Friday, January 30, 2009

The Three Word Challenge

Earlier this week, Velky Al has posted several three word challenges on his blog Fuggled. Here he tries to describe beers in three words. Of course such a challenge needs to be followed up, and here is my attempt.

I have chosen to write about two Norwegian Christmas beers, Hansa Juleøl and Ringnes Juleøl. These are seasonal offerings that probably are sold out right now. Both are in the strong cathegory with about 6.5% alcohol and were only available for sale at the stately outlet Vinmonopolet.

Hansa Juleøl: Dark, halfbitter, flat.

Ringnes Juleøl: Red, sweeter, strong.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Explosive naked island

Nøgne Ø is one of Norway's craft breweries. They have several beers in their line-up, and all of them are unpasteurized and unfiltered. Here in Norway Nøgne Ø's beer can be found at the stately alcohol outlet, Vinmonopolet. The beers are also sold abroad, and due to the high taxation on alcohol in Norway, they are probably cheaper elsewhere.

Nøgne Ø's India Pale Ale is a strong beer with 7,5% alcohol. According to the label it should be served at 10 centigrades and is recommended to cigars or grilled and tasteful meat and cheeses. Pricewise this is an expensive beer in Norway. At 64 NOK for a half litre bottle, you may buy two 0.33 litre bottles of Hoegaarden at Vinmonopolet or enjoy a bottle of Erdinger wheat beer and have change for a bierwurst or a large packet of crisps. Or perhaps you will have a sixpack of small Tuborgs brewed on licence in Norway from a supermarket?

In the glass, this beer has an unclear, amber colour and an offwhite, solid head. There are some sediments in the beer, and the beer label is clear on this fact. If you buy a bottle, you should at least put it away for two or three days to make the sediments assemble on the bottom. The beer label also recommends that Nøgne Ø's India Pale Ale is to be enjoyed in small sips. The first test of the beer tells why. There is a lot of taste here. The palate more or less explodes as scents of spices, malts and hops bombard the mouth. There are also some notes of citrus in it, and it gives a long, solid aftertaste.

Nøgne Ø's India Pale Ale is not my favourite beer, but it is an interesting brew full of taste. Actually, it makes me think of a remark in the motion picture Mozart. The somewhat musical emperor has heard a new opera composed by the great composer, and he gives his remarks on the work. Mozart is told that the opera has too many notes - a comment based on theories given by the court composers that the human ear is only capable of enjoying only a certain amount of musical notes in an evening. For me this India Pale Ale gives too much. It is enjoyable - but only in small sips and small amounts. But maybe this is first and foremost a beer for sharing?

Nøgne Ø's India Pale Ale
NOK 64
Bought at: Vinmonopolet

Monday, January 26, 2009

A short beer guide to Prague - part 3: Pub crawl

If you are in Prague, you may only have a few days to get to know the city. For a beer tourist, one of the evenings should be used on a pub crawl. Of course you can take part in one of the "official" pub crawls arranged by various travel companies. For instance it is possible to take part in such a pub crawl by joining a group in the Old Town Square every evening. How Czech such a pub crawl will be, is up to you to find out, but you will probably have fun together with some other fellow tourists. My advice is to try to find the real Prague. You may find it in Zizkov, where taprooms and hospodas abound.

The Prague TV tower is a real landmark.

Take the metro to Jiriho z Podebrad, and off you go. First of all you must not miss the TV tower. It is extremely easy to find, and if you go upstairs you will have a magnificent view of Prague. Then it is time for this pub crawl, which can take you to 10 different places. Some are taprooms, some are restaurants and there is also one optional outdoor beer garden. This pub crawl will give you an opportunity to taste several Czech beers - and there will also be possibilities for some food along the way.

After seeing the TV tower, you must go to the street on the southside, Ondrickova. Turn right and walk to the first taproom. This is a Tipsport herna bar on your left hand side.

Tipsport is a real herna bar. If this is truth in advertising, I do not know.
The two times I have been there, there has
not been any topless dancing.

