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Innovation, Czech style

Rambousek beerWe already know this, but brewing innovation doesn’t stop at the U.S. borders. It isn’t limited to Belgium, or even to such new-ish hotbeds as Denmark and Italy.

Evan Rail of the Prague Daily Monitor writes that 10 new Czech microbreweries are due to open this year. He describes some beers I think we want to try:

Partly inspired by the nascent homebrewing movement, many of these smaller makers have introduced highly innovative half-liters: Rambousek’s outstanding chestnut-honey lager, Primátor’s excellent English Pale Ale and Zamberk’s to-die-for Imperial Stout.

Bigger breweries, Budvar and Pilsner Urquell, are also experimenting with new beers. Rail doesn’t have much nice to say about Budvar’s effort, but Pilsner Urquell seems to be showing an unusual willingness to think small although its plant for producing Pilsner Urquell itself expanded.

As if to counterbalance, Pilsner Urquell’s two new beers imitate the limited production, historic origins and unusual styles of a great Czech micro. Called Master, the new line claims inspiration from a sixteenth-century text on brewing by the court physician to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II. (It’s worth noting that the new brews are only said to be “inspired” by the past: both are modern, bottom-fermenting lagers, produced in Pilsner Urquell’s state-of-the-art brewery in Plzen.)

For now the beers are available only on draft and only at home. Bottles will come next but not distribution aboard.

5 Responses to Innovation, Czech style

  1. SteveH April 24, 2007 at 5:25 am #

    “Our goal is not volume. It is quality beer,”

    What a concept. I can’t wait to try these — ought to make all the “experimentation” by A-B pale in comparison.

  2. Stonch April 24, 2007 at 5:27 am #

    Interesting. More micros is just what the Czech beer market needs. The disasterous decision to allow most of the national and regional brewers to be swallowed up by international conglomerates has resulted in lowering standards across Bohemia and Moravia. Nonetheless, even the small number of small craft brewers in Prague show that the art of producing some of the finest bottom fermenting beers in the world has not been forgotten. Hopefully the new brewers will adopt the approach of the likes of the Strahov and U Medvicku micros, as opposed to that of Pivovarksy Dum. The latter, in my opinion, represents innovation for innovation’s sake(the banana and coffee beers, for example, just aren’t very good). To win Czechs over to small brewers as opposed to the big brands they’ve grown up with, they’ll have to first prove they can do what the likes of PU and Staropramen used to do in the old days – produce good, basic beers in keeping with Czech tradition.

    By the way – you fail to mention the UK in your introduction to the article, when you list off countries blessed with innovative brewers. There are literally hundreds of them here in this country. They don’t get much attention in the US because our scene is focussed on cask ale, which doesn’t really travel much People need to come here to try it!

  3. Lew Bryson April 24, 2007 at 11:48 am #

    I agree with Stonch about Pivovarsky Dum; they had a nettle beer on tap when I was there. Throwing crap in the kettle does not equal innovation.

  4. Evan Rail April 30, 2007 at 3:15 pm #

    I hope I’m not too late to join the party. Just to clear up a few points from the above:

    “The disasterous decision to allow most of the national and regional brewers to be swallowed up by international conglomerates has resulted in lowering standards across Bohemia and Moravia.”

    That might have been true at one time, but I don’t think it’s true today: thanks to the 30+ new Czech microbreweries (now more than 50 total), standards have only gone up in the seven years I’ve lived here. (For what it’s worth, I think the most dynamic beers in the country are being brewed in Moravskoslezsky kraj, way out at the confluence of the Polish and Slovak borders, though most tourists never get there.)

    “Hopefully the new brewers will adopt the approach of the likes of the Strahov and U Medvicku micros, as opposed to that of Pivovarksy Dum.”

    Pivovarsky dum is a tough call: yes, they produce gimmicky flavored beers (IMHO, the nettle is good, the banana and sour cherry brews are not). On the other hand, they produce one of the best yeast beers in the country, if not the world, and they more or less reintroduced wheat beers here. I know I’m not the only one who thinks their standard lager is worth an international journey by itself.

    U Medvidku’s microbrewery is lovely, of course. But if you want to talk about earnest, honest Czech micros, what about Freudovo pivo, Hukvaldy and Cheb?

    “Throwing crap in the kettle does not equal innovation.”

    I agree, but just to clarify, Pivovarsky dum flavors their crazy beers with extract after lagering. Nothing gets thrown in the kettle.

  5. Stan Hieronymus May 1, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    Thanks for the input, Evan.

    In the States we get riled up with how American beer became stereotyped and that many tourists think we’re stuck in the 1970s. Seems like we should make certain not to be guilty of the same sort of stereotyping ourselves.

    So we’ve probably got to visit to try the beers of Moravskoslezsky kraj, right?

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