10 Oct 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 of a country-pub vibe; certainly much nicer than a luxury hotel, château or an exhibition hall.

At the left of the entrance was the place's permanent bar and opposite it was installed a mobile bar that prepared beer cocktails. Between them there was basically an empty space. Food was provided by a food truck parked outside, by the entrance. The Czech beers were tapped from a long, U-shaped, bar put behind a column in the middle of the hall, while the foreign ones could be found in the cellar.

Not being the audience of this type of event, I can't evaluate the atmosphere fairly. I didn't like the music much (my problem only), but they played it at a moderate volume and you didn't need to scream to talk to the person next to you.

It all felt very professionally organised. There was plenty of sitting room, with picnic tables around the taps with the Czech beers, and some more seats and tables downstairs. There were also a couple of tanks to rinse the festival-issued glass, a Teku (really ugly, if you ask me, and tasting from it was not better, or worse, than from pretty much any other type of glass; but it's trendy and has a tall stem that makes it automatically fancy). At the entrance you were issued a card listing all the beers on tap, with their styles, Plato and ABV; very useful to help you choose what you'll drink next, instead of walking around the bar.

Everything seemed to be working in good order, at least in the couple of hours I spent of Friday. My only quibble was the lack of water to rinse your palate between samples. Pitchers on the tables or at least a water fountain would've been a fine detail, especially since many of the beers were really packed with flavour.

The range of beers was superb—45 beers from 15 breweries/brands (10 domestic, 5 imported)—with enough diversity to make everyone happy. There were Pale and Dark Lagers, a Weizenbock, PAs and Stouts of various persuasions, even sours.

Since drinking a tasting sample of a session strength beer is a waste of time, and beer, I stuck mostly to the heavier hitters. The Czech beers I had—No Idols DIPA from Clock, Asfalt from Zhůřák, Superfly India Saison from Falkon, Morion Stout from Albrecht, Zichovecký's Weizenbock, Permon's Russian Imperial Stout, and Sibeeria's Sweet Jesus—were all very good to excellent; though perhaps served a bit too cold, especially those Stouts. The only discordant note was High Diver, an IPA brewed by Next Level Brewing, from Germany, which I thought was awful. I ignored the other foreign beers. They cost two tokens; too expensive for stuff I didn't know anything about. Which brings me to the one thing that bothered me:

The price.

The tokens were 35 CZK and each would buy you a tasting sample of a Czech beer. Though the size of the samples appeared to be pretty much up to the tapster, I was mostly served 0.2l. That works out to almost 90 CZK for a pint. Way too much; and ridiculous for some of the beers listed. It's considerably more than what you'd pay for Matuška or Falkon (two of the most expensive brands in the country) at places like BeerGeek or Zlý Časy—which won't charge you 100 CZK to get in. A 25 CZK price tag, though still far from cheap, would have been reasonable. Really, for that kind of money per volume you can get, at not few pubs in town, one litre of some truly great beers (or craft pivo, if they want to call them like that), a couple of which were also served at this festival.

But as I've said, it was a very well put together event, and the organisers deserve praise, prices notwithstanding. Thank you for the invitation.

Na Zdraví!

13 Sep 2016

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 the second decade of the 18th century and closed down in 1949, after being nationalised by the Communist regime, following an attempt to put it back on track after WWII. According to what a friend involved in the project had told me last year, the brewery's resurrection was partly financed by EU funds, and one of the conditions of the grant was that the brewery be up and running, commercially, by November. That deadline was not met (and I wonder how they sorted that out, I will have to ask at some point), and the brewery wouldn't have its official opening until last April.

The first thing that caught my attention when I finally reached the restaurant was its beer garden. Pretty big by Czech standards and a proper garden, with massive chestnut trees and the works; hands down, one of the most beautiful I've seen in this country. Yet, I went to sit inside, because.

Inside was somewhat smaller than I had anticipated. If you come in from the street (and not from the garden, as I did), you are welcome by a fairly spacious taproom. There are two other rooms to the right, and a loft above, closed during lunch time. I grabbed a table in the taproom, near the door, by a window.

The service was flawless and the food, though not memorable, was far from disappointing. I even had spontaneous company at the table: a bloke with his 10 year-old son. He told me he knew the pub before being taken over by Pivovar Uhřiněves (or perhaps, becoming again part of Pivovar Uhřiněves, as it seems to have been originally opened as an outlet of the original brewery), adding thta it was better now. Unfortunately for him, though, he had driven there and had to make do with some nealko pivo, but he was curious about my opinion on the beers, as I believe you are by now.

I started at the lowest echelon of the house's Balling ladder, with Alois 11°; a Světlý Ležák that sits comfortably half way between a Desítka and a Dvanáctka, not only ethylicly but also sensorily. A perfect example of everything that can make a Pale Lager great. I skipped one step of the ladder, to stay in the same chromatic field, and chose Alois 14° as my second course. People who rate and review beers solely on the basis of tasting samples will probably judge this one as bland and boring. However, since most of them don't understand beer all that well, their opinion should be disregarded. It does start a bit bland, yes, but it opens up after a couple of sips and becomes a subtle and fairly complex beauty; almost bi-polar, with a deceiving drinkability contrasted with a sharp edge to remind you what you are dealing with. This is what I imagine a proper Exportbier would have tasted like.

A rung lower in the Balling ladder is Alois 13°, a Polotmavý. Given the bar set by the other two, this one fell a bit short of the expectations. There was nothing technically bad that I could notice, but it lacked the fullness and roundness I enjoy so much in this type of beers. Fortunately, Porter 16° had enough muscle to compensate for its amber sybling's lack thereof. What a beauty this Porter of the Baltic persuasion is! Everything that there is to love about the style, brought to you with panache and skill. It would be perfect if it was available in a full, half-litre portion instead of (only) in 0.4 l; but to be fair, that's not the beer's nor the brewer's fault. Regardless, I sometimes think it is a pity that most Czechs seem to be more willing to drink a dodgy Ejl or ČIPE than an excellent dark lager like this; brewers can hardly be blamed. I guess we have to cherish the few that are around, and support the brewers that make them, instead of running after the latest novelty. Maybe I could start an awareness campaign, with hashtag and all. I even have a name: #BlackLagersMatter or #BLM, for short. Looks catchy.

All in all, coming to Uhřiněves was a good decision. All the good references I had of the brewery—enough to make me break the six month moratorium with new minipivovary—where confirmed. And if you don't feel like making the trip, Pivovar Uhřiněves has a pub in Vinohradská, but I haven't checked that one out yet.

Na Zdraví!

Pivovar Uhřiněves – Pivovarská Restaurace
50°1'46.881"N, 14°36'18.711"E
K sokolovně 38 – Prahe-Uhřiněves
+420 267 711 949 – info@restaurantpivovarska.cz
Mon-Sat: 11-24, Sun: 11-23

PS: I've actually checked out the place they have in Vinohradská. It's quite OK, and the beers are in top form, at a good price.

6 Sep 2016

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 brewery's logo—too similar to a Pilsner Urquell Original Restaurant. But that is, at the end of the day, of very little importance, especially when both the service and the food we had were very good.

