First anniversary: Paper. Fifth anniversary: Wood. Fiftieth anniversary: Gold.
Five hundred and fifty-fifth: One very special lager.
Or at least that’s how it is for Pivovar Rakovník, a Czech brewery originally founded in 1454. To celebrate its 555th birthday next year, Rakovník is adding a “jubilee special” to its Bakalář line of beers. And though 2009 is still most of a month away, the new brew is already available at Pivní galerie.
Bakalář Jubilejní Speciál is brewed at a high-grade 18° Plato, approximately Doppelbock strength, but with slightly less alcohol at 7%, compared to 7.5% or more in a typical Munich Doppelbock. In this case, the alcohol is very well incorporated, meaning you’re not likely to notice it, though it’s roughly akin to drinking two basic lagers simultaneously. The beer is a clear deep amber in appearance with a very fine, very creamy head.
From the bottle, there’s a nice touch of malt and pumpkin-pie spice in the nose; the aromas seemed to be slightly more pronounced when I tried it on tap. In both cases, the mouthfeel is chewy and rich — starting to approximate the syrupy nature of Březňák’s Doppel-Doppel Bock — with notes of cooked plums, maple syrup and cinnamon. The lasting finish has just a slightly bitter hop bite to it.
Overall, it’s a very nice strong beer and rather unique on the Czech market: most special lagers at this strength are lighter in color and far sweeter than this one. It sounds — and tastes — like an excellent way to celebrate an anniversary.
Rakovník brewery has a long and noble brewing history, and was renowned for its bottom-fermented beers, or lagers, when most of the Czech lands were still making the top-fermented beers that we would probably call ales today. There’s even a Latin rhyme from the era that serves as the brewery’s current motto: “Unus papa Romae, unus portus Anconae, una turris Cremonae, una ceres Raconae,” which is said to mean something like “One pope in Rome, one port in Ancona, one tower in Cremona, one beer in Rakovník.” (Latin scholars have hinted that the grammar is questionable, but that’s what’s on the label.)
The back of the bottle gives an indication of where the brewery is going today:
Like many medium-sized Czech brewers, Rakovník is getting by on exports, in this case primarily to Russia. The Prague Daily Monitor is reporting today that Czech beer exports are up 4% over the first nine months of the year, though overall production declined marginally. The Rakovník history article at Pivovary.info quotes management as saying they’re planning on exporting 80% of production; by 2006, the amount going to Russia was three times the size of what Rakovník was selling in its homeland.
So do your part to help a local brewer out. Pick up a few bottles of Bakalář Jubilejní Speciál today.