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Noteless: Jaws Beer Tomahawk.lgr

I've got these two beers from my Russian friend Jegor (it's funny how we met, at the Svijany Pivní Slavnosti in 2007, where we exchanged a few words, and now we get together for a couple of pints whenever he comes to Prague). They are from Jaws, a micro-brewery from Ekaterimburg, the best in the area, according to him.

The other day, I opened the one on the right, Tomahawk, mainly because, other than the ABV % and, I assume, the Plato, there was no other information on the label—or rather, nothing I could understand, as it was all written in Russian—and I think drinking a beer you have hardly any information about can be a lot of fun.

Yeah, I know. I could have looked it up on the internet. But really, why bother? I didn't want to generate any unnecessary expectations, I had the beer in my hand already, it had been a present and I was going to drink it one way or another, so I thought it'd be better to do it unburdened by data.

I took a glass out of the cupboard, but …

3 Brief Reviews of 3 New Places

(Well, one of them isn't that new, actually)

I've been to three places that many people have been talking about. Last week I was at BeerGeek and Dno Pytle, a week earlier, to Vinohradský Pivovar

BeerGeek, a spin-off of what many consider to be the best Pivotéka in Prague, opened in mid October, I think, and became an instant hit among the local beer intelligentsia. In many ways, it's what Zubatý Pes was 3 years ago (and still is), only that BeerGeek has the advantage of arriving in a far more mature market, at a far better address and with much nicer premises. I liked the place a lot more than photos I had seen had made me think I would (even if I still think those LCDs for the beer list are objectively ugly), and I felt quite comfortable right away—the bar looks great, as does the window to the cool-box with kegs and bottles. I'm not sure whether 30 taps aren't a few too many for a place that is not particularly big, but all the beers I had* were in good condition…

Just a quick question

Let's see if any brewers out can give me an answer to this.

At equal capacity in hl, will the geometry of the brewing equipment affect the water and energy efficiency of the brew in any significant way?

This just popped into my mind for no particular reason. I'd say it will, but I'd like to be sure.

Thanks in advance.

Na Zdraví!

Here you have a bit of Sunday bollocks from Spain

A specialised store form Catalonia has been kind enough to explain to us the reason why craft beer isn't so cheap (in Spanish) with four, very simple arguments that will surely end the heated debate about prices. The following is the first of them (translation mine):
Limited production. This kind of beer can't be bought in another city or region, unless it is an on-line store, specialised in craft beer like Beer Delux. The range of craft microbreweries is no more than 100 km. It is a quality product that could be altered if exposed to inadequate temperatures. The production is limited and sells-out more easily. It is an exclusive product(emphasis in the original) and clients are aware that if they don't buy it at that moment, they might not be able to buy it until a year later.
Bugger me! And all this time I thought it was because of the economies of scale, the margins set by distributors, retailers, restaurants and bars, and the acceptance of a certain part of the market.…

I'll be fair with B:CRYO

The comment I posted this morning on my FB page about B:CRYO, the new product of Budějovický Budvar came out a bit negative, and perhaps not very fair.

B:CRYO is, basically, an Eisbock. According to the video you can see in the above linked website, it was created by an accident (where have I heard that one before?) that resulted in one of Budvar's regular beers being cryoconcentrated (I like that much better than “cold-distilled”, it's a lot more accurate) to 21% ABV (which makes it hard alcohol, legally speaking)

The product, which took two years to develop, will be of very limited availability—only at a few selected pubs—and is served in a rather strange fashion (you have to look at the video to understand it, and yes, that bottle is plastic).

As a consumer, this is not the kind of thing I can find interesting. Firstly because of the price—Pivní.info mentions 300-400CZK for 0.3l, which is a lot more than I'm willing to pay for, basically, a glass of booze at the moment…

It's just good business

In the years since Evan Rail's The Good Beer Guide—Prague & The Czech Republic was published, the number of microbreweries in this country has grown almost fivefold (Prague alone has 23 right now, from 6 in 2007, and there is at least one more planned).

