19 Mar 2012

Grumpy Monday

You've heard (and read) me saying this countless times (I've even mentioned it in articles that've been published in magazines!), this thing with the microbreweries in the Czech Republic is amazing. Only five years ago there were around 50, today there are 120 and counting. Last year alone more than 20 new ones opened!

Of course, not everything is rosy. This boom has brought some growing pains. For some time I've been reading about an incipient shortage of qualified workforce, and the other day someone who seemed to know what he was saying told me that some of the micros that have opened recently are actually enterprises to swindle money from the European Union Structural Funds. Beer, or the business of selling beer, is of little, if any, importance to this people, they've already earned what they wanted to earn just with the project, what happens next is not their problem.

The reality is that I've drunk some serious crap lately. I don't mean boring lagers, beers about which you might say "it could have a bit less/more of this or that". No, I mean Crap. At last year's Slunce v Skle there were at least two beers that I ended up trowing away, unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the perpetrators anymore (I stopped taking notes at festivals, I suggest you do the same). But if you want names, here are a few: 11º from U Stočesu, the brewpub of Rokycany, abominable, made even worse by the fact that it was the last beer that session. Melantrich, which I described as "Nasty and proud of it". However, nothing compares to the disaster that was U Orloje, in Žatec, there's no excuse for a brewpub serving a beer that is off! Who is the dimwit who runs that place?

Fortunately, we have Slaný's Pivovar Antoš,  Únětický Pivovar, Kout, Kocour, Matuška or Třebonice, just to name a few of those that are making some very good stuff (though Matuška could give us a break with the prices).

And it's also worth mentioning that Kocour, Matuška, Třebonice and several others have managed to introduce exotic species to the Lagerland's landscape. Warm fermented beers are multiplying and are becoming more popular on both sides of the counter. However...

...Most seem to be following the same two or three recipes. What is not Pale Ale is India Pale Ale. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but American hops aren't the only kind that can be used for this kind of beers, even if you are aiming at a high IBU (look at some of the entries in Ron Pattinson's Let's Brew series, if you don't believe me). And what about brewing something else? I'd love to see more Stouts, Porters or the odd Brown Ale, Barley Wine or Saison. And it's not necessary to go too far. Hardly anyone makes dark wheat beers, just a couple of Weizenbock (very good ones, by the way) and that's it (and let's not talk about rye).

Fuck it! It's not even necessary to leave Lagerland! There seems to be no one who would like to have a go at some old (non světlý ležák) recipes from a century ago. And don't come with "but they were brewed the same way as today". No, they weren't. Oh yeah, but extract flavoured abominations, nobody is afraid of that, are they? (Can anyone please remind me the name of the git that added food colouring to a beer flavoured with red wine extract?). Fuck all of them, really!

I woke up in a bad mood today. Instead of bitching so much I should be grateful to be living in this beer paradise, where I can say that Pilsner Urquell is an average pale lager while I complain about its ubiquity. See? I already feel better!

Na Zdraví!

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8 comments:

  1. Sad to Hear this. Beer Very Good at the Moment, Here. Friend out Drinking with Sat, Enjoyed a Good Rye Beer. My Most Enjoyed Beer, Robinsons, " Enigma ". 4-3 abv. Best Bitter. Challenger,Goldings, Hops. Witherspoons Have Comp,where you can Brew your Own. For their Next Fest. Some Prize.

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  2. Are we still considering Uneticky as a micro? Those guys are now supplying their stuff to many bars in town, and growing. Excellent beer, don´t get me wrong! But rather than the next Matuška they seem to be the next Bernard.
    Luckily some of the Prague micro do great stuff - Bašta, the two Richter places, Pivovarsky Dům and Strahov. Even though in the city centre the crap still lures...

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    1. Legally speaking, they are still a "minipivovar", as they are below the 10,000hl/year limit. But that's beside the point, the important thing is that their beers are good, very good.

      I agree with you about Richter, Dům and Strahov, Bašta, on the other hand, has always had some serious consistency problems (though I haven't been there for at least a couple of months).

      PS: Matuška also supplies a rather large number of pubs, the only thing that is stopping them from doing more or less the same as Únětický is capacity, because their ambitions are very similar.

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  3. I wonder how much of the problem comes down to the idea that "Czech lager is the best in the world, so why drink anything else"? Remember that guy at the first Slunce ve Skle (don't know about you but my notes started looking like Sumerian cuneiform) who was convinced that Pilsner Urquell was the greatest beer in the history of humanity?

    I remember the first time I went to Richter, it was such a revelation, I think I drank altbier all night! Then he did a phenomenal Belgian brown ale, and his classic lagers were well up to scratch.

    It is a shame that everyone seems to go crazy for the American hops thing, but after decades of ubiquitous pale lager, I guess it's understandable, hopefully though people will discover new things as they realise there is more choice in the beer world than between a desitka and dvanactka.

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    1. That guy is one of the last things I remember before you convinced me it'd be a great idea to have some of that pivní whatever...

      It's just a market thing, basically. It happens everywhere, someone is successful with something new, all the rest will follow that...

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    2. Hi, I really enjoy your page, and come back pretty often. It's great to read these pieces from someone who lives what he preaches. That being said, I'd like to ask you about the Trebonice pivovar. I checked out their website, and the draft list looks very impressive. They don't list their prices, though. Do you recall about how much their drafts are? Seems like a great spot to try new beers of a wide variety. I'm currently on bedrest from an accident. Otherwise, I'd just go on my own and find out. I'd appreciate any info. Hopefully in a few weeks I'll be well enough to make the trip.

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    3. I'm afraid I can't help you there, I love the beers from Třebonice, but I've never been to the pub itself, it opens too late and it's too far, but I don't think they'd be too expensive. At Zlý Časy, for example, they cost 45CZK/0.5l, I reckon they'll be much cheaper at their source.

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