Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2016

Prague Beer Week Grand Finále - a Review

The first Prague Beer Week was held between 3 and 9 October through a series of events around town with beer (or craft pivo, as they said in their press release, sigh!) as their only, rather flimsy, connection. It culminated at the weekend with the Grand Finále, a tasting festival at Kulturní Sportovna in Smíchov; the only event I attended, on Friday.

(Disclaimer: I had a press pass, which meant that I didn't have to pay the 100 CZK admission fee, was given 5 tokens and the glass without paying the deposit. To be honest, I wouldn't have gone otherwise. I'm not keen on tastings—I much prefer drinking—and, mainly, because I'm against paying a admission fee so I can get into a place to buy beer.)

Kulturní Sportovna is a repurposed old warehouse next to the Na Knížecí bus station that doesn't seem to have been refurbished much beyond what was needed to make it functional. It was the perfect venue for an event of this kind: welcoming, rustic, unpretentious and with a bit…

A Beer Run to Uhřiněves

A couple of days after the beer run in Slaný I decided the weather was nice enough to go have a look at Pivovar Uhřiněves, or rather, Pivovarská, the brewery's restaurant.

Getting there was a piece of cake, a 20 minute ride on a City Elephant train from Hlavní Nádraží that didn't cost me anything extra, as the line is part of Prague's public transport system. From the Uhřiněves station is only a relatively short, though not very pleasant walk, to brewery. (Though it was a bit longer for me. I turned left on Prátelství, the town's main thoroughfare, when I should've turned right—I had last looked at the map two days before, and my memory failed me. And it could've been more pleasant and a bit shorter, if I had noticed the alley just a few meters to the right of the station, that I hadn't noticed on the map, actually).

Based on what little I could find about it, the history of Pivovar Uhřiněves is very similar to Unětický Pivovar's: originally opened in…

A Beer Run in Slaný

I was going to go alone, but the day before, a Monday, I got a surprise text message from an old friend I hadn't seen for awhile. I told him my plan and he said he'd loved to join.

We met at the agreed time at the Veleslavín metro station, right when the bus was pulling over. After an uneventful but comfortable half-hour ride, we got off that the Slaný bus station. A short walk took us to Továrna Slaný, a new minipivovar that had opened in February in a repurposed industrial building—hence the name—where Jakub Veselý, of Pivo Falkon fame, is acting as head brewer.

For some reason, I expected the pub to look different. Perhaps an open space, with higher ceilings and the bar either all the way to the back, or right by the entrance. Instead, it is spread in spread in several rooms, making it bigger than it looks at first, with a very small taproom to the left of the door; all in dark wood, including the furniture. It's a bit too generic for me, and—like the the font of the…

Five Years of Únětický Pivovar

It's an early Friday evening in mid-August and, in spite of the iffy weather, I'm sitting in the courtyard of Únětický Pivovar, waiting in the company of a Desítka for the owners, Lucie and Štěpán Tkadlec.

They arrive a few minutes later, riding their scooters, just when my půl litr is dangerously close to being empty. I'm here to interview them on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the brewery's resurrection (which was celebrated in May).

My hopes to have a serious Q&A session with them start looking more uncertain than the weather when Lucka insist we drink something stiffer than beer. But I don't know what I was expecting; I'm sharing a table with friends who happen to run a brewery, and who also like having a tipple every bit as much as I do, if not more.

After the three beers and the three glasses of Single Malt Scotch arrive, and after the “Na Zdraví!”, I somehow manage to get the interview started with some background questions.

They both b…

Shouldn't We Ban Booze First?

The other day, the people of Cerveza Artesana called their followers, both in Facebook y de su their web page to sign a petition to, basically, have the European Union ban glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, IIRC.

The argument is that it is a carcinogenic substance, according to its categorisation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer – IARC, who include it in Category 2A – Probable Carcinogens, together with red meats, drinking maté at more than 65°C and being a hairdresser, among other things.

What's funny is that that same list includes in Category 1 – Known Carcinogens, together with smoking, carpentry, plutonium and exhaust from diesel engines the product that Cerveza Artesana actively promotes from their very name: alcoholic beverages.