Regardless of what some people believe, or expect us to believe, this has nothing to do with a revolution, let alone a movement, but with money. I said the other day
We have a microbrewing boom in the Czech Republic not because in the last few years almost 200 romantic, beer enthusiasts decided to realise their life-long dreams, but mostly because business people see microbreweries as a sensible investment—provided you have the space, having your own brewery up and running it's not too expensive... And I have the figures to prove it. I've spoken to some people who know that part of the industry really well, and what they told me it's quite interesting.

Not counting any construction works that you may have to do to a…

It was all a well crafted lie

By now you must've heard about the shitstorm raised by Dan Paquette. If you haven't yet, go here, here or here to get a good picture.

Of all the people who've so far commented on the issue (or at least, of the ones I follow), I think it is Zak Avery the one who's seen it most clearly when speaks about the “sexy” and the “dull” bits of the beer business, and how the latter has been largely ignored.

All this often unconditional praise for a branch of the brewing industry, which in some cases reaches almost religious fervour, seems to have many people believe that setting up their own micro-breweries is only a few bits short of guaranteed success. It is not much more than a matter of slapping those two words on the label, having the right attitude, speaking—perhaps preaching—about your passion, and your awesome masterpieces will sell by themselves. Everybody loves craft beer, right? It's so huge that the evil, monolithic, multinational macro breweries are afraid of…

Coming soon: Česká Pivní Válka

Below is the the trailer of an upcoming documentary co-produced by Evolution Films, Česká Televize, and FAMU called Česká pivní válka (Czech Beer Wars).

It follows three people: Pepa Krýsl, a very well figure of the Czech beer world, a Brew Masater and someone who makes a living out of, basically, selling breweries; Martin Jarošek, a composer so angry at Plzeňský Prazdroj that he goes all the way to South Africa to, well I don't know what for, really; and Ladislav Bureš a home-brewer (or should I say a farmhouse brewer?) from Moravia.

I'm fully aware that criticising a film it's an pointless intellectual endeavour, and an unfair one at that. But the internet has been built on unfairness and pointless intellectual endeavour (and porn), so here you go.

From the trailer and the film's blurb (in CZ), I get the impression that there's something loudly absent in this story, the regional breweries.

We have a microbrewing boom in the Czech Republic not because in the las…

On beer and the flies that love it

This article on fruit flies and beer is really worth a read—in a nutshell, according to the research referred to in the article, the reason why those little flying bastards are so attracted to your pint is symbiosis; and it's a relationship that goes way, way back— and arrives right when Ron Pattinson has been posting a very interesting series on the history of Lambic.

It's a shame, however, that the author, Annie Sneed, isn't someone more knowledgeable about beer, or at least, with a broader view on the topic. If she was, I doubt that after speaking about a research carried out by the University of Leuven and the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology in Belgium, she would've said that ”there’s a new trend among beer-makers called ‘wild fermentation’”. And she might have also been prompted to the ask those questions that are screaming to be asked, especially after learning that:
Because yeast can’t move around on their own, (…) they probably developed this strategy as a…

Kostelec, Kounice, Community, Tradition

The gentleman in the picture is Kárel Klusáček, owner of the Maltings and Microbrewery in Kounice. Far from an absentee owner, he looks after pretty much every aspect of the running of the company, and he's 83 years old.
I had the pleasure, and honour to meet him last Wednesday during a trip I had put together for a good friend of mine and two of his mates.

The trip started with lunch at Černokostelecký Pivovar, or rather, at Háje, where we took the 10AM bus there.

A few days before, I had talked to Milan Starec, a.k.a. Květák, to let him know we were going, and to ask him if they could help me with the visit to Kounice. It was no problem, he said, they could arrange everything, even a taxi, or something like that, to that town.

