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(Don't go to) České Budějovicé (on Sundays)

Well, being based in Prague, I’m starting to make use of the fairly cheap and reliable train system (compared to Croatia, that’s definitely EVERY train system in the EU, by far), so I randomly decided late on Saturday (so late it was well Sunday already), to go to České Budějovice the next day. Because why not. Not too keen on traveling alone, I’d sent a message to a friend if he’d like to go and when we should meet - if not, I’d just do some more beer exploration in Prague. 8:30 in the morning, no reply, I just turn around and continue sleeping. Two hours later, I wake up again, oh look, his reply that he will and that’s he’s going there (AAARGH PANIC). Long story short, we manage to meet up on a slightly later train. Yay.

Being an impromptu journey, I kinda didn’t check our Places list that well, and by check I mean, check and update. As we were on our way, and using the train’s lovely WiFi, it suddenly started dawning on me that, well… ya. Most interesting places don’t work on Sundays there. Not even Saturdays. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Oh well, I kinda deserved that for uncharacteristically not making any proper plans. But no Klub Malých Pivovarů (either of them), no Krajinská 27, no beer stores open, not even a tour of the Budvar brewery as we were late… aaaargh what now? Well, be a tourist a make do with what we have.

Exiting the train station and heading towards the center we couldn’t help but notice how dead the town was. Nothing open, very few people on the streets, becoming vaguely more lively as we got near the center. After Prague, actually, very much relaxing. A lovely lady from the town who traveled with us recommended Másne Kramy as a traditional place for traditional food that tourists flock to (hmm), but also told us about Hladový Vokno, a popular baguette / burger place with big, cheap portions. Thankfully, its central location was open, with a line even, so we indulged. Okay, don’t expect wonders, but hits the spot.

The old town center is quite lovely really, the vaulted passages, the painted or ornamented buildings hosting random modern services. And the first place, on Restaurace Solnice, Piaristické náměstí, a nice little square combining renovated old buildings with modern street art, definitely doesn’t differ from that pattern. Located in an old Gothic-style salt warehouse/arsenal from 1531, it was renovated fairly recently and it shows - the old wooden beams combine with gleaming copper and a pretty tasteful interior in general, but out of its 2/3? floors, only the fairly full ground floor was open (the second closing soon after we’d arrived), so we opted for the little patio - pretty nice when the wind didn’t blow. Technically it IS and it isn’t a brewpub - the brewery is actually some 50m away in a different building, but the two are allegedly connected by a beer pipeline. They had 5 beers on tap - 10°, 11° and 12° pale lagers, a 11° polotmavé and a Weizen, for pretty good prices, along with some of the beers on tap, including their last beer - the 13° pale special.

The service was a bit disorganized, but at least the head bartender tried to maintain some semblance of order. People on the patio have to order inside, and it meant waiting there for several minutes after the guy was swamped by orders for four tables. Which didn’t stop one of the waiters from just ignoring me and taking an order from some old local behind me who had just come in and then ignoring the bartender behind the taps who pointed out the fact that I was waiting, making me wait for another of his colleagues to take the order. Lovely. But that’s less important - beers are more important.

The 10 degrees světlý ležák was almost a little gem, completely clean, light, but with mild herbal and flowery touches. This being the town of Budvar, I hadn’t expected any complexity, but that one proved itself to be a pleasant session lager, for what it was, while the pretty pale 11° polotmavé* was even more subtle, with just a mild mild malty and tangerine touch keeping things interesting. It was, however, my friend’s favorite among the bunch. The 11° pale was, however, a disappointment. Immensely boring, with a touch of sulfur in the aroma as well, and maybe some herbal touches in the taste. Again, this is the town where Budvar is king, but still… My friend was keen on us doing an impromptu chugging competition, and with the 11 pale being so dull, I figured it would be best if I get rid of it fast. 4-5 seconds later, my friend gave up on trying to compete. :smiley:

The 12° and the Pšeničné/Weizen were the most flavorful beers of the bunch. The 12° was intensely, immensely hopped, herbal, citric noble hoppiness permeating it entirely, but, sadly, the bitterness and, perhaps the water profile, made it way too astringent to enjoy fully. Aaah, so close to greatness! With a few tweaks, maybe playing with the water profile a little, and it’ll be a gem! The Weizen came with a lemon plopped in it before anyone could protest. Maybe a Czech speaker would be able to dissuade them from doing that, and neither of us was one. The lemon completely ate up the aroma, and most of the taste, but I have to say - it helped make it an excellent summer beer, with nice vanilla notes from the base beer mixing with it, but whatever esters and phenols it might have once had were MIA. Oh well, I’ll repeat it next time.

Generally quite satisfied with the place (despite a slightly chaotic service), I got the 13° to go and we left… and little did we know that it would be the best place of the trip…

To be continued + will update w/pics later!

6 Likes

Worse than the UK’s train system? How is that possible? :joy:

My Dad would go ape at that comment. Apparently UK trains are often more reliable than other European countries, the problem being that there is more demand.