It is not my intention to accuse these people of being hypocrites, I don't think they are, but they are ignorants. They have basically copypasted the same old arguments of the fear mongers, without questi…

On Abstinence, Ritual and Apathy

I felt I'd been drinking a bit too much in the previous weeks—more than what I usually drink, which might be already too much. I was thinking of taking a few days, perhaps a week, off the booze after Vysmolení (where, by the way, I had great time! Thanks everyone at Černoskotelecký Pivovár for letting me crash at the brewery, like every year—and this one in particular, for carrying me to bed). The Jurassic hangover I woke up with the next day made the decision very easy.

To be honest, I don't know what I was expecting of this attempt, but it wasn't hard; at all. Yes, there were times when I fancied a beer, especially while preparing dinner, but they were fleeting moments; as if I suddenly realised that something was missing from the alchemical ritual of transmuting produce and other ingredients into something greater than the sum of their parts, only to see that it's not that important; its absence wouldn't affect the outcome.

By the third day, I think, what I w…

A Reminder for Next Saturday, 21/5

This Staruday, 21/5, Černokostelecký Pivovár is hosting the 5th edition of Vysmolení, one of the two local beer festivals I can be bothered with going (the other being its sibling event, Vykulení, in Septermber). It just has pretty much everything I believe a good beer festival should:
Free entry—paying an admission fee to buy beer? Fuck that!A fairly limited but well chosen range of beers, several drawn from wooden barrels.All the beers are available in proper, half litre portions—to drink in earnest.Plastic cups for those who can't be arsed with the inconvenience of a glass, while those who don't mind it, can either buy a glass on site or bring their own (provided is marked).It's not too crowded and the venue is great, and outdoors.The music doesn't start until later in the afternoon, by which time you are probably quite pissed and don't mind it.
In addition, you get to see master coopers practising their craft and visit the brewery proper, which is in the last s…

Pilsner Urquell is Looking for a New Owner

I can't have been the only one who last year exclaimed “Well, fuck!” upon learning that the same people who fucked Staropramen—and other brands in several countries—were going to own Czech Republic's flagship beer.

Fear no more!

As, I reckon, most of you must are already aware, in order to placate those pesky EU anti-trust regulators, ABIB has undertaken to divest a bunch assets in Eastern Europe, among which is Plzeňský Prazdroj—apparently, getting rid of Grolsch, Peroni and Meantime was not enough.

What I find most interesting is that this is basically the same thing ABIB did back in late 2009, when they sold to an investment fund a bunch of breweries in Eastern Europe that included Staropramen—which happened about a year after the merger with AB and, if I recall correctly, at about the same time that rumours about their interest in SAB-Miller were beginning to go around. That can't be a coincidence.

This shouldn't surprise to anyone, really. The ageing Central and…

A Couple of Beers at Easter

We spent part of the last Easter Holidays in Strakonice, with my wife's relatives. On Sunday we headed to Sušice, a town about 30 km away. The weather was gorgeous and the ride was very enjoyable, as expected in the secondary roads of South Bohemia.

Sušice is a pretty cute town, with with a well-preserved historical centre and a lovely park next to it, on an island on the the river Otava. Unfortunately, it was still too early in the season for the beer garden to be open, otherwise it would've been perfect (it's a proper beer garden, mind you, under large trees and not a bunch of tables on a parking lot).

After walking around and let the dog run unleashed for a bit, we headed to the centre to get some food. We picked a random restaurant in the square, Restaurace Gloria. Quite unremarkable, it was, set in a vaulted cellar. It looked like a place that once may have had ambitions, which were never quite materialised. The food was just OK, and they had Svijany on tap.

Back wh…

Back to the roots reviews: Pivovar Narodní & Pivovar U Dobřenských

As a personal policy, and unless I'm given a good reason to do otherwise, I wait at six months before I decide to give a new brewery my money. My days as a novelty chaser and ticker gone, and I want to have some degree of certainty when I buy a beer; there's plenty of very good stuff on the market to waste time financing crap.

That time has passed (a month or two ago, actually) and, not having any reason to do otherwise, I decided to finally pay visit to Pivovar Narodní and Pivovar U Dobřenských; both, brewpubs making beer happen in Prague's Old Town since last summer.

