29 Jul 2009

Take that Inaraja González

Before it degenerated into a discussion about whether this or that beer is or not an ale, I had mentioned in my critique to the "Método de Cata" that their authors said that we mustn't taste beers that are "older" than three months. What would be their opinion, then, about Geuze Mariage Parfait 2004?

That 2004 isn't the year the brewery was established, nor it is a reminder of a Balling or Plato graduation, it is the year the beer was made. If my French doesn't fail me, the label says that Mariage Parfait is a Geuze á l'ancienne o oude, made from a lambic with at least 3 years of special maturing by Frank Boon, and that only 240hl a year are bottled.

I had originally planned to age this beer for at least a few months together with others I have in my cellar. However, in what turned out to be the last evening before my wife and newborn daughter came from the hospital, I felt like playing loud music and drinking something special. I went to the cellar and there it was Mariage Parfait, calling me.
The authors of the "Metodo de Catado" and those unwary enough to follow their instructions don't know what they are missing. Mariage Parfait pours gold, capped by an incredibly white head. It's got a very dry nose, almost like an Extra Brut Champagne, but with an undertone of not fully ripened fruit. The typical sourness of the style is in the foreground of each sip, but isn't too agressive and it's balanced by a background of tropical fruit, all that laced with rhubarb and spice notes. The finish is long, mild and very refreshing thanks to its fruity acidity. The 8%ABV is fantastically integrated, actually, if I hadn't read it on the label I wouldn't have believed this beer is so strong. A delicious, brilliant, magnificent drink, each sip is a pleasure. It is to be enjoyed slowly and could easily replace at a celebration any sparkling wine I can think of.
I wonder what it must be like to drink this beer with the "freshness" that Inaraja González (one of the authors of "El Método...") recommends. The other day I shared with my friend Gunnar a bottle of Cantillon Gueuze 100% Labic Bio. I didn't take notes of the bottling date, though I reckon I can't be more than a year, if that much. The beer is more sour and intense and it isn't so easy to drink despite having only 5%ABV. Can it be that Mariage Parfait has similar traits when young? Pity that I don't have a sample to compare.
Anyway, Mariage Parfait 2004, another reason to ignore the "Método de Cata"

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27 Jul 2009

Greater Potential

Pivovarky Staropramen have decided to axe Kelt, a Stout-like dark lager that, until Primátor Stout came to the market, was the only local alternative to overpriced Guinness brewed who knows where. I'm not going to say that I'll miss it, but it wasn't a bad beer at all, it was actually pretty drinkable.

(Curiously, Kelt had their peak in sales in 2004. That year the Belgian Interbrew (the owners of Staropramen) merged with the Brazilian AmBev to spawn our beloved InBev. I wonder if the subsequent increase in the marketing for Stella Artois had anything to do in the decline of Kelt's sales)

The reason the Smíchov based brewery gave was: "“We see greater potential in our other brands.”

Which ones?

I remember reading sometime ago that the local chapter of InBev was planning to promote Hoegaarden more aggressively this summer. We're already at the end of July and I haven't seen much really. Who can blame them. AB-InBev has put their Czech subsidiary for sale and perhaps they don't want to invest in promoting a brand that might not be on the market in the near future.

The other brewery of the group in the Czech Rep., Ostravar has recently come out with Bazal, a beer "designed" by 121 fans of the football club Baník Otrava. Great potential that brand has. Yeah.

What else have they got up their sleeves? Oh, yeah, this:
Chill Staropramen. With this product, the folks from Smíchov, maybe inspired by Heineken, are finally confesing, though in a somewhat indirect way, that their beers is so crap that it's not worth tasting.

According to this abomination's web page, the swill will be dispensed from a frozen tap into a think frozen glass because that is the best way to fully concentrate the aromas and flavours (I wish I was joking on that). Apparently, this product is aimed at discos and clubs so people will drink it as a refreshment.

The page also says that the beer is Staropramen Ležák (a.k.a. Premium Lager). Considering that at "Chill" temperatures nobody is going to be able to feel any taste (not a bad thing in this case), what will prevent Staropramen from filling the kegs with lefovers from Braník or Staropramen Světlý (I suspect those two are the same beer with different label, I should check that with a blind tasting, but I'm not such a masoquist)?

