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Some loose (and recicled) thoughts for the end of the year

If you are a homebrewer who's planning to go commercial in 2013, before you brew your first batch, leave the homebrewer at home. Making beer won't be your hobby anymore, it'll be your job.

When I see brewers saying that they make the beers they would like to drink I ask myself, shouldn't they make the beers I would like to drink?

If expermimental refers to a product that is still being developed, shouldn't experimental beers be cheaper than finished ones?

Brewers need to have more trust in their products. Instead of inviting us to taste their beers, they should invite us to drink them.

Someone who prefers to spend 10€ on a bottle of a beer they don't know instead of spending the same money on three bottles of a beer they already know and like, has a very serious problem.

You should always doubt the judgment of someone who praises (and reviews) a beer they drank in a shot size as part of a session that included another ten.

It'd be nice to see more beer rev…

And it's gone

For all practical purposes, 2012 is finished and therefore, it is time to put together the almost mandatory balance.

This has been the most successful year of my still infant career as a beer writer. I've collaborated with The Beer Connoisseur, my reviews continued to be published in Pivo, Bier & Ale. The other day, after more than a year, I sent an article to the Spanish mag. Bar&Beer and at the beginning of the year, The Prague Post asked me to write a regular beer blog for them, which I really enjoyed doing. As if that wasn't enough, I was also offered to take part in a pretty important project that will see the light some time next year; it was a true honour to have been even considered for it and I want to thank all those who helped me put together my assignment. All of this has been (or will eventually be) paid, it's really gratifying to be able to make some money out of a hobby.

I wasn't able to travel abroad (in fact, I had to refuse a couple of invitat…

In Praise of Science

The other day, when I finished writing the phrase "...anyone with a basic knowledge in brewing science..", I had to stop for a second. Suddenly I started to wonder why I had used the word science and was reminded of what I had written elsewhere, when discussing bits of brewing history, about the adoption of a more scientific approach to beer making. I also recalled much of what I read in "Brew Like a Monk", but mostly about this excellent interview Kristen England gave to Fuggled. To Al's first question, how did you get into brewing as a career? Kristen answers, "...It’s another form of science which got me hooked…science begets science...".

Before getting to write this, I asked my followers in Facebook what they thought about it, and after a pretty interesting discussion, and let my mind mind chew on it a bit, I reached the conclusion that beer making isn't an art, is an industry and there's nothing really artistic in it.

Before spewing your …

Friday Morning Musings

I'm don't want to get too deep into the shitstorm unleashed by the statement of the US Brewers Association, only that I subscribe to pretty much everything Alan says here.

Anyway, though the debate is of little concern to me, a beer drinker living in the Czech Republic, it could be said that it is part of a wider issue. We often hear calls (often by interested parties, it should be said) to support local/small/independent breweries because their being local/small/independent makes them almost automatically better than those that are global/big/corporate and I'm frankly tired of that nonsense.

There are a number of reasons why I like (and believe is important) to support small businesses, whatever they produce. They are pretty obvious, so I'm not going to specify, but all of them, without exception are subordinated to the value they can give me in exchange for my money.

When it comes to beer, "value" to me means the balance between price-quality-availability.…

Why I go back

I walk in, I greet, I seat. I get my fix, I drink. I listen to the music, to the talk. I walk into the talk. I talk, and I drink and I laugh, loud. And I drink, and I talk.

Štamgast M says and gives something to the owner. Something I don't catch because I'm drinking my drink and talking my talk.

The music changes. Štamgast M looks at me with a half smile. Do I know the tune? Of course I do! Don't Fucking Cry For Me Argentina! How could I not!

I laugh. That tear that wanted to roll down thinks it better. It'd look silly.

Štamgast F now takes the piss. Again. He knows well how much piss he can take. He knows well how much piss he'll get back.

And I drink. And I listen. And I talk. And I laugh. And, by the way, I'm Štamgast P. And I'm Max. Ahoj.

And fuck the world! One more it is! Reality calls. Reality can wait a bit longer. It always has.

It was the beer that first brought me here. It's not the beer that keeps me coming back.

