Something I struggle with is when people tell me they don’t like Czech lagers because they taste like diacetyl.
For the uninitiated, diacetyl is a substance created by yeast during fermentation that, when a beer is conditioned correctly, the yeast will naturally “clean up”. When it’s present in beer it’s generally considered a fault and tastes a little like buttered popcorn. You may taste it in trace amounts in a cask beer that’s been on a little too long, or a beer that’s been contaminated during packaging. Around 3 in 10 people can’t actually taste it at all. Lucky sods.
I’m particularly sensitive to it, and in large quantities find it overwhelmingly unpleasant, rendering a beer completely undrinkable. However, in trace amounts I feel it can work in a beer. Not naming any names for the sake of avoiding argument, but there’s a popular hop-forward cask beer up here in Manchester that features just a tiny lick of it, and I genuinely think it adds an enjoyable character to the beer that it would be worse off without.
Czech lagers, like this one from Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar – a monastic brewery located in the heart of Prague – also have just a nibble of diac, which has some people running for the hills. However, in this style it doesn’t manifest as though someone’s dropped a pat of butter into my pint. Here it adds softness, bobbing merrily along with the rounded sweetness of malted barley, before Czech Saaz hops take centre stage with a wrecking ball of herbaceous bitterness.
There is a real trend in the Czech Republic at the moment to brew historically authentic pilsners that use Moravian barley, Saaz hops, are open fermented and then cold conditioned for around three months to create the wonderfully tight carbonation that makes all of these elements sing in harmony. This beer is a wonderful example of this and reminds me why I honestly think the Czechs make the most delicious lagers in the world.
This is a bold, characterful beer. And part of its flavour that could be considered by some as a flaw is for me part of this complex makeup of this style that makes it so wonderfully compelling.
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.