Just a quick post on the wonderful city-owned Pivovar Primátor, which I mentioned a couple of days ago in my contrarian take on Budvar as a good example of an innovative brewery outside the private sector. Last night Primátor held a tasting at Prague’s Pivovarský klub, showing off its full line of beers (pictured above with deservedly happy brewmaster Pavel Kořínek). Although all the beers were worth trying before, last night at least a couple gave the impression of having improved considerably.

To start, Primátor’s excellent 13° polotmavý (5.5% ABV) seemed much sweeter and more richly caramel-flavored than I remembered, well-worth its award for SPP’s semi-dark beer of the year for 2006.

And Primátor’s unusual strong lager, the 24° Double (10.5% ABV), seemed to have a fuller, stickier mouthfeel than before, followed by more lush notes of maple syrup, toasty malt and with a bright, peppermint-like hoppy spike in the finish. This is a deep amber lager, brewed from a mix of Bavarian and caramel malt and a small wheat adjunct, and it’s recommended as much as an ingredient in the kitchen as a beverage on the table. (A slice of bůček, or pork belly, glazed with 24° Double could be an absolute dream.) I’m not sure I prefer it to Březňák’s Doppel-Doppel-Bock, but it’s close.

As he introduced the beers, Mr. Kořínek explained a bit more about the offerings from the brewery.

There is also a small wheat adjunct in Primátor’s unusual 12° English Pale Ale (5% ABV), he said, noting that the brewery gets its ale yeast from Scotland and the Challenger and Goldings hops from England. Importing hops is rather unusual for Czech brewers, surrounded as they are by the best of Saaz, aka Žatec, but Saaz wouldn’t work in this style. It’s worth noting that the English Pale Ale is dry-hopped, as is the new extra-chmelené pivo (extra-hopped beer) from not-so-far-away Pivovar Broumov, also known as Opat.

All in all, Primátor’s beer-and-pony show was impressive. In terms of getting their marketing together, the brewery has a new line of easier-to-read labels. Alan McLeod wrote a great piece about beer labels at A Good Beer Blog yesterday, and it’s something that far too few brewers here think about. (At a tasting of beers from Pivovar Strakonice two months ago, I pointed out that one of their beers didn’t even say “Strakonice” on the front. How on earth are you supposed to inspire brand loyalty if your customers don’t know what brand it is they’re buying? Could you make this any harder for us?)

Since it is 100% owned by the city of Náchod, Primátor annually contributes some 200,000–300,000 Kč (7,700–11,500 euros) to the municipal coffers — not bad at all in terms of creating goodwill. The appreciation was clearly evident at the tasting: most beer presentations do not include spontaneous outbursts of applause, but this one did.

As for further innovation, I asked if Primátor would consider making a lehké pivo (literally “light beer,” brewed at 7° or less and finishing with less than 130 kJ per 100 milliliters, an older style of table beer even more subdued than Lew Bryson’s session beer project). The brewery’s management wouldn’t say yes or no, but they did note that Primátor should announce a new product line sometime this spring. For Czech beer fans, this could be an early Christmas.