I called him when we arrived. He said that Vodoch, the owner, would meet me at the pub after lunch, and he would take care of everything.

Food was good, very good. Beers were even better, a 10° from Frýdlant and Černá Svině, the 13º black lager, brewe…

Local vs Good vs Outstanding

A couple of days ago, Stan whether Quality trumps Local.

To me, the answer is very easy, a big YES. I've said it many times, I believe it is important that we support local businesses, but, as I've put in my comment there: as far as I’m concerned, everything is subordinated to quality, or rather, my perception thereof; and that includes local. If a local brewery doesn’t make a beer I will want to drink, I will not buy it, I will not support that business. Why should I? Fortunately, that’s not the case where I live, and I’m happy to support my “local” brewery, which makes great beer, with business and more.

But the thing that caught my attention the most in that post is a quote from an article by one Greg Engert, that says:
Now, the desire to drink local brews has reached a fever pitch, often blinding publicans and craft beer drinkers alike from what should ultimately guide our choices: Is the beer of the highest quality? Is it bereft of off-flavors? Is it delicious? In short,…

The Answer

You are at a pub (or a beer bar, or whatever, you know what I mean). You're not alone, you're with a bunch of people. You aren't there for a tasting or any other beer-focused thing, you're there simply to hang out with those people, and that place was chosen because everybody liked it enough, or whatever.

You order a beer, it's not the first of the day, maybe not even the first of that session; and it's a beer you've drunk already several times, though you don't drink it too often. There's nothing in that beer that makes you look forward to it any more than you look forward to any other good beer you know. You ordered it for the sole reason that at that where and when you fancied drinking something like that.

You get the beer, you thank the person that brought it to you with a nod, and you carry on with the conversation your were having, or listening to the story one of your friends was telling, whatever. The glass of beer you've just got is j…

Musings on the bus back home

Last weekend I was hired for the daunting task of taking a group of 22 Swedes out for beer. Nice gig, can't complain.

We went first to Pivovar U Tří Řůží, where I had arranged a tasting of all the six beers they had on tap that day. It worked out pretty well. I introduced each of the beers (which were all really, really good), answered the questions some of the people in the group asked about them, and about brewing in general, while the rest mostly talked about what they were tasting. Everyone was satisfied.

With the tasting behind us, we took the tram to Klášterní Pivovar Strahov, where we were to have dinner. We had two, long tables with benches (I love long tables with benches, they should be mandatory at every pub) in a room we would have to share with two other groups, bigger than ours—one of people in their fifties, the other, of students.

Fortunately, we were the first to arrive, and we could order the food and the first round before the other two groups showed up. (thou…

A Casual Lunch

The other day, some business that I had to take care of took me to Braník, more precisely, near the place where Zemský Pivovar will have their brewery (and a fuckton of work ahead of them). I think it was the first time ever I was around that neighbourhood, and once I finished with what I had to do, and with time in my hands, I decided I'd do what I always do in such situations, wander about.

It was a very fine day for walking, even walking uphill, and that part of Braník turned out to be a pretty nice and very quiet residential neighbourhood, though one lacking in pubs (I only walked past one that didn't look too inviting).

Feeling increasingly thirsty, I followed my feet downhill to end up in Podolí, in front of a place called Pivovarská Restaurace Dvorce (my feet are the best guides I need). The name sounded familiar, and after standing there for a full minute, I remembered I had seen it mentioned a couple of times in Pivni.info. The pub taps beers from both of Richter…

A recipe to celebrate the arrival of Autumn

A couple of weeks ago, as we drove to the Farmers' Market in Dejvice, I asked my daughter what she wanted for dinner. Duck, she said (ain't that the best daughter in the world?). For some reason I've now forgotten, roasting a whole bird was out of the question that day. Fortunately, one of the stands was selling duck breasts that day and I bought three. While I sipped a beer at the market, after finishing with the shopping, I though about how I would cook them.

