Friday, October 31, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

I am something of a cynic when it comes to marketing, so when I see companies raving on about how they brew beer that their customers want I tend to think either:

  • said customers have no taste in beer
  • marketeers are liars - actually I think that about marketeers in general regardless of industry
As I was perusing the beers available on BeerRitz I came across plenty of breweries I had never heard of, naturally requiring me to check out their websites. One that I enjoyed reading a lot was that of the Bradfield Brewery near Sheffield, in particular the page entitled "Your Beer?".

Here is a brewery who actually want to hear what kind of beers their customers want, and rather than giving us an "info" email address to contact they have a form which is easy to fill in and clearly presented.

That is why my Beer Hero of the Week is:

The Bradfield Brewery.

Early Planning

Having discovered the delights of BeerRitz I decided to make a provisional list of the beers I plan to order when I get paid next month to be shipped to my brother's place in Kent in preparation for Christmas.


Comments are more than welcome if you think I have picked a dud.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Despair

Liverpool played Portsmouth last night, so I was in Zlata Hvezda to watch the match - although by half-time I had the beginnings of a headache so I went home. I have been watching Liverpool matches, and the 6 Nations, at Zlata practically since I first came to Prague in 1999. In that time I have no doubt drunk vast quantities of beer in the place, starting with Velkopopovický Kozel back in the good old days when they made a good lager, to the modern era where the ubiquitous Gambrinus is the beer of choice along the regulars, visitors who just ask for a beer get a 0.4l of Pilsner Urquell for almost twice the price.

Zlata is something of an institution for my circle of friends, most of us met there, and we see each other most when there a game is on - which given the owner's canny acceptance that Liverpool fans will be at every game he can find, duly finds almost every game. Zlata is also my favourite pub when I am on a beer fast, because I really have to sink low these days to be tempted by Gambrinus, let alone the Gambrinus at Zlata - universially regarded as somewhere between passable and rank. Thank god for Mattoni in bottles.

I have been finding it odd lately though the fact that more people aren't refusing to drink the beer. Some of the lads I drink with enjoy excellent beers when they go home to the UK, often texting me to tell me what pints they are drinking and in what historic pub over looking some natural wonder, so why drink Gambrinus in Zlata (well, why drink Gambrinus at all really)?

I guess some people just don't care what they drink, as long as it gets them drunk as quickly as possible and for as little money as possible. Recently when I was reading Pete Brown's Three Sheets to the Wind, I started to wonder if there really is something uniquely British about getting wankered on crap.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Excellent News

Whilst reading Beer Culture, I came across a comment which has filled me with happiness.

Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf, that myself, Evan and Pivní Filosof rave on about now have their first permanent tap in Prague.

The tap is at Tlustá Koala on Senovažná, they currently have the excellent stout available, and the beer will change every fortnight.

Here's looking forward to Kocour getting the far wider acknowledgement that their ground breaking beers deserve!

Taking shape

As I am sure I have mentioned several times on here, in a couple of weeks I am heading to Ireland for a long weekend just before my birthday. I have never been to Ireland before and am really looking forward to it - not just for the opportunity to try out a few places like The Porterhouse and Messrs Maguire, but also because I have something of a fascination with Ireland in general (well ok then, I have a weakness for girls with a Connemara accent!).

We will be staying with friends of Mrs Velkyal in a village called Rochfortbridge in County Westmeath, so hopefully we'll avoid some of the tourist traps of Dublin and get to see the real Ireland a wee bit - whenever we travel we like to go to the places locals hang out in rather, my sincerest hope for the afternoon of the 15th is to find a good pub to watch the rugby in (unless someone reading this has 4 tickets going spare for the game at Croke Park and an overwhelming urge to let my lovely American wife continue her rugby education!).

As a result of the planning for this trip to Ireland, I have decided to make November my Dark Beers Month - as you can see from my Little Cellar Holdings list on the side of this page I have stocked up on a few bits and pieces, and plan to bring a couple back with me. Obviously I won't be drinking purely stout and porters for the month, but will also include dark beers from the Czech Republic and anywhere else I can get my hands on.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oops...

Time for a confession, I failed. My plan to have a fortnight without beer came crashing down on Saturday afternoon when I stuck my head into Pivovarský klub to see who was working that day. The plan as formulated in my head was to go for a walk with my camera around the Karlín district of Prague, and pick up some bottles for my cellar to enjoy after the two weeks were up – I had texted one of the managers on Friday to ask when they would have the new Primátor Stout available in bottles, and he replied saying they would have them on Saturday. So as I say, I took a look through the window to see who was working and it was my favourite staff, Ambroz and Klara – having not seen them for a while I headed in for a chat.

The plan went to pot when I asked Ambroz for an espresso and mineral water and he pointed out that they had the Primátor Stout on tap. Bugger. In some ways though the beer that was sat down in front of me was much like an espresso, very dark with a slight ruby tinge and head the colour of the foam on top of a good espresso. The beer smelt fabulous, full of coffee and chocolate, with wonderful smoky depths to it. As you would expect with a stout it was rather bitter, tasting of full roasted coffee, but nice and smooth going down. The only gripe I would have is that the body is a little on the thin side. It is a very nice beer, although I had to wait for a while to let it warm up a bit – it was served at the standard lager temperature. I do have another gripe, but not about the beer – I like stout to be in pints, well ok then as we are in metric Europe, half litres. 35kč for 300ml of stout is taking the piss in my opinion, especially given the fact that a bottle of imported Black Wych costs 45kč at Cider Club.

