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Who is this guy?

I don't know who Alan Brewer is. Never heard of him, never read his opus. I assume he's someone who knows about beer, otherwise the Spanish magazine Bar&Beer wouldn't publish him. And most likely, he knows more than me, that's the least I expect from someone who's been writing on the subject for as long as he claims.

I don't know who Alan Brewer is. I've looked him up on the Internet, but wasn't able to find anyone beer related with that name. I sent emails to two of the most important bloggers from the other side of the Atlantic (Mr Brewer lives in Brooklyn) y they weren't able to give me any solid information. One of them said that he suspected the name was an pseudonym, A. Brewer (geddit?), and the other one said that the name rang a bell, perhaps someone who wrote some time in the past for a magazine.

I don't know who Alan Brewer is, but he has insulted me. Not only me, had that been the case, I wouldn't give a toss. He's someone I…

St Peter's 12 Apostles (III)

After going having gone through the oddballs and the modern classics that I had received from St. Peter's Brewery, all I had left were samples of the styles that, in the eyes of many, define English brewing: Mild, (Best) Bitter, (Old Style) Porter and (Cream) Stout (I had already tasted the IPA), plus the Winter Ale, which, since seasonal Ales have been brewed for ever, we can also say it's a "traditional" style of some sorts. 

I started with Mild. Not being English, the first time I heard the name of this style I though it was because those Ales were, well, mild (in flavour, ABV, etc.), when actually, it's because thus were called ales that were sold very young, almost without any maturing (if I remember my history well).
I was really looking forward to tasting a representative of the style. Ron Pattison once loosely compared it with tmavé výčepní, an unfortunately underrated Czech style I like quite a lot. I was curious to see how similar they were.

St Peter's…

Burp!

This have been very special holidays for me. The first as a dad, and the first in who knows how long that I've spent with my parents and my sister (and her BF), who came from Spain to be with us.

For Christmas Eve dinner we had the traditional fried carp with potato salad (that I had prepared a couple of days before) and then we went on to open the presents while stuffing our faces with the wonderful Christmas biscuits my wife had baked (a total of 10 different kinds).

The picture above shows a bit of the aftermath of the Christmas lunch, roasted duck with braised red cabbage and sauerkraut and bread knedlíky. Everything washed down with the outstanding Matuška Tmavé, it's mild roast and hint of sourness held their ground perfectly against the cabbages, while the rich dark chocolate and coffee danced a beautiful choreography with the bird and its juices. One of the best lunches I've had in my life.

I hope all of you've had at least half the great time we are still having …

I wasn't going to do this, but

I didn't feel like writing a wrap up of this year, but after reading Knut's (who chose me as one of the bloggers of the year!) and The Beer Nut, I liked the format, which actually was thought up by Mark Dredge, so I changed my mind and decided to give it a go. Here you have it (with some adjustments):

Best Czech beer, draught: U Medvídku 1466, specially when Laďa, its creator, taps me a couple straight from the lagering barrel. Honourable mentions: anything from Kout na Šumavě, Tambor 11° and Matuška Weizen.

Best Czech beer, bottled:Bakalář Polotmavý Výčepní, ever since I discovered it I can't have enough of it. Honourable mentions: Svijanský Rytíř and Primátor Weizenbier.

Best Imported beer, draught: Well, we aren't exactly spoilt for choice here, but still, Schlenkerla Märzen.

Best Imported beer, bottled: This was by far the most difficult choice, as this year I've tasted so many wonderful beers. After a lot of consideration the one that came on top was Haadnbryggeri…

St Peter's 12 Apostles (II)

Following my route through the samples the people of St Peter's Brewery sent me, it was time to start getting into the more or less classic stuff.

The three I had in line were Golden Ale, Suffolk Gold y Ruby Red.

Golden Ale is a pretty new style that, according to Martyn Cornell, came out as a kind of response to the rise of lager by the English Real Ale brewers. I had only tried one Golden Ale thus far, Oppigårds Bryggeri's, from Sweden, which I had found pretty pleasant.
St Peter's Golden Ale is similar to its Swedish counterpart in many aspects. It reminded me to a good světlý ležák in looks, aroma, mouth feel and, to a lesser extent, maltiness. Its most distinctive note is given by the hops, that provide a marked, but controlled bitterness that gets stronger in the finish, long and bitter. With 4,7%ABV and very low carbonation, it's extremely easy to drink. Very pleasant, it leaves you wanting another one (and a few more to follow).
Suffolk Gold isn't another Golde…

Out of Nowhere

Yesterday I got an e-mail that surprised me for two reasons: That someone bothered to send me an e-mail announcing an event, instead of waiting for me to find about it on the web, and the very nature of the event and its organisers.

