Archive for July, 2008

All aboard!

The Golden Lion Inn, Llangynhafal

The Golden Lion Inn, Llangynhafal

Six pubs in Denbighshire, Wales, organized a joint beer festival last weekend and, as they are spread along the vale of Clwyd , they wereoffering a bus service between the pubs. An all day bus ticket cost the same as a pint of beer.

Cunningly, there was a list of the beers on offer during the festival, but they did not tell you which beers  to be found in each pub.

A good concept, and I presume a good way of checking out if they’ve had one pint too many is to ask them to pronounce Llangynhafal.

This story is nicked from the BBC. The photo is nicked from the web site of the pub.

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One more Prague pub

Zlaty RozenI’m strolling along Ceskoslovenske armady, the Czechoslovakian army street,  in northern Prague when I notice a sign promising beer from the Cerna Hora brewery. Since 1530, it claims. I had a few of their beers in Dublin recently, and that was really good stuff, so it is tempting to try them on their own turf. And, for once, there is a beer place that is not on ratebeer or in Evan’s book.

I decide to look inside the Zlaty Rozen, and it turns out to be a cellar restaurant. Five beers from the Cerna Hora on tap plus eight in bottles. And one of the beers on tap is the unpasteurized yeast beer.

There are families having a meal here, a few bureaucrats or businessmen. There is a sinister building on the other side of the street that looks like it belongs to the Ministry of Defense, so perhaps they work there.

Rather loud music. The decor is partly old brewery photos, partly seventies COMECON style.

The sklepni, the unfiltered beer, has a head like whipped cream. It is soft and smooth, then the hops creep up on you. Subtle, rather than an explosion of taste. Long lingering bitterness in the finish.

One more? The Granatis a pitch dark beer with a beige head. Roasted malt, bread crust, like when you left the bread in the oven ten minutes too long. A sooty sourness that plays along with the sweet malt. Truly great.

I must be on my way. I google the place, and see it has won several pub awards and has an excellent English web site. Not so obscure after all, eh? And no awards for the photos today, I did not have any intentions about focusing on the Chivas bottle!

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BrewDog Anniversary ParadoxThe good people over at BrewDog have outdone themselves. The left some of the beer from their first batch to age for 12 months in a single Bowmore 1968 cask. They bottled this in April, but you don’t have much hope to get your hands on this one, as only 200 bottles were made. Thie Anniversary Paradox comes with a specially designed label and a certificate of authenticity.

Your best bet would be to try to get a bottle from the Swedish Systembolaget, where the beer is released in Mid-July, probably a few bottles each in their flagship stores in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. They charge 480 kroner for this – about 60 Euros.

As for me, I got a package from the brewery. The customs declaration said Yeast sample for analysis, which is stretching it a bit, but not totally untrue.

I’ll keep this in the cellar for some weeks, and I’ll let you know how it tastes.

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No Carlsberg, thank you

According to a Danish newspaper article, from Børsen I believe, Carlsberg is unable to establish itself as a brand in Laos. This is despite the fact that Carlsberg owns half of Lao Brewery. (The other half being owned by the Laotian government.)

The reason being given for this is that the local population had the same relation to their beer as a fan has to his soccer team – total dedication. The head of PR at Lao Brewery says it is impossible to sell Carlsberg there – Beer Lao has a market share of 99 per cent.

This also stops all attempt of innovation at the brewery. They have tried to launch six new beers over the last few years, but they are easier to find on posters than in the shops and bars of the country.

I have a feeling that they should get the most out of this market while they can, I’m sure there are competitors waiting in the wings!

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T-shirt in Glasgow

When I look at the map, I have covered a fair number of countries since I started blogging. 23, to be exact, and that means 23 countries I have visited in this three year period.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Ireland, Scotland, England (yes, I count England, even if they don’t have their own parliament!), Wales, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Cyprus.

Some of them, admittedly, for only a brief stay, but others where I have been able to go deeper into the beery heart of the nation.

Should I pick six of them as beer destinations?

Denmark, the Czech Republic, Germany, Scotland, England, Belgium and the Netherlands. Sorry, that’s seven. But they would make a mighty fine tour of Europe.

A general word of advice is to go for the brewpubs. The beer is fresher, the barmen know more about what they sell, there is more enthusiasm. I’ll give you my top ten some time.

Croatia is coming up, if I’m lucky with a side trip to Slovenia, but I don’t think they will make the core list.

There are still glaring white spots on my map of Europe, including Poland, Portugal and Russia. But there are also other continents to consider….

Beer in Sofia

Beer in Sofia

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Right in the middle of Old Town Prague, quite close to the National Theatre, you’ll find the U Medvidku, a tiny brewpub you’ll have to know about to find. This is part of a bar/restaurant complex, so don’t just sit down at the first table, but follow the signs to the end of the dining room, then to another room and then, when you think you’ve lost your way, upstairs, where there is a cozy pub serving food and beer.

There is only one beer on draft here, Oldgott, brewed behind the counter. This is a chewy, grainy, sweet and sour amber beer. Frehness is the key word here, this is constantly being brewed in small batches. Flowery and dry finish. An outstanding beer. Too bad I had no time to linger, this would have been great for lunch and a few more beers.

Follow the signs to the souvenir shop, where you can pick up a few bottles of their strong bottled beer to take away. And suddenly you find yourself in a modern shopping centre, blinking at the bright light. A rough return to reality.

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One of the wonders of drinking in the Czech Republic is that you can get unpasteurized and unfiltered version of the well known beers, which really shows the difference between beer handled lovingly and beer being mass produced for a global market. Of course this is beer that does not travel well. There are similarities, like British cask ale and the wonderful Rodenbach Foederbier, where they had to figure out a distribution chain to keep it fresh and avoid the yeast running amok.

One place in Prague to enjoy the yeast beer or the kroužkovaný ležák is the Budvarka Dejvice. It is in Evan Rail’s book, and it was just five minutes walk from my hotel, close to the Dejvická Metro station in the area behind the castle.

This is a neighbourhood place, with the regulars sipping their beers. The place looks fairly new. There is a bar in front and it looked more restaurant-like in the back. The atmosphere is a bit gloomy, perhaps, but the service is swift and attentive.

The yeast lager? Grain, breakfast cereals. Chewy maltiness. Soft, and round, and then the bitterness is left on the tongue crying out for another sip.  I tried their dark lager, too, but this was no match. Malty, almost dessert-like sweetness. Not bad, but not outstanding like their flagship.

I wanted a snack, so I ordered stinking potatoes from the menu. These were deep fried, then gratinated with blue cheese. OK, but I’d like to develop this dish a bit further.


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