Like some others I've been very impressed with the Tankovna Pilsner Urquell that is now sweeping some parts of the UK. It is one of the few things that makes the Draft House at Tower Hill remotely bearable when the suits are in and your head is being shredded by repeated tuneless bass music, comparable to being attacked, without anaesthetic, by a mental dental surgeon, with a particularly slow and buzzy drill of considerable width. I digress, but feel better for getting that off my chest. Bastards.
I've been lucky enough to have tank beer in Prague and old enough to have had tank beer in the UK in one of its original incarnations, but done well, with top quality beer, it is really a rather good way to ensure the customer gets brewery fresh beer, as near as dammit as the brewer intended. (Mind you I don't always want things the way some brewers intend, but that's another digression.) I was therefore pleased to be invited to try Budvar Tankové Pivo shortly after its Manchester launch at the Oast House in Manchester's Spinningfields. Even better I had been asked to bring a plus one and my companion was the lovely E, fresh off the train from London and dragging her thirst behind her on what was a lovely day in early May
Now a word about the Oast House. This was opened as a ‘pop-up’ bar with temporary planning permission in October 2011. It is a genuine 16th century oast house and was brought to Manchester from Kent, brick-by-brick and is now a permanent feature of Spinningfields, Manchester's business and leisure area, purpose built from 2000 onwards. It has a large beer garden and is attractively rustic, though not that big inside. I rather like it as it seems to always be populated by a very mixed and cheerful crowd.
Our hosts were Budweiser Budvar UK Beer Sommelier Jo Miller and (Oast House owners) New World Trading Company’s Beer Guru Warren McCoubrey. I didn't know Jo before, but Warren is an old acquaintance, once being part of the famous Marble Arch Brewing team that brought you Manchester Bitter and Pint. He speaks (rightly) very highly of Dominic Driscoll, now brewing for Thornbridge and James Campbell, Head Brewer of Cloudwater, so we were off to a flying start. Jo turned out to be great fun and with a couple of local lasses joining us, it was a jolly little crowd that set about learning about Budvar and supping the beer. For my part, though I had had tank Budvar in Prague, it was some time ago and I wanted to compare and contrast. The beer itself is malty and bittersweet with a good Saaz hop finish. It is easy to drink and its 90 day maturation period does give a deeply rich and satisfying flavour.
So, did I prefer Budvar or Urquell? Well, they are different beers entirely, but I would say that each has its place. I like Urquell for its sheer drinkability, its distinct spicy hoppiness and yes, even that slight diacetyl edge that somehow enhances the beer. Budvar is more sophisticated in its taste, maltier and somehow a little more steely. Take your pick really. Neither will disappoint.
A big thanks to our hosts Warren, Jo (and Caroline from chip PR who ensured a constant steam of Budvar) for lots of wit and repartee. This wasn't so much a beer tasting as a natter among friends. We both enjoyed it enormously.
Budvar Tankové Pivo is available in the Oast House at around a fiver a pop. When E and I called a couple of weeks later, it was flying out. Job done. People like it.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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