They had four beers on tap. I started off with Továrenská 10° světlé, one of those beers that has everything it should, but put together wrongly. There was bitterness at the beginning, followed by a too generous dollop of almost caramel-like sweetness that swiftly moved aside, pushing everything away with it, leaving a watery finish where maybe the bitterness should have been. Unsatisfactory, that's the most accurate evaluation I can give it. Kruták 12° světlé, the one that followed, had those very same things, but more evenly spread and in a thicker layer, of course. It was a textbook example of a proper Světlý Ležák. Loved it really. I finished lunch, which was spent talking about the most varied topics—one almost randomly leading to the other—with Salzberg 12° tmavé, a dark lager that masterfully straddled the boundary between the sweet and the roasty. Incredibly enjoyable. I didn't bother with the fourth, the 15° IPA, Protektor, which was only served in 0.3l for the same price as a half-litre of the rest. I don't understand why they do that (and I wonder if the production costs of an IPA are that much higher to warrant such price difference). My mate had it, though, and said it was good.

The balance overall is very good and well worth the bus ride there all by itself. But since we were in Slaný, it would have been a sin not to drop by Pivovar Antoš.

The weather had decided to finally honour its threat by the we left Továrna. It was not pouring down, yet, but we were beginning to get wet as we walked down Wilsonová, towards the centre. It was in that street where a sign caught my attention. It announced Zichovecký Pivovar, the venue of the World Beer Idol competition I had judged back in January. It was at the entrance of Hugo Bagel Café.

After considering it for about two seconds, we went in for a stopover. If someone had shown me pictures of the place and told me it was in Vinohrady or Holešovice, I would've probably believed it. It had the look and decoration that has almost become a standard of the new breed of bar/café/pub hybrids that have been popping up everywhere in Prague. The food we saw being carried to other tables looked very nice, too, and the service was brilliant. The beer, on the other hand... I ordered a 10° from Zichovec, it was only a shadow of my fond memories of it, I suspect it wasn't as fresh as it should. My mate ordered Matuška Apollo Galaxy, and he was very happy with it.

Not the sort of place you'd expect to find in a mid-sized Czech town, a very pleasant surprise indeed and, hopefully, part of a wider trend throughout the country.

The rain had intensified during our stopover and was now really annoying, and was not of much help for getting my bearings when we walked into Slaný's Old Town. I realised I wasn't sure about the brewery location relation to where we were, and we actually bumped into it after making what I thought was a wrong turn.

It was nice to be indoors, and nicer still to be back in this brewpub after maybe two years. Nothing had changed since my last visit, fortunately (though the company has expanded with a second, larger production facility in the outskirts of town). The service was every bit as good as it had been in the previous two places, and they also had a Desítka on tap, Rarach. It was by several lengths better than the previous two; excellent, actually. Likewise with the Polotmavá 13°. Sometimes, I wish Czech microbreweries focused more on beers like that and less on IPAs, but I guess they aren't as sexy, (or profitable?). Regardless, I capped my Slaný beer-run with Tlustý Netopýr. I didn't mind (too much) that this Rye IPA was only available in 0,3l portions (it's only a 17° beer!), at a price even higher than the previous two's for a half litre—I fancied a small beer anyway, and, with six pints already under my belt, I was past caring. Besides, the beer is excellent and was a perfect bow to a great day spent catching-up with a good friend.

Whether alone or in company, Slaný is definitely a very good destination for a beer day-trip out of Prague.

Na Zdraví!

Továrna Slaný
50°13'43.028"N, 14°4'40.694"E
Wilsonová 689 – Slaný
info@tovarnaslany.cz – +420 312 522 822
Mon-Thu, Sun: 11-22, Fri-Sat: 11-23

Bagel Café Hugo
50°13'48.153"N, 14°4'51.795"E
Wilsonová 585 – Slaný
hugo@bagelcafe.cz – +420 734 154 250
Mon-Thu, Sun: 10:30-22, Fri-Sat: 10:30-23

Pivovar Antoš
50°13'47.938"N, 14°5'19.052"E
Vinařického 14 – Slaný
kontakt@antosovakrcma.cz – +420 731 413 711
Mon-Thu: 11-23, Fri-Sat: 11-24, Sun: 11-22

19 Aug 2016

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 began working at Pivovary Staropramen in 1998, but in different parts of the company. Lucie was in the financial section, doing internal audits. Štěpán was in the labs, and later would be in charge of the bottling line and then of technology investments. They wouldn't meet until Lucka was tasked with the implementation of SAP.

Lucie would leave the company after their first daughter was born, Štěpán, a couple of years later; he needed a change. He would set up an event management company, but still felt they needed to “do something”.

By then, they were living in neighbouring Roztoky and would frequent the wine cellar that still operates within the old brewery complex. It was during one their wine runs that they got the idea to restore that building to its original purpose.

They were lucky. Firstly, because the building was in a pretty good shape—at the time it was used to store dairy products. Secondly, because the owner wanted to part ways with the company that operated the storage facilities. In 2010, contracts were signed and hands were shaken. The total investment to get the brewery up and running would be 40 million CZK (about 1.6 million EUR then). Unlike not few new breweries, the financing didn't come from a crowdfunding campaign or government or EU grants. Part came from bank loans, the rest, from two investors—friends of theirs, who remain part owners.

The drizzle has become a nuisance with no intention of going anywhere. We grab the glasses and move inside the brewery's pub, which has been set-up in the old floor maltings, built in 1711, the oldest part of the complex.

When we sit at their favourite table, Štěpán and Lucka excuse themselves, they must sort something out with the manager of the pub—the Chef is leaving and they need to talk about who will be replacing him. The pub, by the way, is also run by the Tkadlec. As Lucie explains, they have it under a subsidiary company to get a clearer view of the accounting. It barely breaks even, she adds; it does fantastically well at weekends, especially in Spring and Summer, but not many people come during the week—something I can attest. They wouldn't think of closing it, though. For them, it is an important part of the brewery, and not only as a showroom for their beers. Every year, they sell 1,000 hl at the taproom, half of which in PET bottles, but places like Vzorkovna, the bar at the National Technical Libray, Pražán (in Výstaviště Praha Holešovice) and Kavárna Liberál sell even more.

From the very beginning, Štěpán and Lucka wanted the brewery to be more than just a company that made and sold beer. Their intention was to make it integral part of the community, the village of Únětice, They found a fan in the mayor, Vladimír Vytiska, who gave them his full support once he was acquainted with all four owners and what they had in mind.

Almost as if he had been waiting for his cue—he's a musician and member of the troupe of Divádlo Sklep—Mr Vytiska, joins our table for a couple of beers. Pint in hand, he tells me he loved the idea of restoring the brewery; in fact, it's something he had thought about already in the 1990s, but it didn't go anywhere. The brewery building was one of the assets the state put up for sale in the Big Privatisation that followed the fall the Communist regime, and towns were not allowed to bid for them; though he also admits that perhaps it was not the right time to set up a brewery like this.

The role Únětický Pivovar plays in the community can be clearly seen at Posvicení, the local parish fair that will be taking place tomorrow in the brewery's courtyard and repurposed stable, which I will attend, as I do every year; and not only because of the Rye Lager they brew specially for the occasion, but for the atmosphere (and also to see the mayor play the ukulele).

One of the things that really surprised me was how quickly they had the brewery going. They had taken over the building in November 2010, and the following May they already brewing the beer that would be tapped at the official opening in June.

It was almost a matter of life or death, they explain. Knowing they didn't have any further source of financing, they had to catch the summer season from the beginning to at least be able to keep their heads above water that first year. It was hard, it was mad, they tell me, but when they saw the crowd gathering in the courtyard for opening day, they felt it might had been all worth it, after all.
And they were right. That first year, they managed to brew about 2,500 hl, and it would take them only three years to reach the 10,000 hl/y that mark the legal limit for a brewery to be a minipivovar. A great part of it was thanks to hard sales work—going out and offering the product and the brewery—but there were times that the beer was able to put up a convincing argument all by itself. When I asked how they managed so relatively quickly to get their beers into old-school pubs like U Pětníka, they told me they had tried several times to speak to the owner—who also owns Na Urale and Na Slamníku—only to be stonewalled by the staff. They had pretty much given up hope until one day the man was cycling past the brewery, stopped for a quick one at the taproom and decided his pubs had to serve those beers.

