Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 2)

Whatever Happened to Beer Culture?

So whatever happened to Beer Culture?

In the spirit of where Beer Culture plans to go in the future, I’d like to tell the story of Beer Culture’s past.

It should be obvious by the capital letters that I’m talking about Beer Culture the weblog, not the lowercase “beer culture” in the sense of “the customs, institutions, achievements and observable manifestations of the activities of producing, serving and drinking lagers and ales.” That particular beer culture is doing just fine, thank you very much. But in case you haven’t noticed, Beer Culture, formerly hosted by Prague Daily Monitor, has been on hiatus for the past six months or so. It’s returning now at a new address — please update your links to www.beerculture.org — as well as with a new sense of what it intends to address.

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Bohemia Regent Beer at Prague’s Art-Café u Irmy

Ron Pattinson has written about U rotundy, one of his favorite rough pubs. It might have its charms, but for me there are two good reasons not to pick U rotundy: one, they serve Staropramen, which you could get just about anywhere else in Prague if you wanted it. And more importantly: just two doors down the very same street is Art-Café u Irmy, which you might call a “rough café.” In addition to great inexpensive Georgian food — as in the country, not the American state, nor the historical era — u Irmy is one of the few places in town where you can get draft Bohemia Regent.

Many thanks to reader James for the tip, as well as pointing out the café’s excellent atmosphere, like a wacky house party where all the characters come from different corners of the old soviet sphere of influence. The food, as well, is an eastern treat: great dolmas, outstanding lobio (Georgian red beans with red onions, pomegranate seeds and coriander), borscht, chačapuri (cheese bread), čachochbili (chicken and red-pepper stew), sacivi (walnut sauce) and chinkali (beef dumplings). How could U rotundy possibly compete with that?

And then there is the beer.

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How the Other Guys Do It: BrewDog’s Punk IPA

If you want to figure out what’s happening — or not happening — with Czech beer, it might help to look at how some of the other guys do it. Take, for example, the Punk IPA from Scotland’s BrewDog.

But I don’t mean the beer itself. I just mean the packaging.

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Hey, What Does This “Wormhole” Thingy Do?

Wow… this place is full of old beer bottles.

And cobwebs!

Thus Beer Culture is back online, though the electricity isn’t hooked up and we still don’t have hot water. We also lost the last three months, which included some of our most popular posts and comments ever.

Did we just dream that whole thing about Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf?

More soon…

Pilsner Urquell

A quick post before heading out to Pilsner Urquell, whose distinctive water tower is pictured on every bottle of that brew, as well as in the snapshot above. (Not in the frame off to the left is the gigantic Pilsner Urquell chess set, whose toddler-size pawns look like Pilsner Urquell bottles.) I’ll be working with a crew shooting a Discovery Channel television special on beer, which, back home, will include brewing stars like Sam Calagione from the offensively good Dogfish Head and Professor Charlie Bamforth from my old alma mater, the University of California, Davis.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing to say that no matter what you do, you have to go to Pivovarský klub next week to taste the new saison beer from up-and-comer Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf, a brewery so new it doesn’t even have a website yet.

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U Radnice Pub in Prague

There’s a new trend in Prague pubs: rotating beer selections. The widest range is probably at Pivovarský klub, whose six taps change constantly to include various brews from around the country and around Europe (mostly from small, regional producers, with Pivovarský dům’s Štěpán and Primátor’s Weizenbier enjoying near-štamgast status at taps 5 and 6, respectively).

Other Prague pubs with rotating taps include the great První pivní tramway and Zlý časy, described by Max Bahnson as a font of great beers and good goulash. Following that post, Jay commented that the same sort of things were taking place on at U Radnice in Prague 3, a Žižkov stronghold for Podkováň beer when I listed it in Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic, but which switched breweries to Rohozec after Podkováň closed before branching out to include a wider selection.

This week I stopped by to see what they’ve got on tap.

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Christmas Beer

Chodovar Special

The Czech Republic is home to a whole bundle of brews from specific places: known quantities like Pilsner Urquell (from the West Bohemian town of Plzeň) and Budějovický Budvar (from České Budějovice), as well as rarer birds like Žamberk’s fantastic Žamberecký Kanec, Pardubice’s Pardubický Porter, Velichov’s impossible-to-find (but oh-so-worth-it) Velichovský Forman, along with about 500 other truly outstanding local faves. But in the midst of this very rich beer culture, what we don’t have are many brews that are specific to a certain time of year. One of the few exceptions is showing up right about now: Vánoční piva, or Christmas beers.

Occasionally called sváteční piva (holiday beers), Christmas beers are brewed at higher gravities than standard Czech lagers, generally starting at 13° and heading north fast, resulting in slightly (or much) higher alcohol than normal.

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