Wednesday, August 27, 2008

To the monastery

I was joking with Mrs Velkyal the other day that I should do a Masters degree in theology, which is strangely enough what my Bachelors degree is in. She asked what my thesis would be, and I thought how about "Monasticism and the development of Beer"? Thus I could combine two of my favourite things - theology is endlessly fascinating, as long as you remember that religion is more the study of humanity than the study of God. So it was with this thought in mind that I decided to pop down to Pivovarsky Klub for my dinner (Mrs Velkyal being at her school's, beginning of year curry bash).

After a rather nice goulash I decided that it would be a good idea to re-visit a beer I used to think was muck - so bad I would rather drink water than bother with it - Klaster. I first had Klaster at an open air rock festival near the little Czech town of Mnichovo Hradiste, and couldn't stand it. Admittedly this was before I really started to enjoy beer from smaller breweries, which explains why I tried again last night, give it a second chance, turn the other cheek you might say. The name Klaster means "monastery" and the beer is made in a former monastery brewery - given the fact that the building hasn't been a monastery for nearly 600 years, the name is rather tenuous.

I have learnt to trust my first opinions on many things, and my opinion of Klaster won't be changing any time soon - for me it leaves too bitter a taste in the back of my throat, one that by the time I am half way down the pint makes me regret I ever bought the stuff. I am really not a fan.

So in order to wash away the taste I reached for one of my favourites - Gottschalk, a proper monastery beer, brewed by real monks in a monastery! Sometimes it is difficult to believe that in such a non-religious country as the Czech Republic that monks are still operating here and making greating beer, I realise that is not their calling in life but it is one hell of a sideline. Gottschalk is smooth, slightly sweet and just a wonderfully pleasant drink, even if every time I pour it the head is non-existant.

On my way home I decided to follow up a lead from Evan Rail. In his articles for the Prague Daily Monitor he mentioned that a small chain of cheese shops in the Czech Republic also stocked Belgian ales, in particular the Trappist ales and for half the price of other places. Conveniently, there is an outlet near Pivovarsky Klub so I nipped round in the hope they were still open - they were! Low and behold there they were, so I bought an Orval which is already 16 months old, and a Rochefort 6. The problem, if it can be called such, is that this is a cheese shop and they sell quality cheeses and I love cheese. Having gone in to buy two bottles of beer, I came out with two bottles of beer and several wedges of fine cheese, including a farmhouse cheddar!

In the coming days Mrs Velkyal and I will be having various cheese eating sessions and I hope to be reveling in the delights of Belgian Trappist beers.

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