30 Apr 2010

Another review

Yeah, I know I should be writing about the tetrahops and all the mess they've caused here. But it's Friday, I'm tired and can't be arsed with rereading newspaper articles in Czech. So you'll have to be patient, perhaps next week. In the meantime, tasting notes...

Once again, a Norwegian brew, this time from Nøgne-Ø. This is one of those beers that I've been wanting to drink for quite some time, it goes by the name of #100 (the reason for that, you can read on the brewery's webpage) and, unlike the other beers from the Grimstad micro, it hasn't got a style mentioned on the label. I love it when a beer doesn't belong to any style, it's a pity there aren't more of those. But then, many times happens that someone makes a styless beer that becomes successful, other people start copying it, someone pulls a style out of their ass, usually starting with "Imperial", and soon you get a bunch of idiots criticising the original one because for not being "true to style". But I digress. You aren't here to read my style-anarchism rantings. You are here to read excellent beer reviews, and here you have it:

#100 pours an ocher shade of brown with a nice tanned head. The nose is mostly caramel, flowers, citrus and a pinch of licorice. The rest of the beer is, well, fantastic. The best way I can think to describe it is a blend between a very hoppy AIPA and a Baltic Porter, which, although very different from each other, come together wonderfully. It's respectable 10%ABV is very well integrated, though that could be thanks to the bitterness because I felt a bit lightheaded after finishing the bottle (I shared some with my wife, who also loved it).
I remember reading a couple of not very flattering reviews of #100 that accused it of being unbalanced. It's not a beer for "beginners" and the hops run much of the show, but they are like a soloist in a well tuned and well rehearsed orchestra. However, after finishing with the beer I realised that the bottle had been filled almost two years ago. Can it be that #100 is one of those beers that are best enjoyed after some aging? I can also be that those reviewers just served it too cold. Either way, I thought it was great, and that is the only thing that matters to me.

Thanks Gunnar for this beauty.

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29 Apr 2010

Official Presentation

After more than half a year of going around, the other day was the official presentation of Aliance P.I.V. with a press conference that took place at the iconic První Pivní Tramwaj.

As I already told you back then, this project has brought together, for the moment, five Prague pubs with rotating beers. Nothing has changed in their philosophy, the association is open to any hospoda with at least one rotating tap as long as they agree with a couple more conditions, to offer the brochures of the Alliance and to display the beer cards.
Those two things were also explained and presented at the conference. The brochures are a sort of catalog or guide with the addresses, pictures, etc. of all the members, and they will get bigger as more pubs join. The cards aim to show all available technical data of the beers on tap, detailed list of ingredients, plato, EBU, etc. The idea is not only to inform the public, but also to encourage brewers to give as much information as possible about their beers. These cards are compiled in .pdf format in the Alliance's website so they can be easily downloaded and printed pub owners (and clients).
Tomáš Erlich, chairman of Sdružení Přátel Piva, spoke about the importance of the cards in enriching our beer culture, specially now when more and more people are beginning to pay attention to what they have in their glasses.

Among the attendants to the conference was one of the managers of Pivovar Herold. He said he was very happy with this project and the rotating beers trend in general because they are giving a lot of exposure to many beers that otherwise would have hardly reached so many consumers.

During the conference there wasn't a single moment with empty glasses. While I took notes and listened (more or less) attentively I was also able to enjoy Chotěboř Ležák, Primátor Weizen y Kocour Samurai IPA, not bad, not bad at all. Then we were treated with some really kick ass guláš. I must say that I enjoyed this press conference a bit more than the one the week before (the pretty girls were missing, but since I can only taste beer and food, I didn't really mind.

After the event had finished some of us hanged around a bit longer. We talked about some rumors from Heineken and the hottest beer topic at the moment, tetrahops (I have a very belated piece on that, you'll have to be patient), among other things.

What a great project Aliance P.I.V. is. From here I give it all my support and, I'm, so do you.

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26 Apr 2010

A quick question

You are at a beer shop. You fancy drinking something new. You see that there are only a few beers you've never drunk before, but you don't have any references of them or their brewers.

