Tag Archive: Czech Republic

Sainsbury Low Alcohol Czech Lager

Staropramen: Sainsbury’s Czech Low Alcohol Pilsner Lager (Czech Republic: Low Alcohol Pilsner: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow grain. Moderate carbonation. Had a white head, but by the time I had finished kicking my errant camera it had nearly vanished.

Nose: Wet cardboard.

Body: Moderate malt. Slightly chalky. Soft vanilla and palma violets. Light bitterness. Cereal grain. Soft lemon and fruit very late on in the beer.

Finish: Vanilla. Dry. Dried banana touch. Palma violets. Soft lemon on pancakes.

Conclusion: A low alcohol beer night. Because obviously I know how to par-tay! After having been to Prague I figured the best way to recreate that feeling was with a low abv beer from a supermarket brand*.

*warning, some unnecessary sarcasm may be in use.

It is kind of an empty beer. Thankfully not chemically, not an abomination against all things good and proper. Just…empty. There is just about enough to identify it as that elusive pilsner character. Just about. There is a soft palma violet vibe, and an ease of drinking to it. The bitterness is way below the expected level, but on mouthfeel it isn’t terribly done.

I am damning with faint praise aren’t I? It’s intentional.

There just isn’t a huge amount to it. A light kind of grain cereal flavour, some vanilla sweetness to round off the edges. At least it is better than the aroma, which is basically wet cardboard.

It is effectively inoffensive, nowhere near as bad as say Tesco Value Lager or as chemically as Becks Alcohol Free. Also not huge and flavoursome like Drink in the Sun/Snow. It is just, well, there. Beer feeling and lager tasting, but not much more than that.

Late on it does manage some soft fruit, so manages to touch base with enough elements to say it is a Czech Pilsner, but they are so lightly done that it is nowhere near a well crafted one. At 0.5% abv I would think I was being picky, if I had not tried so much better examples.

I guess it keeps your hand off stronger beers if you are driving, and it just about calls to Czech Pilsners so you don’t hate drinking it.

So, ok, not terrible, but far from any form of excitement that a beer should bring.

Background: looking at rate beer apparently this is identical to, or very close to Staropramen Nealko. Never tried it, couldn’t say. Anyway, after coming back from Prague and their excellent Bohemian Pilsners, I saw this. and because I obviously wanted to shit all over my memories I bought a few bottles. Well, it was more that I like to keep an eye out for low abv beers that don’t actually suck. Some of them actually do exist. So I thought I would give this a try. Drunk while listening to some “Hate In The Box”, which may give an impression of my expectations for this beer.


Staropramen Černý Lezak

Staropramen: Černý Lezak (Dark) (Czech Republic: Tmavý : 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark cherry red to brown. Large loose bubbled milk chocolate covering coloured head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Coffee. Roasted.

Body: Roasted. Liquorice. Treacle and chocolate. Smooth chocolate liquore. Slight black cherry. Coffee. Toffee touched.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Roasted. Chocolate liquore.

Conclusion: This is a very smooth take on the style, a beer with pretty much no harsh edges. The middle comes in like chocolate liquore, lighter in feel but with the same slickness. There is a roasted character there, but never heavy enough to be harsh, just instead acting alongside the coffee to create a coffee cake like drying character to keep it from being sickly.

This combination of characteristics makes it very easy to drink, though it is not all positive, it doesn’t really have any textual complexity, and worse still that means it doesn’t quite bring the flavour complexity of a great dark beer either.

It does make for a nice, or pleasant beer, two words that can be seen as damning with faint praise, but appropriate here, it is a beer that does not overly stand out. It does deliver that chocolate liquore flavour without either the heaviness or booziness that seems to often come with that element, which is enough to keep it from bland. Also it does mean that it is a beer that has one of two possible uses that stands out. A) As a gateway beer, it doesn’t have a challenge that could put off someone who is not used to dark beers, and so can be used as an introduction to this end of the spectrum . B) As an easygoing middle of the day beer, when you want to be able to kick back and have something with flavour, but are more focussed on talking with friends and the like.

So, yeah, relaxing, but without the class to go with it for a great beer. Not bad, but defined by where it doesn’t push the limits rather than by where it does.

Background: Something a bit more mainstream to round off the Prague run. Back in the day Staropramen Dark was one of Michael Jackson’s 500 great beers. I don’t know how this version compares, though MolstonCoors do own Staropramen now. Still thought I would give it a try. This was drunk at the hotel, using the beer glass left for us to drink very expensive beers from the hotel fridge. Sod that, this was bought for less than a quid at a local shop.

Svatý Norbert: Specialni pivo: Velikonoční 13° (Czech Republic: Bohemian Pilsner: 5.3% ABV)

Visual: Clear light yellow. Large creamy yellow to white head.

