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A Few Easter Beers in Písek

As we’ve been doing the last few years, we spent Easter with relatives, in Strakonice. On Saturday, we went to Tábor, an uninteresting town beewise*, but I loved it nonetheless. The old town is charming, full of narrow, twisting alleys where one can get happily lost, and the main square is gorgeous.

On Sunday, we headed to Písek, a very nice town for a day trip. It was our third trip there; the first one had been a few years before, also at Easter, and the second, last year in summer. This time, what brought us was the permanent exhibition for children at the old malthouse, which my daughter really wanted to see.

As we were getting ready for the trip, I remembered that last year, in autumn, a brewpub had opened and I volunteered to stay with Isis, our bitch (he!), while the girls were in the exhibition.

Pisecký Hradební Pivovar is located in an urban nook near the town’s main square, in what remains of the old city walls. The entrance is through a corridor that leads to a park in the back of the building. To the left there is a restaurant room that I’m not sure was open yet for the day. On the right is the door to the brewpub’s taproom, with the stainless steel bar in the back and a couple of tables. A bit too minimalist for my taste, with not much of a decoration to speak of. Unfortunately, the tables were taken and there was nowhere to have a beer na stojáka. I had to go to the other room, accessible through a doorway next to the beer tank, and man, that one was ugly! It was smaller than the taproom, and narrower; gloomy, too, with only a small window letting in a bit of daylight. One wall was lined with three booths for six to eight people, with 160-170 cm tall partitions painted dark brown and framed with blue pipes, each with its own overhead lamp, and a table for four with very ugly chairs, perhaps leftovers from the previous pub that operated in the premises. On the opposite wall there were three very small tables that together would accommodate a further six people if they weren’t so close together; really, I wasn’t able to pull my chair far enough to sit moderately comfortable without hitting the table behind me. And to make it worse, all the tables were bolted to the wall. All the booths and chairs (with the exception of the one behind me, of course) were taken and everyone was speaking in hushed tones. I felt like being in an ungodly hybrid between a neighbourhood fast-food shop and a dive where you’d meet a hitman** to sort out the details of the contract.

I guess decoration and interior design weren’t among the owners’ priorities, but what about the beers?

The menu on my table listed two beers that are permanently on tap (it also listed food, and I wonder how can anyone eat on a table bolted to the wall, barely wider than a cubit) and I started with Pisecký Ležák.

According to the description, is a ležák plzeňského typu, but that’s not how I would’ve described the orange beer I had in the glass. The description says it’s brewed with several types of malt. Why? What’s wrong with using only Pilsner malt? I can understand throwing in a pinch of Munich or caramel malt to give the beer a bit more depth. But more than that? That’s not how brew a Světlý Ležák. All that being said, outside a competition, a beer should be judged on its own merits and not according to any style guidelines. And this one started fine enough. It had a rustic yet agreeable malt character that reminded me of some Märzenbiere, and I was enjoying it until, about halfway down the mug, the herbal bitterness, which so far had been barely competently playing two chords on the rhythm guitar, said “fuck it! I ain’t nobody’s sidekick!” Pushed everyone around to play a solo, and, by the end of the glass, the beer tasted almost like chewing a bunch of parsley; any thoughts of having a second one had vanished faster than the first pint of Desítka in a hot day.

It was followed by the deep ruby red Vídeňský Ležák, tapped, unfortunately in a dry, warm mug. It didn’t matter. It had the same parsley-like bitterness as the previous one, which overwhelmed whatever the malts were supposed to be doing. If anything, it was even more unpleasant.

So far, the beers of Pisecký Hradební Pivovar had been on the wrong side of mediocre, but I was in a good mood and wanted to give them another chance. I chose the Velikonoční Tmavá 13°, which was served in a 0.4l glass. Why do they do that? And why in the name of all the fucks that fly does this beer cost, by volume, about 50% more than the other two? If I’d seen the size of the portion written anywhere (let alone the price), I would not have ordered it and would’ve probably called it a day (after the previous two, there was not way I was having the house’s APA). But, alas, the beer was in front of me waiting to be drunk.

I was expecting a dark lager, but it wasn’t. The description on the laminated beer list said it was top fermented, brewed with New Zealand hops. It had a mild, but pleasant nose of flowers and tropical fruit with a hint of roast in the back, but it tasted as if the brewer had been asked to make a Black IPA but was never quite sold on the idea. That in itself wouldn’t be bad if the beer hadn’t tasted like it needed more of something – hops or roasted malt – specially in the finish, which falls flat, almost watery.

I think they had another beer on tap besides the APA, Florián, a Desítka, that I would’ve probably ordered first, but I didn’t have a beer list on the table, nor was I given one by the waitress (I took one from another table when I was finishing the dark ale), but I couldn’t be arsed any longer with this place. It must be one of the ugliest pubs I’ve ever been to, and I didn’t enjoy any of the three beers I had. It was time to leave.

When I left, as I strolled by the nice park along the old city walls, I called the missus to see what they were up to. “Nela still hasn’t been to the anthill, we’ll be here for another hour or so,” she said and I told her I’d be in the Kozlovna across the river, by the Stone Bridge.

Say what you want about pub chains, but they do know how to make a place look at least appealing, and Kozlovna U Plechandy is no exception. Granted, unlike Pisecký Hradební Pivovar, the pub isn’t in a forgotten corner, but by the river front and has large windows that let in plenty of light and offer great views to the Stone Bridge (the oldest in the country) and the malthouse, the dominant of the old town, on the opposite side. It’s much larger than the brewpub, too, and it was teeming with families and groups having lunch and, by the sound of it, a very good time. I was lucky to find a table.

Service was very good: friendly, very attentive; a waitress took my order almost as soon as I had sat, while another brought a bowl of water for the dog. I was feeling a bit peckish, but didn’t want to have a full meal because I didn’t know how long it’d take and we were going to have lunch in Strakonice, anyway. I settled for the goulash soup, which was one of the best I’ve ever had, though, for 57 CZK, the portion was too small and I wasn't brought bread. I needed hardly to think about the beer, Kozel 12° Nefiltrovaný. (curiously, they didn’t have Kozel Tmavý on tap)

Say what you want about macro breweries, but they do know how to make a pale lager that at least looks the part, and that, at least in this case, tastes really good, too, especially when is properly served, in a mug chilled with cold water. A second půl litr followed. I was really enjoying myself there, soaking up the atmosphere. I thought of having a third, but it would’ve easily led to a sixth, which I din’t think would have been a very good idea on an almost empty stomach. I paid, left, and was crossing the bridge, looking for a sunny place to sit to read, when the wife called to announce they were on their way.

So, there you have it. I ended up enjoying a branch of a pub chain and its macro lager a lot more than the local brewpub and its Řemeselné Pivo. Who would’ve thought?

Na Zdraví!

* There was a beer festival in town that weekend, but didn’t even consider going because a) I was with the family and the dog, and b) it’s the type that charges admission fee and those festivals can fuck the right off.
** Or hitperson? You never know these days

Pisecký Hradební Pivovar
N 49°18.53152', E 14°9.01782'
V Koutě 90/4 – Písek – Vnitřní Město – +420 722 030 717
Mon-Thu: 10-22, Fri-Sat: 10-24, Sun: 10-21

Kozlovna U Plechandy
N 49°18.55772', E 14°8.67488'
Svatotrojická 164/5 – Písek – Pražské Předměstí – +420 604 333 444
Mon-Sat: 11-23, Sun: 11-22