Showing posts with label cerny lev. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cerny lev. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Double the Darkness

It was only after I discovered the delights of beer from small breweries in the Czech Republic that I started to develop a taste for dark lager, called either Tmavé or ?erné depending on the whim of the brewery. Kozel's ?erné is more of a dark amber while Kout na ?umavě's Tmavé absorbs light like a black hole, yet one is "black" and the other "dark respectively.

When I finally decided to make my own lagers, during a particularly cold snap in January, the style I chose first was tmavé, simply because I knew it would be more forgiving of any mess ups along the way than would be a pilsner. I wrote about the recipe and inspiration for the beer back at the beginning of the year. Having enjoyed most of my stash of ?erny Lev, I learnt that Schell's Brewing Company up in Minnesota had done a limited batch of tmavé, calling it Stag 5 and so I wanted to do a side by side tasting of the two beers.


First up was Schell's, which is 5.7% and has 30 IBU of Saaz, if the info on Ratebeer is to be believed. Although this picture makes the beer look almost pitch black, it is in fact a dark brown which becomes a rich crimson when held up to the light. The head is light tan and lingers for the duration. It most certainly looked the part.


In terms of aroma there was caramel, like toffee really, a hint of roasted coffee, though it wasn't harsh and in your face about it, and the gentle, soothing spiciness of Saaz hops in the background. I wasn't expecting the smooth flavours of bitter sweet chocolate to be at the fore in the taste department, but it was and it worked well, that roasty edge was there, like toast that is between done and burnt, and the bitterness of the hops kicks in at the end. I found myself sucking this beer down, well assembled, easy to drink and medium bodied, yes I liked it. Where I would put it in the spectrum of tmavé that I have drunk in the Czech Republic? Well ahead of the likes of Kozel and Staropramen, that's for sure, so on a par with Bernard I would say (for the unitiated, that means pretty damned good).


Now for my ?erny Lev, which is "Black Lion" in English, which ended up with 5.6% abv and 24 IBU, so in a similar ballpark to the Schell's. This time the picture doesn't hide anything, the beer is a very dark brown, bordering on black and edged with crimson in the light. The head is light tan and voluminous, when eventually it died down a bit, it stuck at about a centimetre for the time it took me to drink the beer. With the head duly receded, it again looked the part.


The aromas bouncing around in the glass for this were treacle, roasted coffee, with hints of spice and I thought a trace of lemony hay. In the taste department the coffee really came to the fore, coupled with sweet malty juiciness and a firm bitter bite which may have slightly unbalanced the beer. The body on my beer was fuller than the Schell's and there was a trace of something solventy about the beer, which I think may have come from underpitching the yeast and having it at slightly higher temperatures than recommended. I like my beer, always a good thing, but it isn't as well integrated and put together as Schell's. Mrs V expressed a clear preference for the Schell's, saying that my beer had too much roastiness in it for her tastes.

I think I might do this kind of comparative tasting a bit more often, as a way to gauge where my homebrew is going right and going wrong. Certainly a worthwhile experiment, I think the next one will be my German Pilsner next to Scrimshaw.

I just wanted to quickly thank Josh up in Minnesota for procuring and sending the beer down to fellow CAMRA homebrewer and occasional blogger, Jamey - have a read of his blog, Barlow Brewing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Bottling beer at half six in the morning is a challenge, especially when you have to get out to your penultimate day of your current job by quarter to eight. Thankfully though, I now have 19 bottles of 5.6% abv ?erny Lev (that's "Black Lion" for the non-Czech speakers among you) happily conditioning. My normal batch yields a case of 24 bottles, but I only had 19 caps (note to self: check these things first) so I used a mixture of 22oz bottles and the 12oz ones to make sure I only lost about half a bottle's worth of beer.


A quick reminder, ?erny Lev is a 14o Czech style dark lager, or tmavé. I based the recipe on the one I designed for the Morana Dark Lager brewed at Devils Backbone last year, which was itself the product of months of research in Czech, Slovak and German, talking to various brewers and using the malts at hand in the US to create something which I thought was very close to my ideal tmavé, the 14o Tmavé Speciální from Kout na ?umavě.


Having brewed the beer back in January, it spent 35 days in my somewhat less than technically magnificent lagering tank, basically a two and half gallon water bottle, sanitised and slotted into the back of the fridge to sit at near freezing point. Now it will sit at room temperature for at least a week to carbonate before being put in the cellar for at least another 5 weeks - I really don't want to rush this one, even though when I tasted the sample I liked what was there...

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