28 Nov 2010

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 leaving the Czech borders, which proves that last year's results were indeed part of a trend.

  • Pivovar Chotěboř, the first proper industrial brewery to have opened in this country in several decades, has had a spectacular first year in every sense. Commercial success, great praise from the public and a few awards.

  • The number of microbreweries that have opened recently (How many has it been this year? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that more than ten) and how well they are all doing in general. Some have even invested to expand their capacities (or are thinking of doing so) so they can satisfy the growing demand.

  • The increasing popularity of top fermented beers. Ales, Stouts, Wheat beers are part of the portfolio of more and more breweries and now they even have a separate category in a couple of local competitions.

  • The expansion of the "čtvrtá pípa" model, lead by the people of Aliance PIV. A couple of years ago, finding a pub with rotating taps, or even one that offered more than two or three beers from the same company was rare, nowadays it is something that you expect in almost every neighbourhood.

  • There are more people everyday who are becoming interested in beer as a drink and look for and demand alternatives to the best known brands, and those alternatives are becoming easier to find by the day.

What the article doesn't mention, though, is another segment that has grown a lot this year, imported beers. Unfortunately, I'm not talking here about stuff that the likes of Zlý Časy or Odddog are bringing (who might not be doing too bad, but their impact on the market is still insignificant), but the kind of stuff that is brought by the supermarket chains, mostly (which are making a bit of noise): rubbish from Poland, Germany, Romania or Hungary, which are imported for the sole reason that they are cheaper than the cheapest domestic beers (what else can be expected from the supermarket chains? The last thing they care about is quality). These canned urines are slowly eating away bits of the market, but the portion of the pie they are swallowing is, and I'm almost certain of this, that of the usual drinker of Braník and other similar brands, in other words, people who, like the supermarkets, care about price and not quality.

In other words, this is far from being a crisis. But of course, here I speak as a consumer and not as one of the accountants that run the multinationals.

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24 Nov 2010

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.

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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!

23 Nov 2010

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:

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19 Nov 2010

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 Josef Groll didn't go to Pilsen to create a new style. He went there because he'd been hired by the town's burghers to brew something new. Groll employed the brewing methods he was familiar with, brought with him a strain of yeast from his native Bavaria and used ingredients that were available locally. The Pilsner Lager was a success, it crossed the border to what today is Germany and from there spread to the world to become the most (and perhaps worst) copied style today. But all that wasn't planned, it just happened because, partly, the beer had arrived at the right time in the right place.

All this is very clear, but it seems that some "Brew Masters" don't quite get it. Let me give you an example. Íber Ale. A Spanish "style". How long has it existed? A few years, at best. How many breweries are there that brew an Íber Ale? Only one, Companya Cervecera del Montseny, with its +Lupulus.

In other words, there is only one product in the whole world that calls itself Íber Ale, and we are already talking about a style? What is the argument of its creator for such grandiose classification? According to the web page:
"With this top-fermented beer we rediscover the traditional beers of our Iberian ancestors (Archaeological sites: The village of Geno (Lleida) dates to 1,000 BC Bronze Age; Can Sadurni Begues (Barcelona) dates to 3000 BC Neolithic Age)."
Let's forget for a moment that the only thing that +Lupulus and those ancient brews have in common is water. Because even if that wasn't the case, if Íber Ale was brewed with the same ingredients as those beers, could we really say the product is, at the very least, similar to them?

Lately there's been a bit of talk about the beers of yesteryear that are brewed based on archaeological findings, among which is Zythos, the beer brewed according to those remains found in Sadurní. That's very fine and dandy, but we actually know very little about them, just a list of ingredients a few tools and that's pretty much it. We don't know in what proportions and how those ingredients were mixed or any details about the process, how many steps it had, what temperatures and times were used, etc.

Of course, we could apply here what I mention above, that styles change with time, but here we don't even have a proper recipe!

But we could forget about all that as well, because regardless of what recipe or process are used to brew +Lupulus, the truth is that it is the only Íber Ale in the world. I don't think that even the most dogmatic member of the Brewer's Association or the BJCP would even consider accepting that as a style.

