It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but it has been two years since my last post. And shit, this thing still gets hits. Go figure. So yeah, a lot has gone down since my last post: loved ones have passed away, my marriage hit a rough patch, I started playing an inordinate amount of disc golf and I perhaps started to experience some pangs of mid-life crisis. Why am I sharing all this with you in a blog largely about beer and pubs in Brno? Good question. I don’t really know to be honest, I guess it just makes me feel good. Anyhow, I am back and will soon start rolling out the new pub/beer reviews as well as providing a few much needed updates to some of the existing entries. Na zdraví!
Earlier this week, I got a chance to head to Prague for some RnR. My first trip to the big city in 2014, may I add. I started off with a visit to the Habanero Grill, which I had been hoping to check out for some time. Despite some positive reviews from friends, I was pretty underwhelmed. Maybe next time I should go for a burrito? Anyhow, on to the beer… After a brief, yet pleasant interlude with Captain Perfect at the Impact Hub, where I was treated to a Chotěboř, I met up with Daddy Balls to go and test run Beer Point. Unfortunately, Beer Point was closed, so we settled on Nota Bene, its better looking, sister restaurant.
Walking into Nota Bene you are presented with a neat, tidy and modern environment on par to what you would expect from any professional establishment in a large city. The service was similarly professional and efficient, which one should always appreciate. I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere, which I found to be understated and warm and not to mention, focused on a rotating selection of well-tapped and well-cared for beers. The staple offering here would, of course, be none other than the respectable (and well loved in Prague) lagers from Únětický pivovar. For those of you from Brno, Únětický pivovar is to Prague what Poutnik is to Brno, if you know what I mean. While I have had Únětický 12° a number of times in both Prague and Brno, I had never had the 10° nor had I ever had such a well-tapped and well-cared for representation of any offering from Únětický pivovar. I wound up drinking so many of those 10° beers that it almost seemed a little obscene. Sigh, what fine, fine crisp and clean session beer…
So, in conclusion, I did not eat at Nota Bene but I have heard the food is great, if not somewhat pricey. From what I saw on the menu, nothing appeared out of the ordinary price-wise, especially considering we were in the Capital City. Given its proximity to the main train station, I will definitely be back to try some food and to hopefully supplement this entry with a report on the adjacent establishment, Beer Point.
Mikovcova 4, Prague
Monday-Friday: 11:00 – 23:00
Saturday 12:00 – 23:00
While back in the states for the past several weeks I was confounded as to what beer put forth the best price/performance ratio. Considering that the cost of beer is significantly higher in the US (a six-pack of Anchor California Lager cost nearly as much as a case of Polička) as well as the sheer volume of beer that I consume, I was forced to give the matter serious thought. I the end, I survived mainly on Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with some Fat Tires thrown in here and there and a few six-packs of California Lager.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – Piney, citrusy, crisp. The prototype for the majority of American Pale Ales on the market, this beer requires no introduction from yours truly. In the glorious State of Lousiana, a 12 pack can be had for USD 14.99 or a mere CZK 300.
Fat Tire AmberAle – New Belgium Brewing Company – Bready, doughy, pleasantly malty, easy to drink. This is another well known beer that began its rise to popularity in groovy hippy circles of the mid to late 1990s. Now, you can get it in supermarkets around the states for a good price, a 12 pack will run you around USD 12.99, again, in the good State of Louisiana.
Anchor California Lager – Anchor Brewing Company – Grainy, with a bready-hoppy understated crispness. Not exactly what I was initially looking for to wrangle with my homesick craving for a Czech lager but it grew on me and, well, I just really liked those bottles, the shape (fits in your hand so nicely) and the artwork… A six-pack went for USD 8.99 in Louisiana and USD 10.99 in Arlington, Virginia.
Where do I begin? Alright… The only previous thought I had ever really given to Brew Dog was that, 1.) It was an expensive beer from Scotland to be had in Brno at my beloved Ochutnavkova pivnice and 2.) Brew Dog is from Aberdeenshire, the same place where my good friend and fellow Dirty Frank hails. That’s it. So, while walking through Bristol town on a rainy Monday in January, I decided to skip past Brew Dog in attempt to find something more local. Bad call on my part.
Fast forward one day, the trauma of kicking down four quid for a brew cast aside, and mother fucking bam, I find myself propped up at the bar in Brew Dog. All I can say is, what a boss pub. Friendly staff. Great beer. Tasteful atmosphere, free of unnecessary distractions… And my mind blown by a meat and cheese platter designed to pair with several of the tasty beers on offer. Let me go off for a second about this platter: A creamy stilton, a mellow aged cheddar, a smokey chorizo, tasty seasonal chutney, hearty blue corn maize crackers and some fresh baked sourdough… A thing of unabashed beauty. And the beer selection? I think I had a taste of almost everything on offer and found it all to be stellar. While some of the beers were not suited to my mood that evening or are outside of what I personally favor, there is no dispute that everything on offer was utter quality in both brew quality and the standard of technology used to get the beer from the keg to your glass. One thing that I did not get a chance to try was the enticing selection of beer cocktails. I watched the very knowledgeable beer guru extraordinaire, Andy Gibson pour a couple of cocktails that looked enticing. Anyhow, next time…
As I found out later in the evening, Brew Dog, Bristol is one of 13 such pubs in the UK. I’d be curious to know if all are as well staffed and operated as this one in Bristol, because this is definitely a formula for success: excellent beer served under optimal conditions, simple yet well conceived pub-fare to accompany it and an extremely knowledgeable staff ready to engage customers to help them find the kind of beer they are in the mood to drink. If only more pubs around the world would follow suit.
