As spring rolls along, my vines have decided to bud flower groups:

And no vine’s evolutionary survival is complete without tendrils!


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Prague’s U Medvidku Microbrewery

A few Monday’s ago we posted our sampling of light and dark beer by Budvar, aka Chekvar, aka Budweiser (click here to read).  We enjoyed these and a hearty lunch of root vegetables in one of Prague’s famed basement beer halls: U Medvidku:Budvar Beer Hall U Medvidku BreweryFull and finished, we noticed something strange: copper brew kettles fed from upstairs:
Budvar Hall Kettles PragueWe walked further into this cave of beer and found a door that lead to stairs. The second floor was the operational hub of  Microbrewery.

U Medvidku revived the building’s 1466 heritage of small batch, hand-bottled beer production that once filled the tankards of its cabaret, hotel, restaurant. Today, sans cabaret, the beer hall restaurant still runs the hotel and brewery above.

The brewery is a cramped steampunk delight. Pipes and wires run everywhere.  Open top barrels fill the air with bread and honey from a vigorous, bubbling fermentation.U Medvidku Brewery Barrel fermentorsI stick my nose in…U Medvidku Brewery Barrel ferment top…and nearly collapse (probably from CO2 and not elation). Moderately sized tanks that stored the beer stack against the walls:U Medvidku Brewery tanksWe grab two of their hand-capped bottles.Oldgott Barique beer, Prague, Czech Republic. .33L $2.50U Medvidku Oldgott Barique BeerU Medvidku only brews 300 hectoliters a year, in monthly batches, of this bottom fermented, unfilted, unpasturized,  5.2% alcohol beer.Appearance: looks clear, medium ruby amber, with little off white head and small fizz.


Aromas: smell clean with pronounced flavors of hot, sticky toffee and caramel on vanilla ice cream, a sprig of mint, and unused firewood.

Palate: feels off dry, balanced in acid, bitterness, and alcohol, with a medium plus body, and a creamy yet bright texture.

Flavors: taste moderately intense and remind of herb, green apple, marshmallow, honey wheat bread, toasted wood.  The palate tastes much more serious and vegetal than nose, a bit dual personality. Medium plus length. Very good (4 of 5).

Now for U Medviku’s widowmaker: Politmavy Special X33 Beer, Prague, Czech Republic. .33l $7U Medvidku X33 Beer pragueX33 is the worlds strongest beer brewed naturally from its original wort. At 12.6% alcohol by volume, it earns a taste on Wayward Wine.

Appearance: Hazy, intense ruby amber, with med bubble, and medium, cream-colored head that collapses quickly.

Aromas: Clean, medium plus intense notes of warm strawberry compote on vanilla ice cream.

Palate: Medium sweet, with low acidity, medium bitterness, high alcohol 12.6%, and full body. The texture is viscous with a slight graininess.

Flavors: Pronounced strawberry compote, rhubarb, and dark chocolate last for a long length. X33 is outstanding quality beer (5 of 5). Unlike Oldgott’s complexity and dual nature, this beer has a singular profile and purpose. It will get you blissfully drunk and fast.

We leave the strange, steampunk world of U Medviku and walk Prague.Tracy Prague Czech Water MillAfter many wrong turns and back allies, we find the Jewish quarter, much of which was demolished to drive out the jews and turn Prague into 19th century Paris. However the Old Synagogue survived.

Golum Prague SynagogueThose rail stairs above my shoulder lead to a secret door. Here was the home of the Golum: a clay monster brought to life by Rabbi Loew to protect the community.

Nearby, we spot the Jewish crematory: packed with tombstones like shark’s teeth.

Jewish Graveyard PragueAfter a visit to Kafka’s home, dark quickly sets on Prague and we head back to the hotel.

Next Monday’s post takes us to Dresden. But we love wild, intricate, complicated Prague and its fabulous, unexpectedly varied beer.  There’s more than Pilsner Urquel here.


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The Other Budweiser: Budvar, Art Nouveau and Beer in Prague

This Monday’s EU Austerity Drinking Tour post continues to explore the beers of the Czech Republic after last Monday’s Three Roses Brewery.

150 days of travel find us walking the streets of Prague. Art Nouveau plasters its buildings. The facade of the Municipal House draws us in.

Art Nouveau Facade PragueIt has a fantastic theater, tiled stairways, but this is Wayward Wine. Downstairs we find the glamorous basement beer hall. Depictions of grain harvests color the bar and we wish to stay here.

