Friday, May 29, 2009

Pilsner and Primátor

I popped into PK last night and proceeded to horrify the staff by ordering a mineral water - I was out on Wednesday night and really didn't feel like more beer. Interesting news though for fans of Pilsner Urquell is that PK currently has the unfiltered version available, and to quote my friend who was drinking it "that is a completely different beer!". They also have the Purkmistr dark on tap as well, so well worth getting along to try them.

Next week however, U Radnice in Žižkov is having a special week of beers from Primátor and according to the board outside the pub they will have the following:

There were possibly some others but I can't remember them off the top of my head. Definitely not a bad start to my minimum two months of leisure as a victim of the credit crunch.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Promise

I am really looking forward to moving to the USA, as may be obvious. There are many things I have plans to do, having a Wendy's Baconator (3 burgers, 3 slices of cheese, topped with crispy bacon - heaven) for a start.

One thing I have promised myself when we are living there is to not limit my beer drinking to the craft brewing scene, although I am sure it will be the overwhelming majority of what I drink. I will also re-discover Budweiser, the various Michelob beers and whatever else sells big. When I was at college I would sometimes enjoy a Bud Ice on the days when I didn't feel like a Caffrey's or a Guinness - my then beers of choice.

When Mrs V and I were in the States in 2007 we tried Michelob Amber Bock, which I quite enjoyed and am keen to re-evaluate in the light of greater experience, and see if it is still refreshing when in the heat of Daytona Beach.

Just as I had to give credit where it was due with the Gambrinus Excelent, I simply don't want to become a craft beer fundamentalist unable to look beyond the name on the bottle to what is actually in the bottle.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Picture Time

Just a few pictures I took on my mobile phone recently

U Slovanské lipy - probably my favourite Prague boozer.

Kwak - nice glass, nothing special in it to be honest.

Zvíkov Raspberry beer - I wonder why brewers bother with this stuff sometimes, not awful just dull

My favourite kind of Kocour glass - an empty one, with a fresh one on the way.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not Much To Celebrate

Friday afternoon saw the grand opening of the Czech Beer Festival here in Prague, an event which is scheduled to last until this Sunday - as Pivní Filosof has already mentioned on his blog, himself, Evan and I, along with Mrs V, went up for the beginning of an event which bills itself as "the largest gastronomic event in the Czech Republic", and we were not unduly impressed by what we saw:
  • 5 tents out of 6 with no beer (is it a coincidence that the "media tent" had beer?)
  • a general unavailability of the festival's currency, the tolar
  • a general lack of organisation

These things eventually got sorted out, but we waited nearly an hour and a half for our first beers. However, I think there are bigger problems with the festival than just poor organisation.

Firstly, the event lacks a back story - why does it exist? Why at this time of the year? It seems that somebody had the bright idea of putting a few big tents up in a field (a very wet field on Friday) and selling beer, and that's the extent of its raison d'être. I am sure that this comparison is not entirely fair, but from the get go Oktoberfest has had a clearly defined reason, to celebrate the marriage of the then Crown Prince Ludwig in 1810.

Also as part of the back story, it would be interesting, at least for geeks like me, to have the tolar explained - why that particular name? For those who have never seen the Connections TV series, a tolar, or "thaler", was a silver coin minted in the town of Joachimsthal, modern Jachýmov in northern Bohemia. Whilst on the issue of the tolars, which is a very good idea, whoever set the cost of a tolar at 40kč must be living in cloud cuckoo land. Each and every beer at the festival costs 1 tolar, regardless of brand, size or alcholic content, thus 0.3l of Primátor Weizen costs the same as a half litre of their Stout even though it is only 0.2% stronger.

Possibly though I biggest gripe about the event is the sheer dullness of the beer selection. Don't get me wrong, it is great to see the likes of Kout na Šumavě, Primátor and Rampušák at the event, but other than Primátor's Stout, Weizen and English Pale Ale, what was really on offer? Large amounts of pale golden lager, and not much else. Yes, Kout and Rampušák are good beers, but come on guys do something different and encourage me to part with my tolar, especially galling when just round the corner I can get Kout for 20kč! Perhaps the organisers of the event could include a condition for participation that each brewer has to make a special festival beer, with a different style selected every year? In 2010, along with all the golden lager, how about getting everyone to brew a bock for example, thus encouraging brewers to innovate, and consumers to experiment.