Which of them would you buy? And what if they were all from the same brewer?

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23 Apr 2010

Pragmatism

"I don't drink commercially produced beers anymore..."

This must be the most stupid comment about beer I've ever read (the author then mentions that he likes Bernard a lot).

Lately I've been discussing this and other closely related topics quite a lot. I think I've already made myself clear, but it's still worth repeating it: every brewery that exchanges their beers for money with the aim of making a profit is commercial. Regardless of its size, philosophy and all that. To divide breweries into "commercial" and "non commercial" is just silly.

But it's not this what I wanted to tell you about today. I'm sure many of you, at least once, have dreamt about having your own brewery. These days I've been meditating about this (the beauty of having a long commute), but trying to do it from a more realistic point of view.

Let's say I've come across a sum that could be enough to set up a micro-brewery (OK. This is not realistic, in fact, I think I have more chances of coming across a Hobbit. It's just a basis for the argument). As with every project, a plan will have to be made, at least a preliminary one for the moment. My plan has the following points.

1- Is it sensible to start with something like this in these days?
Yes. There's no doubt. Actually, it seems there has never been a better time than now. The market is getting more receptive, it's far from saturated and, in general, micros are doing quite well.

2- What is going to be my business philosophy?
To make an honest product. To have respect for the consumer. This is not idealistic, is, I think, something basic if I want my company to prosper.

And also very important: Fuck romanticism, love and passion, the poetry and, to a certain extent, fuck what I like or don't like as well.

My brewery is going to be a company, I will have to make a large investment, and I want to make a good living out of it. In other words, and I hope nobody gets offended by this, I'm in this for the money.

3- What kind of brewery do I want to have?
Not a brewpub, definitely. I don't want to manage a restaurant and I can't be arsed with looking for a trustworthy partner. Too much hassle. So, my brewery will be something like Matuška's.

Regarding it size. Well, I would like to start with a 2000-3000hl 500-1000hl/year capacity. For that, of course, I will have to talk to people who are specialist in putting together breweries. I want to have professional equipment. I think it's important to minimise the risk of contaminations, etc.

The location is not as critical as a brewpub's, but I would still like to have the brewery close to my place. This will depend on the availability of adequate facilities in the area, so I won't muse too much about it for now.

4- Who will be making the beer?
You can have top of the range gear, but If you don't have anyone who knows how to work with it it's pretty much useless.

I'm not qualified to brew commercially, so I will need someone to do it for me. That shouldn't be much of a problem, finding qualified people is not too hard here.

5- Whom I will sell my beers?
Provided quality is taken care of I don't think I will have much trouble finding buyers. I've got a good relationship with the owners of several hospody in Prague and I'm sure they'll be glad to buy my beers. From then on, it will depend on people liking them. 

Another alternative would be to get in touch with a restaurant owner who wants to have "his own beer", but doesn't want, or can't, have his own brewery.

6- What kind of beers will I make?
Those that people want to drink, no doubt.

I will have lagering equipment, but I would like to focus more on top fermenting styles. Not because I think they are essentially better, but because a few of them are more flexible, they can be ready to take the streets in a couple of weeks, while a decent lager needs at least a month. Oh! Yeah! And because I think they are very salable. I would also like to make seasonal beers for the same reason, they are very salable.

Once the business is running well enough I will sit with my brewer and see if we can put together more unconventional and more personal recipes. I will also explore the possibility of bottle conditioning since this could open the doors for exports and also, could allow me to brew "Vintage Beers" and other similar stuff that I will sure sell at absurd prices (he! he!).

Bugger me! This is a great plan! I will start calling people right this moment. I want to know about the costs, etc. What am I doing still sitting here? Let's get to work!

Oh! Yeah! I'm missing something. Money.

Hmmmm....

Well... It seems having my own brewery will have to wait. So, give me back the romanticism, the passion and all that bollocks. As a consumer I have the right, no, the obligation, to demand it from those who actually do make a living out of brewing and selling beer.

