Showing posts with label tmavy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tmavy. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Get It While You Can

On that crisp December day when I pottered down to Devils Backbone to see the culmination of months of researching, chatting with brewing contacts back in Prague, looking at malt specifications from the Czech Republic and Germany, and discussing all things tmavé with anyone daft enough to listen to me, I felt an immense sense of satisfaction that the beer Jason and I had discussed when brewing the Pilsner was finally coming to life.

When February 1st eventually arrived, and Morana had lain for nearly 45 days in the lagering tanks, that first pint was a revelation. Jason had masterfully realised my vision of a faithful Czech style dark lager, one that is neither dunkel nor schwarzbier. Every pint I have had in the 15 days since then has been an absolute delight, so enjoyable in fact that I keep forgetting to write notes or take pictures.

On Monday, Jason sent me an email to let me know that in 2 weeks, they had sold half the batch - which equated to about 4.5 hectolitres, or 900 half litres of beer. 900 half litres in 14 days, 64 pints a day. As I was in the area yesterday, really a 25 minute detour counts as being "in the area", I popped in to re-fill a growler and have a couple of pints. In the hour or so I was sat at the bar, at least two more growlers were filled with Morana, and several people had pints.

The moral of this tale is simply this. Get to Devils Backbone before it is gone. I would say you have about ten days.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Arise Morana!

For nearly 45 days she has slumbered, this goddess of death and winter. Her time is nigh, to come forth from the darkness of slumbering into the glorious light of a Devils Backbone glass.

Yes, tomorrow is the day when Morana Dark Lager makes its debut. The beer itself is a 14° Czech tmavé, a style of beer which is neither a dunkel nor a schwarzbier.

Historically speaking, most beer in Bohemia was warm fermented until the revolution started by Josef Groll's introduction of Bavarian brewing techniques in 1842, resulting in the creation of Pilsner. So in contrast to Franconia and Bavaria, there was no tradition of dark lager on which pale lager built. The dark beers of Bohemia switched to cold fermentation some time in the late 19th century, hundreds of years later than the Germans were making dunkel and schwarzbier.

So if you want to try an authentic Czech style tmavé, made with a double decoction mash, water that is softer than Plzeň and of course only Saaz hops, then Devils Backbone is the place to be in the near future. Personally speaking, I will be there tomorrow for dinner - hopefully with my Pub Guide collaborator Mark Stewart, and most definitely with growlers to fill.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Collection of Updates

As you can imagine, having several projects and plans all bubbling along together often means that beer related stuff that I am up to doesn't get written about on this here blog of witterings. So I thought I'd lump a load of odds and sods together and make one post out of them - sort of like making a soufflé and hoping it doesn't go all flat on me.

First up, the International Homebrew Project. If you recall, and if you are one of the homebrewers to have emailed me confirming your intended participation, the democratic opinion of the beer to make turned out to be a historical recreation of a milk stout, hopped with Challenger and Goldings. As I said previously, when I get the recipe from Kristen I will posting it, so please be patient and in the meantime perhaps stock up on your hops and have a look at these recipes from Ron's blog for different iterations of the Mackesons milk stout recipe.

On my own brewing front, I have bottled both my Thunder Child Extra Stout and Mrs Velkyal's Session Beer, an Irish Red Ale single hopped with Fuggles. Both beers were on the high end of the final gravity range for their style guidelines, but tasted good in their green state - which is really all that matters. My barleywine is still in primary and I am playing with ideas of what to do with it next, whether to go to secondary and add another batch of yeast, or to dry hop, or just go straight to bottle and leave it be until Thanksgiving.


There is a new version of the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague available through Lulu.com. I heard from a few people that the download was taking an age, which is hardly surprising as the document was some 600Mb, mainly due to the fact that I used massive picture files in the text. Well, I resampled the pictures to make them smaller, without too much loss in sharpness, and the new version is only about 6Mb and should be much quicker to download. While talking about the Pub Guide, my collaborator is in the Charlottesville area for the next 6 months and we are discussing a couple of project ideas - he also bought me a bottle of Matu?ka ?erná Raketa, a Czech Black IPA.