This is what I came up with. You'll need:
Duck breasts (obviously), deboned250-300ml of good Pale Lager (any pale would work, I think, even an IPA!)2-3 (depending on thickness) Tbsp red currant jam, or whateverberry jam1 medium sized carrot, peeled and diced1 medium sized onion, coarsely choppedSage, savoury, marjoram1 tsp cinnamonsalt, pepper Put a deep pan to heat until it reaches a temperature of are-you-mad-you-want-to-burn-down-the-house degrees, and put the already seasoned breasts skin-side down. Let the…

This is perhaps my last word in "Craft Beer"

A couple of weeks ago Alan and I got an e-mail from Stan saying that, in a moment of weakness, he'd agreed to write a piece about the phrase "craft beer" asking us if we believed that the phrase, or the concept created an "us vs them" mentaility.

The following is what I wrote back to Stan a couple of days later (with some minor editing), which are, I believe, my final thoughts on this whole craft beer bollocks:

First of all, I don't see “craft beer” as a concept, but as a brand, one that's basically in the public domain. As any other brand, it has a series of—more or less fanciful—positive attributes associated to it, which have made it a very successful and valuable brand, with a pretty loyal consumer base—people who, in many cases, don't drink Russian River, Stone or New Belgium, they drink Craft Beer. So far, so good. I've got nothing against that, quite the contrary. If using those two words can help a good brewer sell a few more hl, then i…

A short comment on Vykulení

What can I say that I didn't already say in May? Because as I did say last week, Vykulení is basically the same as Vysomlení, but bigger, which means that it is a bloody great beer event, even if not as minimalist. The beers were really, really good—at least the ones that I bothered paying attention to. I know some people weren't big fans of the Smoked Porter, I loved it, and kudos to Jarín for sticking to his guns and making the beer he wants to make, the way he wants to make it, and doing it well, which is more than you can say about too many new breweries these days. Not in the case of last Saturday at Černokostelecký Pivovar, fortunately. Once again, the beers were really, really good—at least the ones that I bothered paying attention to, but even among those that I didn't pay attention to, I didn't find anything I disliked. Not that I drunk everything, mind you. The single malt beers, those were good. Nice, simple exercise. Three of them, one with Pilsner malts f…

See you this Saturday at Vykulení

I'm really looking forward to this Saturday! I'll be going to Vykulení at Černokostelecký Pivovar.
Vykulení is quite similar to Vysmolení, but bigger, with more beers and breweries, including some imported ones (you can see the whole list here) and with a focus on floor malts. Like at the sibling festival in May, there will be beers drawn from the wood in different ways, but also a few single malt beers brewed by the in-house Černokostelecký minipivovar Šnajdr.

It all looks quite interesting, but, more importantly, I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun!

See you there.

Na Zdraví!

PS: As in the previous occasions, I've been invited to spend the night in Kostelec. What a beauty it is to not have to worry about getting back home after a whole day on the piss!

The Straw Challenge

I don't quite subscribe to the theory (for lack of a better word) of the “right glass” for this or that style of beer. Firstly because sensory experiences can not be objectively evaluated or quantified (EDIT: outside of a controlled environment), and secondly because there are many other factors that contribute to the experience of drinking beer that the theory hardly ever takes into account. But I don't want to argue about it. I believe we will all agree that beer is best enjoyed when drunk from a glass (well, I prefer an earthenware mug, but let's not argue about that, either).

However, if you still have friends among the normal people—you know, people who don't give more than a fuck and a half about beer because, it's just beer—sooner or later you will face a situation where glasses (let alone the “right one”) won't be available. At best, there will be some plastic cups, but quite often not even that; and your only alternative will be to drink from the bott…

A day out with a mate

I had been planning it for awhile, the first non-work related beer day trip since who knows when. I had studied train schedules and connections, including different alternatives for the return leg, opening times, addresses, maps. It didn't even bother me that, because I didn't want to get back home too late to make dinner, I was forced to downsize the trip from three to two breweries. I was still excited. I'd even found a friend to come with me, making the thing even more fun.

