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Showing posts from 2011

Wishlist for 2012

In 2012 I want: To keep on drinking good beer, regardless of where, how or by whom it is brewed (not too hard, I know) A couple more "čtvrtá pípa" pubs, but also more places like U Slovanské Lípy that sell only one "alternative" brand (there are times when all I want is to order "pivo") Aliance PIV to keep on growing Prague Beer Museum to once and for all sort out their problem with the storage of the beers A top of the range restaurant to start offering a solid list of domestic and imported beers that will be announced everywhere and that will not include rubbish like Corona, Guinness Draught or Desperados. The fever for extreme, hop/yeast/wood driven beers to slow down a bit and that "innovative" brewers everywhere will take the challenge of making down to earth beers with moderate % of ABV, but at the same times tasty and interesting. That those brewers who have quality control or consistency problems get their shit together or

2011 - The finest

Without further ado, here you have what I've liked the most during this year that is almost gone. Domestic beer, draught : Únětická 12º, I was going to pick Chýně's magnetic Stout , a fantastic brew, no doubt, but Únětice's is not only great, but can also be drunk in more and more places in Prague and around. Honorable mentions: Besides the aforementioned Stout, Polotmavá 13º from Pivovar Antoš . Domestic beer, bottle : Primátor Stout. Honorable mentions: Eggenberg Nakouření Švíhák, Janáček Kounic. Foreign beer, draught : Mahr's Brau Ungespundet Kellerbier ( at the brewery's taproom ). Honorable mentions : Neder Annafestbier , Schlenkerla Märzen (at the brewery's taproom). Foreign beer, bottled : Pretty difficult here, but, Pliny the Elder (thanks Brian), one of those few beers that are better than their fame. Honorable mentions: N'ice Chouffe, DeMolen Hel & Verdoemenis, Kraus Hell Lager Pivovar : Únětický Pivovar . Not only they are ma

It's obvious, but...

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but... TRAPPIST IS NOT A STYLE Dear micro brewer, unless you are a member of the said monastic order, your beer isn't "Trappist", nor it is "Trappist style" because, besides the fact that you can't even call it "Trappist", TRAPPIST IS NOT A STYLE . "Abbey" is not a style, either. In some cases, it is only a little more than a label, like "craft", but in the case of the so called Erkend Belgisch Abdijbier , it referes to breweries that are subject to certain regulations, which, as with the Trappist, do not concern the quality or kind of beer that is brewed. In other words, and quoting my friend "Thirsty Pilgrim" : "Westvleteren could make a farty filtered lager and it would still be Trappist beer." The reason why Abbey and Trappist breweries don't make a Pils is the same reason why Czech industrial breweries don't make a Tripel. And since I'm in the re

Vaclavák for Czechs?

In the almost 10 years that I've been living in Prague I haven't been into any of the pubs, bars, restaurants or cafés in Wenceslas Square. Those that don't have "tourist trap" written all over, are simply not my kind of places. The other day, though, I decided to make an exception with Restaurace v Melatrichu , which according to the The Prague Post wants to be a place that not only caters for tourist, but also for locals. At first sight, this can be confirmed by the prices of beer list (more on it later), with the exception of Pilsner Urquell , all beers are below the 40CZK mark a pint. There are, however, a couple of things that could set some alarms off. The beers are also sold in tupláky , the only people here who drink from 1l glasses are the most obtuse tourists. On top of it, at the entrance to the restaurant the beer list is posted in Russian. Now, I've got absolutely nothing against Russians, but it is well known that, in average, they are by f

News on the Black Ox

It seems there are some good news about U Černého Vola . One Anonymus left a comment on yesterday's post that brought my attention to some recent developments. After reading about them on the page of the petition , I decided to contact Matouš Hájek , the petition's organiser. Besides saving me some time, I thought he would be able to explain me the situation in a better way. The conlusion, it's probable that U Černého Vola has survived this. But before telling you how and why, let me tell you how this whole thing came to happen. In his e-mail, Hájek, gave me some details that paint a pretty interesting picture. The story goes like this: Mr. Landergot , who is the current leaseholder, had decided to retire and to devolve the contract to one Mr. Benda , who's a member of the same association as him, Sdružení za zachování hostince U Černého vola (Association to preserve the pub U Černého vola). To do this he had to rescind his contract with Prague 1, the owners of the

Save the Black Ox!

