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Showing posts from January, 2012

A must read

I've said it many times and I will say it many more, the best that beer has given me is the possibility of meeting a lot of great people. People from all walks of life and quite a few countries, people whom most likely I would have never met if it hadn't been for our common interest in beer.

Some of them went on to become friends in the pre-facebook sense of the word. One of those people is Evan Rail, author of The Good Beer Guide: Prague and the Czech Republic and many articles about travel, food and beer published in places like The New York Times.

Evan has just published a new work, Why Beer Matters, a 20 page essay that should be mandatory reading for anyone with at least a passing interest in beer.
The essay is only available for Kindle and I greatly thank Evan for having sent me a pdf version. Let me tell you this, I don't quite like reading such long texts sitting in front of my PC, but this one got me sticked to my chair as a good thriller.

The question on the cove…

Heresy!

I love cellar pubs, the deeper they are, the better. There's something almost clandestine in going to a cellar for a beer. You have the pleasant sensation of escaping or hiding from something or someone, of sheltering yourself in the solace of alike souls. In a cellar the time and the seasons loose much of their meaning. It doesn't matter what time of the day or the year it is, the cellar has this static continuity that is impervious to calendar or clock (and not long ago, it was also impervious to mobile phone signals). You don't go to a cellar to have a quick pint on the go, walking several metres down into the bowels of Mother Earth implies a commitment to yourself.

And if we are speaking about a place we've never been before, uncertainty should be added to all of the above. A cellar hasn't got a front or windows, there's nothing that can gives us at least an idea of what awaits us. Just a door, an impassive piece of wood that won't reveal what's hid…

A bit of marketing

Marketing is something that I find incredibly interesting. It's a lot more democratic than most seem to think. There are extremely well funded and deeply researched campaigns that still manage to result in massive flops and others that turn out to be an enormous success despite of the opposite. As in everything, luck can play a role, but the key to success is in how well companies manage to understand the target consumer and the market in general.

Large companies need specialized consultants and/or departments to carry out market surveys and plan campaigns because their very size has detached them from the common people and also because they are forced to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Small companies, in principle, have the advantage of having a more direct contact with the consumer, which allows them to have a better picture of them. However, at the end of the day, it will all depend on how well both large and small are able to interpret and use the information they g…

Some Monday thoughts

Thirsty Pilgrim was asking the other day if "tickers" aren't to beer what Robert Parker is to wine, which is somehow related to the shit beer raters do, according to Stephen Beaumont. This reminded me to what I was asking myself a few days ago, if extreme, etc. beers aren't in a way a result of these times of short attention spans.

But what I read in some of the comments that followed Mr. B's blog, together with all the rest, brought another question, whether those beers aren't also a product of, and for, certain festivals where beer is only served in very small portions. In this context, "regular" beers have a big disadvantage, they usually need more than 0.1 or 0.15l to fully tell their tale. The "winners", then are those beers that are able to generate an instant impact, right in the first sip (to this we have to add that there are not few people who after drinking some DIPA or BA Imperial Stout go for a Pils or a Weizen, but that'…

Locals, old, current, older

Velký Al is hosting a series of guest blogs titled "My Local", where authors from both sides of the pond talk, basically, about their favourite pubs.

In its contribution Ron Pattinson, among other things, describes a local as a place where "It doesn't matter how long since your last visit, you pick up straight away where you left off, even if it's been a year.". Words that could very well describe what happened to me during my last visit to Pivovarský Klub.

There was a time when PK was mi local. I'd go there almost every week, I knew several of the štamgasty and had a very friendly relationship with some of the staff and even a couple of the owners. This lasted until I discovered Zlý Časy, which became my local almost from the first visit. It wasn't because the beer temple in Karlín had done anything wrong, but because the one in Nusle had that neighbouhood dive thing that I didn't know I was missing so much.

I still believe the Klub is one of t…

An anecdote with a moral

Catfish Sumeček is one my favourite products from Pivovar Kocour. It's one of those almost perfect beers, sessionable, but also a good sipper to pair with a book and good music, interesting, but thirst quenching, brilliant. The other day I fancied buying some to drink at home at the weekend. While I was doing my shopping at Pivkupectví I talked with the people that were there. I picked a bottle, paid, put it in my rucksack and then in the fridge as soon as I got home a couple of hours later.

Its moment came with Sunday's dinner. I opened the bottle and felt a strange smell coming out of it. Nothing that I could identify as an infection or contamination, just something that didn't belong there. When I poured I noticed that the beer was a bit darker and browner than I remembered and that the foreign aroma was more intense. There was something wrong, very wrong with that beer. So wrong that it wasn't Catfish Sumeček, it was V3 Rauchbier. I didn't realise that because …

No surprise here

Yesterday, the daily Hospodářské noviny anounced on its front page that "Američané koupili známky Budweiser Bier" (the Yanks have bought the Budweiser Bier brand). It didn't surprise me the least bit, actually, I knew that something like this was going to happen sooner or later. But before explaining you why, let me give you a few more details about the news.

What Anheuser-Busch bought was a company called Budějovický měšťanský pivovar. They haven't even bought a brewery proper, just a bunch of papers and some symbolic real estate. Before the sale the owners of the brewery had split the company in two, one of them is now called Pivovar Samson a.s., it kept almost everything, the facilities, technology, staff, you name it, while the other one was left only with the "Budweiser Bier" registered trademark and some land.

The main reason why I wasn't surprised at all by the news is something I read a couple of years ago. I don't remember exactly when, I t…

Selected Readings: December

I was going to post this right before the end of the year, but I couldn't be arsed, I was going to post this last week, but I had a lot of work. Better late than never.

Zak Avery and Boak and Bailey deal with the issue of beer snobbery, approaching it in a different way, both worth reading (better in the order they are linked).

Adrian Tierney-Jones presents us with a beautiful bit of beer poetry, the kind I wish I could be able to write (and he also posted a very flattering review of my book)

Mark, in Pencil & Spoon, shares a curious bit of "history" about the the genesis of Porter and its colour. Can you imagine the Twitter/Facebook shitstorm this would cause if it was published today?

Still in the realm of history, but proper, more fact-based history, Evan Rail publishes a few corrections to "The Oxford Companion to Beer". I had a few beers with him recently and he told me he was preparing something more comprehensive about the history of Pilsner Urquell t…

A sign of the times?

Weizenbock is one of my favourite kinds of beer, specially in this season. It's just perfect to drink in a grey and cold afternoon. A good Weizenbock is like sitting in an armchair next to the fireplace after coming in from a winter walk in the forest.

Der Weisse Bock from Leidmann Private Landbrauerei, besides being a great model of what I say above, it's a great example of what I said a few days ago in this post: no, not that "Trappist/Abbey is not a style" thing, that couldn't be any clearer, but this "..if you really want to understand a beer, you must drink it. And I mean drink it, not "taste", sharing a 0.33l bottle with four friends, but to sit down and drink a full portion of that beer".

If someone had asked me what I thought of Der Weisse Bock when I was still drinking the first part of the glass, I would have said it was boring. There was nothing wrong with it, everything was where it should be, but it seemed like one of those beers …