Karoliny Světlé 4,
370 21 České Budějovice.
Tel: +420 38 - 770 5111,731 1167
Fax:+420 38 - 731 1135
Homepage: http://www.budvar.cz/, http://www.budweiser.cz
We have breakfast half an hour earlier - 08:00 - to be at the brewery on the dot when it opens at 09:00. (Excellent breakfast - very classy. What a great hotel. ) We arrive at the gates of Budvar a couple of minutes early.
The side of the brewery we approach is all shiny and new. But beyond it, in the brewery yard, a wall of crates a couple of stories high hides the brewhouse. Our guide, a young girl with a pretty decent command of English and decently pretty, whisks us off through the gates. I try to remember if I've even been around a lager brewery of this size. I think not.
First stop is the well. Not that you can see a great deal. Just a few pipes sticking out of the ground. But we don't linger. We head for the business end of the building: the brewhouse. It's Sunday, so no actual brewing is going on. The coppers gleam in the way they do and we snap away. Sorry homebrewers, I didn't enquire about their mashing schedule.
On the way to the lager cellar we pass the bottling line. No action here, either. Though I notice all the bottles are green. The guide explains that Budvar has recently gone form brown to green bottles. "Why?" She didn't know. I suggest it's to look like Pilsner Urquell, which doesn't go down too well.
On the stairs are photos of the brewery in bygone years. I'm drawn to one picturing the old open fermenters. They look much like those at Eck, just on a larger scale.
Here's what the guide answered to my questions:
- all their beer is brewed to the Reinheitgebot
- the mash tuns and lauter tuns are copper outside, stainless steel inside
- the coppers hold 550 hl
- primary fermentation takes 10 days at 7-10º C
- excess CO2 is collected and used for bottling
- yeast is harvested for repitching
- the lager cellar is at 4º C
- beer is lagered at 1-2º C
- 10º lagered 1 month, 12º 3 months, Super Strong 250 days
- the use Zatec (Saaz) hops
- roasted malt used to colour the dark lager - only 1 or 2% of roasted malt in the grist
- sometimes the beer is sold unfiltered, but it only lasts 4 days
- canning is done at Ottakringer in Vienna
Once down in the cool of the lager cellar, it's quite a walk to the tank we'll be getting a sample from. A cellarman is ready waiting for us and pours beer directly from the tank into paper cups. Despite being a bit too cold (obviously, it's at 2º C) it has loads more character than the version we drank in the pub yesterday. The hop flavours are much stronger. Though it still is far short of being a great beer.
And that's about it. We've passed by various conical fermenters as we've walked around. But what is there to see? It's not as if you can look inside them. We are back at the entrance and gift shop. I invest in a miniature mug. I have no room for full-size glasses at home. One miniature per trip is all I buy now.
There's a multi-media 3-D show, but I'm really not in the mood. The others are. I have a walk around the area surrounding the brewery in the vain hope of finding a pub open. There isn't. So I read Viz in the minibus. "Harness the power of the drunken mind. Learn while drunk." How very appropriate.
When the others have finished multi-mediaing, we head off for Trebon, our next stop. The Regent brewery tap, to be specific. Třeboň is just as pretty as Cesky Krumlov, but tourist-free. Another arcaded square with lollipop-coloured houses. There's something strangely familiar about them. Where have I seen those houses before?
Trocnovské nám. 124,
379 14 Třeboň.
Tel: 384 721 319, 384 721 320
Fax: 384 721 321
The brewery is just a couple of minutes stroll from the square. As in Cesky Krumlov, a castle occupies much of the town. Though here it's really a palace. All the defensive bits seem long gone. The tap is at the entrance to the brewery yard. I look longingly at it for a minute or two, take a few snaps and then go into the pub. It's pretty dark inside. It takes a while to be able to see it properly.
It's a comfortable enough pub in a folksy sort of way. But, as I've already said, I'm getting to quite like that. Our young waitress has piercing blue eyes and a lovely smile. It's my turn to go on a charm offensive. When she's reluctant to be photographed, I say: "Ale jsi tak hezká!" ("But you're so pretty!") That does the trick. I even get a shy grin.
Sadly, the 16º Kvasnicové is off, so I have to make do with 12º Kvasnicové, as do the others. Except for poor Andy, who's on the coffee again. It's a hazy gold colour, bitter with yeast, pepper, grass, pine and citrus aromas. Light, hoppy and very drinkable. It gets 70 out of 100. I'm starting to see a trend here. The Kvasnicové beers are a huge improvement on the standard versions. I'd love to have tried the 16º one.
We order snacks. I have an Utopenec. A sort of spam sausage in a watery onion sauce. Quite nice and not too heavy.
Why don't they sell their dark lager? That's a bit strange for a brewery tap. The darkest on offer is 13º Rezane (mixed), which is amber. I try one. Sweetish with a a bit of caramel and nuts. It's disappointing after the Kvasnicové - thin and rather dull. I score it just 45.
Andy is looking through his ancient Rough Guide to Czechslovakia (yes, it's that old). There's something about the cover that draws my eye. "That looks like the square here" I say, pointing at it. "It does a bit, doesn't it." replies Andy.
Jim mentions Robust Porter and I manage neither thump him nor start frothing at the mouth. I'm making definite progress. Just 12 months ago either the police or the vet would have been called.
A couple of beers a bite to eat and our visit is over. We walk back to the minibus a slightly different way, walking through the castle precinct. Very pretty, it is. There are a couple of people in period dress, which make it look even better. Isn't this fun? The power of my drunken mind must be working.
Back at the minibus, we compare the Rough Guide cover to the houses in the square. They do match. No doubt about it. Never underestimate the power of the drunken mind.
A brewpub in the village of Lipan is our next destination. During our journey we will receive a gift and Jim will nearly get into a fight. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Read tomorrow to learn the full story.
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