Showing posts with label ratebeer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ratebeer. Show all posts

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Real!

I noticed on Friday that Ratebeer has finally caught up with the real world and accepted that Polotmavy, which is Czech for 'half dark', is a distinct beer 'style' from Vienna lagers or the more generic 'amber lager'. They describe the 'style' as follows:
'This is the amber lager style of the Czech Republic. The character that the brewery usually aims for with this style is a hybrid between the dark lager and the pale pilsner. The result has a richer malt character than the American Dark/Amber Lager/Vienna style and more hop than the Oktoberfest/Marzen style'.
While I understand what they are trying to say here, let me just clear something up, Polotmavy is not a 'hybrid' of pale lager and tmavy, which is dark lager, it is a descendent of Vienna lager. For a better idea of these beers, this is what Evan Rail says about it in the 'Good Beer Guide - Prague and the Czech Republic':
'Unlike Pilsner-style brews, which usually require extremely soft water, half-darks can be made with a higher carbonate content and can include caramel and dark malt to various degrees, as well as Pilsner malt. Extremely clear and reddish-amber in colour, they are perhaps closest to the Vienna lager invented in the 19th Century by Anton Dreher'.
Something that is important to remember with Czech brewing though is that what we in the Anglo-American centric beer world call a style, such as polotmavy, is really just a definition of the general colour of the beer. Most examples range from a rich amber to a garnet red, as such you'll see beers marketed as 'jantar' and 'granát' respectively. Remembering that fact is important, because under the current Czech brewing laws there are 4 categories of beer based on strength, each of which can be Polotmavy:
  • Stolní pivo or 'table beer', up to 6° Plato OG (up to 1.024 and rarer than hen's teeth)
  • Vy?epní pivo or 'tap beer' between 7° to 10° (1.028-1.040)
  • Le?ák or 'lager' 11° and 12° (1.044-1.048)
  • Speciální pivo or 'special beer' 13° and higher (1.052+)
Another thing to be aware of is that Polotmavy is not the same as a ?ezané, which is a blend of dark and pale beers, both should be the same gravity, to make a Czech lager equivalent of the black and tan.

As for how a Polotmavy will taste, again let me quote Evan (admittedly for the Le?ák variant but applicable across the board really):
'a lightly toasted taste and some serious malt complexity followed by a balanced hop finish'.
As with most Czech beers, the hops in question are likely to be Saaz, so expect lots of that wonderful lemony, hay, grassy thing that is so characteristic of the most noble of noble hops.

To mark Polotmavy's acceptance on Ratebeer, I cracked open some of my homebrew version, which I call Dark Island Granát, on Friday afternoon, when Mrs V got home from work....


Is it 'to style' (such a bullshit phrase)? I like to think so, is it dangerously moreish to drink? Oh yes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So Stylish

Sure, beer styles aren't perfect, and yes it is true that brewers, whether pro or home, brew beer rather than styles. However, beer styles do serve a purpose as a frame of reference for both drinkers and brewers. If I brew, for example, a 10% pale lager, hopped with Tettnang to 55 IBU and lagered for 60 days, then it is quite clear that it is not a Premium American Lager. The question though that has been bouncing around my head for the last couple of days is "who decides what style of beer a product is?".

It is clear in my mind that the final say should rest with the actual brewers themselves. The one group of people who should resolutely not be allowed anywhere near the decision making process for a new beer is the marketing department. If a brewer, for example, brews a generic pale lager, and the company markets it as a Pilsner, it does nobody any favours, least of all the consumer.

Someone with sufficient knowledge of Pilsner beers, whether German or Czech, will be disappointed drinking a generic pale lager which has been labelled a Pilsner because it doesn't have the requisite hoppiness, body and flavour. If said drinker is also a member of sites such as BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, they will then give their opinions on the beer as a Pilsner and likely how it fails as one and score it accordingly.

Worse yet are reviewers who, through no fault of their own, have never had the inestimable pleasure of travelling to Germany or the Czech Republic to drink the real thing in it's natural environment. Having grown up on beers from green bottles which have been pasteurised and then travelled long distances in less than prime conditions, it is no wonder they come out with some of the drivel you read on the rating sites. It makes me want to scream when I read that an American made Pilsner "has the right amount of skunkiness" for the style, when in Germany and the Czech Republic such a beer would be entirely unacceptable. You only have to drink fresh Pilsner at the source to know that the bottled version is a travesty.

Having said that, if a brewery sticks with the decision to market a generic pale lager as a Pilsner, and the beer is listed as such on the rating sites then the brewery deserves being beaten with the big stick of public opinion. It is a different situation when the beer is clearly labelled as a certain style but listed on the rating sites as something else, take this example for one of my favourite beers:


Why, oh why, is Williams Bros 80/-, known in the US as Heavy, listed as a "bitter"? The commercial description attached to the page claims that the beer is a:

"traditional Scottish ale brewed with an emphasis on the malt characteristics. Lightly hopped, as is true to this style of beer, with fruity malt aromas and a toffeeish mouth feel"

this despite the fact that the site's definition of "bitter" reads:

"gold to copper color, low carbonation and medium to high bitterness. Hop flavor and aroma may be non-existent to mild"

while their definition of a Scottish Ale is:

"generally dark, malty, full-bodied brews"

Whoever listed Williams Bros Heavy as a Bitter is clearly as clueless as people that believe Miller Lite to be a Pilsner.

My problem with all of this is that ultimately two constituencies are affected, the consumer because they are buying into false expectations and the beer itself because when it is mislabelled by either the brewery marketing department or the self appointed arbiters of style it will be panned for not being something it isn't.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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