As Ambroz and I were chatting, I am one of those people who likes to sit at the bar, he mentioned that they had a new selection of beers from Germany which hadn’t been put out for public sale yet. I decided to get a bottle of each for the cellar, and an extra bottle of the Bischofshof Zoigl from Regensburg to have at the bar. This one blew my mind and almost gave me sensory overload. Pouring light amber with a bright white head and good carbonation, you could easily mistake it for just another lager, until you put your nose anywhere near it. The nose on this beer is quite amazing, smelling of stables, extra mature farmhouse cheddar cheese and other farmhouse smells – it reminded me of a cowshed. The beer then tasted like overripe bananas, it was sweetish and smooth, like bread and butter pudding, with honey. It was simply a wonderful beer to drink, I loved it and am very much looking forward to breaking open the other bottle in the cellar.

So while I am really annoyed with myself for messing up my intention not to drink for two weeks, I enjoyed some nice beer in one of my favourite pubs in Prague – even if Pivovarský klub could do with a little bit of music playing, nothing loud and rocking, just something to break the silence a bit.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

As has been mentioned many times on this blog, ale is something of a rarity in the Czech Republic. Thankfully we have Kocour making waves with their wonderful Pale Ale, IPA and Stout, the guys at Minipivovar Žamberk do an excellent Imperial Stout and now the makers of Mrs Velkyal's favourite tipple have added to their already impressive line-up by this week bringing out their own stout.

So this week's Beer Hero is:

Primátor - Pivovar Náchod for adding to the range of ales commercially available in the Czech Republic.

This will be joining the various stouts I have lined up for November's StoutFest!

Brewing Up a Storm in The Broch

My mother's family are from The Broch, a town on the tip of Aberdeenshire which most people know as Fraserburgh. Like many families in The Broch they were fishermen who would follow the herring up and down the east coast of Great Britain. Eventually my grandfather, who also played for Fraserburgh F.C., would leave Scotland to become the MD of a canning factory in Lowestoft, before then heading out to Australia and a life in the sun. Still to this day I have countless cousins and various distant relatives still living in The Broch and surrounding area. Fraserburgh was a place that we would visit in the summer to see the family, Scotts and Cassies alike, parking the Cavalier in the caravan park and spending countless hours surrounded by uncles and aunts fussing over me and my wee brother, or in the case of visiting my mother’s uncle Bob and aunt Nessie who ran the British Legion club in Fyvie, repeatedly asking grownups to get the darts out of the ceiling.

Earlier this summer whilst doing a kind of Life of Velkyal in beer, I was looking at what would be the nearest craft brewer to my mother’s home town – half expecting it to be in Aberdeen, or worse Peterhead. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that BrewDog come from The Broch itself, and decided to set about procuring some of their beers to try, thinking my best bet was to get a case or two mailed to my brother in Kent for Christmas.

Whilst in Oxford a few weekends ago I went for a nice long walk, down past Magdalen College and back again – it was early morning as people were heading into the town for work and study as I wandered in the opposite direction. Making my way back in, I spotted an Oddbins and decided to pop in and see what they had. I was pleased to note that they had Bud Strong, the 16° lager from the makers of Budvar, and then in the corner of a fridge I noticed 3 bottles of BrewDog’s Punk IPA. Without hesitation I bought all three, thinking that it would be nice to give a bottle each to Pivní Filosof and Evan, who are also reviewing the beer today, and my bottle was the last beer I had before starting my 14 day break.
As you can see from the picture, the beer pours a golden amber with flashes of orange and a thin white head. The nose is very hoppy, as you would expect from an IPA, with distinct floral notes and a very assertive citrus tone. Citrus is also very much to the fore on the taste front as well, like pink grapefruit, tart, yet with sweet undertones which save the bitterness from being too much. The sweetness reminded me of butterscotch or tablet, one of my favourite confections my mother makes. There is a nice full body, which doesn’t cloy, is smooth going down and the zing in the aftertaste makes it a nicely refreshing beer. I only have one gripe, I wanted more than just 330ml – ok it is 6% ABV, but it certainly doesn’t feel or taste like an overly alcoholic beer, so a full pint would have been ideal, as I say though, just the one gripe.

Before pouring the beer I enjoyed reading the label, which has phrases such as “This is not a lowest common denominator beer” and “we do not merely aspire to the proclaimed heady heights of conformity through neutrality and blandness”. Punk IPA is certainly not bland and boring, indeed it is more than worth seeking out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Beer Fantasies

I am currently on one of my fortnights of no booze and carbs, also known as the South Beach Diet phase 1. This is really not being helped by the fact that I have 4 bottles of Primátor, of various types and strengths, sitting in my fridge. However, after the over-indulgence of Oxford it is necessary to shed the 10lbs I gained in my research efforts. It is important though to point out that not all that weight can be attributed to beer. I am sure a fair whack of it came from eating what I lovingly referred to as my "slab", mainly because I can't remember what it is called in English. Basically it is a biscuit base with a caramel centre and chocolate topping. Sheer food naughtiness, but worth every last crumb - it was about the size of an A4 piece of paper and I ate it over the few days we were there. Also on the list of illicit delights we pigged out on were Krispy Kreme doughnuts, decent Chinese food, pies, cornish pasties and various other snacks picked up in Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury's. Naturally they were mostly washed down with a bottle or two of ale - I am thinking in particular here of the Fuller's 1845 I thoroughly enjoyed.

Talking of Fuller's, I read today on Zythophile about their Reserve beer which is aged in whisky oak barrels before having a limited bottling of 25,000. This got me fantasising about the possibilities of combining their Vintage Ale range with the Reserve concept - labelled obviously as Vintage Reserve, has a nice ring to it - as would a Wychwood beer called Old Crone!

So instead of drinking beers, I am planning what beers to buy for Christmas - the whole Velkyal clan is getting together in Kent this year for the first entire family Christamas celebration since, well actually not sure when, more than 10 years at least. So the beer has to be good, all suggestions welcome, and if anyone wants to give me a bottle of Vintage Ale or Reserve as a pressie, feel free.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Post Work Drinks

On Friday afternoon I met up with Evan and Pivni Filosof, as I had bought them back from the UK a bottle of beer, so naturally we met up in Pivovarský klub for a "quick beer". On tap they had the Bernard 13° dark beer, which is nicely roasted and very smooth to drink as well as Démon from Pivovar Lobkowicz, a thorougly inoffensive and unmemorable polotmávé. I also indulged in a couple of Primátor Weizens, which were lovely, especially after the flat and lifeless one I had at U Sadu a few days previously.