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22 Apr 2010

News at the Czech Beer Festival 2010

Just in case some of you still don't know about it. I'm a beer journalist. Really, there are real people who pay me (not much) for writing about beer (not here, though, I write this blog just for the sake of it). As such, I was invited to the press conference of the Czech Beer Festival.

There's not much to say about the conference itself, which was held at the recently reopened Malostranská Beseda. What was interesting, though, was the news that we were told.

The previous years I wasn't too happy with this idea of the "Czech Oktoberfest". I was wrong. I was seeing it from the wrong point of view. The reality is that those who like to sit down to "taste" and "discuss" the beers they are drinking are just a tiny minority. What most people want is to have a good time drinking good beers, preferably in half litre measures, and that is exactly what the festival offers. And it seems to be working really well. One of the news for this, the third, edition is the addition of another week to duration of the festival, it'll last 17 days from now own. This, according to the organisers, responds to the requests of travel agencies and not few fans. They are unto something this people...

But since we live in an age of political correctness, in which any sort of discrimination is strongly condemned, the people behind the festival have also thought about that tiny minority of people who like to "taste" and "discuss". For them there will be a dedicated tent, much smaller than the other three (which have a capacity of more than three thousand people each). In it there will be talks with Brew Masters, beer and food pairing seminars, tastings and presentations of beers of different styles and countries, for example, a day with a interesting number of smoked beers from Bamberg and, though still not confirmed, a selection of American Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts.

The rest hasn't changed all that much. Prices, fortunately, will remain the same, as will the Tolar system (which I think is brilliant). There will also be a strong presence of regional breweries and, like last year, a few micros like the Kout, Chýně and Kocour as well. On the other hand, it is remarkable the absence of the brands from Plzeňský Prazdroj and Budvar, while at the same time, those from Heineken CZ will show their faces for the first time (or where they last year? I can't remember. Anyway, are they doomed to be the same failure as those from the other giants?)

Once the talking was over, three very pretty girls came to have some photos taken. Since there are plenty of very pretty girls on the streets of Prague, I thought it would be more interesting to have a chat with Honza Kočka, one of the owners of Pivovar Kocour and the person behind what I've decided to call the "Geek Tent". Let me tell you I had never seen this bloke so excited. We talked about his experience as a judge at the recent WBC in Chicago, the news from his brewery (great news, I'll soon speak about them) and about the "Geek Tent" project, which is making him very nervous. I hope it will be successful.

Part of the chat took part during the lunch we were treated at the Pivnice of Malostranská Beseda. Nice place, even if lacking a bit of soul. The food was great, a broth with  home made liver dumplings, svíčkova na smetaně (that would have been perfect had the sauce been more plentiful and the knedlíky not so tiny) and apple strudel with a strawberry cream. The Urquell tanková that I was served must have been the best I had in a long time. I liked it so much that I ordered another one, even though it was not included in the treat and so I had to pay 33CZK. Wait a second! 33CZK for a greatly tapped Pilsner Urquell tanková in Malostranské Nám. If that is not a bargain, I don't know what is. (I really recommend Malostranská Beseda, at least the Pivnice).

So, will I go to the festival this year? I wasn't sure about it before the conference, but I've decided I will. One of the goodies we got was a voucher for 5 Tolars, which would be a shame not to use and besides, I'm curious about the Geek Tent.

Czech Beer Festival
14-31 May, 2010. Letňany Exhibition Centre, Prague
Mon-Fri 15-24, Weekends 12-24

Malostranská Beseda
Malostranské Nám. 21
Prague 1 - Malá Strana
Every day 15-24hs

And for those of you who can't wait or can't make it to the Festival there are two quite interesting options at the first weekend in May. Středočeské pivní slavnosti, at Dobrá U Kladna, not far from Prague, and Gurmán, a gastronomic-beer festival in Hradec Králové. Both have quite an interesting line-up of regional and micro breweries. If the weather is nice and I can talk the missus into driving me there I might go to the one by Kladno.

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PD: I just wanted to share with you one of the official photos of the press conference that for some reason raises my body temperature by a degree or two.
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20 Apr 2010

IT'S ALIVE! IT'S ALIIIIIIIIIVE!

