Showing posts with label staropramen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label staropramen. Show all posts

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Time To Take Your Pils

Something I had been planning to do for a while was collect a batch of 'Bohemian' Pilsners from various breweries and do a blind tasting. Last night, with not much else to do, I imposed on Mrs V's sweet-hearted nature and sent her up and down the stairs several times to bring me glasses of beer, without telling me which was which. The aim of the tasting was twofold, firstly to decide a ranking for each of the beers in question, and secondly to see if I could correctly identify each one. The five beers in the tasting were:
I took notes using my slightly simplified version of Cyclops, and here are the findings...

Pilsner 1


  • Sight - golden, slightly hazy, thick rocky white head
  • Smell - fresh bread, grass, light lemony citrus
  • Taste - juicy bready malts, sharp citric tang
  • Bitter - 4/5
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Notes - lovely balance between the malt and the hops, medium bodied, long lingering soft bitter finish.

Pilsner 2


  • Sight - light amber to orange, loose rocky white head
  • Smell - heavily grassy, musty, doughy, slight honey note
  • Taste - a little sweetness and a touch of lemon
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Notes - really kind of bland, light-medium bodied and with a watery finish

Pilsner 3


  • Sight - rich golden, inch of rocky white head with loose bubbles
  • Smell - fruity, a touch of bread, something corn like in the background
  • Taste - rather fruity, sweet with cocoa notes and a bit of nuttiness
  • Bitter - 2/5
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Notes - more of a pale ale than a pilsner, slick buttery finish and medium bodied.

Pilsner 4


  • Sight - rich gold to light amber, thin white head
  • Smell - grassy, herbal notes, backed with some bread and a little orange aroma.
  • Taste - rich toasty malts, sweet honeyed edge, firm hop bite
  • Bitter - 3.5/5
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Notes - nicely balanced between the hops and the malt, mouthfeel was crisp and clean with a long lingering bitter finish

Pilsner 5


  • Sight - light amber, half and inch of white head
  • Smell - citrus, lemon/orange, some grass and floral notes, touch of bread, bit of weed
  • Taste - toasted bread, some grass
  • Bitter - 4/5
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Notes - Crisp with a hop bite that smooths out to a slightly sweet finish, medium bodied.

Having got through the 5 beers, though admittedly numbers 2 and 3 didn't get finished, I ranked the beers in order of preference as follows:
  • 1st - Pilsner 1
  • 2nd - Pilsner 4
  • 3rd - Pilsner 5
  • 4th - Pilsner 2
  • 5th - Pilsner 3
When it came to identifying them I went with:
  • Pilsner 1 - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Pilsner 2 - Staropramen
  • Pilsner 3 - Lagunitas Pils
  • Pilsner 4 - Pilsner Urquell
  • Pilsner 5 - JosephsBrau PLZNR
Happily I was correct in each instance, though Mrs V managed to nip any smug moment in the bud by commenting that 'it's no bloody wonder, you know more about pilsners than most people'.


One thing though that surprised me was how much I liked the Josephsbrau PLZNR, which is Trader Joe's own brand beer, brewed by Gordon Biersch, and costs an insanely cheap $5.99 for a six pack. I really thought it was a pretty decent beer, a tad strong at 5.4%abv, but with 32 IBUs not shying away from the proper hopping level for Czech style pale lagers (one thing guaranteed to piss me off is 'Bohemian lager' with about 20 IBUs). However I need to take issue with the label, which reads:
JosephsBrau PLZNR (Pilsner) is a celebration of noble hops from Central Europe. This style of beer was developed by German brewmaster Josef Groll in 1840 in the town of Plzn (Pilsen), Bohemia (modern day Czech Republic) and was the first beer to be brewed golden and clear. This beer's pin-point fine bitterness is perfectly accentuated by its crisp body.
Firstly, if you are going to spell the name of a town in the language of the country the town is it, please do it properly, it is 'Plzeň' in Czech, not 'Plzn', if your printer can't handle the há?ek over the 'n', use the German name instead rather than mangling something together that, to be frank, makes your marketing people look like rank amateurs.

Secondly, Josef Groll developed the beer that became known to the world as Pilsner Urquell in 1842, not 1840. He brewed the first batch of the beer on October 5th of that year and the first tapping was on November 11th.

