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Showing posts from 2013

Last of the year

Look at that! This blog is 6 years old already. No! No! Wait! Don't go anywhere, please! This isn't one of those self congratulatory anniversary posts, a most onanistic aspect in an activity that, as a former (?) blogger from Asturias once genially put it, is already mostly onanism. No, it's none of that, it's worse. It's navel gazing at a level of tying to telekinetically remove the lint.

Most of you will have noticed that I haven't been posting all that much lately. In fact, this has been by far the least productive year in this blog. This is due to several reasons, first among them is that 2013 has been kind of crappy for me personally; there've been some good things, for sure, but the overall balance is negative. Not having enough time or money to go to places has also limited my output. All this, and other things explain why most of my post this year are rants. Rants are a good way to blow off steam and channel frustrations that aren't necessarily…

Thinking great

The other day, an article by The Guardian, Limited-edition beer: fool's gold? caused a bit of a stir. Alan commented on it, and so did others through several channels – some agreeing with the author, others not.*

You all know already what my position is. I like living in a world were producers of something as unessential as beer can charge any price they see fit for the things they produce; it's up to me, the consumer, to decide whether I will buy it or not, because at the end of the day, it's not about price, it's about value, and value is every bit as subjective as taste. If someone feels like paying through the nose for a limited-edition or hard-to-get beer, even if they can buy another of comparable quality, perhaps available all year round, sold for a fraction of the price, it's their choice as consumers and I've got nothing against it.

It does bother me a bit, however, to see the gimmicks some producers use to inflate prices without giving proportional …

Midweek musings

You might not remember it, but last year there was a rather unnecessary brouhaha in Spain when Damm, one of the country's biggest brewers, decided not to allow a couple of promotional events – sorry, craft beer tastings – to be held during the Festa Major de Gràcia. Back then, as expected, the craftophile tribe took sides with the victims, the businesses who, taking advantage of the Festa's popularity, had organised those tastings to enrich their coffers – sorry, the local beer culture – and accused the Catalonian macro of a number of things, when all they were guilty of, actually, was demanding that the organisers of the Festa abide to what had been agreed in the contract both parties had signed.

Fast forward to the end of 2013 and we find that very same kind of people who in a review, and the comments that followed it, harshly criticised the organisers of the I Feria de Cerveza de Navidad de Pozuelo for allowing the sale of Heineken at the bar where the event took place. A…

Monday Morning Musings

I've come across a quite fun article in Spanish penned by one Patricio Tapia, a wine writer from Chile. Like, unfortunately, many of his colleagues, Tapia seems to know as much about the world beer as I do about the early childhood of Immanuel Kant, and to care even less. To be fair, though, it is also possible that the ignorance he flaunts in the article is nothing but a pose, a satire to the stereotype to better drive his message. Either way, it's evident that this bloke is not familiar wit some of the people I know, nor he reads much of what I read, otherwise, he wouldn't be saying thinks like ”To write the most perfect and enthusiastic 'tasting notes' of a beer, for words are enough 'It is really cold!'. However, if we ignore the temperature bit, four or five words could be more than enough for a good tasting note of anything, so I believe this paragraph would be a better example of what I want to say.
”Does anyone care about how to properly serve beer?…

Remember Alan and Max's book?

“Shite weather!” He grunted as he walked in, passing a hand through his wet hair as if he expected to dry it that way.

He greeted the tapster and found an empty table near the bar. No need to order the beer. It had materialised with a “thump!” by the time he had taken off his coat and scarf. As he watched the half litre mug in front of him, he decided that no more shits would be given today about the weather, or anything else for that matter. As far as he was concerned, the whole world could go fuck itself in any way it saw fit, and to make a point of it, he downed almost one third of the glass in one long swig and put it down with an even louder “thump!”.

The first sip of the first beer of the day. That unadulterated pleasure devoid of the prevalent bollocks. That is what beer is truly about. That is the essence of beer. A blog post was beginning to write itself into his mind when he noticed a familiar face walking in cursing the weather. Just as he had.

