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A false start

I didn't have it planned, but almost at the last minute I decided to attend the opening day of Český Pivní Festival 2009.

When I arrived a few minutes after the opening of the opening day of last year's edition, there were a couple of things that weren't working all that well, small and understandable organisation problems. However, the most important thing, the beer, was flowing from the very start.

It wasn't like that this year. I arrived almost at 4PM (the festival had started at 3). The grounds were the huge, warehouse sized tents had been set were coverend in water (there had been a pretty big storm around 3). I met Evan Rail and Velký Al in tent #6, the one with Kout and the micros. After greeting them Evan asked me if I noticed something wrong. "No beer", I answered. It was almost 4 and they weren't serving beer yet! At a beer festival! Someone from the organisation approached us to apologise, explaining that due to some technical problems they wouldn't start serving beer for another half an hour, then he suggested we go to tent #3.
There we went. The few people that had arrived at the festival seemed to be all there. There were long lines at the taps and the beer was being tapped very, very slowly. Table service, not a chance. At least we were able to buy some tolars (they were selling them in little bags of five units, pretty clever).
Very thristy and a bit frutrated we decided to go back to tent 6. Beer was already being tapped. Only Konrad, of all, the least interesting. I couldn't wait any longer and went to the next door tent. Things were working fine here. With a Primátor Stout in my hand I went back to my friends, only to go with them back again to tent 5.

Things now were looking a bit more festivally. People was slowly arriving. Table service was excellent. The waitresses, all of them very friendly, would show up as soon as a glass was empty to see if we wanted another beer. I stayed with Primator's "non lagers", Stout, EPA and Weizen (what a great idea it was to include them). All of them were in great shape. Almost too good, I would say, specially EPA and Weizen (I could see many people drinking the latter at the neighbouring tables).

We returned to tent 6. It was pretty populated already. Table service was already working properly and all the beers were flowing. The craft of the day was Rampušak, de Pivovar Dobruška, a very nice pale 12, unfiltered and with a lot of life in each sip.

I left a bit after 7, still not liking the choice of venue. Compared with last years, where there were trees, green and life, this one looked like a factory or a distribution centre for a supermarket chain. The atmosphere outside the tents wasn't too different to that, either.
While I was walking the metro station I noticed that all tents were opened and there were plenty of people in each one. The festival was working at full steam already. Comments I received and read during the weekend were all very possitive. Still, the bad taste that the beginning left still lingered. Organisation errors like those are unforgivable. I hope nothing like that happens, I hope the festival is a success.

Oh! Before going to the middle of nowhere that is Letňany, I had stopped by Zlý Časy to check out the parallel festival they are organising. 11 beers craft beers on tap each day (well, when I arrived, there were only 8, we had to wait until the storm passed for the taps in the patio to be set up). I had three, all of them really, really good. Do not miss it, no true beer lover should miss this festival. Actually, if you have to choose between the big one in Letňany and this small one in Nusle, choose the latter.
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  1. Went to the Czech beer festival the first day when we met you, then to the Zly Casy one on saturday. They were rotating the kegs fairly often at Zly Casy, ended up drinking there for 8 hours straight :)

  2. I think there are more systemic problems with the Czech Beer Festival, which I will address more fully on Fuggled tomorrow. Basically I was seriously under-impressed.

  3. I was there yesterday.
    The beer was good, especially EPA.
    1. There was no information outside the tents what was on tap inside.
    2. The food was disappointing - utopenec in hot sauce in Nachod tent had a lot of ketchup in it (wtf?) and Big american burger in the Micro tent was of Mc Donald's size :-(
    3. I would greatly appreciate small beers to taste more of them.
    4. It would be great if one could buy less than 5tl. After some beers I would go for more, but not for 5 more, shame.
    Bottomline: I expected more.

    P.S.: The waitresses were nice but their dresses were pitiful.

  4. I agree with both Velký Al and Blabous. I remember last year outside each tent there was a banner of each of the breweries tapped there. This time it was all about walking in and checking what was on the menu.

    Another thing. After the first day last year I was looking forward to going there again. This time, I don't know, I don't think I will be missing much if I don't go. I'd much rather go to the festival at Zlý Časy.

    There seem to be mixed reviews about the food, though. I've read and heard good comments on it (paní Velkalová among them), but I wasn't expecting anything memorable.

    The small beer issue. That is the lack of flexibility that the tolar gives you. I do like the tolar system, makes service a lot faster than it would otherwise be, but it's got its disadvantages. For smaller beers, you have Zlý Časy's festival.

  5. gnoff,
    I've heard about what you and your mates did at Zlý Časy on Saturday.

    BTW. I stopped by there today. Lovely beer list. Those who didn't go missed the amazing Kopřivnice 14° tm. It tasted almost like a Belgian Abbey beer. Simply lovely.

  6. I was at Letnany on Saturday and thought it was fantastic. I had some excellent pints of Kout and Purkmistr, and enjoyed the music and food as well. I will definitely be going again.

    It sounds like your experience was similar to mine at the Christmas Beer Market. I attended the first session at which there was only one tap working and a half hour line for a beer, which left a bad taste in my mouth.

  7. Well, this the "problem" with all the beer geeks, including me. I'd prefer to go to Zly casy too, but for promotion for microbreweries, event at Letnany is a better option. There new to many regular drinkers.

    I was there only on Sunday evening, it was not so crowded, so everyhting was easy.

    I dont like the surroundings. But as there were supposed to be two lines of tents, but they had to pull down the right one due the problems with near by airport, it might have looked different.

    Honza svet piva

  8. Honza,

    I agree with you 100%. I am really happy that this year's festival includes beers from micros, I am also happy that more breweries are present this year than last year. I do really hope they do as well as the all did in 2008. I only wish the venue had a bit more atmosphere....

    Anyway, it is great that we have two festivals in Prague at the same time, one for the general public, the other one for geeks like us (and for what I've heard, the geek's one is doing pretty well)

  9. I went along on Saturday with 8 people, arriving just after 6pm.
    Even at the busiest part of the evening the tents had lots of free seats, but the waiting staff were running around slightly struggling to cope.
    I think they are trying to put on a huge festival but they haven't got enough people who want to go.
    I would have checked out Zly Casy if I'd known about it.

  10. Need to get beack to PRague soon! Btw, love the Zlý Časy glass!

  11. The food was a total rip-off, in my opinion.
    80 Kr for a small bowl of thin soup and a stale roll. You wouldn't get charged that in tourist areas of Prague!
    By the end of the week, some tents were offering a free pint if you bought a meal. Looks like the caterers were left with a lot of meals to shift. And at 40 Kr a go, the beer wasn't cheap either.
    On the positive side, the number of available beers was very impressive. And although the venue was too far out of town and lacked atmosphere, there was plenty of seating and I had no trouble getting served.


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