Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Old Dark Prague

When we think about the history of lager brewing and the evolution of beer 'styles', for want of a better word, we usually talk about how the dark lagers like Schwarzbier have been around for centuries, while Pilsner and Helles are relatively modern creations. Lager brewing didn't really become common until the 15th century, and as malting technology improved, new, paler lagers were developed, thus the history of lager is predominantly one of dark lager preceding pale.

Except in Bohemia, where it is generally accepted that the first lagers to be brewed there were pale, based on the 1840s Pilsner phenomenon which was sweeping the brewing world (hhmmm, where does this story sound familiar from?). Up until about 1890, the dark beers of Bohemia were warm fermented, the breweries took their recipes, switched to a cold fermenting yeast and essentially created the Tmavé style which makes up about 5% of modern Czech brewing production. This story is exemplified by the legendary U Fleků beer hall in Prague, whose almost stouty 13° Tmavé was warm fermented until about 1892, if I remember rightly.

I have brewed a couple of Tmavé lagers since moving to Virginia, both homebrew and at Devils Backbone, but when my best friend suggested that we do a brewing project together, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to recreate a little bit of history - and not just in terms of he and I sitting on a balcony necking beer, like we did in Prague back in 1999/2000. I already had an idea for a recipe in my head and my friend liked the look of it, so this Saturday will be our first joint brewday when he gets down here from DC way.

The beer is being called Staropražské Tmavé Pivo, which translates as 'Old Prague Dark Beer', and the recipe is:
  • 76% Bohemian Pilsner Malt
  • 22% CaraMunich II
  • 2% Carafa III
  • 7 IBU Kazbek for 90 minutes
  • 13 IBU Saaz for 60 minutes
  • 10 IBU Saaz for 30 minutes
  • Wyeast 2565 Kolsch yeast
The hop schedule is based on that of my favourite Czech dark lager, Kout na Šumavě's magnificent 14° Tmavé, which was itself the inspiration for Morana, the Tmavé I brewed at Devils Backbone. When it came to deciding on the yeast strain, I knew I wanted to use a European warm fermenting strain rather than a British or American, which pretty much meant going with a Kölsch or Altbier strain, and so out of pure whimsy I plumped for Cologne rather than Düsseldorf. The recipe, assuming everything goes well, should give us a beer with the following:
  • OG - 12.5° P (1.050)
  • FG - 3.3° Plato (1.013)
  • ABV - 4.9%
  • IBU - 30
  • SRM - 21 Brown to Dark Brown
I haven't decided whether or not to lager the beer for a couple of weeks yet, but it should be ready sometime in June either way.

The pictures in this post were taken by Mark Stewart of Black Gecko Photography when we were working on our book - The Pocket Pub Guide to Prague.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked Kozel Cerny on tap when I was visiting CZ. (It wasn't as good in bottles) Your Tmave recipe looks like it would be great.