Friday, February 27, 2009
I don’t hide the fact that I am not a fan of Klášter, for me it is nothing special, nothing to go screaming off to the shop at a great rate of knots to spend my 14kč on a bottle of – that’s 40p/$0.75/€0.50 for my British, American and Eurozone readers respectively. And while it may be a decent enough beer to have from time to time on tap, it is not something I would actively search out.
Last night, I decided to take Mrs Velkyal out for dinner. My wife is a pianist by training and in preparation for our move back to the United States she had just seen her piano of several years taken away to a good home. I knew that it would be better to take her out for a meal and a couple of beers to take her mind off the loss of the Joanna. So I got the address of the new place in Žižkov selling the beers of Pivovarský dvůr Chyně from Pivní Filosof and dragged Mrs V. up the hill for something to eat and drink.
Pivní Filosof has mentioned on his blog that we trekked out to Chyně for lunch a couple of weeks back, with the Everards brewer and his wife who were over in Prague on holiday – I fear taking them to several of Prague’s brewpubs may have turned it into something of a busman’s holiday however. The beers that day really did nothing for me, only the 14° dark held out any hope. Unfortunately our trip to the restaurant in Hotel Victor did little to dispel my apathy towards Chyně. Of the three full beers I had, again only the 14° dark satisfied me, the light of the same strength was too buttery for my tastes; the 10° light beer was thin bodied and to my stout mind insipid. It would be easy for me to dismiss my opinions as the ravings of a stout and ale man if it were not for the fact that I have drunk 10° lagers for most of the last 10 years, and have had several which have a complexity of flavour which would put many stronger beers to shame.
In fairness to Hotel Victor, the food we had was quite nice, decent onion rings although dips of various kinds would be nice, an acceptable goulash and Mrs V’s chicken schnitzel tasted as good as it looked. They also had very pleasant service, the lady working the pumps was friendly, helpful and attentive and those are invaluable attributes in waiting staff. As we waited for the bill I suggested that we head the 200m up to U Slovanský Lipy to finish the night with a couple of Kout na Šumavě beers – admittedly in order to show her the difference between Chyně and Kout, were we ran into Iain and Ian of Pivní Filosof commentary fame.
Over pints of Kout's simply magnificent 14° dark and 12° kvásničák we discussed our various opinions about Chyně and I had to admit that I am simply not a fan, to howls of disbelief. However we soon worked out that the main difference between my opinion and that of various others is that I like beers with a bitter bite. I am, as has been noted, very much a stout, bitter and pale ale drinker. I like my beers to have a good hoppy bite and a full body, Ian (sorry guys can never remember which is which) is my polar opposite, can’t stand bitter or stout and yet loves Chyně. I should however say though it is not that I think their beers are bad, as in Gambrinus bad, but just not my thing.
So yes my opinions are simply that, an answer to the question of my taste.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Ladies and gentleman, allow to introduce the new URL for this blog:
That will probably be just the first change to happen in the coming weeks and months - I will be messing with the HTML and trying to improve the look of the blog. I am also planning to find somewhere in my pokey flat to take better pictures of the various beers I have at home, so hopefully we'll see an improvement there as well. Another thing I am planning with is getting some kind of logo designed.
I am assured that using the old link will still work, but I think it is probably best if you update your links to the domain name.
Also, if you notice that your blog was once on my blog roll and is no longer then please let me know and I will restore it.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The website is building into a database of pubs and beers available in Prague, and as such will become a good resource for visitors and locals alike.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
- Experimental Dark Matter
Being the sad anorak I am (and if any brewers in or around Virginia are reading this and need marketing people then email me!), I spent about 3 or 4 minutes messing around on Word developing a label for the said beer, here is a screenshot.
Monday, February 23, 2009
"So what is it called?" - simple enough question, but not one I had really considered.
"What is what called?" - you can see my intuitive faculties aren't particularly sharp when I have had a few.
"Your beer, what are you going to call it?" - looks of impatience abound.
"erm...dunno" - great conversationalist me, eh?
So what will I call my first beer? Assuming of course that it isn't some foul tasting disaster. As Loyd Grossman would say when presenting Through the Keyhole, let's look at the evidence:
- based on a dark mild extract
- I used muscovado sugar
- I added (hopefully) smoky flavour and aroma
- fermented using Scottish ale yeast
Some thoughts for names:
- Depths of Darkness
- Highland Speakeasy
Any other suggestions?
