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