Na Zdraví!

Evolucionary explanation

I will try to shed light on a semantic conflict that has arisen from the other day's topic.

There are people who claim that "evolution" is the same as "chage", period. A comment in the Spanish version, for example, said that "to evolve is to change, but not necessarily for the better, it can also be for the worse".


I believe that, at least in this context, this interpretation is wrong. The filtrophobe discourse implies that only unfiltered and unpasteurised beers will "evolve" because they are "alive" and that beers that have been filtered and pasteurised can not evolve because they are "dead".

However, the quality of "dead" beers is also affected by (among other things) time. A Pilsner Urquell, a Guinness, a Paulaner, a Corona, a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale consumed in Prague, Madrid, London, Moscow or Toronto will not be the same beer that left the factory God knows how long ago. It will have changed, but filtroph…

Evolutionary bollocks

The other day, after a great post by 2D2dspuma about the need to speak publicly about the bad stuff, Alex Padró came up, once again, with the usual bollocks that unfiltered beer will evolve because it's alive. Later, and in response to my comment on the matter one Guillem Laporta said the following:
Unfiltered beers will CERTAINLY EVOLVE (just like wines) and anyone with a notion about life forms will know that. The beer we are talking about is alive because it has yeast that keeps on working, and the caps and corks will allow the redox process that obviously make them evolve. The best by date means that after a date the evolution of this beer will be such that it will not be like the beer you wanted to drink when you bought it... Well, it seems rather obvious to go on, but someone should say which lapidary phrases aren't correct." (Before continuing, I should make a couple of things clear. First, the most commonly accepted meaning of "evolution" is "improv…

Macro culture

In the other day's post, Jeff, from Beervana suggested that I should run with the idea that "much of the marketing of the macro brands has a more realistic relationship with beer culture than that of the micro brands." Since I've got nothing better to do, here's me running:

Macro beer marketing has been critisised for being superficial, silly, flat, that it sells brands and not beer, etc. It is also said that it avoids speaking about beer because they sell shit and don't want people to start to think too much about it. False logic. The big brewing companies sell a mass market product and their marketing needs to speak to the widest possible range of consumers. The discourse, therefore, will not be often centered around ingredients, processes and sensory characteristics simply because it would be very much a waste of resources since most people don't give a fuck about where their beer comes from or how it is made.

Should they give a fuck? Yes, they should…

Friday Morning Musings

I'm quite skint these days, which has resulted in a considerable reduction of my visits to pubs, not to mention Pivotéky, which in turn has resulted in my taking a more Buddhist approach to beer.

For example, I've been following what Pivnici have published about the beers they've drunk and the places they've been to and I don't suffer. I know my current financial situation would not allow for almost any of that and I have accepted that fact. I enjoy those beers that I can afford and those sparse times that I do stop for a pint at a pub, or that someone buys me one, perhaps even more, in some way, than usual.

It feels good! I might be getting close to Pivní Nirvana.

Na Zdraví!

A new model

This short, but very much to the point entry at Reluctant Scooper reminded me of something that has been going around my head ever since the first and second rants about beer tastings, which back then even made me doubt if there was such thing as "Beer Culture".

Now I'm convinced that beer culture does exist, and that it is basically what described last year. But beer culture is not something self sufficient, it is part of a wider thing. It is also true that beer being a consumer's good, its culture, i.e. the relationship the consumers have with it, is to some extent shaped by marketing, i.e. the way beer producers would like the consumer to see, relate to, and consume their product. But beer marketing itself it's also often shaped by the local customs, habits and culture (now that I think about it, much of the marketing of the macro brands have a more realistic relationship with beer culture than that of the micro brands, but that is another thing).

But back to…

Extinction? Yeah, right.