An event like the Czech Beer Festival could be so much more than it currently is, unfortunately it is nothing special and not something I would recommend people to bother with - rather I would give them a list of pubs with the same beers at reasonable prices to go to. If I compare it to an event like Slunce ve Skle, then it really has a long way to go before it matches up.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Herold Wheat Beer, Contender?

I was right royally bored out of my mind on Thursday afternoon.

Mrs Velkyal was at work and I had done everything that needed doing that day, so I bought myself a copy of the Guardian and headed to Lipy for some Kout na Šumavě and to see if I could complete the crossword quicker than usual - 12 minutes is my average (and yes I mean the quick crossword in G2, cryptic crosswords are not something I excel at).

With the crossword done, I arranged to meet Mrs V at Pivovarský klub for dinner as I simply couldn't be bothered with going to the shop and cooking, plus I had a craving for some Primátor weizen, but they didn't have it on tap that day, rather their weizen of choice was the born again Herold wheat beer.

As you can see from the picture, although it is from my mobile, it looks like a fairly standard weizen. Indeed, it smells and tastes exactly as you would expect from a bog standard weizen, bananas, cloves and so on. Nothing special really in my book, but not bad either - a perfectly acceptable wheat beer and it is great to see more choice for beer drinkers here, but on this form not likely to cause Primátor any sleepless nights.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Re-fermenting in the Bottle?

I took yesterday and today off in order to apply for and collect my immigrant visa, which I did this morning. After filing my application yesterday, I pottered off home to decide what to do with myself for the rest of the day.

Now I must confess that I have a bad habit, I like to check on my homebrew regularly - well ok then, every time I get home, I pop my head into the room it is kept in just to make sure nothing has gone awry. Yesterday I picked up one of the bottles and noticed a little foam on top of the beer so of course I checked the swing top to make sure it was secure, which it was.

I had a quick look at the other bottles in the batch, and all of them seemed to have a little foam on top. This morning though most of the foam had gone and things were back to normal.

I am assuming that the priming sugar was simply being eaten by the remaining yeast in the beer, and that nothing drastic has happened.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Taste of Things To Come

On Saturday night Mrs Velkyal and I went for dinner and beers with some friends of ours, who I took great delight in introducing to the wonderful 11° kvasnicové lager from Pivovarský dvůr Zvíkov. As our friends had just returned from Virginia they brought back a bottle of local beer for me to try, thus it was I got my hands on some Starr Hill Pale Ale - Starr Hill are soon to be one of my local breweries and I am very much looking forward to getting to grips with their full range.

Anyway, to the beer. It pours a rich copper colour, slightly darker than amber, and the head is white but rather thin and disappeared a bit quickly, although a little remained doggedly until the end of the drink. Being an American Pale Ale (a style of beer thankfully that I am really starting to get into!) the nose was very much full of citrus, with a slight touch of pine resin. Up front this beer is very bitter, although it has a delightfully honeyed undertone which stops it from being the equivalent of sucking lemons. The finish is dry and long, and the beer is very refreshing. In many ways this beer reminded me of my favourite pale ale, Galway Hooker - high praise indeed.

So my first beer from Charlottesville (well ok then, technically Crozet but I believe they started in CVille) has given me great encouragement, and will almost certainly be a staple beer in the fridge as it is full of flavour and yet very easy to drink.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Unreservedly Golden

What do you get when you make a monster ale? Yes that's right, a barleywine. So I guess it is no surprise that Lovibond's Gold Reserve, an imperialised version of their wheat beer should be called a wheat wine - a term I had not come across until I got a couple of bottles in the post recently, along with the very natty glasses which have starred in several pictures lately.

This really was a case of not knowing what to expect, whether it would be simply a stronger version of the Henley Gold or closer to something like a weizenbock from Germany. Therefore, I decided not to read the label for ingredients and other such blurb, but rather to let the beer do the talking first.

It pours a rich amber, with a slightly off-white head, which at first disappeared rather quickly but when I would top up my glass it came back and hung about - it was a 0.75l bottle and the glass is a half pint. The nose is full of rich fruity sweetness, which Mrs Velkyal immediately noted as honey, and there were also some banana and clove spicy notes coming through as the beer warmed up. The dominant flavour is the sweetness of honey, although with a noble hop background which prevented the sweetness from being overly cloying, in the background I could taste caramelised bananas - one of my favourite desserts.