Mind you, I haven't got anything against these "Pseudohistoric Beers", I think they are interesting products. I haven't got anything agains +Lupulus, either. I liked the three or four bottles I've drunk of it. This is not a criticism of these beers. I just think that Pablo Vijande, the brewer in question, should focus more on improving (or maintaining, depending on whom you ask) the quality of his beers instead of going on with all this marketing bollocks, feeding his ego and writing articles of dubious quality (SP).

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(*) Applying here what we understand today as "Beer Style", which is a relatively new concept.

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15 Nov 2010

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 at the same table) as the one we went with my wife when we visited the town shortly after our wedding. The food was fine, though nothing to write home about (except the potato soup, it was awesome). I had Eggenberg dark and I loved it.

When we finished we went back to the hotel to pick our stuff  and get on our way to Prague. A long trip it was, but without any trouble, until we got into the centre.

Our accommodation had been arranged  (and paid) by the Czech Tourist Authority in Spain, who also arranged the rental car. It seems they didn't take this last thing into account when choosing Hotel Adria in Wenceslas Sq. I think that, by foot, I would be able to get to Václavák even blindfolded, but I had never gone there by car and it took us a couple of tries to find the way to get in.

The hotel was nice, much nicer than I had expected, I must say. Without getting to the level of luxury of the room in Pilsen, this one was pretty comfortable and the bed was perhaps the best of the whole trip. Everything was fine, maybe even recommendable, if it wasn't for one detail. The internet connection.

The other three hotels we had stopped at were also four star and at all of them the use of the internet was free of charge. At most, we had to go to the lobby to connect with the Wi-Fi, but that was it. Here in Prague, no such luck, the price was 400CZK per day. Daylight robbery! Even in the centre there are scores of places where you can order a pint or a cup of something and connect without any problems. Why then a hotel that charges 250EU for a night wants you to pay something extra to check your e-mails, or whatever, in the comfort of your room is beyond me.

Since we couldn't kill the time surfing the web, we took the healthy decision of going to Kavovárna to knock down a couple of pints of Kout. From there, we walked to U Malého Glena, where a table had been arranged for us to have dinner and listen to some live jazz.

The band wasn't bad, but they played the kind of jazz that I prefer to listen at home while reading a book. On the other hand, the cheeseburger I had was lovely, it hit all the right spots (and for what I remember, it was expensive at all). I washed it down with Lobkowicz Premium, or so said the blackboard by the bar, I think it was something from Jihlava. Not that I minded, actually.

We didn't stay to see the whole concert. We still had something to do, finish the evening at Zlý Časy. There we did have a good time. But we didn't stay very long, either. We were tired, it was a bit late and we had to start early on Sunday.

Too early for a bed that was too comfortable, but we didn't have much of a choice. We wanted to hit the centre before the crowds. We also had to go to Vyšehrad to shoot something to wrap up the whole thing and to Pivovarský Dům for lunch and to shoot an introduction to the beer chapter of the video. (We ate well, drank much better). Once those things were taken care of, it was time to say our goodbyes and go home, for me, to the airport, for my colleagues.

Of all the places we visited the only one I wouldn't go again is Karlový Vary. The city is nice and it's an OK choice for a one day trip, but unless you are rich there isn't much to do in there.

It's remarkable the contrast between Karlový Vary and Krumlov. Both are perhaps the most visited Czech cities after Prague, but they couldn't be any more different. In Vary's old town there is no life, all you see is luxury hotels and tourist traps. In fact, our guide there said that the locals never visit that part of town, and you can see that.

Krumlov's old town, on the other hand, is full of life. There are normal, every day people struggling to get by just like you and me who live there. And those who don't have a home in the centre go there for drinks, food, fun, meeting friends, sorting things out at the public offices or just hang out, and that is something you can see in the atmosphere (and the prices).

In other words, Krumlov's centre welcomes the visitor to be part of it, regardless of who or what they are, while Vary's is as if it looked at what brand of shoes and clothes you are wearing before deciding if it will let you touch anything.

Another big contrast were the visits to Pilsner Urquell and Budvar. I confess enjoyed the former. I tried to see it through the eyes of my two mates, people who didn't know anything about beer. The multimedia attraction, because that is what it is, is very well put together and didactic. Our guide was really cool and knew her stuff pretty well, but she was just that, a professional guide. Visiting the old cellars is also pretty cool and the beer tapped from the oak barrel is heavenly, but everything is part of a museum, there's no life, just history.

