No other country makes pale lagers like the Czechs and you need to go and drink a variety to really understand what pale Czech lager is really like—the round malts, some caramelization, the bitter-sweet balance between hop and malt, the fragrance of Saaz hops.
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These lagers are not at all like the famous German Helles or Pils (though there are some similarities between Czech pale lager and the malty lagers of Upper Franconia). Yet while pale lagers are what the Czechs are most famous for, I think there’s another style you should drink there: Polotmavy. This “semi-dark lager” is uniquely Czech. It’s amber-ish in color; there’s toffee and toasty malts, a hint of roasted nuttiness, then more of those superb Saaz hops with their floral, spicy, lemon-pith, and grassy aromas. My favorite is produced by the Klasterni Pivovar Strahov brewery in Prague. It’s gloriously smooth with malt, then sharp with hops, and has that essential Czech seesaw balance of bitter-sweetness.
WHAT: Klasterni Pivovar Strahov Brewery
WHERE: Strahovske nadvori 301/10, 118 00 Prague 1, Czech
Four Great Czech Lagers to Look For
The Czech Republic is one of my favorite places to drink and I always want to find great lagers there. To me, they are the most interesting and exciting beers; they’re beers to sit down and drink by the half liter (16-oz glass), preferably a few in a row, because you can’t get their greatness in a sip and it takes several glasses to properly understand what makes them so good.
* Uneticke have a 10° and a 12°, filtered and unfiltered, and all versions are good. I prefer both the 10° beers for their great, classic flavors of Czech golden lager and their lighter, leaner bodies.
* Brevnovsk Benedict Svetl Lezak has a dense white head, as well as grassy, spicy Saaz hop aromas and bitterness, plus some sweeter malts to balance those hops.
* Vinohradska 11° and 12° are brewed in the Vinohrady district of Prague. The lagers are pleasingly round, then refreshingly bitter and dry. They also make a good semidark and IPA.
* Dalesicke 11° has a lighter body than the others, but still a nice creaminess with that typical thick foam. The hops give a lovely, lemony, spicy quality.
Pivo, meaning beer, is the only Czech word you need to know.