Sometimes the train’s even late on the starting station, and I’m not talking about 5 minutes… being late to the destination is the norm, you just hope it’s 30min or so, and not 2h or so. WiFi? Electricity outlets? Food carts? Uncommon/rare. Odd hours sometimes and limited lines. Sometimes, randomly, the train doesn’t show up at all and people wait for 1h+ for nothing, as they don’t bother communicate that properly. They are always unapologetic about their fuckups. Sometimes you pay more for the train than the bus because it’s somewhat more comfortable, only for the train to be replaced by shitty old buses without warning, which, however, follow the timetable of the train, so you have a less comfortable, longer ride for more money. That’s just the tip of the iceerg.

Oh, and the trains are more expensive than in Czech Republic. Though nearly everything in Croatia is expensive compared to the standard and compared to the countries surrounding it (and to the east/northeast).

I stand corrected. That sounds truly awful.

Pics, which will be pics

Some nice Budweiser architecture.

Krajinská 27, sadly closed that day…
1570093786703

Some modern Budějovice street art
1570093784922

Solnice - the restaurant

Tanks by the bar

A satisfied customer! Also, their 10° and 11° polotmavé.

A shitty pic of the Solnice brewery, some 50m from the restaurant.

3 Likes

continued

We went on to the closest open place - Café Datel, also swarming with people. A pleasant hipster place with Prague prices, it was described as having a rotating selection of craft beers. An entire wall was dedicated to their coffees and liquor etc. without any mention of the beers they have, however, so that made me a bit suspicious - but two taps were there, with two new beer and brewery ticks - the Malt Pšeničné and the Jílovice 11° lager, the very same beers that were on tap a couple of months ago… Neither of them was worth repeating, and the prices were Prague center level, so not the greatest of things. My friend decided to try the Japanese whiskeys they had, ordering one Nikka from the Barrel and one Tokinoka Black… but we got 2x of the more expensive and less interesting Tokinoka Black instead. Oh joy. Dunno. Two rare ticks and in a English-spoken place you can go to with your non-beergeek friends. Shouldn’t be a priority for you, but if you’re nearby, why not.

Moving on, we went on to Singer Pub, the home of the Beeranek micro, located, conveniently for budding drinkers, across the road from the local high school. A rock and/or punk place, bit trashy, it only had two Beeranek beers, the others conveniently taped over, the rest being random usual suspects. Some guy was playing Rammstein from his phone over the music the barmaid was playing, which would’ve been appreciated was he not randomly skipping from song to song mid-song. Of the two beers, the 13° amber-colored special was infected, but the 11° polotmavé was actually very nice for the style, highly drinkable and clean. You win some, you lose some. No reason to stick around after we were done, we went on…

… but where should we go? Naše Farma seemed like a good choice for a Žumberk tick, but OF COURSE it works 11-15 on Sundays. It was a bit eerie to walk the streets, nearly the only ones around, but the old part of the town is nice enough so at least some sightseeing was done. The Kněžínek outlet Life is Dream was due to open this year after renovation but nope, still ded.

Craftoid options having been crossed off the list, I did a quick search trying to find Samson on tap anywhere in the center, or at least their Bock in the bottle. Nope, nothing. Shame the situation is such for a local brewery, but it’s understandably why Budvar, being state-owned and pretty much the town symbol, would be everywhere instead, followed of course by the ubiquitous Pilsner Urquell. Oh well, when in Rome… we went to the Hotel Malý Pivovar Budvarka, being the brewery’s tap… And were “welcomed” by its entire staff staring at us through the glass doors. Nearly deciding to just go somewhere else, we entered instead. Great. Having sat down, we ordered a Kroužkovaný Bud and a 33, the latter of which drew the “ire” and the disdain of the staff, who made comments such as that the Kroužkovaný was the “44”. That “freshest” CZ Bud was as generic and bland as always (compared to the best Czech lagers), but hey, a solid, drinkable lager, while the 33 was as unimpressive as always, beating its own concept as a more “daring” and less bland alternative to CZ Bud. Joy. Should’ve went for the dark…

And that was it, and it was time to move towards the train station, maybe catch an earlier train. We ended up at some restaurant called Vatikán, chuckling that the main thing on its menu outside was, of all things, borscht. In the end no borscht was had, only a couple more Buds, petting a friendly Boston terrier that came to say hi several times.

Already inebriated, we headed towards the station, but a visit to the local Vietnamese-run grocery store netted some bizzare strawberry and orange flavored corn puffs that my mate insisted on getting. But hell, there was still time to waste, so we ended up at the Nádražní restaurace České Budějovice, the suspicious-looking-people-at-the-doors dive bar by the station, which boasted it had Strakonický Dudák 11° on tap for mere 29kč, a steal and a new rate, even if it was shite. However, it turned out that it in fact wasn’t shite - clean, nice light herbal hoppiness, chuggable - heck, it easily beat Bud that we’d had at the previous two places, and the locals were cool 'nuff too, though I’d understand if someone stayed away from the place. Getting wased on that, we managed to catch the last train, found a compartment and immediately shut down completely, sleeping through the entire 2 hour ride to Prague.

Would I return to the town? Of course! The center is lovely, it’s nicely calm (for a change). Still much more to explore too - there are still at least two breweries in the town to try, the Bud and Samson breweries to visit perhaps, and there are outlets for breweries we don’t see in Prague - but definitely NOT on a Sunday! :smiley:

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