U Černého Vola , an institution in the Prague beer scene and one of the finest dives in the city, if not the world, might soon cease to exist. Unfortunately, this isn't due to the place doing bad or because some bureaucrat so decided. Quite the opposite, actually. The authorities of Prague 1 have said that they would like Vola to stay as it is, but their hands are tied by the law. Prague 1 is the building's landlord and someone has offered to rent the premises for 400,000CZK a year, which is more than the current tenants can afford, and the must accept the highest bid. Currently, U Černého Vola is run by a non-for profit organisation that donates all revenues to a school for handicapped children. The wannabe tenants are Plzeňský Restaurant , who, if I'm not wrong, have several restaurants in Prague and around. I'm not going to go all Occupy Wall Street on you here. I believe in Capitalism (the real one, not the travesty governments have allowed bankers and specula

A great idea for a Christmas present

Do you want to buy someone a really special Christmas gift? How about a book, you can never go wrong with a book, specially one that is not only great fun to read, but also practical for anyone planning to come to Prague (or even dreaming about it). But that's not it. You can get that wonderful, unique, fun (did I say it was fun?) book with a  30% DISCOUNT!!! Yes, that's right! You can buy "Prague: A Pisshead's Pub Guide" (Certainly, the best guide of Prague written by an Argentine) with a 30% DISCOUNT. But hurry up, you have until tomorrow. So go to this page, My Author's Page at pick the book the whichever version you want (did you know? Now it's available in e-book format for the I-Pad!) and enter this discount code WINTERSAVE305 during the purchase. Your loved one will love it! Na Zdravi!

Thoughts after a couple of early pints

I love Kaaba , in Lucemburská. It's a small café in a quiet, tree-lined, side street of Vinohrady with an intimate atmosphere and fantastic soundtrack. Or at least that's how I find it on Tuesday and Thursday mornings when I go for an early pint or two of very well tapped Polička Hradební Tmavé , one of the finest exponents of one of the most underrated Czech beer categories, tmavé výčepní . Much of that atmosphere is generated by the štamgasty, who are a pretty colourful bunch. It's really fantastic to sit down and chat about history, films, music, Argentina, politics and what have you with people like a retired Mariner, an Investigative Journalist or the Chairman of the Czech Monarchist Party while listening to Cream, Tom Waits, Max Raabe or Chet Baker. This wouldn't be possible without the figure of the owner, a pretty interesting bloke himself, with a theatre background (not acting) and great taste for music, and with whom it's also very interesting to talk.

Selected Readings: November

For a change, I'm on time this month. It feels good! But enough bollocks, let's go through last month's best beer bits. Velký Al is not too happy with what he read about Pale Lagers in an article published by American newspaper . The author, one Steve Body, a.k.a. "The Pour Fool", is one of those people who speaks with authority about a topic he doesn't understand, nor is he interested in learning much about, which isn't so much foolish as it is stupid. On the other hand, it's good to know that publishing bollocks about beer isn't exclusive to the Spanish speaking press. Of all the people involved in the beer industry, from the suppliers of raw materials to the final consumer, nobody has the chance to feel the market better than the owners of specialised bars and shops. That is why when someone like 2D2dspuma offer their (extensive) point of view about what the new brewers should consider when putting together their product portfolio, it

In praise of the bores

These days I've read more than one blog post quoting some people denouncing the "uniformity" of the German beer landscape, which reminded me that until not long ago I was saying more or less the same about the Czech one. Tandlemann spoke about Schönram , a rural Bavarian brewery owned by a yank, that specialises in Pale Ales, Porters, etc. A few days before, Stan Hieronymus presented TAP X , Schneider's new beer. Both cases are shown as proof of a slow change in the "boring" German beer market. Something similar, though in a bigger scale, is happening here. Pivovar Kocour , Matuška and others are becoming more and more specialised in "exotic" styles and, generally speaking, with very good results both in quality and sales. The relative success of these beers have motivated others to have a go at making "something different" and the other day it was announced that the recently privatised and rescued from a certain death Pivovar Výš

It's time to grow up

"Unlike industrial beers, the so called "craft beers" tend to be yeast soups of incredibly irregular quality. That could be because they are brewed by amateurs who use equipment that is a bit more than improvised. These self proclaimed "Brew Masters", be it due to their poor knowledge of the trade or their limited business vision, often sell clearly flawed beers and expect the consumer not only to pay a high price for them, but also to accept and even admire them because they are "craft" or "artisan". Can you imagine what would happen if someone published something like this? The author would be greeted by a barrage of heavy caliber insults fired by platoons of lovers of good beer. And it would be well deserved! That thing above is not only false, but also massively stupid. Not a lot more false and stupid, though, than the first paragraph of this article published in a Chilean beer site (SP): "The main difference between industrial

