Showing posts with label amber lager. Show all posts
Showing posts with label amber lager. Show all posts

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lagerboy Pride!

If you have been following Fuggled for a while now, you will doubtless know that I am a devotee of the lager arts.


Whether pale, amber, dark or pitch black, most of my favourite beers will have been cold fermented and then lagered before packaging. I am quite happily what some breweries like to disparagingly call a 'Lagerboy'. It therefore seriously pisses me off that 'lager' is used as shorthand for lowest common denominator beer.


Lager, as I have said many times before, is a labour of love from beginning to end, especially if a brewer is going to do a decoction mash, which makes the brewday longer. Then there is the lagering of the beer itself, tying up the brewer's capital for a long period of time, whether it be 4 weeks or 90 days - did you know that a batch of 12° Budvar takes 102 days to make, 12 days in primary fermentation followed by 3 months lagering? In a world that seems to love talking about beers being made with 'passion', it takes real passion and dedication to doing things properly and give your lager the time it needs to be ready.


I have said it before, and will continue to bang the drum, but a well made lager is, in my unhumble opinion, the height of the brewers' craft. Sure you can make your triple black IPA aged in soured gorilla snot barrels, but if a brewer is incapable of making a clean, crisp, refreshing and flavourful pale lager then are they really all that great, despite the ravings of those advocating the rating of beer?


Using the term 'lager' as a cover all for the lowest common denominator brews churned out by multinational breweries does a disservice to a family of beers as diverse and varied as ales. Whether drinking a Bohemian Pilsner packed with the flavours and aromas of Saaz, downing a pint of Schwarzbier with its clean roastiness, or supping gently on a powerful yet balanced Baltic Porter, there is little in life as satisfying as well made lager, where the brewer has nowhere to hide flaws.


So brewery marketing departments, cut it out with the lager hating, beer geeks, cut it out with phrases like 'it's good, for a pilsner'.


To paraphrase a cliche from self-help groups....my name is Velky Al, and I'm a Lagerboy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

To the Half-Dark Side

As I alluded to on Monday, I don't think it is possible, or even desirable, to force Czech beer into an essentially Anglo-American taxonomy. As such even I cringe when I use the term 'Bohemian Pilsner' as a catch all for the wonderful pale lagers produced throughout the Czech Republic, and think it should only apply to pale lagers made in the city of Plzeň itself. Anything from outside the city, though it may be made in the style of a Pilsner beer, is a Bohemian Pale Lager.

I am sure that some will see that as splitting hairs, especially given that the essential process of making Plzeňsky Prazdroj, Budvar or Svijany Rytí? is the same, but I think it is a question of respect. A sparkling wine that comes from California, Spain or Australia is not a Champagne, even though it may share may characteristics, the same holds true for Pilsner. When I first moved to Prague I noticed that often Prazdroj drinkers didn't like Budvar, and vice versa. For many years I much preferred Budvar to Prazdroj, though now I like them both equally, depending on my mood and in my opinion tankovy Budvar is every bit as good as tankovy Prazdroj.

Anyway, back to my original, though so far unstated, theme for today. I plan to brew my first beer of the year on Monday, a polotmavé vy?epní or 'half-dark tap' beer. If you want to force it into an entirely made up style for the Anglo-American mind, you could call it a 'session Vienna lager'. Of course polotmavé pivo is related to Vienna lager, although this type of beer was practically dead until 1999 when, to use Evan Rail's turn of phrase, Staropramen 'in a strangely heroic move' gave new life to it with Millennium. The recipe for my beer is as follows:
  • 48% Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 42% Munich malt
  • 9% CaraMunich I malt
  • 1% Carafa II Debittered malt
  • 17 IBU 8% AA Kazbek for 60 mins
  • 10 IBU 3.9% AA Saaz for 15 mins
  • 0.5 IBU 3.9% AA Saaz for 1 min
  • Saflager S-23
The vital stats for this beer will be, hopefully:
  • OG 10.2° Plato (1.041)
  • FG 2.6° Plato (1.010)
  • ABV 4.1%
  • SRM 13 - copper to red
I plan to ferment the beer in my garage, which is sitting at about 49°F, or 9.5°C, at the moment, for about 2 weeks, with a diacetyl rest indoors at 60° for a week thereafter, followed by 4 weeks in the fridge, lagering at 38°. I haven't decided yet if I am going to attempt any decoctions for this one, though I am tempted to try a single decoction.