The other day, the news of the demise of U Slovanské Lípy was met with great grief by many in the beer community, not only local, but international. A day of mourning was even suggested.

My friends, remove those black armbands, wash away your tears because this Koutská Pivnice has been resurrected!

It opened again yesterday, 19/4. Besides the new management and opening hours (from 4PM) little else has changed, fortunately. Yesterday, taking care of things, were two young lads who, despite still needing to improve their tapping skills, were full of enthusiasm for the beer they were selling and for good beer in general.

From here, I wish them nothing but success.

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16 Apr 2010

The Tap Race: Out of Control

It was only nine months ago that I first wrote about the "Tap Race", when I told you about my visit to U Prince Miroslava and their 13 draught beers.

Three months later, Zlý Časy would take the lead with 16 taps and it all seemed things were going to stay like that.

No, no way. A couple of months ago I heard that U Radnice, which after several name changes is now called Svět Piva had 18 taps. But with the experience of my last two visits still fresh in my mind, going to see them was not one of my priorities.

It didn't matter, because they weren't the leader anymore, and who wants to be friends with someone on the second place?. A couple of weeks ago, U Prince Miroslava installed a beautiful rack of 20 taps!

The guys in Žižkov, though, would not be discouraged, so they added three more taps, and that's it, they surely told themselves, we've got the longest one now, nobody can match us.

HA! HA! Laughed Hanz in Nusle while pouring the first pint from one the 8 new taps that started working  this week. Elevating Zlý Časy's total to 24 and reclaiming the lead in this race. For how long? Who knows.

It's getting more and more difficult to choose.

Back to Žižkov. Curiosity got the best of me and so I went to U Radnice (can't bring myself to use the new name, which, who knows, might change again soon) and ended up pleasantly surprised. The LCD TV and all the Sparta Praha memorabilia had disappeared, the offer of bottled beers had widened, the service had improved (not by much, but at least I didn't feel like throwing an ashtray at anyone, besides, the waitress was pretty cute) and, most important, all the beers I tasted were in good condition (which doesn't mean I liked them all, the Stout from Velký Rybník was, frankly, crap). I was also surprised by their price policy. Usually a malé pivo (0.3l) will cost around 3/5 of a velké pivo (0.5l), not here though. There was a 5CZK difference between the two measures for all the beers, regardless of their price. Quite cunning now that I think of it. Because I didn't want to get pissed I did what many people usually do, buy small beers, which are proportionally more expensive.

Anyway, if you want to visit this place, better do it before it gets warmer outside. For what I've heard, the temperatures in cellar where they keep the kegs can get a bit too high in summer.

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15 Apr 2010

A nice concept

I was going to write something brainy, important, controversial which probably would have shaken the world of many of you, but I couldn't be arsed. Instead, I chose something trivial, banal and unimportant, tasting notes (I've got tonnes pending).

Once again, the Norwegian micro Haandbryggeriet, one of my favourites in the world. This time with two of their "historical" specialities, Gravøl (Farewell Ale) and Hesjeøl (Harvest Ale).

I really like this concept, recreating ancient recipes, adapting them to the modern tastes, but at the same time (and least in HB's case) trying to use methods that are as close to the old ones as possible. Fortunately for them, and us, they have plenty of material to work from because, according to Jens Maudal from the brewery, it was traditional in Norway to make special beers for every occasion, and actually, farms were bound by law to do it.
As expected from an ale that was brewed for funerals, Gravøl is dark, very dark. The nose is sweet, with some notes of honey, banana and mild spices. It's still quite sweet to the palate, with caramel, fruit and a background that is a mix of roast, spices and banana. There's hardly any bitterness, in fact for a moment I doubted it was hopped at all (it is, but the brewery is planning to have a version with gruit). Despite of that, and the hefty 7.5%ABV (which goes down unnoticed), it is quite easy to drink, thanks to the flavours being quite smooth. But still I don't know if I liked it or not. I found it interesting, but it's one of those beers that I have to drink again to make up my mind about that strange mix of flavours. It must be also noticed that the bottle I got from the brewery was from a test batch, and I don't know how different it might be from the version that is now on the market. If anyone fancies clearing this doubt, or better still, sending me a bottle so I can see it for myself, they'll be greatly appreciated.
Being something that was brewed to be drunk during the hard work of the annual harvest, Hesjeøl pours a more optimistic colour, quite similar to Schneider Weisse, actually, with a creamy persistent head. I have absolutely no doubts with this ale, I liked it, and I liked it a lot. Brewed with three grains, barley, oats and rye, it's got a dry nose with a strong presence of spice, clove and perhaps nutmeg, on a fruity blanket. The taste is delicious, a harmonious dance of mild spice, herbs and sweet fruit with a rather floral finish. It's not intense, it's not extreme, it's just lovely and refreshing and a bit too drinkable for its 6.5%ABV. I enjoyed every drop. Thanks Gunnar for this one!