Nose: Light hop oils. Crisp hops. Light ginger. Wheaty. Lemon.

Body: Malt yet crisp. Nettles feel. Slight sugar eggs. Light banana. Slight toffee. Palma violets. Lots of hop feel. Light barley. Sweet apricot. Light custard.

Finish: Malty. Digestives. Lemon touch. Harsh bitter and hop oils. Ground up hops and greenery.

Conclusion: Two days, two Czech pilsners drunk and reviewed. I’m making up for shunning them in the early days of the Prague visit. Also two very different takes. This puts the hop oils and rougher use of the unfiltered feel right up front. A harsher introduction, and then only as you get used to that does the soft fruitiness and Easter sweetness come out and start putting the more complex notes in the background.

This means that you get a slightly sweet main body, but still goes out into a very robustly bitter and Palma violets finish. It is like you have that soft banana and apricot just seeping in until you realise your tongue is still covered by the hop oils you felt initially, and they are ready to party.

In fact it uses the Czech hop character very well indeed, and it is that that reminds me very much of the traditional Czech Pilsners, rather than the more easy drinking beer from Pražský Most U Valsů. However this still has that sweeter side, one that actually reminds me slightly of Belgian Easter beers. Lighter of course, but still those same notes. Combined together these make for a very unusual mix of heavy bitterness and easy going sweetness. Very much an excellent beer, and if you end up in the right place at the right time to try it, then definitely try it.

I’ve always said lagers can be complex and this one definitely is.

Background: This was the brewpub I was looking for when I found the Pivovar Matuska beers in the pub next door. This was literally just up the stairs. We were so close! Still, it ended up with me trying more good beers, so all is well that ended well. I nearly missed this beer as well, it is, in fact the 4th highest rated light Czech pilsner on Rate Beer. Not realising Velikonoční means “Easter” I nearly didn’t realise the Specialni was in fact the beer I had been hunting for. I am an idiot some days. Also, it meant it was very lucky we were visiting just after Easter. Some days I am far luckier than I have any right to be. This is again, unfiltered baby!

Bar Taps

Pražský Most U Valsů Svetlý 12°

Pražský Most U Valsů: Svetlý 12° (Czech Republic: Bohemian Pilsner: 5% ABV (aprox))

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Lace leaving very large white head.

Nose: Jiff lemon. Light bitterness. Fluffy popcorn.

Body: Lemon. Meringue. Hop oils. Clean bitterness. Palma violets. Orange zest. Cream.

Finish: Palma violets. Hop oils. Clean bitterness. Floral rising air in the mouth. Light orange juice. Digestives. Just slightly sharp.

Conclusion: This is a very fresh beer indeed. Lots of lemon zest and flavour notes that remind me of wheat beer in some ways, but delivered with the perfect crisp pilsner character in feel. It is very easy drinking, and refreshing on a hot day, and the hop oil character and hop bitterness are both delivered very cleanly – slipping down very nicely.

The flavour comes in like lemon curd on meringue, but with none of the heavy texture that you would expect with curd characteristics. Behind that you have the floral character and palma violets that I often seem to associate with the bohemian noble hops, especially notable at the end of the beer. This is backed by a touch of sharpness, just at the end, which makes for a final impression of alcoholic lemon juice.

It is a beer that is well worth having, it shows the benefits of the unfiltered delivery very well – adding a very slightly grainy, yet somehow still smooth feel that makes the mouthfeel as much important as the flavour. It is a very fine grain feel, but is that bit extra that makes it feel like you are drinking something special.

A lovely example of a pilsner, a bit different while still keeping the important integral characteristics, and shows how to keep full drinkablility without losing character. If you are in Prague you should not miss this.

Background: Oh yeah, Czech Pilsner! I promised they were coming. This was the first beer drunk as part of an organized beer tour of Prague (one of many in Prague). Very kindly when I couldn’t find the pub again the next day, the booking room for the tour provided me with a beer map and direction to find it again. This beer is brewed on site at Pražský Most U Valsů bar and is served unpasturised and unfiltered. As good lager should be. It was a good nights drinking, I was lucky to have a great group of people to drink with from all around the world on that night’s tour. I put aprox on the abv as it only listed the 12°, doing the old divide by 2.5 method gives 4.8% abv, so I was guessing an abv of between that and 5%. While they were pouring I took a close up photo of the wrong tap handle it turns out, so instead I have provided the general pouring photo below for reference. Frankly if you ask for a Světlý or light beer, they will know what you mean. Due to being during a tour my notes were a tad more haphazard than normal, but I figured I had enough to put a review together.

