Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2010

And it's gone

What a year this has been! Quite fun around here.

Writing for the magazine Bar&Beer has been very interesting and seeing my name in print is still a great feeling. I don't know how much the magazine's readers have enjoyed my articles, but I did enjoy writing them and also researching for them. Thanks to that, I had perhaps the greatest beer experience of my life. I already have a few topics in my mind for next year that I believe will be quite interesting. But Bar&Beer won't be the only magazine I'll be writing for next year. The other day I submitted my first piece for Pivo-Bier-Ale, a new specialized magazine that should hit the stands some time next month and for which I will write reviews of imported beers.

The presence of Pivní Filosof in the media during 2010 was not limited only to paper, it was extended to TV. The reactions to my appearance in Clase Turista were amazing, 3000 visits on one day (1000 after the re-run), loads of messages and comments on t…

Big Dogs

There's something that I've been wanting to say here, but until today I never had the excuse: I'm bored of BrewDog's marketing gimmicks. That "strongest beer in the world" stuff was just childish and the dead squirrel stunt was downright silly. And I also don't buy all that "Punk" bollocks. James Watts and his associates are no more punk than me or my daughter. They are very smart business people who know very well how to sell their brand, which is no minor thing.

Of course, all this is of very little, in any, relevance. What interests me the most as a consumer is what I have in the glass and it should be said that, marketing bollocks or not, this Scots really know how to make beer. I've drunk many of the products of BrewDog and there hasn't been a single one that I disliked, from the simple stuff like Zeitgeist, to the more complex like the Paradox series. (though, based on some some comments I've heard and read, Tactical Nuclear Pi…

Christmas crawl

I'm pretty busy and very tired these days and actually, I can't be arsed very much with Christmas this year. I would like to go to sleep and not wake up until Jan. 2 or 3. This, of course, doesn't mean that I'm not in the mood to taste some of the stuff that's been specially brewed for the season.

For a couple of weeks already, Pivovar U Medvídku has been offering Kaštanové Pivo, a beer brewed with an adjunct of chestnut flour. Very nice, the chestnuts are very subtle, yet they give a nice twist to the beer, resulting in something completely different to the other beers from U Medvídku. Brew Master Laďa Veselý told me he would have liked the beer to be more "chestnutty", but it was the first time he was working with the ingredient and he preferred to err on the side of caution (which, by the way, was a good decision because the flour was a bit of a nightmare to work with).

U Klokočníka, that lovely dive in the backstreets of Nusle is already tapping the T…

Killing time in Žižkov

The other day, as I was almost arriving at my client's office in Churchillovo Nám., my mobile rang. It was my client saying that she was just leaving the Parliament, where she'd had a meeting that had extended for longer than expected.

I got off the tram at Husinecká counting that I would have to kill around 20 minutes and what is the best way to kill time in Prague? Got for a quick pint, of course.

I quickly scanned my mental database of watering holes in the area, looking for a suitable one to stop by. I chose that small pizza place with a Ježek sign outside, almost opposite the square. It had been closed for some time, but it had recently reopened.

I got in and, even before taking a seat at the bar, I ordered a jedenáctká (for 22CZK). I'm a big fan of the multi rotating tap pubs, but sometimes I just prefer to go to a place and just order a "pivo" without having to ponder about it.

The first pint went down as if it hadn't existed and the second one didn&#…

What? More work?

On Monday I told you how busy I've been these days. Well, it turns out that now I've got more to do!

A new Czech magazine has asked me to review imported beers and my first assignment are these three samples from De Molen
It crossed my mind to find someone to do it for me, but that wouldn't be ethical, so I guess I will have to do it myself. Bugger!

I must leave now. Duty calls.

Na Zdraví!

Long Overdue

With so many interesting topics to write about (besides, plenty of work of the kind that pays), I've been delaying these reviews of English Ales for a few months already.

I got them from Mark and Sarah, an English couple and readers of my blog. We met for lunch back in August and as usual in this kind of meetings, we had a great time. It's really incredible how the mutual interest, if not passion, in beer makes it possible for people from different countries, ages and walks of life to feel almost like old mates once they meet personally; and this is, by far, the best this blog has given me and, no doubt, one of the things motivates me to keep on writing it.