Art Nouveau Beer HallBut service was still waking up: it was too early.  We wander out.  Deeper into old town, we find the Neoclassic-tastic Estates Theater, where Mozart premiered Don Giovanni:

Mozart Prague OperaA few more narrow allies in, we find U Medvidku Brewery.  Starving, we head down into its beer hall: another basement, low-arched, and stuccoed, and finally serving beer.

Budvar Beer Hall U Medvidku BreweryWe point at options on the Czech menu: including some unpronounceable potato pie dish, as well as two Budvar.

Founded in 1895, Budvar expanded massively, and was soon exported under the name Budweiser: which turns out to be a generic German term meaning a product, like beer, from a city.  However, two Budweiser could not coexist. After over 100 years of legal war, Budvar became Czechvar in the US, while Budweiser lost its copyright in the EU. It turns out “this Bud’s not for EU”…get it? Sorry…

But how does Czech’s very own Budweiser taste?

Budvar lager: Appearance: looks a clear, light amber, with narrow white lace. Aromas: smell clean, mild like honey and apple. The Palate: feels dry, moderately tart, mildly bitter, with medium alcohol.  Flavors taste mildly of wheat bread, gold pear, and simple herb of medium length. Budvar’s lager is simple, session-able, and good (3 of 5).
Next, their dark (yes dark) lager:

Budvar Dark Lager PragueIt looks a clear, pronounced (i.e. black) red, with thin, small-fizzed cream-colored lace. Aromas smell clean and quietly of fresh-roast coffee. The Palate feels dry, with medium acid, medium grainy bitterness, medium alcohol, and a medium minus body. Flavors taste of medium intense tap coffee, with slight hop bitterness, and light chocolate. The length is quick, but this dark lager is easy and interesting enough (playing well with the pepper of the potatoes). Good 3 of 5.

Now, reviews of mass-produced lager are super exciting. But fret no not. Next Monday’s EU Austerity Drinking Tour will cover the brewery we were actually in: U Medvidku.

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New York Nostalgia: Thirsty Thursday and Ravines Red 2013

Welcome to Wayward Wine’s Thirsty Thursday installment.

We missed Upstate New York.  Not for its brutal winters, bland food, or attitude, but for its wine.  In four years, upstate shed my academic scales and replaced them with a shimmering new vinous skin.  My many failed attempts at home wine production engendered a respect for those who made wine there.  And Ravines was king.  Their 2010 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling was one of the few that could challenge Germany (review here).

But swapping coasts left us bereft of East Coast wine. Oregon was too obsessed with local Pinot to ship anything so CO2 demanding.  So after three years of suffering, I did the unthinkable: I joined a wine club.

The Ravinous Wine Club would send us four bottles at 20% discount (just enough to defer shipping). Finally, after an ice storm delay and three UPS misses, our case came.

Ravines, Keuka Village Red Blend looked damaged. The screw cap was dented. Fresh red stained the box. For fear of oxidation, we opened it.

Ravines, Keuka Village Red Blend Finger Lakes New York 2013

Now, New York is miserably cold and brutal. So they grow hardy grapes that can ripen within that sliver window of a season, before frosts, ice, snow, or estranged sisters with magical ice powers and loads of angst kill off half their vineyards.

Age appropriate?

Age appropriate?

Where were we….Cabernet Franc, parent of Cab Sauv, makes up most of this blend, followed by Noiret: a 2006 Cornell U concoction of American and EU varieties.

So, did Ravines table red survive?

Appearance: looks purple at the core with ruby highlights and a medium clear rim. It doesn’t look horridly oxidized…but let’s smell it:

Aroma: smells clean and very fruity, like cranberry, grapefruit, and potpourri. There is something reductive and reminiscent of the carbonic maceration that Beaujolais Nouveau faces.

Palate: feels dry, with classic, edgy, NE medium plus acidity that pushes into slight volatility (damage?) but manages to stay in control. Mild tannins and mild alcohol (12%) make for a medium body. This is bright and bell-jangling stuff.

Flavors: Pluots: those crazy hybrids of plums and apricot, followed by orange peel, even tart blood orange, clanging shut with a medium length of black mineral slate.

PluotsConclusions: Ravines’ Keuka Village Red is probably not as extreme as this sounds. I imagine crossing the country was a bit harsh on it.  The wine is eminently drinkable, low in alcohol, refreshing, even sessionable and pizza-friendly. Maybe our ice-tinted glasses hold a soft spot for the Finger Lakes. This blend is still a good, simple value at $13.00. 3 out of 5.


