Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Old Friends: Port City Downright Pilsner

You'd think that a brewery that got 4 mentions in my annual top 10 Virginian beers wouldn't really be getting an "Old Friends" post. Even more so when you consider how often I have said brewery's products in my fridge, and the regularity with which I post pictures on Instagram of their beers, especially their lagers. However, it is the case that for all my enthusing about Port City Brewing up in Alexandria, and my extolling of the virtues of their simply wonderful Lager Series program, I have been criminally negligent of the beer that made me fall head over heels with them in the first place...Downright Pilsner.

If I have the story correct, Downright Pilsner was first brewed in 2012, purely as a seasonal. It sold so well, and in the Velkyal household that included at least 4 cases in a couple of months that year, that it became a part of their core lineup. A pair of those cases were bought for a couple of parties we had that autumn, firstly our house warming, having recently taken ownership of the keys to our house, and later for a Czech night to mark Czechoslovak Statehood Day on October 28th. Downright is billed as a Bohemian Pilsner, and was certainly a hit with plenty of the Czechs and Slovaks at our party, especially among those that emigrated in the wake of the 1969 crushing of the Prague Spring.

As I say, Downright is marketed as a Bohemian Pilsner, and in terms of the numbers it is pretty much spot on, brewed to 12°, if memory serves, 4.8% abv, and 37 IBU of Czech hops, though my memory seems to think that it used to be about 44 IBU, but one quibbles. Keeping slightly out of kilter with it's brethren in the homeland, Downright is dry hopped with Saaz. I spent a good year or so badgering my local Wegman's to start stocking it, they have the rest of the Port City range, so I knew they could. Eventually to my delight it showed up, and then the Lager Series started and I got all distracted.

Feeling guilty, I chucked a couple of bottles into my mixed 6 pack at the weekend, determined to stop ignoring my old faithful and to reacquaint myself with its delights. Thus, with the Sunday evening Oktoberfest clutch done with, and just wanting to enjoy a beer for its own sake more than anything, I poured them into my Chodovar mug...

Goodness me but isn't that a thing of beauty, both the glass and the beer to be frank. I got the glass on eBay as piece of nostalgia for the first Chodovar I ever had, in such a glass, at Pivovarský klub. Anyway, the beer, beautiful as I said, a lovely translucent gold, topped with a healthy white head that persists and left some lovely lacing on its way down the sides of the glass. I mentioned that the beer is jam packed full of Saaz hops, and sure enough everything you expect is there, lemongrass, orange blossom, that spicy note that is difficult to pin down sometimes. In amongst it all is a grainy note, lightly honeyed, classic Pilsner malt really.

Even after all these years there is something deeply comforting about Downright, it just tastes as a well made pilsner should do. Hops, and lots of them, a firm clean bitterness to cut through the soft billowing sweetness of the malt, like drinking a summer meadow in the Šumava region of Bohemia. The finish is clean, crisp (not crispy for fuck's sake, get a fucking dictionary), and satisfyingly refreshing, not in a bland watery way, but in the way that makes you want more, a whole lot more.

So yes the beer is still great, and I shall suitably adorn myself in sackcloth and ashes for having neglected it for so long...might also organise another Czechoslovak Statehood Day bash and buy several cases. The new label though is just fantastic, with the a skyline that looks for all the world like Prague, and folks drinking large mugs, it could almost be the beer garden at Letna, overlooking the Vltava toward Our Lady of Týn on Staroměstké náměstí to the left, and the south tower of St Vitus Cathedral in the castle to the right.

As I said in a previous post about this beer, Port City have this Bohemian style pilsner done right, damn right, and I need to drink more of it.

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