Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Norwegians

Naboen is one of the best places in Bergen to find interesting beers. At the moment Naboen can offer several Norwegian craft beers from tap, and as far as I know this is the only place in Bergen to offer ales on hand pumps.

Last year Naboen started offering draught beers from Ægir brewery, and just before Christmas the new Kinn brewery was also present at the combined restaurant and pub. Naboen is really supporting the Kinn beers, and the last months they have always made two beers from Kinn available on the hand pumps.

I had a visit to Naboen last month. I was a little bit hungry, so I started out with a hamburger. The beef was perfectly cooked. Mince meat was not used, and the chips had a great, crispy consistency. The bun was also nice, so in all it was a good and filling fast food dinner with a tasty salsa on the side.

To drink I tried Ægir's special Easter beer, Påskesol. Påskesol (which means Easter sun in English) was a golden lager with very little carbonation. It was a nice lager with a solid presence of orange in both the nose and the mouth. The finish was tasty with a hint of bitterness. This was a great lager and one of the best I have ever had in Norway. Delicious! The price at Naboen was 94 NOK for a half litre, which is slightly more than 10 GBP.

I also had to try one of the Kinn beers. I chose the stout, which is called Svart hav (black sea in English). The beer lived up to its name, and Svart hav was a really black stout. In the glass it had no carbonation and was served with a little head. I felt some coffee aromas before tasting the beer. In the mouth cold coffee struggled with tastes of pears before it had a bitter finish. This was a very nice stout, and it is nice knowing that a little brewery in the little Norwegian town Florø makes this beer. 69 NOK was the price for a pint, which is around 7.50 GBP. At the moment, Naboen also sells Kinn's brown ale, Sjelefred, which is translated to English as "peace of mind".

I am a frequent visitor to Naboen when I am in Bergen, and I will recommend visitors to Bergen to take the trip to the restaurant. The food is nice, and the beers are great. In addition to Kinn and Ægir, you will always find beers from Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet on tap.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Anniversary: Beer saga #100

This is the 100th post here at Beer Sagas, and I will do a presentation of some Norwegian pale lagers. Some are interesting, some are boring and some are new in the shops this year. But as far as I know, they are not available outside Norway.

I will start with a beer that has been on the market for more than 20 years. If you buy it is shops, Hansa fatøl is only available in cans these days. Fatøl means draught beer, and it is quite an inconsistency calling a canned beer fatøl. In the glass this is a fizzy beer with a medium sized head which dissolves quickly. There are some flowers and sweetness in the nose. In the mouth I feel some malts and hints of sweetness. It has a half bitter finish with a watery feeling. It is a nice session beer, but it will fall through in competition with for instance Czech golden lagers.

Lade Gaards Brygghus Pilsner looks wonderful in the shops. It is a nice looking bottle with a beautiful oldschool label with an interesting writeup about Norwegian medieval history in general and Lade in particular.The beer is brewed by Grans brewery of Sandefjord. Grans is infamous in Norway for its cheap lagers, and some of them are absolutely not to be recommended.

Lade Gaards Brygghus Pilsner is brewed by barley and Czech saaz hops. The water used is from the famous Norwegian well Farris. I must say that this made me very interested in the beer. The nose is flowery, but the taste was not very good. There is a nasty metallic taste to the fore. Yuk! There are also some malts and hints of hops before a watery feeling takes over.

This is a boring lager that I will not spend money on in the future.

Ringnes is Norway's largest brewery. It has several beers on the market, and Skjærgårdspils is a seasonal offering meant for Summer. The name can freely be translated to English as "coastal pils". In the glass this is a pale lager with some carbonation. There is very little aroma, and the same goes for the taste: Some malts, a hint of bitterness and that is all. Another boring lager, but it will probably be a good session beer for a long night of eating fresh prawns and crabs.

Ringnes Classic is based on an old recipe. It is a golden lager with a solid and large head. There is some carbonation, and in the mouth I feel yeast and some malt. In the mouth, this lager beer has a feeling of bread and sweetness dancing with hops. This is a very good lager beer that is among the better offers from Ringnes.

With this being post number 100, it is time to look forward. What is to expect? Well, there will be updates now and then, but I can not promise how regularly. I also have a large backlog of tasting notes right now, and I hope to get up to date soon. I am not through with posting from my visit to the Czech Republic last month, and there are also some Norwegian pubs I have visited during the last few weeks. Therefore you can expect a combination of posts with focus on Czech and Norwegian beers in the next month.

I enjoy writing this blog, and I would like to thank all of you readers for taking the time to read it. Cheers, everybody!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The great Pivovarský Klub

One of the places in Prague that beer bloggers praise, is Pivovarský Klub. I haven't had time to take a look at the beer club until this year. Pivovarský Klub is the sister pub of Pivarský Dům in the city centre. It is placed in Křižiková street, not far from the Florenc metro and bus terminal.

Pivovarský Klub is dedicated to beers, and it shows. On the shelves there are dozens of beer bottles and branded glasses, and old beer placards and signs are all over the place. You can also find beer kettles in the restaurant, which in all makes for a nice environment.

