Friday, September 7, 2012

Oh FFS!!!

Here I was having a happily non-spleen venting Friday when my good friend Max, aka Pivní Filosof, sends me this link.

Hoping that I was about to read that another brewery in the US has seen the light about brewing great Czech style beers I read this sentence, attributed to the president of Susquehanna Brewing Company, Fred Maier:
“It’s an innovative black pilsner”
Oh please no! Not again! How many times will we have to bang this drum? Let me say this one more time, and forgive the caps lock and bold, but it seems clear that some of the trendy kids at the back of the classroom are simply not listening:


Now, that's not to say there isn't a tradition of dark lagers in the Czech lands, there is, they are called tmavé or sometimes Černé, but tmavé is the legal term.

As for being innovative, well done "craft" brewers for joining 19th Century Bohemia in brewing dark lagers which don't have the roastiness of a schwarzbier and enjoy a healthy respect for Saaz hops.

Spleen vented, carry on.


  1. Black Mild. I should trademark that. Black Helles too, while I'm about it. Black Brown Ale.

  2. Black Brown Mild IPL (India Pale Lager, but brown and black). It's green-hopped as well, with grapefruit peels and coriander. I invented it.

  3. If a beer is carefully brewed and hits key analyticals typical of a great Czech Pils, and is black, it can be a Back Pilsner. If the thing has not existed before, then it is a new thing...a new style. OG, RE, Alcohol, %RDF, BU and the focus on Saaz hops driving the bitterness. Made using classical decoction but with the innovative endosperm amshing (husk-free mashing). This is a pilsner gentleman, and it is jet-black. I'm fine if you refuse to call it Black Pilsner, but do call it by its name, Pils-Noir. It is not like any black lager you know. If someone presented me a 'Black Helles' I'd ask for a taste and full analyticals, as I have also published analyticals in the technical literature of every Helles brewed in Munich and a number of other german examples of the style. As I previously advised Max P., %RDF is key, and all black lagers I've ever had have a lower %RDF than a Czech pilsner. Pils-Noir hits it at 68.3% RDF. Data published available via and

  4. Jaime,

    thanks for your comment. Let me first point out that my issue is less with this beer per se than with the "innovative" idea of chucking some black malt into a traditionally pale beer and thinking it is something new.

    With regard to RDF and percentages thereof, I decided to calculate the RDF of various Czech beers having found the formulae for calculating RDF at this website:

    The beers I chose were:

    Kout na Sumave tmave 14
    Herold Bohemian Black 13
    Pilsner Urquell (the beer against which all "pilsners" MUST be measured)

    Kout na Sumave 14 has a %RDF, assuming I have followed the formulae correctly of 63.8%.

    Herold Black 13 has an RDF of 61.125%

    Pilsner Urquell has an RDF of 55.761%

    Given these figures, and again assuming I have done the calculations correctly, it is clear that Pils-Noir with an RDF of 68.3% has more in common with tmave than with Pilsner.

  5. In response, let me acknowledge that I misspoke...which can happen when you have data in your head and forget the context because it's been 10 years since the work was undertaken. I should never represented it as being like a great Czech pils. It is more like a great German Pils, except pitch-black.

    I pulled up the data I published, which was from analyses we paid Mike Dominighini of FERMLAB in Oregon to run...from 18 pilsners. The average of all analyses is as follows, noting that Pilsner Urquell sample submitted Nov 2001 was indeed the lowest at 57.8%RDF.
    Specific Gravity avg: 1.00974
    Apparent extract: 2.49
    Alcohol: 3.96 w/w
    Real extract: 4.3
    OG: 11.97
    %RDF: 65.4
    Calories: 158
    pH: 4.33
    Color, Lovibond: 6.0
    IBU: 31
    VDK *** Diacetyl & 2,3 pentanedione (GC): 0.06
    DMS,ppb: 50.55
    Sodium, ppm: 34

    Note that the sampling included 3 German Pils beers: CD Pils by Dinkelacker, Premium Pils by Paulaner, and Kulmbacher Brauerei Pils....whose %RDF were 67.8%, 65.1% and 69.1% respectively.