The drinking highlight though was discovering bottles of Paulaner Salvator in the fridge, a beer I had never tried before, although heard much about. It poured a very deep red, which I really liked, and had a slightly beige head. There was a powerful sweetness to the smell which was more than backed up in the taste - I was rather surprised at just how sweet the beer was. It was big, full bodied and syrupy in the mouth, nor syrupy in an extract kind of way, but rather full of sweetness and smoothness. I liked it alot, a hell of alot. Not a beer that I could drink plenty off in a night, but certainly one I could enjoy sitting at home watching the idiot box (well, in our circumstances, DVDs on the computer).

Eventually Mrs Velkyal turned up, having told me to just have a couple and then come home - I knew she would give in and come to the pub. I don't think that she even had her coat off and Karel, the barman that day, had brought over a bottle of Primátor English Pale Ale fresh from the fridge for her - they know what she likes.

Some places are just perfect.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Campaign for Real Ale!

Recent years have seen a rise in the number of Marks and Spencer stores throughout the Czech Republic, in Prague alone there are now 7. It used to be that the stores only carried clothing, although now all the shops have limited food halls as well as small furnishings departments. I am something of a Marks and Sparks devotee, my mother worked for them way back when and we were raised on M&S products and largely clothed in their gear.

Whilst back in the UK, a trip to a decent sized M&S was an absolute must - sometimes you just need a prawn and mayonnaise sandwich on oat bread for breakfast! Strolling around the foodhall in a revery, I decided to nip over and have a look at their wine selection - which just so happened to be the other side of their beer section. Beer was never something I equated with M&S, probably because it didn't register on my radar back then. I have to admit I was thrilled - they had bottle conditioned ales of all sorts, including an Irish Stout, Cornish IPA and Suffolk Bitter. Marks and Spencer have not decided to open their own brewery, but rather have small brewers making good beers to be sold under the M&S label, which given their traditional image of having higher quality standards than many over food retailers is a vote of confidence.

Unfortunately I didn't have enough space in my bag to bring back some bottles to sample, but given the fact that I will be spending Christmas at my eldest brother's place in Ashford, I fully intend to get to grips with the entire range of beers available.

Back to Marks and Spencer in the Czech Republic, they recently had signs on their shop windows proclaiming that they had the best of British food. It is true that you can get a very nice organic cider, but what is more British than real ale? So I decided to drop the marketing department of Marks and Spencer Czech Republic an email, asking them to start bringing ales to the Czech Republic. So if you are in the Czech Republic and want to see more ale available on the market then please email Marks and Spencer and let them know that there is a market here for their beer!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

There are several possible candidates for this week's Beer Hero, and a few deserve an honourable mention:

  • the staff of the King's Arms in Oxford, just for being so damned good
  • the guys from the Oxford Arms in Kidlington for having such a wonderful pub
  • Goddard's Brewery on the Isle of Wight for having an un-pompous website

However, my Beer Hero of the Week is my mate Gajan, for coming from King's Lynn to Oxford just to spend a few hours downing pints with me.

Cheers Gaj!

The Master

Last night I went out to meet an old friend of mine and ended up in a pub which unfortunately only had the ubiquitous Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell on tap, some people you just can't educate I'm afraid. They also had Master, an 18º dark beer from the makers of Pilsner Urquell, so I thought I would give it a whirl.

It was very dark, with a coffee coloured head, and sweet nose. The first taste was ok I guess, nothing more than that really, just ok. Lightly roasted flavours, a touch of sweetness and a mild hoppiness, as I say nothing special. The thing that worried me was that after about 15 minutes, was drinking slowly yesterday, it started to smell overwhelmingly of sauerkraut. Now Czechs love their cabbage, and quite rightly, but to have a beer with a cabbage nose is taking it a bit too far. This was the first Master I had tried, so I am not sure if it always smells of sauerkraut or if it was a bum batch, but I won't be hurrying to find out anytime soon.

My friend was kind of surprised that I then started drinking mineral water instead, and refused to believe that firstly none of the major brewers in the Czech Republic are Czech owned, other than Budvar that is, and secondly that Pilsner Urquell is not the apogee of the brewing craft. This is a self declared lover of Czech beer, who had never bothered to try a Svijany, a Primator or even visit Pivovarský dům - his argument runs along the lines of Pilsner Urquell is the best beer in the world so why try anything else? I told him next time we meet up we are going to my choice of pub, I think it will be a Svijany place in Žižkov - I don't want to freak him out too much with places like Zlý Časy.

During our conversation Mrs Velkyal sent me a text message which simply said: "Opened the Samuel Smith Old Brewery Pale Ale, wonderfully hoppy, great body, loving it".

Yes, I was jealous.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pack Yer Bags

Sunday morning was perhaps the most challenging time of my trip to Oxford, not because I was hugely hungover - quite worryingly I wasn't. When Mrs Velkyal's conference had finished we headed back up to Bicester for dinner, which my brother cooked - all the men in my family, all 5 of us (dad and 4 boys), love to cook.



So while Scott was making dinner, I decided to try a couple of beers that I had bought in the shop, first up was the Triple B from Bicester's local microbrewery, Oxfordshire Ales. The picture above is the same beer, but on draught from the King's Arms. This is a very nice ale, beautifully hoppy and smooth in the mouth. at only 3.7% ABV, this is a dream of a session beer. Next I upped the ante by opening one of my bottles of Fuller's 1845, which is 6.3% ABV and matured for 100 days. This is a BIG beer, a seriously fruity, full bodied beer which is far smoother than a beer of this strength has any right to be.

