Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I think I am coming to the conclusion that as much as I like flavourful beers, I am not a big fan of strongly alcoholic beers – especially when they only come in a half litre bottle. I never thought I would be saying this, but the Rytířský and the Double would be better in a 300ml bottle. Powerful and full of flavour, these are nice beers – but certainly not for regular sessions.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Being the only one of my family without children I will no doubt get to vanish for an hour or so of sanity - perhaps dragging my brothers and father with me.
Hope you are all having a lovely Christmas - and if Christmas is not part of your culture then I hope you are having a fantastic day anyway!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
And of course a number of favourites that I will buy regularly:
To choose my favourite beer from 2008 is an exceptionally difficult task, and I do so in full awareness that I am being entirely subjective. My beer of the year is thus the one that has given me the most pleasure, the most instruction in all that a beer can beer and the most inspiration as to what I can do with my own beer making. As such, my beer of the year is more than just a drink of the year, it is also a reflection on the brewery which has in many ways defined my beer drinking in the last year.
Therefore my beer of the year, and by extension my brewery of the year is:
- Pivovar Varnsdorf for their Kocour V3.
Flying the face of your culture is always fraught with danger and laden with potential booby traps. Flying the face of Czech brewing culture and tradition is like voting Conservative in Scotland. Well done the guys (and most especially the breweress) for being true to their stated aim of not being boring.
May you prosper in 2009, and far beyond.
Monday, December 22, 2008
The discovery of smoked beers had got me thinking about the kinds of beers I will make, and my first beer I plan to make in 2009 is currently a smoked mild – admittedly using a mild kit and chucking in a mini-mash of smoked malt. It has also got me thinking about the different flavours that would be imparted by using different fuels, such as oak and more especially peat – I wonder if a stout made from peat smoked malt would more closely resemble the early porters and stouts which so took Ireland by storm, perhaps though I am simply indulging my love of whiskey and wanting the same peat flavours in my beer?
The shortlist for smoked beer of the year in the Fuggled world is as follows:
From the Schlenkerla stable the Rauchweizen is the best, again it is not as in your face and the Märzen but the sublte smokiness coupled with the classic banana and cloves of a wheat beer make for something eminently intriguing.
Kocour take the credit for V3, although it was a collaborative beer, aged in Tokaj barrels from Hungary. Full bodied and with winey elements mixed in with the taste of sausages – this was a beer which tick boxes on almost every part of the tongue.
Of the three, one stands above the others in terms of originality and vision, and on those bases, as well as just being a damned fine beer the winner is:
- Kocour V3
This is an annual special – unfortunately the next time it is made I will be living the US, and unless I can find some way of getting it to South Carolina I will spend many a day pining after it.
Friday, December 19, 2008
There was once a time when I didn’t drink wheat beer at all. I still remember the day when sitting with one of my best friends in a pub in Birmingham and he suggested I try a wheat beer. I found it so foul that I was tempted to pour it into the canal – for those familiar with Brum (probably the only major English city I would ever live in again) we were sat in a pub just behind Brindley Place waiting for a concert by The Mutton Birds, supported by a local band called Mudskipper. I had just got my degree in theology, my friend was about to take up a post as a youth pastor in Lancashire – it was the last time we saw each other, and the last beer he had (apparently).
Fast forward ten years to Pivovarský klub in Prague, sitting with a friend of mine who spent a lot of his life in the West Midlands, and he suggested to me that I should try Schöfferhofer – and my mind was blown away. I loved this stuff, and thought to myself, where has wheat beer been all my beer drinking life?
Thus this year has been one not only of discovering great ales and lagers, but also learning to appreciate wheat beer. I freely admit that still the wheats I like are from Germany and the Czech Republic, I am yet to find a Belgian wit that I like – given that it took me ten years to appreciate it at all, give me a break ok?
The three for my shortlist are:
Schöfferhofer makes the shortlist simply because it was my Damascus moment, when I discovered wheat beer as something I wanted to drink and is still the standard by which I judge weissbier – whether that be right or wrong, the fact remains it was the first I liked.
Primátor make lovely beers in general and to my mind their weizen is the best in their range, better even than their stout and English Pale Ale. Admittedly it is more consistently better from the bottle than on tap.
I have only ever had two pints of Memminger, both of them in Berlin in May – for breakfast! A very nice, refreshing beer that I could imagine spending a hot summer’s day on Alexanderplatz drinking, preferably brought by a buxom German serving wench (thank goodness Mrs Velkyal knows what I am, and what, I like).
In the wheat beer stakes there is a clear winner, not just because I happen to love this beer but also because everyone I have introduced to it so far has raved about it too, including my mate that gave me my first ever Schöfferhofer, therefore the winner is:
- Primátor Weizen
Find it, drink it, enjoy it.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
When I started my, legal, drinking life, stout was very much my ale of choice. I remember ordering my first ever pint in the Dark Island hotel back at home, it was a Guinness - a youthful homage to my eldest brother. When studying in Birmingham I would wander off for pints of Murphy's and Beamish.
When I came back from Oxford a few months ago, many of the beers I brought with me were stouts and porters of various types, and the only beers I managed to bring from Ireland were from the Carlow Brewing Company, makers of O'Hara's stout.