They call themselves "Pivní archív restaurace U Balbínů", something like Archive Beer Restaurant (coming from "Archivní Víno", wines meant for long aging). I had no references about them, but whoever they are, what they seem to be doing looks really interesting.

This weekend (Dec. 19/20, from 10 to 5) they are organising a presentation of really special beers: Sam Adams Utopias, Bass King's Ale 1902, together with some Belgian Stuff and Vintage Beers of limited editions, among others.

The event will take place in Jungmanová 22, Prague 1 and the entrance is free (or at least the e-mail doesn't mention an admission price).

Because of family reasons I won't be able to attend, but I've already arranged an interview/visit once th…

St Peter's 12 Apostles

OK, it isn't biblically accurate, but it does the job for a silly pun.

The good people of St Peter's Brewery, through Claire, were really cool and sent me a box with 12 samples from their product line, a very varied selection indeed.
Since posting the tasting notes of 12 beers might be quite boring for you to read, and would sure be a lot of work for me to write, I have split them in three installments that will be published in the coming days.

Before getting down to it, I want to take a few lines to praise the presentation of these beers. Those oval shaped bottles are just lovely, so apparently simple, with so much identity. Better writers than me have already emphasised the importance of a good packaging for beers, specially of the "craft" sort, and they are right. Of course, nobody is going to buy something they don't like, no matter how prettily it's wrapped, but you have to know it first, and a nice bottle or label can make a big difference when it comes to…

Progress Report

Since a few (very few) of you have been great enough to send me a few virtual moneys to help me finance my book, I thought it would be appropriate to write the first progress report, so you can see that your money is at work and that I'm not spending all of my free time doing things like looking after my daughter.

I've already started wandering the streets of Prague gathering material for the book and I've come across many new places that look quite promising. I've already visited a few and have a couple of (I hope interesting) stories to share with you.

In a small, lost street in Letná there is this small, pleasant café/bar/restaurant that stocks Pilsner Urquell, Kozel and Kácov Kvasnicové (though I think is nefiltrované). I went there the other day to have a beer, I don't think I need to tell you which (if any of you thought of PU and Kozel, go away, read another blog).

When the waiter, a relaxed and rather affable bloke, brought my kvasnicové (I insist is nefiltrov…

Brave

From the first sip Pivovar Chotěboř made a great impression on me. Their Světlý Ležák is a perfect example of the style that made Czech beer famous around the world: solid malt base with a most subtle touch of caramel and the distinctive presence of Saaz hops, and the unfiltered version ranks among the best new stuff that has come out this year.

During the SPP Awards Party I had a brief chat with Mr. Záruba, head brewer at Chotěboř. He told me that his brewery, which opened earlier this year, it's not a brewpub, but a "micro-industrial" (as I like to call them) that combines the latest brewing technology with Czech lager tradition (triple decoction, open fermenters and enough lagering time). Currently their capacity is 10,000 hl/year, which can be expanded to 25,000 hl in the current facilities.
I took home two bottles from the party (světlý výčepní y tmavý ležák) and a branded glass to drink them from.
One evening, while I was getting in the mood to prepare dinner, I opene…

Tasty December News

Those who are in Prague during December, either permanently or on a visit, will have plenty of new, special beers to choose from.

Last week Zlý Časy tapped the first barrel and sold the first bottles of their own Christmas Special, a Weizenbock which, just like their previous seasonal specials, was brewed in Chýně (who I'm sure are already pulling pints of their own holiday brew) by Petr Buriánek. I've already tasted it and it's really good.

This week Pivovar U Medvídku will present to the world their 18° Balling dark lager, a very limited edition that will only be available on tap at the brewery.

Not far from there, Pivovarský Dům should already have on tap their Imperial Stout, which has been maturing since February or March.

And though I don't have any concrete information, I'm pretty sure that Pivovar U Bulovky, Pivovar Strahov and U Bansethů will have their respective ad-hoc beers ready to drink in these days.

If all that wasn't enough, Honza Kočka once more is…

Hypocrisy?