We had arranged to meet Tuesday last week at Hlavní Nádraží at 10. Our train to Zadní Třebaň was leaving 10:20, and the trip would take a bit over half and hour.

It was an uneventful ride on one of those City Elephant trains (they are really cool!) that we mostly spent catching up—I hadn't seen my mate for more than a year. We arrived in Zadní Třebaň on time, but when we got off the train I realised I was a bit disoriented. I wasn't sure where Pivovar Bobr and Hostinec U Mlýna—where the br…

Weekend musings

It wasn't that long ago when I was still excited when knowing a new microbrewery would open or had opened and I would really look forward to drinking their stuff. But then the whole thing exploded with a couple of new breweries every week or so, and everyone and their aunt wanted to have a go at what by all accounts was fairly solid business.

Inevitably, and regardless of whether many of those everyone and their aunts got into the business to get rich quick, launder money, or were idealists with little real brewing or business skills, the overall quality “micro” beers ended up suffering to the point that buying something from a new brewery, without references, went from being a celebration of diversity to a gamble with rather poor odds.

Radniční Pivovar Jihlava was one of the breweries that opened my eyes to that reality. I remember having some of their beers not long after they opened and by the most part they ranged from the mediocre to downright crap, and I ended up avoiding…

Just a beery moment

It's early afternoon, or late lunchtime, if you want, at U Slovanské Lípy (I still miss the old, beer minimalist boozer, but Vodouch and co. have done a great job with the place—I love coming here, and I wish I could come more often than I do). I've just finished my food (it was very good) and I look at the tapster for the first time—I didn't see him when I walked in—he looks familiar.

It takes me only a couple of minutes sips to remember. It's the bloke that worked at Pivovar U Medvídků, also as tapster, six years ago, or so. We became kind of friends. We shared tastes in music, and whenever I dropped by there and he was on duty, if the place was quiet, we would sit down and chat about this and that. There were a few times that I ended up quite pissed after those visits—Laďa, the Brew Master, would give me beer, while Laďa, the tapster, gave me shots of slivovice home-made by someone from his family in the East of the country.

He vanished at some point, and I never…

Lovely beer day with the family

Last Saturday I took the family (or rather, the missus, because she didn't want to take the bus, drove us) to Únětický Posvícení at the local brewery (where else?).

We arrived shortly before two and, even though the weather didn't look too promising, there were already a lot of people—both the patio and the restaurant were full, the only place with still plenty of free seats was the old stables, which have been recently turned into a taproom and where the main part of the event would be taking place.

After procuring ourselves with grub and booze, I talked a bit with Štěpán and Lucie Tkadlec, the couple who are running the brewery. They told me a bit more about the renovations on the main building, which include changing the roof and, more interesting still, giving the building its original looks back, which, if this picture is anything to go by, will look great. I also talked a bit with the Brew Master, Vladimír Černohorský, always a great pleasure.

By the time a barrel to…

Ladies and Gentlemen. Rejoice!

I've started writing the second edition of The Pisshead's Pub Guide. I've still got no clue when I finish it—it'll depend on my workload, the one that pays the bills, and some developments in the local beer scene (more on that later). But I'm quite excited, and so should you.

Not much will change, really. There will be a few new crawls—three or four, maybe more—and it will have a index at the end, sorted by brewery. With so many good and interesting places to choose from, the selection criteria will be a bit stricter, and I've also decided that the crawls will not be longer than 5 pubs (though, as you can imagine, that might change).

