Saturday, August 23, 2014

Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar: Břevnovský Benedict Světlý Ležák

Welcome back for the second installment of my attempt to revive this old blog. I've got a lovely beer for you coming to us from Czech Republic, let me tell you now, this beer really surprised me and I'll tell you why a little bit later on. This is actually not the first time I've reviewed a beer from this brewery, some of you will remember the Russian Imperial Stout I reviewed a few years back (can be found here) and I can say that I was thoroughly impressed with that brew as well. So when my wife returned back to the US with a bottle of their "light lager" (more or less a Czech Pils) I was intrigued. First off, because while Czech Republic is renowned for producing some of the best Pilsners and light lagers in the world (this is definitively true) their flavour profiles are all very similar and finding anything truly distinctive is a difficult thing (I might actually rouse controversy with a comment like this but I feel its true!). I liken this to drinking German Weissbiers, side by side I am sure subtle differences would present themselves but to me a Weissbier is a hazy orange brew with hints of citrus, banana and clove, and every brewery makes one and they always exhibit these qualities; consistency in its truest sense here folks but nothing terribly distinctive! Anyway, getting back on track (or not) most beer drinkers in Czech Republic have a brand preference and standard practice is to only drink that one brand, all of the time. We do things a bit differently here in the US (at least I'd like to think so) and so when I was offered this bottle of light Czech lager from Břevnovský I was intrigued to see if they'd be able to produce a beer with that would distinguish itself from the rest of the Czech light lagers on the market (did I stay relatively on track there?).

Finding information about this particular beer proves difficult. The only interesting shred of information I could find is that the brewers use hops from very old bines. Now some might ask, what the heck is a bine? Well its hop lingo for vine, but it refers to a very specific type of vine. The hop plants have very sturdy stems with hairs that aid them during their climbing journey. As many of you know (or may not know) the hop plant is a climbing plant that can reach great heights, sometimes up to 50 feet and can grow up to 20 inches in a single week (head over to Prosser in Eastern Washington right now to see how tall these plants can grow). As far as utilizing hops from old bines is concerned, it is apparently an old tradition in Czech brewing history. As far as adding distinctive character is concerned I cannot for the life of me think of anything this would add to a beer. Are hop plants similar to grape vines in this regard? Will the roots grow deep enough and infuse the final product with terroir from whence it came? No one will ever know (unless you find someone who knows about hops or someone from the brewery cares to chime in or I conduct more research), in any case, this age old practice is said to add extra character to a beer. Ok, I'm sold, but what else done to this beer will help distinguish it from the swath of others already well-established in the Czech market? For one it's unfilitered, which goes a long way in saying that this is very different from any other light lager on the market. Standard practice says a filtered (or fined) crystal clear final product is a must. Crack open any bottle of Pilsner or other light lager and very rarely will you find any haze whatsoever left over. An unfiltered beer naturally has more character (ask me why if you really want to know) than a filtered one! Ok, so that's basically all the info I could find on my own. And these two tidbits were enough to entice me to open and sample: old hop bines and unfiltered, onto the tasting notes!

Name: Břevnovský Benedict Světlý Ležák
Category/Style: Czech Pilsner
ABV: 5.00%
IBU: Unknown
OG: Unknown
FG: Unknown
Malt Type(s): Unknown
Hop Type(s): Unknown
Yeast Type: Unknown
Special Additives: None
Bottled: 07.01.14
Bottle Size: 1 Litre
Location Purchased: Břevnovský Klášterní Pivovar, Praha 6, Czech Republic

The Pour: Into the glass it pours a hazy golden-orange. The head is fluffy and white and it lingers for a long time and leaves a nice amount of lacing on the glass.

The Nose: The nose is complex and first is a hint of pear and honey. Beyond that I'm picking up spicy clove, and fruity notes of peach and banana. It's a little yeasty and a little bready. The hops shine through with light floral notes, a little black pepper and a burst of citrus.

The Taste: The flavour remains on par with the aroma: huge fruit notes with a light malty bready character balanced well with grassy floral hops. It's a smooth medium bodied brew with a medium amount of carbonation. There are notes of banana and pepper as well as a slight hint of bubblegum. The bitterness is a bit resinous and in my opinion higher than average but this beer presents itself as a complete package: it's super crisp and finishes dry but is simultaneously refreshing.

The Verdict: I was really pleased with this beer. It's a super unique take on the traditional Czech Pils. I don't know of any other Czech Pilsner with even half the complexity of this beer! It was super fruity, well-balanced, slightly bitter, dry, crisp and incredibly refreshing. As I continued to drink, the flavour profile continued to evolve and by the end of the bottle it was reminiscent of beers from both Germany and Belgium. This is an unfiltered Czech Pilsner with lots of fruity overtones and a ton of depth for a light style, well done Břevnovský Pivovar! As far as worldwide availability is concerned, I'm not certain you can find this outside of Europe, let alone Prague but I might be wrong. I know there are few pubs in Prague pouring beers from Brevnovsky but I don't know how wide their distribution currently is. In any case, if you can find out about it or if you happen to see it in a bottle shop, don't hesitate to buy, it'll definitely be worth it!

Thanks for reading!