I mentioned in the previous post that there were a significant number of industry players and other organisations sponsoring EBBC 2014. Without the generosity of these sponsors the conference would not have gone ahead in the form that it did. Many of these sponsors were brewery companies based in Ireland, but one from much further a field, and one who particularly shone out, was Czech heritage brewer, Pilsner Urquell.
We were grateful for their generosity on two separate occasions, but both were events designed to showcase their sole product; the delicious and delectable Pilsner Urquell – the world’s first golden lager, and the beer which gave birth to the style known today, the world over, as “pilsner”.
The first event took place on Friday evening, and followed hot on the heels of a visit to the home of Dublin’s most famous beer; the Guinness Brewery, at St James’s Gate. I intend to cover this visit in greater detail, in a later post, but for now I just want to say the visit included a brief tour of the plant, followed by an excellent beer and food pairing session. We were all feeling pretty full of both beer and food, from the latter, but there were further delights to come.
|Waiting for the thirsty hordes|
The Guinness sponsored event drew to a close at around 9pm, and after saying goodbye to our hosts we were divided up into a number of groups, and whisked off in a couple of coaches. We drove the short distance back to the city centre, to just off the famous Temple Bar area in fact. I was in the first group, and we were shown to the Candle Bar, a comfortable upstairs room above Kelly’s Hotel. There, sitting perched up on the bar, were two very new-looking, wooden casks, quite clearly marked out as belonging to Pilsner Urquell.
On our trip around Guinness I had noticed that we had been joined by several new faces. One newcomer in particular, was very jocular looking, and had received a special welcome from Guinness Master Brewer Fergal Murray, so when I noticed his company jacket I realise his identity was none other than Vaclav Berka, Head Brewmaster at Pilsner Urquell. He was over to introduce us to the delights of un-filtered Pilsner Urquell; dispensed straight from a traditional wooden cask. I have seen these events advertised on the company’s website. Virtually all of them have taken place in London, on different dates and in a variety of different pubs. Unfortunately due to work and other commitments I managed to miss them all, but now, right before my very eyes I was about to witness the tapping of one of these casks and, what’s more I would get to taste the beer from within!
|Vaclav in action|
Obviously the whole operation was quite theatrical, and even to those of us used to tapping a cask, it was quite something to see Vaclav drive in the wooden tap, with a large mallet and then dispense glass after glass of the very lively and well-conditioned beer. Perhaps it was all too theatrical though, as after all the eager anticipation I found the beer slightly disappointing. I know I am being a philistine here, but sometimes more modern methods of both storage and dispense are preferable to the older and more traditional ones. For a start the unfiltered beer wasn’t quite cold enough for my liking; the casks had obviously had warmed up during their lengthy journey over from Pilsen. In addition, it also had a slight woody taste. I commented on this at the time, but was told it was impossible, as the insides of the cask are lined with pitch; a protective coating designed to prevent the wood having any effect on the taste of the beer. The pitch lining is replaced each time a cask is used; a costly, and potentially dangerous process. This small gripe aside, it was a unique experience, and something I feel privileged to have witnessed and taken part in.
Not content with plenty of beer to drink, the catering staff at the Candle Bar brought out yet more food. I was feeling rather full after the beer and food pairing event at Guinness, but the pulled pork sandwiches placed in front of us, really were food to die for. I managed a couple over the course of the evening, but skipped on the chips; they would have been just too much!
The idea was for our group to move on, to make way for the next party, who would, of course, be just as keen as we were to watch the second cask being tapped. One of our guides from Pilsner Urquell led us up another flight of stairs, before descending into what was obviously another bar. It was absolutely rammed, but being Dublin on a Friday night, this was hardly surprising. Although we managed to get served, (our generous hosts had provided us with tokens for more Pilsner Urquell), there was nowhere to sit, and precious little room to stand. There was music playing loudly in the foreground, making conversation extremely difficult. One by one we drifted away from the bar. I went for a wander round, observing that the number of women greatly outnumbered the number of men; great if you are a single lad out on the pull or, like me, a more mature bloke gladdened by the sight of some of the pretty and attractive young ladies which Dublin is famous for. I hope that last sentence doesn’t make me out to be something of a letch, as it was more of an observation, and was meant in the nicest possible way!
There was yet another adjoining bar, and after looking at the printed itinerary our hosts had given us, I discovered that the first bar was called "Hogans", and the second the “No Name Bar”. Eventually I made my way back to the Candle Bar, where I managed to grab a seat, some more un-filtered Pilsner Urquell and, joy of joy, no loud music blasting in my ears. I stayed until just before midnight, chatting to fellow bloggers and members of Pilsner Urquell’s PR team. First and foremost amongst these was award-winning Pencil & Spoon blogger, and author, Mark Dredge who now works for the Czech brewers, and was one of the principle organisers of the night’s event.
I thanked Mark before I left, and then navigated my way back to the hotel, through the crowded streets of the Temple Bar district, across the River Liffey and then eventually to my waiting bed. It had been an evening full of superlatives, and I slept like a log that night. However, there was more to come the following day, including more excellent food, and more Pilsner Urquell, so I will continue this narrative in a further post.