Chill Staropramen, another product with a great potential.

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24 Jul 2009

Sometimes anything will do

I don't understand why people rave so much about Summer and have such an issue with Winter. If you gave me to choose between a -15°C day an a +30°C one, I'd pick the former without a nanosecond of hesitation. Hell! I would even pick a -25°C one! It doesn't matter how low the temperatures are, if you put on enough clothes, eventually you'll feel warm. When it's hot, you can get naked if you want, and you will still feel hot.

One of the (many) things I didn't like about Buenos Aires were its summers. Awful! 40°C in the shade were pretty much par for the course, and if you wait for the night to bring some relief, think again because many days temperatures won't go below 30. And this Monsoon like season we've been having in Prague is doing a pretty good job at reminding me of those sticky Porteño summers I have and will never miss.

And there I was, nearby Flora Metro station, on the hottest day of the season, drenched in sweat and thinking how lovely it would be to get on a plane to Greenland, when I decided that the best remedy for the thirst that was scrapping my throat would be a well drafted pint of good Czech beer.

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to go to U Sadu, which probably wasn't that bad because I would have sure been tempted to stay there to drink several Weizens, something I'm certain my clients wouldn't have known how to appreciate as much as me. 

Dragging my humanity up Vinohradská I was almost coming to terms with the idea of having to drink Staropramen at that big pub opposite the shopping centre (between Staropramen tanková and likely dodgy Gambrinus, I choose the former) when I remembered U Bergnerů, that is very near.

U Bergnerů is a very down at heel neighbourhood hospoda of the kind where only a couple of minutes are enough to end up stinking like a well aged ashtray and with topless waitresses a couple of evenings a week (so a sign at the door claims), but with a reputation of very well tapped beer. I had never been there and the weather was as good a reason as any to fix that. 

At the entrance there is a small room without chairs and with a couple of tall tables and a fruit machine as pretty much all decoration. On the right there is a small window that gives to the bar from where beers can be ordered.

Velkopopovický Kozel Světlý is almost as far of being my favourite beer as Gambrinus Světlý. U Bergnerů has it tanková and unpasteurised and their reputation is very well deserved. The pint didn't make me tremble in delight, but I still liked it. Its well balanced bitterness did away with my thirst and that half litre served at a right temperature really refreshed me (which shows that beer doesn't have to be "ice cold" to be refreshing) and gave me energy I needed to face my last two hours of work.

Czech beer wisdom says that the quality of a pint depends 50% on who brews it and 50% on who serves it, never more true than at U Bergnerů (though we could also say 45-45 and give the remaining 10% to the weather).

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Restaurace U Bergnerů
Slezká 134
Prague 3 - Vinohrady

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23 Jul 2009

One Note Stout

Not long ago I had the pleasure of meeting Martin, from the Danish beer site AllBeer. Actually, I already knew him, he was part of that group that made me feel like a celebrity last December. This time, however, we had the chance to sit down and talk. He came with some of his beer friends and we spent part of an afternoon chatting about Czech and Danish beer.

I've already talked about it, Denmark has become a very exciting place for craft beer lovers. One of Martin's friends told me how Mikkeler, I think, is experimenting with spontaneously fermented beers. Not in the Belgian style, but based on Nordic legends that tell how beer was brewed thanks to the god Thor spitting in the fermenters. The interpretation is that the celestial flog implies a spontaneous fermentation. Interesting.

They brought me two beers, one of them Brøkhouse Julebrygg 2008 is still in my cellar awaiting more appropriate weather, the other didn't last very long.

The Stout style traces its origins to London Porter, a beer that used to be dark brown. The term Stout was used as an adjective for stronger Porters. In fact, there was a time when the it was applied to all kinds of stronger beers, even in the 19th century there were Pale Stouts. Nowadays it seems that, at least in some cases, the difference between Stout and Porter is a lot less than many believe.

