News, Nuggets & Longreads for 5 May 2018: Bernard, Budweiser, Broken Bones

Here’s everything that grabbed our attention over the past week in the world of beer and pubs, from #MeToo to George Washington.

First, via @niccipeet, a startling story from the Czech Republic by Kasia Pilat for the New York Times:

A social media posting by a major Czech brewery that appeared to mock the #MeToo movement has prompted strong reactions, drawing praise, criticism and some soul-searching on sexism in this former communist republic…. The Facebook post by the Bernard Brewery in Humpolec, about an hour’s journey from Prague, features the likeness of a nearly toothless old woman with the hashtag #MeToo superimposed in white. “The world’s gone crazy,” reads the Czech-language text on the post, which is also emblazoned with the brewery’s logo. “Brace yourselves.”

In the UK Bernard beers have fairly generic branding — almost bland — and it’s hard to connect this kind of advertising, and the follow-up comments from the brewery, with the stuff you see on sale at the Sheffield Tap and elsewhere. Another reminder (along with the reaction to this) that other places and cultures can often be in different places to yours on these issues.

Broken wrist X-Ray.

We’ve been missing Kirst Walker’s posts but it turns out there was a good reason: she broke her wrist performing on stage, as she explains in this typically entertaining piece on how booze and painkillers mix, or, rather, how they don’t:

I was worried about some plans I might have to cancel so I asked the surgeon how soon I could go about my normal life after the operation…. He assured me I could still go to London to see Hamilton and looked affronted that I doubted his skills in repairing me. My next trip ‘out’ after the operation was three days later when I went to see Niall Horan in concert. There I stood at the back taking full advantage of my invalid status to get my cousin to run to the bar for me. I had one pint of John Smiths in a plastic cup and later felt like my dreams were running out of my ears. That’s when I reduced the dose of codeine.

Oh, that turn of phrase! Wonderful.

Continue reading “News, Nuggets & Longreads for 5 May 2018: Bernard, Budweiser, Broken Bones”

Inspired by a memory of a taste

Inside U Fleku, Prague.

As we neared the end of the lager brewing season (the point when our utility room stops being cold) we decided to make something dark, and the beer that came to mind — what we found ourselves craving — was the one at U Fleku in Prague.

We did some research online and found a few recipes, all wildly different, and cross-referenced them to come up with the following.

Malt: 4kgs Weyermann’s Premium Pilsner Malt (EBC 3-5); 0.5kg Munich Malt (EBC 20); 0.5kg Crystal; 0.3kg Chocolate (EBC 500).
Hops: 50g Pioneer 9.4% (90 mins); 50g Liberty 3.6% (20 mins); 50g Liberty 3.6% (5 mins).
Yeast: White Labs WLP800.
Notes: single decoction mash.

Without going into tons of detail, this all worked very nicely but, when we took it out of secondary fermentation ready to bottle, our hearts sank: it in no way resembled U Fleku. It had that homebrew smell and taste; it was too pale; it was like a crappy English bitter.

We put five litres into a polypin and dry-hopped it, hoping to rescue at least a portion. The rest we bottled, just in case a miracle might occur…

The first glimmer of hope came when we tapped the polypin and, despite a lingering ‘homebrewness’, found it kind of moreish. We drank the lot. Surely, though, this was just the dry-hopping at work, making the best of a bad lot?

Then, last night, with low expectations, we opened the first bottle and were delighted to find that a transformation had taken place. In an appropriately Mittel-European handled glass, it looked darker, clear as a bell and healthy red-brown. The head was like  meringue. Tasting it didn’t quite take us back to U Fleku, but it certainly made us feel that, if we were to go outside, a tram might be passing, on its way to a grand square somewhere nearby.

The moral of the story? Er… bottle it anyway and hope for the best?

We asked Velky Al of Fuggled fame for an appropriately Czech name and he suggested “Odštěpek” which he tells us means “a chip off the old block”. Thanks, Al!

U Fleku lives up to expectations

From cool back street beer bars to the greatest tourist trap in the world — U Fleku.

The first time I came to Prague, I was on a school trip in the mid-nineties. My well-travelled history teacher pointed it out to us and said that it was the best pub in the world.

The second time I came to Prague, I was with a lot of Polish students, and we therefore spent most of the time looking for places where we could get a pint for 15 crowns or less. U Fleku was not on the agenda.

The third time I came to Prague, in 2003, I was with Bailey, and we actually got through the door. We weren’t beer geeks at the time, but it’s in all the tourist books anyway, and I’d remembered what my history teacher said. We took one look at the hundreds of German tourists, the oompah band and the sneery waiters, and fled.

This time, we were determined to give it a go, having read up on it from various beer sources and having consulted our resident Prague experts. We picked Monday during the day to avoid the madness. However, it’s never too early for oh-so-friendly accordion players and waiters bearing trays of Bechorovka. Everyone seemed to know about the “free shots” scam (they’re not free) but that didn’t stop a waiter coming round every five minutes to try again. And they’re bloody persistent, too.

Which is all a big pity, as the beer is absolutely gorgeous, definitely one of my all time favourites. I was reminded of Fuller’s London Porter, with its mix of treacly sweetness and fruity sourness. Lovely, lovely stuff. It’s a shame we could only put up with the awful pushy, sleazy atmosphere for the time it took to drink two rounds.