Presently, Únětický Pivovar employs almost 30 people (including the pub's staff), most of them locals or from nearby villages. Last year they brewed about 12,000 hl and expect to make 12.5-13 thousand this year. Although Lucka drops a 20,000 hl figure for the not too distant future, they don't seem to see growth as an end itself, but rather, as a result. That being said, the brewhouse is already bursting at the seams, and sooner rather than later they will have to decide what to do with it: either add one or two more vessels, or replace it by a 50 hl one (the current is a 25 hl kit). One thing is certain, though, they have no intention of changing their approach to beer: 10° and 12° will be the only beers they will produce year-round, complemented by a few seasonal specials.

It wouldn't be possible to finish this interview without talking about Vladimír Černohorský, the brewery's first Brew Master, who passed away about a year ago. The first meeting of Lucie and Štěpán with this great (and much missed) personality of the Czech beer community was a classic: Černohorský, greeted them saying he admired people who would buy a brewery instead of a Lamborghini; and it got better from there. Ivan Chramosíl, who has recently retired after more than four decades at U Fleku, has joined the team, trying to fill the void left by Vladimír. He designed the recipe for the excellent Anniversary Desítka served last May. The day-to-day production, however, is in charge of Jan Lumbert, a really cool guy who's no rookie. Before coming to Únětice (where actually lives), he had worked 13 years as a brewer in Staropramen.

By the time we begin exchanging anecdotes about our late friend Černohorský, other people have joined the table and the interview has fully become just another session at a pub, with the conversation drifting here and there and friendships being reinforced and established, while Štěpán fills in the lagering cellar a copper Mazák with Posvícenský Speciál, the 11.5° Rye Lager that will be tapped tomorrow; and it goes on until past closing time. (Fortunately for me, one of the waitresses offers to give me a ride, otherwise, getting back home would've been a bit of a problem.)
I won't pretend anything resembling objectivity. I have a special relationship with Únětický Pivovar, one that goes well beyond their beers. I know how hard Lucka and Štěpán have worked to get to where they are now, and I believe the same can be said about everyone working there. Their success is very well deserved.

Na Zdraví!

10 Jul 2016

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 questioning them, let along checking up the information. Otherwise, I doubt they would have referred to the IARC list, not only because it indicates that they are encouraging the consumption of something “more dangerous” than what they would like to have banned, but also because they would have been aware that the WHO and FAO have issued a joint statement saying that that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.

The problem here is that the meaning or purpose of the IARC list is either not taken into account or thoroughly ignored, mainly be media's thirst for bombastic headlines and clickbait. However, and as this video clearly explains, what those categories indicate is mostly a hypothetical risks: under certain conditions (exposure level, dose, etc.) this product/substance/activity is known to be carcinogen, probably or possibly is carcinogen, it has not been determined it is carcinogen, is unlikely to be so. To put a clear example: a couple of pints after work or a fag after a shag do not pose a cancer risk, just like eating bread made with flour from wheat sprayed with Roundup.

But sensationalism does not give a fuck about logic. A few months ago, the world was shaken upon learning that that traces of glyphosate had been found in the most popular German beers. The HORROR!

Though, if you go a bit beyond the apocalyptic headlines, or go around looking for more information, you'll come to a very different reality. Kevin Folta offers a sober take on the issue: the concentrations of glyphosate found in the beers are between 0.46 and 29.74 ppb. In other words, there are people who expect us to shit our pants because of some negligible doses of a “probably carcinogen” found in a product that has 50,000,000 ppb of a “known carcinogen”

Honestly, it's about time we cut that shit. If regardless of all the deaths caused by alcohol, we have no problem accepting the fact that it does not pose a serious health risk when consumed in moderation, why are we still afraid of a substance that has been proven to be effective and safe when used as indicated?

Na Zdraví!

PS: I sometimes wonder whether this campaign against glyphosate (which is patent free) is not orchestrated and financed by a producer or patent holder of an organic pesticide. (You see how easy is to come up with a conspiracy theory?)

31 May 2016

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 was feeling wasn't thirst or cravings or withdrawal; it was apathy. My interest in beer was no greater than that of any other topic I like reading about. Maybe it was a defence mechanism—you can't crave something you aren't interested in (it also helped that I had a pretty busy week that didn't leave time to hit the pubs. Though I did walk past a couple of old favourites, without feeling tempted to walk in). In any case, I wasn't counting the hours or days that I'd spent without a drop/until I would taste beer again.

I didn't complete the week, however. We had a trip to Ríp planned for last Saturday with the families of some of my daughter's classmates. It was a fine day, despite being around way too many children (anything more than one—my own—is way too many, actually).

After walking a couple of kilometres between fields from the Ctiněves train station, we climbed that legendary hill from the steepest side. I was the first to make the summit (that sounds grandiose; it's only a bit over 450m high). At the top, there's a wasted opportunity that passes for a watering hole; a place run by professional notgivingashitters who know that the people who make it all that way up will eat and drink whatever crap they are sold (to give them credit, though, the prices are at least reasonable). As approached it, I told myself Fuck it! I'd proven that I can go days without booze and suffer no consequences, and went to get a beer. It'd be a sin not to—some rituals must be observed to their fullest.

The beer they have is Bakalář (perhaps because they get it cheaper than others, or it's the only company willing to deliver there), served in plastic cups, of course. After patiently queueing, I got my velká 11° and found a place to sit under a tree and enjoy my reward.

It was crap. You can't see the taps from the window, but judging from the looks of the head, my pint was not served in one pour, and I'd wager that a no small part of it was the drips from previous pours, as the beer was likely foaming too much; all dispensed from taps that I doubt are cleaned as often as they should.

I finished it, I was really thirsty and needed to drink something more than mineral water, but I didn't feel like having a second one, I had an ice-cream instead. Yeah, that's how crap it was: after almost a week of not even sniffing a beer, and having walked several kilometres and climbed a hill in the middle of a warm, humid day, I didn't feel like having a second pint.

But the day didn't end there.

After a rather funny situation with the train back to Vraňany, where we had left our cars (the train that we were waiting Vraždov had broken down, but the machinist came to pick us up with a bus and took us to another station, where he would get another engine running so we could go to our destination), the day went on at the house of one of the families of the group. When the rain stopped, we made a fire in the garden to roast špekáčky, while the kids played. The host went to the local pub to fetch some beer with a couple of empty plastic bottles. I was offered some, which I gladly accepted; more out of politeness than crave—again, the ritual. It was Svijany Fanda this time, and was OK, but after finishing the small glass I'd been given, having another one didn't even cross my mind—apathy had once more taken over.

Since then (Saturday evening) and now (Monday late afternoon), I've only drunk one of the bottles UzenejŽitnýVideňák (a.k.a. Mad Max, the beer that Pivovarský Dům brewed on my recipe, or idea) that had been lingering in the fridge for 10 days, while watching a film last night; almost ritually.

What did I get from all this? I don't know, really. Not drinking for a few days is fine—and I'm sure my liver appreciated it—but not something to be proud of. Perhaps what I've realised is that, at least for me, beer is more than anything else, a part of a ritual: cooking, having dinner, a reward, an accessory in a social meeting. Come to think of it, that's nothing new.

Na Zdraví!

13 May 2016

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 stages of its reconstruction.

As every year, I'm very much looking forward. Spending a whole day drinking good beer among friends is always a great pleasure. See you there.

