Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Author: Evan Rail (Page 5 of 15)

Richter Brewery’s Polotmavý Weißbier 13°

polo-wheatOne of the cool Bavarians to show up at last year’s Christmas Beer Markets was Schneider’s Aventinus, an amber wheat beer that kicks like a Doppelbock, blending plummy stewed fruit with Weißbier spice and plenty of alcoholic wallop.

Right now, Richter Brewery in Prague has something similar on tap: a polotmavý (half-dark, meaning amber) Weißbier. It’s brewed at a conventional 13° with about 5% alcohol, versus 18.5° and a massive 8.2% for the brawny German.

The strength might be the biggest difference between the two, as some of the flavors and aromas are quite similar. The nose of the Polotmavý Weißbier has cooked plums and chocolate and cocoa notes with just a breath of citrus acidity. In the mouth, it starts out with fairly sweet and complex fruitcake flavors before a dry finish.

Half-liters of Richter’s Polotmavý Weißbier are 35 Kč. Get one while you can.

Beer Hacking: Dry-Hopped Bernard Sváteční Ležák

hop

“What’s the hoppiest beer you have?,” someone asked.

I have no idea. I don’t think anyone knows. We don’t keep track of hoppiness here, not in the sense of boasting about IBUs and alpha acid percentages. The brewers at Pilsner Urquell told me that their beer has 40 IBUs, but most brewers here wouldn’t be able to do much more than guess. It’s simply not an issue. Beer here is supposed to be good, that’s for sure. But it’s not necessarily supposed to be terribly hoppy.

However, high levels of hop bitterness and aroma seem to get a lot of attention among American beer fans, and the question got me thinking: what would it be like to take a perfectly great Czech pale lager and crank the hoppiness up a notch?

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Beer Tasting on Tuesday, 17 March, 2009: Pivovar Herold

herolde

Recently, new owners have taken over at storied Pivovar Herold, the small regional brewery located in Březnice, Central Bohemia. So far, not much seems to have changed: Herold’s Bohemian Black Lager is just as rich and full of coffee and chocolate notes as ever. But you might be wondering if new management harkens good news for the brand, especially in terms of its meagre distribution and lack of widespread availability.

Your chance to find out is this Tuesday, 17 March, 2009, when Pivovarský klub will host a Herold beer tasting.

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What I Heard at Cantillon

The following classic Beer Culture post is one of many which disappeared in the Wormhole Incident™. It is being reposted now because more people should think about beer with a sense of place.

The best thing I heard was when Jean-Pierre Van Roy said “Now we’re going to open the ‘75.”

We were talking about his life and work at Cantillon, the last remaining lambic brewer and geuze blender in the city of Brussels, and Jean-Pierre Van Roy decided that he wanted to open a beer he’d bottled 33 years earlier.

Someone asked “What?” in the way that means “Are you crazy?” Jean-Pierre just nodded and said “It’s time. It needs to be drunk.”

That was the second best thing I heard at Cantillon.

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Czech Beer Expressions

The sign above the door at the taproom of the Vyškov brewery, maker of the very good Jubiler and Generál beers, somewhat ominously recommends that guests have a final brew before leaving. “Have another glass of beer,” it says, “who knows what awaits you outside!”

While the German beer expression “Hopfen und Malz — Gott erhalt’s!” is fairly familiar among the international beer set, most Czech beer expressions — usually in the form of rhyming two-liners — are unknown outside of the country. Nearly every pub here is decorated with the traditional brewer’s greeting, Dej Bůh štěstí, or “God give happiness.” But there are many more, many of which are listed in Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic. A few favorites:

Lepší pivo v žaludku, nežli voda na plících.
Better beer in the belly than water in the lungs.

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Beer Hacking: Pardubicky Porter vs. Orval, Tasted & Revisited

That picture shows how I knew it was working: a bit of brown liquid had blown through the rubber gasket on the swing-top. At the height of activity, the bottle was hissing like an asthmatic cat, releasing built-up carbon dioxide as the yeast did its work. It meant that my first experiment in beer hacking was successful, at least as a proof-of-concept. What remained to be seen was how it would taste.

