Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Nature of the Relationship

It is clear that beer doesn't exist within a vacuum, in the sense that brewers don't sit on the steps of their brewhouse and invent entirely new beers without the years of knowledge and expertise the brewing community has acquired. The development of Pilsner was not a case of Josef Groll going into isolation and suddenly creating this pale lager that would revolutionise the beer map in Europe. He bought with him the tools and knowledge of centuries of Bavarian lager brewing to create a beer using the ingredients native to Bohemia - which raises the question again in my head, what was pre-1842 Pilsner beer like?

Tmavé is similar, in that at around the same time as Baltic Porter went from being primarily warm fermented to cold fermented, so did it. Putting pay in many respects to the lunacy of labelling tmavé as either a dunkle or a schwarzbier, it is neither, though possibly related to both. It would almost be like calling the English language either French or German because it is influenced by both. Personally I have a notion that the old Pilsner beer was a warm fermented tmavé, but I can't prove that at the moment.

There is, however, a third common beer style in the Czech lands that deserves more attention than it gets, polotmavé - literally a "half-dark". From my understanding of the style, it was an old lager style which went belly up and was eventually resurrected by Staropramen when they brought out Millenium back in 2000, replete with misspelling. These days Millenium is known as Granát, Czech for garnet, and that has become a fairly common name for breweries making a polotmavé, the other being "Jantar", which means "amber".

Something I am researching and trying to figure out at the moment is the relationship between Vienna lager and polotmavé, if such a relationship exists of course. Yes, there is a overlap in terms of colour, but is that where the relationship ends? Vienna lager was, at least in the 19th century, made with mostly Vienna malt, if not entirely, yet polotmavé appears to be made with the same malts as tmavé but proportionately less of the dark caramel and black malts.

All this theorising about cold fermented beers of varying traditions is really making it a necessity in the near future to work out a suitable method for fermenting and lagering so I can put my theories to the test. One idea I have is to brew a single gallon of them at a time, ferment in the fridge - a 1 gallon jug will stand up quite nicely. Then for lagering, pack ice into a bottling bucket, put the jug into the bucket and then surround and cover with more ice, and store in my cellar - changing the ice as required.

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. I think your analogy to language is very apt. The origins of any beer "style" are very blurry and only confused by our modern understanding of what they're like. I'd be very interested to hear if you find any good information or good resources about the sort of European dark-but-not-black lagers. I know very little about them.

    I think your lager brewing plan sounds like a good one as well. It may be easier to ferment in a bucket with cool water and do a cold storage in the fridge, no? May require less ice that way.

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