My shortlist of stouts and porters is as follows:
O'Hara's on draught was good, from the bottle it was great - and still I have a bottle in the cellar waiting to be drunk when the right day arrives.
Wrasslers XXXX was, they say, the choice of stout for Irish hero Michael Collins - a man evidently of exceptional taste in beer. Smooth, full bodied and yet easy to drink, if I lived in Ireland it would be my beer of choice.
What can be said about BrewDog's sublime Paradox series of imperial stouts aged in whisky casks, very simply - where can I buy more?
There is a clear winner here, and it is simply because within one drink the makers have managed to combine two of my passions, as such my Stout/Porter of 2008 is:
- BrewDog Paradox Smokehead
Whisky and stout in a single glass - sheer Genius.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I have enjoyed re-acquainting myself with old favourites as well as discovering stuff from breweries I had never heard of before. However, it was the newcomers that made my short list of 3 for this category (and believe me I agonized over leaving some of my favourite beers out). The three contenders for my pale ale/bitter of 2008 are:
All of the pale ales I have tried from Pivovar Varnsdorf have been excellent, whether the English Pale Ale, the American style Pale Ale or the India Pale Ale, which I first had at the Slunce ve Skle festival in Plzeň. The IPA gets the nod over the others because of the wonderful fresh citrus flavours and the fact that it is an endlessly wonderful and easy drinking ale.
I had the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale whilst in Galway last month, having heard from many people that it is the standard against which many pale ales are judged, and it is a beautifully crafted beer – one which when I am living in the States will be as permanent a fixture in my cellar as possible.
Galway Hooker was a beer that was very close to the top of my list for trying during the trip to Ireland. Again a very crisp and refreshing beer, and one which I heartily wish was available in bottles so that it could be enjoyed by more people than those very lucky souls in Galway and the few towns in Ireland where it is available on tap.
Again a very, very difficult choice, but my pale ale/bitter of the year is:
- Galway Hooker
Worth jumping on a plane to Ireland for.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In all seriousness though, there was a time when I didn't particularly like the darker lagers on offer in the Czech Republic - however this has changed in recent years, partly I think as a natural progression from when I was fed up with the Czech lagers I was drinking at the time, and thus looked for something different.
The reason I have put amber and dark lagers under the same post is that I drink proportionately less of them than other lagers here, so a post each would be stretching things practically to breaking point, despite the fact that this has given me something of a headache when it comes to choosing my top three of the year, which are
Hukvaldy 14° was one of those beautiful happy moments when you say, I'll just have the one, and end up having a couple over lunch and savouring every drop, telling all your colleagues that they should get to the pub that very day and try it - then discovering they took your advice and were raving about it too!
The Chodovar brewery makes some of my favourite beers, and their Skalní ležák is quite simply a lovely beer which never fails to satisfy. When PK had it on tap earlier this year I was in heaven.
This is such a difficult choice, but in the immortal words of Connor MacLeod, there can be only one:
- Chodovar Skalní ležák
Chodovar wins here for its consistency as one of my favourite amber lagers and the fact that I have used it in my various beer cooking experiment successfully.
Monday, December 15, 2008
As you would expect, living in the country where lager is king, I drink quite a lot of it. Once upon a time I drank, and enjoyed, the mega-brands - Gambrinus, Staropramen and Kozel. Those days have been consigned to history for various abominations; diluting the beer after fermentation, using corn syrup as an adjunct, just generally trashing one of my favourite beers.
This year though I have discovered a wealth of pale lagers, of varying strengths, which I enjoy and which restored my once flagging faith in pale lager. My top three though are:
The Kout is so well made, and for a 10º lager it is bursting with flavour, and the only pub in Prague with it on tap is a ten minute jaunt from my flat, and it costs an insane 20kč for a half litre (that's $1/€0.80/£0.70 at current exchange rates).
Purkmistr is worth the trip to Plzeň alone, and I am probably being controversial here but it is the only light lager from that hallowed city which is actually worth drinking (cue comments about the unfiltered and unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell available at the brewery - that doesn't count as it is not commercially available as far as I am aware).
Yes I have a soft spot for Primátor, and their 12º is a very nice and drinkable lager, and again very cheap in the Billa near my office.
It is difficult to pick just one to be the Fuggled Pale Lager of the Year - a prize unburdened with history and monetary value - but the award goes to:
- Kout na Šumavě
Simply the best lager in the Czech Republic.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Anyway, to the this week's Beer Hero. This week's hero is an unknown soldier, a warrior in the cause of bringing me good beer so that my infinitely extensible waistline can yo-yo its way through the yuletide fun. Ladies and gentleman, I give you this week's Beer Hero of the week:
Whoever it is my brother persuades to pick up some beer from Lovibonds beer in Henley-on-Thames!
I thank you!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
There is more information over on Evan's blog, for those that can't read Czech.
For those that can here is an article with some of the foreign brewers taking part:
So if you are in Prague, get along to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and try some wonderful beers.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I had checked PK's website in the afternoon, and saw that they had an American IPA but it wasn't stated who made it and I remember Pivovarský dům once made a Double IPA which I hadn't really enjoyed that much. When I heard that it was from Kocour, there was no question that I was going to get along and have a couple. And what a lovely beer it is, a huge nose of citrus, flowers and grass and a big refreshing kick of bitterness which I imagine would cut through the stogiest of foods with consummate ease, all of this backed up with a gentle sweetness and a long dry finish. Fabulous, simply fabulous.