But let's talk about the beers. Mark and Sarah brought me samples of three breweries of their region, plus one from a London micro they picked on their way to the airport, all of them bottle conditioned. Their presentations are fantastic, as I'm almost used already with English beers and, except the Londoner, all ar…

Busy

I have a couple things to write about, but I've had a bit too much work these days, not with my book, unfortunately, but with some really long and boring translations (I must confess that it is rather frustrating to translate something I doubt many people will ever read) that I need to finish by Wednesday.

Anyway, it's Monday today. It's quite cold outside, not as much as a few days ago, but the temperature is still lovely enough. It's also snowing a bit (not as much as last Wednesday, that was insane!). I got up early and had my mandatory strong, black coffee (without it, my brain won't start up) while I got to work with that translation. After doing a few pages I got a bit hungry so I went downstairs to get a proper breakfast:
Rye bread spread with domácí škvarkové sadlo (home made pork lard with drippings) and smoked beer. Breakfast of champions.

Na Zdraví!

PS: I didn't need to wear a jacket while I cleared the snow from the entrance to the house and garage.

5…

Crisis, my ass!

The Czech beer portal Pivni.info published today an excellent post signed by Jindra Dumek that does away with the myth that the Czech brewing industry is in crisis, as it's been reported in the Austrian press and according to what some newspapers' headlines would like us to believe.

It's true that this year the drop in production is expected to be much higher than last year's, more than 10% is estimated. It is also true that the annual consumption per cápita is not 160l any more. However, if you start digging into the statistics you will see that all this is something that, mostly, is affecting the local branches of the multinational giants.

In his post, Dumek, mentions a series of factors that illustrate very well his argument that instead of a crisis, what we are going through here is actually a renaissance:

K-Brewery y LIF (owners of Svijany, Rohozec and Primátor), among others, are expecting record growth this year, and this with very little of their production lea…

Heard in Pilsen

On Thursday 11, Nov. at around 6.30PM.
"Ja už Gambáč nepiju. Je hnusnej"
(I don't drink Gambrinus anymore. It's awful.)
This wasn't said by any local beer geek we met at Klub Malých Pivovarů (what a great place!). I was said by the taxi driver that was taking us from the hotel to the centre of town during the almost inevitable conversation that follows the question of what my favourite beer is. It should me mentioned that this man's favourite pivo is still Pilsner Urquell.
That's right, even a Pilsner taxi driver in the city of Pilsen will tell you Gambrinus is crap. No wonder the folks at Prazdroj are a bit nervous these days.

Na Zdraví!

PS: I'd like to take the opportunity to thank the receptionists of Parkhotel Plzeň for posting me the battery charger I had forgotten in my room. I love you, girls!

Just what I needed

Monday evening. I'm tired. Had a long day after a night of not enough sleep. I'm preparing dinner, but my heart is not into it.

I'm thirsty. I go to the "cellar" and find a half litre bottle of:
Happiness.

Na Zdraví!

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

More style nonsense

Correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't this be a summarised history of pretty much every beer style ever?

Someone puts on the market a new beer that was brewed using a new method/ingredients, combining known ones in a new way or simply after giving it a new twist to an already known style(*). Such is the commercial success of this new product that other breweries soon start copying it. This starts a local, regional, national or even international expansion. Time and geography eventually result in this style mutating in order to adapt to changes in tastes, fashions, availability of ingredients, technologies, legislations, etc. in such way that a modern sample may have very little to do with those that gave origin to it. Due to this, and other factors, the popularity of the style also fluctuates.

Whatever the details specific to each style might be, all this is an organic process and not the product of the guidelines of any association or institution. To give an example. In 1842 …

The trip, days for and five and wrap-up

What a great time we had in Český Krumlov! The weather couldn't have been any better. It was so nice that we ended up sitting on a terrace by the river drinking coffee under the sun. In mid-November. Incredible.