Thirdly, the beer brewed by Groll was not the 'first beer to be brewed golden and clear', pale ales had existed in England long before the Bürgerliches Brauhaus decided to use English malting methods to produce pale malt. Sure it might have been the first lager to be 'brewed golden and clear' but not the first beer.

Here endeth the lesson....thanks be to Groll.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Cheaper Option

There are times when I simply fail to understand the pricing of beer. Take this weekend for example, Mrs Velkyal and I had guests from South Carolina, Mrs V's best friend and husband, so we went into Charlottesville to do some shopping at Whole Foods.

We had decided to splash out on some good steaks and we took our traditional detour to the beer and wine aisle. I was thrilled that they were now stocking the "express shipped cold" Pilsner Urquell in bottles though not in cans, so naturally in the interests of blogging science I bought a six pack.


Next to the Pilsner Urquell was another major Czech beer brand, Staropramen - the MolsonCoors owned brewing behemoth in Prague. Staropramen in the Czech Republic is cheaper than Pilsner Urquell, usually about two-thirds of the price, but in Whole Foods in Charlottesville the Pilsner Urquell was $7.99 for a six pack and Staropramen was $9.49.

I just couldn't get my head around the idea of Staropramen being more expensive that Pilsner Urquell, unless of course the fact that Plzeň is about 60km closer to the US than Prague is important - strangely though I rather doubt that.

So what would make Pilsner Urquell the cheaper, and infinitely superior, option?

btw - express shipped cold Pilsner Urquell is lovely, only one step down from tankove - so go and buy some  and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Some Advice for MolsonCoors

I realise that this is maybe somewhat cheeky, but I would like to offer MolsonCoors some advice.

It seems, if the news is correct, that they are intent on buying a company called StarBev. Perhaps the jewel in StarBev's crown is Staropramen in Prague, but they also own breweries in other Central and Eastern European countries as well as distributing a range of western brands in the region. Obviously then the purchase is to gain a foothold in the CEE marketplace, which happens to include the country with the highest beer consumption per capita in the world, the Czech Republic.

There is though, I believe, an opportunity for MolsonCoors to do something good for the beer world in Central and Eastern Europe through their purchase of StarBev, and in particular their Czech brands. Beyond Staropramen, the purchase of StarBev has brought Ostrovar, Mě??an, and most of all Braník into their portfolio.


Braník is something of a sad, cautionary tale of the pitfalls of privatisation and calamities of consolidation. If I remember rightly, when Staropramen in some form or other took over Braník they eventually shut the brewery itself, which is a lovely building overlooking the river in south Prague, and moved production to the main Staropramen brewery. The brands themselves became something of an underappreciated runt of the family and eventually their pubs started to disappear. Caught up in all this though was a legendary beer, the 12° ?erné pivo, or dark beer, reputed to have been a close second to U Flek?'s magnificent 13° tmavy. Unfortunately I never tried the Braník ?erné, though I believe it was until recently sold in Germany.

In some ways I guess I am out of concert with a fair few people when it comes to talking about the large brewing multinationals, I simply don't see them as some monolithic monstrosity which is the antithesis of good beer, and MolsonCoors are a case in point. Over the Christmas holidays I revelled in the delights of a beer called Worthington White Shield, an IPA of such outstanding drinkability that I really hope the rumours are true and it will be available Stateside in the coming months. Sure, MolsonCoors are never going to qualify for anyone's definition of a "craft brewery", but in White Shield they have a beer which makes an absolutely mockery of the idea that only small breweries make great beer.

It is my experience of Worthington White Shield that I think gives MolsonCoors an opportunity in the Czech Republic to revive a legend and bring back Braník ?erné from the dead, to once again be enjoyed by the beer loving people of Prague and beyond.

* the picture is not mine, it is the work of Hynek Moravec and used under the licence terms of Wikipedia, the original file can be seen here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prague's Old Spring

I haven't drunk Staropramen in a very long time. Well OK then, not since I had a bottle of their dark lager with Evan Rail in U Rotundy (a pub beloved of Ron Pattinson) back in 2009, just before leaving the Czech Republic. In October of the same year, the former owners, InBev, decided to sell off their Central European operations to raise some cash in the wake of buying Anheuser-Busch, included in this package was Staropramen.


