09 February 2018

Slav to the rhythm

A swift dash along the taps in Dublin's top Czech pub Pifko today.

Lately the management seem to have hung their hat on the Moravian Pivovar Litovel as the house brand, beyond the usual standard ones. Moravan is the pale lager, one with a slightly buttery aroma starting out. Heh, who do you think you are? Pilsner Urquell? Heh. For better or worse (better, IMO) this doesn't come out in the flavour and instead there's a wonderful unexpected floral taste, all lavender, violet and other breezy bucolic blooms. It's not sweet with it, offering a dry carbonic bite to balance it, and then finishing flawlessly cleanly, disappearing politely off the palate, ready for the next mouthful. This definitely has a character all its own, not just another Czech lager. I was intrigued to find out what happens when the brewery goes dark.

Litovel Dark is, predictably, the result. It's only 4.8% ABV but crams the favour profile of a beer twice its strength into that. From the powerful rubbery aroma, to the thick treacle texture, to the throat-scorching roast, this beer fights any effort to relax into it. As such it's not very enjoyable and almost the opposite of what I want from a Czech tmavý lager. This might suit some weirdo out there looking for a session-strength Baltic porter, but it definitely wasn't for me.

There's a nod to the non-tradtional styles on Pifko's bar, in the form of Flying Cloud IPA from Pivovar Vysoký Chlumec. In the way of eastern European brewers making IPA, they seem to have decided that it should be a huge and sticky maltbomb infused with a powerful floral perfume. The citrus notes that have made American-style IPA a desirable commodity worldwide do not appear to have been part of the plan. An exotic jasmine spiciness helps offset the heavy strawberry syrup sweetness a little, and the base beer is lager-clean, not spending an unwelcome amount of time on the palate. It's still not a great example of an IPA however you slice it, and again tastes much stronger than its actual ABV of 5.5%.

I went to Pifko looking for a good alternative to světlý ležák but the golden lager was the best thing on.

Maybe the Slovaks can help. A few months ago I encountered Zlatý Bažant's Medový Porter. The name means "honey" and while it's sweet, and a strong-ish 6.7% ABV, it's quite a gentle beer, offering comforting chocolate and plum notes with a pinch of light roast. There's a certain liquorice bitterness which calls Baltic porter to mind once more, while the fruit side introduces elements of dark Belgian ales. Nothing fancy and nothing difficult, it's an all round pleasant dark beer. Thanks to Reuben for sending it my way.

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