Pivovar Narodní actually opened its doors in spring, basically next door to the National Theatre, but it would take them another couple of months to fire up the mash tun. They weren't particularly open about that fact, and the beers they sold were from Kácov; whether it was something contract-made or relabelled is not clear. The brewing gear, by the way, is originally from the now closed brewpub in Průho…

The Tram Beer Challenge (5): Nákladové nádraží Žižkov - Perunova - I.P. Pavlova

Well, fuck!

I knew fate would eventually bring me to a stop I've been before. I was only hoping it wouldn't be so soon; and to Perunova of all places! (and I'm still burping U Kozla's cellar)

The problem here, and one I didn't take into account my first time around, is that the tram stops are very close together, even the ones in Vinohradská, which restraints me even more (in fact, I cocked up when I went to Restaurace Orion, but it's too late to bother about that now).

The nearest place is a rock bar that only sells Pilsner Urquell in 0.4l measures. I'd rather drink a full portion of Staropramen, which is what I will have to do, I reckon, at U Michála.

It looks like the kind of pub I would probably avoid even if it was the only one in town. Not only because of the brand they sell, it's simply unattractive an uninviting. It's quite small, with a Spartan decoration; almost as if they'd just moved and they were still waiting for some boxes to be…

Pivní Quinceañera

Černokostelecký Pivovár is inviting everyone to their 15th anniversary party next Saturday 19/3, and, if you are around, you shouldn't miss it. Seriously.
What these people have done is nothing short of amazing. 15 years ago they took over the ruins of a brewery that had been shut down by the Communists in the 1980s, and they've been carefully, slowly and painstakingly restoring it ever since.

Unlike most of the other “phoenix breweries”, Černokostelecký Pivovár is one of the few where the brewhouse wasn't scrapped after it was shut down. And the best about it? It could be said it's the heart of the restoration works and it should soon (this year, maybe, Vodouch?) come back to life. Now, bear in mind that this is not your puny, automated, computerised gear that you can see at pretty much every microbrewery. No, this is a 160 hl wood or coal fired bugger with two 80 hl coolships under the roof, and they will use it all for making beer. Even cynic cunt like me must ackno…

A Postscript

Fuck me sideways! How could I have forgotten about it when I wrote yesterday's post! It only hit my mind like a bitch slap from a primary school bully in the evening, when I was making dinner, and it's the best evidence to support my argument that in the Czech beer discourse, minipivovar = Craft Beer.

Do you remember last year's Gambrinus marketing stunt? With the fake Pivovar Patron, what Gambrinus wanted to prove (or at least so they claim) was that, stripped of prejudice, their beers were every bit as good as those from minipivovary.

I reviewed media coverage of the campaign and I wasn't able to find a single mention of řemeslné pivo(var), not even in blogs and fora; minipivovar, in contrast, appears in every article and post. I also watched the official video of the “big reveal” where actorsrandom consumers say that Patron tastes like something from a malý pivovar.

This is clear proof that, even for marketing illusionists, mini/maly pivovar means a lot more than…

The redundancy of "Řemeselné pivo(var)"

As someone who makes a living out of languages and loves to have fun with them, I facepalmed when I read the press release of Česká a Moravská Pivní Koruna. Not because of who was awarded (disclaimer: in January, the organisers asked me to nominate 10 minipivovaru, which I did, and then invited me to be part of the jury that would choose the winners, which I wasn't, so I don't know what criteria was applied; in any case it's irrelevant), but because of what they were awarded for: being the best Craft Pivovary in the country.

Craft Pivovar? What the lagering fuck is that?

I'd heard it mentioned in certain beer circles and I always dismissed it as “bollocks people say”. This is the first time, however, that I've seen it printed in an “official fashion”, but it doesn't make it any less stupid; quite the contrary, in fact. It is also further proof of how silly and redundant the ”řemeselné pivovar” denomination is, and has always been.

Last week, when I commented th…

The Tram Beer Challenge (4): Strossmayerovo nám - Lipánska - Nákladové nádraží Žižkov

When I left U Divadla I was hoping fate will put me on the 17 to Trója, a part of town I've never explored, but I'm on the 26 instead, on my way to Lipánska. At least I know where I'll have my next beer: Lavička.

Though I've always liked the looks of this place from the outside, I've never walked in. Didn't even consider it for the 2nd Edition of the Pisshead's Pub Guide. Can't tell you why.