Friday, February 20, 2009
My batch of beer is a grand total of 8 litres, and I have at the moment only 7 bottles (although I have 2 bottles of Bernard in appropriate bottles), this got me thinking about how I want to serve my beer.
Pivovarský klub sells those 5 litre mini-kegs, so I could buy one of those, fill it - blending one of the beers into the other to make sure it is full, and then bottle the remaining beer. Or, I could buy a jerry can.
Bauhaus is a German home and garden ware chain that has a few branches in Prague, and they sell jerry cans made from food grade plastic which come with a tap on the front. I think the smallest size they have is 10 litres, which would be a bit big I guess, but I could then blend the two beers together, add some extra yeast to do a secondary fermentation and then serve straight from the jerry can.
Alternatively, I could just drink more Bernard, Chodovar and anything that comes in a swing top and bottle everything - green bottles for the 1.040 OG worth and brown for the 1.052 OG.
Thoughts ladies and gentleman please!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Wanting to restore some self-respect I decided that the moment had come, the moment I had been putting off and putting off, the time to open a couple of the monster BrewDog bottles that I have picked up lately. Just like Mark over on Pencil and Spoon, I have a habit of looking at bottles, deciding to drink them and then putting them back because I am not sure the occasion is right. Last night I just picked up the bottle and opened it before I could convince myself otherwise - that bottle was Hardcore IPA.
I have written elsewhere about my first run in with IPA from BrewDog, so I knew the vague neighbourhood I would be in with Hardcore, what I didn't know was just how much bigger and more in your face this one was to be. The beer pours a dark amber and the white head didn't last very long, although every time I would swirl the glass there would be a nice fresh head. The nose was sweet citrus all over the place, grapefruit mainly and lots of it, and the first taste was a bitterness explosion but backed up with a smooth, soothing, toffee like sweetness. American style IPAs are something new to me, and the more I try the more I like.
Emboldened by my impulsive opening of one big hitter, I reached in and pulled out a bottle of the 12%ABV Tokyo. I have heard great things about this beer from Evan, so my expectations were high. As a stout should be, this was a black hole - no light getting through at one, and the nose was alcoholic and roasted and peaty and like molasses (Mrs Velkyal stuck her nose in and instantly said "is this a BrewDog?" - brand recognition!), drool, drool. The first thing to strike home when I tasted it was the flavour of oak and vanilla, not surprising as it was aged on French oak chips, that coupled with the warming alcohol put me in mind of Paradox, but without the whisky element. The more I drank the more complex it became, a strong spiciness and yet a freshness in the finish which I am putting down to the cranberries. Definitely a sipping beer, one where you revel in each and every mouthful.
The only thing missing last night was being back in the Highlands, sat in a deep leather armchair while an Atlantic gale lashes the house and the peat fire glows in the hearth and the deerhound sits at my feet.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Add to the wort the smoked malt, which had steeped for 30 minutes as per the instructions in John Palmer's How to Brew - once I had checked that smoked malt could be steeped for flavour and aroma. The malt bag was made by that ever so crafty woman, Mrs Velkyal (I keep trying to persuade her to set up a blog about her quilting, crocheting, knitting, sewing and the multitude of other crafty things she does, but to no avail, yet). The malt looked like a thick porridge when the steeping was done, and the smell had been ushered from the flat with our high tech ventilation system - open window, keep door ajar with old DMS boot.
And forlornly the carboys sat, hours passed, then days and there was no sign of life - but deep in the darkness things were astir. Last night when I got home from work, one of the carboys was showing signs of life, the one with the 1.040 OG wort in it - joy abounded, I may have leapt about a bit with happiness, not too much mind, one is British after all. I allowed myself a celebratory beer, the Paulaner Oktoberfestbier you see below - it was rather nice, like honey and lemons with a malty taste.
This morning I awoke to the 2 carboys merrily bubbling away. So while my little brother enjoyed the birth of his third daughter on Saturday, I am enjoying the birth of my beer.