Yes the Gold Reserve resembles barleywine to an extent, but it is lighter in body and much less sickly - I can't imagine drinking an entire 0.75l bottle of something like Durham Brewery's magnficent Benedictus in one half hour sitting. This is quite simply a lovely, lovely beer - once again Jeff at Lovibond's has crafted something wonderful.

When I did look at the label, I allowed myself something of a smug moment as there is a rather copious amount of honey in the beer - apparently the weight of Jeff in honey (having never met the guy in the flesh I wouldn't like to hazard a guess at how much that would be). So there you have it, another superb beer from Henley-on-Thames, go to the website and order some today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Last night I bottled the stronger of my smoked chocolate stouts, it had an OG of 1.045 as a result of my decision to just chuck all the steeping malts in at once rather than having about 100g of each knocking around the flat. The final gravity this time was 1.022, giving me an ABV of 3.1%, which while not being "to style" is better than the other version.

Although I am not particularly worried about the low alcohol content, I would appreciate some advice from more experienced brewers as to why this beer didn't ferment as well as the last two. So here is the recipe for the stronger version, with the weights for the weaker in brackets as I followed exactly the same procedure for both beers:
  • 500g dry malt extract
  • 250g (150) rauchmalt
  • 300g (200) black malt
  • 50g unsweetened cocoa
  • 25g whole Fuggles
  • 10g whole Fuggles
  • 10g whole Fuggles
  • 5g whole Fuggles

I steeped the rauch and black malt for 30 minutes in water at about 55° celsius before sparging the grains with water at the same temperature to give me 2 litres of wort, to which I added the extract and brought the whole lot to the boil.

Once I had a decent rolling boil going I added the cocoa and the first hop addition for a 60 minute boil, and further hop additions at 30, 15 and 5 minutes, before adding the wort to previously prepared water in the carboy to make a batch of about 4 litres.

Cooling the wort took about 30 minutes.

With the yeast, I used a Wyeast Irish Ale Yeast in a smack pack, I pitched half into each carboy, having followed the instructions on the label, although for such a small batch I don't make a starter. Fermentation kicked off about 36 hours later, as it had with Limelight and EDM, and was very vigorous for the first 48 hours or so before slowly down and after about 5 days just bubbling once every minute.

So any theories, any ideas as why such a low ABV?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Very Mild Stout?

Something went wrong. Nothing drastic, unless you are the kind of person that likes their beer to have a million IBUs and and ABV roughly equivalent to the US GDP, it just didn't ferment as much as I hoped.

I am of course talking about my latest homebrew effort, a smoked chocolate stout, into which I chucked black malt, smoked malt and unsweetened cocoa powder, as well as whole Fuggles hops.

The OG for the first carbaby was 1.038 and the SG after 3 weeks sat in the fermenter was 1.018, which gave me an ABV of just 2.7%. But here is the rub, I tasted the sample I used for the gravity, and it tastes pretty damned good, rather close to Guinness to be honest.

I will get round to bottling the stronger version, the OG was 1.046, hopefully tonight after work, but I am wondering why the fermention was so low and what effects this will have on body and flavour?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Doing a Brisk Trade

Reading the news these days you's thing the Apocalypse was just round the corner (random thought, if the end of the world happened in the Caribbean, would it be the Apocalypso?). The economy is in tatters apparently, we are about to wiped out by flying pig flu, the seas are going to rise and swamp many coastal towns (do hope BrewDog has backup plans) and the human race seems intent on massacring itself in the name of various gods, who probably roll their eyes in wonder at our dim wittedness.

But here in Prague, good pubs seem to be doing well, especially given the evidence of my eyes and wallet last night. The places in question were Sousedský Pivovar U Bansethů, more commonly known as Bašta, and Zlý Časy.

Bašta is currently selling it's rather nice 13° smoked beer, which isn't overly smokey and has a slight sour edge which offsets everything very nicely. 5 minutes away at Zlý Časy they currently have the recently returned Herold Wheat which was very nice, as well as a rather flavourful beer from Bamberg's Mahr's Bräu called ETA.

Funny that isn't it? Provide good beer at reasonable prices and you get a pub with is packed on a Thursday night, and most nights of the week in my experience. Think it might catch on?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What a Difference 10 Days Makes

My current batch of homebrew will be bottled this weekend, it is a smoked chocolate stout which will have been sitting in the carbabies for three weeks. I decided to leave the beer in the fermenters longer this time as a result of what happened with the Limelight.