The other day I came across an article (in SP) about a very interesting beer project called Cluster Cervecero. Basically, two brewers, Alex Padró, from Llúpols i Llevats, and Gabriel Fort, of the namesake brand, are working in the same building, each with their kit. They are joined by Steve Huxley, the head of Steve's Beer Academy, and also a brewer himself. Besides making each their own beers and give courses, these three people work in common projects. All very interesting and nice, until I read this:
"Good beer almost went extinct in the middle of last century. The years of thirst. What? I'd never heard about that one! Fortunately, Huxley is here to shed some light (well, sort of):
"The 13 years of Prohibition in the US had, in the end, worldwide repercussions. After it finished in 1933, the big companies took over the market with beers of low quality, completely unfaithful to the original recipe, and that practice extended, unfortunately, to the other side of the …

A short holiday

My faimily and I took went on a more than deserved  four day holiday last week. We went to Liberec, my wife had booked us a stay at Hotel Babylon, mostly so our daughter could enjoy some of the attractions that this huge complex has (I must confess that I had a kick-ass time at the water park, too!).

Before leaving I asked Facebook and Twitter to recommend place with good beer in Liberec. A couple of tips arrived, the places looked quite fine, but in the end I decided to give them a miss. I'm almost sure I would have had a very good time at those pubs, but at the same time, they didn't look like the kind of place where my wife and daughter would enjoy themselves very much, and this was a family holiday so I wanted to dedicate all my time to them. Pivní Filosof would have to stay home, watching porn or nature documentaries, or whatever it is that this bloke does when he's not getting pissed.

And you know what? Beer-wise, I loved it!

I simply drunk whatever it was being ser…

Friday Morning Musings

Just like with every new experience, the visit to Ferdinand's floor maltings has given me some rich food for thought, in this case about the nature of the so called "Craft Beer".

The floor malts from Benešov are an undeniably craft product. Tradition, dedication and attention to detail rule. Everything that happens during the process is allowed to happen for a reason, and the ultimate goal is quality. Quality that is backed by a lab analysis of each and every batch; figures and values that are very hard to argue with.

For better or worse, it's not that easy with beer. Yeah, a lab analysis might be able to determine that A is technically better than B, but since it is a consumer product we are talking about, the subjective quality will always prevail, and it doesn't often agree with the technical one.

In a certain way, this has an effect on the concept of "craft" and the endless debate around it. To me, "Craft Beer" is another label, not too d…

A window to the past?

About two months ago, I was having a few pints with my friend Artur, a.k.a. the Polish Photobomber. We were talking about beer and life in general and when it was time to go, we decided to close the session with a Rauchweizenbock* that I hadn't drunk for quite awhile.

After we got our pints I realised that, besides being a bit paler than I remembered it, the beer was also a bit sour, and yet, excellent! This contamination (it can be described that way, it hadn't been planned by the brewer) had added a new layer to an already very interesting and quite complex brew.

It would all have remained another interesting sensory experience, if it hadn't been for Adrian's tale about his encounter with a stale Mild, which made him wonder if that wasn't something similar to what stale porters tasted like in the 1800s.

Could it be that this duff rauchweizenbock had also shown me some sort of historical postcard?

In many occasions, and from several sources, I have heard and read…

Gypsy Porter+Friends+Zlý Časy = Perfect Evening

Last Saturday, at Zlý Časy's upstairs bar, we did a rather informal, official presentation of Gypsy Porter, the beer that Gazza Prescott, from Steel CityPivovar Kocour and yours truly brewed in Varnsdorf.
There's not a lot more I can say about this Baltic Porter that I haven't said before. Bollocks! There is! Gazza did a great job with the malt grist (Pilsen, Munich, Carafa Spezial No. 1 y Carared). It prevented the beer from being cloying, even though it coats your palate thanks to a relatively lower attenuation (to give you an idea, Pardubický Porter, that also declares 19º degree Balling, has 8% ABV, Gypsy has 7,2, with an original Balling graduation of almost 20). The hops balance this symphony of malts beautifully and the whole thing has a quite dangerous drinkability for such high octanes. The only thing that didn't turn out quite as we expected was the aroma. After two months lagering, the Citra hops we added at the end of the boil had left only a small memen…

It happened one day

I've just remembered this anecdote I've been told a couple of months ago. It goes somehow like this:

The people of Pivotéka Pivní Rozmanitost went to a craft fair in Ustí nad Labem with their brewing project Pivovar Nomád (I owe these beers a post). At their stand they were selling Žižkovský Svrchňák at 25CZK/0.5l. A man came by and asked about the beer and the person at the stand explained him what it was about, but the man ended up saying that since he didn't know the beer, it must be bad (or something like that), and he went to another stand to buy Gambrinus for 29CZK.

