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