Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Pilsner Urquell

A quick post before heading out to Pilsner Urquell, whose distinctive water tower is pictured on every bottle of that brew, as well as in the snapshot above. (Not in the frame off to the left is the gigantic Pilsner Urquell chess set, whose toddler-size pawns look like Pilsner Urquell bottles.) I’ll be working with a crew shooting a Discovery Channel television special on beer, which, back home, will include brewing stars like Sam Calagione from the offensively good Dogfish Head and Professor Charlie Bamforth from my old alma mater, the University of California, Davis.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing to say that no matter what you do, you have to go to Pivovarský klub next week to taste the new saison beer from up-and-comer Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf, a brewery so new it doesn’t even have a website yet.

Last night we had our second beer tasting and dinner at Essensia restaurant, inside Prague’s Mandarin Oriental hotel. All of the beers were great. (The biggest surprise might have been the Mary-Jo from Regent, because it looks terrible but tastes quite nice.) But Kocour’s saison completely turned heads, even from the few people there who weren’t all that into beer. It is a cloudy light gold with a thin, easily quaffable, semi-sweet body, followed by an eye-opening amount of hop bitterness and a slight squeeze of citric acidity in the finish. It’s an excellent summer ale, the kind of beer you’d want to change your calendar for, only we don’t know the exact date when it will be first served at Pivovarský klub. (I’d recommend keeping the entire week open and stopping by regularly, just in case.)

The word on the saison echoes the news from the Ratebeer European Summer Gathering last weekend, whereby the attendees had a sampling of many kinds of Czech beer. When I showed up for the Grand Tasting on Sunday, I was told that the most popular beer, by far, was the Varnsdorf 12°.

Off to Plzeň…


The Ratebeer European Summer Gathering 2008


What We Learned at Pilsner Urquell


  1. Excellent news on the TV show. Next stop – a dedicated beer TV channel.

  2. BigFlatsBeerMan

    I would love to see another series on beer. It would be hard to top Michael Jackson’s from 1990, but then again, some much has changed in the beer world in 18 years. It has been an interesting time.

  3. @Alan
    Good idea, TV Channel special for beer in the world.

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