Thursday, June 20, 2024

Get Your Coat Love

I have said it plenty of times on here as well as my various socials, I am an abysmal beer tourist. You see, I have this tendency to find a place that I like, that does the kind of beer I like, and I am then a happy camper and a loyal customer. Nearly two years ago I got my act together to visit a few local Charlottesville area breweries that I had heard glowing reviews of, including Selvedge Brewing in their old Woolen Mills location.

The driving force behind that first visit was that they had recently hired a new brewer, who had previously worked at Champion Brewing (remember them?) and was a fellow fan of central European lagers. Naturally then, Josh and I talked at length that visit about decoction mashing, extended lagering, and the joys of doing things the old school way. Oh, and the beer was good too. That first beer was their Oktoberfest style beer, Tracht, and it became a regular tipple that autumn, as did the first iteration of their Munich Dunkel, Tweed.

About a year ago, I think, Josh mentioned to me that Selvedge would be moving to the other side of Charlottesville, to a venue in Ivy, and that they would be shut over a chunk of the winter and early spring. When they opened the new spot a couple of months ago, I knew I would be getting over there on opening weekend, that had after all put an ordinary bitter on their new beer engine - yes you read that right, a central Virginia brewery with a functioning, and being used, beer engine!! Speaking of dispense methods, the majority of the taps are standard flow control faucets, while they also have a pair of Lukr taps.

Since they re-opened, Selvedge has become a regular haunt of mine, especially as Josh is now able to do decoction mashing on his central European lagers, the first being Loden, his recent Vienna Lager...

Just look at the glorious pint, topped with a veritable fountain of foam! Oh and willibechers are my favourite glass by a country mile. Not only did it 100% look the part of a classic 100% Vienna malt lager, it tasted on the money as well, redolent with toasted malt and a lovely spicy Saaz finish that made it simply moreish, and more and more and more. Simply put, it was delicious, and my go to pint for as long as it was available.

From time to time though I would change things up a little, with their Italian pilsner above, Poplin, or sometimes more of the dunkel, or maybe even the remnants of the ordinary bitter, Houndstooth, served through the Lukr tap - serving top fermented beers through a Lukr tap is becoming something of a thing in Central Virginia, with Decipher Brewing also pouring their 80/- through it now as well.

It was then, with no little excitement that last Friday came around. A few weeks back Josh did a double decoction with Moravian malt, chucked some Bohemian hops into the boil, and even got hands on the lauded H strain of yeast from Pilsner Urquell to make Coat Czech, his version of a 12° světlý ležák (pale lager to you). Josh was recently in Czechia, visiting many of the best pubs and breweries in both Prague and Plzeň - I may have given him several pointers - and this beer was the outcome of drinking in the home of great pale lagers.

Straight from the Lukr tap, in the hladinka style pour - while I have your attention, please, please, please can we stop bastardising the Czech language by asking for multiple hladinkas? Hladinka is singular, hladinky is plural for between 2 and 4, and if I remember my grammar correctly, more than 5 would be hladinek. Facts matter people.

Anyway, what a storming, storming 12° Coat Czech is. 4.8%, 40 IBUs, this is the most on the money Czech style pale lager I have had since getting back from my last trip to Prague. All of that Saaziness is there, lemongrass, a spiciness that initially had me thinking cinnamon, but also perhaps a kind of coriander thing, but maybe that is the lemoniness messing with my head. Oh and it's bitter, proper bitter, like proper beer should be, bracing without being overpowering, I could happily drink this beer all day, every day, and that would stand if I were in Czechia with all the options available there. Yes, it is that good.

I think I was on my third, and chatting to Josh at the bar, when I commented that it reminded me most of the gorgeous 12° at Únětický Pivovar, to which Josh responded with "that's because that was the inspiration". Inspired, for sure.

As long as it is on tap, I know exactly what I will be drinking for the next few weekends, and if it is still on tap when it is time to head for the annual holiday in Florida, then I might just load on crowlers too.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Of Bostonian Beer...