The magic of Lípy

Does any of you have a favourite pub in your town that for whatever reasons, that don't have to do with money, you don't go as often as you'd like? That is exactly what happens to me with U Slovanské Lípy . I love this pub, so much that for the IN Magazine's survey I put it on the second spot of my Top 10. The reason why I don't go that often is perhaps the opening hours. At 4PM I'm usually on my second or third pint somewhere else and don't feel very much like moving. Those who follow this blog for a longer time might remember that early last year Lípy closed , something that caused much sadness. Fortunately, it was only for a few weeks, a bunch of new people took over the place and has it running to this day. I don't know if it was their own choice or lack of resources, but whatever it is, I'm glad they've kept the small town dive decoration pretty much intact, only a few Rock'n'Roll touches here and there to give it an even better

A quick question

I've got a couple of topics going around my head, but I'm too lazy to sit down and write about them, so I thought I would ask a hypothetical just for the sake of it. If you had a brewery with a capacity of 3-5hl a batch, what sort of beer would you have as your "workhorse"* and which would be your "flagship" and why? That's it. Na Zdraví! *meaning here the beer that would sell the most by volume Travel to the Czech Republic and stay at the best Prague Hotels

Selected Readings: October

A bit late, I know, but still better than last month . Actually, I wouldn't say there was a lot (I was still quite bus) and much of the discourse was dominated by Oxford Companion to Beer , which generated a few heated debates. Martyn Cornell, after finding a few history mistakes in some bits he'd read, asked, a bit too vehemently perhaps, if the book wasn't a dreadful disaster (no wonder after all the work he's done trying to bring some light to the myths about the history of English brewing). Of course, the book's Chief Editor, Garret Oliver , wasn't too thrilled and said his bit in an interview he gave to Alan , which itself generated a few interesting comments. To me, however, the best review of this book was Barm's , who dissected it bit by bit and gave his opinion in a long, fair and fun to read post. Now, if any of you is interested about the opinion of someone who hasn't read the book yet, I think The Oxford Companion to Beer has been a

Off with the legend

"In 1838 the Burghers of Pilsen gathered in the town square and poured 36 barrels of beer into the drains [...] This uncharacteristic revolt was prompted by the various poor quality, unsavoury brews being offered up as beer." Thus is the tale about the pivotal event that prompted the good burghers and brewing rights holders of the city to set up the brewery that would eventually become Pilsner Urquell. It's a story I'm sure many of you have read more or less adorned in countless websites, blogs, magazine and book articles and even books. It's a story that I don't believe for a second. And not (just) because I took the above quote from The Book of Legends , in Pilsner Urquell's global website , neither because it's a little bit too convenient for the brand's discourse. There are other reasons. First of all, there's no precise date of the event, while we do know when the first batch of PU was tapped (5 October, or 11 November, or 25 February

A quick German question

Is there anyone who can explain me what "Vollbier" and "Landbier" are supposed to indicate? Are they legal categories like Märzen, Bock or Weizen (that many people seem wrongly consider them "styles") or are they something more arbitrary? And since I'm asking, is "Rauchbier" also a legal category when it comes to German beer? Well, more than one question, actually. Thanks in advance for your answers. Na Zdraví!

In the memory of the departed

Last Wednesday Sdružení Přátel Piva , announced their awards for this year at a party held at Pivovar Jihlava that once again I could attend, ach jo! I'm not going to discuss who won what, you can see it for yourselves in the link above. My only comment is that I believe it's about time wheat beers get their own category, there are plenty of them already on the market (some, very good) and it makes no sense that they have to compete with Pale Ales, etc. But that's not what brought me to write this post. The awards were given on Nov. 2, the day after dušičky (All Saints), a day when (not only) Czechs remember those loved ones who have passed away by leaving flowers and lightning candles at their graves or memorials. Because of this, SPP thought it would be a good idea to commemorate the breweries that have disappeared since 1990. It's a rather long list (that only mention industrial breweries) and a bit sad, too. But it was the last entry what caught my attentio