Inside looks pretty much like I was expecting it to look. It's a restaurant through-and-through, not a pub. It's clear by the decoration, and because the bar is almost hidden behind a fireplace; it's got nowhere to sit and the counter is quite cluttered, and if they didn't expect (or want?) people to perch there. In short words, a fine place to bring your spouse or long term partner, but not so much for a few beers with your mates.

Some of the lunch-time crowd are still in, and everyone is very lethargic, with the exception of the two mamínky and t…

The Tram Beer Challenge (3): Chotkový Sady - Hlavní Nádraží - Strossmayerovo nám.

I don't know why I bothered putting my jacket on, I must take it off before I get to the Chotkový sady tram stop; it's amazing how much the weather has changed!

A tram has just arrived at the stop. I could catch it. I start walking a bit faster, I even stretch my arm hoping the driver will see me and wait a little longer. He doesn't. The doors close almost in my face and the tram leaves. I'll have to wait for another one. Oh! Look. Here it is, even before I finish writing this sentence.

It's the 5 and my next destination is Hlavní Nádraží. The station is, of course, where I will have my next pint.

I walk past Potrefená Husa without even slowing my pace. For a—brief—moment I think of going upstairs, to Fantová Kávarna, which reopened last summer after several years and extensive renovations. Instead, I walk all the way to the far end of the hall, to Krušovická Šalanda.

Inside it's very chain-pubbish; unsurprisingly. But it somehow works in the environment of a…

Sleep well, Ležák is safe

The general public can sigh in relief. Those evil bureaucrats won't be messing with their cultural identity. At the same time, local geeks and brewers can sleep well in the knowledge that Czech beer nomenclature won't be the object of international mockery once the new legislation comes into force sometime this year. The most contentious issue of the proposed amendment to Regulation no. 335/1997 Coll. of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic has been settled with a compromise.

It is been agreed that Ležák will remain as a category, but only reserved to bottom fermented beers, as God and Praotec Čech intended, while all the rest will be indicated as Plné Pivo—always for beers of 11 to 12.9° Plato

At last Tuesday's press conference, representatives of the Czech Association of Micro Breweries (Českomoravský svaz minipivovarů - ČMSMP) explained that this, and the other changes, will more accurately reflect the current picture of the local beer market, adding that,…

The Tram Beer Challenge (2): I.P. Pavlova - Újezd - Chotkový Sady

There's a tram at the stop (I.P. Pavlova, in case you missed the first instalment). I could catch it, but I'm no Bruce Springsteen—I wasn't born to run. And there's no need, anyway; any tram would do.

It doesn't take long for one to come, the 22 to the centre. I'm trying to figure out where I'll have to get off, but I can't quite remember whether there is a stop between Karlovo nám. and Národní tř. There is. Újezd is my destination, then. I know where I'll drink my next beer.

Kampárium was one of the new places I wanted to check out for the 2nd edition of the Pisshead's Pub Guide. I didn't make it in the end; I'm not sure why—laziness, probably. Good to have an excuse to see what this pub is like, and drink some Polička in the process.

Other than the staff, it's empty. Both servers greet me with a wide smile when they see me coming in and going down the stairs, as if they were happy to finally see someone who will take them out of …

The Tram Beer Challenge (1): Karlovo nám.- Perunova - I.P. Pavlova

So here I am, crossing the street to the Karlovo nám.–Moraň tram stop, eager to start the Tram Beer Challenge.

The trees and roofs are still clinging to the snow that fell earlier in the week, as if they were relishing in the feeling of it, unwilling to let it go. Soon, however, the snow will turn into what many Czechs unlovingly, and accurately, call sračka. In the meantime, I'm enjoying it—when was the last time it snowed like this? Last winter? I'm not sure, nor am I about the previous one.

I don't have to wait, I see a tram coming just when I step on the pavement: the 10 to Sídliště Ďáblice. I count the stops; I will have to get off at Perunova. Bugger! I know all the pubs there, they're in the guide (and those that aren't, aren't worth a visit). Wait! There's this one. It's a bit further than I'd like, but I haven't got much of a choice, have I?

As I start walking down Chorvatská, I realise that this may not have been a very bright idea.…