Monday, May 30, 2011

Week 16

Wow what an amazing week. We started out the week by heading out to the Munich airport to pick up our rental car. I had read about a brewpub there called Airbrau. It was supposed to be one of the best in the area. It just so happened to be right by the rental car desk. There was a long line, so while Adam and Ben waited to sort out the car stuff and I sat and had a beer. It was one of the best unfiltered pilsner's I have had while in Bavaria.



After that we hit the road headed towards Prague. We drove north and east for awhile finally stopping just before the Czech border for some lunch. We had Doner Kebab's at a roadside stand and I tried a local Helles.

We drove straight through to Prague without any issues. The hostel we booked was easy to find and we basically had an apartment for the next three days. This place was really nice, and cheap. That night we walked around town for awhile, and decided to cross the Charles Bridge and eat on the water front. This was also my first chance to try Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic. It was very fresh and had a nice flowery bitter finish. It was far better than what we get in the states.

The next day while Adam and Karl explored some of the sights of the city, Ben and I headed out to do some beer hunting. I had read that Prague has a burgeoning craft beer scene, and that is part of why I went there. Our first stop was  Pivovarsky Dum.  I tried the sampler tray and a half liter of their pilsner. The sampler tray had a variety of their beers (see picture).

The one I was most excited was the nettle beer. It had a grassy bitterness to it that was really quite good. I would like to experiment with that in an IPA when I get home. I am pretty sure all the other flavors were added post fermentation, maybe not, but they just tasted like lager with flavor added. One thing I have noticed with Bohemian pilsner's is a noticeable level of diacetyl. I think it adds to the mouthfeel, without being overbearing.

Nettle beer

Bohemian Pilsner
Next it was off to Kvasnikovy Lezak. That translates to New Town Brewery. They have two choices here, light or dark. We had light and had some food as well. The light was a well made lager without any flaws. We stayed a short time here as we had more places to check out.

Next it was on to U Fleku. It is said that this is the oldest brewpub in the world. I wouldn't know. I do know they have one beer, dark. We sat in a very traditional style beer hall and had two half liters of the dark. They also forced some sort of herbal schnapps on us claiming it was "traditional".

By now Ben and I were starting to feel a bit of a buzz. It was perfect because we had agreed to meet Adam and Karl at a place that required a nice long up hill walk. Our destination was Klasterni Pivovar. This is a brewery on the grounds of the Strahov Monastery. They are privately owned and don't really have anything to do with the abbey though. The monastery is perched high on a hill overlooking Prague. The view's from there are stunning. The brewery has a 10 hectoliter system and they make some great beer. I had a couple of their IPA's and they were wonderful. Very much like those being made in the states.

The next day we went East of Prague to Sedlec Ossuary, also known as the "bone church". It was a very strange experience. I'm glad I saw it but it I don't really know what to think of it.

The next day it was off to Pilsen for us. Our goal was the Pilsnre Urquell brewery. We arrived just in time to take the tour in English. Our guide was great. He was really passionate about his job. Mid way through he found out I was studying brewing, then he preceded to ask me a bunch of questions while giving the tour. It was really cool to be able to answer his questions and help inform some of the other people who were on the tour. They had a pretty amazing operation there. The bottling line has the ability to put out 2 million bottles a day. They still include the old brew house on the tour, which has a whole lot of copper going on. The new brewhouse is pretty amazing as well. I guess they still do the triple decoction mash, which would explain all they vessels. Eventually we ended up in the old cellars, which are mostly used for tourism. They still ferment some beer in open oak barrels, and age them in barrels as well. This is all done for the tours, but I have to say, that is one of the best beers I have ever had. It was lightly fruity, and floral, and didn't have the diacetyl I have gotten from the packaged product. I really fell this is close to what the beer used to taste like. We also found out our guide lived in Portland for about 15 years. It was a crazy coincidence. All in all it was a great experience and really neat to see where such an important beer style came from.

The old brewhouse

Part of the new brewhouse

Stainless in the new brewhouse

Open oak fermenters

After the tour we headed back to Munich for one night, then got up and headed to Vienna to meet Ben and I's friend Thomas. Tom was the Austrian exchange student in high school and I hadn't seen him since. After a bit of a debacle trying to meet up we finally ended up at an Italian restaurant by Tom's apartment. They served a lager called Villacher, which is made in Villach, the town Tom grew up in.

After some food we walked through the amusement park across the street from Tom's apartment and stopped into a place that had Budvar on tap. That turned out to be fuel for our next move. As we were walking out we passed the go-carts and just had to go for it. It was so much fun we raced again. It brought out the kid in all of us.
A mix of the light and dark.

The next day we got up early and headed south for some fly fishing. We had a really nice day fishing though the weather was a little sketchy. I am pretty sure everyone but Karl caught fish. It was a very technical river to fish. I spent a long time trying to catch a massive rainbow, but never did get it. It was my "white whale" I guess. That night we went back to the house Tom grew up in in Villach, where we bbq-ed, and watched the champions league finals. We had picked up a case of Puntigamer beer. It is a nice helles made in the Austrian city of Graz. I had also picked up a beer that was of great interest to me. It was made by the Kapsreiter Brewery. It was a Landbier, which is hard to explain. It is a basically a "country beer" usually kind of rustic in it's production, most of the time unfiltered and has a nice hop presence. This is a beer style I really want to bring back to the states, and try to replicate. It is pretty hard to find over here.

We got up the next day and headed out for some more fishing. After a nice day on the river we headed back towards Munich. It was a long drive, but one of the most beautiful car rides I have ever encountered. Austria is a place I would recommend to anyone traveling Europe and wanting breathtaking views. There are mountains everywhere, and quaint can't even begin to describe some of the villages there. A lot of it feels like  something out of a fairy tale. We got back to the Munich airport late in the evening and returned the car. We were hungry so we had some dinner at Airbrau, and enjoyed some nice fresh airport beer.
Next week I will have some down time before returning to school the following week. I am thinking of doing some exploring of some breweries a little outside of town, but we will see, I might just relax and do some reading.

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