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.

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