 A couple of weeks ago I was up in Boston for a work related conference. Having only ever been to the city for a few hours previously, to visit the aquarium with friends and our kids, I hadn't really had much chance to sample the various beery delights that the city has to offer. With a total of four nights in the city, sans famille, I drew up a list of places that I definitely wanted to try, and if you've followed Fuggled long enough you will know that list was dominated by the lager brewers of the world.

One of the things about going to conferences though, especially when several of your vendors are also at the event, is that it can be tricky to find some time to yourself in order to sit with a beer or three and just chill out. Due to the vagaries of flight timetables and conference workshops I wanted to attend, I actually ended up in Boston the evening before the conference started. Having checked into my hotel in the Seaport area of the city, I headed to the first place on the list to visit, Notch Brewing in Brighton.

I've enjoyed several Notch beers in the last few years, but never had the opportunity to get to one of their two venues, and I chose Brighton simply because it was way cheaper than Salem to get to. Having been dropped off by my Uber driver and wandered past the trellis tables and benches in the courtyard, I already knew which beer would be my first, their 10° Czech style pale lager...

What a thing of absolute beauty eh? Obviously poured from a Lukr tap, and while I get pissy with the whole "traditional" and "proper" nonsense that gets spouted about Lukr taps, as if the 50 odd years since the original side pull taps were ripped out in a fit of "modernity" never happened, beer poured this way is a delight. So naturally I had several, and didn't take notes. With a fair few desítky happily sloshing around in my system, it was time to jump across the border to Germany.

I was gutted earlier this year that Port City decided not to release their Franconian Kellerbier, but Notch's version of the same style, monikered Ungespundet, more than made up for that. Loads of beautiful crusty bread, spicy hops, and a lingering clean, crisp finish, this was another stellar beer, and at only 4.5% abv, it is the kind of beer that I could happily just sit and down all night long, but I needed to head to the dark side before closing time.

Whilst not exactly rare back in Czechia, a 12° tmavé is always a nice sessionable treat as opposed to the heavily, and more common 14°. It hits many of the same high notes as its stronger variants, well toasted rustic bread, without tipping over into the world of burnt toast, a very pleasant dry finish, and just plain tasty. All it all it rounded out a wonderful session, enjoying the more temperate weather of Massachusetts when compared to Virginia, where the joys of the hot humid summer are already making themselves known.

As I was researching breweries and pubs I wanted to visit while I was in Boston, somehow I had overlooked the fact that right behind my hotel was the Fort Point location of Trillium Brewing. When I perused their beer menu online, I noted that they had an eponymous Pilsner, brewed in the German style rather than the Czech, so naturally when I popped in after a company dinner on the first night of the conference itself, my choice was easy.

At 4.7% it is a touch lower in alcohol than many other German style pilsner, but it more than made up for it in the aroma and flavour departments, with a lovely floral hop aroma and crackery dry malt finish that just insists on another, and another, and ok then another. What I hadn't noticed, tucked away on the opposite side of the menu was a helles lager called Central Artery.

This is the beer that had me coming back to Trillium each night I was in Boston, it was just the perfect helles lager, and as I have mentioned before, poroper lager isn't fizzy and this was far from being a sea of bubbles. As a counterpoint to the crackery dryness of the Pilsner, Central Artery has a pillowy soft maltiness that put in my mind of a lightly toasted biscuit/savory scone, finished with a firm, though unobtrusive clean hop bite, that makes helles one of my favourite styles - make a good helles and you have a fan for life in me.

Talking of making a good helles, I enjoyed several pints of "Worker's Pint" helles at Democracy Brewing over dinner one night, though didn't take any pictures, come on folks, I was at dinner with clients and taking pictures of your booze really isn't a good look in that context. The beer itself though was very nice.

It was just a flying visit for work, so I couldn't really go deep into the breweries in Boston, but just skimming the surface has me keeping an eye out for future conferences that are relevant so I can get back and try more, and finish every evening again at Trillium over pints of Central Artery.

Get Your Coat Love

I have said it plenty of times on here as well as my various socials, I am an abysmal beer tourist. You see, I have this tendency to find a ...