I thought though it my duty to try the other specials they had on tap, other than the Delirium Christmas, which I couldn't justify spending silly money on. So next up came the Opat 17° Christmas Special from Pivovar Broumov, which looked like one of those peel-less marmalades (an abomination in my opinion - the marmalade, not the colour of the beer). The nose reminded me of various Christmasy type things, the sweetness of honey and a light spiciness of gingerbread, with just a subtle hint of vanilla. It was quite sweet, and a little syrupy, and I felt it could have done with a touch more bitterness. As the drink wore on, I am convinced I got a whiff of glue - not sure what was going on with that, but certainly it was there.
I decided to leave the light beers behind and go to the dark side to try the Rambousek 16° Christmas Special. Watching it being poured, I was thinking - "looks like a stout, head like a stout, hurrah, more stout!". Boy was I wrong. The nose was simply not what I expected, instead of the heavy coffee and chocolate smells I was expecting, there was a very nice floralness about the nose, although eventually some coffee and treacle made it through. And what a fantastic taste this stuff has, a rich sweet maltiness, like burnt toffee, all cut through with a gentle bitterness. Another wonderful beer - which I may have to pop round with a plastic bottle to get filled up and take home to Mrs Velkyal, to my mind it was possibly the best Christmas beer I have had.
I guess whatever I drank next would have had a hard act to follow, but having chatted for a bit with Pivní Filosof I opted for the Holba Šerák, a 14º amber lager which to be perfectly honest left me cold. It wasn't bad, but it could have been so much more. Perhaps I am comparing it too much with the magnificent Hukvaldy I had last month, but this just wasn't up there for me.
I do have a minor gripe though, and I have made this gripe before I think, but three of the beers I had only come in measures of 0.3l for 35kč, the equivalent would be about 60kč/£2.00/€2.40/$3.00 a half litre. For very strong beers I can understand selling a smaller measure, but for the American IPA then what possible justification is there for not selling the full half litre? It was the same situation with Primátor's magnificent stout, which was sold just up the road at U Radnice for 22kč for the full half litre.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Strahov is one of my favourite brewpubs in Prague, not the cheapest by any stretch of the imagination but certainly one which I always enjoying going to. Doppelbock is very unlikely to become a regular tipple, but Strahov do make very nice beers, so if sweet and syrupy is your thing get up there soon and enjoy.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Without further ado, my Beer Heroes this week are:
I hope that over the few days I am in Kent at Christmas that I will find some of their brews to try.
The driving force behind Prohibition was a misrepresentation of Christian values, in particular a misrepresentation of Puritanism. There is nothing in the Bible which denounces the making and drinking of alcohol, Jesus himself indulged in a spot of home-winemaking at the wedding in Cana, much to the consternation of his guests – how dare they leave the best wine to last, when everyone was so pickled they couldn’t appreciate the flavours and aromas of simply divine wine! Without wanting to get into the theological nuances of Greek, it was wine not grape juice that Jesus handed out at the Last Supper, anything else would have been strictly un-Kosher, and Jesus was after all a Jew.
In the UK we had the Temperance League, dedicated to stamping out the ill effects of drunkenness within the working classes – a well meaning, if patronizingly paternalistic, attempt to improve the lot of the working man in much the same way as New Lanark was to be a model village for the workers.
Banning alcohol is ultimately counter-productive, because the demand for drink will always be there regardless of what is on the statute books, and it simply serves to create a new class of criminals. If governments are serious about lessening the effects of binge drinking then education is the key rather than legislation. Attempts to stigmatise alcohol simply glamorizes it in the minds of the impressionable.
What does the repeal of Prohibition mean to me? It means that a misguided attempt to make a better world, the unintentional creation of criminals and the misrepresentation of the Christian faith was put thoroughly and rightly where it belongs, to bed. How will I celebrate my right to drink? Well I am not the kind of person to go shoving my rights in other people’s faces, I believe that every right has a corresponding responsibility – the right to drink is really about drinking responsibly, “whatever that means” to quote Prince Charles.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
- Burton Bridge Santa's Porter
- Cropton Rudolphs Revenge
- Gordons Christmas Ale
- Naylors Santa's Choice Winter Warmer
- Naylors Scrooge's Christmas Barrel
- O'hanlon's Goodwill
- RCH Ale Mary
- Woods Christmas Cracker
- Black Sheep Riggwelter
- Bradfield Farmers Stout
- Hook Norton Double Stout
- O'Hanlons Port Stout - 2x
- Durham St Cuthbert Ale
- Durham Benedictus
- Durham Temptation
- Thomas Hardys Ale
- Wentworth Oatmeal Stout
- Harviestoun Engine Oil
- Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted
- Traquair House Ale
- Traquair Jacobite Ale
- Brewdog Rip Tide
- Atlas Latitude
I can't promise reviews of all of them, but I can promise they will all be drunk (I may be rather pickled myself as well!).