And the other day, on the terrace, I popped open one of the bottles I have of Norwegian Wood. It was so nice to be able to have once again something I had liked so much and, while drinking it, not tasting it, realise that I liked it even more than the first time.

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12 Apr 2010

A true boom

Although I might still be a bit too early to speak about a trend in reference to the growth of the regional breweries, if we see this from the point of view of microbreweries, then there can be absolutely no doubt they are enjoying a boom. And this is not only a rosy view of a darker reality.

An article published in the daily Hospodářské noviny and reproduced by the portal Pivovary.info shows with figures that the reality is actually brighter than the expectations of many enthusiasts.

In 1990 there was only one microbrewry in business, U Fleku. In 2006 there were already forty registered. It might not look like a lot in a country with the tradition of the Czech Republic, but it must be remembered that here almost all micros are brewpubs, which require a much larger initial investment than those which evolved from homebrewing projects, as it's the case in other countries. But it still doesn't matter, because the numbers are still surprising. Last year the micros reached a total of 90, aiming for 100 by the end of this one, and they are still almost all of them brewpubs.

But the interesting stuff doesn't end there. The article includes fragments of interviews with the representatives of four companies that design and put together brewery equipment, and also, in at least two cases, consult, create the recipes, procure ingredients, etc. Ludvík Ješátko, from the ČKD Group says that the initial investment isn't too large, only a few million CZK, which in some cases can be cofinanced with government grants. Karel Dvořák, from the company Destila, from Brno, adds that the number of restaurant owners interested in this alternative is growing. They have realised that people are willing to pay a bit more for locally brewed beer. According to Václav Potěšil, from Pivo Praha, a micro can be successful if it sells 200 to 300l a day, and those that can reach that volume are more every day.

All this, of course, has increased competition which in turn, has brought down the prices for the technology, explains Josef Krysl, who already has 9 micros under his belt, including U Bansethu in Prague and Purkmistr in Pilsen.

Among all this the article also mentions several places where brewpubs are to open, have recently opened or their capacity has been expanded. And it's here where I find what is for me the most exciting information. They mention three new micros in Prague! One of them is a Krysl's project that will open in the classic hospoda U Dvou Koček, in the centre of Prague, and the other two are projects of Pivo Praha and Destila. These would join the recently opened Jihoměstský Pivovar (which I still have to visit, but probably won't do until they do start brewing).

Bright days are ahead of us

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9 Apr 2010

Yes to "Specials", no to "Rock Stars"

The latest edition of the eternal debate about cult, expensive, extreme, rare, weird, experimental, etc. beers (I think we can put them all in the same bag) started in Ireland, then moved to England, from there it crossed the Atlantic to Canada to end up, for the moment, in, well, wherever Stephen Beaumont happens to be right now.

In a nutshell, Beer Nut and Alan McLeod are not too keen on them, while Stephen and Mark Dredge (who would also like to see more brewers like rock stars, but I will get to that later) are really cool with them.

From here, a small village not far from Prague, I have to say I'm really happy they exist, seriously. But it's not because I think they are better than the rest, o because I believe that they are automatically worth the price asked for some and not even because I'm all that interested in buying them.

