31 Oct 2012

This week in the Prague Post

Bohemian Floor Malts are considered as some of the best in the world. I went to Benešov to see how they are made and to talk to the people that make them.

You can read about it here.

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26 Oct 2012

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 that in the B.L (before lager) age, wheat beers where very common in these lands (more so perhaps than barley beers?). Jan Šuráň has also told me more than once that, until modern malting methods had been adopted (mid 19th century?), malts were dried with direct heat, which would result in smoked beers (it wasn't until a recent visit to U Fleku's museum, that includes the old maltings, that I understood how this worked). On top of this, we should consider that, at least until the processes proposed by František Ondřej Poupě had become a staple, brewing was done in conditions that we might today describe as precarious (or "craft", according to others...), thermometers and densimeters were not used, the science behind fermentation was still unknown and hygiene standards were, likely, not something that was taken very much into account, which would indicate that beers with a sour profile weren't something out of the ordinary.

If I'm right and this rauchweizenbock did take my palate on a bit of a time trip, it's no wonder then that cold fermented beers were so successful, and would end up driving to extinction those beers that had been brewed for many centuries. Lagers were cheaper to make, more stable, lighter to the palate, with cleaner flavours and a much higher drinkability as a result (and you don't need to go to the past, I can drink more of a good unfiltered světlý ležák than I can of a good Hefe-Weizen). In a nutshell, people liked them more.

And this is not the only retrospective relevation that came out of this beer. But you'll have to wait a few more days for that.

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*This isn't one of those new pseudo-styles without any sense like Imperial Pilsner, it is an accurate technical description of the beer.

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22 Oct 2012

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 memento of their presence. Aside from that, though (and conflict of interest notwithstanding, hehe!), Gypsy Porter is a perfect beer for this season.
But the most important thing is that people like it, a lot. The first batch has sold out already (some bottles can be found at Pivní Rozmanitost and yesterday, Bar Na Palmě announced on on their Facebook page that they'd tapped a keg) and Hanz told me that Pivovar Kocour will be brewing another batch soon.
The best for me, however, was that Gypsy Porter was the catalyst of a perfect evening at the pub. Friends, wonderful atmosphere; even my wife and my daughter had a great time! Thanks Gazza, Hanz y the people at Pivovar Kocour for making this possible!

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19 Oct 2012

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 bloke's attitude, which didn't show an open mind and a spirit for adventure. However, and much to the chagrin of some, the truth is that consumers with an open mind and spirit for adventure are a minority. Most of the people are conformists, they don't want surprises and will always look for what they know and has been certified by experience, beer is no exception.

This guy has probably grown up drinking Gambrinus, he likes it, he enjoys the beer. Gambrinus is a constant, a certainty, in his life; if everything went pear shaped tomorrow, this geezer knows that his Gambáč will always be there, that it will not let him down, it'll be as good as ever. So, perhaps, this gentleman's reaction was the product of something deeper than the mistrust for something new and unknown. Maybe he was afraid, afraid that he would like Žižkovský Svrchňák more than Gambrinus, afraid that this one could be that epiphanic beer that makes you realise that the stuff you've been drinking all your life wasn't so good after all. And if all of a sudden Gambrinus isn't so good, so reliable, if it's not anymore certainty, a perhaps never was to begin with, what can be the other certainties in his life that are nothing but an emotional mirage?

Maybe I'm overanalising all this, and this bloke, beer tastes aside, was actually a twat after all.

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17 Oct 2012

This Week in the Prague Post

One of my readers had a terrible experience at U Krkouna, a Dalešice pub that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.

He left a comment that made me think about pub reviews in general, you can read my musings here

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15 Oct 2012

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.

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12 Oct 2012

¿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 lying.

Beer and food pairing isn't an exact science, but if we follow the most accepted convetions, there isn't a single beer in this world that can pair well with every sort of food, not even with desserts.

Sagra, instead of taking advantage of the almost unlimited space of a web page to tell us in more detail about ingredients, processes and the role the cook played in the development of the beer, chose to use the same empty bollocks as DAMM.

Another lost opportunity by another micro brewery, who still don't seem to understand what their target consumers really want to know about their products.

But not everything is negative. I doubt that Sagra has a marketing budget nearly as thick as DAMM, which will quite certainly save us from listening to Pepe Rodríguez say perhaps the same kid of bollocks his colleague Adrià has uttered.

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10 Oct 2012

This Week in the Prague Post

U Hrocha, the essence of beer minimalism, and what happened to me in my last visit to this pub among pubs are the best examples of why I don't and will never like chains like Pilsner Urquell Original Restaurant or Potrefená Husa.

You can read it here

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8 Oct 2012

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 from the words of individuals whose tastes I know, regardless of whether they are similar to mine or not, as long as their reviews are well written, I will be able to reach my own conclusions.

Alan speaks about beer in politics and points to the differences between the beer brewed by the cooks at the White House and the beer habits of Angela Merkel, who's always given me the impression that she can drink most world leaders under the table.

For those who know Czech, these thoughts on blind tastings are a must read. These kind of sensory exercise might be useful when it comes to compare similar beers, minimising  prejudice, but their results should not be taken a science because, as the author points out, there are many factors that can affect them, even if you don't know the name of what you are drinking.

Beer snobs give a lot to rant about, and rightfully so. Last month I came across two articles on the topic, the first one is short and very well written and the author makes a very strong point. The second one, on the other hand is long and boring and at times seems to have been written by the kind of "Alelitists" the first article rants against. And by the way, could we all cut it out with all this "war against (certain sort of) beer" kind of shit? Thanks!

The bollocks of the month is courtesy of the scientific community, who warn us that people drink faster from curved glasses. Fortunately, a few days later, this bloke showed up to explain, also in a scientific way, the gross shortcomings in the method employed in this superfluous study and saved me from writing a couple of expletives.

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5 Oct 2012

This week in the Prague Post


I celebrate the 170th birthday of Pilsner Urquell, the most significant beer in the world today.

You can read it here.

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1 Oct 2012

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 down the drain, but it's something that happens, even to true masters, specially when when we are speaking about small batches with equipment and processes that aren't all that refined or after increasing capacities, but in the long run, it is something that ends up paying really well.

I wish that Finn, or anyone, wouldn't have to take a similar measure, but I would also like to know when others do it, I want to know about more brewers who give priority to respecting the consumer rather than short term profits in order to show all those charlatans, thieves and fake artisans how things should be done.

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