Herna bars are infamous in Prague, but that does not mean that you should avoid them. Tipsport seems somewhat nice (and smoky), and if you fancy playing the Czech pools or having a round on the gambling machines, you could do that now. The reason for this place to be included in this pub crawl is that they serve Gambrinus. Sure, some people do not like Gambrinus 10° pale lager, but it is better than a lot of the leading lagers in several European countries. As this is the bestselling lager in the Czech Republic, it will be a good reference beer for the whole pub crawl. The price at Tipsport is also more than affordable. 21 CZK for half a litre.

After Tipsport you continue down Ondrickova until you turn into the Slavikova street on the right. Walk down the first block, and you will find Buon Giorno pizzeria. Maybe it is time for a meal? Then this pizzeria sells OK pizzas and other Italian courses at reasonable prices. But you are not there for food. Buon Giorno sells Bernard lager from tap. This is a good beer with a lot of malty taste, and it will give you something completely different than the Gambrinus at Tipsport. Which is your favourite? Find out before you continue.

Buon Giorno sells both Bernard and Stella Artois beer. If you go to the
Czech Republic to drink Belgian beer, please try Stella. My
recommendation is that you take another
glass of Bernard.

From the pizzeria you continue walking north through Slavikova. When you reach the corner with the Chinese restaurant, you may want to enter. If you did not eat any Italian food at Buon Giorno, you have the possibility to try some great noodle or rice courses. I can recommend the duck meals. They are great, and you can combine them with some excellent Budweiser Budvar beer from tap. Afterwards you turn right down Krkonosska into the square called Skroupovo Namesti. There you will find my favourite hospoda in Prague, U Sadu.

This is U Sadu. Do not miss out on it. In Summer there are
also tables on the street, by the way.

U Sadu is a great place, and I will write more about it in a later post. It is worth while visiting. Here you can find great food, and the prices are also reasonable. On tap you can find among others beers like Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Svijany 11°, the excellent Primator wheat beer and the two Master beers from Pilsner Urquell. Take one glass of Pilsner Urquell and enjoy the unpasteurized tankova version.

Excellent Pilsner Urquell at U Sadu.

If you fancy more beer at this time, you should also try the Primator beer. This is a kvasnicove (yeast beer), and will give you a different beer experience. It is simply delicious. If time (and beer consume) allows, you can also try one (or two) of the Master beers. They are darker and stronger than the other beers on tap, so you may save them for another day.

Primator's wheat beer is a treat. Please give it a try. If you enjoy it,
you will be thankful that you did not refuse the chance to taste it.

From U Sadu you walk north down Sevcikova. Turn right down Krizkovskeho. On the left hand side you pass Palac Akropolis. There may be an interesting concert that you want to check out, but you walk down the street until you find Kralovstvi on your right.

The hole in the wall also known as the nice hospoda Kralovstvi.

Kralovstvi is a real gem. The food is Moravian, and there are many interesting courses on the menu. But more important: You will find beer from the Cerna Hora brewery here. Try first their great 12° svetly lezak. That is a great beer.

But do not stop there. Try some of the other beers from Cerna Hora. They have several on tap - and also some in bottles.My advice is that you at least should taste Kvasar. This is a great beer with honey in it. Try it!

There are many taprooms and pubs on the hill down to
Seifertova. This picture is taken at Krasova street.

From Krizkovskeho you should walk down the hill to Seifertova. Which street you walk down is up to you. You will find several taprooms on the way, and they will give you opportunities to try beers from breweries such as Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus, Svijany, Stella Artois, Staropramen and Bernard.

Turn left into Seifertova, and walk towards the tramstop. Near the stop you will find a little combined pizzeria and taproom selling Budweiser beer. Not the American one. Not the Budvar one. But the other one from Budweiser Bürgerbräu - often called Samson.

Budweiser Bürgerbräu straight from tap.
Please note the beautiful glass.

Budweiser Bürgerbräu tastes good, and in any other country it would be one of the leading lagers. In the Czech Republic it is in my opinion beaten by several other brands, but it is still a very good offering.

At this point in time it is time to move on. Get back onto Seifertova and walk up the hill with the soccer team Viktoria Zizkov's home ground on your right. Just up the street you will find a Chinese restaurant called Harmonie.