Like in Karlový Vary, we were very lucky with the Guide that Czech Tourism had arranged for us. A really cool woman who knew very well all the corners of the town and their history, but also seemed to be friends with pretty much everyone there. She introduced us to several very interesting people and left us with the impression that if we ever decide to go back there (something I hope to do soon) we already have some friends to welcome us. Oh yes! And Krumlov almost devoid of tourists is magic.

After saying good-bye to our new friend we went for lunch at a the place that was in our program, a traditional looking pub, cozy and welcoming, with a clientèle that was half Czech half foreigner, located right next to the Egon Schiele Museum. It happened to be the same (and we sat…

The trip, day three

After so much unfiltered beer the previous night in Pilsen, I got up yesterday morning with some really nasty farts that would accompany me for the rest of the day. While we were filming in Hluboka I felt tempted the let a couple go just to see the reaction of the guide, a nice bloke who was really nervous in front of the camera.

From there we went to Budějovice. We stopped for lunch at Masný Kramy. Nice hospoda, great food, though I must say that Budvar Kroužkované wan't very nicely tapped. After lunch and spending more than half an hour in the awful traffic of the city centre we reached our main destination of the day, Budvar. They were great with us. It was a nice contrast with the circus we say at Urquell, here we went around the real brewery, not just a tourist attraction. Of course, the visit finished at the lagering cellar, drinking beer tapped straight from the tanks. Tough job this one is.

Now we are in Krumlov, accommodated in a pretty nice hotel that happens to be right…

The trip, day two

Breakfast at Karlový Vary. Fine, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Loket: Magic.

Marianské Lázně: Picturesque

Pilsen


The hotel, far from the centre, nasty from outside, but the rooms are almost luxury like.

Pivovar Purkmistr: St. Martin's Goose. Aaaaaahhhhhh. Dark Beer, etc. Aaaaaaahhhhh.

Plzeňský Prazdroj, the historical, Disney like part. Awesome.

Pivovar Groll. Dinner. The house beer. Lovely. Lovely. Lovelier.

Klub Malych Pivovaru. More beer. Really cool.

Na Zdraví!

PS: Were you expecting something else? I'm in Pilsen, man. Give me a break....

The trip, day one

I’m writing this from a four star hotel in Karlový Vary. Quite nice, though the room is pretty small and rather standarised. OK for one night, I guess, but I wouldn’t like to stay here for much longer.

We got here straight from the airport in a rental car. A Škoda Superb. Lovely, I’ve never been so comfortable in a car. The two Spaniards from Viamedius are really cool, too.
The city is quite nice as well, much less tacky than I had expected, but just as expensive. Good that I am not paying for any of this. We also had a guide today, a really fun girl. She did a good job.

The best of the day, though, was the Spa. The program said we had to visit one the poshiest in town and that I had to test a couple of the procedures. Hard job, I know, but someone had to do it and it felt really GOOD. Yeah , I’m getting paid for this, wonderful, init?

Beerwise, Karlový Vary in a Crap to Awesome scale, with Crap being crap and Awesome being awesome: Crap. I had and off Krušovice Černé a badly tappe…

On a trip

Believe it or not, I will be in front of the cameras again. This time it won't be for the TV, but still it will be something a bit more serious. Viamedius a Spanish travel portal have hired me to host a video to promote the Czech Republic in Spain. The video is produced in partnership with the Spanish branch of the Czech Tourist Authority.

In a few hours I have to meet the people of Viamedius at the airport. From there we will go straight to Karlový Vary to start an almost Japanese style five day trip that will visit several towns and places in the country. Among others, we will also stop in Pilsen, Budějovice and Krumlov, besides Prague, of course.

I've already arranged visits to a couple of breweries, we will also visit several restaurants, a palace or two, we will walk around the cities and sleep at hotels that, at least in their webpages, look quite good. I've borrowed a notebook from a friend so, provided I can get internet access, I will be posting short comments ab…

Bollocks alert!

The other day a magazine from Argentina published an article about the Beer Tasting Courses that will be given at the Escuela Argentina de Sommeliers (the same one whose director doesn't seem to know too much about beer).