“Hey, Alan!” said Max with a …

After the latest wave of attempts to define the undefinable

(...in which I took part, again, mea culpa)

Dear brewers, retailers, distributors, owners of drinking establishments, marketers, brand managers, CEO's, PR consultants, and anyone else directly or indirectly involved in the sale of beer, I've got a request for you, please:
As for us, we should stop playing their game. The only thing a beer needs to be is GOOD. All the rest* is different shades of bollocks, and bollocks never go further than the glass.

Na Zdraví!

PS: Credit should be given where credit is due, this was inspired by a post on the matter by Brazilian blog Bebendobem.

* This assumes, of course, that the company that makes the beer isn't a basket of cunts.

And Nøgne-Ø isn't Craft anymore

The news that Norwegian macro brewer Hansabought a majority stake in Nøgne-Ø has naturally created a lot of buzz in the beerosphere (beerosphere, why not?), very similar to what happened a few years go with Goose Island, among others.

What I found fascinating, though hardly surprising, was the reaction of not few people. Judging by some of the comments, it seems they feel betrayed because some sort of imaginary promise has been broken. Some people have gone as far as to accuse the owners of Nøgne-Ø of “selling out”; like teenagers or hipsters lamenting that the obscure indie band they love so much has decided to allow Nike to use one of their songs in a commercial, only that it's worse. You can philosophically accuse an artist of “selling out”, as art is not supposed to be about money, but a brewery? A brewery starts as a business, it was about money from the beginning!

People like differentiating between shareholders and the owners of microbreweries, saying that for the former…

And here we go again...

I've got nothing better to do today so...

If it hadn't been for Cooking Lager's comment in Ed's blog, I would have missed this. BrewDog has had another go at proposing the basis of a legal definition to the “Craft Beer” fairy tale. It's shorter than the previous one, and Blue-Moon-less, but it still packs quite a lot of nonsense.

Right at the beginning they say that:
There is also strong precedent for legally defining Craft Beer. Legal definitions are everywhere and are designed to protect a product’s reputation from poor imitations. ‘Bourbon’, ‘Whisky’ and ‘Champagne’ are 3 examples where they have protected premium drinks from cheaper imitations and helped both the consumer and the category in the process. Cheddar Cheese anyone?This is almost like trying to make a Chinese contortionist out of logic, really. “Bourbon” (never miss a chance to harangue the American masses), “Whisky” and “Champagne” are protected indications that speak about the product they regulate …

Monday comments

I came across two really fantastic beers the other day, Mate's from Pivovar U Bizona and Lví Srdce from Třebonice; the former a 12º polotmavý ležák, the latter a 11º pale ale, regular beers through and through, but with a twist. Mate's was brewed with yerba mate and Lví Srdce with juniper.

What set them apart from many other beers brewed with unconventional ingredients was that they still tasted like beer. If nobody told you, and you were not paying too much attention, chances are you wouldn't notice those ingredients. If you did pay attention, chances are you would only be able to notice an uncommon flavour that you would know belongs to the beer. That's exactly what happened to me with Mate's, which I had on tap at the Farmers Market in Dejvice. I bought it because it was a 12º polotmavé, just that; I loved it, and only when I was halfway down my second pint I learned about what it was made with.

I want to have more beers like this, really.

I would also like t…

Pečené koleno 2.0

A few years ago I posted a recipe for pork's knee that is still getting visits and comments from grateful readers. Since then, I've discovered the pleasure of slow cooking or, more precisely, slow roasting; you know, putting some meat in the oven a basically forget about it for the next few hours. I know I'm not saying anything new, but, for those of you who haven't tried it, it's a wonderful way of making food. So, instead of marinating, boiling and then roasting, what I did this time was only roasting, for about 8 hours. The word "heavenly" doesn't do justice to the result.

