Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thunder, but no cops

On the streets of the Prague borough of Vinohrady you can find many taprooms and restaurants. One of the more interesting ones is Hrom do Police, because this hospoda sells beers from the Policka brewery. Bars and restaurants offering beers from Policka (or Meštanský pivovar v Policce, which is the full name) are rare in Prague.

Hrom do Police is a nice cellar restaurant. The name means thunder on the shelves in Czech, but it can also be translated as an idiom meaning an elephant in a glassware shop. Of course, the name is also a wordplay on the brewery name, Policka.

On my visits earlier this month Hrom do Police offered five golden lager beers and one dark lager. Their strongest lager is a 12° beer called Zavis. There is also a 11° beer called Otakar, and both beers are also available as yeast beers, kvasnicove.

I only had kvasnicove beers at the hospoda, and my favourite of them was Otakar. It is served with a large head. There is a lot of carbonation, and I can feel yeast and hints of strawberry in the nose. The beer is fullbodied. It tastes a little bit sweet, and the strawberry notes are more distinct in the mouth. It is a really good beer, and I went back to try it several times. Actually, it was so good that I did not try the ordinary lager version of it from tap.

The Zavis 12° kvasnicove was also a nice beer, and I have covered it in another post. To sum up: It is an enjoyable beer with hops and yeast notes. In the aftertaste there is much melon. A very drinkable brew, but the Otakar 11° kvasnicove is the better beer according to my palate.

It is also possible to buy bottles of Policka beers to take home from Hrom do Police. Unfortunately, the kvasnicove beers are not available in bottles, but I bought both Zavis and Otakar to try at my hotel. I have lost my tasting notes, but I remember that both beers were very good.

I will return to Hrom do Police. I liked the hospoda, but I was also very fond of the Policka beers. The next time around I will try their 10° pale lager and also do a comparison of the different versions of Otakar and Zavis. Perhaps the ordinary lagers are better than the kvasnicove from tap?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Christmas in October

As Christmas is getting closer, I will taste some of the Norwegian Christmas beers, juleøl. First out is a tasting of three Christmas beers with less than 4.7% alcohol, which are beers that can be sold in Norwegian supermarkets.

Ringnes is the largest brewery in Norway, and their Ringnes Juleøl is brewed at 4.5% alcohol. Poured into the glass, the beer is coppercoloured and has a medium sized head that dissolves rather quickly. There is little carbonation, and in the nose I can feel some burntness and hints of caramel. In the mouth there is some sweetness, hints of malts, a semibitter finish and a watery feeling. This is a nice beer that easily could be sold in Norway as a Bayer, a beer brewed in the Bavarian style. I would anyway have preferred it to be a more filling beer. By the way: Ringnes Juleøl is also available in 0.33 litre bottles.

Grans is one of Norway's traditional breweries, and it was founded in 1899. The Sandefjord brewery has a distribution deal with the largest supermarket chain, Rema 1000, and thus their beers are available all over the country. Grans' beers are among the cheaper ones in Norway, and there are some of them that I do not like.

Grans Bare Jul is at the stronger mark for its style at 4.7% alcohol. It is much paler than the Ringnes beer in colour, and it could be mistaken for a golden lager at the first glance. The head is more compact, but it disappears nearly as fast as the Ringnes Juleøl. There is very little carbonation, and the same can be said about the nose. I can feel more or less nothing. In the mouth I feel this is a boring beer. It is dominated by a metallic aftertaste, which could be the can's fault. Actually there is nothing that can keep up with the comments on the can that promises a beer full of taste. If so, it was not commenting on the beer in my can!

Hansa Juleøl is one of several Christmas offerings from the Hansa brewery this year. It is an amber beer with little carbonation and a little head. The nose has some caramel, but it is less exciting than the Ringnes Juleøl. Just like Ringnes there is a watery feeling, but there is also some maltyness and toffee. A metallic presence is also found here, but it is not as dominating as in the Grans Bare Jul. This is an OK effort from Hansa, but I prefer for instance the Hansa Bayer to this beer. Like Ringnes Juleøl, Hansa Juleøl is also available in 0.33 litre bottles.

The best of these three Christmas beers is Ringnes Juleøl. It will fall through compared to the stronger beers that will debut at Vinmonopolet next week, but so far it will probably be one of the better offers in the Norwegian supermarkets. But of course: There are more Christmas beers available in Norway than these ones. And here at Beer Sagas we will take the challenge and try more of them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Christmas time is here again

Sort of. Here in Norway the supermarkets have already started selling juleøl, Christmas beers. The Norwegian Christmas beers are dark or amber brews, and they are sold in various strengths. In ordinary shops, you can only find beers with an alcohol content below 4.7%. The stronger beers are available at Vinmonopolet, the stately monopoly for wines and liquor. You can also find them in various bars from November to January, and now and then even from tap.