At Budvar, on the other hand, we were received by the PR Managar (thanks Petr, BTW) and our guide was the former Quality Control Manager, a bloke that knows the brewing process left, right and centre and can explain it to the smallest detail without ever becoming boring. But the best was that we visited the actual brewery. They let us into the room where they mash and boil the wort and they even let us taste of the stuff that was being lautered (something tourists don't get to do). The visit ended in one of the lagering cellars where we drank beer that would later be bottled and sold in the shops. We stayed there for quite some time, drinking beer and chatting like old friends. I felt that had we wanted, we could have stayed there for the whole weekend and my two colleagues ended up amazed at what they saw and learnt.

To be fair, though, the visit to Urquell had been arranged by Czech Tourism from Spain, while I had arranged the one to Budvar with Petr Samec by phone, but I somehow doubt that they would have turned out much different regardless of who had organised them.

I must say this was a great experience. I loved being in front of the camera for so much time besides, of course, having the chance to visit several places I had never been to and others I wanted to go again and to meet there some pretty cool people. However, and regardless of all that, by the end we were all very tired and couldn't wait to get back home. Everything had been very intense and long. I'm not complaining, it was a great gig and I would love to do something similar again, but being back home with my wife and daughter is really priceless.

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13 Nov 2010

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 next to the brewery. Guess where we went to kill some time before dinner. We ended up making friends with the tapmaster, he bought us a round of slivovice.

After dinner and walking around a little in this magic town at night (something I'd wanted to do for a long time), we went back to Eggenberg and ended up at the concert of a Czech heavy metal band. Very good! But I'm knackered today and we have a long day ahead of us.

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12 Nov 2010

The trip, day two

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

Loket: Magic.

Marianské Lázně: Picturesque


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.

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

10 Nov 2010

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 tapped and tourist trap expensive Pilsner Urquell from Keg and a decent Kozel Černý, fortunately I didn’t pay for any of them. To be fair, the food at both restaurants (Charleston and Chebský Dvůr – a German themed temple of kitch) was surprisingly good, though the knedlíky at the latter were rubbish.

Tomorrow, Pilsen, I’m sure beers will be better there...

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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 about my experiences in every place, so, stay tuned.

In the meantime, I am a tiny bit nervous because in a way, I will be the face of my adoptive country, very excited because this gig is almost like a paid holiday and I also have a bit of a strange feeling because this will be the first time that I will be away from my family for so long (I just hope Nela will be nice to my wife).

Well, I have to start packing, etc. Just one question before I leave, should I be getting an agent already?

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8 Nov 2010

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 "uncommoditized". Let's forget for a second that this comes from the person in charge of producing the most commoditised beer in Argentina and focus on that "gourmetise" bollocks. WTF is that? Convincing people that they should pay top money for mass produced imported products that are, at best, mediocre if not downright crap, methinks. One of the photos in the article shows several beers, which I assume will be course material, among which are Corona, Negra Modelo and Birra Moretti. I would love to see anyone being gourmetised while drinking those beauties at 7-8ºC.

I'm all for things that aim to open the minds of people towards beer, even if they are part of the PR strategy of a macro brewer, but sometimes I wonder if some of them aren't doing more harm than good. This one in particular seems as something put together in a hurry just because "Gourmet Beers" are the latest market fad and they want to profit from it.

One the other hand, do you think beer tasting courses are really necessary?

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5 Nov 2010

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 past lunch time and also everything felt and looked brand new, and it was; one of the waitresses told me they had opened the Friday before.
I didn't have anything to eat, I had already stopped for lunch at the excellent Kralovství, which I hadn't visited for ages. The lunch menu seemed quite interesting, though, and the food I saw passing by didn't look too shabby, either. The service was flawless. Both waitresses were very attentive, friendly and professional. Yes, there weren't many people in, but many times it happens that the promptness of the service is inversely proportional to the number of patrons at a given time.

