Thursday, October 20, 2022

Oktober Reise, Day 8: The last day

Yesterday: Prague Brewpubs 

Sunday, October 9. I know I said it was a ten-day trip, and it was if you count the days spent in the air.

There was some shopping to get out of the way before the last couple brewery visits, so we had a breakfast beer to set the tone. We picked up this bottle at U Medvídků yesterday. Their X-Beer 33 claims to be one of the strongest beers in the world, and that may well have been true some years ago, but at 12.5% abv it doesn't stand out quite so much these days. It's a good beer though, richly malty and sweet but not too sweet. The neck label says "Never drink it alone!"

We checked out of the apartment and walked to the nearby Karlova shopping street. We wandered around there for a while, and I got a trdelnik for breakfast at Sweet Dreams. It's like a churro, only much bigger and fluffier. (Wikipedia calls it "a kind of spit cake", which sounds worse than it is.)

Paris and I sat on the steps of the Katedrála sv. Klimenta and ate our trdelnik, and I noticed this souvenir shop across the street at Karlova 14. All those things on display are matryoshka dolls, painted in the colors of sports teams.

The guy said the artist had made 75 sets, and I bought the next-to-last one, so now these matryosharks are proudly displayed in our Hockey Room.

By now, we'd killed enough time so that the day's first brewery would be open, so we took a cab up to Loď Pivovar. Opened in 2017, this is a brewery and restaurant on a boat in the Vltava River.

They brew good beer here. The Legie 10° is an excellent Pilsner, smooth and creamy and bready and nicely bitter. The Republika 12° is a slightly heaver version that's good, but doesn't quite have the Legie's balance. The Remorkér 12° is an unusual fresh-hop Pilsner, with lots of green hop flavor and nice bitterness. And the Bohemia 12° is a single-hop Pilsner, brewed only with Saaz hops.

They also pour a guest beer. Today's is from the gypsy brewer Crazy Clown Beer, and it's a wild one. Oh My F*** Cthulhu is billed as a "Gin & Gose", and it's not something I would normally be interested in. But it was actually pretty tasty, with lots of salt balanced by the malt and a bit of coriander and lemon.

A bit of lunch at Loď set us up for the ten-minute walk to Pivovarská Nalévárna v Soukenické. We thought it was a brewery, but it's really a taproom for Pivovar Hostomice pod Brdy. We arrived fifteen minutes before they opened at 2:00.

The beers were quite good here. Fabián 10° is a bready, sulfury Czech Pilsner. Fabián 12° is a slightly heavier version of the same. Fabián 14° is a very tasty — if a little light — Bock, and their excellent Märzen is Fabián 15° Březnový. Brewed for St Vaclav's Day, it's smooth and sweet, with hints of toast and honey.

Mario and Ana were flying back home to Düsseldorf this evening, so we all took a car out to the airport and said our goodbyes. Paris and I got a hotel room to save some time in the morning. We had some dinner and went to bed.

Our alarm Monday morning went off at 3:30am — that's 8:30pm Sunday night in Minnesota. We made our way to the gate, got on the 6:05am flight, changed planes in Amsterdam, and landed at MSP around 1:30pm, only about 17 hours after waking up.

And I didn't have another beer until Friday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Oktober Reise, Day 7: Prague Brewpubs

Yesterday: Prague and the Sharks

Saturday, October 8. Time to see Prague for real.

Cabs can get you into the general area where you want to be, but a whole lot of this town is pěší zóna, pedestrian zones, so there's a lot of walking involved too.

There are at least five breweries very near the apartment, so we walked down to the far end of the chain and worked our way back.

One of the buildings along the way had some interesting statues overlooking the street.

The "far end of the chain" happened to be the famous U Fleků. Everyone who enjoys beer wants to visit this place, and for good reason. The beers are magnificent, the food is delicious, the buildings and gardens are spectacular, and they've been at it since 1499.

There are only two beers here, but they're both desert island beers. I had never had them before, and I can't wait to have them again. The first was a pilsner, the Flekovský světlý ležák 13°. Grainy, bready, yeasty, floral, complex. The very definition of a meal-in-a-glass. The other is their "standard" dark beer, the Flekovský tmavý ležák 13°. This is the one they'll bring you if you just ask for "a beer". Rich, toasty, malty, chocolatey, with a hint of licorice and a mild floral hop character. Both beers go nicely with their goulash and garlic soup.

I would have been perfectly content to stay at U Fleků and enjoy these beers all day long, but there were plenty more breweries to explore.

Not far from U Fleků is Pivovar Národní brewers of Czech Lion beer. It's a relatively small place, founded in 2015. They also serve food, but I was still full of goulash.

First up was the filtered version of their pilsner, Czech Lion 11° Filtrovaný Ležák. Light and smooth, grainy and floral, with some diacetyl. Not bad.

We followed that with the unfiltered version of the same beer, Czech Lion 11° Nefiltrovany Lezák. A little more floral and a little less bitter than the Filtrovaný.

Their Czech Lion 13° Nefiltrovany Polotmavý is more like a Vienna-style lager, richly toasty and nicely sweet. This was the best of the bunch.

Finally, their speciál na čepu beer was called Summer Ale 11, an American-style pale ale. It was well past its prime.