    Sorry, but if I market this beer as a "tmave", no one here will understand what that is. I sleep well knowing it is a Black Pilsner. And also comfortable calling it the first of its kind. I will make sure not to represent as a Black Czech Pilsner. The reason the journalist probably used that familiar title (or rather the Headline Editor) is becaus ewe take effort to explain Czech influences of decoction and Czech Saaz hops in making the beer, as well as the husk-free mashing a which was pioneered by brewers in the Austrian Alps. No Czech brewers practice husk-free mashing. But I appreciate the discussion. Now as far as the fact that Pilsner Urquell does express the lowest %RDF of pilsners, and using them as the gold standard, then nothing ese is a pilsner. In the US, our nomenclature has different kinds of pilsners: Czech, Northern German, Continental...and when I was affiliated proudly with Trumer Pils, I hoped for an Alpine Pils subgroup that brought in teh husk-free mashing breweries near Salzburg. The unique combination of elements we have, which includes boiling by direct culinary steam injection at 7 Bar to effect '3-D boiling' form our pdx boiling engine with zero burn-on....well I contend that the elements we have in place have made this beer something new. And how do you make something first when there is a huge crowd on the field? You make sure it is the first of its kind. In paying homage to Czech brewing, we add critical elements unknown in the Czech Republic brewing, and that makes me step away from it being 'another Czech black lager'.

    Gracias, Jaime

  6. "using them as the gold standard, then nothing else is a pilsner"

    Personally speaking I would have absolutely no problem with that line of thinking, but then I occasionally have Pilsner Fundamentalist tendencies, Pilsner comes from Plzen - whether brewed by Pilsner Urquell themselves or one of the other breweries in the town. I very much agree with the Czechs, hardly surprising as I lived there for 10 years, that "Pilsner", like "Budweiser", is an appellation denoting place of origin.

    I agree that naming your beer a "tmave" could have confused the consumer, I spend a lot of time having to tell people that it is neither a schwarzbier nor a dunkel but something unique.

    It would be interesting to do a comparison between Pils-Noir and the "Black Pilsner" collaboration beer brewed by Devils Backbone here in Virginia and Maryland's Heavy Seas Brewing:

    I have never heard of husk free mashing, sounds like more to learn! :)

      2001, VOL 38; PART 2, pages 111-114

      But just viist us our Trumer brauerei Berkeley or its sister breewry in Obertrum bei Salzburg, Brauerei J. Sigl (and other nearby breweries in teh alps) and you'll see it at work. Inevitably some small starch pieces do carry through on the sheared husk, but we rely on thermal conversion in the kettle because by the time the husk is added all enzymic conversion has ceased.

    2. thanks!

      I look forward to reading anything I can find about the technique.

  7. Wow. Great to see my friend Jaime is still at the cutting point of technical brewing. Most of it went straight over my head of course.

    Sounds an interesting beer though.

  8. Peter! Too long a time, old friend! Love your 'handle' as it clearly in a homage to your Local on the hill! Too many years since I've seen you and time in NYC let me know and I'll collect you and break you across the mountains to our brewery!

  9. Alistair, how are you calculating the RDF for Kout na Šumavě 14? What numbers are you using?

  10. Evan,

    I took the stated starting gravity of 14 degrees Plato and used the stated abv of 6% to workout the terminal gravity, which off the top of my head was 3.3 Plato (don't quote me on that though).

  11. Well, by that route the numbers might go pretty far off the mark. I got to see some lab reports when I was out at Kout, and I remember the OG wasn't always exactly as posted on any of their beers — the 12° and 18° in particular were much higher than stated. And the 14° as sampled actually had 5.81 ABV, not 6. For whatever that's worth.

  12. With an abv of 5.8% rather than 6%, and assuming here that they hit 14 degrees Plato, the RDF comes down to 62.6%.

  13. Typical variances form batch to batch in large breweries with excellent labs would be: O.G. +/- 0.2 deg P; %RDF +/- 1: IBU +/- 2. My data was from samples purchased at retail, and calculations came from the analyticals.Just fyi.


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