If you are hungry, Harmonie will stop your hunger with a good and varied Chinese menu. But you are there to try another beer brand. Harmonie serves Krusovice lager from tap. Like Budweiser Bürgerbräu this is not among the best offerings in the Czech Republic, but it is still a good beer.

Now it could be time to compare the beers you have tasted so far. Stop further up the hill at the Kure v hodinkach restaurant. They serve both Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar on tap together with Bernard. The food is also good, so this is a nice place to sit down.

Budweiser Budvar lager - a great offering
at Kure v hodinkach.

But you may be ready for something else. Instead of Kure v hodinkach on your right hand side, turn left into the Blahnikova street. On your right you will find the U Pizducha taproom.

U Pizducha is a little pub, but the prices and offerings are good. Here you can find Staropramen 10°, Svijany 11° and Breznak 10°. Try all - or just one. I recommend the Svijany. This is not the best beer from the brewery, but still it is a good one.

Svijany 11° at U Pizducha.

After this pub crawl, you may have had so much beer that it may be time to retire. If not I will recommend you to take the trip back up the hill again and enter the Riegrovy Sady park. There you will find an excellent beer garden.

Drinks (and food) can be found at two stalls. One serves Gambrinus and another stall serves Pilsner Urquell. If it is Summer this is an excellent place to stay into the night. There are always many people here, and the atmosphere is nice. It is easy to get in touch with other people at the beer garden, and you can always hear people speaking English there. Try it!

Riegrovy Sady - a great place in Summer.

This pub crawl will take some hours, but it is worth it. You get to try many Czech beers, and you will also find some pubs and taprooms outside the tourist route. Prices are very nice, and most places will serve you good Czech lagers at 30 CZK or less.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A short beer guide to Prague - part 2

Now you are ready for some beer tourism in Prague. Before you start, you must know something about Czech beer and Czech bars. I will also recommend you to get hold of Evan Rail's excellent book "The Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic". It has much information about both Prague taprooms and various Czech beers.

Many beer bottles in a beer shop in Prague. At Czech pubs you can
find bottled beer, but most Czechs prefer draught beer.

Usually Czech pubs serve only beer from one brewer. Most of the beers are in the pale lager style, and normally they are described by a degree number. For instance you can come along a Staropramen 10° beer. This means that this is a beer from the Staropramen brewery with 10° on the Balling scale. The Balling scale tells you about how much sugar that is in the wort before the fermentation starts. Therefore a 10° beer is not the same as a 10% alcohol beer. Instead a 10° beer would have around 4% alcohol.

Three different beers are served at this pub.

The Czechs have several names for their beer styles, and the ones you often meet are these:

Výčepní: A 10° beer. (Tap beer)
Ležák: A 12° beer. (Lager beer) (By the way: You can also find 11° beers many places - just like you can see on the blackboard above.)
Speciál: A stronger beer than 13°.

This hospoda serves beer in four different strengths.
The strongest ones are in the dark style, tmavé.

There are also several more styles of beer. Beers can for instance be flavoured, unfiltered or a mix of several beers. Evan Rail's book gives a good perspective, but here are some of the most common ones:

černý - dark beer
polotmavé - half dark
světlé - light
kvasnicové - yeast beer
pseničné - wheat beer

Here in Norway it is easy for me to get hold of Pilsner Urquell in cans. It is absolutely one of my favourite beers at home, and I drink it often as it has a taste I fancy. In Prague I usually only drink Pilsner Urquell at taprooms that serve the unpasteurized version. When I have been to Prague, I often find beers that tastes better there and then. Of course the sensation of drinking very good beers in another country influences. The same is to be said about the situation. Most times I sit down at a Czech hospoda I am on holiday, and the moments spent there are excellent pastimes. Very often I meet interesting people, and nice times may give me a better opinion of the beers I taste. Unfortunately I can seldom compare these beers at home, and my subjective remembrance will be a part of my point of view.

