30 Nov 2011

In praise of the bores

These days I've read more than one blog post quoting some people denouncing the "uniformity" of the German beer landscape, which reminded me that until not long ago I was saying more or less the same about the Czech one.

Tandlemann spoke about Schönram, a rural Bavarian brewery owned by a yank, that specialises in Pale Ales, Porters, etc. A few days before, Stan Hieronymus presented TAP X, Schneider's new beer. Both cases are shown as proof of a slow change in the "boring" German beer market.

Something similar, though in a bigger scale, is happening here. Pivovar Kocour, Matuška and others are becoming more and more specialised in "exotic" styles and, generally speaking, with very good results both in quality and sales. The relative success of these beers have motivated others to have a go at making "something different" and the other day it was announced that the recently privatised and rescued from a certain death Pivovar Výškov is coming out with their own IPA (that looks pretty good).

All this vitality is more than welcome. Interestingly, though, it has helped me to learn to appreciate once again those beers that I was starting to find boring. Last weekend I was having a few pints at the gorgeous Výčep of Únětický Pivovar. I started with the Desítka, switched to Dvanáctka and finished off with a couple of portions of Polotmavá 13º, their Christmas special. All of them great, very different not only from each other, but also from other beers in their respective categories. All of them simple classics. The same could be said about the Dunkles, Keller, Märzen, etc. from Franconia that I've drunk either in situ or here bottled. Kraus's Hell Lager, for example, was symphony of subtlety and personality.

My point is that anyone can make something "distinctive" with an imported hop variety or with ingredients or processes that aren't the usual. Even the most obtuse consumer will notice they are drinking something different. Achieving something similar using the same old, boring ingredients to brew the same old, boring three or four styles is a lot more difficult, and not only because it requires the drinker to pay more attention (something that unfortunately, few do).

I'm not saying the "innovators" should focus more on the "classics", I'm sure they know very well what they are doing with their business. Nor am I saying that one group of beer is better than the other, Chýně's Stout is one of the best beers I've drunk this year and I am a fan of diversity, there can never be enough of it, and that's why I'll keep on encouraging those who want to bring more colour to the market.

However, I believe that those who prefer to stay with the "usual stuff" and manage to elevate a světlý ležák, a tmavé or polotmavé or even a desítka to new levels deserve every bit as much praise.

Na Zdraví!


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4 comments:

  1. Max - I know you know this but I will repeat I am a fan of "regular" beers.

    Just to be clear, the brewmaster at Schönram was born in Wyoming but has lived in Europe for more than 25 years and considers himself Bavarian. I don't think anybody else at the brewery (including the owner) comes from much farther than 10km away.

    Anyway, if you visit Petting/Schönram I suspect you'll love you can get the Pils and Dunkles unfiltered at the restaurant on the brewery grounds.

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  2. Stan, my intention wasn't to be against anyone. I love what Schneider is doing (I have a bottle of TAP X waiting for me) and I hugely respect people like Toft. I just feel that there are some brewers who aren't getting the praise they deserve simply because they refuse to "innovate".

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  3. Vyskov was just "hired", not sold...

    I belive that Schonram "other beers" are brewed at Braukon - brewery maker with also owns brewing facility, where you can find their own brand Camba. They offered those beers at Brau Beviale recently and their bottles are the same...

    And yes, all the beers mentiomed above you can buy at our beer shop Pivni rozmanitost:)

    Honza, CzBeer.Cz

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