Max Bahnson has an interesting post about the opening ceremonies and the first day at the Czech Beer Festival, along with some good insight and opinions on what works and what doesn’t. Please read.
From where I sat, the first day seemed to go very well, especially given the scale of the event and the fact that this year’s is the first. There were some great beers that are never seen on draft in Prague. There was a friendly, festive atmosphere with lots of catching up. Honza Kočka from Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf dropped by. Tomáš Erlich from SPP showed up with friends from Poland’s Bractwo Piwne (still in town from the recent Days of Polish Beer at Pivovarský klub).
The most rewarding thing? To my eyes, the beers from small producers were by far the most popular.
But it turned out I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The next morning, I got a call from the festival organizers.
Everyone, they said, was going for the beers from the small breweries. The vast tents from state-owned Budvar and the large breweries owned by multinationals were not nearly as popular. Thus, they had a request: could I recommend another small brewery or two to bring in?
I offered up a few suggestions. I’m happy to say that from today onward, the festival will also serve Herold Bohemian Black Lager and Herold Bohemian Granát Lager, two great Czech lagers that definitely deserve wider recognition (and wider distribution). There’s a chance that even more beers from small producers will show up this week.
Another possible change: the festival organizers have been considering dropping the 120 CZK entry fee, or at least dropping it after 8 p.m. Though it hasn’t been ixnayed yet, if there’s news, you’ll see it here.
In any case, I think it’s a great sign that, given the choice between the big brands and small producers, consumers are picking the smaller breweries.
And why not? The vast Pilsner Urquell tent serves Pilsner Urquell, a great beer, sure, but one which is available in what seems to be more than half of the pubs in Prague. At the small breweries tent, you could try twelve unusual brews including Jihlavský Grand, a strong golden lager much like a Doppelbock, with a rich maltiness that completely masks its 8.1% alcohol, which many Ratebeerians seem to admire, and yet which is never seen on draft in Prague. I found the Rohozec 12° pale lager to be in fine form at the festival, and yet I know only a couple of pubs in Prague that have it regularly.
According to the organizers, there’s a chance as well that Konrad will start bringing in more of its beers beyond the first two on the Czech Beer Festival’s official beer list. (Perhaps the beer called Joker, which no one at Beer Advocate has even tried.)
Depending on how things shake out, more of the festival space currently devoted to industrial brewers might be turned over to small producers — almost the exact opposite of what usually happens in most beer retail outlets.
For a first attempt at a festival on a large scale, things are looking pretty good: great service, friendly atmosphere and plenty of unusual beers (with even more on the way). It actually looks quite a lot like the picture up top, though that is in fact a shot from Munich’s Starkbierzeit, which has been going on as an organized event since at least the nineteenth century. Only in its debut, the Czech Beer Festival is already almost there.