Up the street and around the corner is Pivovar U Medvídků. It's a brewery, restaurant, hotel, and yes, a spa, where you really can take a beer bath.

I had the Blondgott pilsner, and it was excellent. I would have liked to try more of their beers, but the waiter didn't seem too interested in bringing us more than one, so that was that.

Three minutes' walk got us to the final brewery of the day, Pivovar U Tří Růzí. Real nice comfortable place with real good beer and food.

I started with their excellent Weizenbier, as good as any I've had in Germany, followed by their dark lager, Tmavý Speciál which was also fantastic.

A bit of lunch laid down the foundation for a couple more Tří Růzí beers. The Výroĉní 10° pilsner was another great beer, mild but still complex and interesting. And the Videňské červené was a fine Vienna-style lager.

The original plan was to go to the second Sharks game, but Paris was exhausted, and Mario wasn't keen, and to be honest, I was kind of feeling it too. So instead we made our way past the Karlův most to a good dinner at Kozlovna Apropos.

Back at the apartment, there were still beers waiting for us, and we even found a stream of the game.

So we watched the game — which the Sharks lost — and had a couple nightcap beers, the first being Gambrinus Original 10 from Plzeňský Prazdroj. Clean, mild, and actually kinda bland compared to the day's earlier beers.

Next up, a can of Svijany Prémiový ležák "450". Another ordinary lager, more grainy and almost smoky.

Finally a couple from Pivovar Krušovice: Ležák 12 and Královský Ležák 12. Both were very much like the last two, clean and mild and ordinary.

Tomorrow: The last day

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Oktober Reise, Day 6: Prague and the Sharks

Yesterday: The Train to Prague

Friday, October 7. After a lazy (but deservedly so) day in Prague yesterday, it's time to see the sights and drink the beer. The plan is to go across the river and up the hill to Klášterní Pivovar Strahov in the old monastery. But Paris needed to get new less-painful shoes first, so Mario and Ana went ahead while we went shopping. As it happened, there was a Foot Locker not too far away from the apartment, and the employees spoke pretty good English, and Paris got what she needed.

A fifteen-minute cab ride got us from Staré Mêsto to the imposing Strahovský klášter, home of Klášterní Pivovar Strahov and their Sv. Norbert beer since 2000.

All four beers I had were excellent: Amber Lager, Pale Ale, Antidepressant Dark Lager, and Antidepressant Brown Ale.

There were quite a few more beers on the menu, but I got filled up on their excellent pivovarský guláš.

We made our way down the hill on foot to work off that rich meal and make room for lunch (beers), and we were treated to spectacular views of this old city.

We found U sedmi Švábů along the way and slipped inside for a quick beer. Mine was a Beránek Weizenbier Nefiltrovaný, which was served way too cold, but it made a good base for the topinka.

We passed the Nový královský palác along the way. No longer a home to royalty, this week it was being used for an informal meeting of EU heads of state to discuss the war in Ukraine. (This explains why the whole area was swarming with cops.)

We continued down the hill all the way to the Karlův most, stopping for a Staropramen at the Rasiam Restaurant under the bridge's west end. At the bridge's east end, we could turn right and walk a short distance to the apartment, or we could walk a bit further to the Prague Beer Museum. Guess which one we picked.

The Prague Beer Museum isn't a museum at all, but a bar with about 30 beers on tap. They have three other locations in Prague besides this very convenient one.

The Bernard 12° Tmavý Ležák was a pretty good dark lager. The Náchod Primátor Weizenbier 12° was an excellent Hefeweizen. The Únětický 12° was a good Pilsner, and the "house beer", Real Deal Ale 13°, was a very tasty IPA brewed by Permon.

There's time for one more brewery and (no surprise) it's not far away. You'd never find Pivovar Staré Město without knowing where it was. It's below ground level on a tiny side alley between Betlémská and Náprstkova streets.

The Lager was excellent, the Single Hop Lager was OK, and the Amber Ale was oxidized beyond recognition.

And now, the point of the entire trip.

The San Jose Sharks were playing the first of two games against the Nashville Predators in the 2022 NHL Global Series. The Sharks are our team; Paris and I met at the games way back in their first season at the Cow Palace in 1991. We've been to hundreds of their games, including the overtime win in the 2016 Cup Final Game 3. Thanks to Paris, I got to play in the 2008 Shark for a Day fantasy camp. I even got a mention in the May 16, 1994 Sports Illustrated as "the loudest person in the loudest section" of the building.

Here's our Hockey Room at home — minus all the sweaters and signs that we hung up — where we watch the games now.

Paris and I took a cab from Pivovar Staré Město out to the O2 Arena, arriving in plenty of time for the skatearound. As you can see, our seats were way the hell up in the corner, just where we like to sit.

I got one picture of the player introductions too...then my phone battery died. Too many beer pictures, I guess.

The fans were about evenly split between Sharks and Predators, with a whole lot of Americans having made the trip. And the crowd was fun and into the game, but they were obviously soccer fans, singing songs and doing the wave during play.

As for the game itself, Nashville scored early, then hometown boy Tomáš Hertl tied it up mid-first. After that, it was all Nashville, and the Sharks lost 4-1.

We took a remarkably expensive cab back to the apartment and called it a night.