27 Sep 2008
That thing kept going around my head, so much so that I decided to go out and see how true that was. So I started roaming the streets of Prague determined to go into every shop and supermarket that sells beer I cam across (which is a lot).
In the meantime, Evan Rail posted an about the same topic in his blog. There he speaks about Pivní Galerie and Pivovarský Klub as great places where to find an unmatched variety of beers in Prague. Though the truth is that, when it comes to take away bottles, their prices are rather high, quite higher than what can be paid at a supermarket. It must also be considered that many people don't have the possibility of going all the way there just to buy a couple of bottles to drink with dinner, that is specially so for Galerie, that only opens during the week.
Due to moral and quality control reasons I don't like shopping at supermarket chains. But I am pragmatic and above all, I want to support with my money those breweries that deserve it. So let's get started with the centre.
Billa in Celncie offers Primátor EPA, Polotomavé 13%, Weissbier and a couple more of the special brews from Pivovar Náchod, and also Bernard Svatečný Ležák. The prices, 13Kč for a Weissbier.
Across the square, in front of Kotva, Albert has, or at least they did a few weeks ago, Primátor EPA and Weissbier, at pretty much the same prices as Billa. There were only a few bottles of each that day, and I don't know if the renovated the stock. Curiously, the Albert branch located in the bowels of that monstruosity called Palladium Praha, right opposite, was selling just the usual faces (some of them pretty ugly). Actually, the same can be said about the rest of the branches of Albert in the centre.
Tesco in Nardoní, apart from the already mentioned Primátor Bernard Svatečný Ležák y Černé also stocks a gem Regent Světlý Ležák for the spectacular price of 12Kč!
Leaving Prague 1, but staying with the British origin supermarket chain, you can find on the shelves of Tesco Express Bělehradská Primátor Polotmavé 13% y Weissbier, and Bernard Svatečný Ležák, Černé y Jantár, which I hadn't seen at any other supermarket. A tram stop later, in the same Bělehradská, I had a very pleasant surprise at the Z-Market there located when I saw on their shelves that not only they stocked Bernard Svatečný Ležák and Černé but also Ferdinand Světlý Ležák 7 Kuli. Great!
There is more to be found in Bělehradská. Right by the tram stop Nuselské Schody is a Delvita (one of the few left, and for sure soon to become Billa). There you will be able to buy pretty much all the line of Primátor, some from Bernard and canned Nymburk Golden Lager. Oh! And don't be fooled by a beer called Vratislav, as it is no other than Staropramen in disguise.
Back to Vinohrady, though further from the centre, around Flora metro station to be more precise. The Albert outlet located in the shopping centre of the same name stocks the whole line of Klášter, and at a fantastic price, 9,90Kč for Ležák. You won't find Klášter at any of the other Albert around, but you will find Bernard Svatečný Ležák and maybe even Černé.
Down Vinohradská, about 300m from Flora, at the number 125 you will find a little gem. A bottle shop that sells the whole line of Chodovar at excellent prices, including their very good Skalní Ležák for 19Kč.
Billa in Dejvice suprised me when I saw that they stocked most of the line from Primátor and Bernard. But maybe the best place to buy beers in the area is found at about 150m from there, it's a small shop in Narodní Obrani, almost at the corner with Rooseveltova. It's called just Napoje and you can find there all the line of Svijany, several Rohozec, a couple of Bernard y Platan and more recently Políčka and Herold. Everything at brilliant prices. In fact, that is the place where I buy my everyday beers.
I've also heard that Billa in Prosek sells some beers from Svijany, but I haven't made it there to check it or to see what else they offer.
This post is not finished yet. There will be a link to it on the right hand column and I will update it as I find new places. Needless to say, the help from my readers will be very appreciated.
So if you live, work or are staying nearby any of these places there is no more excuse to keep on taking home the same stuff and not to try something new and, in my opinion, better.
Just one day after I published and I already have to update this.
First, some Anonymus commented that Tesco Eden carries the whole line of Primátor, together with some Bernards.