After dinner we headed off to the Oxford Arms in the village of Kidlington for a last couple of pints. The Oxford Arms is a lovely country pub, which keeps the finest traditions of a British style coaching inn - bare walls, roaring fire and an eclectic group of drinkers, from across the social strata enjoying a well poured pint in their local. Next time I go to visit my brother I hope to visit the Oxford Arms again and write up a full and proper review. I was intriqued though that they had Staropramen on tap, and was very tempted to try a pint but given my experience with heads over the last few days I decided to stick with the ale.

Over the few days I was in the UK, I had picked up various bottles for my little cellar, mostly stouts which I got in the Bicester branch of S.H. Jones, including several from the Samuel Smith Brewery in Tadcaster and three bottles of Punk IPA from BrewDog. I was worried about getting all of the bottles home to Prague without breaking, so they were all rolled up into t-shirts and jumpers and laid in my rucksack, which thankfully worked and I managed to completely re-stock my gap behind the wall with a load of, hopefully, superb beers. The stouts will be kept for my stout tasting that I plan to do sometime after I get back from Ireland in November.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Up in Arms

I was looking forward to Saturday very much. Mrs Velkyal was in her conference most of the day, my brother wasn't working and my mate Gaj was coming to Oxford from King's Lynn, where he is a doctor. And of course my brother and Gaj knew that the plan for the day involved sitting in pubs and boozing whilst waiting for Mrs Velkyal.

Our original plan was to meet Gaj at around midday then go for lunch at the Royal Blenheim, which is on St Ebbe's just after BHS - this I had ascertained on the Friday when in Oddbin's, picking up some BrewDog Punk IPA, I asked for directions and happily found it to be very close to here Mrs Velkyal was conferencing. From the outside it is essentially a picture postcard of what a British pub should be. Unfortunately Gaj was delayed, so it was just Scott, myself and the better half. I had come across the Royal Blenheim when I found the Everard's Brewery website. When we arrived there were 4 beers on the pumps - I didn't really pay too much attention to the bog standard tap stuff, similar situation to Far From the Madding Crowd - two from Everard's and two from the White Horse Brewery, who were a new name to me and have just taken over the pub. Again we had to change plan as the pub was having the kitchen refurbished and as such there was no food, so I ordered a pint of Tiger for myself, a pint of Sunchaser for Mrs Velkyal and some mass-produced lager for my brother.

I found this to be a much better poured pint that some of the ones I had tried in Far From the Madding Crowd, which means it had a decent head on it, which stayed largely intact while drinking the beer. I really liked the Tiger glass as well, mainly because it had the Cyclops tasting notes for the beer on the side. And to quote the old adverts for Ronseal - it does exactly what it says on the tin. I really like the toffee notes in this beer, and the fact that the sweetness is nicely balanced by a spicy hoppiness, after a couple of pints I have to admit that it has become one of my favourite British ales, and one I will be hunting out whenever I go back to the UK. I only had a quick sip of Mrs Velkyal's Sunchaser, which is a blonde beer that is nicely refreshing and crisp, with a gentle lemony flavour. She certainly enjoyed it.

Because my brother and Mrs Velkyal were chatting away, trying to plan where to get some lunch, I had finished my pint before they were even half way down, so I went up to the bar to try one of the White Horse brews. Having never heard of either, I asked the barman (I think he may have been the landlord), what the difference between White Horse Bitter and White Horse Wayland Smithy was. He explained that the Smithy is more of an Best Bitter, although the 3.7% Bitter, although a session ale, was hoppier - sounded a treat I thought to myself. And a very nice beer it is too - the kind of bitter that I could happily drink all night. It has quite a light body without being watery at all and the hoppiness comes to the fore without being overpowering. In general the Royal Blenheim was a very nice pub, with a nice relaxed atmosphere and well poured beers, can't really ask for more than that can you?

Unfortunately the need for food was becoming rather pressing, as was the time for Mrs Velkyal to get back to her conference in the Town Hall. Plus Gaj had finally made it to Oxford, so while I went to find him, Scott and Mrs Velkyal went to get lunch - fresh handmade Cornish pasties! I don't think Scott and I were overly hungry because we had enjoyed a great couple of pies in Oxford's Covered Market, his being wild mushroom and asparagus, mine was steak, kidney and ale. With lunch well and truly enjoyed, the three men decided to head for the pub, shock horror!

We decided to go to the King's Arms, a Young's pub which is just far enough off the beaten track to be missed by a lot of tourists, but it very popular with students and locals, and understandably so. The place is cavernous and has all the traditional elements of an English pub, wooden floors, tables and chairs, except for the old no-smoking room with had carpet, as did the snug. On draught was a full range of Young's beers, with a good selection of bottles as well - and the Ploughman's lunch we shared between the three of us was superb. I didn't taken any notes of the beers I drank, but I thoroughly enjoyed them all, even if my brother turned his nose up at the Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, in particular I liked the Tribute Premium Cornish Ale. The King's Arms is a pub which if I lived in Oxford I could very easily imagine being my local, simply a great place to sit, drink and hang out with friends.

One thing I really enjoyed about being in Britain was the standard of service I got in every pub I went in to. Friendly, knowledgable bar staff are always a delight, as it prompt and efficient service in general - to my mind the King's Arms has exemplary service, and barmen who seemed to know their beer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Away From It All


Down a small lane called Friar’s Entry, Far From the Madding Crowd certainly lives up to its name and was the first of the varied pubs I visited during my trip to Oxford. Having bought myself an Iain Banks book to read, I pitched up just after opening time and immediately felt right at home. This is a pub as pubs should be in my book, no fancy décor, plain dark wooden furniture and an unobtrusive bar. The reason I wanted to visit this pub was because I had read that it was the only free house in the centre of Oxford. For those unaware of British parlance, a free house is one that is not tied to any particular brewer and thus free to sell what they want, and in emails to the landlord I had learnt that they rotate a range of ales from the smaller brewers, mostly local.


