For this year’s SPP awards, most of us in Prague first met for breakfast at Hotel Beránek, near metro station I.P. Pavlova. Before getting on the bus, we were able to try Hotel Beránek’s house beer, brewed and bottled for the hotel by Chodovar.
What a great idea, I thought. Why don’t more places have their own beers? Of course a bottle of beer is fairly hard to fold, but it would still make an interesting holiday card. Or a thank-you gift. (Personally, I’d love to use one as my business card, but that would present logistical problems involving pockets, weight and my own thirst that I shouldn’t go into here.) Homebrewing’s easy enough. How hard could it be to have a beer made, maybe just for a special occasion?
And then before Christmas, I was told that my local, Pivovarský klub, had a new beer coming out for its regular customers and friends of the house. Called Florenc 14:14, it’s a polotmavý (half-dark) lager brewed from three kinds of malt at 14° Balling, lagered for more than a month and finishing with 5.5% ABV, produced in a limited run of less than 70 bottles of 330 centiliters.
In the glass (yes, I’m still using the Sahm .3-liter glass I got at the Christmas Beer Markets), the beer first poured as a clear medium amber with very little carbonation (just how we like ’em — great lagers are not fizzy!) The nose was nicely spicy and very malty. In the mouth there was a sugary malt rush which finished with ginger and other spice notes.
A second pour, this time including the sediment from the bottom of the bottle, produced a slightly cloudy amber with what seemed to be a touch of smoke in the finish. Both versions, with sediment and without, were excellent, with a great malt body that made me wish the production wasn’t so limited.
The bottle comes with a booklet describing the brewing process and reminding readers that not only can they taste more than 250 kinds of beer in bottles (and usually six on draft) at Pivovarský klub, they can also brew their own beer using the brewing facilities there.
In fact, when I was writing my guide to Czech beers, I included Pivovarský klub in the chapter for Prague breweries as well as the one for Prague pubs, listing the Křižíková 17° (5.5% ABV) strong golden lager it used to serve. But then that sugary 17° disappeared and Pivovarský klub became just a regular pub, albeit one which serves five rotating brews from regional producers, as well as a version of Pivovarský dům’s excellent Štěpán (brewed under contract at Pivovar Kácov). It’s nice to see Pivovarský klub return to brewing again, if only for a one-off holiday beer.
But that’s the thing: Florenc 14:14 was apparently such a hit that Pivovarský klub now plans to produce it four times a year, according to my fellow Czech beer researcher Max Bahnson, who is now reproducing his excellent Spanish-language Czech beer blog in English. (Czech, Spanish, English: I swear, we’re like the frickin’ United Nations over here. Or at least Max is.) So if you didn’t get to taste Florenc 14:14 this holiday season, you might get your chance in the spring.
One final note: polotmavý really seems to be the color of the era hereabouts. Not only are at least two beers at Prague’s new brewpub Pivovar Bašta both amber in color, but Bernard now has a polotmavý version of its well-received non-alcoholic beer. I know Ron Pattinson has something to say about amber lagers, as well as the subject of having special brews produced just for you, but I’ll leave that to him.