The first reaction of everyone who heard/read this story was (in several languages) "What a twat!", which is actually, unfair. People shouldn't be critisised for their tastes in beer, you and I can legitimately say that Gambáč is crap, so what? We all like at least one thing that other people can legitimately say it's crap. What can be critisised though, to a certain extent, is this blo…

PROSÍM POZOR!

This Saturday, Oct. 20, from 5PM at Zlý Časy, together with Gazza Prescott, from Steel City Brewing and someone from Pivovar Kocour, I'll be presenting Gypsy Porter, the beer we brewed together two months ago in Varnsdorf.
Gypsy Porter is a Baltic-Porter inspired strong black lager. The recipe was put together by Gazza on the base of the recipe of Sinebrychoff Porter, which Kirsten England, brewer at Pour Decisions, sent me (if you haven't already, read the interview he gave to Fuggled, it's great). It was brewed with a double decoction mash (as it should be) and we used Pilsen, Munich, Carafa Spezial No. 1 and Carared malts, Saaz hops (pellets) and Citra (aroma, cones). The Balling graduation was 19.8 and fermented for about 10 days to 5.4º. It's a gorgeous beer and I can't wait to see how it has evolved since I drank it a few weeks ago at Slunce v Skle.
You are all invited.
Na Zdraví!
Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

¿Plagiarism?

A brewery that teams up with a renown, Michelin starred cook to develop the first beer of its kind, which can also pair with any sort of food.

No, it's not Inèdit, is Sagra Bohío, which is thus described on its webpage:
"Bob Matlman and Pepe Rodríguez, Head Chef at el Bohío de Illescas - Toledo (Current National Gastronomic Award and Michelin Star), have joined to create the first Spanish craft beer designed to pair with any meal, specially dessert. For that, a triple malt beer, with additional maturing and bottle conditioning, has been brewed. The restult is a an Ale, triple malt, balanced, with chocolate colour and aroma, with caramel, coffeee and apple notes." It's very possible that this beer is great, I haven't tasted, but, together with the "Gastronomic Beer", this is the kind of marketing laziness that makes me not want to buy a product (if I could). And it's worse in this case, because it's not even original, and on top of it, it's l…

Selected Readings: September

A bit late, but here you have it, the best, worthiest and most interesting of the stuff I read last month.

We start in Spanish, with a double dose of Mexican wisdom. Amigos de la Vid and In Cervesio Felicitas pull no bollocks in their lists of the worst Mexican craft beers. Their opinions are very well argued and valuable in an alternative beer scene that is just getting started. The best of all, though, is what each of them says about "locality". ICF: "Supporting a Mexican product only because it's Mexican and not because of its good quality is lame and absurd". Amigos: "Stop trying to instill a nationalistic sense to Mexican craft beer. We all know that most of the ingredients used are imported". Brilliant.

From Portland, Beervana explains the difference between mass and elitist reviews. I couldn't agree more. Though I acknowledge that rating sites offer some useful information, at least when a quick reference is needed, I get a lot more value …

A Good Example

I've never drunk the beers from the Argentine micro Finn, I've got no clue as to what they are like, but they've already earned my respect. The other day, on their Facebook page, they posted a picture to announce that they had to pour 120 bottles down the drain because they were not happy with the quality of the product.

This is the kind of professionalism, respect for the trade and, more importantly, the consumer, that many of us are demanding to all micros (and not so micro). Yes, Finn aren't the only ones to do something like this, I've heard of many others. Unfortunately, though, there are still many who prefer to do things differently and have no problem with taking a flawed beer to a festival or bringing you a contaminated one at their own brewpubs or, as I've been told by people who know, giving a year and a half shelf life to products that are almost undrinkable after only six months. Nobody likes to see a whole day of work (and money invested) going d…

You learn something new every day

The other day I attended the official opening ceremony of Břevnovský Pivovar at the namesake monastery. A nice do, I must say, with the Prior blessing the brewery, and the beers, of course, and a few friends who made the afternoon even more enjoyable, there are few pleasures in this life that are bigger than a friendly chat paired with excellent beers, and the beers from Břevnov are top-notch.

