Monday, November 7, 2011

Utter Bollocks

I read an article this morning about why the writer has never drunk Budweiser. As I skimmed through, admittedly at the point of giving up with the rest of the article as it bashed all things Anheuser-Busch, it offered a description of the origins of Bud. Apparently Bud was created to satisfy the desire for the new pale lager style that was sweeping the world, the style in question was

"watery Pilsner, a style that originated in Czechoslovakia as a ladies’ beer; a wimpy alternative for the delicate palates of proper Czech ladies who couldn’t stand the big German Alts and Lagers or the muscular Belgian ales."


Now, I have read over the years an awful lot of shit about Pilsner, but this one takes the sušenka (that's Czech for biscuit by the way). Where to start? At the beginning is always good. In the late 1830s, fed up with the inconsistent quality of their warm fermented brews, the good people of Pilsen, to use the city's name at the time, smashed open barrels of beer in protest. The Burgers of the city, with an eye for opportunity, started the Bürgerbrauerei, and hired a Bavarian lager brewer by the name of Josef Groll to come and make a new Pilsner Bier. Are you with me so far?

With the brewery built and ready to start production in 1842, Josef Groll set to work with the local ingredients, pale Moravian malt, hops from the nearby Saaz region, Pilsen's incredibly soft water and a Bavarian yeast - either brought by a dodgy monk a la mythology, or more likely brought from his dad's brewery in Vilshofen. All this took place in a country that no longer exists, Austria, or at least the Austrian Empire (which only became the Austro-Hungarian Empire some 20 years later). The Czechoslovakia in which Pilsen would become Plzeň would not exist for another 77 years, and it would gone in fewer years than that to become the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

169 years ago this Friday, Josef Groll's beer was first tapped in Pilsen, and it caused a sensation because the colour was much paler than any lager the Austrian Empire had seen up to that point, the previous palest lager was Anton Dreher's Vienna lager, which was a touch darker. Thus Pilsner Urquell was born, not as a ladies beer, but as the new beer for a city entering the industrial revolution, a drink for the workers.

But what about the altbiers, the German lagers and Belgian ales that were available for them to drink in their beer geek cafes on the back streets of Pilsen? Why didn't they just drink those instead? Well, you are a smart, intelligent person, so you know I am taking the piss a bit there. The term "altbier" has a very young provenance, around the same time as Pilsner in fact - and only came about as a result of the new craze for pale lager sweeping the German speaking world. But altbier is manly and tough don't you know? Well, kind of I guess, if you like beers that are 4.6% abv, about 40 IBUs of noble hops and lagered for a couple of months, because everyone knows that the extra 0.2% abv between Pilsner Uruqell and Schumacher Alt makes all the difference in gender specificity for beer. Perhaps manliness is defined by the colour of the beer you drink, good to be a stout drinker I guess!

Anyway, you get the point. If you are going to make ridiculous claims about beer styles from far away lands about which you know nothing, at least do a modicum of research in advance rather than repeating your nonsensical, unlearned drivel. Unless of course you are planning to work on the second edition of the Oxford Companion to Beer.

8 comments:

  1. nothing gets my goat more than people preaching the "facts" when they have no idea what they are talking about. May I ask where the offending article was?

    needs an "instant rimshot" at the end there.
    http://instantrimshot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've linked it in the post now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In 1873 Pilsner beer was described by one writer thus: "Most of the Austrian beers have a mild and soft flavour, and it is rarely that any of them are so bitter as the English pale ales. An exception, however, must be made with regard to the so-called Pilsner beer brewed at Pilsen, in Bohemia, on a very extensive scale, and much in favour with the Viennese who do not object to pay a slightly higher price for it. The beer is exceedingly pale in colour as well as remarkably light, being even weaker than the Vienna beer, and contains a considerable amount of carbonic acid. Its distinguishing quality, however, is its strong, indeed almost medicinal bitter flavour, due to the Saaz hops…"

    So, far from being watery and wimpy, it was intensely bitter, comparable with British pale ale which was the bitterest beer in the world at the time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Pfft, why do light and refreshing beers always have to be 'lady beers' as if there's something wrong with them, or us ladies are deficient in some way and can't handle a 'proper beer'? I really like Pilsner Urquell but that doesn't mean that I don't equally like strong stouts and all manner of other beers. It's just lazy and more than a touch sexist journalism.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Utter bollox indeed. It's always great to see Al all riled up over other peoples stupidity.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Frankly, when it comes to the history of Plzňské Pivo I don't believe the story of the dodgy beers any more than I believe the story of the dodgy monk. That said, Steve Body, at least when it comes to beer, is close to being an utter twat. it is obvious to anyone who's been at least 15 minutes in the Czech Rep (or even Germany) that he has absolutely no effing clue about what he's saying.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You could almost forgive it as sarcasm, were it not for the use of italics when writing 'ladies' beer'.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My wife says there is nothing lady like in a good Světlé Výčepní. 9 or 10 of those babies and the last thing you'll be doing are things 'lady' like. hwhwhahahaha

    ReplyDelete