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.
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!