A special thanks to Andy for being such a gracious host. Thanks, my man!
Front to back views of the interior.
Dropping the brewing technique knowledge on the way down to the bathrooms.
Aged for a year in rum barrels. Tasty molasses-rummy little thing. Sipped it like a glass of malt.
Here’s that meat and cheese plate.Did I mention that I really enjoyed this?
Dead Pony Club (peachy tatsing APA) and Santa Paws (yummy smokey Scottish Ale) were my favorites.
View from the beer garden out front.
Brew Dog Bristol
58 Baldwin Street,
Bristol, BS1 1QW
Opening hours: 12 pm – 12 am daily
Howdy folks! A very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you and yours in 2014.
This old bum is doing a brief detox for 2014 but don’t worry, I’ll be back soon to review some pubs in Brno and as well as Bristol, England and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Until then, stay fit, be good and do good things!
R.I. P. Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013)
You of course never knew me, Madiba, please allow me to address you affectionately as Madiba, but I was one of your most ardent admirers. I was well aware of your greatness prior to the first time I ever set foot in South Africa. You put aside your hatred for the white man (no easy feat), for as you once said, hatred only clouds the mind, and worked hard to achieve the impossible, reconciliation for your South Africa. Your country remains a torn and conflicted land but your legacy as a symbol of strength, wisdom and tolerance will live on, forever!
A real freedom fighter! Straight up box the shit out of you, son!
My memory doesn’t always serve me so well, but I’ll say two or so years ago, Pivarium popped up onto the scene. More or less at the time when beer drinkers’ tastes started to sway towards non-smoking establishments and the “I’m not afraid to spend CZK 50 (or more) for something different/good” mentality. Not that one must drop 50 koruna or more for a tasty, well-tapped half-liter…. Anyhow, it took me a while to find the time to make it over to Pivarium as I had long since written off Brno’s city center as a destination to drink beers that I enjoy. However, this has of course changed in the past year and one of the reasons is of course, Pivarium.
Pivarium is part of Zelená kočka, a chain of four restaurants/pubs in Brno that focus primarily on the offerings of the Dalešický pivovar. However, the focus of Pivarium is not food but rather a broad selection of beer from craft and micro-industrial brewers from the Czech Republic. Dalešický and Koutská dvanáctka (a fantastic and underrated lager in my opinion) seem to comprise the stable offering with another three to four rotating selections, such as Matuška or Kocour. Of the times that I have had beer at Pivarium, the beer was in tip-top shape and the service was very good. No fault to find here. In fact, there really is nothing to take issue with. Pivarium is clean, consistent and non-smoking with an interior/atmosphere, while in line with the style of Zelena kocka, is entirely agreeable. Some might take issue with the few extra koruna they have to tack on in order to pay the rent but, that is what it is.
So the verdict..? Yeah, it’s a good place. Not a place that I go to very often, but that’s just because I don’t really find myself in that part of town with any particular frequency. If I were showing some visitors around on a pub tour of Brno, though, Pivarium would likely make the cut, coming in just after we showed them the dick clock on Svobodak and just before we grabbed a Chotěboř at Výčep Na stojáka.
Entrance. Looks nice, right?
Taps and main seating area.
Additional seating area.
Zelená kočka Pivárium
Ok, so this place has moved. Word is that they had some problems with the landlord and were forced out after having made a substantial improvement to a space that was in rough shape prior.
You can now find them in the passage way at the Hotel Slovan. Pretty much the same place just a 100 meters down the street from the previous location. Also, same ol’ good Chotěboř and this time the establishment has gone entirely non-smoking. My issue with U Jeníka is purely aesthetic, I prefer a more convivial environment when seeking out a few beers, the new location is kind of somber in atmosphere and tucked away into a strange passageway (which in itself is quite interesting) between Lidicka and Kounicova Streets. As a result, I tend to not go here much but that’s just me. If you’re looking for a quality Chotěboř in all its variants (10 degree, 11 degree, 12 degree filter/non-filter) this is the place to go.
