Beer Culture

Stories about great beer from the countries that invented it.

Tag: Bohemia Regent

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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BrewDog’s Zeit Geist vs. Three Classic Czech Dark Lagers

Beer geeks everywhere are talking about the small Scottish brewery BrewDog, and for good reason: despite being just a couple of years old — meaning very young — they’re already putting out some head-turningly good beers, and backing them up with a masterful PR game.

One of their recent nice moves on the marketing pitch: offering a sampler of prototype beers and asking drinkers to pick their favorites. Among the prototypes was Zeit Geist, “a 5.1% Black lager taking inspiration from the Czech classics.” As an imitation of a clasic Czech dark lager, it was just begging to be compared to three classics of the genre: Bernard’s speciální černé pivo, Bohemia Regent tmavý ležák and Budweiser Budvar tmavý ležák.

So how does the Scottish upstart compare to the old masters?

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Pre-Lager Brewing in Bohemia


Almost exclusively, Czech brewing means lagers, beers produced with bottom-fermenting lager yeasts at colder temperatures and over longer periods of time. Today, some 95% of Czech production is composed of golden lagers, while about 5% is dark lager. The few beers made with top-fermenting yeasts — ales and wheat beers, brewed at warmer temperatures and usually over shorter periods of time — now make up less than one half of one percent of Czech production. And yet just a little over 140 years ago, ales and wheat beers were still the standard here.

But then came a change in Czech brewing which was so sudden and so severe that it counted as news even on the other side of the world. An article in the New York Times of December 3, 1876, detailed the “complete revolution” in brewing that was then taking place in Bohemia, the western half of today’s Czech Republic, noting the shift away from what it calls “high fermentation” breweries (meaning ales) to the new, “low fermentation” breweries (producing lagers). As the article shows, the arrival of lagers was swift and merciless, killing off more than 260 ale breweries between 1860 and 1870 in Bohemia alone.

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