Note: My dad was in REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), which they affectionately termed "rough engineering made easy" - it was in that spirit that much of my brewing "equipment" was made, this is homebrew at its mostly homely.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I was hoping that they would have beers from the Nørrebro Bryghus in Denmark, and I was not to be disappointed. I got a bottle each of:
- La Granja Stout
- Bombay Pale Ale
- North Bridge Extreme
Hence the title.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Everything went well with making the wort, but it took longer than I wanted to get it chilled down to a suitable temperature for pitching the yeast - the smack pack of which didn't swell up as much as I thought it would.
Any way, I somehow managed to end up with two worts, one with an OG of 1.040 and the other of 1.052 - I guess this is because I used slightly more muscovado sugar in one fermentor than in the other.
Having read various forums on the internet, and consulted with Evan, I am going to give it a few days to sit there, and if nothing happens then I will have to ditch the lot of it.
Lessons have been learnt however, so even without beer at the end of it all it has been worthwhile.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
But this is my question, is dry hopping with Saaz hop pellets a good idea or not?
Cider Club is one of those wonderfully random places which from the outside seems to be a comic shop, but on the inside is in fact a comic shop that sells cider, and ales from the UK, in particular Wychwood ales. Having picked up a couple of bottles each of Hobgoblin and BeeWyched (deciding against more Black Wych), the owner asked me if I wanted free beer? Hmmmm, the agony of choice. So I walked out with a bottle of Belhaven Fruit Beer as well as the bought and paid for stuff.
Fruit beers are still one of those things which baffle me. I like the occassional kriek, such as the one from Mort Subite I had over the holidays, but most often fruit beers leave me wondering "why?". The Belhaven was no different, pouring a dark orange, almost red colour with a slightly off-white head and with a nose the reminded me of mixed fruit jam, my favourite, I allowed myself to be cautiously optimistic. Oh dear. The body was horribly thin, yes it tasted like fruit jam, but fruit jam so watered down that I seriously considered pouring it away. It wasn't truly bad, but neither was it something I will want to drink again, and I guess I know now why it was being offered for free - and even that wasn't a redeeming feature.
I will post a photo of said beer tomorrow - forgot to move it from my laptop to my flash drive. Oops.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
This one is the taps in the no smoking section of my regular haunt Pivovarský klub, I took this with my mobile phone from my favourite seat at the bar.
This was taken in the brewery section of U Medvídků, there is something nice about seeing old style kit still in use (I am a sucker for this kind of stuff) - this is one of the open-top fermenters used for making Oldgott Barrique.
I took this picture in the restaurant attached to the Eggenburg brewery in Český Krumlov a while back. For those who don't speak German it say "Budweiser from the Original Source, Municipal Brewery Budweis, founded 1795". You can guess why I like this particular picture.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Being completely disorganised yesterday, I didn't bring a camera with me, nor did I bring my tasting notes book, so you'll get fuller descriptions of the beer on the blogs of the other guys.
We started out with the weakest of the quartet, the Twisted Thistle, which is made with Challenger and Cascade hops and weighs in at only 5.3%. I thought it rather nice IPA, the kind of beer you could happily sup away on all night.
Next up was the Stone IPA, and this was a world apart from every standard British IPA, not to mention every Czech made American IPA I have had in Prague. Big on the hops, and it was at this point that I discovered what marijuana tastes like, apparently. I have never been one for smoking, although I love the smell of pipe smoke. I was expecting a lot more citrus and bitterness - to be honest I was expecting it to be like sucking lemons, but it was suprisingly smooth and while not a beer for a Friday night session at 6.9%ABV, it was certainly very drinkable, and one I would like to try on draught.
Following on from the standard Stone IPA was the Cali-Belique IPA, which from what I understand is basically the normal Stone IPA fermented with a Belgian yeast, hence the name. The difference that the yeast made was very pronounced, again the apparent marijuana touch was there, but this time I was reminded of the Rochefort ales, with lots of cocoa on the nose. As the four of us sat around the kitchen table, we discussed using different yeasts with the same basic ingredients and seeing what the results would be - which has me concocting all manner of plans for my homebrew when I get to the US in the summer.
The last of the Stone brews was Ruination. Evan had warned us that this would be last as the bitterness would effectively render our tastebuds redundant. Again I was expecting something quite different on the bitterness front, and found that the maltiness of the beer, despite playing second fiddle to the hops, made the beer quite smooth and refreshing.