Alright, let me get my love letter to Chotěboř out of the way. For just over three years now, Chotěboř 12 degree lager (typically in bottled form) has been one of my favorite beers, and at times, my absolute favorite. I have laid to waste countless cases of this stuff over the past several years. I suppose it was about two years ago that it started popping up on tap in a few places around Brno. The first place I ever had it on tap was at U Proutníka, but I always felt a disconnect from the crisp and tasty lager I knew so well in bottled form and the half-liter I held in my hand outside of Proutník while I watched bunnies, hipsters and the rest of the city stroll by on Veveří. Not that it was bad, but rather I was expecting a more elevated experience with this Vysočinian lager I had come to love. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to try it under the astute care of the tapmasters at Boženka that the taste of Chotěboř finally paired with that of the glorious beverage I knew so well in bottled form. And while we are on the subject of bottles, one thing I have always loved about Chotěboř is that the 12 degree bottles come in mixed green and brown bottles. Love that shit…
And by the way, tasty lager is not the only thing to come from the town of Chotěboř, can you say, yum?
So now, on to U Jeníka… I think these guys opened up in March 2013, I remember riding by on the 1 tram and getting all excited as I peeped the Chotěboř sign. Mental note taken, I would soon be paying a visit. Cousin Rusty had taken notice as well and a few days later, we paid our first visit to U Jeníka.
I have since been many times and the beer, whether it’s 12 degree lager or the tasty more session-oriented 11 degree unfiltered lager, is fantastic. No doubts about that. My only knock on U Jeníka, which I’ll get out of the way now, is that the back room is smoking. And while I respectfully appreciate that in order to run a business you have to appeal to a broad set of clientele, I’m the kind of heavy-drinking/dýško dropping/sometimes causal-smoking dude who ain’t going to roll up to your joint as frequently as I otherwise might because I hate smoke in pubs. Go fucking smoke outside! But alas, you can’t base your business model on cats like me. People like to smoke and drink beer, I get it.
Other than that, there is really nothing else to take issue with at U Jeníka. The interior is new and clean. It does feel a little minimal and cold but there’s certainly nothing to dislike about it. The two-top right at the window is a nice spot to sit. The taps are situated front and center, all the glasses and equipment is right there for you to see (inspect). I appreciate this approach; nothing to hide, just good beer…
I’ve sampled the finger foods that typically accompany beer in the Czech Republic, pickled (Czechie) Camembert, cheese balls and smoked pork, and I found it all to be tasty stuff with an aspiration at exceeding the quality of what you might find at one of the other bazillion pivníci across the Czech lands. On their Facebook page you can see that they offer roasted pork knuckle, however I am not sure how often they venture beyond the basic offering of finger foods.
So what does my drunkard ass have to conclude about U Jeníka? A fine place to enjoy one of the superior beers to arise from the attack of the Czech micro-industrials. They serve a great Chotěboř, which is enough to get me in the door. Although the smoke smell coming from the backroom usually only compels me to stay for one/two beers max… If you smoke, well shit, saddle in and get to work! If you have never really explored Chotěboř or are just looking for a good place to find a proper one, I recommend stopping by for a visit.
I’ll be back for better photos.
Street view from two-top windowside.
Shitty photo of taps.
Non-smoking section with view to back areas (smoking).
Lidická 5a, Brno 602 00
Ah yes, train travel, I love train travel. When travelling solo to Prague for business and or pleasure, it’s the only way to go. A big part of the allure of train travel for me is the dining car. I suppose this is partly because I somehow perceive riding in the dining car as indulgent or beyond the average man’s means. Not true. Good ol’ JLV enables all of us to sip a coffee, slug down a couple of draft Pilsners or even tuck into a surprisingly decent svíčková, all on the cheap. Shit, they even take stravenky. What has fascinated me for the past two years or so, is the system of dual pricing that JLV implements. You can enjoy significantly cheaper (in some cases a 65% discount) prices, if you dine with JLV during the “Happy Hours” period, essentially the times that the train is travelling through the Czech Republic on routes such as Brno/Prague. For example, under the Happy Hours promotion you an enjoy a draft Pilsner 0.33 for CZK 24 as opposed to CZK 96, the price you would pay if you ordered the beer while in Austria or Germany. Of the many times I have enjoyed a draft Pilsner while rolling through the Czech countryside, they have been very drinkable, so don’t hesitate to knock one back should you find yourself on an Czech Railways operated EC, IC or Ex train.
Click on image to see the dining car beer in action.
More information (Czech only) on Czech Railway connections that run dining cars: http://www.jidelnivozy.cz/jidelni-vozy-ec-ic-r-98ecbKz.html
Franchise your own dining car (I bet it is a sweet way to launder money): http://www.jlv.cz/zadost-o-fransizu/
I mentioned them briefly in my post on the Maboneng Precinct and The Living Room last week. Well, I made another trip to Maboneng this past Sunday and stopped by for a beer and a chat with these well-spoken and friendly South African gentlemen. On that particular day they were offering a golden ale, a coffee infused amber ale and a saison. All of which tasted quite nice. They also mentioned that they are working on a honey and rooibos infused ale. Man, that sounds awesome…
The good folks from Smack Republic Brewing Company.