There are plenty of beers and beer styles to be found at Pivovarský Klub. Name a Czech brewery that bottles its beers, and they most certainly sell it at Pivovarský Klub together with loads of foreign beers. You can buy beers to enjoy at the restaurant or to take away.

But there are even more beers than this. They also sell draught beers, and at any time there are six different taps in Pivovarský Klub. Usually they sell Czech beers not found elsewhere in Prague, so visiting Pivovarský Klub will give the visitors a possiblity to drink something new. Now and then also foreign beers are available. On my last visit, they for instance sold the Schlenkerla rauchbier from tap.

The taps are decorated by numbers in brass. Each number is referenced over the bar with names of the beers being tapped at the moment. Usually you should find Pivovarský Klub's own special lager, Štěpán Světlý Ležák, on one of the taps. This beer is made especially for this restaurant and Pivarský Dům.

The food I have tasted at Pivovarský Klub has been very good, but I have been mostly interested in the beers on my visits. The first time around I had the excellent Štěpán lager. I never did any tasting notes while drinking it, because I knew I was coming back. That was a shame, as they never had the beer on my later visits. I remember Štěpán to be a tasty lager beer that I would love to find here in Norway as well.

On my last visit I tried the Regent Prezident. This is an unfiltered 14° lager which in the glass had a yellow and unclear look. There was a lot of yeast in the nose, but in the mouth the yeast was joined by sweetness and some melon. The finish was somewhat bitter, but still pleasant. A really good beer!

Pivovarský Klub is one of the places in Prague I will visit every time I am in the Czech capital. The great selection in beers (both on tap and in bottles) and a great smoke free atmosphere makes this place a must.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Disappointments in Plzeň

My daytrip to Plzeň continued after my visits to the Pilsner Urquell brewery and the Purkmistr brewpub. There were still two other brewpubs to visit in addition to the brewery museum and the Na Parkánu restaurant.

Before travelling to Plzeň, I had used Pivní Filosof's travelogue as my beer guide to the city. After taking the trolley bus back to the city centre from the suburb of Černice, it was already late afternoon. I looked at the watch and decided that I would skip one of the brewpubs. After looking at the maps, it looked as if it would take more time visiting U Rytíře Lochoty than the other places, as both Pivovar Groll and Na Parkánu were in walking distance.

Plzeň has several beautiful buildings. The Cathedral of St. Bartholomew has the highest spire in the Czech Republic, and the gothic cathedral is a beautiful sight. The same is to be said about the synagogue and town hall.

Even though the architecture was interesting, I was ready for a visit to the beer museum. Not far from the cathedral, I found it. But what a disappointment! The museum was closed.

OK, no problem, I thought. Let's try out the Na Parkánu restaurant next door instead. This is the only place in the world were you can find a kvasnicové version of Pilsner Urquell. During my visits to the Czech Republic, I have tried several kvasnicové beers, and I like them a lot. No such luck this time. Na Parkánu was closed.

All right, then I was off to Pivovar Groll instead. I located the building next to a large parking lot. To get there, I had to cross a road with very much traffic. Finally I was inside the brewery building, but again there was a problem. The little coffee bar on the ground floor was open, but that was all. The Pivovar Groll brewpub was also closed, and there would be no possibilities trying the LOTR beers on site this time around.

I was disappointed. Two of the city's sights for beer tourists had been closed, and I would have to make the trip back to Plzeň another time if I ever was to try Pilsner Urquell kvasnicové. But on the positive side, I had seen the Pilsner Urquell brewery and had a great time at Purkmistr. Both were really good experiences, so on the way back to the railway station I was not disappointed anymore. Instead I had an excuse making my next visit to Plzeň a trip with a layover. For instance at the Purkmistr hotel...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Among pilsner camels

After visiting Pilsner Urquell, my next adventure in Plzeň led me to the suburb of Černice. To get there, I needed to take trolley bus number 13. The nearest bus stop was called Sumavska, so I had a short walk there along the U Prazdroje street.

U Prazdroje street is named after the Pilsner Urquell brewery's Czech name, Plzeňský Prazdroj, and it means literally "at the source". I liked walking with the brewery site on my left, so I decided to walk to the next bus stop on the street, Gambrinus - named after the other well known beer brand from Plzeň. That was a good choice, as there were many beer related posters to take a look at near the road. In addition to this, it was interesting looking at the modern brewery buildings from the outside.

After a short wait, trolley bus 13 came. I entered the bus, and had in a way a ten minute sightseeing through the city centre before the bus led us southwards to Černice in another 10 minutes. On the bus stop Gen. Lišky it was time to leave the bus, and I was suddenly on the countryside. I walked through a residential area with many new houses before my goal was in front of me: Purkmistr brewery and hotel.

I entered the on-site restaurant, sat down and ordered a half litre of their pale lager, ležák. As I waited for the beer, I looked around in the room. I liked it. On the walls there were bricks, the bar was nicely decorated and the brewing equipment was a nice touch.