Bamberger Rindfleisch

When published this recipe for beef with wheat beer, the most read Czech food blogger reminded me about an idea that had been going around my mind for quite some time, to try to make something like Beef Bourguignon , but with beer instead of wine. Unlike the above linked recipe, I hadn't thought of using wheat beer, but a dark smoked one (hence the name, because I am that creative, yeah) and I must say it was better than lovely. This is an easy recipe, great for a weekend. It doesn't need too much time to prepare and once you put the thing in the oven you can leave it alone until it's almost ready. It's better for it to use a cheap cut of beef, it will roast for a couple of hours, so it should be really tender and, also, the fattier the meat, the tastier the sauce will be. One of the ingredients is celeriac, which is a common root vegetable here, but I don't know how easy it can be to get in other countries. If you can't find it or can't

Magnetic Beer

That's the name of the new category I've made up. Yes, I know, it's probably silly, redundant and pointless, but let me explain anyway. Picture this scenario. You go to one of those pubs that has a more or less extensive beer list. Among the day's offer you find some old favourites, something you have long wanted to drink again and a couple of new things. Eventually, you order one of those new beers, but, being a proper beer-hyperactive, even before getting your pint you are already thinking about which beer you'll order next (if you haven't decided already that this will be your last of the session). However, without even having drunk half the glass, you are already looking forward to getting a new one. The beer won't let you go. The others are still there, you know it, you haven't forgotten them, but there's no way you can leave this one you are drinking. You end up drinking several more pints than planned and only a major dose of willpower helps

Open letter

To the Chief Editors of the Spanish speaking, non specialised media Dear sirs, I am an enemy of censorship of any kind, I strongly believe that everyone should have the right say anything that crosses their mind regardless of how moronic, nonsensical or wrong it might be and as long as they are willing to bear the consequences should the said thing turns out to be slanderous or offensive. However, after reading this piece of rubbish (SP) published last Sunday in the Murcia edition of La Verdad , I am left with no choice but to plead from the bottom of my heart and with a tear rolling down my cheek that you refrain from publishing any more articles that deal, at least superficially or tangentially, with technical aspects of beer or brewing. Not only because they disrespect the noble trade of beer making, but also because they disrespect all of your readers, regardless of how little or much interest or knowledge they have in or about the topic. The above linked article is just ano

Names and categories, their importance or lack thereof

The other day I wento to Zlý Časy for a couple of pints. As usual, I opened the session with a good ležák (Tambor 11º, which was more than lovely) to quench my thirst and see what else the other 23 taps had to offer. While chatting with a couple of the patrons I decided that Žamberk's Sametový Ale would be my next beer (not before seriously considering ordering another pint of Tambor or perhaps one of Mahr's Kellerbier). Handsome beer it was, it looked very nice in its nonic. A finger-thick, creamy, slightly tanned head, the beer itself, a polotmavý amber colour. Pity I didn't have my camera. But when I got my nose close to the glass, it's "Aleness" wasn't so clear anymore, I got the distinctive clove notes of a weizen, while the flavour reminded me of a dampfbier. The "Sametový" thing was spot on, though. It had a nice, velvety texture ("samet" in Czech means velvet). Far from an Ale, in my books, but far from boring at the same

Knock-off pivo

It's well known that it's not too difficult to find imitations of famous and horribly over-priced brands of clothes and accessories (by the way, I don't know who's the biggest fool, someone who buys a 2000EU handbag or someone who buys a knock-off of said handbag because they want to pretend they can afford such thing). I've also read about knock-off wines, you know, plonk that is given a label of a well known (and perhaps horribly overpriced) chateau this or that (there was a great Benny Hill gag with that), but this is the first time I've heard about knock-off beer. According to the news , customs and police last week arrested a gang that was doing just that. Česká Televize gives a bit more detail on their news broadcast. It seems this gang was sourcing the beer from a small local brewery and selling it under well known brands. The authorities haven't released the names of either the brewer or the brands that were affected. They have said, though, t

Prague's best according to experts

IN , a lifestyle magazine that comes out with the Wednesday Edition of Hospodářské Noviny , one of the most important newspapers in the Czech Rep., has published a list with the 10 best places to have a beer in Prague. This ranking was put together with the help of a jury of 15 personalities. Each one of them was asked to send their own Top 10, which should consider the condition and quality of the beers, regardless of brands, price or business model, as well as other reasons why they like them, with the food being left out of the equation. Based on those lists, Tomáš Wehle, the author of the article, ordered the ranking assigning points to each hospoda with the following system: 6 points for each first place, 5 for each second, 4 for each third, 3 for each fourth, 2 for each fifth, and 1 for each sixth to tenth places. I don't usually give much relevance to most Top X lists, but this one is a bit different because I was one of the members of the jury. I can't even begin

