Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody

If you are one of the people that regularly reads this blog, you will know that since moving to the US I have been engaged in trying to find an American craft pilsner worthy of the name. Of course, when I say "pilsner" I don't really think of the German version, I have Bohemian pilsners in mind, the kind of beer I drank a lot of in my decade of Czech life.

Some of them have been okay, some of them have been awful, the vast majority of them were meh, one had me in raptures of delight - and no surprise really that it was the only one hopped only with Saaz. Then of course there is the one that I had a hand in brewing, and that particular beer, called Trukker Ur-Pils is now available on tap at Devils Backbone.

A quick review then, the beer was brewed on August 14th, with an original gravity of 12.5º Plato. When the primary fermentation was a single degree away from reaching the target gravity, they closed the airlock - a German process called spunding. By closing the airlock, the CO2 created thereafter goes into solution and carbonates the beer - I am not entirely sure how close this would be to cask conditioning, because there is no extra priming sugar or similar added. The beer then lagered for 30 days. On Monday the beer was officially tapped at the brewpub, any ideas then where Mrs Velkyal and I had dinner on Monday?

In my excitement to get off work and get to Devils Backbone, first seeing to the dog and then driving the 30 miles out there, I forgot to take my camera - but I will be drinking more of the beer this weekend and will take pics then to add to the post. If I were going to the Beer Bloggers Conference in November, I would lead a seminar on how not to blog. Anyway, use you imagination - your imagination will be greatly helped if you have ever had a kvasničák (that's unfiltered krausened lager to the non-Czech speakers).

Yes the beer is slightly hazy, seeing as though it is unfiltered and unpasteurised, and came with a good couple of inches of head. A quick side thing here, another of the legion reasons I have for loving Devils Backbone is that every beer they pour comes with a head on it, instead of looking as though inspired by the floating scum that reminds me of cups of tea at my nan's in London. So it looked the part, and by 'eck did it smell the part. With 40IBUs of Saaz goodness, it was lemony, with hints of orange blossom, fresh bread and hay floating about in there for good measure. In chatting with the barman we lamented that so many beer lovers over here seem to think that hoppy equals grapefruit.

Then came the moment of truth. Biscuity, slighty grainy, bready. Oh yes! Is was gorgeous, crisp and long in the finish with no trace of diacetyl whatsoever. Being sat at the bar, with a pint of superb pilsner in the hand, I felt at home, I was transported back to Bohemia. So of course I had another, and another, then some food and maybe another couple of pints. Of late, Mrs Velkyal has been a one pint person when we go out, she had two of this, and loved it.

So yes, Trukker Ur-Pils would stand up to the ultimate test, if I had been served this in Zlý Časy or Pivovarský klub, I would have had no complaints at all. To my mind it is up there with Kout na Šumavě and Pivovarský dům's Štěpan. I can give no higher praise, and exhort anyone living within striking distance of Devils Backbone to get down there while it lasts, and fill your growlers if you have them (I have two in the fridge waiting for the weekend)!

Is it obvious that I am a happy man?


  1. Man, that sounds FANTASTIC! Great post too. Since going to the Czech Republic I've been gasping for a great unfiltered, unpasteurised lager... so much so that I'm booking up to go back in January!

    As it happens I'm drinking a bottle of Kocour Haka NZ Lager and it's pretty damn good. It's no Kout na Sumave though!

  2. When you have had properly made pilsner, pale imitations really fail to have any impact whatsoever.

  3. Enjoy, Al! And I would love to try that beer as well.

    But I am going to Prague in December, so I anyhow get to try the real Bohemian take on lager. U Slovanske Lipy will definitively get another visit or three.


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