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Showing posts from May, 2011

Boom and resurrections

The number of micro breweries in the Czech Rep. is now comfortably over 100. There are 107, according to what I heard on Monday, and it might be that by the time you are reading this, that figure will already be outdated. Only four years ago there weren't even 50.

Of course, not everything is rosy, there are a couple of worrying signs. The other day I read (without paying that much attention, I must confess) a report that talked about a shortage of qualified brewers, which, if true, could slow down the boom.

But that's not the worst, I've heard several comments about the substandard quality of the beers of several new breweries. I have myself come across beers that leave a bit to be desired, they are too green or boring or simply not all that well made. But at the same time, I believe that in a market such as this one, the problem is more the breweries' than the consumers' because if they aren't able to sort things out fairly quickly, they won't last too lo…

I was wrong after all

"The only important thing is what's in the glass"This is something that I've been saying, and believing, for quite some time. The opinion about a beer should be based solely on that beverage we are drinking at that moment and should not be affected by external factors, previous information or references, etc.

But I've been having some doubts about it and not only because this concept is almost impossible to put in practice to begin with. After having read a recent and excellent post by Velký Al on the hermeneutics of beer I actually realised that I was wrong. Not only there are factors that will affect our opinion, but I know believe that some of them actually should.

I still think that that the expectations built on reviews, rankings, awards, comments, ratings, etc should be ignored. Regardless of how much credit you may give them, they aren't but the manifestations of someone else's taste and experience. Someone used to drinking IPA's or "extr…

Live, on air, it's Pivní Filosof!

Yesterday morning I was a guest at a radio show at Radio Česko. Together with Jírka Stehlíček, a.k.a. Bejček, owner of První Pivní Tramwaj and, it could be said, spiritual father of the čtvrtá pípa concept, we talked about beer (what else?), or more precisely, the boom of the micro breweries.

Since the show was going to be live, we had been sent the questions beforehand so we could prepare the answers before going on air. Four were directly for me, others where for Bejček, a few more were for both of us, and there were some others that had been answered by Aleš Dočkal, from Pivovarský Klub on a recorded interview.

The questions were in general pretty interesting and I thought I could share with you the answers I have on air and the answers I would have liked to give to some of the other questions. Let's start with the ones that I was asked on air. (translated from Czech).

"You've been living here for almost ten years, how do you see the development of the Czech beer cultu…

9 years...

Nine years ago today I was arriving in this country to start a new life. If ten years ago someone had told me that today I would be doing what I'm doing, I would have laughed at his or her face. Life is full of surprises.

Last night I thought I would open something special to celebrate this anniversary (the moving started on the 19th, when I took the plane from Buenos Aires) and in my cellar I found Coton an Old Ale brewed by The Bruery.
It's really nice to taste a beer about which you don't have any references, not even about its maker. I had received it from my friend Brian, a fellow beer enthusiast from the US, so I was expecting it to be at least good.

The label says that this 14.5% ABV brew is a blend of 75% Ale and 25% Ale aged in Bourbon barrels and Coton must be one of the most complex and interesting beers I've ever drunk.

It pours clean ocher, the nose has notes that reminded me of walnuts, dates, raisins and sherry. The mouth feel is sticky but not too thick…

Toothy, ballsy dog

I was the other day at the opening of Zubatý Pes, which could considered either the most deluded or the ballsiest pub in Prague.

It's not because of its location next to what looks like a warehouse in Petrohradská, a street in Vršovice with little pedestrian traffic (there's not much to choose from around in this residential neighbourhood), nor because it opened with 15 taps (something that surprises fewer people each day). It's because of the beer list, or at least, part of it.

Mike and his wife, a.k.a. Mr and Mrs Odd Dog, are distributors in the Czech Rep. of Brewdog, Mikkeller and Nøgne-Ø, among others, and a sizeable number of those 16 taps are reserved for products of those renown breweries. And really, you have to be either mad or have a lot of balls to sell in Prague so many imported beers with an average price of 60CZK a 0.3 or even 0.2l glass (and not because those beers aren't worth it). To make this bet a bit safer, the list also includes stuff from well kno…

More Culture

I had another thing planned for today's post, but the cultural question, or actually, the issue if there is such thing as beer culture in Spain has come up again, this time in a great post by Lúpuloadicto (in Spanish).