Their světlý ležák, in my opinion, already ranks among the best you can drink in this country. It's completely different from any other I've drunk before. There's the classic, wonderful, sexy malty body of a proper Czech pale lager (bless decoction for that), but this one is almost bursting with notes of mint and something that reminds me of chewing a sage leaf, in between those two there's some fruit that my friend Evan Rail described as that bit of a peach that is by the stone, thought it could also be described a not fully ripe apricot. It gives the beer a truly unique charac…

WOW!

To be honest, I wasn't going to write anything about last Saturday's Slunce v Skle. Not because there was anything wrong with it, quite the opposite, just like every year, it was great, it's still the best festival in this country. The thing is that I didn't believe I would have anything new to add to what I said two years ago: great atmosphere, lots of friends and familiar faces, the weather started out rather dodgy, but then got really nice...

The biggest difference, perhaps, was the quality of the beers. Unlike the previous two editions, I didn't come across anything that was bad. But then again, I didn't drink that much, or actually, I didn't drink from as many breweries as previous years. It could also be that what I wrote on Friday played a bit of a role and, instead of chasing after every new brewery (there were several) I mostly played safe and went for stuff I knew or had very good references of. I even repeated a couple of beers! And though I did…

Friday Morning Musings

The other day I came across this very good (and rather old) article in The Economist that speaks about how having more to choose from results on people actually buying less because they can't quite decide. Boak & Bailey went through a situation like this a while ago while in London, where they had the nagging feeling that choosing one beer or one pub might mean that they were missing something better.

Whenever I drop by places like Zlý Časy, more and more often find myself taking the opposite path. I go for the stuff I know and maybe, depending on how long I'll be staying, the company and my mood at the time, pick one or two new beers, but only after at least a couple of pints have been properly taken care of. In fact, I'm becoming increasingly tired and bored of this inflation of new beers and part of me is slowly beginning to wish that the bubble would finally burst.

All of this is happening thanks (or because of) the beer fetishists. These are people who seem to pr…

A Few Quick Reviews (IV)

A new installment of the round up of reviews originally published on my FB page for those four or five of you who don't have Facebook.

Slaný TUPL IPA: Could be a tad more aromatic, could have a bit of a longer finish, but SOD THAT! What a chewy, complex, rewarding, beauty this one is!
Cigar City Cucumber Saison: I'd be lying my ass off if I said this is one of my favourite beers, but bugger me! This is one interesting little bastard that masterfully avoids the gimmick. One I'd love to drink again. (thanks Glen!)

Opat Benediktin 15º: As if a Märzen was trying to do some mischief.

13º Český Granát, Žitný Speciál from Regent? Are you kidding? Does this apricot marmalade, ginger, strawberry syrup beauty come from Třeboň? Hats off to them, it's bloody lovely!!!

Přerovský Negr: A big, mean, scary looking muthafuckin nigga that turns out to be a nice fun bloke to be with after all.
Novopacké Kvasničák: Scores for being one of the few, proper kvasnicové, starts well enough, but end…

Both for the everyman and for the selected few

After he heard a couple of wine posers say that they couldn't take beer seriously until it became "more like wine", Velký Al issued another rant against the "winification" of beer. I agree with him, I also find the "beer is the new wine" bollocks a bit irritating and very stupid. However, there's something that Al doesn't quite take into account when he complains about those who want to gentrify beer, history.

If you've read what Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson have written about beer in the 19th century and beyond, you'll have noticed that beer has not always been only the "everyman's drink". The higher classes used their beers, the most famous of them, perhaps, were the Pale Ales (India or otherwise), to which we could add the Porters/Stouts brewed for the Russian ruling class, among others (even lagers, in the early days, were quite a posh drink in Britain). In the continent, the Reinheitsgebot was amended in the 17t…