Pražský Most U Valsů Bar

Apollo Galaxy

Pivovar Matuska: Apollo Galaxy (Czech Republic: American Pale Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Clean lemon to apricot. Small yellowed head.

Nose: Dry. Buttery pasty. Light earthy touch. Dried fruit. Peppery.

Body: Bitter. Malt chocolate base. Bubblegum. Earthy. Pineapple. Dried apricot. Dry. Vanilla touch. Light gooseberry. Light pepper.

Finish: Slightly earthy. Bubblegum. Dry. Tart gooseberry. Light raspberry. Dry apricot. Light salt. Light cloying touch.

Conclusion: This is a beer that grew on me. Slowly, but it did grow on me. I still don’t think it deserves the high rating it seems to have elsewhere but the flavours do build up over time.

Initially it came in slightly peppery, dry and very slightly earthy. These elements didn’t exactly excite and it came in too dry for me. It manages to keep me exploring though by a slight Sorachi Ace like bubblegum touch, an element that always amuses me. Especially here where I know they didn’t use the Sorachi Ace hop.

Over time you got more elements coming in, most notable the sweet fruit build up – a mix of dried apricot and a tart gooseberry touch. Here it contrasts the dryness well and alongside the bubblegum quirk and a growing vanilla sweet touch makes for a much more balanced beer.

It still is very dry, especially in the peppery finish, but it becomes more manageable and interesting. By the end it did have my grudging respect as it mixed fruit, sweet, bubblegum, peppery and dry in a way that is hard to balance well. I can appreciate it, but that very attenuated dryness really isn’t my style.

Overall it isn’t fully to my interests, but is a well made beer. I often seem to be out of line with the main opinion on the requisite dryness of APAs so it is possible that a lot of people will get a lot more out of this than me. There is a lot going on, it is interesting, so while it isn’t my favourite your mileage may vary.

Background: Ok, ok, yes the second Czech review and it is an APA. I drank it in the same session as the last one. Lager beers are coming soon. I have since found out rate beer has it in the top 50 of both Czech beers and APAs. This has altered my opinion not a drop. This was drunk on holiday, in lovely sun and with pizza afterwards. Seriously I could not have been in a better mood. For general background on how we found the pub see my prior Pivovar Matuska review.

Beer List

Zlata Raketa

Pivovar Matuška: Zlatá Raketa 17° (Czech Republic: IPA: 7%% ABV)

Visual: hazy lemon to lemon curd. White crisp bubbled head.

Nose: Tangerine. Grapefruit. Digestive biscuits hop character.

Body: Grapefruit. Tangerine. Vanilla and light custard cream biscuits. Juicy sweetness. Grapes. Moderate hops and toffee malt. Orange jelly.

Finish: Pineapple. Fresh hops. Good bitterness. Pink grapefruit. Light greenery. Marmalade. Shortbread.

Conclusion: As mentioned in the background, the first Czech review and it is an IPA. Go figure. Let’s move on and look at the beer, I have been utterly spoiled by IPAs over the years, despite that this is still seriously impressive. It is very big, very juicy, fruity and very much in the American IPA style. The aroma is wonderfully fresh, with tangerine and light grapefruit roaming out.

The body actually hides the bitterness more than you would expect, and so comes out sweet, though more in the fruit expression than the underlying malt balance. There is some light vanilla and toffee influence from the malt, but you get much more the orange, tangerine and grapes. Very juicy. Now if it wasn’t for the next element, while being a good beer it would be a disappointment as an IPA.

The next element? The finish which brings the bitterness, and that is what makes it as an IPA. You get light bitterness in the body, but the robust punch is saved for last. Alongside the biscuit character to offset it, it makes for that final missing piece of the IPA puzzle.

This comes together as an insanely drinkable IPA, less bitter than many, but with plenty of hop character, and before you underestimate it, it brings everything at the end. A summer fruit IPA and lovely as such. I could easily drink this until the 7% abv knocks me over. Brilliant, and worth the heresy of seeking out an IPA in the Czech Republic to give it a try.

Background: First Czech Republic review! Woo! And it’s….an IPA. Way for me to take risks huh? I have at least a vague defence. We were looking for a brewpub on the outskirts of Prague that was well reputed for their pilsners (which made sense to review in Prague) and instead found a completely different pub. Which turned out to be right next door to the one we were looking for, but we only found that out later. Anyway I noticed they had this, the second highest rated Czech beer according to rate beer. So I thought I would grab it anyway. So my first Czech review is an IPA. Leave me alone. The name translates as Golden Rocket, and the 17° relates to the percentage of sugar content at the start of the brew, which is a common thing in the Czech republic , dividing by 2.5 tends to give a rough approximation of the abv.

Prague Baby!

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