Na Zdraví!

How to get there? Buses 381-387 leaving every hour from Háje to Kostelec n.Č.l.,nám

6 May 2016

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 anyone, really. The ageing Central and Eastern European markets are stagnant at best, and, save a couple of exceptions, there aren't brands with any value outside their respective backyards—'I really fancy a glass of that famous, generic Hungarian Lager,' said no one ever. It's the developing countries the Brazilians are after, which still have massive potential for growth.

The question is who will buy the package. The other big boys—MC, Heineken and Carlsberg—are out of the question; unless they're themselves willing to divest in the same region, which I doubt. The money seems to be either on Asahi, who've already committed to buy Peroni et al, or an investment fund, like in 2009.

When the news of the mega-merger came out, some people—myself included—speculated whether the new conglomerate would shut down one of the four breweries that Prazdroj operates, with Kozel being the most likely candidate. We had no basis for that, other than it being what corporations of that ilk tend to do—ask Heineken, for instance. Will that be the case with these yet-to-be-known new owners?

If I had to choose, I'd pick Asahi. They are more likely to be in for the long run (and they are already in the business of beer), whereas an investment fund will probably restructure the package in order to sell it for a profit a few years later, just like CVC did.

Brace yourselves, interesting times are coming.

Na Zdraví!

PS: It's really amusing to see the mental contortions of those crafotphiles who really, really hate it when Craft breweries are sold to macros, but see no problem with they loose their “Indie” status to a investment funds.

19 Apr 2016

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 when I started with this beer writing thing, almost a decade ago, seeing a sign of Svijany was enough to get me excited. A lot has changed since then? the brewery has, I think, doubled its size, and not without some growing pains. It is said they started using HGB to make up for the lack of capacity, while they physically expanded. In any case, I lost interest in their beers and, from drinking them almost on a daily basis—at least their 12°—I now only choose them w hen there's nothing better at hand—as was the case in this restaurant.

The waiter cocked up the order for my first pint and brought me Kněžna, Svijany's dark beer. I don't remember when was the last time I'd had it, but even when Svijany was my favourite brewery, it wasn't a fan—too sweet. Wasn't I surprised! It was totally different to what I remembered. More chocolate and roast and less caramel. I wondered if they've stopped using saccharine to make it (I haven't checked, BTW). It was followed by 450, a beer they launched a couple of years ago to celebrate the (alleged) 450th anniversary of the brewery, brewed with hops Saaz from their own hop yards. I'd had it only once, and I thought it was mediocre. Not this time. It was lovely, a textbook Světlý Ležák: crisp, clean, fresh, with the right mouthfeel and enough character to draw some of your attention. Maybe its time to revisit Svijany, I thought as we left the restaurant.

After a relatively quick stopover at a café, also in the square, we crossed the river, heading to (?), a hill offering a fantastic view to the town and the surrounding countryside.

A few metres after leaving the bridge behind, I spotted a sign pointing to a “minipivovar a restaurace”, one I'd never heard of.

Back when I started with this beer writing thing, almost a decade ago, if seeing a sign of Svijany was enough to get me excited, coming across a brewpub I didn't know about would've sent me in an almost ecstatic frenzy. Now that I think of it, though, I don't know how likely coming across a brewpub I didn't know about would have been then. Microbreweries were relatively few and far between, and I would've surely done some research before heading anywhere—and I would've done my best to try to steer the trip in the direction of a brewery. But things have changed greatly. I stopped following the news on new openings a few years ago; not only because it's almost impossible to keep up—a new brewery seems to pop up literally every week—but also because at some point I became disenchanted.

All that being said, there is something left of the ticker in me and I wasn't going to walk past a brewery without having at least one, and maybe put some bottles in my rucksack.

Pivovar U Švelchů opened in 2014. The pub looks very nice, with plenty of wood, exposed masonry, and an overall style that, though modern, won't look outdated in a year or two. It was also a lot more lively than the restaurant we had been to, and it made me wish I had done some homework; lunch here would've been more fun, I thought, until I had their Světlý Ležák. It was crap: way too carbonated, sweet where it should've been bitter and bitter where it should've been sweet, empty in the middle and with a pinch of burnt cable to add some complexity. They had three more beers on tap, including an IPA (of course), plus a few bottled; I didn’t bother with them. If they aren't able, or willing, to put together a decent Světlý Ležák, the rest can be fucked for all I care.

To be honest, though, it's entirely possible that I was unlucky. Had I dropped by a week earlier or later, I could've found a good, or even fantastic beer. It's the microbrewery lottery, and many owners seem to be happy with it; as long as people keep on coming, they've no reason to worry, or improve things, for that matter.

Minipivovary like this are the ones that make you appreciate regional brands a lot more, especially when they have become so commonplace. They aren't fancy, envelope-pushing, řemeslné and they are struggling to keep up with the trends—if they bother at all—but by the most part they remain reliable and well-priced, a safe haven from europivo, lottery ležák and overpriced IČE alike. We should be grateful for them.

Na Zdraví!

Restaurace Gloria
49°13'54.089"N, 13°31'11.310"E
Nám. Svobody 6 – Sušice
+420 608 246 869 – info@voky.cz
Mon-Sun: 10-22

Pivovar U Švelchů
49°13'44.886"N, 13°31'27.045"E
Nuželická 25 – Sušice
+420 725 840 119 – info@pivovarsusice.cz
Mon-Thu: 10-22, Fri-Sat: 10-23, Sun: 10-21

21 Mar 2016

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 Průhonice, and I think the package also included the brewmaster.

But here I am, early afternoon on a rainy, late-winter Tuesday. The interiors have been heavily influenced by the Potrefená Husa school of interior design, but it kind of works, even with the display of souvenirs by the entrance. Maybe it's the large, wood (or coal?) fired grill on one side. The bar is also at the entrance, but has no room to perch. The only place for a quick beer on the go is a repurposed barrel standing under the stairs leading to the loft. There's another, rather nondescript, room further in and a beautiful beer garden in the back—closed, of course.

There's quite a bit of people for this time on a weekday—many are locals—and most aren't drinking beer (there are five German speaking kids 20 or so, who've all ordered Coke!). It takes me a bit too long to order my first pint as there's only one waiter on duty and it seems everyone has arrived pretty much at once.

There are three beers on tap, or rather, two and a half: a Světlá 11°, both filtered and unfiltered, and a Polotmavá 13°; the only beers they make, and all sold in bloody 0.4l portions.

I order the filtered 11° first, wondering why would a brewpub bother with filtering and which of the two versions sells better. In any case, what I'm brought is not what I could call a good beer. It is served way too cold, to the point that it almost numbs the tip of my tongue, and I start to suspect it is not an accident: there is a mild, but persistent note reminiscing of a cheap beer out of a PET bottle unfamiliar with the inside of a fridge, bought at a small Vietnamese Večerka in a summer afternoon. I don't want to know what it tastes like once it catches some temperature.

The rawer version follows. To be honest, I don't notice much of a difference in the looks, but it tastes better, and it's been served a bit warmer. However, there's something not entirely right. I feel I'm listening to a symphonic orchestra with a flute player missing out his part; unlike Dr. Lecter, I can't figure out which. Whether it's the off note of the previous beer still clinging to my palate, I can't say.

I close the session with the Polotmavá 13°. Unlike the other two, I don't find anything wrong with this beer. Nor anything particularly right. It's the beer equivalent of a veteran bank clerk who has long run out of fucks to give and now does the bare minimum to keep his job.