Ringnes brewery is the largest in Norway, and this year they will in addition to their own juleøl also sell Tuborg and Carlsberg Christmas beers brewed on licence. The Tuborg can has a new design this year, by the way.

Hansa-Borg is the second largest brewery group in Norway, and they will at least have two Christmas beers available in supermarkets. On the picture you can see Hansa Juleøl and Hansa Julebrygg. The second one is supposed to have had a very long period of lagering.

Next week Vinmonopolet will start selling Christmas beers. I have not seen this year's list of beers so far, but I have heard that there will at least be juleøl from Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet together with some Danish offerings and the usual Christmas beers from the Norwegian macro breweries.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stout battle

There are many stouts to be found around the world. Here in Norway there are not so many of the macro breweries that brews stouts, but the cult brewery Nøgne Ø has two of them in their line-up. Nøgne Ø's Havrestout is made of oats, while their Imperial Stout is a heavy hitter with 9% alcohol. Aass brewery has a gourmet line of beers, and among them are Aass' Gourmet Stout. Here these Norwegian titans clash, and I have also invited Guinness to have a reference point.

First out is the oats stout. Nøgne Ø's Havrestout pours black into the glass. At first it seems fizzy, but the carbonation stops rather quickly. It builds a medium sized tanned head, but it dissolves more or less at once. The nose has a lot of coffee, and the coffee is also there in the mouth together with some burnt notes. The beer feels watery and has a bitter ending. A nice stout, but it is not my favourite. At 4.5 % alcohol this beer is available in some Norwegian supermarkets.

Aass brewery is in English speaking countries perhaps more known for its name than its beers. Aass Gourmet Stout has very little carbonation and a tanned head. I can smell some coffee and chocolate. In the glass the chocolate is more distinct, but there are also notes of licorice. The aftertaste is bitter with more hints of chocolate together with a watery feeling. The beer has 4.7% alcohol and I prefer it to the Havrestout.

Guinness is the classic Irish stout. From cans it has the draught flow system, which gives the beer a creamy feeling. This is something that both Aass Stout and Nøgne Ø Havrestout lack. There is less kick in the nose from Guinness than from the Aass and Nøgne Ø stouts. I feel coffee and hints of burntness. In the glass the coffee has been joined by some caramel, but there is also a watery feel to it. The beer feels more filling than the other stouts, and is easily my favourite among them.

Nøgne Ø's Imperial Stout is the strongest of the four beers. At 9% alcohol it is absolutely no session beer. Instead it is a black beer with little carbonation and a large, tanned head. In the nose I feel coffee, and in the first taste the coffee is joined by some chocolate. It has a much fuller body than Nøgne Ø's Havrestout, but it does not have the creamy character found in Guinness. The aftertaste is bitter with a hoppy bite.

In all Nøgne Ø's Imperial Stout is a great offer, but it is a beer that asks you to be careful. The higher amounts of alcohol is very well integrated in the beer, and it feels weaker than it is. This is a great beer for Winter evenings, and I can see myself enjoying it in front of the fireplace when the snow is falling.

The Imperial Stout from Nøgne Ø is the best beer of these four, but in the long run I would prefer Guinness as a session stout due to the lower alcohol content. Its creamy texture is also a plus for Guinness, but in all Nøgne Ø's Imperial Stout is the better offer.

In Norway the Imperial Stout is only sold at the stately outlet, Vinmonopolet. Aass' Gourmet Stout is sold in many supermarkets, while Guinness is available more or less in every shop in Norway.


Earlier this year I heard a rumour that the Czech lager beer Budweiser Budvar should be available in Norwegian shops in May. In April I found Budvar at a local bar, but until today I have not seen Budvar in Norwegian shops. At an ICA shop they had two 0.33 litre bottles of Budvar, and of course I picked them up.

I would prefer a lower price. 26.90 NOK is nearly 3 GBP or 3 EUR, and it is possible to buy 0.5 litres of other Czech beers in Norwegian supermarkets at the same price or lower. And in the Czech Republic a half litre can costs less than 30 CZK in a supermarket, which is about 10 NOK.

Today I went into a Rema 1000 supermarket, and as always they sold Pilsner Urquell, Bernard and Gambrinus lagers. Bernard is priced at 25.90 NOK for a 0.5 litre bottle, while Gambrinus costs 26.90 NOK.

Pilsner Urquell is only sold in cans at Rema 1000. The price is 28.50 NOK.

