19 Jul 2010

Some things I head and saw in Humpolec

Just as I promised the other day, here is some of the information I gathered during my visit to Pivovar Bernard.

It was the first brewery to be privatised after the fall of the Communist regime. Two of its current owners, Standa Bernard and Josef Vábra (who is also the head brewer) bought it at an auction. As most regional breweries back then, the facilities were in very, very bad shape and quite a lot of money was needed to put the brewery back on track. In 2001, Bernard and Vábra sold half of their shares to Duvel Moortgat. This resulted in a sad irony. A few years earlier Mr Bernard himself had successfully lobbied for a new beer tax law that would benefit the smaller producers, which is in force to this day. Once the Belgians bought half of the company, Pivovar Bernard stopped being eligible for those tax advantages. Anyway, you would never guess anyone but Mr Bernard is running things when visiting the brewery, nowhere in sight there is a sign of the Belgians.

Bernard keeps their own maltings. They aren't in Humpolec, but in a town not far away. Only pale malts are produced there, specialty malts are procured from Czech and German (Bamberg) suppliers.

All Bernard beers are bottom fermented. I saw some sacks of wheat malt (it's used for Jantár) and I asked if they were considering brewing a Weizen. No way, they don't have the technology and the product isn't interesting enough for them to invest in it. I also asked about a Rauch (even though, none of the stuff from Bamberg was rauchmaltz), but I didn't get any concrete answer.
Each batch is 200hl, and all beers are decoction mashed. All of the beers are at least thrice hopped (Vábra didn't want to give me any more details about it) and only Saaz hops (in pellets) are used.
The beers ferment at 7ºC, the whole building housing the fermenting facilities is refrigerated at that temperature, which made the shooting quite uncomfortable given that it was pretty warm outside. Three kinds of fermenters are used, open, tanks and CK (I didn't ask what ferments in which). Their CK's are pretty small compared to what other breweries have. The brew master explained why so many breweries have adopted them, they save a lot of space and reduce energy costs, though he also admitted that some breweries use them to speed up the fermentation process.
The beers are lagered between 25 and 60 days, depending on gravity, at 0ºC (that was the actual temperature in the lagering cellar. Brr!). They are all unpasteurised, but go through a pretty intensive micro-filtration process.

Bernard is about to launch a new product. A nealko flavoured with sour cherries. Bugger!

Anyway, the visit to Bernard was really interesting, though not as interesting as being able to chat a bit with the people behind those great beers.

Na Zdraví!

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  1. One advantage of CKs is that you only have to cool the tanks and not the whole lagering cellar ;)

  2. Actually, in several micros I've seen open fermenters in non-refrigerated rooms cooled using a plumbing system with cold water, but I guess that would not be very practical when you brew more than a million hl.