Of the many new brewpubs and breweries in the Czech lands, one of the most distinguished has to be Pivovar Kout na Šumavě, which returned to life by lurching off the operating table much like Frankenstein just as I was finishing Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic. Fortunately, I got the information in time to include a listing; unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to try even a single beer before we went to print.
Located to the south of Plzeňský kraj in the beautiful Šumava forest, Kout is one of the few real breweries — not brewpubs — to reappear in the Czech Republic. Even stranger, Kout started out with remarkable success in a region that is completely pwned by Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus, the biggest brands in the country. Just after starting up, Kout secured distribution in several towns around the region, including Pilsen. Soon, more than a few cognoscenti started saying that they thought Kout made the best Pilsner-style beer in the Czech Republic, if not the world.
After tasting it, I’m inclined to agree.
Although there are more than a few places that stock Kout beer in Plzeňský kraj (Pilsen Region), further afield the brand is almost never seen; I haven’t yet found it in Prague. But if you travel from Prague to Bamberg, you can break up the six-hour trip with a stop in Domažlice, a surprisingly nice Czech border town with an impressive square, a leaning watchtower, photogenic arcades and narrow cobblestone lanes, as well as more than a few pubs that serve beers from Kout, the best of which might be the Koutská Pivnice, a narrow beer hall with no edibles other than chips and at least two Kout brews on tap, including the 12° golden lager.
Koutský světlý ležák (5% ABV) Pours a clear deep gold with no visible carbonation and topped by a very thick, meringue-like head. There’s a touch of yeast in the nose, a full, creamy mouthfeel of lush malt followed by a startling amount of bitter hops in the finish: the initial impression is one of those great Pilsner-style beers that comes close to a pale ale. It seems to really push the limits of bitterness for the style and yet has less Saaz hop aroma than many similar brews. The head stratifies into a series of thick rings going down the glass like geological layers; additional sips bring out flavors of honey and plums. Truly remarkable.
That’s just one pivo from Kout, though it is the flagship, and rightly so. The folks at Ratebeer rank it quite highly. In addition, Kout has launched a line that includes a dark 18°, one of the current beer trends I mentioned in The Truth About Budvar, as well as a dark 14° and a quotidian golden 10°. I’ll post more on those brews once I taste them, and I promise I will taste them all as soon as is humanly possible.
By the way, if you’re thinking of going to Domažlice, the town really is remarkably well-preserved and has an interesting history of protecting the Czech border with Bavaria and the setting for Czech-German conflicts dating all the way back to the thirteenth century. Konšelský šenk is one of the most comfortable hotels we’ve found outside of Prague; our clean and modern double was roughly half the price of what we paid for a similar room last year in České Budějovice and easily twice as nice. We found kvasnicové Svijany in one of the restaurants in town; other pubs carry Chodovar as well as Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus, naturally. But if you do go, there’s only one beer you’ll want to try.