My first choice of pint was simplicity in itself, Hobgoblin on draught is not something that I have a chance to have very often, so having ordered my pint, taken it to a table, realized that the leather sofa was too soft to write clearly and moved to another table, I started on my mission to try all the beers available that day. According to the blackboard beside the bar, this was a 4.5% ABV, in bottles it is 5.2%, and poured the same dark russet into a tulip glass. I will come to the issue of head in a moment. The nose was unmistakably Hobgoblin, toffee sweetness just imploring you to drink, and like the bottled variant it was smooth, malty, full bodied and with a nice clean bitter aftertaste that relieves it the burden of being cloying.


At this point there was just myself, an older lady having a half pint reading her paper and a couple of barstaff. I have got used to table service in the Czech Republic but I still prefer going to the bar – I am also a fan of sitting at the bar of my regular haunts – and so up I went to get pint number 2, Brakspear Bitter. I loved the colour if the Brakspear, dark amber with an off-white head. On giving it a good sniff it was slighty bready and laced with bananas. The first mouthful was a delight, very smooth and creamy with a refreshing bitterness. But then strange things started to happen, it started to smell vaguely of rubber tyres, oak and even whisky. The problem was a lack of consistency within the pint, one minute there was a strange smell and then the next it was gone. I found that towards the end of the pint it had become stale, reminding me of digestive biscuits that go soft.


As the lunchtime crowd came in, and I reached chapter 3 of my book, I noticed that Far From the Madding Crowds attracts a wonderfully diverse clientele – but a very friendly one. Eventually I was to get chatting with a guy called Frank who was a regular, as well as a very educated guy with whom I shared a good three hour discussion that ranged across educational theory, religious history and textual criticism. My third pint was to be the first of several beers from brewers I had never heard of, in this case it was Shingle Bay from the Quercus Brewery in Dorset. This was paler than the previous couple of pints, being an almost lageresque sparkling golden colour, with a nose that was citrusy and kind of reminded me of sweet and sour sauce. Drinking it though left me about three quid poorer and not much more inspired, it is not a bad beer, but rather just nothing special, not something to turn your nose up, but note something to chase across hill and dale for.


Carrying on my mission, I indulged in the sweet honey tasting Wold Gold from the Wold Top Brewery as well as the somewhat bland and syrupy Elsie Mo from Castle Rock, which is shown above. As the afternoon wore on I found that I was developing a stuffy nose and thus smelling much of anything was becoming difficult. However, that clogged up feeling didn’t stop me from enjoying a lovely pint of No Angel from the Clark’s Brewery, which weighs in at 4% ABV. It is quickly becoming apparent to me that I am a fan of the darker ales, so I was delighted at the dark copper of the No Angel, even though once again there was a thin head – coming to that bit! I would love to tell you what it smelt like but by this point it could have smelt like a miner’s sweaty undies and I would have been none the wiser as my nose was thoroughly blocked. However the wonderful maltiness and gentle bitterness struck a fantastic balance that had me scribbling furiously that this was quite simply the “perfect bitter”, if you will excuse the awful pun, No Angel was certainly divine! (Apologies, but I am sure we have all done similar.)

Which brings me to my one constant gripe about drinking in England at the weekend, and perhaps people will bear with me as I am used to the Czech attitude to head on beer. I will just come straight out and say it, head for me is an important and integral part of having a beer. I am quite happy to lose a meagre half-inch of beer in order to have a better-looking pint – after all, how a beer looks is essential for its enjoyment. I have seen campaign posters for having pints taken "to the top", but this just seems to be backward thinking in my book. I worry about people who insist on getting their full extra half-inch of beer at the expense of a better looking pint – does it add to the enjoyment, do the extra few drops get you buzzed quicker, or are you just a moaning minny with nothing better to do that fill the drip trays of the UK? Getting a full pint of beer is all well and good, but instead of looking like a right tight arsed git and saying to some harassed barmaid, “could you top it up love”, how about campaigning for the use of bigger glasses so everyone is happy. Get a full pint and have a better-looking beer.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oxon

Over most of the this week I will be writing up my findings from my weekend in Oxford and Bicester, including vital practical tips for getting ten bottles of beer into a medium sized rucksack and safely back to the Czech Republic.

I tried loads of new beers while I was away, enjoyed being in some wonderful pubs, met all manner of fascinating people and generally had a blast. I have always liked Oxford and the area around it but coming back there after ten years - I hadn't been to the area since college days - was wonderful simply because of how little the basic infrastructure, if that is the right word, of the city had changed.

I love the fact that I managed to get my bearings really quickly, find the pubs I had on my list without any problem and got to wander around the Covered Market while enjoying traditionally made pies and pasties.

It is true that travel broadens the mind, and I would never regret having lived so much of my life outside the UK, but sometimes going back to the Old Country is just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

With my going off to Oxford this evening I decided to post up this week's Beer Hero of the Week today - thus saving me the hassle of leaving the pub tomorrow to find an internet cafe.

One of my favourite animals is the squirrel, in particular the red squirrel which is native the British Isles and under threat of extinction, due to destruction of habitat and encroachment by the imported grey squirrel, practically the only area which still has red squirrels is the Highlands of Scotland.

This week the Atlas Brewery in Kinlochleven released a new ale, called Red Squirrel. Part of the profits from this new ale are to be donated to the Highland Red Squirrel Group who are working to ensure that the British Isles don't lose our native squirrel.