Second, remember what I said above about Billa Dejvice? Well, pretty much forget about it. I went there the other day to buy a couple of Primátor Weizen for the weekend and there was no trace of it, neither of the Polotmavé 13% or Double 24%, the only ones left were Exklusiv 16% and Rytíř 21% not bad, but it was better. What did really surprise me though, was seeing cases of Bakalář there were výčepní světlé, Premium and tmavý ležák, not the best stuff, but A LOT better than imported Eurolagers. Let's hope they will re-stock those missing Prmátor.
It seems that Hypernova is commited to Svijany. According to some Anonynus, they also stock the beers from the fine brewery of North Bohemia at their outlet in Nové Butovice.
I also stopped by the new Kaufland near Palmovka and saw a few bottles of Primátor, the special ones, including Weizen (they seem to be everywhere, that's great!) Bernard, including Svateční Ležák (which also seems pretty easy to find) and a couple of beers from the other brewery in České Budějovice, Samson and Budweiser Burgerbräu, again, not the cream of the crop, but certainly preferrable to most imported stuff you can see there.
And speaking about imported, but this time a decent one. The same anonymust that tipped about Svijany in Butovice mentions that Interspar in Zlíčin carries the Belgian Duvel.
I haven't updated this list for awhile, but it's not because I had forgotten. Here you have a couple more places.
Billa en Korunní sells most of the line from Primátor together with several from Bernard.
Along with the above metnioned, Tesco in Nový Smíchov (Anděl) offers most of the line from Svijany and Regent Světlý Ležák and Výčepní, all of them at much better prices that the more popular and mediocre brands. I wonder if someday they will make me happy and also stock Regent Tmavý.
Continuing with Tesco, the new Expres branch, just opened opposite the Hradčanská metro station sells Primátor Polotmavé 13% and Weissbier.
And the best for last, since it's about a small shop. I actually prefer doing my shopping at small shops, but generally the choice of beers at them leaves tonnes to be desired. At the corner of Kamenická and Letohradská, in Letná, you can find a couple of beers from the Svijany line and the whole lot from Pernštejn, Pivovar Pardubice, which, I must admit, I don't like too much, except for their brilliant Pardubický Porter that can be bought for 23CZK. Thanks Evan for the tip.
More from Hypernova Nové Butovice (WOW! I can't believe I already know two people that go there) According to the comment of quack-duck. Apart from Svijany, they are also stocking the whole lot from Klášter and some from Ferdinand, 10°, Světlý and Tmavý Ležák, that is good news, whish they also sold Sedm Kuli. If Budweiser Bürgerbräu and Samson are your thing, you can find them there, too, along with some stuff from Primátor, will their fantastic Stout be available, too? I hope so.
For those of you who live in the fine neighbourhood of Petřini, or for some reason, happen to end up there, Supermarket Norma will offer you Klášter 11°, Lobkowicz Vévoda and Žatec tmavý ležák, previously known as Lučan, and a pretty fine dark beer for the price (9CZK).
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26 Sep 2008
I know even less about pairings of food and beer. I don't think it's a science, it is more about experience, memory and some common sense, and also, trial and error.
With this Philosphy in mind I decided to try pairing a Fuerteventura cheese and a beer. Fuerteventura is a goat cheese from the namesake island, one of the Canaries. Its texture, consistency and aroma are very similar to some very cured Manchego I've had. It is also similar in taste, though Fuerteventura might be a little stronger and spicier, the latter due partly to the crust coated in spicy paprika powder, which gives the cheese a very particular character. I really like it a lot.
What beer could I drink with it? What beer could tame it a little? I had already eaten it with some Svijanský Rytíř and the cheese quickly overwhelms the beer, which does atenuate a little the wilder notes of Fuerteventura, but ends up lost among that much fire.
I remembered then that I had a bottle of Primátor Double 24%. I smiled and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.
The restult was brilliant. Double is a really sweet beer, with intense licorice notes, together with burnt sugar and some chocolate, at times is excessive. But they got along wonderfully with Fuerteventura, as if they had known each other all their lives. Each enchanced the best of the other. The beer made it easier to eat the cheese and the cheese made it easier to drink the beer, without either of them loosing their identity. It is interesting how a cheese made on a dry, inhospitable island in the Atlantic Ocean can pair so well with a beer brewed in the temperate and wet North East of the Czech Republic.
I don't think you can find this cheese here. I got it thanks to María Angeles and her friend, who brought it (together with a bottle of Dry Malvasía) as a thank you gift for the advice I had given them through private messages in Los Viajeros forums before their trip to Prague. I'm not expecting people to bring me presents, but I am not going to dissuade them either.