With Budvar available in Norwegian shops, it is now possible to buy many different Czech beers in Norway. As I wrote earlier this year, Starobrno pale lager, Staropramen dark lager and Velkopopovický Kozel dark lager are also available in Norway.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Smoky business

When reading beer blogs or travel books, there are always some places that end up on my shortlist. One of them was the Klášterní Pivnice in Prague. Located near Letenske namesti, the hospoda is easy to find after a short walk from the tram stop.

I entered Klášterní Pivnice on a Saturday afternoon. The outer room with gambling machines and the bar was more or less empty, while there were about ten people in the inner room. I sat down and ordered a half litre of Klášter světlý lezak. At below 20 CZK this is a fantastic price for a very good lager beer. They also sell Klášter's dark lager at the same price.

In the glass, Klášter is a golden lager with a large head. There is very little carbonation, and the nose is very flowery. The beer has a hoppy hint, and is a very drinkable lager beer. There is some bitterness in the finish, but in all a very lovely lager that I really like.

While sitting in the room, I felt a little snack was in order. There were several possibilities, and I ended up ordering a syrova klobasa, cheese sausage.

The sausage tasted much better than it looked. It was full of meat and had bits of lovely cheese in it. It was very filling, and for 25 CZK a really good bargain. It was served with mustard, pickled cucumber and horseradish, which has become a favourite for me when I order food in the Czech Republic.

Klášterní Pivnice is a smoky place. The customers looks like chain smokers, and that made my visit there shorter than it should be. I have no problem with some cigarette smoke, but this place had unfortunately too much for me. But there was something holding me there for a while. Lately, Klášterní Pivnice sells more than Klášter's beers on tap. There are Rychtar signs all over the place, and the day I visited there were two boards advertising for Steiger lager as the day's special.

As I had never tasted Slovak beers before, a taste of Steiger was a must. Steiger is a pale lager, and it has a fruity nose. It has more notes of hops than Klášter, and the aftertaste is very bitter. There is also a hint of apples there. In all, Steiger is a good session beer, but Klášter is the better lager and the one I will order if both are available.

I would like to revisit Klášterní Pivnice, but then I will do it before noon to avoid all the cigarette smoke. It looks like a nice place to be, and the beer prices and beer quality is very good. So let's quote the famous actor: I'll be back!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Changes at U Slovanské Lípi

I have several times written about the hospoda U Slovanské Lípi in Prague on this blog. The taproom in Žížkov is one of the few places in Prague where you can find the excellent beers from the Kout na Šumavě brewery.

I visited U Slovanské Lípi in both December and January, and during my visits they sold four different beers from Kout na Šumavě. This has changed. The strongest beer, an 18° dark beer, is no longer on the menu. Instead, U Slovanské Lípi now offers the 10° and 12° golden lager beers in both filtered and unfiltered versions. In addition to this, they also sell a 14° dark lager and cuts of dark and golden lagers.

From the current drinks menu at U Slovanské Lípi.

All the lager beers from Kout na Šumavě are excellent, and I had several visits to U Slovanské Lípi during my stay in Prague earlier this month to taste the different beers. The unfiltered versions were the best ones, but that does not make the filtered ones bad beers. Absolutely not! The Kout na Šumavě brewery makes delicious beers, and I really recommend people to try them out.

Unfiltered 12° lager

I had a plan to do tasting notes for every Kout na Šumavě beer sold at U Slovanské Lípi, but that plan fell through. I lost some notes, and I must confess that I also had some beers while not making notes at all. But not all is lost. For some reason I still have the notes for the filtered 10° golden lager beer.

Filtered 10° lager

The filtered 10° Kout na Šumavě lager beer is a golden lager with very little carbonation. It is served with a large and lasting head. It has a fruity nose, and a very balanced taste with hints of apples. The Kout na Šumavě lager is a very refreshing beer, and I would really like to find it on tap also here in Norway. It is so much better than the lagers the Norwegian breweries make!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The right place, at the wrong time

Sure, beer blogging is about finding the perfect place you want to return to while having more of the fantastic beers served there. And of course: Bragging about it afterwards. Or it could be like this: Pure unluck, bad timing and terrible planning.

I had my share in Prague earlier this month. After reading about the new Czech wheat beers at both Evan Rail's blog and Pivni Filosof's blog, I spent a Saturday searching for these beers. I started up by taking a tram to Letenske Namesti to check out Svijany's new wheat beer at Svijanský Rytíř. This is a stronghold in Prague for the Svijany brewery, and it is known for having more or less the whole Svijany lineup on tap. Bad move. Svijanský Rytíř is closed for the public on weekends, so I had to make do without the beer.