All that is to explain you why I was excited when I saw the label of Limfjords Porter - Double Brown Stout, from Thisted Bryghus. Was I about to have the opportunity to taste a Stout brewed the old way?
Well, though I can't say I am 100% sure, I very much doubt it. Firstly, because the list of ingredients includes rye malt and English licorice and secondly, because the beer pours very, very black. There is some sourness in the bouquet, some nuts and cocoa as well. It's full bodied and dry, mostly very, very strong espresso together with a sprinkle of cocoa. The finish is roasty sour. A couple of sips later the beer becomes a scene in a porno film, quite fun at first, but then repetitive and boring (at least so I've been told). With 7.9%ABV and such intense taste it isn't easy, nor advisable to fast forward it, so the half empty glass ended up as something to distract me while I was preparing dinner. If it'd had chocolate instead of cocoa, Limfjords Porter could have been a memorable beer, unfortunately, it isn't. Anyway, I still see it as a very good pairing for a thick, greasy, spicy game or mutton guláš.

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20 Jul 2009

More than expected

Stefan, a.k.a Quack-Duck, is a fellow beer enthusiast and, for some time, beer blogger from Germany. A couple of months ago I met him and his friend whose name a I can't remember (sorry) to spend a very pleasant afternoon drinking and talking about beer.

Stefan brought me a sample of one of his favourite beers. Tettnanger Coronator, which he gave me wrapped in compliments. Now, my friend knows his beer, and knows it well, specially the German stuff, and I don't think he's the kind of guy who spreads compliments like the wind spreads seeds. So this was sure going to be a beer that I would really like. Right?

Right?

Kronenbrauerei Tettnang is located in the region where the Tettnang noble hops are grown. Something like Pivovar Žatec in the Czech Rep. Their Coronator, a Salvator - oops! Dopplebock(*) - with 7.2%ABV pours a pretty dark shade of ocre and it's topped by a compact head that doesn't last too long. The nose is greeted by notes of dried fruit, plums, apricots, and strong caramel, but it all feels fresh and summery. The mouthfeel is silky, full bodied without being too dense. It's a beauty that caresses the palate. It's a quite complex beer, too. It's not too intense at first, it goes in with mild caramel and fruit, grows with black sugar and ends slightly dry with a touch of cherry conserve. Of the relatively high ABV, there is no news while you drink it. A wonderful beer, one of those strong lagers you can drink one after another, only to regret it the day after.
At no time I felt a strong presense of the Tettangner hops. Not that I can identify them, but I didn't feel a lot of hops at all, and I don't think they will use any other kind. Unlike the pale lagers from Žatec, here I see it as a good thing. The beer is a wonder of balance. The hops here work like an aromatic herb added just in the right amount to a sauce, it doesn't take centre stage, but still helps to finish up the product. Anyway, I couldn't help but think that one of those "innovative brewers" so celebrated by many would have been very tempted to ruin this beer by turning it into a Hopfenbombe.

Another thing I couldn't help but think while I enjoyed this beauty is that it wouldn't have been too out of place among those Baltic Porters I tasted in March. In fact, with 7.2%ABV is very likely that Tettangner Coronator is fermented at 18° Balling, which would put it in the Porter bracket for the Czechs. Interesting how styles can sometimes be so relative.

Thanks Stefan. You were right. Tettangner Coronator is a fantastic beer. I would say it's the German I've liked the most so far. Doesn't anyone want to import it?

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(*)Before Zacherlbrauerei, today Paulaner, hijacked the name Salvator was a beer style, not a brand.

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17 Jul 2009

Seasonal treat

July is the month of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apricots and other lovely delights. You can eat them fresh or turn them into an ingredient of one of the most delicious Czech specialities, ovocné knedlíky, fruit dumplings.

The other day, when I was on my way to take the bus back home, I got a text message from my wife asking me to buy hard tvaroh (curds). I didn't really feel like going to the shop, so I asked her if it couldn't wait until noon the next day. She said it couldn't because we were going to have ovocné knedlíky for dinner. I did go to the shop as fast as my legs could carry me and bought a pack.

That day the in-laws had come y my mother in law (Czech mums in law are the best!) left a nice bunch of knedlíky filled with home grown apricots.

There are two kinds of dough for these dumplings: a yeasty one and one made with curds. We like the latter better, it's lighter and tastier. The recipe is very easy, too.