The article not only reads like a plug, but is so full of bollocks that it is almost funny. According to the people who will be in charge of the courses, a Sommelier and the Head Brewer of Quilmes (AB-InBev's branch in Argentina), beers can be divided into two categories: "Refreshingment" (loose translation of a stupid made up word in Spanish), i.e. pale beers, and "for delight" (another loose translation), i.e. dark beers. They also tell us that the head affects the "refreshingment" of the beer and that, therefore, dark beers don't have head, etc.

But the best line comes from the mind of Raúl Falcón, the head brewer of Quilmes, who says that the consumer should be "gourmetised" and that beer should be "uncommo…

Rolling out the tanks

I'm sure that a lot of you are wondering why I don't publish reviews of pubs anymore and are too shy to ask me. The answer is easy, I'm saving them for my book! But I wanted to make an exception today with a place I found just by chance, Restaurace Kopyto.
I came across it on Monday, on my way between two clients. It's located at one end of the infamous Bořivojova, in Žižkov, near Riegrový Sady. It is said that there are around 30 pubs in this street, but what caught my attention about this one was the slogan above the door "První Lobkowiczká Tankovna". That's right, the people from K Brewery have started to sell tankové pivo.

I was in a hurry that day, but I only had to wait until Wednesday to make my first visit to Kopyto. I took a seat in the small room by the chamber that houses the tanks. The place is pretty big, divided in several spacious rooms, with simple, but rather welcoming decoration. There wasn't much of an atmosphere, it was shortly pas…

An old memory

The other day, while I was talking to a good friend, I suddenly remembered a great beer experience I had more than eight years ago.

It was September 2002, barely a month after the terrible floods that had affected Prague and many other towns along the Vltava. I had an appointment at the Czech consulate in Dresden to pick my working visa, but for reasons that are not worth mentioning now, I couldn't make it there and instead I got stuck in Ustí nad Labem, which is far from being the nicest Czech town.

It was somewhere between eight and nine in the morning and I was in a really awful mood. I hadn't slept the night before (my fault) and it had just been made clear to me that I was not going to be able to make it to my destination and that to get back to Prague I would have to wait a couple of hours for the next train. The whole day had been wasted for fuck all.

I remember the weather was miserable, grey and too cold for that time of the year. I didn't feel like exploring the …

Perspective

Last week I spent a day shooting an episode of a new show that will air on the Argentine TV. The producers had seen my stellar appearance in Clase Turista and thought it would be great to have the Beer Philosopher in their own show. My job was to take two actors to several local hospody and have a (few) beer(s) at each (yeah, it was a job, I got paid for that. Isn't it great?). We had a great time, the producers were very happy with my acting and I'm already dying to see the end results.

But that's not what I wanted to tell you about.

Among the (many) beers that went down our gullets were Pilsner Urquell and Budvar Světlý Ležák in their tankové versions. Both blew the minds of the actors and the two blokes that were behind the cameras (their minds would be blown a few more times during the rest of the day).

Their reaction brought to my mind the comment that Josetxo left in the Spanish version of the post about Gambrinus XCLNT"That this (Gambrinus) is the most drunk be…

Lazy

According to my imaginary schedule, today I was supposed to write the reviews of 4 English Ales, but I can't be arsed. I didn't sleep well and I'm just too tired for that. Instead, I want to share with you some photos I've taken recently. Some of them will make it to My Book (which is coming along really well). I hope you like them.


Na Zdraví!

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

Top fermenting in Lagerland

As a beer lover I feel really fortunate to be living in the Czech Republic, where without having to walk or pay too much I can drink some of the finest lagers in the world, in all their colours and strengths.

I drink bottom fermented beers every day, literally. I haven't got tired of them and never will. However, I also appreciate variety and that's why I'm glad to see that more and more breweries are venturing into the world of top fermented beers and also, that there are distributors who are having some success importing this kind of beers.