A British surprise

I roam the streets of Prague a lot and, as you all know, I like stopping here and there for a quick pint and that's why I have a very good mental map of the location of the toilets where I can offload those beers without having to pay for the privilege. Marks & Spencer's branch in Vaclavák is one of those places. The loos are on the top floor, by the coffee shop, in the food and beverage dept. One day, about two months ago, I went there in quite a hurry and, as usual, I didn't bother to look too much around. Once the call of nature had been answered, just when I was coming out of the toilets, something made me look down to my left. I don't know what it was, perhaps something I had seen on the way in, but not quite noticed. There they were, almost hidden on the bottom shelf, in a dark corner of the wine section, bottles of beer! And not the usual imported, or pseudo-imported, rubbish you find at most supermarkets, but stuff from M&S's own line of beers.

Selected Readings: August - September

I've been given a break from this project I'm working on, so I wanted to use it to catch up with this section, which this time spans two months, lucky you! For reasons I'm not aware of and can't be arsed with finding out, at some point in history someone decided that one day in August was going to be "IPA Day". I like drinking a good IPA as much as the next beer geek and I don't need any special date for that, but if this "holiday" motivates authors like Martyn Cornell to publish some good stuff on the topic, then I'm all for it. And a pretty good post it is, one that tries for the upteenth time tries to kill some of the myths of this style's history . A few days later, and related to it, another great beer historian, Ron Pattison , speaks about the style, but from another perspective, bringing to the table what he calls "IPA inflation" , or how some of those "this or that IPA" that seem to be such a hit among bre

The Globalised Terroir

Joe, the Thirsty Pilgrim, is again talking about this terroir and beer thing , something I'm not a fan of, really. At first I saw in it just another nonsensical parallel forcibly drawn between beer and wine, but after reading a bit more about it, I realised that the thing goes further than that. However, and although some of their arguments are quite solid, I get the impression that the "terroirists" (the similarity with "terrorist" is entirely casual) are not taking into account some of the fundamental aspects of the very nature of beer, and they are nothing new, they've always been there. It is true that wine and beer have many things in common , but at the same time, they are enormously different (and no, I'm not talking about the bollocks of wine = pretentious+snobbish, beer=the everyman's drink. Beer can be as pretentious and snobbish as wine, and wine can be as much the everyman's drink as beer, if the people that sell and talk about

So you won't forget me

Still buried in work. I can't complain, really, but at times it becomes quite tedious. Since it's very likely that the pause will continue until the end of the month, I wanted to leave you with a little something so you won't forget that I'm still here and drinking: To say that unfiltered beer = better beer (or worse still, "crafter" beer) is like saying that bitterer/maltier, stronger/weaker, darker/paler beer = better beer, which would be, of course, utter bollocks. Na Zdraví!

Probable pause

Is probable that in the coming days, if not weeks, you won't see much activity in this blog. I've been hired to do a huge and quite difficult (and a bit beyond my area of expertise) translation that is consuming almost all my available time. As soon as this monster (that will pay very well) so allows, I will try to post at least the Selected Readings of last month so you will have something to keep yourselves entertained. Until then, I hope you'll be able to forgive the silence. Na Zdraví!

Quite an improvement

On the home page of his excellent blog, Appellation Beer , Stan Hieronymus presents his "New Beer Rules", a Decalogue that everyone should pay attention to. I must admit that I hardly ever follow rule #3 "You must drink at least two servings of a beer before you pass judgment on it." . Just like the rest, this rule makes a lot of sense, but in my reality, if a beer has failed to impress me it's very difficult that I will want to drink it again. Why bother when there's so much and so good to choose from? Such was the case with Merlin , the flagship dark beer of K Brewery , which, according to them, is Stout inspired and brewed with an adjunct of roasted barley. I drank it shortly after it had been launched, during my first visit to Kopyto , in Žižkov. I didn't like it, and I never thought of drinking it again, until the other day. I was near Jiřího z Poděbrad when I was caught by one of those annoying storms that were such a pain in the arse durin