It is officially 'taps aff' weather. As I write this [in the August heatwave, but feel free to apply it to the current September one - Ed], London is experiencing the kind of damp, muggy heat that oppresses you into a state of near-helplessness. There is nothing you can do about it, and no reason, nor ability, to resist temptation. You must drink lager now, and hope and pray that a thunderstorm of biblical proportions will finally break this hot spell, allowing your brain and body to once again function within some semblance of their normal parameters.
The good news is today’s beer is a lager, but not just any lager, this one’s a real doozy. Prague’s Vinohradský Pivovar has history dating back as far as 1893 when it was known as Měšťanský Pivovar. Its modern iteration –
a smart brewpub serving up everything from classic pilsners to modern IPAs – has existed since 2014, and is one of many must-visit beer spots should you ever make it to the “City of 100 Towers” – and trust me, you really should.
One of the great pleasures of drinking fresh, unpasteurised Czech pilsner in Prague is the serve. The typically golden-in-colour lager topped with three hefty fingers of foam means you start drinking with your eyes before your server has even placed your mug of beer at your table. Another pleasure is the softness of carbonation, allowing the sweet malt character created during triple decoction mashing (which gives Czech pils its typically robust, full-bodied character) and the rasp of native Saaz hops to shine. It also allows you to gleefully sink glass after glass without feeling too bloated.
But, as much as I love imported Czech lagers, that character never quite translates when poured from bottle or can – until now, that is. What captivated me from the moment Vinohradský 11 slinked into my own pilsner mug is how densely packed the foam it produced was, allowing me to construct a mighty cloud of bubbles atop the beer itself.
To taste, it could have been poured at the brewpub itself. The beer is fresh, snappy, but with the muscular character that sets Czech lagers apart from their softer, perhaps more nuanced Bavarian cousins. If you’re a lager head, this is a must. A beer of the year contender for me.
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, where you'll find incredible beers like this every month plus more great writing from Matt and our food writer Claire Bullen...