18 Jun 2012

Beer at the Castle


There weren't places to sit, the food was rather poor, you couldn't wash your hands after going to the loo, there were fountains to rinse the glasses, but not to rinse your palate between samples (something that was badly needed by the end), some of the promised "pivovary" were missing and not everyone at the taps was a "pro". What else is there to critisise? Nothing, really, "Festival minipivovarů na Pražském hradě" turned out to be what it promised it would be and the kind of event that Czech beer had long deserved.
The setting could have hardly been better for a day like last Friday. Right at the feet of Queen Ann's Summer Palace, with the spires of St. Vitus Cathedral hovering above the tents.

I arrived around 2:30 and there were already plenty of people. As expected, I found many friends and known faces, who sometimes made it hard to keep a conversation going. Every time I turned round to rinse my glass or to get another beer I ran into someone and a new chat started. To be honest, this is one of the things I love the most about beer festivals.
Each visitor got a tasting glass and a catalog to write notes, both very good (though the catalog could have been alphabetically ordered), with which they could go round the Czech microbrewing landscape in 75ml samples. There was a nice "generational mix" that started with names like Pivovarský Dům, U Medvídku or U Fleku, all the way to some of the ones that have appeared in the last year or two, together with some from the second or third generation (Koníček Vojkovice, Zvíkov, Lipan, Qásek Ostrava, etc.) and a sample of what the future might hold with Zhůřák y Nomád, who in some way (and with very good beers) are following the path opened by the likes of Kocour, Matuška and Třebonice (who unfortunately weren't present).
PF with Koníček Vojkovice

PF with Ivan Chramosíl BM at U Fleku

PF with Laďa Veselý BM at U Medvídku
I had decided before hand that I'd take advantage of the structure of this event (the 300CZK admission fee, besides the glass and the catalog, gave you the right to taste all the beers you wanted) to explore those new microbreweries/brewpubs that have been lately growing like mushrooms and that, other than by name, were unknown to me. How can I put it mildly? I was far from impressed, very far. Svatopecký Pivovar, Valašský Pivovar v Kozlovicích, Rohovský Minipivovar U Komárků and Ratiškovický Pivovar, among others, presented beers that were at best lacking in character. They confirmed what the local beer community is saying ever more loudly, that the Czech micro brewing boom is suffering growing pains. But there's no reason to start crying, new breweries like Slaný, Vimperk, Břevnov and U 3 Růží (both recently opened in Prague), besides Únětický came with some great stuff. The difference is that at these breweries, brewing is in charge of people with many years of experience who know very well what they are doing in a way that goes beyond the technical aspects. But well, perhaps this and other similar events can help and motivate those who aren't up to standards to get their shit together and improve their game.
Anyway, and regardless of the shortcomings mentioned at the start, I really liked this festival, I really liked the idea and the way it was realised, I really liked the place and the touch of elegance it gave to the national beverage of the Czech Republic, which many times doesn't get the respect it deserves. Let's hope this was just the first edition of many to come.
Na Zdraví!

Disclaimer: I went as a journalist, so I didn't pay the 300CZK admission fee.

5 comments:

  1. Max, it was great to meet you and speak with you at the festival. I have so enjoyed your writings and recommendations. I ordered your book when it first came out and have done my best to hit all of the pubs mentioned. As I said, I'm moving out of the Czech Repbulic, but will be following along with you online so as to be properly prepared when I next visit. Although the beer won't be as good as what you'll be drinking here, I'll continue to document my pivo adventures in South East Asia at A Pint With Gus: pgreensoup.com/apintwithgus
    Na Zdravi!

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    1. Nice talking to you too and all the best in Singapore!

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  2. I agree, it was a truly good festival - and very "dangerous"! There was that feeling of free beer distributed. The 300 czk paid at the entrance were quickly forgotten in front of the enormous choice available. There were not the scary queues seen the week before in Parukarka, it looked like a large party rather than a festival. Many of the people at the taps were generous enough to fill the entire glass (0.2L) instead of stopping at the 0.075L mark... Very very tired indeed on the day after but a truly worthy experience!

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    1. I can't even imagine what it could have been if samples had been bigger...

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    2. I think that being there on Sat until closing hour helped a lot to have extra amounts of beer from the generous tapmen...

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