Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Surprise, surprise

Merenda was another of the hospodas i Prague I needed to visit on my last trip to the Czech Republic. It calls itself a beer club and restaurant, and it is laid out on two floors. The cellar is an ordinary bar, while on street level you can find the restaurant.

Merenda is known for a good variety of beers. The offers on tap changes from week to week, so it is important to check out the website in advance to know which beers are available.

The day I entered Merenda was a day after my visit to Plzeň. I was a bit disappointed after finding LOTR closed, and what did I see on the blackboard outside Merenda? At the moment beers from both Purkmistr and LOTR should be available. And not only those beers. Also beers from Lochota, which was the brewpub I decided not to visit in Plzeň.

I stepped into the room. The place looked nice, and the waiter was fast to give me a menu. I was a little bit hungry, so I ordered a plate of pickled hermelin cheese. It was really good with chili seasoning. To drink I ordered a half litre of Lochota. I also asked for beers from LOTR and Purkmistr, but those were not available, if I understood the waiter correctly.

The Lochota beer looked nice in the glass with a light amber colour and nearly no carbonation. In the nose I felt yeast and peaches. The taste of the beer was a nice sweet sweetness with a more distinct punch of peaches with a hint of pear. I liked this beer very much, and I hope to try it at the brewpub in Plzeň at a later time.

I hope to have much time on my hands on my next visit to Prague. Merenda is a good place to drink beer, and I will enjoy the surprise of finding out which beers are on the menu.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Old and new acquaintances in Prague

I have so far been to Prague twice this year, and every time I go to the Czech capital I find new bars and restaurants to visit. In addition to this, there are always some bars I need to revisit.

One such restaurant is U Medvídků in the city centre. In addition to having a nice bar serving all variants of Budvar beers, U Medvídků also brew their own beers. When I was back in March I decided to have another go at the fantastic Oldgott Barique beer.

In the glass Oldgott Barique is a cloudy and copper coloured beer with nearly no carbonation and a large head. It is a delicious beer with pronounced tastes of plums, prunes and melon. I have had this beer several times, and I am very fond of it. It is good from bottles, but divine from tap!

If you ever get to Prague, U Medvídků is a must. You can drink yourself through the different Budvar beers, but do not forget to take the trip upstairs and try U Medvídků's own line of beers including the nice 1466 lager and the fantastic (and strong) X-Beer 33.

Across the Vltava river you can find U Prince Miroslava near the Laurova tram stop. When I was back at the restaurant in March, it offered 13 different draught beers. These days there are even more. According to their web page, U Prince Miroslava now has 18 different draught beers.

The big question at U Prince Miroslava is where to begin. This is one of the few places in Prague to sell Primator Stout from tap, so I always have a pint of that excellent beer. It is a great stout, and I believe it is superior to Irish stouts like Guinness and Murphy's.

On my last visit I also had another taste of Svijany's Kvasničák. This is a kvasnicove, which is a Czech speciality lager where yeast is added after the original fermentation to start a new round of fermentation in the bottle or the keg. I like Svijany Kvasničák with its tastes of yeast, bread and sweetness.

A new beer for me at U Prince Miroslava was Rychtář natur. This is another yeast beer, that I forgot to taste at last year's Oktoberfest in Prague. In the glass this was an unclear and golden lager with little aroma. There was some yeast, which also was present in the mouth with some hints of malts. The finish was bitter, and it was a nice counterpoint to Svijany Kvasničák. Where Svijany's beer can be too sweet in the finish after a few glasses, Rychtář natur is a better session beer.

Across the town, in the neighbourhood of Nusle, you can find the bar and restaurant Zlý časy. This is a place I have been eager to visit after reading a lot of positive posts at different beer blogs. Zlý časy means evil times, and this is a bar specialising in beers. At the moment they have 24 different draught beers, and that alone is a reason to visit.

I entered Zlý časy on a cold and dark January afternoon. I was in a nice mood after visiting several nice bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, I did not fancy Zlý časy at this visit. The man in the bar was grumpy, the toilet was dirty and there were nearly no other guests.

I decided to test out Chotebor's pale lager at Zlý časy. I have lost my tasting notes, but I remember it as a nice beer without being extraordinary good.

I sat at Zlý časy for half an hour thinking if I would like another beer. The waiter indirectly made me decide not to, so I left the cellar bar while making a mental note to come back later. All the beers available and the nice words I have heard about Zlý časy makes me want to give it a second chance.

Near Letenske namesti you can find Klášterni pivnice. When I visited in October, I liked the bar but felt it was way too smoky. I have been back several times this year. The first time I went in the morning to see if it was nicer there then. I was right. With nearly no guests at the hospoda, there was also nearly no cigarette smoke. I liked it even better than ever!

Klášterni pivnice is a great place for Klášter beers. They sell both the dark lager and the 11 degree pale lager. I am very fond of the pale lager, and have had several of them during my visits. In addition to this, Klášterni pivnice has become a bar with a rotating tap. Therefore you are able to taste other beers as well.

On my last visit I had a half litre of Janáček. This was a standard and inoffensive pale lager with malts, some sweetness and a bitter finish. I liked it, but Klášter is the better pale lager at Klášterni pivnice. But Janáček will still be a nice session beer.

Try to visit Klášterni pivnice if you are in Prague, but be there early. The waiters are friendly, and the prices are very low. There are also some nice beer snacks at low prices, but the problem with this place is all the cigarette smoke. In the afternoon it is more or less impossible to enjoy being there.