As you probably recall, I bottled up one of the fermenters after 10 days and then when and did my back in, so the second batch was sat in the carbaby for an extra 7 days. When I tried the first batch it was ok, but thin in the body and not entirely satisfying, ok at a push then. However, bottles from the second batch were better, having a fuller body, a distinct spiciness and plenty of carbonation - again I upped the priming solution and now get a nice fluffy white head even in my glasses without a laser etched bottom (oo-er missus!).

So I guess from here on in I will be leaving my ales in the fermenter for three weeks before secondary fermentation or bottling. In the meantime I will continue my search for wooden casks in Virginia.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Main Reason to Visit Plzeň

Think of Plzeň, now think of beer and what do you have? Pilsner Urquell, but there is more to Plzeň beer than just the venerable originator of the style, and it's little brother Gambrinus, and when I say "more to" I really mean "better than".

Černice, out in the suburbs, is home to the Purkmistr hotel and brewery, where Mrs Velkyal and I spent the weekend. The hotel boasts 4 stars and is part of a complex which includes a restaurant, the brewery, conference facilities and a bowling alley, all housed in a renovated krčma, or tavern, dating from 1603. It was here that the Slunce ve Skle festival was held in September, and there will be a follow up festival this September.

A "purkmistr" is a portreeve, or port warden, and was once a brand of beer made in Domažlice until its brewery shut down in the early years of this century.

The head brewer is the somewhat legendary Josef Krýsl, who is also behind a whole slew of other brewpubs throughout the country and Joe's Garage, whose beers sometimes appear at Pivovarský klub and Zlý Časy. On Friday afternoon we decided to sit in the afternoon sun and enjoy everything they had available, all of which are brewed to 12° and for the sake of brevity I will again use just three phrases to describe each.

Světlý (light lager) - golden, floral, classic pilsner

Polotmávý (amber lager) - dark amber, slightly sweet, easy drinking

Tmávý (dark lager) - nearly black, sweet roasted coffee nose, dry bitterness

Blueberry lager - light red, lots of berries and fruit, quite refreshing

Vanilla lager - bright golden, vanilla extract on the nose, chemical taste

I very much enjoyed the first 3 beers, which are Purkmistr's standard brews, although I was expecting something different from the dark after smelling it, I thought I was getting a big bodied stout like beer, but instead got something nicely dry and bitter. The blueberry beer was nice enough, although it got better as it warmed up a little and the fruit expressed itself more, definitely something for a warm summer's day. The vanilla beer was not my cup of tea at all, I am not convinced that the flavourswork together well, and if I had ordered a full half litre then most of it would have found its way down the plug hole.

Good beer, superb food and a lovely hotel to stay in - a quick word on the staff, uniformly excellent, friendly, helpful and very patient with my Czech. My only gripe over the whole weekend was that they didn't have any of their wheat beer available, but with the other beers being so good, I coped just fine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Mrs Velkyal and I visited Plzeň at the weekend, staying in a lovely hotel and brewery which I will write about tomorrow. We spent Friday afternoon and evening just lazing around, drinking the beer and watching a magnificent thunder storm from the comfort of the restaurant - although we were originally sat outside, but when the clouds came it was time to move indoors, and watch a video presentation about the building of the hotel and the brewing process.

On Saturday we decided to head into the city itself and visit the zoo and maybe go to the Pilsner Urquell brewery - I say maybe because I am not a big fan of mass guided tours, and in the end we didn't tour the brewery although we did have a few beers in the restaurant on the premises.

Anyway, we stopped into a little pizza place for lunch and as I was gearing up to order my usual Mattoni when in a place that sells Gambrinus or something similar from the SABMiller stable, I noticed that they had the Gambrinus 11° Excellent on tap and given that Evan said it wasn't bad, I thought I would give it a bash.

As you can see from the picture it was dark golden with a firm white head - which clung around for the duration, a pleasant change from the usual Gambrinus brews. The nose was rather floral and grassy, things were looking good at this point. Taste wise? Rather nice actually, a gentle malty sweetness coupled with just enough bitterness to round it off. I enjoyed the first one enough to have a second, it really was a nice drink - not something to get my inner beer geek into a lather of joy, but not something my inner beer snob would turn his nose up at either.

The thing I found most interesting with Gambrinus Excellent (bit of a misnomer but in comparison to the other beers they make, this is the nectar of the gods) is that it doesn't follow the same production method of the others, which are fermented at 13° and then watered down for packaging and retail.