In theory in should be ready for March, and perhaps the National Homebrew Competition, though quite which category I would enter it in I have no idea.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber and Dark Lager

This seems to have been a decent year on the amber and dark lager front of things, with new offerings from one of my favourite breweries back in the UK, the continued excellence of many a Czech polotmavé and tmavé, as well as a few good lagers from the USA in this category, although if I am honest the majority of amber and dark lagers over here are as crap as the pale ones.

The three beers which make the shortlist for amber and dark lager of the year are:
Here I must make a confession, in ten years living in Prague, I went to U Flek? a grand total of once and that was back in June while researching for my soon to be released pub guide to Prague (released as soon I sort out a technical issue or two). I had avoided it purely because it is such a touristy place to go, had I known just how damned good the beer was, I would have drunk far less in my formative Prague years but drunk far, far better.

Whilst talking of seemingly touristy places to go, U Medvídk? will always be a place I love and hanker for, whether for the lashings of Budvar, the wonderful Czech food (if anyone tells you Czech food is awful then they are pretentious knobs with no idea about being a normal human being), and of course U Medvídk?'s own range of excellent beers. As lovely as it is from a bottle, Oldgott Barique is simply divine on tap in the secluded little brewery area of this labyrinthine pub.

As for the Kout na ?umavě 18°, a magnificent Baltic Porter which rounded off many an evening in U Slovanské Lípy, I have to agree with the august Evan Rail that it is "simply miraculous". Beautifully smooth and rich, like a dark chocolate cake which is sinful beyond words but oh so damned good, as I say, it rounded off so many nights out to perfection.

This is, again, a very difficult decision to make, but when push comes to shove, I usually go for a beer which I can drink several pints of, as such the Fuggled Amber and Dark Lager of the Year for 2009 is:
  1. U Medvídk? Oldgott Barique 13°
I had the pleasure many times this year, with various people I have been lucky to get to know as a result of Fuggled, to sit in the brewery side of U Medvídk? and polish off copious amounts of the Oldgott Barique - each and every every occassion as good as the beer lubricating the conversation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When Things Don't Quite Make Sense

I am on holiday at the moment, soaking up sunshine in Florida and continuing that proud British tradition of emulating the lobster, albeit with bleached blond arm hair. Seeing as though many a craft brewery in the US doesn't have national distribution, I have made efforts to seek out locally produced craft beer, one of which I mentioned in the previous post about light beer.

Prior to taking up my position on the grill, also known as the poolside deck, the other day, I stashed the complete range of Ybor Gold beers from the Florida Brewing Company into the ice chest and merrily made my way down to the pool. Also chucked into the ice chest were a few bottles of ; Michelob of course being an A-B InBev brand.

I know what a lot of people will be thinking, Florida Brewing Company good, A-B InBev bad, well my friends in this case it is time to switch your thinking. I will write more about the Ybor Gold range of beers next week when I am back in South Carolina, as well as a fuller write up on Michelob AmberBock. Suffice though to say for the time being, AmberBock, while not being a magnificent, blow your brains out beer, is a step above any of the Ybor Gold stuff I tried.

Who said big brewers can't make good beer??

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber and Dark Lagers

There is a Czech tradition that if a woman drinks dark lager then she will have big breasts, though there is nothing said about getting a big gut as well, so we can only assume that dark beer is good for you!

In all seriousness though, there was a time when I didn't particularly like the darker lagers on offer in the Czech Republic - however this has changed in recent years, partly I think as a natural progression from when I was fed up with the Czech lagers I was drinking at the time, and thus looked for something different.

The reason I have put amber and dark lagers under the same post is that I drink proportionately less of them than other lagers here, so a post each would be stretching things practically to breaking point, despite the fact that this has given me something of a headache when it comes to choosing my top three of the year, which are

The Strahov Autumn Special was a magnificent beer, rich and flavourful and worth every drop of the two or three I enjoyed in the late autumn sun whilst looking at Strahov Monastery, one of my favourite buildings in Prague.

Hukvaldy 14° was one of those beautiful happy moments when you say, I'll just have the one, and end up having a couple over lunch and savouring every drop, telling all your colleagues that they should get to the pub that very day and try it - then discovering they took your advice and were raving about it too!