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23 Sep 2008
In spite of that, it was spectacular, I had a bit too much fun. Well, actually, I ended up totally sozzled. Fortunately, we had been driven there by a friend. Maybe that was one of the reasons I got so pissed, knowing that I wouldn't have to worry about getting back home. But then, another reason could have been the almost 40 different beers available from 12 craft brewers from all over the country. Or was it having such a good time with friends, both new and not so? There were VelkyAl, from Fuggled (great blog, worth reading) and his wife; Javier, an Argentine living in Prague that came with some friends from Venezuela; the friends of Mrs VelkyAl; Iain and his mates; Tomáš Erlich from SPP; Honza Kočka from Pivovar Kocour Vandorf and more. Though, it could have also been those beer based spirits that showed up by the end, which I think I should not have drunk (they were fine, but still a mistake). Whatever it was, let's say it was a work related accident, or something like that.
I had never seen a line-up of such size, variety and quality. There were beers for absolutely every taste and needs. There was even a nealko craft beer, first time I see something like that. It was really dark and coffee flavoured, with a really surprising taste, and brewed by Modrý Abbé Klatovy, who also brought three samples from the great Kout na Šumavě.
It was precisely with Kout that I started the party. I had their 12ª (delicious, full of Saaz, and refreshing as rain on a hot summer day) as an aperitif. My plan was to focus on those I didn't know, but I still wanted to start with something, let's say, standard. My wife chose Kout tmavá 14ª, nicely roasted notes with a bit of coffee and chocolate, and our friend, Ljuba, opted for the nealko, as she was the designated driver.
I followed with Kocour's Pale Ale. Superb! It goes in with apples coated in mild caramel and finishes with a very dry bitterness, great contrast. I've chatted a bit with Honza Kočka about his plans (if you want to know more about them, read this Evan Rail's post). Later I had his IPA, another wonder of the art of brewing. Both were among my favourites of the day.
There were also a couple of smoked beers, the brilliantly conceptual V3, also from Kocour Vandorf, one of the darlings of my darling, and the UrrRauch, from the hosts, Purkmistr, which had nothing to envy Schlenker Märzen, perfectly balanced flavours, enough smoked notes to satisfy more experienced palates, but without overwhelming those who aren't. Delicious.
From Purkmistr I also sampled one that I had missed when I first visited the place, their Polotmavé. I found it similar to Primátor Polotmavé 13%, though tastier and richer, fresher, too.
They also presented two fruit flavoured beers, one with blueberry and another one with cherries. I knew the former, didn't drink the latter, though my wife did and told me it was pretty good.
There were a couple of rarities, too. Pivovarský Dum brought their kopřivové, their very particular nettle beer, and a rye ale, which I liked a lot. Chýně, on the other hand, brought their excellent kukuřičné, corn beer (of which I'll talk in more detail soon).
Wheat beers weren't missing either. U Ribíček Stříbro, together with their excellent Argent 12% and Horník 13% (the dark lager I liked best) and others, brought their powerful Duchmaus Weissbier 14%, bottom fermented and delicious, pretty robust for a weizen, but very easy to drink. However, the one I liked best was Staročeské Bilé (Old Czech white beer) from Hastrman Velký Ribník, with just the right acidity and fruit, silky, almost chewy. Their 11ª ležák was another pleasant surprise, a bit more mainstream stylewise, but with lots of hops, really fresh and refreshing.
I also tasted beers from Pivovar Sokolov Permon and Pivovar Belveder, not bad, but nothing memorable either. I could say the same about Vsetín, although, by then I wasn't exactly able to appreciate those beers as I should.
The biggest and nicest surprise, though, came from and old friend, U Bansethů, Bašta. A couple of months ago I had critisised them quite harshly, but I think justly, and specially their 15%, that I had thought almost awful. I drank it again on Saturday and it was like drinking another beer. Everything that was wrong that day had vanished, it was as if the one I had back in July was an image out of focus, and this one here, the same image, but properly focused. I had already heard that the situation at the Nusle brewpub had improved, I was happt to be able to see it myself.