I remember when Staropramen, at the turn of the millennium brought out the beer which eventually became known as Granát, though originally it was Staropramen Millenium, and revived the old Bohemian style of "polotmavé". Polotmavé is another of those Bohemian beer styles which, while similar to Vienna lager, is actually not the same as Vienna lager. The defining ingredient of the latter being Vienna malt, whereas the former usually has the same malts as a tmavé, just less of the dark ones, hence being a "half-dark".

Anyway, today as a result of a tweet from a friend, I decided to have a look at the Staropramen website, and I have to admit to being impressed by their use of video content, which I can't quite work out how to embed here, but pop along to their site and have a look for yourself. Interestingly, Staropramen apparently do a double decoction mash, and there is no mention of the corn syrup which allegedly made up about a third of the fermentables in the InBev days.

Given that Budvar, Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen are all available over here, I am tempted to do a blind tasting of commercial Czech lagers and see which one I prefer these days.

* strangely enough I don't have any pictures of Staropramen (gasp, shock, horror!), hence the sepia pic of St Vitus Cathedral that I took one early morning while wandering round the city.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things I Didn't Expect

I think the technical phrase for the jolly little surprises that come your way in life when you cross the ocean to take up a new life is "culture shock". I have been having it in spades in the last couple of weeks, and in almost every possible situation; pleasant immigration officers at Atlanta airport (those of you who have dealt with the Czech Foreign Police will no doubt know to what I refer); shops with nine million flavours of yogurt, but only one plain white; churches as ubiquitous as pubs in Prague; the feeling of not really being so "velky" after all; the list could go on and on.

A couple of things though stick in my mind, I will deal with the negative first off. Yesterday Mrs V and I went to her aunt's for dinner, as they don't drink we obviously weren't going to buy a bottle of vino as a gift, so in to Walmart we jaunted for a bunch of flowers. Walmart is another culture shock after 10 years of soul destroying Tesco - the variety of almost everything available is mind boggling at times, and the fact that someone packs your shopping bags for you and wishes you a pleasant day, a welcome change from the sour cashier in the Tesco on Narodni asking if you have a note smaller than 200k?, the near equivalent of $10.

The nasty shock though is Walmart's new alcohol sales policy - anyone who looks under the age of 40 must provide ID in order to walk away with their favourite tipple. Thankfully I keep a form of ID on me, but I find it remarkable that for 19 years after coming of age, people will be required to prove they are legally allowed to buy alcohol. No doubt Walmart and many of their ilk will cite insurance policies and the inevitable criminal prosecutions that would follow selling alcohol to minors, but if you are going to have such a ridiculous policy, why make someone who is clearly over 21 produce ID like some wannabe under-age booze baron? What happened to innocent until proven guilty, to trusting people to use their discretion?

The positive shock though was on going to to see what lovely crafty beer goodness they had, and seeing beers from a raft of my favourite British brewers; BrewDog and Wychwood to name but two. But on one aisle I found several Czech lagers that I hadn't expected to see in a million years, including ?atec, B.B. Burgerbrau (from the original brewery in Budweis! hint: it isn't Budvar) and Staropramen. Happily though, Budvar seems to be quite readily available, so when I have the urge to drink a good lager again I know I can get hold of something worthwhile.

Perverse as it may sound, I was actually quite glad to see the presence of Staropramen in the USA as it allows me to do a couple of taste tastings comparing the worst of Czech mainstream lager with the mainstream lagers here, the likes of Budweiser, Miller and Coors - masochistic I am sure, but certainly worth it for interest's and comedy's sake.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Rumours are True

On Beer Culture last week, Evan mentioned that the beer at Pra?sky Most u Vals? had improved quite dramatically. To be perfectly frank, as I wrote here, it really couldn't get much worse. I am not usually one for pouring beer down the sink, but when I last tried the dark that's exactly where it went.

At something of a loose lunch time end, I sent Evan a message to see if he fancied a quick pint over lunch and we agreed to meet at Pra?sky Most to try again. Sure enough the beers are betetr than last year, particularly the dark, which is a nice dry schwarzbier style. Simply put, it is good to see brewpubs not sitting on their laurels and trying to improve their beers.

We decided however not to have lunch there, opting instead on the spur of the moment to drop into one of Ron Pattinson's favourite Prague haunts - U Rotundy, a proper rough as nuts Czech pub, which sells Staropramen. We ended up having lunch for about 100k? each, and on the beer front I decided to have the Staropramen ?erné, which while not being a patch on the Budvar or Kout versions, really wasn't that bad at all.

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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