What I started with was originally straight Pardubický Porter, a Baltic Porter from the Pernštejn brewery here in the Czech Republic. I liked the beer plenty, but sometimes I thought it was too sweet. And I wondered if I could change it using a minimal amount of effort. In particular, I wondered what it would taste like if it was inoculated with brettanomyces. So I filled a couple of swing-top bottles with draft Pardubický Porter and dosed them with the dregs from a bottle of Orval, which I knew should contain some brettanomyces.

I called it “beer hacking,” meaning “modifying a commercial beer to suit your own tastes.” The idea got some attention. Jeff Bell commented that he didn’t think it would end well. William Brand wrote in to note that Orval actually has two yeasts in each bottle, so I’d be getting regular ale yeast as well as brett. And some dudes on Reditt started debating if it would work or not.

Oh yeah. It worked.

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The Eschenbräu Brewpub in Berlin

Despite Germany’s outstanding brewing traditions, the country’s capital is not widely thought of as a great place for beer. The city’s native beer style, the sour Berliner Weisse, is now almost extinct. And considering we’re talking about a city of 3.4 million people who seem to pride themselves on eating well, drinking well and going out a heck of a lot, finding good local beers can be surprisingly difficult.

That’s certainly the case for the Eschenbräu brewpub, which offers three regular beers with ten seasonal specials scheduled for 2009. It’s not impossible to reach, but it’s far enough off the tourist map that most casual visitors to Berlin aren’t going to bump into it.

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Bohemia Regent Beer at Prague’s Art-Café u Irmy

Ron Pattinson has written about U rotundy, one of his favorite rough pubs. It might have its charms, but for me there are two good reasons not to pick U rotundy: one, they serve Staropramen, which you could get just about anywhere else in Prague if you wanted it. And more importantly: just two doors down the very same street is Art-Café u Irmy, which you might call a “rough café.” In addition to great inexpensive Georgian food — as in the country, not the American state, nor the historical era — u Irmy is one of the few places in town where you can get draft Bohemia Regent.

Many thanks to reader James for the tip, as well as pointing out the café’s excellent atmosphere, like a wacky house party where all the characters come from different corners of the old soviet sphere of influence. The food, as well, is an eastern treat: great dolmas, outstanding lobio (Georgian red beans with red onions, pomegranate seeds and coriander), borscht, chačapuri (cheese bread), čachochbili (chicken and red-pepper stew), sacivi (walnut sauce) and chinkali (beef dumplings). How could U rotundy possibly compete with that?

And then there is the beer.

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Berentsens Sorte Får Stout

Listen, we’re beer lovers: we’ll accept just about any excuse for a special brew. Feel like putting out a beer for a public holiday (like our Czech Christmas beers)? Sounds like a great idea. Maybe it’s the anniversary of the founding of your brewery? We could always use more Fuller’s 1845. Or perhaps your country is hosting the 2008 World Championships in Sheep Shearing?

Wait. What?

At least that seems to be the reason why the Norwegian microbrewery Berentsens released its Sorte Får Stout last year. When sheep-shearing teams from around the world descended on the Norwegian town of Bjerkreim last autumn, they were met with far more than mere wool: a special dark beer, named after the local wild sheep, was brewed to celebrate the occasion.

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Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale 2007

Vintage beers — special brews dated with their year of production — are made by relatively few breweries around the world. Perhaps the famous example is Thomas Hardy’s Ale, produced by Eldridge Pope in 1968, 1974, 1975, and 1977-1999, and then brewed by O’Hanlon’s from 2003. A wine-like strong brew of around 12% alcohol, Thomas Hardy’s Ale will age and develop with time, and is said to be drinkable even twenty years out.

In central Europe, the most famous vintage beer is Samichlaus, a extremely strong lager of 14% alcohol, originally made by Hürlimann in Switzerland until 1997, then produced by Austria’s Eggenburg from 2000 onward. Vintages are said to develop for at least five years, if not much longer.

And on the other side of the world is Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale.

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