So I jumped on the tram again. This time towards Dejvice, as I knew there was a restaurant serving Černá Hora beers at the Československe armady street. I found the place, but no luck once again. Zlaty Rosen was also closed.

I then took the trip to Žižkov and a pub I have visited several times, Království.

Interior at Království.

Království also sells beers from the Černá Hora brewery, but the new wheat beer Velen was not to be found on the menu. That was a shame, but it was my shame. If I had asked the waiter if they sold the beer, he would have answered in the affirmative.

According to Pivni Filosof, the wheat beer is available in bottles at Království, but they do not advertise the fact.

That Saturday I ended up in the neighbourhood at U Sadu having a Primator weizen instead. It is a lovely wheat beer, so in all there was no problems for me.

On the following Sunday I met up with Pivni Filosof, and we took a trip to the Krušovická pivnice near the Czech national theatre. According to Evan Rail, they sold the new Dožínkové wheat beer from the Czech Heineken breweries at the hospoda. No such luck. The beer was sold out, so we ended up drinking Krušovice's dark lager instead. A nice beer, that fortunately lacks a lot of the sugary feel of Velkopopovický Kozel.

I also went back to Svijanský Rytíř a few days later. This time the restaurant was open, and there were very few people at the tables. But they would not let me sit down. According to the waitress, the place was packed and there was no room for more guests. Go figure! So once again, I had to leave the place without saying mission acccomplished.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oktoberfest in Prague

The Czech Beer Festival is about to become a tradition. In May the festival will be arranged for the third time, and the arrangers anticipate that 100,000 visitors will attend next year's festival.

In the meantime the arrangers teamed up with several Czech breweries and the Panorama Hotel to arrange an Autumn tasting at the hotel in the Pankrac neighbourhood of Prague. Depending on what website you visit, the Autumn tasting or Oktoberfest in Pankrac was arranged from 2 October to 11 October. The arrangers advertised 14 different draughted beers, Czech food and live music. As I was in Prague at the time, I had to attend the event, and twice I took the metro to Pankrac to enjoy the beers and atmosphere.

As some of you might have read in my comments on Pivni Filosof's blog, I was mostly positive about the Oktoberfest in Prague. It was a nice opportunity to try various Czech beers, and the food was also very good.

Travelling to Pankrac was easy with the metro. The Oktoberfest itself was being held in a large beer tent near the hotel. I was there on the first night, and at 6PM the tent was nearly full. I went back six days later, and there were even more people there at 5PM. Both days it looked as if people had fun, and it was easy to stay for hours both days. There must have been few foreigners in the tent on both occations, and I only heard Czech spoken around me.

The waitresses did a great job. They were a smiling lot, and I felt very welcome in the beer tent. For payment, you could use the special tolars that were made for the first Czech Beer Festival in 2008. These are worth 40 CZK, and you chose whether to pay in cash or in tolars. A beer always cost a tolar, while you had to pay two or three tolars for most meals on the menu.

On both occations there was music. On the opening night a band played a lot of classic rock and pop songs. I had too much ABBA that night, but there was also another problem: The sound technician had turned the volume much too high. It was more or less impossible to have a conversation in the tent, and I could not enjoy the music. That was a shame, as the band really had some good cover versions of various popular songs.

On my second visit the band was replaced by a duo playing accordion and cornet. The duo played local music, and the only song I recognized was the classic Beer Barrel Polka. I enjoyed this much more than the band on the first night.

There were many opportunities for beers during my visits to Oktoberfest in Pankrac. Unfortunatly, they only sold various lager beers. I would have liked to have a more varied beer menu. The first night I tried the 11° Klášter světlý ležák, the 11° Ježek světlý ležák, the 12° Lobkowicz premium světlý ležák and the Platan 11° světlý ležák. The Klášter golden lager is a personal favourite of mine, and it was the best of these four beers. Platan was OK, while Ježek was a positive surprise that I went on to try several times later during my stay in Prague. Lobkowicz was also OK, but it was beaten by the other three.

The second day I ventured into kvasnicove beers by trying out the Klášter 11° kvasnicový ležák. This was a nice beer, but I prefer the normal version. I should also have tried the Rychtář natur kvasnicový ležák, but I forgot to order it while in the tent. Perhaps that will be for my next time in the Czech Republic? I also tried the 13° Comenius speciál from the Janacek brewery. I believe I was unlucky with the beer I was served, as I felt the stronger lager beer was not very good at all. A metallic taste went to the fore, and I felt it took away all other nuances in the beer. I could not drink all of it. Perhaps it was just being badly tapped?

I enjoyed being at Oktoberfest, and my second visit was the best one. I hope to be back for the beer festival in May, and am looking forward to it if I am able to go. If not, I am back in Prague in March to try some more Czech beers.