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God Save the (Real) Ale II

Mi friend John, from England, was back in Prague for a short holiday a couple of months ago. Just like last time, we met for lunch, in this opportunity joined by his two friends, themselves beer enthusiasts. We had some good fun, talked at length, had several beers (the IPA from I don't remember whether Koucour or Matuška made a pretty good impression among these experienced Ale, etc. drinkers). Just like last time, I received some samples of RAIB's (Real Ales in Bottle), all in beautiful bottles and all, with the exception of Fuller's 1845, very sessionable, with an ABV below 5%. (BTW, I was really glad to receive another bottle of 1845, I loved it last year).
To start, I opened Barnstormer, a Dark Bitter brewed by Bath Ales. I would love to tell you more about its bouquet. At first, I thought it was the beer that didn't have much to offer, but after going through these and other Ales. etc. I came to the conclusion that the nonic glass, though pretty nice and comfortable for drinking, is crap for evaluating aromas. Back to the beer. It's got a pretty unctuous mouth feel, with nice notes of caramel and black sugar along with a subtle mix of flowers and tropical fruit to give it balance. I loved it. In a way, it reminded me to Bakalář Polotmavé Výčepní. As that one, Barnstormer is a fantastic ale to drink (several of) while enjoying a barbecue with friends.

The only gripe I have about it comes from the label, where it's described as "complex". Mine might not be the sharpest of palates, but complex is one thing this beer isn't. It simple, tasty and very satisfying, and that's the beauty in it. Anyone can make a complex beer, but brewing something like Barnstormer isn't so easy and deserves more praise.
Batemans XXXB (what a fugly website) was the second in line. If any of you are wondering what that XXXB means, look for it in Ron Pattison's blog, he'll be able to confuse you a lot better than me. And that's pretty much it. There's not much else I can tell you about this Pale Ale, other than it's boring, monotonous and forgettable. Perhaps all those X's made me expect something bolder, either way, it was disappointing.
To finish the session I opened the Stout from Titanic Brewery (who have a really nice webpage). I really, really liked this beer. I'm a style anarchist, but experience has helped me know pretty much what to expect from each style and sometimes, it's nice to get just that. Roasted coffee, brown sugar, some raisins and a finish with a now more intense coffee. Another beautiful beer without pretensions, great to have a couple in the afternoon.

Thanks John and his two friends (sorry lads, I can't remember your names) for these three samples of classic English brews.

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  1. "brewing something like Barnstormer isn't so easy and deserves more praise" - amen to that!! The current obsession with super mega boozy and over hopped beers is driving me nuts because the simple classics, simple in the sense of limited ingredients, are so damned difficult to do well and good ones should be praised highly.

  2. I'm not bothered by those super mega boozy and over hopped beers, in fact, I do like drinking them sometimes (provided they are good, that is). What bothers me is the disproportionate attention they demand. Just a quick look at the top 50 of rate beer is proof of that. How come that there isn't a single session beer in there?

  3. I wonder if it a question of demographic? Perhaps as you get a bit older, into your mid thirties perhaps, you start to appreciate simpler but better made things rather than the latest greatest craze. Just a thought mind.

  4. Could be, but I think there are other factors. Price (most people will be more willing to pay more for something stronger), the need to drink something different than the usual stuff (and these beers are different at first sight), in the US, the lack of pub culture (the extreme beer phenomenon doesn't seem to be very strong in the UK, Germany and CZ) and drinking habits. To me, drinking beer is part of my daily life, as much as I like strong, complex beers, it is the simple ones that I drink on a daily basis.

  5. "lack of pub culture" - tell me about it! It is driving me nuts, when Pani Velkyalova and I eventually buy a house I will have to build my own bar or make sure the house is near a decent boozer so I can wander home piddled.

  6. I was just wandering what are some of the good Ales you can get in Prague/Czech R.? I am starting to like this kind of beer more and more.

    Maybe an inspiration for future article ;)

  7. Pavel,

    Robertson's has a nice selection of English Ales that is worth checking out and, though slightly different, some BrewDog stuff sold here is pretty nice as well. And you also have a few Czech micros making pretty good ales, the IPA's from Kocour and Matuška are really good.


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