I ordered all of these from BeerRitz - and was very impressed at the speed with which the first 12 bottles arrived at my brother's place in Kent.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
When Mrs Velkyal and I move to the US next year, I plan to finally buy a brew kit and start making my own beer. Various recipes have already been designed, my head still spins with ideas. One of the first beers I thought of making was a peat-smoked stout, which I was going to call Machair. In my original plan I wanted to use a portion of distillers malt to give the smokiness of my favourite whiskey – Talisker, although I am also partial to Islay whiskies, in particular Laphroaig.
It was these plans for a peat smoke stout that flooded into my mind as I opened the bottle, and the unmistakable smell of whisky filled my nostrils, even before pouring. Having spent a month drinking dark beers, I fear that I have worn the word “dark” very thin, in which case this beer is absolutely opaque, not a glimmer of light could make it through! As you can see from the picture, there is very little head, all the better for letting the aromas escape and drive you crazy – behind the very evident whisky are traces of coffee and caramel, which in drinking serve to smooth out the beer. At 10%ABV, this is definitely not a beer for the faint minded – the warming glow of the alcohol lingers in the mouth and down the throat from the first sip (and trust me, you don’t want to be chugging this one).
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Whenever Mrs Velkyal and I go on our trips I like to do some research for pubs to go to, local beers to try and so on. Obviously with big brewers like Fuller's they have a section on their site listing their pubs, although I wonder why the pubs themselves don't have their own sites - especially as basic information site is cheap and easy to maintain.
You don't need to make some fancy pants website using dynamic languages such as php, a nice simple yet informative html set-up will do nicely.
What do I want to know:
- Opening hours
- What's on tap? (and if you are in the free trade keep it up to date)
- Is there food?
- Any special events?
- How to get there
“Al, you have a beer blog, don’t you?”
“Indeed” I replied.
Thus I came to be in possession of a can of Tesco Value Beer, with a request to write about it, so here goes.
Made in Poland, with an ABV of 3.5% and only four listed ingredients, water, malt, hops and yeast – good start so far. It even looked as a lager should do, pale golden with a foamy white head, although that soon disappeared to leave a few large white patches on the top of the beer which for a moment made me think that the beer had a bad case of eczema. The tell tale smell of a god awful beer was the first thing to hit my nose, dish soap, although there was also a faint maltiness which suggested actually malt may once have gone through the same factory as this can of “beer”. Drinking it was possibly the biggest mistake I made, it was simply disgusting, worse even than the dreaded dark beer from Ů Pražský Most na Valsů. After one mouthful the remaining 400 and something milliliters were tipped down the sink.
Who drinks this stuff? Seriously, next time you see someone in Tesco with this foul abomination in their trolley or basket, consider it an act of civic duty to warn them that their choice of beer is abysmal and if they really want something to drink, to stick to mineral water. Alternatively, give them the difference in price between Tesco Value and something worth drinking and hope you make a convert to the cause of real beer.
Monday, December 1, 2008
U Slovanské Lipy is very unlikely to win any style awards, and is definitely not the kind of place for those ex-pats for whom trips to the Potrefena Husa in Prague 3 is living dangerously. Sitting down at a table I was taken back to pubs in Southern Bohemia, where a previous girlfriend came from – a proper Czech pub, with great Czech beer, what more could anyone ask for? Well to start with we asked for a round of their desítka, 10° golden lager, and what a grand beer it is, putting to bed the idea that desítka is a weaker version of a brewery’s flagship dvanáctka, that’s 12° to non-Czech speakers.
Following hot of the heels of our drained glasses was the 14° dark lager, quite easily the best lager I have had in a very long time, whether light or dark, regardless of strength, this was just simply magnificent – worth the walk up the hill just in itself. Having made the required ohs and ahs about the dark, we progressed on to the 12° kvasnícové, also a very good beer and just too easy to drink – what lucky people they are in Šumava, not only do they live in a beautiful part of the world, but they have a great local brewer to enjoy. Last up was a round of small glasses of the 18° Baltic Porter. Again it was a nice beer, brimming with flavour, however for me it just didn’t reach the heights of the dark lager. If we didn’t have plans to visit Zlý Časy, I could happily have stayed and nursed several more pints of the dark goodness.
Zlý Časy provided with one of the most unexpected experiences of my beer drinking life, a Klášter worth drinking, in this case the 12°. I am a convert? We’ll see. Unforeseen circumstances, involving forgotten keys, meant that I had to call it an early night at around half ten. There are few more pleasurable nights to be had than sitting around drinking superb beers with good company, which without exception has been my experience of all the people I have met through this blog so far, and I am very much looking forward to the bottle of Gose which Boak and Bailey brought over from Leipzig.
Friday, November 28, 2008
So for his piece describing ever so aptly Alastair Darling, my Beer Hero of the Week is:
Also, his books are pretty damned good, go and buy them and read them if you haven't already!
Most drunk in the month: Primátor Stout, yes it is very nice, and no I am not on a stipend from Pivovar Náchod.
Most enjoyed of the month: O'Hara's Stout from the Carlow Brewing Company, from the bottle that is, the remaining bottle I have in the cellar may be opened tonight in celebration.
Discovery of the month: Hukvaldy 14° amber lager, pure nectar.