What followed was more and more beer. I had already stopped paying too much attention to what I was drinking because it had all become a session already, but without session beers. Then came the above mentioned shots, Pivní Järgermeister, Pivní Becherovka and Pivovice, with their subsequent effects. Something I regretted the day after.
It was announced this festival to be the first edition. The idea is to have a Slunce ve Skle each year. If that's the case, I'm already looking forward to the next one, which I hope to finish in better shape.
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19 Sep 2008
Most Czechs, and not few foreign residents, maintain with almost religious fanaticism that all beers are draught. It is true in many cases, yet not so in some, specially when it comes to stronger beers. It is as if the more confined space of a bottle makes the elements and characteristics of the beer to integrate in a more compact way, with the result of a more balanced and better tasting brew. Jihlavský Grand is a great example of this.
When pouring the glass is filled by almost orange gold, cristaline, with very fine bubbles and crowned by quite a bit of a white head that, to my surprise, doesn't disipate very fast. Its nose is dry and intense, with some whisky notes. The dryness is still there when drinking, feeling like orange peel. The 8%ABV can be felt, but does not disturb, it is just another element that gives character to the drink. In the finish there is mild vanilla and perhaps some wood, the aftertaste is the same as at the beginning. Very good beer, very well made, one of those to drink slowly in the afternoon, or to pair with some Asian dish.
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14 Sep 2008
The festival took place in a park right next to Opatov metro station, in the district of Prague 11, one of the ugliest parts of the city from the architectural point of view. Lately, the authorities have been trying to revitalise it and they want to prove that paneláky and sidliště can also be fine places to live. This festival was part of the project and they are planning to make it an annual event.
We arrived early but the atmosphere was already pretty lively. Just reading the board with the beer list made my mouth water. 11 varieties, all brewed by Master Richter, owner and brewmaster of Pivovar U Bulovky.With my wife we went straight to Summertime Tea Beer and Jarní Květ Medové Pivo (Spring flowers honey beer). Both exquisite. The medové with a strong aroma and taste of home made honey, without being sweet, a beer to drink slowly, and not only because of its strenght. The tea beer, on the other hand, had a very ligth body, it was refreshing with a dry finish akin to strong tea, curiously, it was of a pale gold colour, rather cloudy.We were also impressed by the food on offer. Apart from festival classics such as nakladaný hermelín (very good and in a big portion), uzená klobása (smoked sausage) and uzená krokovice (smoked neck of pork), both great and both smoked on site, there were some sweet delicacies with a very careful presentation. My wife went there like a guided missile and chose a small chocolate pie, that turned out to be a fantastically tasty bomb, as tasty as the home made bombons. The savoury stuff wasn't too shabby either, raclette cheese with lovely pickles, tenderloin of pork in beer sauce with roasted potatoes and more delights.I also met with several friends and made a couple new ones. Don Johnson (not the Miami Vice one) spent most of the afternoon with us, and right before we were leaving Evan Rail showed up, still very tired and still very happy after the birth of his first son. I was also able to meet the brew mistress of Kocour Vandorf, a very cute and friendly 20 y.o. girl, who happens to be brewing some of the most interesting beers to have hit the Czech market recently. But the most curious thing happened when a group of four young people came to our table and asked me if I was Pivní Filosof. They were my fans! They were two Irish boys, an (I think) Irish girl and a very quiet Spaniard. They had made it there after reading it in my blog. We chatted a bit about beer, they wanted to recommend them what to drink next and they even had a picture taken with me. I still can believe it!
There were also some organised activities. A historic fencing performance, keg throwing competition, mechanical bull competition, etc. All with the children and families in mind, actually, of which there were a lot.
In the meantime, beers kept on going down, including the star of the day, Bilinné pivo (herbal beer) tapped straight from an oak barrel, Klosch style. The beer was spectacular. Vanilla notes, some fruit and a lot of herbs. Another great summer beer. The other one I liked a lot was Weizen dopplebock 19°. Corpulent, yet at no point giving any hint of the amount of alcohol it had. Fruity, syrupy, but with a slightly acidic finish with clove and cinammon notes. Lovely to wrap up the day, after having the very good Jihoměsťán 11° (of a well deserved reputation) and the rest of the great beers created by Mr Richter: Weissbier 13°, Dunkles Weizen 13°, Polotmavé 11° and Světlý Ležák, all in fine shape.