I was going to leave this post only for the Spanish speaking beer community, but since it wasn't very well received I thought I would share it with my English speaking readers as well, hoping some of you will have the same reaction

Andrés, from the Spanish beer blog Culturilla Cervecera wrote about his visit to Fortiverd SL (Sp), makers of the Bleder beers. There he tells us about the brewery and the chat he had with its owner, Salvador.

There was something in there that left a sour taste in my mouth. When Andrés asks Salvador why he's taking the risk brewing an Imperial Stout instead of a (should we call it Republican?) Stout Salvador says:"I haven't set up this company for the business, but to brew the beers I like. I'll be fine with earning enough to make a living out of it"However, a few lines later, we can read that the brewery has a lot of work thanks to making beers for some other brands, and that is about to increase the capacity.

It might be that I take…

BFSD

The other day my Spanish friend Delirium published a very interesting post (Sp) on the different processes used to make non-alcoholic beers.

Besides enlightening me on something I didn't know too well, the post made me realise how little we speak about this kind of beers. No surprise, really. After all, we are all pissheads who love to drink and talk about the "realy stuff". And also, there quite a few out there who refuse to consider these products as beers.

I think they are, but since I don't like having arguments over semantics I've decided to make up a name for them: Beer Flavoured Soft Drinks, BFSD's for friends.

Much of the animosity many people have towards BFSD's comes from comparing them with "real" beers, which is, in my opinion, a mistake. Nobody will compare Budvar with, say, Westvleteren (well, some people do, but they don't understand the first thing about beer), they are two different things, with a different purpose. The only th…

It's cold!

I really don't understand why so many people are so negative about autumn/winter. I love it! I like the rain (unless it's pissing down and I'm walking home from the bus) and I love cold weather. It's great, come on! At weekends, you can stay at home, watching the rain out the window, knowing that there won't be any work on the garden for a few months. Or you can go for a walk and find a nice, cozy, warm place to sit down and have something tasty while you unwind. Also, winter food kicks some serious summer food ass!

And nothing represents winter better than a bowl of hot, rich, home made soup. We love eating soup at weekends. They are relatively easy and cheap to make, you can improvise with what you have in the fridge or pantry, recipes are usually pretty flexible and you can make as much of it as you want and enjoy it the next day or two. It's true that they can take some time to get ready, specially if you have to prepare some stock from scratch, but since th…

Should we be worried?

A bit more than a month ago AB-InBev made official the sale of Staropramen, together with a bunch of other Eastern European breweries. As I mentioned here, the buyer is CVC Partners, a Private Equity Group of Belgian origins. According to what's been reported, the transaction won't be effective until next January and the new brewing group will be named StarBev.

No surprise, nothing new, not much to talk about. However, reading past the headlines I came across two bits of information that all by themselves don't say much, but when brought together and spiced with a pinch of paranoia might give some reasons to worry.

First bit: The purchase contract has a provision that stipulates that should CVC ever decide to sell any of these breweries AB-InBev retains the right of first offer. Nothing to worry about here. After all, these breweries haven't been sold because they were a bad business, but because the brewing giant was badly needing cash to cover some debts. It's lo…

From far away

If my chances of visiting my native country and enjoy the local micro brewing boom are at the moment non existent, I would then need some quantum theorist to estimate those of visiting neighbouring Chile, where there also seems to be a micro brewing boom, or at least that is the impression I get from reading Catador's blog.

The magic of the Internet has practically vanished borders and that is how Leonardo, one of my Chilean readers, made it possible for me to get a small taste of what is happening in his country's beer scene. While we were having a very good time, with very good beers at Pivovarský Dům, he gave me the five samples he'd lugged all the way from the Southern Hemisphere, four from Szot and one from Volcanes del Sur.

I decided to start with the bunch from Szot. Seen from here, Szot (which I like to pronounce the Polish way, "Shot") is a pretty successful microbrewery with a rather good reputation among local beer fans. The four samples I got were Pale …

Announcement

Following the steps of better writers than me I've decided to publish a book. It's still in the project stage and it won't be a historical, theoretical or technical essay about beer. For that, I don't have the chops yet. It's something a lot more mundane, but at the same time, a lot more useful to the layman: a Pub, etc. Guide of Prague.

