Friday, December 7, 2018

The Session 142: Last Orders


This month's Session, the last of its ilk, is being hosted by the venerable Stan Hireonymous of Appellation Beer, and plenty of excellent books. Stan's theme for this month is formally titled "Funeral Beers", though he did also suggest that "one more for the road" would be a suitable theme, either way, the session is over, last orders has been called, and there will be no after hours lock in. Stan asked us all to:
Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.
When I lived in Prague, there was a pub that was a very regular haunt, the magnificent proper boozer that was U Slovanské lípy. I spent many a merry time there, draining half litre after half litre of the Koutská Desítka that I wrote about yesterday, but I always ended the session with the same beer, a half pint of Koutský tmavý speciál, an 18° beer that was the perfect nightcap, or as Evan would describe it "simply miraculous".


Pouring an inky deep black, topped off with that firm ivory head, you know just from looking at it that this is a serious beer. No silly fripperies, no flashy gimmicks, just a Baltic Porter as Baltic Porter should be.

As I close my eyes and try to remember the beer's aroma, it has been almost a decade since I had it, the overwhelming recollection is that of a rich bitter chocolate, backed with the punch of an Italian espresso.

As you almost come to expect from a Baltic Porter the flavours are the usual suspects, again the chocolate is there, the coffee, perhaps a merest hint of soy sauce, for a salted caramel umami thing. The hops are in there mainly for bittering, but you know they are there, as a light spice comes through in the finish, but this is very much a glorious rich dark chocolate cake with espresso ganache filling. It's just as well the hops are there though as without them the beer would be an unctuous overly sweet goo, with the beer adding layer upon layer in your mouth as you drink.

This is a beer to linger over. Sure it is only a malé serving of 300ml, or about half a pint, but chugging is most assuredly not the order of the day, it is 8.5% abv after all. Even though the session is ending, there is no need to rush over the last beer, and there is always the knowledge that there will be another session, maybe by another name, in the not too distant future. Not sure where, not sure when, not even sure who will be there, but in the words of the old Scots song:
So fill us a tankard o nappy broon ale
It'll comfort our herts and enliven the tale
For we'll aye be the merrier the langer that we sit
For we drank thegither mony's the time, and sae will we yet
To bring The Session to its end, the song from which the verse above is taken.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Get Your Kout

I spent the early part of this week in New Orleans at a conference. Given the early start on Monday, and the late finish on Tuesday, I ended up being there from Sunday afternoon to yesterday morning. With plenty of downtime in airports, I decided it would be a good idea to get a sense of beer options for a few post flying bevvies. I own the fact that I am not overly fond of flying, so something to relax over is always welcome.

It was on the advice of one of my Twitter friends, the ever lovely Amie, that I decided to look up a place called The Avenue Pub. A quick scan of the website had me thinking it would be my kind of place, then I checked the beer list....

Oh goodness me, right there, magic words....Koutská Dvanáctka.

A beer I love was going to be on tap about a mile from my hotel, it was a no brainer, I knew I would be there as soon as possible on Sunday evening. Having checked into my hotel, chatted with Mrs V and the boys, and showered the grime of flight away (why does sitting around in planes and airports make you feel grubby?), I decided to walk to the pub.

Thankfully the place wasn't overly busy, so I grabbed a stool at the bar (bar stools!!!!), and asked the suitably hirsute barman if they still had the Dvanáctka? My heart sank for a moment when he said 'no', but the 'no' was merely the preface to 'it's the ten that we have'.

Oh goodness me.....even greater magic....Koutská Desítka.

For those in need of a refresher, a desítka is a beer with a starting gravity of 10° Plato, usually about 4% abv (take the ABV and times it by 2.5 is a pretty good way to work out the Plato starting gravity of a beer), and in the case of Koutská Desítka a beer I drank a lot of, and I mean a lot of, when I lived in Prague. When I would go to U Slovanské lípy the desítka was my beer of choice, I spend many afternoons and evenings there with an assorted cast of folks, including Evan Rail and Max of Pivní Filosof, drinking pint after pint of what I regarded as the finest pale Czech lager in the world.


For a moment I feared that it wouldn't be the Proustian Madeleine I imagined, but that first mouthful was nostalgia in a glass. Soft malt backbone, the gentle lemongrass bitterness of Saaz, the snap of a quality lager....for moments in time I was transported, reminded again of the great beers that drew me away from the mass market brands of Gambrinus and Staropramen. Back then there were no pastry stouts, fruit infected infused goses, or barrel aged imperial IPAs, but there was Koutská Desítka, such a simple, beguiling, and bewitching brew, intoxicating in so many ways.

I left the pub having reveled in memory, knowing that my future would include another trip, this time on Tuesday night having wandered briefly the gaudiness of Bourbon Street. Earlier that day I got talking to another attendee about beer, and had mentioned both beer and place to him, sure enough he turned up with his wife - the first person I have ever actually seen using Untappd in public. As we talked beer she confided that she used to love IPA, especially the hazy New England slop that is the rage these days, then her epiphany came, she just wanted a Pilsner Urquell and all the hop bite and delight that comes with it. Koutská Desítka found a new fan that night, I rekindled the flame of a long lost Czech love, and I saw that there are plenty of folks out there eschewing the new for a taste of classic, traditional, well crafted beer.


I headed to bed cheered, but still had to fly in the morning.