Over-hyped beer of the month: Porterhouse Oyster Stout, it isn't bad, just not as good as I expected, even then it is streets behind Wrasslers XXXX.
Confusion of the month: Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter and Oatmeal Stout, are they supposed to have a slightly soapy taste to them? Someone help me with that.
I am sure this weekend will see several more darks enjoyed, though I may not write about them all, but I do have a special treat planned for Sunday, which is St Andrew's Day. I will be opening one of my bottles of BrewDog Paradox Smokehead in celebration.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
If you want your child to grow
Your child to grow, your child to grow
If you want your child to grow
Give him a jar of porter
Chorus:Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la
Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la; give him a jar of porter
When I was young and cradle cake
No drop of milk now would I take
My father up and had his spake
Give child a jar of porter
Chorus:Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la
Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la; give the child a jar of porter
And when I'm dead and in my grave
I hope for me a prayer you'll say
And as you're passin' by
That you'll throw in a jar of porter
Chorus:Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la
Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la; throw in a jar of porter
And when I reach the holy gates
I hope you'll not have long to wait
I'll call St. Peter aside and say
Brought you up a jar of porter
Chorus:Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la
Sing too-ra loo-ra loo-ra-la, brought you up a jar of porter
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Click here to read the what they are after, and here to contact them.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Yesterday afternoon as Mrs Velkyal and I made one of eclectic dinners, in this case a variation on the theme of cottage pie, basically being minced beef in Kelt with a mashed potato topping, I decided to do a side by side tasting of the three main Czech stouts – whilst listening to the Chieftains!
I decided to start with the Kocour. I love the way this flows from the bottle, almost like treacle, and with a rich brown head on top of the wonderfully opaque and fragrant beer. This was the first time that I had this from a bottle rather than on tap, and as bottled versions are done by hand, it bears a close resemblance to the draught version, with a lightly roasted coffee nose and slight cocoa notes. The beer is smooth and easy drinking and would certainly be a beer that I would drink regularly. One thing I noticed though from the bottle is that the head disappears very quickly and left no trace of lacing down the glass. Being a Czech stout, it was interesting to read on the label that they had used Saaz hops.
Taking Mrs Velkyal’s advice I opened my remaining bottle of Kelt, which in common with the Kocour version pours out very dark and thick, although the head is lighter and lasted longer. The nose was really nothing to write home about, very slight coffee notes and maybe a touch of caramel. Having tried a couple of pints of Guinness whilst over in Ireland last weekend I can better make a comparison of the two, and Kelt still stands up as a reasonable substitute, although the body is distinctly watery in comparison and there is a lack of the dry bitterness which I would expect from a real irish stout. Having said that, with the delight of finding Wrasslers XXXX and O’Hara’s, Guinness is no longer what I immediately think of when thinking of Irish stouts, Kelt then stands up to Guinness because it is an industrial stout that is neither offensive nor memorable.
Last up was the single beer I have probably drunk more of than any other this month, Primátor’s version of stout, which myself, Pivní Filosof and Evan Rail have described at length elsewhere. However, this was the first time I had tried it from the bottle rather than on tap. Again it pours thick and smooth, with a light brown head – which lasts far longer than the previous two, and is clearly more rocky than the Kelt head. The nose is more pronounced than both the Kocour and the Kelt, although it only just shades the Kocour whilst entirely eclipsing the Kelt. Like its tapped version, this is a very nice beer, with more evident coffee flavours and a fuller body than either the other contenders. Having said that, when comparing it to the real thing (O’Hara’s that is for those unsure of my Irish Stout allegiances), it is still lacking body and could use more oomph in the hops department.
The fact that I can even produce a side by side tasting of three stouts in the Czech Republic is in itself something to celebrate, and evidence that slowly brewers are realizing that there is a market here for ale as well as lager. You have to give Pražské Pivovary credit for bringing out a stout nearly a decade ago (even though I believe it is not top fermented), however the game has moved on and clearly Primátor and Kocour are at the forefront of the ale revolution, viva la revolution!
Friday, November 21, 2008
For simply having a fantastic collection of beers, and being one of the most welcoming and comfortable pubs I can remember being in, Beer Hero of the Week goes to:
Sheridan's On The Docks in Galway.
Keep up the good work!
No problems however though with the Wrasslers XXXX, which is a reproduction of an old time stout which was apparently the drink of choice of Michael Collins, and what great taste in beer he must have had. The aroma of hops and coffee were teasing my nose as I carried my pint back to the table, urging me to dive on in and enjoy. Enjoy it I most certainly did, full on roasted coffee and liquorice flavours, wonderfully dry and with a long finish. The Porterhouse website say that this was beer like your grandfather drank - makes me wish all the more I had known him in that case!
One thing though which stands out in my memory was an old fella sat on the table next to us who ordered a whiskey and water, which came already mixed - a big no no. When the barman had gone, having ever so gently been put in his place, the old fella began to talk about how the job of a barman in the modern world has become so devalued - was interesting to sit and listen to his stories (bad habit of mine is earwigging!).
So that was our wonderful trip to Ireland, the fulfilment of a long held dream. Sláinte!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Hypernova in Průhonice and Nové Butovice from December 10th to the end of the year, also in Kaufland, although no date was specified.