Throughout the tasting session we all had cans of Pilsner Urquell available, so that we could compare the hoppiness of a beer we all know quite well with that of the IPAs on the table. To put it bluntly, by the time we got to the Ruination, the PU was distinctly awful, and smelt rather similar to the boiling wort at U Medvídků last Thursday. With time winding down on our tasting session, and our tastebuds being gently soothed by Bernard Černé, Evan decided to open a bottle of his hacked Porter. Very interesting, but I will let Evan tell the full story of this experiment when he gets round to it.
Rob and I then sloped off to Pivovarský klub to finish off their version of an American IPA - in the interests of research naturally. In a similar vein to last Wednesday and Thursday, there really are few pleasures as worthwhile as sitting with fellow beer lovers drinking excellent beer and discussing whatever comes up.
To sum up, a wonderful evening.
Monday, February 9, 2009
The laying in bed plan was partly because on Wednesday night I had arranged to meet with the brewer of Everards in the UK, who was over in Prague for a few days with his wife. So Mrs Velkyal and I spent the evening at Pivovarský klub enjoying their company and various rather nice beers - my personal favourite was the American IPA made by Pivovarský dům.
During Wednesday night we arranged to meet up on the Thursday for a guided tour of some of Prague's brewpubs, which actually turned out to be just Pivovarský dvůr Chýně and U Medvídků, where we went up to the brewery part of the pub and sat dranking their excellent Oldgott Barrique, whilst watching a fresh batch being made - that was certainly fun! I also learnt that it is actually possible to talk for 9 hours straight about beer, and after we had gone our seperate ways I went to U Slovanské Lípy for some Kout na Šumavě lagers - as you can imagine, Friday was spent generally recovering at a very slow pace.
Drinking with a professional brewer is definitely something I would recommend, especially when you have heard people raving about a particular beer and then the professional highlights a couple of problems with the beer, and their possible causes, as happened in Chyně. Plus with Everard's being one of the larger regional breweries in the UK it was interesting to get a different view on the tie than I have heard from most people, a subject I have been mulling over and will no doubt come back to.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
8 pieces of music
1 book - excluding the Bible, other religious works and the Complete Works of Shakespeare
1 luxury item - which must be inanimate
I thought I would re-define the list to have 4 pieces of music or albums and 4 books, and my 1 luxury item would be a single bottle of beer. So here goes:
Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto
Peat Fire Flame - The Corries
Louder than Bombs - The Smiths
Requiem - Mozart
Credo - Melvyn Bragg
Scotland's Empire - Tom Devine
Testament to Freedom - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
High Fidelity - Nick Hornby
Luxury Bottle of Beer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Rather than going straight on in to all grain brewing, due to a lack of space and a disinclination to spend tons of money on stuff only few months before moving, I decided to get myself a Munton's Perfect Pint kit, the dark mild to be precise. However, from reading How to Brew I know that it is probably best to use the extract as a base to add other things to my beer. So I dreamed up making a smoked mild, and decided to get a different yeast to use and some extra hops to freshen things up a little.
My ingredients are:
Munton's Perfect Pint Dark Mild hopped extract
Saaz red hop pellets
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
My basic plan is to make 3 batches of 8 litres, owing to space restrictions. At the moment I am not sure how much rauchmalt to use (I have 2kg of the stuff!!!), or at what point to use the hops - any advice happily received.
I have also played with the idea of making a kind of Imperial Smoked Mild (contradiction in terms I know) and using all the extract in a single batch, especially as the yeast is well suited to high alcohol brews. Again, homebrewers out there, any advice would be gratefully received.
Monday, February 2, 2009
February could not come soon enough, and what better to break the fast than a bottle of Porterhouse Celebration Stout? A gift from The Beer Nut when Mrs Velkyal and I went over to Ireland in November. Created to mark the 10 anniversary of The Porterhouse Brewing Company, this 10% ABV bottle conditioned imperial stout was already 2 years old when I popped off the crown cork.
I must say now that I like big stouts, and this was up there with the best of them - black as coal, dark biege head, coffee and cocoa in abundance on the nose, big, big big so far. What a lovely beer this was to drink as well, burnt caramel and rich luxuriant chocolate held beautifully in tension, wonderful to sip and feel the warmth of the alcohol. The perfect way to re-enter the wonderful world of beer.
The day of course got better because Liverpool re-discovered their winning ways and gave Chelsea a right spanking at Anfield! Things are looking up.