Similar stuff has been already published, so I'm not going to say I'm original or an innovator. The guide I'm putting together, however, has a couple of advantages over others: I live in Prague, so it will be more easily updated, and its scope is far more ambitious than any other, I'm planning to cover the whole of the Czech capital and some of it's outskirts, and try to include at least one nice place to have good beer in every one of its boroughs. Oh! And it will also be published in Spanish.

Some of the material has already been published in this blog, some is already compiled in a notebook or in  my always r…

The Debate

It all started with this post in Ron's blog, followed by one from Alan, both saying how tired they were of "innovative beers". Stephen Beaumont responded by posting his defense of innovation. Stan entered the discussion (which was raging in the comment sections) asking if there really was any innovation to begin with, to which Stephen that yes, there is, though not nearly as much as many believe, and that there are also different kinds, and I couldn't agree more.

I don't really think anyone is against innovation or the new, not even Ron in his fiery rant. The problem, in my opinion, is another: those who worship innovation.

Several times I've read people praising how dynamic the American craft beer scene is thanks to all those great innovators (not so much, according to those on the know) compared to the European, a prisoner of those pesky traditions, which have not allowed it to develop anything new in who knows how many decades.

This crowd (many of whom don…

Flagship

A few months ago I spoke in some detail about K Brewery Trade, for those of you who don't remember and/or can't be arsed with reading this post, I'll make a summary. This Czech company came pretty much out of nowhere and bought several regional breweries. Today they own seven and have quite important stakes in at least two more.

Even though their slogan is "Navrát k tradici" (Back to tradition), many are those who don't trust the real intentions of these people. Some believe they are a proxy of Heineken, which, as you might remember, was neither denied, nor confirmed by the Czech subsidiary of the Dutch concern.

I've got serious doubts that the rumor is true. I really don't see what interest Heineken could have in this bunch of regional breweries, most of which (unfortunately) aren't even very valuable as brands.

Needless to say, KBT (as they are known in the street), has been categorically denying all that to anyone who asks. Still, even if we take …

20 years is nothing

20 years ago today I was a couple of weeks from finishing High School. Many things were going around in my mind. A big sense of accomplishment from having successfully finished such an important stage in my life; some nervousness from what the future had in stock for me and from knowing that things would never be so easy again and also a bit of sadness from knowing deep down that the twists and turns of life would make me loose touch with many of the people I had shared so many years of my life with.

1989 was also a very hectic year from Argentina. Presidential elections, economic meltdown and violent social unrest. Despite all this, we got and followed the news of the events unfolding in Eastern Europe: Hungary opening its border with Austria, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

20 years ago today the Velvet Revolution started. It was a series of peaceful protests that, though not the first of their kind, in a few days managed to bring down the Comm…

A Critic to the Critics

Even though we hardly dine out anymore, I still enjoy reading Prague restaurant reviews. I specially like those where the author has a good grasp of the concept of value for money, even if they aren't paying from their own pockets, and where they tell us about their dining experience in a straightforward, fun to read language.

Unfortunately, I must say I've lost my patience with the whole lot of them. The reason, their ignorance and total lack of interest in beer.

The Czech Republic is home to some of the finest lagers in the world. "Pivo" is a source of national pride and plays an important part in Czech popular and culinary cultures. How is it then that restaurant reviewers don't complain when a restaurant offers bad beer?

No, I'm not just grumpy because it's Monday morning (well, a bit, yes). Many times I've read how reviewers complain, and fairly so, about the authenticity or freshness of some ingredients, the way a dish is prepared or presented, the…

And the winners are...

Just like I promised yesterday, here you have the list of winners of this year's Sdružení přátel piva awards, plus some comments.


Desítka roku

1. Podskalák, světlé výčepní pivo (Pivovar Rohozec)
2. Moravské Sklepní (Pivovar Černá Hora)
3. Březňák, světlé výčepní (Pivovar Velké Březno)

I must confess that I don't remember ever drinking this beer (which I hope to correct soon). The other two, however, are well placed, yes.

Jedenáctka roku

1. Otakar 11% (Pivovar Polička)
2. Svijanský Máz (Pivovar Svijany)
3. Klášter 11% (Pivovar Klášter)

Otakar is a very good, and not known enough, beer. Máz is my least favourite from the Svijany lot and I would put it well behind Klášter's (which dropped from the first spot for the first time in I don't know how many years).