Anyway, this is what I did. With a mortar and pestle I crushed coarse sea salt, allspice, black and sichuan pepper, caraway seeds, thyme and a pinch of Hungarian paprika. I rubbed the 1.5 kg piece of pig with some of that mix, put it in a roasting pan. I showered it with about 0.3l of Pardubický Porter (I believe any full flavoured, dark, malt forward beer can work just fine), t…

Welcome ambition

“Passion”, “following a dream” are words you often hear associated with new brewing enterprises, but you hardly ever hear “ambition” mentioned. I wonder why. It might be because many an alternative brewer would like us to believe that they aren't “commercial”, that they don't make beer for money, but for flavour or other bollocks along those lines; as if wanting to get rich working was something to be frowned upon.

To me, however, ambition is, to some extent, much more important than passion. Someone ambitious is more likely to know what they are doing and what they are getting into, to have a plan, and to know what is necessary to do in order to succeed. In the local beer ecosystem, at least as far as Prague and its immediate surroundings is concerned, that would be making beer of good quality, having a good brand and knowing how to sell it, and I believe Zemský Akciový Pivovar meets that criteria quite well.

I first saw Zemské Pivo in one of the 48 taps at Zlý Časy. What ca…

Time to relax

It'd be unfair to say the day's been crap. It hasn't. It's been one of those average days that leaves a funny taste, almost like biting on a lemon pip while eating an otherwise forgettable salad.

Fortunately, it's coming to an end. Dinner's been eaten, and enjoyed by the family, and now it's time to slowly disconnect my brain while watching some telly. Or at least that's what I would do if there was anything I'd like to watch.

My wife has chosen one of those formulaic romantic films that I find so boring, but my wife likes watching until she falls asleep. I want to relax, not get bored. Getting bored in front of the telly has the opposite effect, more so when my mood is far from the ideal. So I choose to go upstairs to watch something, read something or listen to something on my PC

Listen to something, that's what I'll do! And I believe doing it in the company of a beer is a really neat idea.

What can I listen? Some early Tom Waits? No, …

Got anything to do on Nov. 2?

When we did the beer dinner at Céleste more than two years ago, the plan was to repeat the experience in the near future. Life got on the way, unfortunately, and it wasn't possible, until now.

There are a few changes this time. It will not be a weekday dinner, but a Saturday lunch; instead of one beer per course, three of them will be paired with two.

As last time, I was in charge of choosing a bunch of beers, though now it was a bit more challenging as I had to work around a menu that had been already defined. But it was still a lot of fun, especially the part where, together with the chef, we went through each of the courses in order to put together the pairings (once again, the biggest surprise was how well the smoked beer went with the fish!).

Beer (or any beverage) and food pairings are for me a culinary game whose only (loose) rule is that the beverage should not overwhelm the food; other than that, anything goes. Having the first three courses paired with two beers instead…

Friday Craft Musings

So the boys at BrewDog are making a serious attempt at a corporate takeover of “Craft Beer”, a public domain brand. According to this press release (sorry, companies don't write blogs) they want to put an official, industry definition:
... firstly to protect craft brewers and what we are building; secondly to guide consumers in this new and emerging category in the UK; thirdly to ensure that true craft brewers can charge a fair and sustainable price for their masterpieces; and fourthly to enable craft beers to grow as strongly in the UK as they have in America. And the definition they propose is the following:
A European Craft Brewery:
1) Is Small. Brews less than 500,000 HL annually. *see point 3 below 2) Is Authentic. a) brews all their beers at original gravity b) does not use rice, corn or any other adjuncts to lessen flavour and reduce costs  3) Is Honest. a) All ingredients are clearly listed on the label of all of their beers. b) The place where the beer is brewed is clearl…

The tale of the dodgy pint and the hidden gem

Going to new places, I love that. I love the excitement of walking through a door for the first time, always hoping to find the next great pub or café; or at least getting to know someone with an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, I don't have as much disposable time or income as I used to, and whatever I have I prefer to spend on the comfort of certainty rather than the adventure of the unknown. Work, however, sometimes takes me to uncharted territories, or rather, territories that haven't been charted for a long time, an opportunity I always embrace.

