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Showing posts from November, 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 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…