czech republic pubs

Prague pub roundup

It’s been a busy month or so since we got back from our travels — so busy we haven’t got round to mentioning all of the fascinating pubs and breweries we visited in Prague.  So, a quick summary is in order.

Straight after U Fleku, we headed to the Novomeststky Pivovar, probably the second most touristy place in Prague.  It was very empty, and had quite a dismal atmosphere as result.  The beer was great, though — very yeasty — so much so that it smelled like rising rye bread.  We completed our touristy trio by popping into the legendary U Medvidku.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get into the ‘pivovar’ bit, where you go to get the well-regarded Oldgott Barrique on tap.  We settled for a bottle of the same in another section, which tasted a bit sour and watery. Not really worth the bother.  The boring old Budvar on tap was great, though!

The two most interesting brewpubs took a bit more effort to get to.  Although Klasterny Pivovar Strahov isn’t that far from the Castle, it is up a ruddy great hill.  The beer and the food is a tad pricy by Czech standards, but we’d say it was worth paying the extra for.  On tap was a tmavy and the ‘jantar’ (amber), which was one of our favourite beers of the holiday.  It was almost like a British ale in its bitterness and fruitiness.  Lovely stuff.

Out in the suburbs, Pivovar U Bulovky is worth the trip for a lively and cosy atmosphere (although there’s a very scary waitress) and great beer.  Can’t really see the coach parties rocking up to this place, although we thought we spotted a few other beer geeks, notebooks and beer guides in hand.  U Bulovky offer a good lezak and a lovely polotmavy (amber), as well as a changing range of other beers. The ‘ale’ was more interesting in the fact of its existence than its flavour though — definitely a few too many pear drops going on.

One other pub we have to mention is Baracnicka Rychta, up a side street in Mala Strana.  It offers excellent beers from the Svijany brewery, the nutty “red” being the highlight.  We ate a lot of nakladany hermelin there, and felt very contented with the world.

Apologies for the lack of appropriate accents.  Life’s too short.

beer reviews

Our shopping list for 2009

This year, we finally got our hands on Zywiec Porter, Baltika Porter and a few Goses, after much hunting. But there are still a few beers our there in the wild we’d like to track down. Here’s our hit list (and please feel free to tell us of any sightings, especially in London).

  • Fuller’s Brewer’s Reserve — we think we saw this behind the bar at a pub in Borough, so hopefully this will be an easy kill, without us having to trek out to Chiswick. We’re unashamed Fuller’s fans and this one sounds intriguing.
  • Uerige Sticke — thanks to Tandleman, we now know when and where we need to be — a nice mission for next December?
  • Thornbridge Bracia chestnut honey beer, recently raved about by beer writers like Zythophile. We love Jaipur IPA and we found their St Petersburg imperial Russian stout glorious.
  • Brewdog Chaos Theorysounds intriguing — a mix between a wheat beer and a schwarz. Not so much chaos as harmony…? or anything that we haven’t already tried!
  • Galway Hooker — mentioned on the odd occasion by the Beer Nut and recognised as a corker by various authorities.
  • Something from Japan other than Asahi — Michael Jackson’s 500 Beers (our standard text when we were first getting into beer) lists all kinds of fascinating-sounding Japanese microbrews. Surely the next big thing, now American beer is becoming commonplace in the UK…?
  • Estrella Damm Inedit — probably not that great a beer, but we’ve got an interest in Spain, and would love it if a proper beer scene developed there.
  • American beers that aren’t Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Great Divide, Rogue or Goose Island, great as all of those are.
  • Any of the apparently very exciting Italian microbrews on the market these days. Shock admission: we’ve never been to Italy. That might be a good starting point…

Don’t bother commenting if you’re just going to say “X beer isn’t worth the trouble”. Sadly, we need to find that out for ourselves, or we’ll forever wonder what might have been.

czech republic Snacks to beer

Snacks to Beer: Czech-style nakladaný hermelin

Nakladaný hermelin is, as far as we can fathom, a soft Camembert-type cheese (hermelin) steeped in oil with various flavourings.

We had several rounds of it in pubs in the Czech Republic (Pivni Filosof seems to live off the stuff) and thought it looked like an easy recipe to recreate at home.