The one thing that has me worrying, though, is the news I've seen these days. According to Pivovary.info, there are six brewpubs that should be opening before the end of the year-beginning of the next. That in itself isn't a problem, far from it, but knowing how things go here, many of those dates are, at best, wishful t…

It happened on a Friday afternoon

The previous three months were insane work-wise. I'm not complaining (well, not much). As a free-lance translator, it is almost mandatory to take as many jobs as you possibly can because you never know what the next month will be like—especially now in summer—but this time it had got to a this-is-a-bit-too-much point, and one part of me was glad to see there would be a (hopefully not too long) break, at least as far as big translations is concerned.

That break started a couple of Fridays ago, when I finished and e-mailed the last couple of jobs I had. I was looking forward to to the first weekend without any work in more than two months, but I was also very, very tired, mentally tired. I was worn out and I thought I beer would do me well.

It was too hot to be outside, and the idea of walking to the pub in that temperature looked as attractive as a visit to the dentist. I grabbed a bottle from the fridge, carefully poured it in my earthenware mug, put some music on and my feet on…

A conclusion after a quick visit to MMX

Pivovar MMX is one of those many brewpubs that've opened in the last few years that I never felt I needed to visit. I can't really put a finger on why; the place is fairly easy to reach from Prague—Dobřichovice has an excellent train connection, and the place itself isn't too far from the train station— and I don't remember any particularly good or bad reviews about it, in fact, I don't remember drinking any of their beers (which makes me wonder whether it isn't one of these).

Family matters took us yesterday to Dobřichovice and when were discussing where to go for lunch, I suggested MMX, to which everyone agreed.

A short and pleasant walk along the river later, we arrived to this fairly large complex that includes a hotel. The brewhouse is in a fish-tank-like room separated from the restaurant by the hotel's reception. The restaurant is very spacious and luminous, with a minimalist decoration that gives it almost the feel of an office building canteen—t…

Comfortably bland

Today I was in one of those rare good moods where I fancied trying something I don't remember hearing anything about, a světlá 11° from Pivovar Sedlčanský Krčín, and the best way I can describe it is, paraphrasing Pink Floyd,
Hello,
Is there any flavour in there?
Just nod if you can hear me,
are there any malt or hops?
The pint was very well tapped, and there was nothing in the beer that could be considered really bad, or really good. It was halfway between everything, almost like political correctness in a pint; a non-denominational beer.

It had me wondering whether that isn't intended; as if the brewer believed that people are bound to repeat what they have forgotten.

And then I realised that there must be more than a few other, equally bland and joyless beers whose names I have forgotten.

Na Zdraví!

On Rich and Successful People Wanting Free Money

You must've read already about Stone'scrowdfunding campaign to raise cash to help them (or not?) with their expansion plans in the East Coast of the US and in Europe, and their response to the negative feedback they received, which reminded me of a high-profile professional athlete being forced by his PR to apologise for something stupid he said.

I won't comment too much on the almost arrogant, rich cunt, holier-than-thou style of the press releases and the video (and the “we are going to save German beer culture” bollocks I've seen everywhere on the internet) because I understand that it's part of Stone's marketing discourse. And because it is not what really bothers me about this

Reading the press release again (and suffering the video) I don't think Stone are being honest here.

In the best case scenario, they are (ab)using the crowd funding platform for marketing (and attention whoring) purposes. They aren't the first, and certainly not the last to …

Some Musings and a Short Book Review

I liked this post by Boak and Bailey on their state of their relationship with beer, and Alan's own take on the topic, mainly because I agree with pretty much everything they say, even when translating it to my own beer ecosystem.

Like them, I've come to prefer well known, reliable beers and breweries over the uncertainty of the new. And when it comes to new breweries (and to some extent, new products from breweries I know), I rarely buy stuff I have no (good) references of. I can understand why so many people give preference to new beers, it can be fun, it was for me at some point, but not any more. I want to get the most value out of my money and “will be good”, or at least “should be good”, gives me better value than “might be good”.

This brings me to price. I've all but given up on expensive beers. My limit for a (large) bottle is 8-10€, and only on very exceptional occasions and with beers I've already drunk. Really, when I can get something as good as Schneider…