After the big breakup known as the Velvet Divorce, Slovak beers were rarely seen in this half of the former Czechoslovakia, and the old Czech prime minister once commented that Slovak brews weren’t even fit for cleaning teeth. So it seems meaningful that Slovak beers have started appearing in Prague recently, from Kaltenecker’s ginger and dark lagers at the Christmas Beer Markets to the bottles of Steiger popping up at Pivovarský klub.
These bottles, however, are not intended for Slovakia’s former federal partners here in the Czech Republic, but instead are designed to entice customers in the German-speaking markets. (Yes, that is a scratch-off bra and panties covering the model on Steiger’s “Premium Helles,” or světlý ležák to you and me. Lest you think that they’re playing upon Slavic stereotypes, not all of the labels feature blondes — there’s at least one redhead.)
Other than the label, this beer is not particularly remarkable: less hoppy and malty than most examples from this side of the border. However, Steiger’s dark lager — currently on draft at Pivovarský klub — is more noteworthy. Brewed at 11°, it falls more on the side of cola than coffee: a clear deep amber, sugary and slightly gingery with a long, toffee finish. It would probably pair well with braised meats, stewed fruits or a rich, soft cheese.
But when it comes to interesting beers from Slovakia, Kaltenecker must take the cake, putting out a variety of unusual brews, including an IPA (a rarity in these parts). A light amber brewed at 14° with Challenger and Styrian Goldings hops and both wheat and oat adjuncts, Kaltenecker’s IPA clocks in at 6% ABV. Tasting it this morning, I was surprised by the rich hop aromatics coming out of the bottle, a one-liter PET.
It might not inspire any sonnets — nor any haiku — but Kaltenecker’s IPA is one Slovak beer that can get attention without resorting to a blue label. Forget what the former prime minister said: any beer lover would be honored to brush his teeth with it.
It’s plenty nice to drink, too.