But what really interested me about this pub was Lobkowicz Premium tanková. Although I find it improved compared to the first time I drank it, I still don't like this beer. I still think it's unbalanced and the Protivín yeasts used to brew it still bother me. (I'm sure that the people of KBG find all this very amusing, the beer is doing really well). Its tanková version didn't win my heart, either. It's got a bit of a fuller taste, but all those things that I mind in it haven't gone anywhere.

But that was not the only piece of beer news I found during my visit to Kopyto. Among the offer of draught beers, which includes Vévoda and Velen, there was Merlín, the brand new product of the group. According to its press release, this black lager has been inspired by Stouts and that's why roasted barley is listed among the ingredients.

I was looking forward to this beer. Kelt, another Stout inspired black lager was a pretty decent brew from Pivovary Staropramen, which unfortunately, In-Bev decided to discontinue, and I wanted to see how they wold compare.

Disappointing, that's the best way to describe it. I don't remember if roasted barley was used for Kelt, but I do remember that it had a more intense roasted edge than Merlín, which in the end tasted like a bog standard dark lager, with very short and boring caramel and those unfitting Protivín yeasts. Perhaps it's better in bottles, but after having tasted in on tap I don't think I'm willing to pay the 20+CZK they want for a 0.33l measure, for that money I'd much rather buy Master 18º.

Anyway, despite this, I still want KBG to do well with the tanks. Who knows, perhaps if they are successful they might start tanking up the other pale lagers of their portfolio, some of which are much better than the flagship brew. I also wish success to Kopyto, I was left with the impression that the owners are people who want to do things well and besides, Lobko does have a good number of adepts who I'm sure will appreciate the possibility to drink this beer at its best.

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Restaurace Kopyto
Bořivojova 116
Praha 3 — Žižkov
+420 774 666 604
50°4'56.391"N, 14°26'42.656"E

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4 Nov 2010

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 city, but I needed a place to kill some time. The train station was being renovated so I went in search of a coffee shop, or something that would be open.

What I found near the station was a pub that already at that time was open. "Cool," I told myself. "A beer won't do me any harm".

The place was pretty big and it was packed, wall to wall. Half of the patrons were pissed and the other half were working hard to catch up. I found a spot by the bar and, with a tiny bit of fear, I sat and ordered a beer. Zlatopramen, I think it was, and it tasted lovely!(*). Once I had the glass half empty (who said that this means being a pessimist?) I started to get the atmosphere and realised that everyone there was having a good time. The air wasn't full of tension, there was no threatening vibe in it, there was laughter and people speaking loudly and enjoying that time and their beers.

Some of you might say that they were all a bunch of pathetic drunkards who were already shitfaced before 9AM. To me, in that moment, they all seemed like blokes who had just finished their night shifts and were with their mates winding down and forgetting about their problems, at least for a while. Either way, my mood considerably improved (and it wasn't because of the alcohol), the day didn't seem so fucked up any more. On the other hand, that sensation lasted until I got on the train and realised that it was one of those that stops at every bloody station, no matter how insignificant and that because of that, it would take me almost half the rest of the day to get back to Prague, but that's another story.

And there are still morons who will want people to believe that alcohol is worse than heroin and crack (please, do read Pete Brown's excellent take on that).

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(*)I've recently come to the conclusion that the best beer in the world does exist, it's the first one you have each day.

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1 Nov 2010


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 beer in Prague is a DRAMA.
That this is better than any caña in my town is a TRAGEDY
I don't like Gambáč, I tolerate it when I'm visiting someone or if there's no better alternative and I'm thirsty, but I prefer to avoid it. Pilsner Urquell tanková I can still enjoy at the right place, but it isn't something that will make me go out of my way; and I could say the same about Budvar. In other words, they are just average.

I hope I'm not giving the impression that I feel I'm in a higher plane of existence than those Argentines whose eyes looked a bit like out of a Tom & Jerry cartoon after having their first sip of tanková, or than those Spaniards that rave about Gambáč and Kozel Černý. I just want to point out to how fortunate I feel as a beer lover to be living here in Prague.

We can bitch all we want about the quality and ubiquity of the Gambrinus-Pilsner Urquell combo, but we rarely realise what a luxury that is, because, if we compared those brands with their equivalents from other countries we would see them in a different way.

A bit of perspective can help you to better appreciate what you have.

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