The Chodovar brewery makes some of my favourite beers, and their Skalní le?ák is quite simply a lovely beer which never fails to satisfy. When PK had it on tap earlier this year I was in heaven.

This is such a difficult choice, but in the immortal words of Connor MacLeod, there can be only one:
  1. Chodovar Skalní le?ák

Chodovar wins here for its consistency as one of my favourite amber lagers and the fact that I have used it in my various beer cooking experiment successfully.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Sabbath Day's Drinking

Some recent arrivals to Prague are Oscar and Joanna. Joanna works with Mrs Velkyal and Oscar is, rather obviously I guess, her husband. For people who have only been in the country a matter of weeks, they have shown a refreshing willingness to get out and about to discover the delights of the Czech Republic. It stands to reason then that they like beer, and I am doing my best to ensure that their Czech beer experience is as good as possible. On their first night in the city Mrs Velkyal and I dragged them off to U Medvídk? and insisted they try the excellent Oldgott Barrique.

As Mrs Velkyal and I were headed for the shops to stock up, we got a message from Joanna and Oscar asking what we were up to and would we fancy going for a stroll. Naturally we arranged to meet up and enjoy the sunshine together. Meeting up in the centre of the city, we walked down Národní, across the bridge into Malá Strána and got the funicular railway up the hill. After about an hour or so of walking it was suggested that we stop for a rest and a “coffee” – Velkyal slang for finding the nearest bar for a beer. At the time we were stood under the imposing edifice of Strahov Monastery – one of my favourite buildings in Prague, and a place I have been fortunate enough see with one of the priests and get up close and personal with the assorted treasures they have in there. Having read last week that the brewpub there currently had their Autumn Dark Special on tap, I suggested we give it a visit.

The sun was shining there was a nice autumnal chill in the air, despite this and the stiff breeze, we ended up sitting outside in the courtyard so the girls could enjoy the sun. Looking at the menu I noticed that as well as their own beers, the restaurant also had a selection of Budvar and Bernard beers available, however I was only here to try their own stuff, and in particular I wanted the Autumn Dark Special. Joanna and I plumped for the seasonal special, while Oscar and Mrs Velkyal went for the year round amber lager.


Being something of a tourist trap, the beers are a touch on the expensive side at 60k? for 0.4l, however by the time I had tried everything on draught I didn’t mind paying the extra. When the Autumn Dark Special arrived it was very dark, like a deep fire ruby, which glows when held up to the light, on top of this sat a fluffy beige head. The nose was very sweet and malty, with caramel notes – like fruit slowly fried in butter. In the mouth it is remarkably smooth and sweet – reminiscent of a 80/- Scottish ale, with flashes of coffee and cocoa on the tongue. The only problem that I have with beers like this is not drinking gallon after gallon.


While I was savouring the autumn special, Mrs Velkyal had gone for the standard amber lager on offer. Naturally in the interests of science, we each had a taste of the other. I love the dark orange colour of this beer and the fantastic white head, I can’t just say that an amber lager looks like amber now can I? This was very hoppy in the nose, with subtle clove notes which put me in mind of the Kocour IPA we enjoyed last week. Despite being a rather bitter beer this was surprisingly smooth and easy to drink, the bitterness is only just trumped by the sweetness, but the combination is like drinking marmalade, especially given the wonderful fruitiness of the beer.

While the rest of the gang were pigging out on French fries, I decided to have a bash at the house weizen. I have had this before at Zly ?asy and enjoyed it, but this was a different kettle of fish entirely. It poured much darker than I had previous had it and had a rocky white head. I must admit that I find wheat beers somewhat difficult to describe at the moment, although there were very noticeable citrus flavours and the crisp refreshing bite I have come to appreciate in Bavarian and Bohemian style wheats. This was just a lovely beer to drink, and if I had closed my eyes ignoring the cold I could easily imagine myself enjoying glass after glass of this in the heat of a South Carolinian summer.

A few weeks ago on Beer Culture, Evan noted that there is a pub up in the Kobylisy area of the city with the Strahov beers at lower prices than at the monastery itself. Having enjoyed them in their natural environment, I am looking forward to hunting out this place and giving my wallet some respite.

I guess this picture below appeals to both the drinker and the technical writer in me!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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