27 Aug 2008

La Ronda #3: A tasting for beginners

La Ronda is a community project of the beer blogs in Spanish that is inspired (if not an outright rip-off) of The Sessions, started by Stan Hieronymus and spread throughout the English beer blogosphere.

This month, Delirium, from "De Cervezas y Otras Cosas" has proposed a very interesting topic that I thought it is worth sharing with my English speaking readers. The idea is to choose 5 to 8 beers to put together a tasting aimed mostly at people not very familiarised with the different kinds of beers available out there. There are a couple of catches, though. The beers shouldn't be from obscure craft breweries that can be got only once a year and the likes, but stuff that can be relatively easily found locally.

It really gave me a lot of food for thought. It wasn't easy to put together a line-up. From the very beginning I decided that all the beers would be Czech. Not because I have anything against (good quality) imported ones, but because I believe that although being considered among the best in the world, Czech beers are also among the least known.

But what could I choose that was representative of Czech brewing art? I could have easily put together a tasting of 8 ležáku (Pilsner Lagers, as they are known elsewhere), but everybody knows how good they can be, so there wouldn't be much of a surprise there. I also though of doing a numerical progression from 11 to 18, based on balling graduation, but, though it could be fun it lacks much of a concept.

In the end, I decided to do something similar, and I think better, than a tasting I organised last year with the people of Pivovarský Klub. So I put together a list of 8 beers (plus a surprise one to clean the palate, I know it bends the rules, but you'll see there is a reason for it) divided in four pairs.

First pair, we start on the golden side:
Bernard Svateční Ležak(12°balling, 5%ABV). It is the only one that more or less fits in the most famous Czech style, Pilsner Lager, but at the same time, it is a good representative of the style I probably like most, kvasnicové. A beer that is refreshing, with a fantastic balance between fruit, flowers and citrus; light but with a firm body thanks to the added yeasts in the bottle.
Primátor Weizen (5%ABV): Another kvasnicové, according to Czech publicans, this time made of wheat. It's a beer that is getting more and more adepts each day. Different to its German counterparts, yet nonetheless good. Fruitier, with a bit of a fuller body, less sour and terribly refreshing. So far the only pšeničné in regular industrial production, I hope there will be more.

Second pair, we go amber:
Ferdinando Sedm Kuli (13°balling, 5.5%ABV): There might be better ones out there, but I've chosen it because it has proved to be a favourite among foreign visitors. That different touch it has is thanks to the herbs that are part of the recipe.
Primátor Polotamvé 13%(13°balling, 5.5%ABV): Another from that great brewery in Náchod, and the beer I like the most in its category. Perfect balance between caramel and herbs. Brewed with a wheat adjunct, it is one of those beers that everyone seems to like and that I never get tired of drinking.

Third pair, things get dark:
Regent Tamvý Ležák (4.4%ABV): A great beer that deserves more recognition. Light in body, yet with intense flavours that mix the caramel, toffee notes of many Czech dark beers with more interesting roasted and coffee flavours.
Herold Bohemian Black Lager (13°balling, 5.2%ABV): One of my most favourite, that, like the one above, deserves to be better known. With very intense flavours, full of cocoa, coffee, caramel, and a delicious roasted and dry finish. An excellent beer by all means.

Fourth pair, a display of strength:
Vyškov Jubiler (16.8°balling, 7.5%ABV). Another one of my top favourites. Alcohol integrated to perfection, incredibly well balanced notes where hoppy bitterness sets the pace without overwhelming delicate hints of honey and fruit. A beer I love to sit down and drink slowly.
Pardubický Porter (19°balling, 8%ABV). A seriously strong beer and, again, with beautifully integrated alcohol, which does not interfere with tastes or aromas, but actually reinforces them, giving more character to the mix of prunes, port and pleasant sourness.

The surprise is Bernard s Čistou Hlavou (Bernard with clear head), the nealko from the great brewery in Humpolec. A non alcoholic beer of surprising bitterness and even body. Its short and refreshing taste, together with the lack of alcohol makes it a very good option to clean and rest the palate between pair and pair, or even sample and sample. It also shows that Czechs can also make very good beers of this kind.

I believe the selection is as varied and broad as the rules allowed. I could have included a lot more, but I think these beers can prove without any trouble that Czech brewing is a lot more than only Pilsner Lager. And being that, with the exception of Primátor Weizen, all beers in the list are lagers, it would be shown to beginners or the pseudo knowledgeable that the word lager doesn't mean the fizzy, yellowy, hyperindustrialised drink of the big global brands.

Na Zdraví!

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

3 comments:

  1. I was in Pivovarsky Klub the other day and a couple of the guys I was with were trying the Pardubicky Porter and claimed that it had a nose distinctly similar to soy sauce - sure enough they were right.

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  2. I had that Porter today on tap. More sour than I remembered it. I loved it. I think you are right about the soya sauce note. Not a bad thing at that.

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  3. Not a bad thing indeed, though I am not sure I would want to pour it on my chicken kung pao.

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