Another place I like is Budvarka. Budvarka is near the Dejvicka metro, and it is easy to make the restaurant a last stop before going to Prague's airport.

First of all I have been going to Budvarka for the beers. The whole line of Budvar beers are sold there, but the kitchen also makes some great meals. In January I for instance had a great portion of goulasch at Budvarka at a very nice price. For food and two half litres of beer I paid less than 150 Czech korunas.

I can not say if the Budvar beers are best at Budvarka or U Medvídků, but I feel that I go to Budvarka for Budvar and U Medvídků for their own beers. Budvar is one of my favourite breweries. Lately both Budvar golden lagers have been easy to find here in Norway, so I usually buy the dark lager or Budvar's kvasnicove, kroužkovaný ležák. Unlike other yeast beers, kroužkovaný ležák is a clear, golden lager beer, and it is very tasty.

The waiters at Budvarka do a great job. They are polite and efficient, and I enjoy the ambience there. The beers are also very good, and the
kroužkovaný ležák is a beer to be recommended!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Czech hotel beers

Visiting Prague means that there are hundreds of bars, pubs and restaurants to try out various Czech beers. But there is also another important place: Your hotel room!

During my last visits to Prague, I have had a few beers in my hotel rooms. Some have been my night caps, while I have enjoyed others during afternoon or evening work. Here is a presentation of some Czech beers I have tried in the comfort of my hotel rooms.

Bernard's lager is one of my favourite beers to drink at home in Norway. It is a very good unfiltered lager beer that is easily found in Norwegian Rema 1000 supermarkets. Bernard's Sváteční ležák is not available in Norway, and as this is a bottled conditioned yeast lager beer (kvasnicove) I had great expectations for this brew.

With a bottle swing top, the Sváteční ležák opens with a bang. According to people I met (and shared some Flensburger lagers with) in Germany some years ago, that is the omen of a good party coming up! The nose is fresh with scents of grains, grapes and malts. There is a lot of carbonation, and the beer builds a large head in the glass. It has a pale, but still golden colour, and in the mouth the malt dominates with hints of apples. The finish is unfortunately full of a metallic taste that I did not enjoy. I liked this beer, but the ordinary Bernard lager is a better beer, in my opinion.

During March there were posters everywhere in Prague promoting Lobkowicz's premium lager. It looked like Lobkowicz is trying to get this beer into the same level as Pilsner Urquell and Budvar in the Czech Republic. I had tried the beer from tap at Oktoberfest in Prague last October, but it was not a favourite beer for me then. From bottle this was a golden lager with much carbonation, and it had a large head. The nose was sweet with a fruitiness, and I also felt the same from the first sip with some hops present. The finish was balanced and fruity, but I would have preferred it a little more bitter. Lobkowicz premium is not better than Pilsner Urquell or the ordinary Budvar lager, but I will not turn it down if I am offered a glass of it.

The dark lagers from the Czech Republic can be very good beers. I have enjoyed some of them, while others have been more forgettable. In October I visited Budvarka in Prague and tried Budvar's dark lager. I liked it, so it was time to try it from a bottle. In the glass this is a black beer with very little carbonation. In the nose burnt notes dominate, while the beer tastes very good with a nice combination of coffee, sweetness and burntness. I felt this was a delicious beer, but it felt a little bit watery in the aftertaste.

I have liked the Klášter 11 degree lager I have tried at places like Klášterni pivnice and U Kláštera in Prague. Of course I had to try bottled Klášter lager as well! The Klášter 12 degree lager is a pale lager with some carbonation. In the nose I feel some sweetness and hints of flowers. The taste is very good, and malts, hops and mints dance along in their meeting with my palate. This is an excellent lager beer, and I hope to try it again also as a draught beer.

From the city of Pardubice comes Pardubický Porter, which is a strong beer in the Baltic style. The beer has some carbonation and has a large head in the glass. This is a very good beer, where coffee, chocolate and hints of prunes play together in the mouth. Lovely! I can really recommend this beer!

You may remember that I brought some beer bottles back from my visit to Purkmistr. I had enjoyed the draught beers I tried at the brewpub in Plzeň, but there was not time to try other beers from Purkmistr's range.

First out at the hotel room was the dark lager. In the glass it was black with nearly no carbonation and a medium sized head. In the nose a lot of coffee was present with some burnt notes. In the mouth I felt even more coffee with some hints of apples. The finish was bitter with some dark chocolate. I liked this beer, but I felt that it would probably be better with a less coffee presence in the mouth.

I am fond of wheat beers, so I also needed to try Purkmistr's Pisar. Poured into an ordinary Purkmistr glass, this was a cloudy beer with a large head and much caronation. The nose was full of yeast, banana and sweetness, and in the mouth the banana notes struggles with more yeast and bread. I liked this wheat beer, and I felt it better than some of the German wheat beers that are available here in Norway. But I feel Primator's wheat beer is a better Czech alternative than Purkmistr's Pisar.

I have had my share of Svijany's various lagers during my visits to the Czech Republic, but I have never tried Svijany's Svijanský Rytíř beer. Therefore I had to try out a bottle of the golden lager. In he glass there is little carbonation, and the aroma is sweet with some flowers and some yeast. In the mouth this is a fruity beer with some apples and pears dancing with hints of hops. Svijanský Rytíř is a really good lager beer! And of course there are more beers to be tested out on later visits to the Czech Republic!