There's another reason. I'm glad they exist because just by being they break the stereotype of beer as "an inexpensive, mildly alcoholic fizzy drink that is best enjoyed when very cold", or things on those lines. They are also very effective at showing the masses that beer can also be sophisticated, expensive, ideal to pair with fancy food, that it can be enjoyed in small sips and tasted to better appreciate its complexity or opened only for very special occasions. All this, while at the same time retaining its nature as the everyman's cheap drink, great to wash down pizzas, sausages and pub grub in general, to neck while watching sports, an excellent thirst quencher or the fuel or lubricant of a good time with friends. And that is, ladies and gentlemen, one of the reasons I love beer so much.

Of course, it would be nice if these beers were truly special, and not just very similar to others that I can buy anytime I fancy and for a fraction of the price. They should also have a concept behind them, and not just the goal of being the "-est" in some category or another. Otherwise, they become no more than marketing gimmicks.

But, what's the problem with that? What's the deal with brewers wanting to manipulate supply and demand a little in order to give their product a fictitiously high price? A brewery is, first and foremost, a business and as such, they will try to maximise their profit and improve their market position. Some macros do that by cheaping down their products and with huge advertising campaigns, knowing very well that most people will not notice nor care; and some micros do that by selling overrated and overpriced products, knowing very well that there are enough fools out there willing to buy them at all cost. I haven't got much against that. I don't have to buy those beers, I don't even have to write about them, come to think of it, I can completely ignore them. If that means I will never be able to drink them, so be it! I've already come to terms with the fact that there are many, perhaps great, beers that I will never drink. I don't mind, because there are many more, also great, that I have, can and might eventually drink and enjoy, and those are the ones that I care about, and that all of us should care about.

And regarding brewers as rock stars. I see Mark's point, but I don't fully share it.

The image I have of a rock star is of inflated egos, excess, detachment from reality, celebrity (in the tabloid sense), bodyguards, etc. Things that might have looked cool when I was a teenager, but now that I'm pushing forty I see under a different light.

Since I started writing I've had the opportunity of meeting many brewers, brew masters and owners of breweries. Almost without exception I've found people that are passionate about their jobs, and it is a very hard job! And that regardless of how respected or even admired they might be, they are still down to earth, humble and approachable. They are people with whom you can still sit down and have chat and a beer, their own or someone else's. And that is they way I want them to stay.

If you give me to choose between a cult to the personality of the brewer and a cult to their beers, I'd rather have the beers do the talking.

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7 Apr 2010

From the Motherland (II)

Although my first experience with craft beers from Argentina was not very satisfying, I was left wanting for more. So when Lionel, one of my readers down there, wrote saying he was going to come to this neck of the woods and fancied bringing me some sample, I was really glad.

I could have gone for some of the craft brews that have been recently getting good reviews from the Argentine beer blogs, but I wanted to drink something easier to get there and that could also work as some sort of benchmark for the new beers in Argentina. That's why I asked my friend to bring me something from Antares (which unfortunately, he couldn't get) and Otro Mundo (which was able to get).

I had heard and read quite a lot about Otro Mundo, usually followed by good comments. This brewery didn't follow the usual model in Argentina (and other countries), it wasn't an evolution of homebrewing. The owners are far more ambitious and since its conception, it was planned as a serious business and from its very first commercial batch the beers, all pateurised and filtered, are brewed at the facilities formerly used by a now defunct brewery.
I started with Nut Brown Ale, with 6%ABV. It pours, well, brown, very clean and clear, topped by a pretty good looking white head. The nose has a lot caramel, almost crossing the border with toffee, and there in the background some herbal, mint mostly, notes can be picked, which add some balance. The taste is caramel and more caramel, and then some more. There's a moment when those mint notes seem to appear, but it's only a fleeting glimpse caught on the corner of my eye, I turned to look, but it was gone, and all I'm left with is a finish the reminds of refined sugar diluted in water. Not very pleasant. A pity, it had quite some potential.
The other sample that Lionel and his lovely wife gave to me during the great lunch we had was Strong Red Ale, with 7.5%ABV. Rather than red, it pours an orange shade of amber, crystal clear, topped with an even more compact and lasting head than Nut Brown's. A very handsome beer, indeed. The nose is mostly ripe tropical fruit with strong syrup. The palate is greeted by a nice, almost velvety mouthfeel that packs mild caramel notes dosing tropical fruit in a nice balance, all with a wonderfully integrated alcohol. Some flowers show up in the finish that fortunately, manage to almost cover those unpleasant sugary notes.