The stout is also part of a special box set of 8 beers which will be available at Kaufland from December 6th, and Tesco four days later.
I am sure stocks will go quickly.
We spent Saturday in Galway, a town I had wanted to visit very much and so when our friends suggested that we spend the Saturday there I leapt for joy. On discovering that they also like rugby I knew it was going to be a fine day out, and so it was. While the ladies strolled around the shopping centre, the men wandered off to find a pub – a very difficult chore as I am sure you can imagine. On William Street we popped into a place called Garavan’s to wait for our women folk, and as chance would have it, we caught the last 20 minutes of Liverpool’s win over Bolton Wanderers. Here I had my first Guinness in Ireland, and although it was too cold it was certainly a step up from every Guinness I have ever had anywhere else. With the game over and the ladies out of the shops we went in search of somewhere for lunch, that somewhere was the King’s Head.
According to a plaque in the pub the King’s Head was given to the executioner of King Charles I by a grateful Parliament. This cavernous pub was very nice as was the lunch we had there, one of my three seafood and chip themed meals over the weekend, we also watched Scotland throw away a 10 point half-time advantage to lose 10-14 to the Springboks. We decided to move on to a different place to watch Ireland’s game with the All Blacks, and find a place that served Galway Hooker. Following a tip from a barman in a random pub on Shop Street we ended up in Sheridan’s On The Docks – a place which from the outside looks like a poncey winebar.
I am not sure I could have actually been further from the truth, the turf fire blazing away when we entered and the sight of a Galway Hooker tap on the bar convinced us to stay here - the nice space around the medium sized tv for watching the rugby may also have played a part, so we settled in for the evening. I went to the bar, ordered a couple of pints of Galway Hooker, the ladies had found more shopping to do, and almost fainted with joy when I saw the list of bottled beers; Bishop's Finger, Spitfire, Fuller's ESB and advertised as their "Beer of the Week" Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of Galway Hooker, partly because while having my first pint Mrs Velkyal was taking pictures of the docks, however this beer is seered into my memory, it is good stuff! The beer is golden bordering on amber and had a nice looking white head - none of your "all the way to the top" silliness in Ireland thank god, and the nose was very citrusy, very hoppy and really got me salivating, and it was worth every mouthful! Hoppy, refreshing, clean, crisp, moorish are the best words to describe this beer, and I think 4 mouthfuls later all that slighty malty lovely goodness was gone. Yum, yum, yum - better have another one just in case, still no camera mind - how do lady folk find random knitware shops in which to splash their cash?
I have described elsewhere my love affair with Bishop's Finger, so that was naturally up next, followed by it's stablemate, Spitfire - another beer that I like very much from the bottle, though I am not a fan of Spitfire Smooth (if I want something smooth I will buy a milkshake).
When trying to decide what came next I admit that I sent Evan Rail a text message asking if the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was worth forking out €6 for (in my defence your honour, I had never had a Sierra Nevada beer and wanted professional guidance), suitably assured it was next up. What a magnificent beer it is! I am sure many far more qualified people than I have waxed lyrical about it, but I really enjoyed this one. With a refreshing hoppiness that has a rather subtle sweetness underpining it, this is a very easy beer to drink and one which when Mrs Velkyal and I are encamped the US will no doubt be a regular in the cellar. Admittedly I didn't take any detailed notes, because by this point it was half time and the referee had awarded a penalty try to the All Blacks, making the score 3-10 going into the break.
As the second half got under way I opted for the Fuller's ESB. Again an excellent beer, big and bold in the hops and malt department with a large dollop of toffee sweetness. One thing I noticed in particular was the smoothness of the beer, which makes it more of a beer for taking your time over. By the end of the second 40 minutes, Ireland had been clinically dismissed 3-22 and I had stoked up a nice warming glow from the wonderful beers on offer.
And so we headed back to Westmeath in the rain, just in time to hit the local pub for few more pints and some darts to finish off the day.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
It would seem to me that there are two issues here:
- craft brewers not bottling their beer
- supermarkets not stocking craft beers
But then comes the question of the supermarkets. If they are not going to stock the craft beers already available, such as the beers from the Carlow Brewing Company, or even from Whitewater up in Northern Ireland then what incentive is there for the local brewers to invest money in a bottling line? I am aware that the Porterhouse will soon be installing their own bottling line, to allow a wider distribution of their beers (some of which will be mentioned tomorrow or Friday), I just hope that they will be picked up by the supermarket buyers.
In many ways the situation as I perceived it in Ireland, and I am more than happy to be wrong here, resembles that of the Czech Republic. Yes you can get Svijany and Primátor quite easily in Prague, but walk into Tesco and the shelves are burdened down with Gambrinus and Staropramen. Pivovarský klub and Pivní Galerie stock a wide range of Czech beers, but what about outside of Prague? Of course there is the tradition of beers being on tap, however I think it is something of a fallacy to consider draught beer as naturally superior to bottled beer; take my comments yesterday about O'Hara's Stout as an example.