Ovocné Knedlíky (serves some people)

For the dough:
250g soft tvaroh (curds), ricotta cheese can also be used, I guess.
semi meal flour
1 egg
a pinch of salt
a dash of milk

For the filling:
Whole fruits, no need to take the stone of, for example, the apricots. You can make them savoury, too, filling them with smoked meat, cheese, etc. Let your imagination run wild!

On a kneading board put the flour, add the rest of the ingredients and mix. It's better to use less flour at the beginning and then add more if necessary. Once you get a nice, uniform dough, let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Take some of the dough and shape it into a disk a tad bigger than the palm of one hand. Put the fruit in the middle (with a spoon, if you are using berries), wrap it and make a ball with it. Cook the dumplings in boiling water for about 10 minutes, fish them out and put them in a covered container so they won't get cold too fast.

There are many options for toppings to serve them. You can use wipped cream, chocolate chips or sause, poppy seeds, ground nuts or almonds, fruit sauce, etc. We topped them with melted butter, a bit of sugar and crumbled hard tvaroh.
We sat to enjoy the knedlíky on the terrace of our garden. It had been awfully hot that day, but at that time it was already very pleasant to sit outside for a tasty treat. I washed them down with Primátor Weizenbier. It was a great pairing. The dough, the melted butter and the crumbled tvaroh worked very well with the body of the beer while the slight tartness of the stewed apricots brought forward its fruitier side. It worked so well that I was able to wolf down seven or eight knedlíky without any problem.

I think any white wheat beer will be a good pairing and, considering what Boak & Bailey said recently, a good sourish spontaneously fermented beer, with or without fruit, would sure be a great accompaniment if the knedlíky are filled with berries.

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15 Jul 2009

Why?

What you will read below is not a serious historical paper, nor does it intend to be. I haven't done any in depth research. Take this as me thinking out loud. Shall you find any bollocks, please let me know, nicely, don't hurt my feelings.

Ron Pattison has started with his series "Summer of Lager". One of the firsts posts he published is called "The Spread of Pale Lager" and is a about how the Bavarian brewers adopted the style of pale lager that had been created in Bohemia in 1842, a process that was much slower than many people believe.

Reading the post reminded me of a question that's been going around my head for quite some time: How and why the pale (pilsner) lager became the dominant style in what is today the Czech Rep., to the point of pretty much driving to extintion all the other styles that had been traditional until then?

One afternoon, while having a few beers, I discussed this with Velký Al (whom I wish the best fortune in his new life in the USA). He told me about his theory: the popularity of the pale lager was because it was escentially a "german" beer, and it became the favourite of the ethnic German community in Bohemia, which also happened to be members of the high and government classes. From there it passed to the rest of the population, who just copied the fashion.

There is some logic in there, but it doesn't quite make it for me and it generates two questions:

1- How "German" was the beer actually?

It's true that Josef Groll was a Bavarian brewer and it's very likely that al least the majority of his employers (the folks who established what was then called Pilsner Burgerbräu or Plzeňský Měšťanský Pivovar, in Czech) were ethnic Germans. The brewing process of decoction mashing, bottom fermentation and secondary fermentation in low temperatures was also the one traditionally used in Bavaria.

The ingredients, however, were all locally sourced and the resulting beer was unlike the ones brewed by the Bavarian breweries. Rich gold and crystal like appearance, instead of a dark beer.

In fact, the document cited by Pattison in the above mentioned article tells us that most of the Bavarian brewers weren't sold on the new project, with many of them refusing to adopt it until the market pretty much forced them to do so. By 1909 the pale lager had a market share of 30%. Not bad, but not very dominant, either. I've got no figures for the period in Bohemia, but I am very sure that they are higher.

Anyway, this doesn't mean much. And it wouldn't have stopped the brewers from Pilsen and the rest of the region from selling their beer as "German" just the same. Which brings me to the second question.

2- How sucessful out of the German community would a product sold as "German" have been in the socio-historical context of the middle of the 19th century?

The first half of the 19th century saw big changes in the Austrian Empire. In Bohemia, the Czech language was not clandestine anymore, something that reinforced the Slavic identity of the people. The Czech speaking middle class and intellectuals were gaining influence in every aspect of the society and little by little things like autonomy or even independence were being discussed. This doesn't mean that there were ethnic conflicts between Germans and Czechs, quite the opposite, both communities seemed to have got along just fine, and their intellectual leaders agreed in their wishes to do away with the Habsburg rule. There was a difference, though, the Germans fancied the idea of being part of a unified German Federation, while the Czechs wanted, if not total autonomy, at least a unified state composed of all the Slavic provinces of the Empire.