But what are my favourites in the Czech republic, then? If you want to try the big brands, both Pilsner Urquell and Budweiser Budvar are very good lager beers. But as a visitor to the Czech Republic you should try some of the beers that you will not find at home. Myself, I am very fond of Cerna Hora světly ležák and Kout na Šumavě's 12° beer. Svijany has several good offerings, and one of my new favourites is Primator's wheat beer (which is also a kvasnicové). Great stuff!

Coming up next: Part 3 of this little beer guide will take you on a little Prague pub crawl.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A short beer guide to Prague - part 1

Most people coming to Prague arrive at the airport. The airport is a half hour drive from the city centre. One day in the distant future, the metro will take you into town, but nowadays you need to use bus or car. Taxis have a bad reputation in Prague. I have never taken a cab in the town. The ordinary bus/tram/metro-system is more than good enough. In short: The public transportation system is excellent with an efficient metro and trams and buses that even have a service at night. A taxi from the airport will cost you from 500 til 800 CZK. I prefer the cheaper way, and buy myself a bus ticket for 26 CZK.

A ticket machine at Prague airport.

Tickets can be bought at a stand in the airport or from a ticket machine at the airport's bus stop. Please have coins in hand, as you can not use notes in the ticket machine. I advice you to buy several tickets for later use. Suddenly you want to take a tram, and the local ticket machine is out of order. It is better to be safe than sorry, and another possibility is to buy a day ticket (valid 24 hours) or a ticket for 3 or 5 days. Another tip: If you withdraw money from an ATM, it will give you large bank notes. Employees in shops and restaurants do not like giving change to 1000 and 2000 CZK notes, so my advice is that you select an amount that gives you some 100 CZK notes.

The 119 bus arrives at Prague airport.

If you are going into town by bus, you can take the 119 bus to Dejvická or the 100 bus to Zličín. Both places are terminal stations for metro lines, and it is easy to get to the city centre from there. If you bought a 26 CZK bus ticket, it is also valid for further travel. As you enter the bus at the airport, remember to validate your ticket. Use the yellow boxes on the bus. There is a large fine if an inspector catches you without a valid ticket.

Use these boxes for ticket validation. On the metro you will find
them at the entrance to the ticket area.

Then you are settled in your hotel or apartment. My advice is to do the tourist route first. Start at Wenceslas Square and walk towards the Charles Bridge. Cross the bridge and take a tram to the castle. Walk through the castle area and enjoy the sights.

Nice view from the Prague castle hill.

Then you take a walk down from the castle to Malostranska. Catch a tram from there to Anděl. There you can find a large mall and several restaurants and bars. And there the beer tourist part starts.

Anděl is a traffic centre with a bus station, a metro station
and several tram lines passing through.

You have now been through the tourist area, and if you looked at menus along the way the prices are OK compared to tourist areas in other major European cities. At Anděl the prices are at a much lower level. Use beer prices to find the price standards. If the beer costs more than 35 CZK, you are at a tourist place or an upscale restaurant. Here and there you will find beer at 20 CZK or lower, but most places will sell you pints of beer for no more than 30 CZK.

The Staropramen brewery is just a short walk from Anděl.

What beers are there to be found? First of all there is Pilsner Urquell; the original lager beer of the pilsner style. This is in my opinion a great beer, and I buy it often here in Norway.

In Prague Pilsner Urquell tastes the best from a tankova restaurant or bar. This is Urquell beer in an unpasteurized version, and it is delicious! Gambrinus, which is owned by Pilsner Urquell, is everywhere in Prague. The same is to be said about Prague's own brewer, Staropramen. Here and there you will also find Budweiser Budvar (the Czech brew - not the American!), Krusovice, Starobrno, Kozel and loads of other brews. Most of them are not well known outside the Czech Republic, and my advice is that you try the large beers first and then journey into the lesser known brands. Some of them are real gems, and you will thank yourself afterwards after tasting them. In my opinion, you should be on the look-out for beers from brewers like Svijany, Cerna Hora, Kout, Bernard and Primator. They will not disappoint you.