Overall, it was an unsatisfying experience. I'm sure Pivovar Narodní will do fine as a business: the food I saw looked nice, the service was good in the end, the prices are reasonable and they have a prime location. But I find it redundant. For this kind of beers, I'd much rather go to the relatively nearby Vinohradský Pivovar or Bašta, where I will get a full portion of better beer at a better price, or even the neighbouring U Medvídku.

Let's hope U Dobřenských turns out better. It has to, it's considerably more expensive.

Pivovar U Dobřenských is located in the premises formerly occupied by a similarly named, but short-lived pub that served Kout na Šumavě, in the namesake street that, for some reason, I always seem to have trouble to find. Like Narodní, it'll take them a month or two after opening to get the brewery to work. Unlike Narodní, you could be 100% you would be drinking their beers and not somebody else's with a different jacket.

What sets this brewery apart is their use of unconventional ingredients in all their beers, but not in the Opat fashion—an otherwise finished product flavoured with extracts and syrups—but they actually brew with those ingredients: tribulus terrestris, sage and sea-buckthorn. Their price is another thing that sets it apart: depending on the beer, 65 and 72 CZK bloody for 0.4l portions—about 80 and 90 for a half litre. It thought it was the most expensive, until I saw Strahov's updated price list.

The pub itself it's more my type; it's gorgeous in fact. Vaulted ceilings, exposed masonry, wrought iron, the brewing gear and the tanks and the custom-made taps, and the fireplace create a beautiful ambiance to sit, at least in the taproom. The other room, with more tables, though still very nice, is bland in comparison.

The only people when I arrive are a waiter/tapster and a group of four, of whom two seem to be either the owners or associates of the owners, talking business—Matuška and Hendrych are mentioned in relation to a pub or café, but I can't bring myself to follow the conversation too closely, the excellent Jazz they're playing keeps on grabbing my attention. The one thing that really surprises me is that smoking is allowed in the taproom.

I begin the session with the sea-buckthorn beer, the first in the list. I'm brought a glass with a liquid so murky that it would be considered Proper Craft Beer in some places. The menu has explanations of the botanicals used. They might include tasting notes, but I choose not to read them; I prefer to go in blind, trusting my senses and not somebody else's. There is mild tart note, which I assume comes from the berries. It's well balanced, but I'm not too happy with this beer overall. It needs some polishing; though it's possible I'm drinking the bottom of a keg or tank. In any case, for this price I was expecting something that wouldn't taste like a homebrew.

Moving a notch down the list is Tribulus, the most expensive of the bunch and the house's flagship. It looks considerably better than the previous: about the same colour, but almost clear. I've no idea what this herb is supposed to taste like, but if the beer was given to me blind, I'd probably believe it is a Pale Ale of some denomination brewed with a hop cultivar I'm not familiar with. In other words, it doesn't taste like spiked iced-tea but like beer, and a superb one at that. It's gorgeous, it prances around with joy, delighted to make your acquaintance and be at your service.

That leaves me with the Stout with sage. Stout is not the most aromatic style, and I'm very familiar with the herb (we grow it in our garden and I use it a lot for cooking), so I can easily pick it when I get my nose close to the glass, it's a fairly intense, but at the same time, restrained aroma. In the mouth, fortunately, everything has a perfect balance, even if a bit more precarious. I won't bore with tasting notes, to get an idea what this beer is like, get a good Stout, rub the leaves of fresh sage on your fingers and imagine what those two would be like together, only better. It's muscular, manly, a blacksmith of a beer. I could drink it all day and never get tired of it.

Like Tribulus, Salvia Stout looks and tastes like the product of a Brew Master who knows what he's doing and it's not afraid to show it.

Although I'd heard good comments about the beers, their prices (and their portions) put me off coming before, but I must say that in the end it was money very well spent (at least in two out of three), which is a lot more than I can say about Narodní. I will come back to Pivovar U Dobřenských, and you should go, too.

Na Zdraví!

Pivovar Narodní
50°4'53.031"N, 14°24'56.807"E
Narodní 8 – Praha-Nové Město
+420 222 544 932 – pivovar@pivovarnarodni.cz
Mon-Sun: 11-23:30
Trams: 6, 9, 17, 18, 22 – Narodní Dívadlo

Pivovar U Dobřenských
50°5'2.632"N, 14°24'56.012"E
U Dobřenských 3 – Praha-Staré Město
+420 222 222 141 – info@pivovarudobrenskych.cz
Mon-Sun: 14-24
Trams: 6, 9, 17, 18, 22 – Narodní Dívadlo

PS: Apologies for the lack of photos. I left the camera at home. You'll find some at the brewpubs' webpages.

14 Mar 2016

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 delivered.

All that being said, the place is almost full, with a very lively crowd of fifty-somethings (being in my mid-forties, I get an irrational pleasure out of being the youngest person in a crowd).

I take a seat at the bar and order a Světlý—well tapped, it has to be said. The other geezers perched there are having a pretty good time. The one next to me is telling a story about a time he and his mate went to Austria and drank everyone under the table, back when the soudruzi were still running the show here. Does this man remember what those drinks tasted like? Did he care at the time what it meant to be drinking there, or going to Austria was just another day in the job for him? Those are things I would love to know, but would never dare to ask a stranger; and listening to the conversation makes me none the wiser as it has branched out into other, still alcohol-related topics.

The pub is still kind of ugly, but these people don't care. I have stopped caring myself, but don't fancy staying for a second pint; I feel a little as if I were crashing a party. I pay and go back to the tram stop.

Can you bloody believe it? I'm heading to I.P. Pavlova, again. This time, though, I know where I'll go.

If I recall correctly, Pivní Mapa opened a bit over two years ago, with 45 taps. I never bothered to go, but did walk past it a couple of times. The pub wasn't much bigger than my living room and looked like a kebab takeaway. Apparently, it was a takeaway of sorts. According to what I heard (but never confirmed), the idea was that people would come to have bottles filled to drink at home, making up for small premises. On paper, it looks interesting; unfortunately, however, the location was shit—almost at the corner of Legerova and Anglická, a place with hardly any foot traffic, where you can't even stop a car. Not surprisingly, the rotation was less than ideal (even when only 30 of the 45 taps were used at any given time) and it didn't take long for Pivní Mapa to draw comparisons with U Radnice.

What was surprising was finding out that it was still open; well, sort of. The premises I think it used to occupy have been turned into a kitchen studio. The only clue of its existence is the logo on a blackboard by the door of a pub next door, Sklípek U Munků, which also sports a Bakalař sign.

If this is indeed Pivní Mapa—and to be honest, I'm not sure*—their ambitions are far more realistic: six beers on tap (though it appears they have more some days). The place itself is in a deep, gloomy cellar and looks like the restaurant of a small town 3 star hotel. Other than the owner, a Russian woman in her 40s, and the lady she's having a business meeting with, it's empty (and quiet, the only sounds are the humming of a fridge or cooling system and someone chopping vegetables in the kitchen).even if it's been more than half hour since opening time, I've good reason to believe I'm the day's first patron. Saying that my expectations are low is an understatement.

The beer list features names that would've got me really stoked when I started blogging—Primátor, Litovel, Bakalař, Beroun. I pick Bakalař 12° and hope for the best.

Bloody hell! It's brilliant! The right temperature, properly tapped after flushing the line and rinsing the glass, tastes fresh and surgically clean; it's a textbook example of what a Světlý Ležák should be like. The best beer I've had so far in this game.

They've turned on the music, generic Pop of the blandest and most inoffensive sort (which goes well with the decoration, to be honest), and I'm still alone in the pub (if you don't count the book I'm reading, Cannabis a History, by Martin Booth). But I'm a fairly good mood, so good that I feel adventurous and, instead of getting another pint of Bakalař, I choose Berounský medvěd tmavý 13°. Like the previous one, it's in top form, and a real bargain at 30 CZK a half litre.