Just that kind of ideal day.
PS:This post is dedicated to Jonáš, the newest member of the beer community. May his future be brighter than our present.Na Zdraví!!Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.
12 Sep 2008
Fortunately, that doesn't mean that we can't go to any more beer events.
Tomorrow, Sat. 13/9, from 1PM, you can attend the First Jihoměstské pivní slavnosti - Beer Festival Jizní Město (the paneláky jungle in South Prague). It is very far from the centre, but it is also very easy to get there, Metro C - Opatov, and then follow the music.
There will be 11 beers on tap, including the allegedly legendary Jihoměšťana 11° y Čajové pivo (tea beer, if that won't arouse your curiousity, nothing will).
And, how about a trip for Saturday 20/9? Good idea, isn't it? Better still if the trip is to Pilsen, where Pivovar Purkmistr is organising the first Slunce ve Skle Ber Festival. The lineup of breweries that will be there is simply impressive, click here to have a look at it. If you want to know how to get there, take a couple of minutes to read the post I wrote about my visit to this very nice pivovar and restaurant
To close the month Zlý Časy is organising their third theme mini festival. This one is not at the weekend, it starts on Monday 29/9 and will last for as long as it will take people to drink the beers in question. The excuse is the official end to their summer season and the lineup is almost as impressive as the one at Purkmistr:
- Anteňák from Hrádec Králove
For those on the know, it is enough to make mouths water, and it should also be for those who don't know the above names. Several of this craft breweries have never been in Prague and some of their beers are simply wonderful!
And if that wasn't enough, there are also a couple of bottlers in the bill:
- Nová Paka
If you want to know which beers will be on tap each day, go to this page and click on the "AKCE" button.
Hope you'll enjoy at least one of them.
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8 Sep 2008
Excelent - Pivovar Rỳmařov. That is the name of the brewpub of the the town we visited during a trip we made to the area.
It was a long journey there. Longer than it could have been. We took a road that looked shorter on the map, but was actually winding and narrow, going through the Jesenìk area, probably the most remote in the country. Despite of that, it was very pleasant to drive slowly by lush forests interrupted here and there by pretty villages with a strong German identity in their architecture (the region was part of the Sudetenland, where, until their deportation after WWII, the population was mostly German).
After four or so hours on the road we stopped at a petrol station to refresh ourselves, go to the toilet, get some fuel and, in my case, get the first beer of the day. Petrol stations are a great place to find local beers, they always stock them, no matter which one it is. Unfortunately, in this region Holba is king. I hadn't tried the beers from Pivovar Hanušovice for a long time and as soon as I finished the first sip of their Světlý I remembered why. It is awful! I would put it a step below Staropramen. I really don't know what is in the minds of the people at Holba. Why are their beers so badly made? Others have an excuse. Staropramen has the misfortune of being part of InBev, Gambrinus is the best selling pivo in the country, so they aren't motivated. But Holba, which belongs to a Czech company, is the leader in perhaps the least populated region in the Czech Republic. Can't they see that they wouldn't be able to compete at a national level? It's their choice at the end of the day.
We got to our destination in the afternoon. Our friend was already waiting for us at her property, I can't call it her home, she doesn't live there, neither it is her cottage. It's actually a former school in a serious state of disrepair in a small village near Rỳmařov. We chose to camp in the beautiful garden instead of sleeping inside.
Soon we took to the woods for some mushroom hunting. We didn't find too many, the weather had been dry the previous days, but we did find a lot of blueberrys and wild blackberries. Delicious.
We spent the evening by the fire, eating grilled skewers and drinking beer chilled in the garden's pond (myself) and wine (the girls). Fortunately, there wasn't any Holba, but Gambrinus, Kozel 10ª and Primus. The last one is a cheap brand of Pilsner Urquell, which is now brewed at Platan. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting worse, but I actually found a beer adecuate to drink from a bottle while eating a lot.
After an almost sleepless night (I'm not cut for camping) we got up early, had breakfast and went to Sovice, a nearby castle. I really liked the place. The castle itself is being reconstructed. Like many others it's had a very turbulent history. It went through many hands, including those of the Order of the Teutonic Knights, who were in charge of it (for a second time) during WWII. During that period, the castle also worked as a VIP prison. Today's less than glamorous state is due to a catastrophic fire that happened in May 1945, while some Soviet troops were occupying it. Despite all that, the place still has some romanticism.