Last Wednesday I finished with a class near the park Klamovka, in Prague 5, and had more than 1 hour to kill before I had to go see a new client in Petřiny, great excuse to pay a visit to Zahradní Restaurace Klamovka.

It was one of those gorgeously sunny, early autumn days, but it was a bit too chilly to sit outside in the shade; a pity, as Klamovka has one of the nicest beer gardens in town. I would have to drink insid…

The death of the hospoda or the beginning of a golden age?

So, I was going to write something about alternative beers and capitalism (no joke), but Alan's wondering about the discounts Wal-Mart will have on craft beer got me thinking about something that was on several news outlets last week, Czechs are drinking more beer at home than at pubs.

Contrary to what the linked iDnes article says, this is nothing new, but a trend that started in 2010, when bottled beer outsold draft for the first time (that year, overall production of beer in the Czech Republic had dropped by 7.9%).

Although I still believe the impact of demographic changes, people and companies moving to the peripheries of large towns, which resulted in many being forced to commute by car, has been more significant than given credit for, it'd be silly to deny that the crisis, or in this country largely the perception thereof, has played a major role. But regardless of the reasons, people are indeed spending less at pubs and restaurants, and some may have even shifted a s…

Friday observations

I like it when I see criticism. I see it as something positive and necessary in the beer discourse, I'd even go as far as to say that it's key if we expect to get the respect we deserve as consumers. However, in order to serve that purpose, criticism, even more than praise, must be well argued and informed, and, above all, it must be fair and clear. And that's why I believe that the other day, Jardín del Lúpulo had a bit of a cock-up in their criticism of a beer festival they attended.

On the one hand, they mentioned a few shortcomings, a couple of which turned out to be not such. And on the other, they made what in my opinion is the grave error of putting everyone in the same sack when they said that at the festival they had found:
duff kegs that were not changed when pointed out, beers that were sold even though they needed another month of aging, beers that had not met the expectation of the producers themselves, infected beers, “experimental” beers... Later, the author…

A few cultural words

Stan Hieronymus, in his contribution to the latest Session, pondered on the meaning of Beer Culture. I had wondered about that myself about a year ago, when when discussing tastings.

I was going to write a long rant on the matter, but I realised I'd be repeating myself as I've discussed the topic before (more than once, actually), but there are still a couple of things that I think are worth mentioning (assuming there are any sort of things worth mentioning to begin with).

“Drinking socially” while sitting alone in front of a computer, smart phone or tablet, doing all the online routine of photo-social site-rating/review is to beer culture what cybersex is to shagging. I can be fun, I'm sure, but you still finish alone, washing yourself in the bathroom with no one to cuddle.

(On a side note, doing the cyberbeer routine while being with people, or taking tasting notes at a festival or a pub is even worse. That's like watching internet porn when the woman/man of your d…

A day with Heineken/Starobrno

I must confess that when they first called me I wasn't all that sure if I should accept Heineken's invitation to a press trip to Brno last Wednesday, partly because I was afraid I'd have to put up with more marketing and PR empty words than most people should be forced to put up with. But then I said, fuck it, they hadn't done any of that at either of the the other two PR events, why should it be any different this time ? (besides, and let's be honest, I fancied that enjoying some corporate largesse wouldn’t be too bad). I'm glad I accepted the invitation, not only because the marketinisms and PRisms were kept at acceptable and reasonable levels, but also, and mainly, because I had a great day, and a fairly educational one, too.

The day would be really packed, so we had to leave awfully early. I travelled with three other journalists and two people from the agency that handles Heineken's PR, who would be our guides.

We were offered beer and snacks shortly …