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Prague’s Best Brewery: The Three Roses (U Trí Ruzí)

Last Monday’s post (click here) found us visiting Prague Castle and an unexpected vineyard. We ended that evening starving, lost in an alley.  But then a warm glow drew us to salvation:

The Three Roses ExteriorU Trí Ruzí, aka The Three Roses was not only a “Restaurace” but a brewery.  Finally!  Beer! After middling Czech wine.

We saddle up to the bar.  Copper, stained wood, and old lamps paint the place as a slightly steam-punk, yet modern and comfortable joint.

We start with their Lager: U Trí Ruzí, lager, Prague, Czech Republic: a mere 39 KC (aka $2.00) for .40l

U Tri Ruzi The Three Roses lager beer PragueIt is slightly hazy (odd), medium amber colored with a cream colored lace. The beer smells clean, with medium intense orange spice, and light malt. The palate feels dry, with medium acid, medium hoppy bitterness, medium body, and a snappy texture.  Flavors are unexpectedly strong with fresh oranges, cut wheat, nutmeg, and rye bread that last a medium plus length. Very good (4 of 5).

Next up: U trí rûzí’s Dark Lager (46KC $2.29)

The Three Roses Dark LagerOur second dark lager this trip.  Guinness Black Lager in Ireland was decent. But if this one is anything like Three Roses’ earlier lager, I should not worry.

The color was a concentrated red amber, with a coffee-colored head.  Aromas smelled moderately of pleasant fresh manure, black coffee, rye, and caramel. The dry palate had a twinge more bitterness, alcohol and body than it’s clear cousin. The texture felt punchy yet creamy. Also stronger flavors of peat smoke, char coffee, black licorice, caramel, and hoppy grapefruit came up and lasted a medium plus length. Very good (4 of 5).

Next, their Vienna Red: a style we missed in our wine-focused time in Austria.

The THree Roses RedAgain, clarity is not their concern with this amber red, with thin fine, off-white lace. Aromas glowed moderately of caramel malt, red apple, and dried grass. Acidity and bitterness were low here, but 6% noticed as was fuller body. Flavors of mixed nuts, almonds, caramel, and oranges had presence and length. Again, consistent and Very Good (4 of 5).

Fed and full, we considered to go home by now.  But the ambiance was pleasant, the holidays were near, and a Christmas Amber was on tap.

U trí rûzí, Christmas Amber, Prague, Czech Republic. 40L 46k

Again appearances look hazy, intense red amber, with a cream colored head. Aromas smell moderately of raspberry, caramel, unbaked dough, and rose.  The palate feels dry, low in acid, hardly bitter, but warm in alcohol (6.5%) and full in body.  Flavors taste fruity and moderately of red fruits, red grapefruit hops, warm caramel, and shortbread lasting a medium plus length. This is a mellow, plump, very good beer (4 of 5) made from 2 Czech hops and 4 malts.

Not shy of alcohol, we up the anti to 7.2% with the U trí rûzí, Autumn “Helles Bock”, Prague, Czech Republic. .40l 56 KC

A clear amber is capped by a white head.  Aromas smell powerfully of honey, golden apple, and cinnamon.  This is fruit forward beer, with medium acid and bitterness, the high alcohol makes for medium plus body, with a frothy, creamy texture.  Flavors pound out orange, apple, hoppy grass, honey, that lead to a lightly bitter, wheat finish of medium plus length. Very good (4 of 5). Great balance.

Just as we plan to pack up our ark (cute signs like this line the walls), we try their Weiss Bock:

The Three Roses PhotoFor only $1.50 (39Kc) we fill a .30l glass of U trí rûzí, Weiss Bock, Prague, Czech Republic.

The appearance is hazy, amber, and laced white.  Exotic, rich aromas of orange peel, lemon juice, and wheat toast with butter float up. The dry but fruity palate shows high, balancing medium plus acidity, medium minus bitterness, oodles of alcohol (7.5%), a medium body that feels snappy but round. Medium flavors of fresh squeezed oranges, cardamon, and clove lead to a green, vegetal, hoppy finish that lasts a medium plus length. Their Weiss Bock is outstanding (5 of 5) in the fact that it remains refreshing, even with all those fruit esters and alcohol.

Overall, The Three Roses straddles modern beer styles, while feeling firmly centrally European. The prices were fantastic. The beer consistent and very good. And the space was inviting.

Wayward Wine’s adventures through Prague’s drinks continues next Monday. See you then.


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