The situation reached a peak with the uprisings of 1848, which for a moment seemed that they were going to break the Empire apart. In the end, the rebels were defeated (in the case of Bohemia, partly due to their internal differences). This didn't mean, however, a total victory for the central government. The economy, which wasn't very healthy before the revolts to begin with (one of the causes of the uprisings), was terribly weakened. Vienna was forced to make serious concesions, specially towards Hungary. And, what is even worse, the nationalist ideas could not be erradicated, in fact, they were reinforced. Despite having lost in the battlefield, the Czechs not only could feel proud of their Slavic identity, but they were also free to say it out loud.

So I think it would have been very difficult that, during the years of the "Czech Awakening" (as the period is known), a new product identified with "germanness" would have had the success this beer did, at least not out of the German community that represented only 10% of the population.

Now, let's assume for a moment that what I've written above is not too far off the mark and let's go back to the initial question: How and why did the pale lager became the dominant style?

Its looks were sure a factor. The beer was something completely new and it looked fantastic in the glassware that, thanks to industrialisation, was now affordable for more people. But there has to be something else. A pretty face can't be enough.

Until then, top fermented wheat beers were the most popular, there were also rye and even unhopped brews. Bottom fermented barley beers and some hybrids, though not unknown, were rather marginal, more so perhaps than wheat beers are today.

Can it be that this beers were actually not that good? Or, put it in another way, that people simply liked the new pale lager better?

I'm sure the new beers were easier to drink, and more suitable for "session" drinking. Besides, it's likely that they were more stable and statyed fresh longer than the traditional beers. Two things which any drinker would certainly appreciate and two things that would have been a heaven sent blessing for anyone who made a living out of beer. This would explain why so many brewers, specially the industrial ones, were so enthusiastic in adopting the new style.

In short words, my (not very qualified) conclusion is that the pale lager became so popular because, on the one hand, people liked it more, and on the other, because brewing it was a big advantage both for the breweries and for the pubs that sold it.

I don't know, maybe someday, someone like Ron Pattison or Evan Rail, or any other beer writer with better access to historical records and more will and time to explore them will publish something that will make this piece look stupid or, why not, will more or less confirm it (which would certainly make me very happy).

Whatever the truth might be, it's a pity that these beers have disappeared and that we can't taste them today. The wheat beers that are brewed now follow the Bavarian model, with the exception of the magnificent Staročeské Bilé (Old Czech White (beer)) from Pivovar Hastrman that, at least in name, is the only one identified with the extinguished species.

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12 Jul 2009

The Tap Race

There is no doubt anymore that the "rotating tap" model is a more than welcome trend that gets stronger every day. Right now there are at least a dozen hospody in Prague that have at least one tap dedicated to beers (mostly regional and craft) that constantly change. But the phenomenon is not limited only to the capital city. This kind of palces can also be found in Pilsen, Brno and Hradec Králové.

Together with the "rotating beers", many of these places are equipped with a growing number of taps. Pivovarský Klub has six, Zlý Časy has eight (for now) and U Radnice now has nine, just to mention a few. These seems to have become some sort of race that at the moment, and it is led by U Prince Miroslava and its 13 taps.
If it hadn't been for Hanz, the owner of ZČ, or for the article published in Svět Piva that noticed me of the existence of "U Prince...", I don't think I would have found the place. It's located in a part of Prague that I rarely go to and that isn't one of the nicest to go for a walk.

U Prince Miroslava is in a little street just a few metres from Radlická and it's visible from (the second) Laurová tram stop. It's got a nice patio in the front that seems almost to belong somewhere else. The restaurant itself is below street level and is divided in two largish rooms that don't have much of an atmosphere (at least not at late lunch time). It gives the impression of a place that hasn't found its identity yet. The back room wants to be intimate, but fails. It is decorated with Renaissance and Baroque looking paintings that are very out of place. The main room is unfortunately dominated by a big screen LCD TV that was showing a music channel. I don't like music channles at all, and I really hate it when I have to suffer them at bar, restaurant or café.