Dvanáctka roku

1. Svijanský Rytíř (Pivovar Svijany)
2. Březňák, světlý ležák (Pivovar Velké Březno)
3. Bernard, sváteční ležák (Rodinný pivovar Bernard)

This first prize is going to be discussed a lot among Czech beer geeks, some w…

It's good to be me (2009 edition)

Just like last year, and the year before, the good people of Sdružení Přátel Piva were kind enough to invite me to their annual award ceremony, which, to a certain extent, is actually an excuse to get together for a few beers with friends, colleagues, etc.

This year's edition took place at Pivovar Strahov. It seems thasince there was no need to travel anywhere, more people that usual attended. I arrived at 11 and the downstairs room was already packed.
It wasn't long before a glass of beer almost magically materialised in my hand (Budvar Dark, fine, but way too cold for my taste). It was a rather chilly day, but I was thirsty after the walk from Dejvická. I found Evan Rail and while we exchanged stories about our family lives and greeted a few known faces, the beginning of the award ceremony proper was announced. With a new beer in hand (Chotěboř světlý ležák, really good) I followed the crowd to the room upstairs, which was also wall-to-wall full.
The ceremony was fun and didn&#…

Making (at least a bit) of sense of it

Some time ago I wrote a post strongly critisising the Protected Geographical Denomination "České Pivo" (Czech Beer). One of the conditions a beer has to meet in order to be eligible for the DGP is that it must be brewed with a decoction mashing. As if Czech brewing tradition started in 1842, I said then.

Well, I didn't know what I know now.

In the comments of one of the post in the Argentinean beer blog Logia Cervecera I ranted that a proper lager should be brewed using a decoction mashing.

Someone answered saying that that is not true anymore and that most German breweries have stopped using decoction. According to him, thanks to the highly modified malts used today, the process is no longer necessary for soft waters to be able to extract enough sugars from the grain, and that a multi-rest infusion mash (don't know if that's the exact term, but you know what I mean) does the job just fine. He also added that the breweries from Northern Germany never used decoction …

A Cholesterol Bomb

Warning: If any of you out there has cholesterol problems, you'd better not read the following recipe. If any of you out there is voluntarily on a diet, leave it! It's not good for you. Get you ass off that chair and do some exercise instead.

Some of the names of classical Czech dishes are rather curious. "Moravský Vrabec", for example. The translation is "Moravian Sparrows", but it's actually made with roasted cubes of marinated pork. It's a favourite pub grub, specially at lunch time.

The other day I thought I would make my version of the recipe. It's ideal for an ugly weekend day, when we have more than enough time, but don't feel like doing much. It doesn't need much work, but it requires quite a bit of time.

Another advantage is that this is a very versatile recipe. Here it's usually served with knedlíky and stewed cabbage, but there's no problem to serve it with potatoes in any form, veggies, rice or salad.

Ingredients: (serves…

Changed my mind

Do you remember that I told you I was going to let MB Porter årgång 2008 age a bit? Of course you don't! Well, I did say it, you can read it here, at the bottom of the page. Doesn't matter, I changed my mind, anyway.

As I've already mentioned, I really fancy dark beers this season. The other day in the afternoon I went to the cellar to pick something dark to drink and there she was, MB Porter, calling me, tempting me. I couldn't resist. I'm not the patient kind of guy, I don't think I'll ever be able to let a bottle gather dust in my cellar for a year or so.
MB Porter årgång 2008 pours very dark amber, clear against the light, topped by a spongy beige head. The bouquet has prunes, molasses, chocolate and a little bit of tobacco. The palate is treated with notes of chocolate, roast, some licorice, everything wrapped in an unctuous mouthfeel that is really nice to roll around your mouth for a bit. The finish is dry with a background of dry fruit, long and very …

Aren't they missing something?

Just as it happened last year, I had a great time with Knut Albert at at Zlý Časy. While we were enjoying several of the 16 beers they had on tap, we spoke about many things, most of them beer related (I bet you are surprised by that).

There was a topic that stayed in my mind after the evening was finished. It might be something that does not concern some of the more developed markets, but it does apply to those where the micros are just starting to make some sort of impact.

I'm not going to discuss here the advantages of pasteurising/filtering or not, neither of bottle fermenting, because that is not what we talked about with Knut. It was something more cynical, if you want. Picture the scenario:

You love "good beer", you might even consider yourself a "beerevangelist". You also make a point in supporting your local micro-breweries (provided their beers are good, of course). You are organising a BBQ. You see the event as a good opportunity to introduce your frien…