In Central Europe, Slovakia is known for its wine rather than its beers, so one of the cool surprises at Prague’s Christmas Beer Markets was the appearance by Pivovar Kaltenecker, a brewery way out in Rožňava. When I visited Kaltenecker’s kiosk at the markets, I ordered a glass of their Kras ginger-honey lager. Even more surprising than the sudden appearance of a Slovak beer in the Czech capital: I didn’t like it much at all.
Okay, so maybe this wasn’t so surprising. In the Czech Republic, I had trouble getting into the ginger lager from Hodonín’s Pivovar Kunc, and Kaltenecker’s version had about the same appeal for me. Beer has obviously been brewed with ginger for a long time, so I understand the historical interest. But perhaps there is a reason why so few real ginger beers are made today.
In any case, the thought of that ginger-honey lager left me slightly skeptical when I later saw Kaltenecker’s Brokát dark lager (above) on draft at Pivovarský klub. Skeptical, but still curious, so I ordered a small glass.
Kaltenecker Brokát Dark (5% ABV). Pours a clear deep amber, nearly black, with a thick, long-lasting sandy head, a strong coffee nose and a light toastiness. In the mouth, a rich malt body with very moderate carbonation and a bitter chocolate finish. Moccalike. A surprisingly nice balance of bitter and sweet.
Perhaps the ginger-honey taste was just not for me — I’m certainly impressed enough by the Brokát to try more beers from Kaltenecker in the future, to say nothing of heading out that way once things warm up a bit. In addition to the dark Brokát brewed at 13°, Kaltenecker’s web site also lists a half-dark Brokát premium, brewed at 16° and finishing with a thundering 8.1% ABV, as well as a wheat beer and an unfiltered golden lager.
Incidentally, if you’re at Pivovarský klub in the next couple of days, keep an eye out for the dark 13° Troobacz from Městský pivovar Štramberk, without a doubt one of the best dark lagers in the country. (It was listed as “Trubač” on my recent visit to Pivovarský klub, but I believe the brewery uses that name for its golden lager, and “Troobacz” for the dark.) Located in the hilltop fortress town of Štramberk, the brewery has its own hotel and is highly recommended for a travel destination, but more on that another time.
I’ll leave you with a shot of Sporťák, our old Škoda 120L, in front of Pivovar Štramberk, one of my favorite memories from the guidebook.