Two blokes, Russian or Ukranian, arrive as I squeeze the last drops of the dark beer and make me wonder what this place is like in the evening, and what kind of people patronise it. In any case, it's been a real surprise and a much welcome change, at least beerwise. Should check it out again some evening.

Back on the road, hoping I won't end up in Újzed again.

Na Zdraví!

Kafé Bar U Michála
50°4'30.685"N, 14°27'9.266"E
Korunní 86 – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 605 869 351 – michal.synek@gmail.com
Mon-Fri: 8-23, Sat-Sun: 14-23

Pivní Mapa
50°4'36.310"N, 14°25'50.220"E
Legerova 76 – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 721 250 180 – info@pivnimapa.eu
Mon-Fri: 14-23, Sat-Sun: 15-23

(*) Pivní Mapa's original website announced the move to U Munků. I guess I should pay attention to these things. On the other hand, nobody's paying me for that.

11 Mar 2016

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 acknowledge that there's something more than having a successful business that is driving these people, and “passion” is the best word I can come up with.
The coolships, which they hope will work fine.
Anyway, even if you can't make it next Saturday, do try to go someday to Černokostelecký Pivovár. Believe me, you will not regret it. For anyone with a even passing interest in brewing and its history, their museum is well worth a visit, not to mention having a look at the restored brewery; and their pub is really good, too, as are the beers from the in-house Minipivovar Šnajdr.

Na Zdraví!

Černokostelecký Pivovár
50°13'47.938"N, 14°5'19.052"E
Českobrodská 17 – Kostelec nad Černými lesy
+420 774 533 672 – spravce@pivovarkostelec.cz
Mon-Sun: 11-23
Bus: 381, 387 – Kostelec n.Č.l.-náměstí (from Háje)

3 Mar 2016

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 just size; that consumers have invested those words with attributes equivalent to those the Craft brand enjoys in other countries. Whether they are deserved or not, it's another question; the worst, most overrated and overpriced beers I've drunk in my life were from Craft Breweries/Minipivovary, but so were the best.

At the end of the day, though, it's all marketing, where words are not much more than something that can be twisted, squeezed, used and abused in pretty much any way that may be useful to get some sales.

Na Zdraví!

2 Mar 2016

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 that last bit on FB, Zemské Pivo took issue on Twitter, which prompted a lengthy but civil debate on the matter. I won't link to it, nor embed it here (following an old Twitter conversation is disheartening, especially when more than two parties are involved and hashtag-prefixed are liberally thrown around) I will tell you why I believe řemeselné pivo(var) is a waste of time and intelligence. Bear with me.

It's redundant because we already have a denomination in widespread use that does a perfect job: minipivovar. Zemksé Pivo argues that it's not enough because it refers only to the size of a brewery and not its philosophy, approach or heart, or whatever. Notwithstanding the vagueness of those words, they're still wrong. Hospody nowadays tout ”piva z minipivovarů” just like “Craft beer” is touted by bars in other countries, which I see as clear indication that for the average Honza, minipivovar means a lot more than just a annual production volume bracket. And there's an alternative in case it was not seen as encompassing enough. The other day, the father of one of my daughter's classmates told me that when he goes on trips he likes visiting the local soukromné pivovary (which can be translated as “independent breweries”). I've heard it enough times to make me believe that it carries the same meaning as minipivovar, at least for people who might not know what IPA stands for, but still prefer to drink something other than Europivo. In contrast, I don't remember ever seeing řemeselné pivo in the wild.

There is, by the way, one detail that the řemeselnists seem to ignore (or conveniently forget): what we, and the entire world, understands as Traditional Czech Beer is not the product of idealistic iconoclasts fulfilling their dream of making the world a better place one půllitr a time, but a child of the industrial revolution; the birth of Pilsner Urquell, the most iconic of Czech beers, is a great example of that. But that is not why I think řemeselné pivo(var) is silly.

What Zemské Pivo et al are trying to do is shoehorn into the Czech beer vernacular a concept (for lack of a better word) that's been co-opted and debased by various business interests and marketing illusionists, to the point that a growing number of people are wondering whether it ever had any meaning to begin with, only because they feel that the words Czechs use to describe the very same thing are too objective and not romantic enough. Even if I shared that view (which I don't), I wouldn't see any need to import and translate an empty label when the Czech language already has a word for it: Poctivé. I know that I sort of dismissed it a few years back, but regardless, it is still a beautiful word, and one that, unlike řemeselné, needs no explanation; everyone will understand what Poctivé Pivo is. And maybe that's the problem? After all, “Craft” in any language mutation is known to have been used as an excuse for poor consistency and less than stellar brewing skills and attention to detail (as well as inflated prices).

But what would I know, I'm just an opinionated pisshead.

Na Zdraví!

19 Feb 2016

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 their offspring—very well behaved all four of them—and a bloke furiously tapping what seems to be a novella on his phone, while his meal gets cold under his nose. (at the risk of looking like a sad snob, this is clear proof of how little many people care about their food. I can't believe that people give a text message, or even a phone call, more importance than the food they've ordered and will pay for, but I guess different people have different priorities.)

The beer, Bernard Nefiltrovaná 12°, is in really good shape (better than I expected in fact, given that hardly anyone around me is drinking beer), I only wish they had served it in a chilled, wet glass as it's proper.

Lavička isn't quite my kind of establishment, but I reckon the missus could like it. I must keep it in mind, especially in summer, they seem to have a nice patio.

A drizzle is falling. The kind that is very pleasant to walk under, especially if you're in a city. But I can't indulge, I'm a man on a mission... Where have I heard that before? Never mind, I have a tram to catch. The 9 this time, to Nákladové nádraží Žižkov.

Well, I'm not precisely spoilt for choice here. A dodgy looking Staropramen bar, next to a Činské Bistro with Samson are by the stop. I guess I will have to go to U Kozla, in Basilejské nám.

No! Not yet. I'll go deeper into the side streets and see if I get lucky. If I don't, at least I will have had that walk in the rain I so much craved.

There were no pubs to be found (I'd like to have a word with whomever said Žižkov has the highest concentration of pubs in the... somewhere). But I don't mind, the walk was quite nice, and I'm in the right mood for a beer.

Now, this is a proper Czech hospoda. Taproom in the front—with a štamgast table—and dining room, subdivided, in the back. Everything is reassuringly old-fashioned. With the exception of some of the bottles displayed along the wood panelled walls (there's one of a buckwheat beer from Slovenia, never heard of that), I doubt the decoration has changed much in the last quarter century—that includes the ugly tablecloths and the mullet of the waiter that only takes food orders (there's another one for drinks). I only wish the windows weren't frosted, the weather is perfect to watch the world pass by while sipping a pint.

The clientèle is a pretty diverse bunch: men and women of different ages and walks of life; and, as far as I can see, nobody has their face glued to a screen, as if the pub's atmosphere has made them forget about the electronic masters they carry in pockets and purses. The waiter patiently reciting by heart the day's menu to a blind man adds to that neighbourly vibe that is making me feel so comfortable.

It's shame I can't praise the beer.

I don't realise there's something wrong with it until I've ordered the second pint, when I burped. Burps are an unappreciated tool to evaluate what I call the post-aftertaste of a beer. For instance, I love the burps of a clean aromatic IPA. In this case, though, the post-aftertaste evokes opening the door and walking into a deep, poorly ventilated cellar in an old building. Once I notice it, it becomes the olfactory incarnation of a distant, unidentified buzzing sound; it's impossible to ignore. I don't remember when was the last time I drank Kozel Světlý, but I doubt is the beer; something wrong with the dispensing lines is, I believe, the most likely cause, in which case getting a pint of any of the other beers on tap won't be wise. It's a pity, I was enjoying this place.