As I said at the top of the post, these are just observations - if I am off the mark then let me know.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
The first I tried was the 7.1% ABV IPA, tentatively called Chaos Theory, which I think is an excellent name and certainly allows plenty of scope for marketing guff on the label. Described as an IPA, I have to admit that I was expecting something along the lines of the Punk IPA. The first thing that struck me though was that this one was much darker, more of a dark amber bordering on red, although again there was a rather minimal head. As would be expected from an IPA, the nose was full of citrus, in fact it was very pungent, with a mix of Seville orange marmalade and bittersweet pink grapefruit. The contrast between bitter and sweet was to be a constant theme in the beer, the first taste being very bitter, and something of a shock if the truth be told, but subsequently it mellows out to reveal its jellied undertones. As you would expect from this style it is very hoppy and the aftertaste reminded me of drinking an excellent single malt with a nice warming afterglow. The final few mouthfuls were syrupy sweet in a way that reinforced the jelly, an excellent beer overall.
Next up was Bad Pixie, which according to the BrewDog website is a wheat beer flavoured with juniper berries and lemon peel. Having become something of a devotee of wheat beer in recent months, I was intrigued by the idea of the juniper berries and could half imagine the Queen Mother giving up her Gordon’s for this. The beer is very pale and had a bubbly white head that very quickly dissolved into nothingness, leaving an almost soapy rim around the glass. The nose confused me for a while, because I couldn’t place the smell, until eventually it hit me that it smelt a bit like a stale pub carpet. In some ways it was similar to the Zoigl smell I wrote about a couple of weeks back, but without sufficient potency to make you thing there was something going on, more that something was off. Taste wise, it was rather spicy – leaving a warm chilli glow on the roof of my mouth which was laced with citrus – given the juniper berry and lemon peel additions that is hardly suprising, the problem was that there was nothing backing up those flavours, rather it was just very dry. It was almost like a lemon meringue pie left on the windowsill for a few weeks.
Last up was Zeit Geist, advertised as a classic Czech style dark lager, and it is certainly dark – dark ruby with a light espresso coloured head, which in common with the other beers disappeared very quickly. As you would expect from a dark lager the nose was dominated by coffee notes, with subtle hints of burnt toffee and even a delicate floral tone suggesting the use of Saaz hops. The burnt theme came through in the tasting, although this time it was less coffee and more chocolate, I would go so far as to say it was like a singed Hershy bar, sweet yet sour. As it is advertised as a Czech style dark lager, I guess it is only natural to compare it to beers such as Herold Dark, and while it doesn’t match that in terms of body and flavour, it would hold its own against the industrial darks such as Staropramen, as such it is an easily drinkable dark.
The point of this exercise is not just to rate three beers, but to say how one would change them with a view to their improvement. I would not make many changes to Chaos Theory, I really enjoyed it, and while at 7.1% ABV it is in no way a session beer, it is an excellent beer for enjoying a few pints with your mates, and I can imagine that it would go very well with a long meal – preferably involving stovies and clootie dumpling – its bitterness more than balancing out the sweetness of the latter. The Bad Pixie, if I may be so bold, I would forget about altogether, it simply does not work for me, I would also though add the caveat that a wheat beer is would be an excellent addition to the range, just not this one. Zeit Geist has potential, but it needs to receive a proverbial kicking from some of the big boys of the dark lager scene to whip it into shape. It isn’t bad, it is just a bit weedy and as such out of keeping with the image cultivated by BrewDog of being Britain’s bad boys of brewing, beef it up, maybe teach it the fine art of smoking and you could have a contender on your hands.
For more opinions on these beers also pop over to Pivni Filosof's blog!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Of course no trip to Ireland would be complete for me without hunting out various beers and pubs; so for example tomorrow we are in Dublin, and I have already requested stopping in both The Porterhouse and Messrs Maguire - and I may have to drop into the Czech Inn as well, we shall see.
On Saturday we are going over to Galway, so a few pints of Galway Hooker is a necessity - although I think the highlight for me will be just being back by the Atlantic, and I imagine it is an area of the world which is very similar to my own.
Have no idea what is happening on Sunday, but then on Monday we are meeting up with The BeerNut, Adeptus and Thom for lunch at the Bull and Castle, even though it may be more liquid than actual lunch!
All in all I am very much looking forward to this trip other than the flying that is.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
One such thing has been Mrs Velkyal and I's alcoholic experiments, of which there were three:
As for the other two projects, both were failures, and in the case of the mead an unmitigated disaster. The mead actually tasted awful, was thin and acrid, so all 3 litres were poured down the lav - I will however try again to make mead, but this time I will use a different recipe, and I will use a different yeast.
The beer hacking was a case of plenty of fizz bang excitement followed by a damp squib. My intention to infuse the stout with cinnamon and clove flavours certainly worked a treat as the nose of the previously unadorned Kelt was now laden with traditional Christmas scents, unfortunately it tasted dull and lifeless - the beer was flat and so another litre of booze went the way of the U-bend.
Another thing that needed attending to was the growing collection of Primátor beers in my fridge, in particular the Premium which I had never tried before. What a lovely lager this is. As you can see from the picture it pours a dark golden colour with a rocky white head, the nose is full of the classic Czech Saaz floral notes. The beer itself was crisp, I would eve say it was slightly tart with a nicely rounded body, a very refreshing lager, which could quite easily become a regular in the fridge - if only my local Billa sold it!