And it seems that there are plenty of people out there who think like me, because this Saturday, Oct. 30, Pivovar Kocour is organising in Varnsdorff the Ale Festivale 2010, dedicated exclusively to top fermented beers (yeah, I know that not all of them are ales, but the name of the festival is kind of cool as it is).
There will be several Czech micros as well as distributors taking part of the event. The offer will include some new an…

Bloody styles

I like discussing styles. It's a very rich topic and it usually generates heated debate. Pete Brown the other day started the latest discussion when he published the first and, a day later, the last of the two posts he said he will ever write on the subject. He was followed by other bloggers like Mark Dredge, Velký Al, Stan Hieronymus and a few more that I haven't read yet. All, together with some of the people who commented in their posts, present more than interesting arguments.

As for me. Well, I consider myself a style anarchist, but at the same time, I think knowing your styles well is important for two kinds of people:
beginner brewers because it can help them know what to do with the ingredients and what the resulting beer should be like (something like a cookery book for those who are just starting)judges and organisers of competitions, because style guidelines will help evaluations to be more objective and based on more concrete parameters. (of course, to me, competiti…

Oh God

If there's anyone out there who still doubts that Gambrinus is going through a crisis, I think the new product of the best selling brand in the country will make things clear.

After, what in my opinion was, the pilot test of the unfiltered version of světlý, Gambrinus has now presented something almost revolutionary and very innovative, XCLNT. A new product specifically created for young people (I didn't know youngsters spoke all in capital letters and without vowels).

And what kind of young person is the target consumer of XCLNT? Fortunately, we have the answer right in the first paragraph of the press release announcing the launch:
They are 20 y.o. They live for each moment and friends mean everything to them. A bit dreamers, a bit rebels. They don't want to settle. They are independent and crazy. At parties, they are able to let loose and have fun until the morning. Clubs and bars are their second home. They like being the centre of attention, they wear designer shoes an…

Just a little detail is missing

After having written about it, I really wanted to taste Svatovaclavské Doppelbock. The other day, while I was in the centre killing some time, I started to think where I could find it and I suddenly remembered Krušovická Pivnice.

I hadn't been there for ages. Actually, I never liked the place too much, but I really wanted to see what that beer was like and I couldn't think of any other alternative. Besides, I was also considering whether this pub should be included in one of the crawls in my book. So, after a quick stop at U Medvídku to say hello to my friend Laďa Veselý, there I went, thinking that even if I didn't like the place, a quick beer wouldn't do me any harm.

I ended up staying for more than one.

Already before walking through the door I noticed some changes. Gone were the writings on the windows and the beer list had slightly changed. Krušovice Imperial tanková and Mušketýr Nefiltrovaný, as well as the expected Dopplebock. And the prices! 25CZK for half a l…

Good Vintage

Last summer I had the pleasure to meet Edgar, a friend from Barcelona, who was here on a visit with his girlfriend and one of his mates. We had agreed I would pick them up at their hotel to take them to Nusle for some lunch. Needless to say, we had a great time.

Besides been a big beer enthusiast, Edgar is a sommelier at a very well regarded restaurant in Barcelona. But he's not your usual sommelier, he is in charge of the restaurant's beer list. During the meal (and the several beers we had for dessert) we spoke a lot about his job. Edgar told me the beer list is quite successful and that there are more and more people who are beginning to realise what many of us have known for some time, beers usually offer better value for money than wines.

While he was telling me about all that, I couldn't help but think how many restaurants in the whole of the Czech Rep. offer something similar. Only one, that I know of. It might be hard to believe, but at the same time, hardly surpr…

Progress report

It's been more than half a year since I published a Progress Report about my book. The reason is that, well, there hasn't been much progress since then.

Yeah, I did write many entries and found several new places, but one day I hit a wall. Partly it was because of being too busy or tired, but mostly it was because it came to a point that I didn't know how to continue anymore. Writing one review after another of hospody, etc. from all the corners of Prague had become tedious and, what was still worse, I was afraid that it would also be tedious to read. And I didn't want that.

I had to find an alternative, perhaps I could include some more articles about local beer culture. But that was not enough. I really didn't know what to do. But one night, after going to bed and unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep, I had a revelation. The book would change, and rather radically.

And that is how what was going to be a list of places ordered geographically, became a "Pub C…