The waitress brought my beer, and I was very excited. The beer was a little bit cloudy, but otherwise golden with a large head. There was no carbonation at all, and it the nose I felt nice yeast notes. The beer was very good with a fruity touch. There were some notes of citrus, and they danced with hints of yeast until a nice, somewhat bitter finish. A lovely beer, and it was well worth the bus ride tasting it.

I was hungry, so I ordered a portion of beer goulasch. It was very nice with a great sauce, and the beef was nice and tender. I liked it a lot, and it was so filling that I was not able to eat it all.

It was time for another beer, and this time I tried one of the five other Purkmistr beers on tap, the polotmave or half dark lager. Also this beer was served with no carbonation and a small head. It was a good beer with aromas of yeast and burntness. In the mouth the burnt notes took lead with hints of sweetness. I felt some chocolate before a bitter aftertaste took the lead. This was a nice beer, but in afterthought I should have taken another golden lager. That was a much better beer.

It was time to move on, as I had more plans during my visit to Plzeň. On the way out I decided to take a look at the hotel reception, as Purkmistr's website promises a lot of merchandise for sale.

Bingo! They had beer glasses, jams, spreads, sausages and different Purkmistr beers for sale. I bought a handful of beer bottles and a branded glass to go. My plan was to enjoy a bottle of ležák on the train back to Prague.

I left Purkmistr with a smile promising myself that I would be back at this nice restaurant with the great beers. But first I had to find the bus stop again. Another brewpub was waiting for me in the city centre of Plzeň.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pilsner pilgrimage

For a very long time I have wanted to take the trip to Plzeň, the fourth largest city of the Czech Republic. Located in the western part of Bohemia, Plzeň (also known as Pilsen) is famous for the pilsener beer style, first brewed by the Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery in 1842. The Pilsner Urquell lager beer hails from this brewery, and all other pilsener beers are made in the same style as this beer from Plzeň.

On the last Sunday in February I was standing on the platform of Prague's main railway station, Hlavní nádraží, to catch the train to Železná Ruda. Well, I was not going all the way to the city near the German border, but this is one of the train routes serving people travelling to Plzeň.

A two hour train ride was in front of me, and as we travelled out of Prague the fields had more signs of Winter than the Czech capital where there were only signs of Spring.
On the train I felt a little bit thirsty, and what else to drink than some Pilsner Urquell? It was refreshing drinking the beer, while thinking that I would try it on the brewery site in a few hours.

The train stopped at several stations. One of them was Beroun, where you can find the Berounský Medvěd brewery and brewpub. The brewery's beers have a good reputation. I remembered from Pivní Filosof's blog post about Berounský Medvěd that the brewery was very near the railway station, and I made a mental note to visit Beroun on a later trip to the Czech Republic.

We got closer and closer to Plzeň, and suddenly we were in the suburbs to the city. There was some industry, and as we were coming into Plzeň's railway station I could see something I knew: The Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery's tower.

I left the train, and starting walking through the railway station. On the ground floor there is a tourist information. I went into it to buy a day ticket on Plzeň's buses and trams. Unfortunately, they only sold one way tickets for public transport there, so I was asked to buy a day ticket at a ticket machine near a tram or bus stop. I found one later, and it cost only 40 CZK.

From the railway station it was only a short walk to the brewery. First I had to go through an underground tunnel, later I found myself on a pedestrian bridge. From the bridge you have a great view of the brewery and its famous gate. The gate is, of course, found on the label of Pilsner Urquell.

I entered the brewery area and walked around it inside the gate. The brewery souvenir shop was unfortunately closed, so I ended up without some of the Pilsner Urquell merchandise I was planning to buy. Instead I had a look at the brewery buildings and surroundings.

Pilsner Urquell had a great success in the 19th Century, and I have read several books that tell that the brewery daily sent beer to Vienna. A Pilsner Urquell railway wagon was on the brewery site - probably to commemorate this.

Then it was time for on-site beer drinking. I went into the brewery restaurant, Na Spilce.

The cellar was cavernous, and there were many people there. The Winter Olympics were still going on in Vancouver, and highlights were being shown on screens all over the restaurant.

It was time for a beer, and naturally I ordered a half litre of Pilsner Urquell. A waitress brought it to me very quickly. It was great! I am a big fan of Pilsner Urquell, and it was a treat to drink it at the brewery. I do not think it has tasted better ever, but of course that view is coloured by the time and place. In the glass it was a golden lager with some carbonation and a medium sized head. The aromas were of grains and flowers. In the mouth there was this fresh and delicious taste with a hint of sweetness combined with lovely maltiness and that great and just correct bitter finish with lots of Saaz hops. Wonderful.

I also had some food. The waitress was not good at English, but I manages to get a Czech speciality that is great with beer: Fried cheese with tartar sauce. I also had some fried potatoes on the side. That was a nice dish to the beer, and I liked having it.

The restaurant also sells other beers than Pilsner Urquell. If you like the darker Master beers, they are available together with the black Kozel beer and the ever present Gambrinus light lager. I avoided all of them, and had another glass of Pilsner Urquell.

Then it was time to leave the brewery. I had more plans for my visit to Plzeň. There were sights to be seen, and there were also new beers to be tasted.