Quite a positive balance, I must say. I didn't like Nut Brown, yeah, but that's only a personal thing, I didn't feel anything wrong with it (though those glucose notes were quite suspicious). On the other hand, I found Strong Red to be a very good beer. It's not something that blew my mind or made me tremble in delight, and in fact, if I compared it with similar beers from Europe I have tasted, it would be quite far behind; but that wouldn't be too fair, perhaps. Either way, it gave me the impression of being a product of consistent quality (don't ask me how I came to such conclusion after having drunk only one bottle, take it as a hunch) and I would sure gladly drink it if I were in Argentina.

Once again, thanks a bunch to Lionel for these beers.

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6 Apr 2010

I've found some answers

...Or at least it seems so

Do you remember that some time ago I told you that I had found a mention of beer in Buenos Aires in the early 19th century? Of course you don't. Why do I bother to ask? Nobody's got such an attention span anymore.

The book where I found that data was not a beer book so it didn't say anything about the kind and provenance of the beers in question. It only said that they were imported and that they reached the final consumer (bribed official) already bottled. I was left with a couple of questions.

The other day I came across an article published in the eletronic version of a Uruguayan newspaper titled "The First Beers in the Río de la Plata", which seems not only to have the answers to those questions, but also a couple more interesting bits of information.

At the time I didn't think the beers reached Buenos Aires already bottled, I might have been wrong. Although he doesn't give any specific facts, the author, some Alberto Moroy, says that it's very likely those beers were imported in stoneware bottles, which were later reused.

I was right, though, in supposing that back then beer was already being brewed in Buenos Aires. According to Moroy, the first breweries were established in the mid 18th Century by people with, mostly, English surnames, who apparently, brewed Porters (which is no surprise since the style was perhaps the most popular in London at the time).

Moroy also mentions the names of some of the imported brands, maybe there is some of you that knows them: TS Hall & Co. - Liverpool, George Curling - London, Blood Wolfe & Co. - Liverpool, Tenent - Well Park Brewery, W. Edmonds - Liverpool. Some of them look more like Merchants' names to me, but I might be wrong and can't be bothered to check it out now.

Who would have said, the history of beer in Argentina is much longer than I had always known.

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2 Apr 2010

When is a beer good?

The other day the Spanish blogger Chela wrote a post about adjuncts in Iberian beers, which also deals with the difference between taste, as in the subjective personal opinion, and quality, which is more objective, in beers.

The comments discussed what is that makes the quality of a beer good or bad, and if that could be defined based on which ingredients and processes are used. This is something that could be fascinating for some of us, but the truth is that for most mortals it is pretty cryptic and also absolutely uninteresting.

I believe there's an easier way to explain what makes a beer good, and I'm sure most of you will agree:
"If you like it, it's good"
Knowing how, when, where, in what volume, with what, by whom the beer I'm drinking was made will not make me like it any more or less, or at least it shouldn't, if I'm honest with myself. It could be useful to understand why I liked (or didn't like) it and then have some information that can help me choose (or avoid) similar beers in the future. But that's it.

Does this mean then that a beer you didn't like is bad?

No, not necessarily. Although it is likely that I won't like a flawed beer, there have been, and are, beers that I didn't like for reasons that had nothing to do with technical aspects. And I also have to confess that there are several beers that I like to this day even though a sensorial analysis is likely to find them defective.

This blog is followed by many people who seem to take my opinion seriously and that is, among others, the reason why when I review a beer I try to be as descriptive as I can and explain why I liked them or not, or even why I qualified some of them as bad. Then, if the reader agrees with me or not, that is his or her prerogative. Everyone should able to come to their own conclusions and if someone tells me "this beer is good because I like it" that opinion (provided is honest) will be as valid as mine or anyone else's.

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