Time to go, I guess.

Na Zdraví!

Restaurace Lavička
50°5'3.961"N, 14°27'5.107"E
Seifertova 77 – Praha-Žižkov
+420 222 221 350 - zahradni@restaurace-lavicka.cz
Mon-Sun: 11-23

U Kozla
50°5'14.561"N, 14°28'10.942"E
Jana Želivského 4 – Praha-Žižkov
+420 222 580 405
Mon-Sun: 11-23

1 Feb 2016

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 train station, where patrons are transient by the most part. There is, however, a bit of an atmosphere, thanks in great part to the group of metalheads that have taken over smoking fish-tank. Most of them are drinking beer, but at a leisurely pace; unlike what the stereotype would have you expect.

We beery types often say that beer brings people together, and yet I doubt many in that group give more shits about what they are drinking than about the chairs they're sitting on. Is music that has brought them together. Music brings people together? Films? Food? German tranny porn? No, it's people that bring people together. We tend to gravitate towards people with similar interests because we know we'll have something safe and easy, and more interesting than the weather, to talk about. I believe most people feel uncomfortable if they don't have anything to say when they're in company, as if they were afraid of their own silence, or of being asked the question “are you OK?”. That is why, perhaps, you usually see groups of people walking into a pub, café or restaurant together, only to bury their faces in their phones as soon as their asses are on the chair.

Service is quick and friendly. The beer, on the other hand, is served too cold; suspiciously cold, though nothing seems to be wrong with it after it has caught some temperature by the end, and I get a second one just to make sure.

I'm kind of liking it here. There is a healthy buzz, besides the metalheads, and even the music, your typical pop-radio playlist comprised mostly of one-hit wonders from a couple of decades ago, doesn't bother me. Prices are also surprisingly within the reasonable. It's not the sort of place I would purposely come to, but it's good enough to be at the station a pint earlier next time I have to catch a train.

One thing I notice when I pay by card, and not for the first time: the waitress very quickly skips the screen prompting a tip before she shows me the terminal to put my card on, and leaves with a smile as soon as the transaction is authorised; and I don't think she was expecting me to leave money on the table, I spoke Czech to her all along. I wonder what those who got outraged with a comment I made about tips some years ago have to say about this.

There's 50% chance that I will end up at a stop with literally no pubs around, or at least none that are nearer another stop. That's not good, it's something I didn't take into account when I started this game and I wonder how many stops like that are there. But I'm lucky, I won't have to deal with that today: the 26 direction that will take me to Strossmayerovo nám. is arriving.

The trip is short, but with some on-board entertainment. The woman sitting in front of me is sharing with someone on the phone (and everyone else, apparently) the vicissitudes of a one-night stand, but after the fun bits were over and her squeeze fell asleep, taking most of the bed. I'm tempted to make a comment, but before I can ponder on the wisdom of it, I have to get off.

I scouted this area intensely when researching for the Pisshead's Pub Guide, which has left me with scant choice, if I'm to follow to the letter the self-imposed rules for this game. I stand for a bit and recall that pub around the corner. I guess that's where the next pint is waiting for me.

Oh! Not around this corner, it's around the other one, on Fárskeho; a small glitch in my mental GPS. And there it is, U Divadla.

It is a corner-pubbish as the previous was chain-pubbish. Very little thought was put on the decoration, or rather, nobody got paid a lot of money to convince a bunch of suits that this is the right shade of beige for the tables.

The last of the lunch crowd are cleaning their plates and emptying their glasses, but a part of the pub remains non-smoking. That's where I take a sit, at a spot with a good look to the bar.

I get Gambáč and the waiter/tapster doesn't seem to care that I'm not eating. The beer comes quickly and tastes fresh and very well tapped. That's all the attention I need to pay to it. Ah! The beauty of drinking a beer you know well, once it's been established that it's in good condition, you can devote yourself to something more stimulating like the company, in my case, Galilee. I'm reading the last pages and it quite improved once the story would focus more on the Barbarrosas and less on the Gearys. I had forgotten almost everything about the finish, which is open-ended (I remember Clive Barker talking about a second part in an interview, but I've never heard of it since), and I like it more because of that. Sometimes, it feels nice to have a few questions unanswered.

The waiter/tapster looks at me from the bar just when I put the empty mug on the table. He gives me a thumbs up and I nod. The non-verbal exchange results, of course, in a second mug being brought to replace the empty one, which will be followed by a third a while later. I decided I want to finish the book, and I also like it here. This is a good hospoda (as hospody with a štamgast table tend to be), one where I feel comfortable and that even in the early afternoon has a neighbourly atmosphere going. I must come back someday.

But the last page has been read, and the last pint has been emptied. It's time to go and see where DPP will take me now.

Na Zdraví!

Krušovická Šalanda
50°5'0.799"N, 14°26'3.023"E
Hlavní nádraží – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 774 439 430 – 157.salanda@autogrill.net
Mon-Sun from 7

U Divadla
50°5'58.975"N, 14°26'7.813"E
Pplk. Sochora 9 – Praha-Holešovice
+420 774 713 141 – udivadla@gmail.com
Mon-Fri: 10-23, Sat-Sun: 11-23

28 Jan 2016

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, in order to keep up with the evolution of the market, further amendments should be expected in the near future.

That's an aim I share, and I would therefore like to contribute a few ideas to the future amendments:

Výčepní pivo, as a name for a category has been made obsolete and inaccurate. Since 2009, most of the beer in the Czech Republic is drunk bottled, and I'm sure someone somewhere is laughing at the image of láhvové výčepní pivo, like it happened with top-fermented Ležák. The legislation should somewhat address that, too. My first choice for the new name, Lahváč, presented two problems: on the one hand, it is still a registered trade-mark, on the other, it could create confusion at a pub; people would no longer order “Výčepní”, but a “Lahváč” and the server might bring them a bottle instead of a draft beer. A better name then would be Chlastační pivo. It sounds nice, I think—Braník chlastační pivo světlý—and it's very accurate. Degustační pivo should be also considered instead of Silné. (Ležák, of course, should not be touched, I wouldn't like Pavel Páral to make a fool of himself again with an opinion piece about beer.)

The name Plné pivo seems to have been chosen a bit on a rush and that is why, I believe that, besides opening the door for a lot of silly jokes, it does not fully express the contrast with Ležák. To that purpose I suggest Stoják, Rychlák, Svrchňák or simply Ejlák.

But the changes should not end there. Beer nomenclature has a lot of inaccuracies, some of which border the offensive. India Pale Ale should be revised. Not only modern IPAs have nothing to do with India, but the name also refers to colonial oppression and brutality. I suggest Hop-forward Pale Ale or Indiscreet Pale Ale, if they want to keep the acronym. Imperial, as an indicator for stronger, presents a similar problem. Not only this country hasn't been part of an empire for nearly a century, but the word is also contrary to the tenets that form the pillars of European values. I suggest Democratic, Inclusive or Humanistic as alternatives.

But let's not get carried away. This is a concern that transcends the boundaries of Czech beer culture and thus, it should be addressed at the international stage.

Na Zdraví!

25 Jan 2016

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 their boredom.