We went back to out camp to leave the car and walk to Rỳmařov. It was time to see of the beers of the local brewpub lived up to their name.
Pivovar Excelent started tapping their beers this year and operates in a recently refurbished hotel. The restaurant is nice, clean but without much of an atmosphere. They were tapping two beers that day: 11ª kvasnicovè and 13ª polotmavè. My wife ordered the latter, I went for the former. We also ordered some food.
I really liked that 11ª. Rich golden colour, slightly foggy. A mild very fruity nose, backed by flowers, a very summery bouquet. The taste is a triumvirate of fruits, herbs and citrus. It paired brilliantly with the very good guláš that I had ordered. It was followed by 13ª polotmavè. Of a reddish colour, crowned by a slightly tanned head. The same fruits of the 11ª were in its nose, this time coated in caramel. Caramel is the first thing I felt when drinking, followed by fruits and ending in a refreshingly bitter finish with a lot of hops. My wife, who prefers fruitier beers, liked 11ª better. I liked both the same, and had one more glass of each. Excellent they aren't, but they are indeed very good.Now, I noticed a couple of things I wish they would correct. Firstly, I didn't see that they sell bottled beer. I would have loved to buy a couple of bottles to take home or drink in the evening. It would be nice if they had. Doesn't need to be glass bottles, they could do what many other brewpubs, sell them in plastic bottles. Secondly, and more important, neither on the menu (that listed draught Gambrinus, Pilsner Urquell, etc), nor on any signs on the tables is there any mention of the house brewed beers. If we hand't asked what was being tapped that day, we could have ended up with some Urquell or Master, as I saw many other patrons. They call themseleves Pivovar Excellent and they are shy? Come on!
Our friend picked us up in the car and we went around the town a bit. We went back to the camp for another session of grilled food and cheap beer by the fire. Like the day before, we capped the evening with some delicious home made herbal schbapps and home made calvados, this one not that good actually, but drinkable. I slept much better that night...
We wrapped up the weekend on Sunday morning with a trip to Karlovà Studanka. A spa town set in an idilic landscape, with some lovely architecture and some simply gorgeous blueberry pies! It was a beautiful weekend, beautiful area. It is really worth the trouble of going all the way there.
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5 Sep 2008
That is why August was a poor month from the beer point of view. I wasn't able to explore as much as I would have liked and a couple of expeditions had to be cancelled.
Fortunately, though, good beer wasn't missing. One of the highlights of the month was Javořický Sv. Ležák, from Pivovar Kozíček H. Dubenky. This is a very singular brewery. They only brew one 200l batch a week, half of which is sold to a pub in Jihlava, the other half, to whoever has ordered it first. Needless to say, they have a waiting list. Fortunately, the good people of Zlý Časy were able to get their hands on a barrel and brought it to Choose your preferred Prague and get free transport. It lasted as long as a fart in the wind, and I was lucky enough to have a couple of pints before they ran out of it. It is a typical kvasnicové in its looks, with a mild nose of peach, vanilla and citrus. The taste is more intense, and filled my mouth with apricot and milder vanilla notes, all wrapped in a short finish, dry and with a fantastic balance between flowers and herbs. Delicious.
Other highlights included again Stout and Kvasnicové 12° from Kocour Vandorf, who don't seem to get tired of coming out with very good beers; the always brilliant Světlý Ležák from Divovarský Dům and Kvasar 15° from Pivovar Sentice, a strong lager flavoured with honey, that can indeed be felt, but never makes it to overwhelm the rest of the beer, very well put together.
There were also the two very good beers of the brewpub at Rýmařov, but I'll be speaking about them in a few days, when I write my report of the trip we made there.
This month's winner, however, is humbler and I chose it not only because of its quality, but also to properly wrap up August, that was dedicated to session beers. Kácov 10°, as tapped on an almost regular basis at Zlý Časy. The perfect session beer, light in body and ABV, but with plenty of character and a surprisingly bitter that never tires you and always leaves you wanting for more.
The count this time is a product of the kind of month I had, only 11 new beers, which brings the total to 243. September is already looking better, luckily.