Gambrinus Excellent reminded me once again that the big brewers can make a decent beer when they want to - after all they must have been doing something right to get big in the first place. It also made me think that sometimes we don't give the big boys credit for the decent beers they make, just as often we overlook the failings of the micros because we want to support David against Goliath.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Perfecting Chaos

There are two beer styles, for want of a better term, that spring to mind when someone mentions BrewDog to me - India Pale Ale and Stout. As regular readers will know, stout has long been my favourite type of beer, but IPA is something that I have come to appreciate largely in the last year or so, since I tried Punk IPA back in October.

Like the Zeitgeist from Friday's post, Chaos Theory was one of the prototype beers BrewDog produced in the autumn of last year, and from my posting at the time, it was clearly the one I enjoyed most, noting that 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.

The production version was very similar to the prototype, although I got the feeling that the sweet, almost jelly like, syrupiness had been toned down a little - which made it even more drinkable. The lessening in the sweetness then served to highlight the tangy bitterness, which I really enjoyed as it made for a long finish. Interestingly, the new balance of the beer makes it smoother, and that coupled with the full body just makes this an absolute delight to drink.

Certainly the guys at BrewDog have fine tuned the prototype and created something which is packed with flavour and so drinkable that it is easy to forget the ABV is 7.1%, a really enjoyable beer, if you see it in the shops, stop yourself and buy one.

Also reviewing Chaos Theory today is Adeptus over at The Bitten Bullet, pop on over and enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Spirit of the Age

A while back I wrote about 3 prototype beers that Scotland's bad (but oh so good) boys of brewing, BrewDog, had produced. Of the three I tried, the prototype Chaos Theory was by far the one I liked the most, but I also thought that the Zeit Geist (the original name) had potential. So when I got a few bottles of the production versions I was well chuffed.

I have to admit that I am yet to try the production Chaos Theory, or the 77 Pilsner that came with the box, but last weekend I popped open the Zeitgeist to see how it compared with the prototype.

In my original comments I noted that it was:

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.

The production version is still dark ruby and the fluffy tan head disappears rather quickly. Again the nose was quite floral, but the burnt toffee I smelled last time was a bit toned down this time I thought, almost like tablet rather than toffee (for the non-Scots out there, tablet is the world's greatest confection!). Drinking the beer I felt there was more coffee than chocolate this time, which made the beer quite dry and bitter, which is never a bad thing in my world, although there was an undertone of sweet caramel, and even some smokiness - although apparently there wasn't any smoked malt used.

I think the production version is a step up from the prototype, even though the alcohol content is down by 0.2%. There is a more rounded body making it a more satisfying drink, which is still nicely balanced and easy to imbibe. While I don't think it will be replacing Budvar Dark or the magnificent Kout na Šumavě 14° Dark in my pantheon of dark delights, it would more than hold its own in the company of darks from Bernard and Svijany for example, and is a beer that I would very much like to try on tap, whether that be keg or cask.

Good stuff again from BrewDog, keep it up.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From East to West

A few days before Saruman pitched up in Prague, I went through my Little Cellar to pull out various beers I wanted to try, and that I wanted him to try. Not to mention drawing up a mental list of pubs and lagers that I wanted him to try. The reason being that he had admitted to not being much of a lager fan, and given that the available selection when Mrs Velkyal and I were in Ireland was pretty dire, I decided that the issue needed to be addressed.

As well as the golden lagers that I wanted him try, I decided that it would be interesting to do a taste comparison of the Baltic Porters sitting in my flat, of which I had the following:

In deciding with order to drink them in, we went for the east to west option, so obviously we started with the Russian Baltika 6.

Whilst not the strongest by any means in terms of alcohol, at 7% ABV, this was certainly the sweetest and most cloying - my initial reaction was to think if this is a standard Baltic Porter then this is a style that I would not be drinking very often. I also think the lack of carbonation helped to make it feel almost like watered down treacle. As Goldilocks might have put it, this one is too sweet!

Next up was Krajan Porter, and this one is a big hitter on the alcohol front at a whopping 9.5%ABV! For a beer with so much booze in it, I was surprised at how easy it was to drink, very smooth and a treat for me was the distinct liquorice flavours that abound - yes Bertie Bassett is one of my best friends! Certainly a step up from the Baltika in my book.

Finally coming to the Neuzeller Porter from Germany, which is slightly stronger than the Baltika 6 at 7.2%ABV, but a completely different beast in my book, and was almost like Christmas cake - lots of dark maltiness, with a dose of fruitiness and a nice alcoholic after glow. Have that cake with a good strong coffee and you are in the right ballpark when it comes to this beer. What makes this stand out from the other Baltic Porters we tried was that it was very smooth, even silky.

