Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Sabbath Day's Drinking

Some recent arrivals to Prague are Oscar and Joanna. Joanna works with Mrs Velkyal and Oscar is, rather obviously I guess, her husband. For people who have only been in the country a matter of weeks, they have shown a refreshing willingness to get out and about to discover the delights of the Czech Republic. It stands to reason then that they like beer, and I am doing my best to ensure that their Czech beer experience is as good as possible. On their first night in the city Mrs Velkyal and I dragged them off to U Medvídků and insisted they try the excellent Oldgott Barrique.

As Mrs Velkyal and I were headed for the shops to stock up, we got a message from Joanna and Oscar asking what we were up to and would we fancy going for a stroll. Naturally we arranged to meet up and enjoy the sunshine together. Meeting up in the centre of the city, we walked down Národní, across the bridge into Malá Strána and got the funicular railway up the hill. After about an hour or so of walking it was suggested that we stop for a rest and a “coffee” – Velkyal slang for finding the nearest bar for a beer. At the time we were stood under the imposing edifice of Strahov Monastery – one of my favourite buildings in Prague, and a place I have been fortunate enough see with one of the priests and get up close and personal with the assorted treasures they have in there. Having read last week that the brewpub there currently had their Autumn Dark Special on tap, I suggested we give it a visit.

The sun was shining there was a nice autumnal chill in the air, despite this and the stiff breeze, we ended up sitting outside in the courtyard so the girls could enjoy the sun. Looking at the menu I noticed that as well as their own beers, the restaurant also had a selection of Budvar and Bernard beers available, however I was only here to try their own stuff, and in particular I wanted the Autumn Dark Special. Joanna and I plumped for the seasonal special, while Oscar and Mrs Velkyal went for the year round amber lager.


Being something of a tourist trap, the beers are a touch on the expensive side at 60kč for 0.4l, however by the time I had tried everything on draught I didn’t mind paying the extra. When the Autumn Dark Special arrived it was very dark, like a deep fire ruby, which glows when held up to the light, on top of this sat a fluffy beige head. The nose was very sweet and malty, with caramel notes – like fruit slowly fried in butter. In the mouth it is remarkably smooth and sweet – reminiscent of a 80/- Scottish ale, with flashes of coffee and cocoa on the tongue. The only problem that I have with beers like this is not drinking gallon after gallon.


While I was savouring the autumn special, Mrs Velkyal had gone for the standard amber lager on offer. Naturally in the interests of science, we each had a taste of the other. I love the dark orange colour of this beer and the fantastic white head, I can’t just say that an amber lager looks like amber now can I? This was very hoppy in the nose, with subtle clove notes which put me in mind of the Kocour IPA we enjoyed last week. Despite being a rather bitter beer this was surprisingly smooth and easy to drink, the bitterness is only just trumped by the sweetness, but the combination is like drinking marmalade, especially given the wonderful fruitiness of the beer.

While the rest of the gang were pigging out on French fries, I decided to have a bash at the house weizen. I have had this before at Zlý Časy and enjoyed it, but this was a different kettle of fish entirely. It poured much darker than I had previous had it and had a rocky white head. I must admit that I find wheat beers somewhat difficult to describe at the moment, although there were very noticeable citrus flavours and the crisp refreshing bite I have come to appreciate in Bavarian and Bohemian style wheats. This was just a lovely beer to drink, and if I had closed my eyes ignoring the cold I could easily imagine myself enjoying glass after glass of this in the heat of a South Carolinian summer.

A few weeks ago on Beer Culture, Evan noted that there is a pub up in the Kobylisy area of the city with the Strahov beers at lower prices than at the monastery itself. Having enjoyed them in their natural environment, I am looking forward to hunting out this place and giving my wallet some respite.

I guess this picture below appeals to both the drinker and the technical writer in me!

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