There aren't any seats at the bar. You can sit on stools by the wall opposite, but those tiny semi-circular shelves (they can't be called tables) between them look awfully uncomfortable. I take the table nearest to the bar, and order Hradební Tmavé. I haven't drunk that beer since Kaaba closed almost two years ago, I'm glad it's on tap here. The waiter doesn't look very happy I'm not ordering food, though.

The beer takes long to arrive and the wait is not worth it. Its distinctively stale character could have been appreciated by a Porter drinker in 18th century London, but I'm a (mostly) Lager drinker in 21st century Prague. I should probably return it, but I can't be bothered; it is no worse shape than the Gambrinus I had earlier at Na Břežance. I'll bury my face in my book and will try not to pay too much attention. (To give them credit, though, the glass has been very well washed and rinsed).

I'm tempted to order the 15° from Dobruška that's also on tap, but I decide against it. Not only I fear it will have a thicker Flemish accent than the one I'm finishing, but because I don't want to stay here any longer. This place is as boring as the music they play, and as mildly irritating as the fake flowers decorating the ceiling. (Really, who decorates the vaulted, bare-brick ceiling of a cellar with fake lotuses? What do they want to convey with that? That the owner is a slightly overweight, loud woman in her fifties who wears golden rings on all her chubby fingers and has a silly hairdo?). I pay and leave, feeling better for not having bothered with Kampárium during the fieldwork for my book.

Újezd is a bit crap. It's three ways, and all the stops are far a part, there's also poor visibility. I'm lucky, though, before I can figure out a vantage point, a 12 comes from Smíchov. I break into a trot, I don't want to miss this one.

The route of the 12 was changed a couple of years ago, I think. Which is good, otherwise I would have to get off at Čechův Most, and that stop is rubbish. Now, I must get off at Chotkový Sady, which is actually not that much better.

If the weather was nicer—like sit-under-a-tree-sipping-beer-from-a-plastic-cup nice—I would venture into Letná, even if it meant bending the rules, but it isn't and I will have to make do with what I have at hand: an Italian restaurant whose name I can't remember or Café Pointa. I pick the latter only on the merit of being closer.

Fancy looking place this one is; almost as fancy as the patrons--who I bet earn in average significantly more than me. To make it more clear that I'm not the audience of this establishment, I'm the only one with a beer, but that's not what bothers me, really (honestly, I'm 44 and all my shots of notgivingashitasil are up-to-date). It takes me a little to figure it out: the tables are way too close to each other, preventing any sense of intimacy. I can hear very clearly every single word of the conversation at the table next to mine, and they aren't speaking loudly. A woman is talking about all the people she knows at some Municipal Authority. I know I shouldn't be listening to that, but it's impossible not to.

I don't stay here for a second pint, either. The beer, Pilsner Urquell, tastes all right, but I feel my time will be better spent drinking elsewhere, even if I still don't know where.

Kampárium
50°4'54.523"N, 14°24'20.932"E
Říční 9 – Praha-Malá Strana
+420 730 629 299 – kamparium@kamparium.cz
Mon-Sat: 10:30-23, Sun: 11-22

Cafe Pointa
50°5'48.688"N, 14°24'27.105"E
Na valech 2 – Praha-Hradčany
+420 233 321 289 - info@cafepointa.cz
Mon-Fri: 9-22, Sat-Sun: 9-21:30

18 Jan 2016

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. To get back to the tram stop I will have to go up the hill, on the icy pavement, with several kg of groceries on my back. And they wonder how I can stay so lean.

I must've walked past Restaurace Orion a thousand times on my way down to Vršovice, and not even once I thought of going in, even if the patio in summer looks very nice. No patio today, I'm afraid. I'll have to go inside.

It's a lot smaller than I thought! Can't be much wider than a train carriage, if that much. There aren't too many people (though I doubt this place could ever fit enough people to be considered “many”, at least not inside). I'm hungry and I take a tiny table in one corner of the main room. The beer list is of the Gambrinus-Kozel-Urquell persuasion. I get a Gambáč—is what everybody is drinking—and fried feta with chips (which turns out to be excellent, really).

The TV's on, but it's not on a music or a sports channel. It's showing the last few minutes of a documentary about the Costa Concordia shipwreck. It's as sensationalist as you'd expect. The only interesting bit is right by the end, when they speak—all too briefly—about the project to salvage the wreck (ever since I worked at the construction of a power plant, I've been fascinated by large-scale engineering projects). Another documentary starts after a few ads; one that couldn't be any more out of place. It's about Lebensborn, the program of the SS to have Aryan soldiers shag Aryan girls to produce Aryan babies who will take over the world, or something like that. It's a serious topic that we should all know about, but it's not the kind of thing you want to watch or listen to while you're trying to enjoy a beer; it almost makes me wish they had MTV on. (On a side note: if you think of it, the Nazis are some of history's biggest and most pathetic loosers. They had their asses handed to them in the war they started, which resulted in their country being occupied and split for more than 40 years and have become a lazy, though legitimate, descriptor for evil. Who can possibly be inspired by them? Idiots, that's who.)

After I finish the second beer and pay the bill, I leave trying to decide whether I've liked Orion or not. Beer and food were more than fine—better than I'd expected, perhaps—but the place hasn't got much of an atmosphere going on (and I doubt it can improve much at a later hour); though once the weather gets warmer, it can become a good spot for a quick pint al fresco—I must make a mental note to check it out then.

It doesn't matter which tram comes first—10 or 16, on either direction—they both follow the same route, at least for the required number of stops, which is now four.

I see one approaching, the 10, it will take me back to where I came from. Not all the way back, I'll have to get off at I.P. Pavlova.

I can't be arsed with U Graffů, in the square proper. I'll go down Lublaňská. There's an “Irish” pub and one that looks a bit tourist-trappy. No thanks and no thanks. The one with the Gambrinus sign at the far end of the block it is then.

As with Orion, I've walked past Na Břežance loads of times, but never went in. Time to change that.

This place is alive, really, really alive; and packed. I'm lucky to find a free table in the fairly large main room—the taproom is full and the Salónek seems to have been reserved for a school reunion of class 1917.

Whereas service at Orion was slow (but in a good way), here is fast and very attentive. It takes me no time to order my beer: Gambrinus 12° Nefiltrované.

Before they bring it, I notice a woman at a nearby table eyeballing me as if she was trying to figure out where she knows me from, hoping she actually doesn't. It creeps me out a bit, I must say. I try to forget about her reading my book: Clive Barker's “Galilee”. (I'm enjoying it less than I did when I first read it about 10 years ago. It feels a bit as if Neil Gaiman had tried to write a Jackie Collins novel.)

By the way, the beer: the flavours are dominated by a mild, yet relentless note of why-I-will-never-be-a-fan-of-Lambic. I want to get something else for second course, but I'm reading as I empty the glass—I'm still averting the gaze of that woman—and I only manage to nod to the waitress asking if I want another one, before she disappears with the glass.

Frankly, I don't care. The beer was still drinkable, barely (and the second tastes better, actually), and I'm liking it here in Na Břežance. There's nothing different or new, nothing remarkable, nothing I haven't seen in countless other pubs in town. It might be the familiarity, or that the place is still full; and noisy. There's no TV in sight, nor any music I can hear; only the sound of people having a good time. The best music any pub can have.

I almost order a third pint, but I have other things to do. Some other time, perhaps.

Restaurace Orion
50°4'26.674"N, 14°27'33.972"E
Říčanská 7 – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 702 806 632 – restorion@centrum.cz
Mon-Sun: 11-23

Na Břežance
50°4'26.618"N, 14°25'52.757"E
Lublaňská 49 – Praha Vinohrady
+420 222 514 124 – 222 514 124
Mon-Fri: 10-24, Sat-Sun: 11-24