Herna bars are everywhere in Prague. These are both bars and game
playing joints. Hernas are not the best places to go for a beer,
but some of them are open 24 hours a day, and will thus
give a possibility of a cheap night cap.

Before embarking on your beer tourist route, I advice you to check out these blogs. Pivni Filosof does an excellent blog about Czech beers, and he has covered more than the beer brands you will be able to try during a week in Prague. He has also a short beer guide for Prague tourists, which is available here. Evan Rail's book "The Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic" is a good handbook to bring along to Prague, and his blog is not to be missed either. Check also out Velky Al's blog Fuggled, which also tells much about Czech beer culture.

There is a part 2 of this beer guide coming shortly. There I will tell a little bit about Czech beer styles and some of my favourite Czech brews.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Wenceslas Square. Charles Bridge. Jewish Quarter. These are just three of the sights worth seeing in Prague. The tourist books inform about what's hot and what's not, but in most cases you read about the same places in a line from the castle to Wenceslas Square. Yes, it might be interesting to see the Astronomical Watch or perhaps listening to ompah-ompah music at U Fleku, but at the same time you do it together with loads of other tourists. My advice is not to follow the tourist flow after seeing the most important sights. There are gems for tourist visitors outside the centre of Prague, but normally you will not find these places in the guide books. The budget traveller will also enjoy going there, as the prices for food and drink normally are much lower.

Prague is a beautiful city. If you are interested in architecture, there is much to see. Take Wenceslas Square, for instance. Several of the buildings there can be studied time and time again. The National Museum is a gem, and for us Norwegian it is worth mentioning that the large whale skeleton hails from the Bergen area. That's a great trivia, isn't it?

I first visited Prague in 2006. Since then the city has become a favourite, and so far I have visited Prague five times. For people with a beer interest the capital of the Czech Republic has much to offer. Most Czech beer brands are difficult to find outside the country, and the possibility of drinking fresh Czech beer is a positive thing. I enjoy Pilsner Urquell at home, but it tastes much, much better as a draught beer in Prague. Budweiser Budvar is also a favorite, but I have not found it here in Norway for years.

The next days I will take a look at Czech beers and pubs. I will tell from my visits to Prague and also reminiscence over some very good beers I have tasted.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Ringnes Bayersk Lager

First I wrote about Hansa's beer in Bavarian style. Then I wrote about the Naboen pub and restaurant's Bayer. This time I will take a look at Ringnes' version of Bavarian beer.

Ringnes is the biggest brewer in Norway. The brewery is owned by Carlsberg, and the brewery group owns several Norwegian brewers. Their flagship is the Ringnes Pilsener, but Ringnes also has several other beers on offer in several styles.

Ringnes Bayersk Lager pours into the glass with a large head and much carbonation. The head disappears quickly, and the same can be said about the carbonation. In colour, it is lighter than the other Norwegian Bavarian style beers covered here at Beer Sagas. It is more or less light amber.

In taste there is a burnt character. The beer has hints of sweetness, but the finish is bitter. The lightness makes it an inferior offer compared to Hansa's Bayer, but all in all this is an OK beer.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


There are many pubs in the centre of Bergen. One of them is Naboen. Naboen is a restaurant with a pub in the cellar. It is possible to order food from the restaurant menu in the pub, so this is a place to stop both your hunger and your thirst. The name means neighbour in English, and it has to do with the menu. There are many Swedish courses on it, and as Sweden is Norway's neighbouring country the name is good.

On tap you can find several beers. If you fancy Heineken brewed on licence in Norway, it is available here. Among others you can also find Hansa Pilsener, Murphy's stout, Newcastle Brown Ale and Naboen's own Bayer.The waitress did not know that much about the Bayer, but she could tell me it was not brewed at the premises. Instead a brewer makes it for Naboen from Naboen's own recipe.
Naboen's Bayer is a good beer of the Bavarian style. It is dark amber of colour and with very little carbonation. It tastes much like Hansa's Bayer, but feels somewhat sweeter. The watery aftertaste of Hansa is not to be found, but it feels somewhat thin. At 52 NOK it is not that expensive compared to other Norwegian beers, and it is one of Naboen's better offers.