So I would encourage everyone who can to go out and buy Red Squirrel ale, so here we are ladies and gentlemen, my beer hero of the week:

The Atlas Brewery

An Inkling of What is to Come

Passport? Check. Print out of tickets for budget airline? Check. Maps of various Oxfordshire towns with pubs marked on them (including the Eagle and Child)? Check. Shopping list of beers from Sainsbury's, Tesco's or pretty much anywhere I can get them? Check.

This afternoon I am flying to the UK, for the first time since 2005 - I am not the kind of expat who likes to get home every couple of months, in fact since I came to life in Prague back in 1999, I have been home a grand total of 7 times. Admittedly my parents no longer live in the Outer Hebrides, having moved to the Haute-Vienne region of France a couple of years back - so I am more likely to go to France than I am to go home, even though all 3 of my brothers still live in the UK. Having parents in France rather than the north west of Scotland actually means I have seen more of my brothers in the last two years than in the previous 7 combined.

This trip came about because Mrs Velkyal is attending an education conference in Oxford, and my elder brother lives in the town of Bicester - so why not take a day off work and have a jolly? So while my good lady wife is honing the fine art of educating kids aged 3-6 (I really wonder where she gets the patience for the job from), I will be discovering the varied liquid delights of Oxford - and maybe scampering off to nearby villages to take pictures of breweries and the like.

No doubt a lot of next weeks posts will be about my findings in the various pubs, and if anyone reading this is from Oxford and you see a rather tall chap sitting in the pub, nursing a pint and making notes in his little book, and taking pictures of his pints, then come over, say hello and have a drink.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Roast Garlic and Onion Jam, With a Twist.

Whilst on one of my cyber-pottering trips – you know the kind of thing, work is a bit slow so you randomly look for projects for the weekend – I thought it would be interesting to go beyond chutneys and try my hand at jams and marmalades. The recipe which caught my imagination most was from the Ambrosia blog, written by Coco, for roast garlic and onion jam. My first thought was that it sounded fantastic – I love caramelized onions and an a big fan of creamy sweetness of roasted garlic, the idea of marrying those flavours with a nice beer was simply too much to resist.

As I am learning with my beer cooking experiments, finding the right beer to enhance the flavours of a recipe is vitally important, which is why it took me some 2 weeks to decide on the beer for this recipe. My first thought was to go for something big and bold, like an imperial stout or strong English ale – the front runners at the time were either Hobgoblin or again using the Primátor 24°. Eventually though I came to the conclusion that something big and bold would probably be quite overpowering, especially given the rather strong flavours already in the recipe.

I fairly quickly dismissed the idea of using ale and set about finding a lager which would do the trick. The beer I settled upon would have to be sweetish with malty notes that would backup the roasted flavour of the garlic rather than compete with it. So Mrs Velkyal and I eventually agreed that it would have to be a polotmávé, or amber lager, and I decided that I wanted to use a Chodovar product – especially as I had a collection of various bottles to use.

My recipe ended up as follows:



  • 750g roughly chopped onions
  • 2 heads roasted garlic
  • 4 dessertspoons brown sugar
  • 125 ml Chodovar Skální ležák
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • Olive oil
And here’s what to do with it all


  1. Break up the garlic heads, put in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 90 minutes. When the garlic is roasted, squeeze out the soft insides.
  2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, when hot add the onions and cover, stir occasionally until they are softened and translucent – this should take about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, stir and replace the lid, stir occasionally until onions are golden, this takes about 20 minutes.
  4. Add the beer, stir and cover to cook for about 30 minutes.
  5. When the onions are dark brown add the vinegar, garlic cloves and water.
  6. Cook uncovered until you have a rich sticky mixture.
  7. Let the mixture cool before putting in sterilized jars.
This was remarkably easy to make, and wonderfully tasty. There was only one little problem, from about 750g of onions I got about 300g of jam. So next time I make this, probably the weekend after this, I will double or treble the amounts so that I can make several jars. I would particularly recommend enjoying this with a good welsh rarebit, made with the best cheddar cheese you can get your hands on.
And of course having opened a bottle of beer, you just have to finish it while you cook!

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!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bridge to Nowhere

I spent about 5 hours on Saturday just walking around various parts of Prague. I am lucky in many ways in that I live right in the heart of the city, just a five minute walk from Vaclávské Náměstí, so I get to indulge my love of bumbling with a camera almost every weekend. Our intention was just to stroll around and take some pictures of random bits of pieces, after an hour or so of which we stumbled upon the new brewpub Pražský most na Valšů and being in need of a sit down, we ventured in to try their beer. As you can see from the picture at the head of this article, they also sell a couple of other brewers’ beer, in this case Malý Rohozec and Březňák. On the door was a note saying that they had special prices for their own beer, 30kč for a half litre and 22kč for a 0.3l - their normal prices are 45kč and 30kč respectively.

We decided to try out the svetlý ležák first, myself with a full half litre and Mrs Velkyal with a little one. Before describing the beer I want to say that I loved the décor of the place, the chairs are solid, and heavy, wood, and the lampshades look like a stylized version of the Charles Bridge, with a statue on the top. In short, the interior is fantastic. I held high hopes for the beer.
When eventually the beer came, the place was virtually empty yet the service was tardy, it was a light honey colour with a nice rocky head, which stayed for the duration of the drink. There were distinct smells of clove and flowers when I shoved my nose into the glass, Mrs Velkyal commented that it smelt metallic. When actually drinking the beer, the first taste was that of lemon, and a bitterness which caught the back of the throat, lingering through the aftertaste. The dominant taste though was distinctly tinny and it has a very slight body. While it is not a bad beer it is definitely not up there with the best microbrew lagers that the Czech Republic has to offer, though it is streets ahead of megaswill such as Gambrinus. In many ways it is the BBC Radio 2 of Czech beer, nothing offensive, but nothing memorable either.