The thing here is that I'm not sure if there is a clear definition of what "Beer Culture" is. To me, it's something that it's mostly determined by the consumption of the drink and its rituals.

With music, cinema, gastronomy, literature and pretty much any other human activity, there are different "levels" of culture. Most people are happy with what is massive and they don't meditate too much on what they consuming, but there are others, a small minority, who are more curious, more demanding, who in some cases even start to study the topic in question, not because they aim to become academics, but because they are interested in it and want to be more informed. It is just the same with beer.

But back to Spain. One of the arguments …

Ávila's Best

For a town of its size, Ávila has a pretty nice number of good places where to go for a drink, tapas or food in general. For me, the best among all of them is a pub called La Barraca.

But before continuing, there's a disclaimer. Carmen and Fernando, the owners, are great friends of the family, whom we even have lodged in their visits to Prague. But even if that wasn't the case, I believe my opinion would stay the same, La Barraca is the best place to go for a drink in Ávila.
To begin with, there is the beer list. About 10 taps and a pretty decent range of bottles. Among the kegs you can find Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier, which is basically the beer of the house, while the rest seem to change with more or less frequency. At the time of my holidays they were tapping St. Bernardus Prius, Pilsner Urquell and a Framboos. Among the bottles you can find beauties like Schneider TAP 5 and St. Bernardus Abt 12. Everything is served in the best conditions and in its proper glass. Fernan…

Tapas in Ávila

Being on a family holiday made it quite difficult to be able to do some bar crawling and experience the local beer culture as much as I would have liked (for which my finances were probably grateful).

Ávila, a gorgeous town, no doubt, it's one of those places in Spain where you still get a complimentary tapa, or better said, a pincho (a small plate with a snack), with each beer your order. That's right, you get free food with your beer, and I don't mean peanuts, but proper food. Since in most cases the said pinchos were really good, I did a little mind exercise and convinced myself that it was the food what I was paying for, while the beer was the complimentary bit. And since it's not polite to complain about something you are getting for free, I was able to enjoy the experience more.

At the bar of Santuario de Sonsoles, a very nice place just outside the city, we ate generous portions of potato tortilla and salads with mayonnaise, each for 1.50EU. The beer we got with …

Cheaters?

If there's something that I care veeery little about in the beer world is the competitions and their results. I won't like a beer more or less, or, if I don't know it, be more or less curious about it because of the medals it has or hasn't won at a more or less prestigious competition.

That's mainly because the very method most commonly used to evaluate the beers, blind tastings of small samples in a very controlled environment, has very little to do with the way I (and I think almost everyone else) consume the drink.

On the other hand, I like seeing things from the other side of the counter, so I understand the importance that winning a medal has for brewers. After all, it is a recognition for their work, and everybody likes that. Of course, that medal can also be used as an effective marketing tool, and a very legitimate one at that. Whatever you and I might thing about this or that beer, the award is something concrete and hard to argue with, more so if it was o…

Tasting in Ávila

I'm back home from a well deserved and great family holiday in Ávila, Spain. We had a wonderful time and the break and the change of air were more than welcome.

I thought I would be able to leave my Pivní Filosof side in Prague, but the stubborn bastard followed me and caught me just when we were shopping in the local Carrefour. I didn't have another choice, then, than to follow him to the beer aisle, where I was surprised to find such variety in a relatively small town.

Of course, I didn't leave empty handed. I took a bottle of Cruzcampo Gran Reserva, which I had long wanted to taste, a four bottle pack of Alhambra Mezquita, which I had liked a lot three years ago and wanted to drink again, two bottles of Santa Margarida Trigo and one of Santa Margarida Fuerte, both from Cerveses Dedues, a micro from Catalunya about which I had no references.

I started with Gran Reserva. I'm very interested in the attempts from macros to get into the "special beer" segment. …