The food on my first visit, ďabelská masová směs (Devil's meat mix) with rice, wasn't very good. The meat wasn't as spicy as the name promised and the rice was undercooked. On my second visit I ordered an utopenec (pickled sausage) that, though smallish, was very good.

On both visits the service was fine. Young girls, pretty cute and friendly that seemed to be enjoying their job and even recommended beers.
And it was the beers that brought me all the way there. The 13 taps are distribuited among the Holy Trinity of Czech Beer (Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus and Kozel Tmavé), Primátor, Svijany, Opat and one or two "rotating" beers. Not bad, not bad at all. More so when two of the "permanent" Primátor are the Stout and the Weizen, both at 32CZK a pint.
On the first visit the Stout was way too cold, the temperature improved when I ordered it on the second visit. On both visits the Weizen was better than lovely. The people at Náchod are doing such a good job with this beer! It's wonderful!

You might be asking why I ordered the same beers twice when I have 13 (well, 10, the Trinity doesn't count) to choose from. The reason is one of the things that U Prince could improve. Both on the terrace and at the bar there are signs with all the beers that are apparently on tap. On my first visit I fancied a Primátor English Pale Ale, but they didn't have it. I tried with another one, with the same luck. On the second visit, a week or so later, the EPA was still unavailable, so I went for the Stout (a terrible pairing for the utopenec). As a second beer I wanted Opat Bitter, I asked the waitress if they had it, she wasn't sure, so I told her to bring me a Weizen in case they didn't, and what I got was a Weizen (a much better utopenec pairing).
This is a problem with a very easy solution. It will be enough to put a couple of blackboards where the service can write what's on tap that day. It's something that will also make things easier for everyone.

What I did like, though, was the copied paper that can be found on each table and works as some sort of beer list. Apart from the beers (not all of them available all the time) with their Balling graduation and ABV, there is also a brief description of each with tasting notes and even recommended food pairings in some cases. Something that I had never seen in Prague.

The prize goes to the description of Gambáč.
For those of you who don't speak Czech, it goes something like this: "The favourite výčepní beer in the Czech lands, indicated for undemanding consumers [...]. Characterised by [...] unified and flat "europivo" flavour...". Brilliant! Not that the usual Gambáč drinker will pay any attention to details like this, but it's fun to see that people that are selling this beer are also dissuading clients from drinking it.

I don't know how often I will go to U Prince Miroslava, it's a bit out of the way for me. But it is still nice to know that there is another place that offers a pretty wide choice of beers and not just the usual stuff.

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U Prince Miroslava
K Vodojemu 4
Prague 5 - Smíchov
+420 733 360 269
uprincemiroslava@seznam.cz

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10 Jul 2009

A good intention isn't enough

The other day, on the beer blog Apuntes Sobre Cerveza I found an entry titled "Tasting Method". The author, Pedro Biehrman, refered to a pdf he had found in a Spanish beer website.

The paper is called "Método de Catado de Cervezas" (pdf, SP) and was written by Carlos Inaraja González, brew master at Heineken (Spain, I presume) and Francisco Javier Soriano Perdigón, Gastronomy Professor at the "Gambrinus School of Hospitality" (that also belongs to Heineken) in Sevilla. According to them, it's aimed at Somelliers, Hospitality school teachers and professionals in the restaurant business.

I thought the idea was great and worth of being promoted. The "handbook" has nine pages full of information. Much of which is very good and useful. Some of the rest can seem rather obvious to anyone with a bit of experience tasting whatever, but it is still worth reminding. There is some stuff in there, though, that seem a bit too "strict": 22°C and 60% humidity as a must to taste beers? It might be for a competition, but I think that any place where you feel comfortable and relaxed is perfectly fine to sit down for some beer tasting.

Everything would be really great anyway, if it wasn't for the two rather important mistakes that can be found pretty much at the beginning of the document and that kind of invalidate all the rest: The "freshness" of the beers and the temperatures they should be served.

The moment I read them I wanted to write a post, but I thought it would be better to ask first someone who knows more than me. I was planning to call a friend who happens to be an international judge, but a Czech beer related e-mail from Kristen England couldn't have been more timely.