I had noticed on the bar a bottle of dark lager, so I assumed that the second tap they had would be their own tmávé, however on asking it turned out to be the Rohozec Skalák dark lager, so I ordered a half litre of that, as Mrs Velkyal was still nursing her little one. When it arrived, again with the tardy service requiring that I went to the bar to order, it was a fabulous dark ruby with a tan head. On the nose there was again a touch of tinniness, though not as pronounced as with the light lager, and hints of sweet caramel. The caramel in the nose was reinforced with a nice toffee sweetness which also had the faintest trace of coffee. This beer has a nice body and is clean in the mouth, making it a nice easy dark lager to drink.

When I went to pay I decided to pick up a bottle of the house dark lager to try when we eventually made it home, at 35kč for a bottle of beer I was hoping for something really good.

Mrs Velkyal and I continued our wanderings, going up to the Vinohrady area of Prague following up a tip from Pivní Filosof that there is a shop selling Chodovar beers – one of my favourites in the Czech Republic. Sure enough we found the shop, which also sells a good selection of whiskies, rums, tequilas, wines from around the world and tucked on a corner of the sales counter were bottles of Chodovar 13° lager, their excellent tmávé and their wonderful skální ležák. So we bought a couple of bottles of Argentine malbec, another passion that Pivní Filosof and I share, and two bottles each of the 13° and skální ležák, with that done we headed home.

Once home I decided to pop open the dark lager from Pražský most na Valšů and complete my tasting. One of my bad habits is reading beer labels, and I must admit that reading the ingredient list for this one made me a touch nervous – why would a beer need ascorbic acid in it? For a dark beer it is rather light in colour, and the somewhat minimal head soon disappeared. The smell of this beer was overwhelmingly detergent, that sounds as disgusting as it smelt – Mrs Velkyal suggested that it was the glass, but I always wash, rinse and dry my beer glasses thoroughly. The beer itself tasted like burnt toast and had very little body and was syrupy and soapy, in keeping with the light lager there was again a metallic taste, except this time it was more noticeable and was clearly copper. It was so bad that I did something I have never done before, after about 5 sips of the beer I gave up and poured it down the sink – it was quite simply the worst beer I have had in the Czech Republic, yes even worse than Klášter. Really the only good thing about the beer was the label.

I can honestly say that Pražský most na Valšů will not become a regular haunt. The light lager is ok, but not worth paying 30kč for, the Rohozec is more expensive and while a decent pint, I can buy a bottle for less at Pivovarský klub. Plus I have a problem with a brewpub selling another brewer’s wares, it suggests a lack of confidence in their own product, and in the case of their dark lager, that lack is well placed.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Beer Hero of the Week

I haven't written a story about the fact that Pivovarský dům is currently offering a very nice rye ale, served from a hand pump - one of only two in the Czech Republic I believe.

However, just for the sheer pleasure I got from seeing a hand pump - they really are things of beauty, shame there wasn't a clip on the front, but I'll let that slide - and then watching as the barmanka pumped out a very nice beer, which Mrs Velkyal also thoroughly enjoyed, is enough for me to award my Beer Hero of the Week to:

Pivovarský dům.

Un-craiced

Sometimes the mood simply isn’t there. The pub is full, there is a good well-made beer in front of you (one likes to assume these things), but something is missing. Perhaps it is the deflation that comes from meeting your deadlines a week in advance, perhaps it is simply being there by yourself, but something is missing. Yes its great to see your favourite bar staff in your favourite pub, but even they notice that something is missing. Perhaps that missing something is the elusive craic, the Gemütlichkeit, the spirit of Gambrinus has upped and left. That pretty much describes last night for me.

Chatting with Ambroz “the barman” on Facebook the other day, he mentioned that they hadn’t seen me in PK for a while, which was true. Mrs Velkyal was having a night of being crafty at her "Stitch n Bitch", for the best part of the last year she has been hand sewing a quilt of which she is rightly proud, so I decided I would pop along and prop up the bar for a while. I arrived to discover that the entire downstairs area was reserved for a function of one kind or another – PK is excellent for functions of about 50 – 70 people, it was where Mrs Velkyal and I had our reception – and the upstairs was pretty full too, but I pulled up a chair at a table and ordered a beer, I think the staff may have been shocked that I only had small ones last night.

The first beer I had was from the small town of Strakonice in southern Bohemia, Velkopřevor Svetlý Speciál, a 14° lager. It can be quite difficult finding Strakonice beers in Prague, which is a shame really as I would like to firm up my positive view of their 10° lager, Nektár, without having to bother going to Strakonice itself, as there is very little there unless you are going at the same time as the International Bagpipe Festival. The beer in front of me was a dark golden colour, bordering on amber with a white head, which disappeared quite quickly. It has a nice floral nose, with grassy and herbal elements chucked into the mix, at one point I thought I noticed the merest hint of banana. I found it difficult to really nail down a flavour, other than the fact that it is quite bitter and alcoholic, and although there are sweet undertones, they are not enough to really balance out the beer. It almost reminded me of Tesco Value marmalade, bitter oranges with sugar chucked on top. Overall it was a disappointing, simply a stronger version of their 12° Dudák, which is nothing special.

It took me a while to decide what to try next, and eventually I plumped for the 13° polotmavé 7 Kuli from Pivovar Benešov, home of the Ferdinand ranges of beers. I have heard many good things about this beer from various people, when it arrived on the table I was encouraged, a beautiful ruby colour with a distinctly creamy head. Sticking my nose in the glass and there were traces of liquorice, pepper and even a touch of basil – three of my favourite smells on the planet. Thus it was with expectation that I took my first mouthful, and sure enough it was malty and quite sweet. However, I found the sweetness to be rather syrupy, and the beer in general to be uninspiring, perhaps I was unconsciously comparing it with the Purkmistr polotmavé which I thoroughly enjoyed.

