Snack time with The Gentle Barbarian - and Bohumil Hrabal
A beer inspired by a book and a friend is everything you need for snack time :)
Bohumil Hrabal is a famous Czech writer whose book-made-to-movie Closely Observed Trains won an Oscar for foreign language movie in 1968. In the same year, he was banned from publishing due to Warsaw pact invasion to the Czechoslovakia and his condemnation of the act. In 1975, after he agreed to condemn himself, he was sanctioned to publish again, and he avoided political involvement since then.
But his works speak for themselves - political quandaries and the accompanying moral ambiguities are repeated themes in his novels. Many of Hrabal's characters are portrayed as "wise fools" or "Shweiks" as we call them — simpletons with occasional profound thoughts, who are also given to coarse humour, lewdness, and a determination to survive and enjoy life despite harsh circumstances they found themselves in. Czechoslovakians love Hrabal for that - we needed such outlet then and we need it now too.
Hrabal was a beer lover and he made brewery Nymburk famous by a book called Shortcuts. And the brewery pays its respect back - it creates special beers under name Shortcuts + the special name. I´ve come accross Shortcuts - The Gentle Barbarian, a beer named after another of Hrabal´s novels. It´s about three men talking bollocks about life and art. It captures the strange atmosphere of Czechoslovakia after Communist revolution, when traditional values and structures of society were radically changed. But The Grentle Barbarian is able to creatively reject or ignore the "new life" and find humour, inspiration, and salvation everywhere. The book is such a treat, I love it.
And the beer is lovable too. It´s a semi-dark lager of Czech type. It smells like caramels (maybe melted in butter :-)). It tastes like caramels, spices, and a little bit of cherries. But it is not sweet, it´s moderate bitter. The alcohol content is 5,3 %. I´ve bought it from a beer barrel therefore you can not see an original label. If you want to try it, the Czech name is Něžný Barbar (I would love to hear some nationalities to pronounce it :-)).