For both of us the Neuzeller Porter was the one we liked the most, followed by Krajan and then the Baltika 6, hence the picture:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Continental Pale Ale

Unfortunately this one will have to wait until Mrs Velkyal and I are safely ensconced in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but the idea has been floating around my head for a week or so.

The basic idea is to make a fusion beer, using British and American specialty grains on top of a pale malt extract base, hopped with noble hops from Germany and the Czech Republic.

The yeast would be a German Altbier strain, in order to keep a balance between sweetness and tartness, whilst producing a crisp, dry beer, which would then be cold conditioned for 90 days, as you would do with a Czech lager such as Budvar.

I decided to run this lot through the Beer Recipator, and this is what it gave me.

A nice autumnal beer methinks....

Monday, May 4, 2009

Another Beer Gone Missing

I suppose I should have taken a picture of the German language version of this sign when I was enjoying the lovely beer and atmosphere of Hotel Pegas in Brno last week. However, the table was full and I didn't want to be taking pictures over people's heads while they ate and drank.

The sign above quite simply translates as "Original Budweiser Porter" which I would assume was in the Baltic Porter style rather than the British style with it's origins in London. Personally I think the German version of this sign re-enforces the idea that "Budweiser" is an appellation, and has been used for a very long time to describe not just a brand, but beer from a given place.

I wonder what the Budweiser Porter was like, would it have been similar to the Pardubický Porter? Hopefully when I get the relevant chapters of the History of Brewing Methods in Budweis covering the establishment of the Bürgerliches Bräuhaus Budweis I will have a clearer idea of what was being brewed in Budweis before the advent of both Anheuser-Busch and Budvar.

Those of you who follow my blog will have seen this picture before, which advertises a beer called Budweiser Urquell, in the same vein as Pilsner Urquell is Pilsner from the original source.

When I contacted the brewery to find out the provenance and dating of this sign, I was unfortunately told that they didn't know when it came from. I find that sad.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Eurovision Wheat Contest

I guess you have to be European to really appreciate the Eurovision Song Contest, or at least if you are British, have grown up listening to Terry Wogan making sarcastic remarks about the voting habits of various nations - Cyprus always gives Greece 12 points and vice versa, that kind of thing.

Thus it was that Saruman and I decided last week to taste at the same time the various wheat beers knocking around my flat from around the continent, all four of them. Ok not exactly a representative sample, but still the competitors were:

We started off with Curim from the Carlow Brewing Company, makers of the wonderful O'Hara's stout, I had high hopes. Oh dear, not what I was expecting at all. It pours golden and clear, but the white head scarpered sharpish. The nose was laden with bread and actually smelled rather stale, no spicy notes or citrus delights to get the senses going. Taste wise it was more like a strong pilsner than a wheat beer, and it had a light floral touch, but this was an all round disappointment.

Next up Britain's entry, Henley Gold from the Lovibond's brewery near London. Again this one poured clear and golden - although I believe it is not filtered, the head was white and quite loose. The nose was much better than the Curim, with classic banana and clove notes dominating. In the mouth, again cloves, spice, muted bananas but with a dry crisp finish, which I found very refreshing. I felt though that the flavours were a bit muted and could benefit from being ramped up a bit.

Closer to home then, the Czech entry. Pours a nice cloudy orange, with a bit white rocky head - classic weizen. The nose is quite heavy on the cloves, with bananas subtly but noticably in the background, also a dose of citrus, which carries on in the drinking and is then joined in the chorus by a refreshing hop bite. Very refreshing and very drinkable.

Germany's entry, Masiel's Original, pours a darker cloudy orange than the Primátor although it has the classic big white head. Again the nose was dominated by spicy cloves, though underlaid with more citrus than banana in this case. When it comes to the drinking, citrus is the dominant flavour, and you get a nice tingly feeling in your mouth. Very nice, crisp dry and refreshing.

It was interesting that Saruman and I both agreed on the order of preference for the beers, that being:

  1. Primátor Weizen

  2. Maisel's Original

  3. Henley Gold

  4. Curim

A quick word about the Henley Gold, and I say this as a fan of all the beers I have had from Lovibond's, I feel the beer could be so much more, however I wonder if it is held back by the reaction you would get in most English pubs to being given a cloudy pint? Does it lose something in the absense of yeast in the pour?

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