At this point I decided that the best course of action was to bail out. I had arranged to meet a friend, so rather than subject him to me in a bit of a grump I cancelled and wandered off home to a bottle of Hobgoblin and a mix on my computer of Wolfstone, Cahornega, Anuna, The Chieftains and Carlos Núñez. So the night turned out to be rather mellow in the end.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Early Morning Disaster

When I was at secondary school, my favourite subjects were German and Chemistry - which I thought might possibly lead to a life as a mad scientist. However when the time came to choose what to study at college, in my wisdom I chose theology and was fully intent on becoming a minister, or priest, or whatever you want to call them. Most people who discover that I studied for the priesthood are somewhat taken aback and usually reply "you?".

I think that my love of mixing things around is part of the reason why I love cooking and experimenting with using beer in food. As I wrote on Monday, at the weekend I attempted to make beer toffee, I have since learned that I fact succeeded in making a beer caramel sauce, which would be great stirred into cream and frozen to make beer ice cream, or possibly to use it as an alternative sweetener in desserts such as apple crumble - which Mrs Velkyal makes very very well.

The caramel had been sitting in the fridge until last night when I decided to put it in a jar, mainly because it had been in our main roasting tin and I have plans for this weekend - involving ribs hopefully. Over the last few days more and more of the sticky goo had started to crystalize, and on opening the fridge this morning the goo in the jar had set solid, but had a strange head on the top - which looked very much like a normal beer head.

Then disaster struck, I dropped the jar. Rather than smashing and sending a sticky mess all over the kitchen floor, which Mrs Velkyal would have loved at quarter past six in the morning, the jar cracked then shattered but the goo stayed intact. The reason it was solid was not my culinary genius in making toffee but the fact that my fridge is overactive and had almost frozen it solid. I still think that beer toffee is a viable idea, and one I will continue to experiment with, but for the time being it is back to the drawing board and on with other projects.

On a happier note - the chilli doppelbock chutney is fantastic!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Little of Wheat You Fancy


Wandering around my local Billa supermarket last night trying to decide what to cook for dinner – if anyone is interested we ended up having macaroni cheese, with chunks of smoked bacon through it – I thought it would be interesting to do a taste tasting of the wheat beers they had available. Thus I got home with all the ingredients necessary for a tri-nations wheat beer face off.

In the Czech corner was Primátor Weizenbier, representing the mighty Germany was Erdinger and squaring up against these behemoths of the brewing scene was Austria’s Edelweiss, all three of which are hefeweizens and ranged in price from $1 to $1.50 at current exchange rates.

First up was the Primátor Weizenbier, which I have had a few times at Pivovarský Klub where it is practically the house wheat beer. I have to admit that every time I have had it at PK I have been left decidedly underwhelmed, however one of my friends told me that it is far better from the bottle. My word was she right, from the bottle this is a far superior beer. It pours a wonderful marmalade orange with a slightly ivory head which disappeared rather quickly – a fact I am putting down to not owning a proper wheat beer glass and so drinking it from my Purkmistr glass. Being a hefewiezen it is naturally cloudy, which is actually something I like in a beer, being a fan of kvasnicové beers. The beer smells like oranges as well, ripe Seville oranges promising a burst of bitterness followed by a delicate sweetness, with floral hints from the Saaz hops. In the mouth this beer is an absolute delight, tart, refreshing, with crisp bitterness, which doesn’t overwhelm the palate, and again the motif of a thick cut orange marmalade. There is a nice balance of medium sweetness with medium bitterness.

Next up came the German contender, Erdinger. I must admit to having a soft spot for Erdinger products, recently Pivovarský Klub had their Dunkelweizen on tap and I relished every drop of the several pints I had. The hefeweizen though is a lighter beer than the Primátor, despite being slightly stronger in terms of ABV, 5.3% to 5%. It pours a pale orange, and like the Primátor there is a touch of ivory in the head, which once again disappeared very quickly, there were also a lot of bubbles in the beer. The nose of the Erdinger was decidedly earthy, with slight spicy notes. I found that the extra alcohol content was evident in the Erdinger and it left a bitter aftertaste in the back of the throat. To my mind has about the same amount of bitterness as the Primátor but just a notch less sweetness.

Many times when I have wandered through Billa I have looked at the bottles of Edelweiss Weissbier and thought of my dad, he underwent Alpine mountain training back in the 1960s when stationed in West Germany and earned an Edelweiss, the insignia of German alpine troops. I really had no idea what to expect from this beer – I know very little about Austrian beers and despite their proximity to the Czech Republic very few Austrian products make it up the E65/50 from Vienna to Prague. I really didn’t hold out much hope for this beer when it poured a similar pale orange to the Erdinger, but at least the head held better and was whiter than the other two. Then I stuck my nose into the glass. My head near exploded with the complexity of smells in the glass, the first thing that hits is spiced oranges with hints of freshly mown grass in the background, but there was something there which took me an age to identify. Touches of pepper and even lemon came to the fore, but still that smell eluded me, so I tasted the beer, and the complexity of the nose is reflected in a very complex taste sensation. Eventually I hit on the predominant smell and flavour and almost jumped for joy, it was ginger, lots of ginger – but this was like freshly cut root ginger, rather than the sweetened powder. The sweetness of the bitter was rather low, but it was not bitter at all, making it a very refreshing beer for sipping, I don’t think the complexity of flavours would allow it to be a session beer.

Of the three beers I think the Primátor is the one I would buy most often to sit with and enjoy whilst watching DVDs, however the Edelweiss is I think the best tasting of the three, and most certainly the most enjoyable to deconstruct and identify all the smells and tastes.

There was once a time when I wouldn’t drink wheat beers at all, but a friend of mine opened my eyes by insisting that I try a Schöfferhofer. Of the wheat beers that I have tried and liked they have tended to be in the mould of Bavarian Weizens, for some reason I find the Belgian wheats very difficult to appreciate, but given that only 18 months ago I would never have touched wheat beer at all, progress is being made.