You need

  • One Camembert cheese or similar
  • An onion (we used red onion)
  • Juniper berries
  • Paprika (sweet, hottish)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Red pepper
  • Pickled chillies

To make it…

  1. Cut the cheese in half horizontally, like a sponge cake ready for filling. Spread a teaspoon of paprika, several slices of onion, and salt and pepper inside, and then press it back together.
  2. Put more slices of onion, a pickled chilli and three or four juniper berries in a dish and then put the cheese on top.
  3. Put more slices of onion and another pickled chilli on top of the cheese.
  4. Cover the whole lot with olive oil.
  5. Clingfilm it and stick it in the fridge.
  6. After a few days (three’s probably a safe bet — any more and you’re dicing with death when it comes to preserving in oil) take it out and drain off the oil. Remove the juniper berries.
  7. Serve it on a plate with all of the onions and chillis from the dish, plus some small slices of red pepper.
  8. Eat it with a nice beer and some crusty bread.

Happy Christmas!

beer reviews

Beers of the Year

An irrelevant photo of an old Guinness marketing gewgaw in Clapham, South London
An irrelevant photo of an old Guinness marketing gewgaw in Clapham, South London

This year, we’ve been all over the place, including almost a full month in Germany, so we’ve had plenty of opportunity to stretch our palates (corrective surgery scheduled for the New Year). After some bickering in the pub, and in no particular order, here are the 10 beers we’ve tried and enjoyed the most in 2008.

  1. Uerige Alt — like a British ale, but not, thanks to some subtle, intangible quality of the yeast and the wonderful, alien manners and customs of the Duesseldorf pub scene.
  2. Oakham Hawse Buckler — dark, strong, heavy, hoppy as Hell, with that combination of chocolate orange/coffee and grapefruit people either love or hate.
  3. Zywiec Porter — was this sticky, treacly Baltic porter as good as we thought, or were we just delighted to finally get our hands on it after a couple of years hunting?
  4. Brewdog Punk IPA — smart marketing means we’ll be seeing this being swigged from the bottle by trendy types all over the country by next Christmas. And a good thing too, as it’s full of flavour and full of life.
  5. SternBrau-Scheubel dunkel-rauch — the highlight of the first Zeitgeist beer festival, organised by Stonch and Biermania, was this smoky, amber wonder which was so good, we drank them dry.
  6. Mahrs Brau Ungespundete — our return trip to Bamberg was a bit of ticking session but this is one beer of which we wanted second-helpings: dark, cloudy, spicy and liquorice-like.
  7. Vollbier, Brauerei Meister, Unterszaunsbach — this dark, ale-like dark German beer tasted great, although that might have been something to do with the fact we’d trekked over most of Franconia to get to it, and because the lady in the pub was nice to us…
  8. U Fleku, Prague — treacly sweet and fruity sour, the black beer here is a wonder; shame the pub’s such a world-class hole.
  9. Kout na Sumave desitka, Prague — we’d never have found this one ourselves — Velky Al recently described is as the best lager in the Czech republic.  Haven’t had enough Czech beers to compare (can one ever?) but this was a beautiful easy-drinker with an impressive hop flavour.
  10. Frueh Koelsch (but not out of a bottle) — we weren’t that impressed when we first tried Frueh at the brewery tap in Cologne, but have now been back twice — it’s so subtle and so perfect that it’s become our favourite whenever we’re passing through Cologne.

Velky Al has been rounding up his beers of the year, which is where we nicked the idea what inspired us.

breweries Germany pubs

Regensburg again, and a new brewery

It was in Regensburg, Bavaria, in 2007, that we first decided to start blogging, so excited were we by a glass of Spital Pils. On our recent holiday, we scheduled a one night stop-over to break the long train journey back to London, and had the chance to see if our opinions of the city had stood the test of time.

In 2007, we enjoyed Kneitinger Bock. We were nervous this time — what if it wasn’t as good as we remembered? It was, although Boak found it a bit too sweet this time. This time, though, we also tried the pils, which was a revelation, and one of the best beers of the holiday (“Good enough to be Czech,” we noted).

Our plan to re-drink all the beers we tried first time round was derailed, however, when we came across a new brewpub right in the centre of town which was crammed and lively. The Regensburger Weissbrauhaus was set up around a year and a half ago (despite a cheeky “Anno 1620” claim based on the age of the building). They make a standard wheat beer, a dark wheat beer, and dark and light lagers. The light wheat beer was pretty exciting (modelled after Schneider, we thought, and really juicy) although a good part of its appeal was probably its freshness. The others were not so impressive — yeasty, sweetish, with the hops missing in action.

But, what the hey — it’s got to be good that the number of breweries in this beautiful city is increasing, right?