The third thing that needed seeing to was making a start on the dark beers in my cellar which form the core of my Dark Month, so it was that on Monday night I agonised over which one to open first - the winner being Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter, which is pictured above. This one is a wonderful deep ruby colour, bordering on black, and the head was a frothy dark tan. The nose was really interesting as the first thing that hit me was soy sauce, which brought to mind the Pardubický Porter, however there were also light coffee hints and eventually something which brought to mind the kelp beds on the beaches back at home, which I am assuming was from the seaweed finings used in production. The pre-dominant flavour though was of caramelised bananas, one of my favourite desserts, as well as dark chocolate and a light coffee taste. This was a very smooth beer and one which I enjoyed sipping whilst watching the Daleks and Cybermen try to take over the world!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The highlight of the lunch was the magnificent Hukvaldy 14º amber lager, and what a pint it was! The glass placed in front of me was filled with a beautiful dark brown beer topped by a tight knit white head that basically stopped any aromas getting through, although as the head lessened there was a distinct toffee touch to the nose. Drink this stuff was pure nectar, like sticky toffee pudding in a glass, smooth, sweet and with a fragrant bitterness which offset the sweetness perfectly.
If only every lunchtime were so good.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Last week Tandleman posted a link to a report by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford entitled “The enduring appeal of the local”, essentially a report about what makes a good pub. Given my plans for a business when Mrs Velkyal and I have decamped across the Pond, the report was rather interesting and is proving very useful in formulating my business plan, naturally having to take into account the differences between an American audience and a British, slight though they may be. The report has stimulated a lot of thinking around the question “what is a good pub?” and thankfully confirmed some of my own plans as being on the right track.
The most interesting thing for me was the difference between genders regarding particular reasons for going to a given pub. Both genders main reason was that it has a “warm welcoming cosy atmosphere”, however for the ladies, the second main reason was that it gave them a sense of being part of a community, thirdly that it was lively. The men on the other hand look for places that serve great beer, and then tie third place with the sense of community, serving great beer and having a great landlord.
One thing that I think about quite a bit is the role music plays in pubs, and the range of options that exist. My own preference in pubs I go to is to have background music, but not at a level where it impedes conversation, although Pivovarský klub has no music at all, this in spite of the fact that they have a decent sound system as well as a piano in the downstairs bar, I have only heard rumour that the piano ever gets played. On the other extreme is Zlatá Hvězda, which quite often has music so loud to just end up staring at your friends.
I am a big fan of the juke box, although few pubs in Prague take the bother to keep them up to date – which is probably just as well for me as I am really so far out of the loop on what is popular these days, one of the joys of living a life without television and only the World Service for radio, part of that is laziness because I can’t be bothered to tune to the radio to a Czech music station and then back again in the evening. I am also a fan of live music in pubs, and would love to have reasonably regular nights with bands in my place, in particular local bands with the occasional semi-famous band with a cult following.
One of the things I want to avoid though is for my musical tastes to become a dictatorship in my pub, unless of course the regulars don’t mind an eclectic mix of The Smiths, Wolfstone, The Chieftains, Nirvana and of course Starflyer 59 – who in my dream world would be the live band on opening night. I am acutely aware that the style of music a pub plays regularly affects the kind of customers that it attracts, thus I wouldn’t play lots of Rammstein, even though I enjoy their music, neither on the other side would I play the overtures to Mozart’s operas.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Often we would talk about beer, he had been assistant manager in a Shepherd Neame pub in Kent and would tell me how fantastic their beers were. It would be a few years later that I would discover the truth of his claims, and I am now a fan of their brews, in particular Bishop's Finger.
So this week's Beer Hero of the Week is:
Mike "the Hat" Rivers.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of said Mr Rivers, tell him to get in touch with me, or Raimonda, or Marek for that matter!
Wherever you are though Mike, cheers!
My favourite beer is very much like my best friend, I very rarely get to see him – seeing as though he is the American Consul to Kazakhstan, my friend that is, not the beer. It is very rare that I get to enjoy my favourite beer, simply because it is very difficult to get British ales in the Czech Republic. This beer, as well as being my favourite, is also the beer that opened my eyes to the delights of good beer, rather than throwing pint after pint of megaswill down my throat. That beer was Shepherd Neame’s Bishop’s Finger.
Bishop’s Finger was the first cask conditioned ale I ever drank, or at least that I remember drinking, sitting in a village pub in Kent with my eldest brother. A friend who I met in Prague used to work for Shepherd Neame and recommended that when I got back to the UK I should hunt out Bishop’s Finger – so it was all Mike the Hat’s fault, even though it was some 2 years after he had left Prague that I actually got back to the UK. Whenever I have a bottle of Bishop’s Finger these days I am taken back to the pub garden on a sunny July day in Kent.
I love the colour of Bishop’s Finger, deep copper, almost red crowned with a white head, forgive me if I become pompous and wax lyrical – after all this is my favourite beer! The nose tells you that this is a strong ale, full of malt and with just a tinge of the alcoholic delights to come. The beer tastes rather fruity, almost bittersweet like blood oranges that have zing and this being a Kentish beer, the hops are very noticeable in the finish. The beer is big and bold, yet smooth and easy to drink, with flavours that blew my mind when I first tried it all those years ago.
This month's Session is hosted by Matt at A World of Brews.