And who is Kristen England some of you might be asking. Well, his e-mail signature says: "BJCP Continuing Education Director, Grand Master Judge" and, for those who follow Ron Pattison's blog, he's also the person who puts together the historical recipes for the "Let's Brew" series. I can't think of much better credentials than that.

And, just as I'd expected, his answer confirmed what I had thought from the beginning.

According to the document "beers with freshness lower than three months must always be used". It's true that there are many beers out there that should be drunk the freshest possible, Cask Ales and Kvasnicové come to mind. However, there are many more that could be drunk a bit "older" or even after some maturing in the bottle. I've seen many labels on which the maker recommends their beers to be drunk after a few months or even a year in the bottle. The authors of the document either don't know about these beers, or they are telling us to drink them before they are "ready". I just don't understand it.

But this could be considered a minor detail if we compare it with the temperatures they say beers should be tasted.

Pilsen: 3-4°C
Lager and Stout (without specifying which kind): 5-6°C
Ale, Abbey, Trappist and Bock: 7-8°C
Wheat Ales: 7-8°C (I'm sure they speak about German Weizenbieren, which ARE NOT ALES!)

Here I will qoute Kriten's comment on the subject:
"those (temperatures) are massively low. I would say pils and most other lagers at 7-8C. The rest of the ales should be around 9-10C. The higher in alcohol, darker and more complex the warmer they need to be to appreciate. Imagine drinking an 18deg (Baltic) porter at 4C. It would taste like bitter alcoholic crap."


Of course that if we are speaking about beers of the kind of Heineken, the colder you can drink them, the better. But Heineken isn't precisely a good example for Pils, or a beer you want to sit down and "taste", for that matter.

There are other things I don't quite agree with, but they aren't worth mentioning. These two mistakes are really basic. When to open a bottle ("freshness"-wise) and what temperature should the beer be drunk are two pices of fundamental information for a somellier or for someone with a bit of beer tasting experience. Not knowing them at all, or not well enough, could result in the experience not being as pleasant as it should, or ruin it altogether.

The worst of this is that the authors aren't just "a couple of bloggers writing in the free time". They are professionals in the field. And what's even more worrying, their target audience aren't just the average consumer, but mostly other professionals. No wonder then that so much rubbish is written about beer in the Spanish speaking media and that renown professionals like Ferrán Adriá can get away with the bollocks they say.

My advice to somelliers, hospitality professionals and general public: Ignor this "Beer tasting Method". If you are interested, get of people with real experience in real beer tasting.

Na Zdraví!

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9 Jul 2009

Welcome, princess

My daughter has finally arrived in this world, with a two week delay (she didn't want to come out, and who can blame her), and she is, of course, absolutely gorgeous, an angel. My life now isn't and will never again be what it used to. But don't be afraid, I'll keep on writing this blog, perhaps not with the same rythm as before, but write I will.

(And since I'm on the subject, I wanted to thank from the bottom of my heart all the staff of the Maternity Hospital Podolí. The birth was no party for my wife and each and every one of them were absolutely fantastic!)
As I announced back then, I wanted to brew something to celebrate such a sepcial event. The chosen recipe was a strawberry and mint weizen, which was quite a lot of fun to make.
When our princess was finally brought home I opened the first bottle. You can't imagine how curious I was. It pours an intense pink, almost red. Almost no head. The nose was like extra brut Champagne mixed a strawberry pureé. Pretty interesting actually. The taste, well, let's say it doesn't suit everyone's palate. It turned out a bit more sour than I had expected. In fact, it reminded my of a Geuze. Behind the sourness the strawberries can still be felt. I liked it, but only to drink in smallish doses. I will brew it again next year, but I think I will add some candied sugar to balance it a bit more, and perhaps brew it with a bit of a heavier body. It is far, very far, from being perfect, but I'm still satisfied with the result. Fortunately, the baby turned out a lot better.

Na Zdraví!
My angel, may your future be brigther than our present

PS: As many of you know very well, having a baby isn't cheap. I need some financial help in order to continue my work in a proper way. For that purpuse I've placed on the right hand column, right below my mugshot, a button for donations. Those of you who haven't got a PayPal account can pay by credit card. I promise that all the proceedings will be used on beer and related stuff. Thanks.

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