Friday, March 13, 2015

Many Have Copied, None Have Bettered

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Charlottesville branch of World of Beer put unfiltered and unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell on tap yesterday. Though I am not one for crossing hill and dale for beer, I knew, the moment I heard about this rare, momentous, occasion where I would be last night, once the chickens had decided they had scratched around the garden enough and headed up to their coop (Mrs V is away at a conference so I am looking after the animals).

With the chickens locked up for the night I headed into town, parked the car and went straight to the bar to meet a colleague from work, having picked up a former colleague from my Starr Hill days on the way. The sight of a Pilsner Urquell tap was a joy to behold in it's own right, not just a tap handle, a proper Pilsner Urquell tap, as in the kind that you turn to dispense the beer. Moments later, this was placed in front of me...

A bit hazier than I expected for sure, but I am not going to quibble over a tad bit more haze, it wasn't murky, but oh the head, a lovely shaving cream head, just as I remember from places like Bruska back in Prague. The beer itself was sheer delight.

There is something about unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell that you just don't get with the regular bottled version, a softer, almost biscuity malt flavour rather than an almost harsh cracker like taste, rounder perhaps? It's difficult to explain, but it doesn't snap to attention, it's more laid back, you could call it Švejk-like.

Now this might sound faintly ridiculous to the lovers of enamel trashing lupulin delivery vehicles who think Miller Lite is a pilsner, but the magnficent Saaz hops are front and centre in this beer, firmly, almost bracingly, bitter, and simply redolent with freshly mown hay, lemon grass, and orange blossom aromas. Without the, ahem, 'benefit' of filtering and pasteurisation the hops sing, hitting all the right high notes.

So, easy to drink, not because it is bland and devoid of flavour, but because each mouthful is a delight (which when you think about it should be the definition of 'easy drinking'). Before I knew it, my glass was empty, but the tap was still there...

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review, thanks very much. The ``freshly mown hay`` suggests to me perhaps a DMS note which, as you know, much (not all) local helles and pils have in Europe. I noticed it in some draft Urquell in Prague a couple of years ago (probably Tankovna). It never appears in any form of the pasteurized export though, I`m not sure why.

    I agree about the softer taste. Shortly after the cold-shipped program was announced, I got to taste the draft in NYC and I could swear it was unpasteurized - it had a similar laid back quality to what you described and also, in one place it was off which I took as a good thing because a pasteurized beer wouldn`t decline in the same way. On later trips to NYC though the draft tastes more like the bottle or can, which as you say has a kind of harsh cracker-like taste. I`m wondering if SAB Miller may have been bringing in Tankovna for a while and then went back to the regular pasteurized import.

    It is interesting that the pasteurized one would be more assertive in taste than the unpasteurized one - one would think the opposite. I wonder if the exported Urquell is perhaps a different formula from the Tankovna and the super-authentic keller-style you had.

    Anyway, thanks very much and I still feel Urquell is the best pils in the world in any form as long as it is very fresh. We get the canned one in Toronto within 8-10 weeks of packaging it is very good albeit in the harsher mode you described. Harsh in a good way. :)


    P.S. I swear that when I had that soft, possibly Tankovna draft in NYC it reminded me of Michelob draft from the 70`s. It may sound crazy, but it did, the malt quality and some of the hooping too.


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