Beers from the Czech lands have been synonymous with bottom fermenting lagers for over 150 years. In common with most of Europe though, ales would have been the dominant form of beer prior to 1842 and Josef Groll’s Pilsner Urquell. Recent years however have seen a number of microbreweries experimenting with styles of beer more commonly associated with Britain and Ireland. The Primátor brewery in Náchod produces English Pale Ale, which is very well regarded, in particular by Mrs Velkyal. However a new brewery has come of the scene making a wider range of ales, including stout and IPA, that new brewery is so young they don’t even have a website up and running yet, Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf.
Whilst it is true that I like lager, I am by far a bigger fan of ales. There is more complexity, a wider range of styles and flavours to enjoy, so for a brewery to making ales in the Czech Republic is cause for hunting them out and trying them. I was very happy though to see that Kocour had their wonderful V3 Rauchmalt Special. This exceptional beer is dark brown with a creamy tan head, and the first impression I got on the nose was sausages barbecuing over an open fire – which actually was happening just a few feet away so I wandered off to find Mrs Velkyal on the over side of the courtyard to make sure. Many other rauch beers have an overwhelming flavour of ham, and V3 is no different, however the hamminess (is that a word?) is smoothed over by a sweet wine touch with also contributes to the full body of the beer.
While I was enjoying the V3, Mrs Velkyal decided to try Kocour’s American style Pale Ale - using Centennial hops - which is decidedly paler than the almost red Primátor product. I only sampled a mouthful or two of her beer and didn’t take any notes so I have to rely on Mrs Velkyal’s opinion which was simply “Primátor has competition”. I have to admit I love Mrs Velkyal’s approach to beer, it is much more down to earth than my near obsessive reading and experimenting, so when she enjoys a beer it must be worth further investigation – which will take place on Monday at the Kocour tasting session in Prague’s Pivovarský Dům.
At one point during the proceedings, Pivní Filosof and I got talking with Honza Kočka, the owner of Kocour, who told us that he is planning a rauch porter and other ales are in the pipeline. Excited? Me? Pivní Filosof? Erm I think so. Honza also told us that once the American Pale Ale was done with they would be tapping their India Pale Ale. Cue encouraging Mrs Velkyal to drink more. With the APA was done, we moved on the to IPA, and what a taste explosion that was! The beer pours beautiful amber with very distinct orange tints although there was very little head. The nose was very hoppy, very hoppy indeed – lots of grass and floral notes. This is a good bitter IPA, which was almost like drinking a Seville orange – bitter and touched with sweetness as well. Usually Mrs Velkyal shies away from IPA as she is not a big fan of bitter beers, but she enjoyed this one very much, remarking that she had a Goldilocks moment with this IPA – finding one where the bitterness was “just right”.
The last of the Kocour ales on tap was their stout. As I have recorded elsewhere I am a big fan of this beer style, and Kocour’s is a very good example. This pours beautifully dark, with a dark beige head and masses of chocolatey coffee on the nose, and smooth in the mouth. Thick and filling as a good stout should be, this was a wonderful beer deserving of a far wider distribution. I got to this beer late on in the day and it is another one I am looking forward to properly evaluating on Monday, hopefully drawn out of Pivovarský Dům's hand pump.
Having only started production in the last year or so, the future augurs very well for Pivovar Koucour Varnsdorf. Here’s hoping that this is not only the beginning of a very successful business making great beers but also the beginning of drinkers in the Czech Republic having the opportunity to experience more than just lager.