Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

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Archive for the ‘Pilsen’ Category

Soaking in the suds – a beery experience

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I HAVE taken my clothes off in some strange places, but I’ve never been naked in a brewery before.

The Chodavar brewery is about 40 miles north-west of Pilsen. Seemingly hewn out of living granite and set into a hillside, each summer the brewery’s visitors’ centre hosts a popular beer festival and intriguingly the European championship for rolling wood beer barrels. The brewery is also home to “beer wellness land” and a beer spa. Supping beer is good for people’s health. It increases our levels of good cholesterols which protect against heart attacks. Beer drinkers have a lower risk of kidney stones and a glass a day can give people stronger bones. But bathing in beer? I always thought a good soak was a happy drunk.

“Take you clothes off and put them in this locker,” the nurse motions in her best sign language as she hands me a crisp white towel. “No no,” she indicates, “you don’t keep your shorts on, you take everything off.”

Sheepishly I follow her, along with some fellow journalists, from the changing room into the spa. A beer spa it seems like drinking is something best done communally. We are ushered into a room which has the clinical air of a ward in a cottage hospital, but instead of beds there are large baths of steaming liquor, each with a glass of unfiltered beer alongside.

One by one our dignity is stripped away and the nurse, who has clearly seen it all before, helps us into our own personal mash tun. Each tub contains 80l of warm mineral water – between 36-38C – to which four litres of an unfiltered dark beer and a handful of Saaz hops have been added.

Within moments tenseness and shyness gives away to laughter and relaxation. Pete, iphone in hand is tweeting pictures of himself. Adrian is discovering what it is like to put his head totally under-beer. Least that is what Pete and I hope the vibrant, bubbling sound from his tub is. Bizairre.

I don’t think I’ve ever drunk a beer in a bath before. I’m rather beginning to enjoy this. After half an hour our charge-nurse reappears and says we must get out. Wrapped in our towels, we shuffle behind her into a room with subdued lighting and soft music playing. I’m sure the nurse is giggling. We each lie on a bed, next to which is another glass of beer. Then we are tightly wrapped, like babies being put to bed, in an orange blanket and left to chill out. Total relaxation. It’s so good.

As we put our clothes back on, nurse makes it clear we must not have a shower for at least four hours, so the beer dried on our skin can continue to do its healthy work. It must be time for another beer.

Written by timhampson

August 10, 2011 at 10:57 am

Posted in beer spa, Pilsen

Making room in the bar for the standout Veltins

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Standing out on the bar

Veltins Brewery is brewed in Sauerland, a rural hilly area in the north-west Germany. Close to the industrial Ruhr and the major cities of Dusseldorf and Dortmund, its Pilsner, at 4.8 per cent ABV, is the fifth most popular beer in Germany and the brewer would like to make it the number one imported speciality German beer in Britain.

Founded in 1824, the family firm’s watch words are freshness and quality, both attributes which are in abundance in its non-pasteurised draught beer, which can now be found in some pubs in Britain. Deals have been done with regional brewers Osset, Butcombe, Robinsons, Purity, wholesaler James Clay and M&B for 50 All Bar One pubs in the London area. This now sees Veltins Pilsner in 300 plus pubs and the company hopes to double that within the next two years. And once it has established this bridgehead it would then target the off trade.

The beer is being sold on its authenticity and provenance. It uses the natural water from its own spring which is located in a mountain by the side of the brewery

Quality drives the success of the beer

One of the firm’s ambitions is to produce the best quality beer in harmony with the environment. And this is reflected in the brewery’s modern and environmentally sensitive production process. To this end the brewery has invested more than €20 million investment in a hi-tech and visually, alluring bottle recycling plant. Almost without human intervention thousands of bottles, which in Germany are returnable, are automatically taken out of crates and separated into fast moving lines dedicated to individual brewers. The bottles are then repackaged back into crates either for use by Veltins or returned to their owners.

One interesting aspect of the brewery, (and possibly unique) is its fermentation process. After boiling with hops in four brewing kettles, the hopped wort begins its fermentation in what are called floating tanks, of which the brewery has 15.  Here the wort is mixed with yeast, encouraging a build up of natural carbon dioxide. After 24 hours, 80 per cent of the fermenting liquid is run off into the main fermentation tanks, while the remaining fermenting wort is mixed with fresh hopped wort. This is repeated for four days until the tanks are emptied and cleaned. The brewer says the process is ideal for removing unwanted flavours from the beer and that one bottle of its Pilsner could be made up of 200 different brews.

The beer is then fermented for fermented for 48 hours, and then cooled to minus 2C, a process which takes five days, before being lagered for four weeks.

The brewery sponsors the FC Schalke football team in the Bundesliga, and the Porsche racing team. There is a sporting chance it should be a success here too

In the UK the beer is available in 50 litre kegs or packs of 12 0.33 litre bottles and Vertical Drinks is the agent.


Steve Holt Vertical Drinks Ltd Tel: 07831 581171 e-mail: steveholtavc@aol.com

Written by timhampson

October 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Places I’d like to be – Hotel Purkmistr, Pilsen for the third Sun beer festival

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Purkmistr - one of the Czech Republic's new wave of breweries

On the outskirts of Pilsen in the Czech Republic is the Hotel Purkmistr, where a brewery opened in 2007. On a visit last weekend it was a marvel to try their beers. The range includes an unfiltered pale lager, a cherry beer and an interesting Cappuccino flavoured beer.

The hotel's bar is large, spacious and dominated by two copper kettles,

The restaurant food is particularly good with many Czech speciality dishes on the menu. In the English translation one is described as “breast of a brewery shepherdess”. It comprised chicken, cranberries and blue cheese. Now using the word “breast” is as guaranteed to make an Englishman laugh as the word “bottom”. “No that is no mistranslation” said our host – Jan Mlcak from, Czech Tourism and revealing a Rabelaisian streak he said, “In the Czech menu we use the word “tits”. And the dish will look like its description.” So guess where the cranberries will go?

However, I would love to be back there on 18 September as it is to host what Czech beer expert Evan Rail http://www.facebook.com/evanrail, tells me is the best beer festival in the Czech Republic.

There is plenty of space in the garden

More than 140 beers, many from the new wave of Czech brewing will be there as will the innovative Scottish brewer Brew Dog. But interestingly, perhaps the sleeping giant of German brewing could be waking up, as several brewers from the Bamberg area will be making the trip across the border.

For years most of Germany’s brewing industry has been an enigma – for a country with more than 1,000 breweries it is deeply conservative. Yes there are some marvellous regional specialities – Raunchier, alt, the bitter sweet brews from Berlin. But while brewers in America, Italy, Denmark, the UK and now the Czech Republic (just to name some of the countries involved) have embarked on a journey to push beer to new heights. German breweries have stuck with what they know best. Undoubtedly good, but sometimes one yearns for something more – something which assails and caresses the taste buds. Evan tells me that increasingly brewers from Czech Republic and Germany are beginning to swap ideas and develop new brews.

Petr Mic, in front of the brewery's four open fermenters, he says "Euro-Beer tastes all the same"- he wants to do something different.

Sadly I cannot make the 18 September, but next year’s event takes place on 17 September. I might just write it in my diary now.

Hotel Purkmistr, Selská náves 21/2,326 00 Plzeň – Černice


Written by timhampson

September 3, 2010 at 11:03 am