Barique from U Medvídku. But that was not it. Pivovarský Dum had as their beer of the month a žitní (rye) ale, an amber with fruit and honey notes on the nose, and a nice well balanced flavour with tropical fruit and caramel and a short rather citrusy finish. I really liked it.

The best of the month was probably the opening of Pivovar Bašta, with their cheap and very good beers, specially the bavorské. Each sip was like a bite of home made cake. I hope they will have it again soon.

But there is more. Those who have been to Pivovarský Klub these days had the chance to taste the marvelous Rambousek Dyňové. A beer flavoured with pumpkin that, as expected from that artist that Mr. Rambousek is, is just gorgeous. Intense amber, thick head, with scents that are a mix of fruit, herbs and something a bit strange but really nice just the same. When drinking it we feel yeast with the bitterness of the hops perfectly balanced with sweet fruity notes. The finish is complex, with caramel and licorice notes. A work of art.

Together with it, it was finally possible to have a go at the much expected and untraditional Tokaj 16°. It is said that Tokaj is the oldest wine D.O.C in the world. They come from the Tokaj region in Hungary and they are mostly sweet and drunk as dessert wines. Their most distinctive characteristic, however, is the way they are made. The cellars are carved in volcanic rock and their natural climatic conditions allow for the wines to be aged almost indefinitively. Some wineries claim to have 300 year old bottles in their cellars that are still better than good for drinking. I don't think such ancient wines were used to brew this beer, but the result is quite interesting all the same. It is an amber with sweet apple and honey notes on the nose. And honey is what predominates when drinking it, with mild touches of smoked wood and tropical fruit in the back. It would be an extraordinary beer if the sweetness was a bit less intense. As an experiment, it gets an A, but I was expecting something a bit more radical in its flavour. On the other hand, as a dessert beer, it could be really good.

And I was almost forgetting about Trubač, that delicious dark beer from Městský pivovar Štramberk, as Evan Rail says very well, one of the nicest in its category.

But the award goes to Chýně and its spectacular 14° tmavé. A beautifully dark beer with a creamy tanned head. The nose is a lovely mix of sweet coffee and cocoa. When drinking it, the coffee becomes more intense and bitter and the sweetness goes to the caramel. The finish is like a good Italian espresso, saying that it is delicious is almost insulting it.

I tasted a total of 52 different beers in January. I wanted to write down the list, but I don't think it'll be of much worth. Anyway, I still want to keep count and see how many will there be at the end of the year.

Na Zdraví!!!

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