If you follow my Twitter feed, you'll have seen me make mention a few times about the upcoming release of Morana Dark Lager, the tmavy le?ák I helped brew with Devils Backbone. February 1st is the day to put in your calendar - I for sure will be there with growlers to fill and a belly aching for beer.

I think that's everything.....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Into Darkness...

Think Czech lager.

Ok, do you have an image in your head of Czech lager? Let me guess, it is golden, topped with a frothy white head (which, if well made and poured, can support the weight of a small coin), the nose is grassy, lightly lemony, all the things you expect from Saaz, the taste is bready and malty and when you get a great example of Czech beer you wonder why anyone would ever drink anything else. That is Czech lager, yes? The vast majority of the time you'd be right, but for the 5% of beer production in the Czech Republic devoted to the dark arts, to tmavy, or ?erny, le?ák (dark or black respectively). Legally speaking the only official name for a dark lager in the Czech Republic is tmavy, and thus that is the term I will use.


According to Czech tradition, or at least the things I was told by Czech men in pubs when I first moved to Prague back in the 20th Century, tmavy is beer for women, specifically beer to give women bigger breasts. What they neglected to mention was that the dark lagers of the Czech Republic are a whole different world from the Pilsner inspired golden lagers, and so it was only in my last few years in the city that I got a taste for them.


When I went down to Devils Backbone to help brew their recreation of the 1842 Pilsner recipe, Jason and I discussed at length Czech beer, and came back again and again to tmavy and how it differs from the German dark lagers, dunkels and schwarzbier. We came to the conclusion that it would be an interesting project to brew a tmavy and so we set about finding as much information as we could. Emails were sent to various Czech brewers, websites were read in various languages, style guidelines were consulted, though not in the obvious places - certain websites are of the opinion that a Czech tmavy is either a dunkel or a schwarzbier. Why then do I maintain that tmavy should have it's own style? Simply because the history of dark lager in Bohemia is very different from that of Bavaria, where dark lagers preceded pale lagers by a few centuries, in Bohemia, however what became dark lager was dark ale until the 1890s - you could then argue, if you so wish, that tmavy is in reality more closely related to porter than dunkel or schwarzbier. Indeed, the iconic, and distinctly stouty dark lager from U Flek? is known to have been warm fermented until that era.


Having garnered the relevant information, got the necessary malts and hops, scheduled a time which worked for all involved, we got together on Saturday to brew. Taking part in the brewday on Saturday was myself obviously, Jason and Aaron from Devil's Backbone, Lyle Brown of Battlefield Brewery in Fredericksburg and Nathan Zeender, a journalist from DC, whose article in Brew Your Own magazine about kvass was fascinating.


We used floor malted Bohemian pilsner malt, Munich malt, CaraBohemian malt and Carafa II special malt in the grist, and only Saaz hops in the boil, to achieve about 25IBUs, the yeast is Jason's prefered Augustiner lager yeast, and the brewery's incredibly soft well water. Because we wanted to be as traditional and authentic as possible, we did a double decoction mash. When everything was done, which took about 8 hours, we had, in the fermenter, 11 hectolitres of 14o tmavy speciál - that's 1100 litres or about 290 gallons. The beer will ferment for about 8 or 9 days and be lagered until, at the earliest, February 1st 2011, though ideally we would like to do 2 months worth of lagering.


For naming this beer, I suggested, and Jason agreed, that we use the name of an ancient Slavic goddess, Morana, the goddess of winter and death, who goes under several other names as well, but Morana was the one I liked best. Traditionally when Spring comes, an effigy of Morana is burnt to celebrate the end of winter, and given the timing of the beer being released, it is kind of fitting that a beer dedicated to her would be available during the last throes of winter.

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