Beer Style 3A: Czech Pale Lager
There are dozens of beer styles and we know it can get a little confusing, so each week we profile a particular style of beer in the Devil’s Peak Beer Guide. We’ll outline styles from the 2015 BJCP guidelines, offering both a technical and somewhat anecdotal overview of the dozens of beer offerings from around the world.
3A Czech Pale Lager
As an industry, we tend to think making beer is pretty hard work. Exceptional sanitation, quality (and often imported) ingredients, the perfect temperatures, expensive scientific equipment, a banging recipe – the list goes on.
But do you know what we don’t have to do? We don’t have to fill barrels and drag them to the back of caves in order to make a proper lager. Can you imagine?
“Yeah – if you could go ahead and drag this 500L barrel through two feet of bat crap to the back of this impossibly dark, dank, slippery cave . . . that’d be great.”
All the way back to medieval times, oaks were rolling barrels. Well, at least until the late 19th century with the advent of refrigeration. If bat poop was still involved, I don’t think we’d get half as many emails asking job availability in the brewery!
Alright, alright – with the history lesson over, let’s get down to the style on offer – Czech Pale Lager. This is the first of three in a category that’s divided by gravity class (draft, lager, special) and colour (pale, amber, dark). For this style, you need to think lower alcohol and lighter in body. It’s a session beer – coming in as low as 3.0% ABV.
Consumed in mass quantities in the Czech Republic, it has also seen its popularity grow internationally. And while you might have a tougher time getting a hold of a bottle in SA, I have a sneaking suspicion you won’t for very long. Our shores are currently being inundated with imports, and it’s only a matter of time.
Now let’s dive deeper, straight from the BJCP Style Guidelines.
Overall Impression: A lighter-bodied, rich, refreshing, hoppy, bitter pale Czech lager having the familiar flavors of the stronger Czech Premium Pale Lager (Pilsner-type) beer but in a lower alcohol, lighter-bodied, and slightly less intense format.
Aroma: Light to moderate bready-rich malt combined with light to moderate spicy or herbal hop bouquet; the balance between the malt and hops may vary. Faint hint of caramel is acceptable. Light (but never intrusive) diacetyl and light, fruity hop-derived esters are acceptable, but need not be present. No sulfur.
Appearance: Light gold to deep gold color. Brilliant to very clear, with a long-lasting, creamy white head.
Flavor: Medium-low to medium bready-rich malt flavor with a rounded, hoppy finish. Low to medium-high spicy or herbal hop flavor. Bitterness is prominent but never harsh. Flavorful and refreshing. Diacetyl or fruity esters are acceptable at low levels, but need not be present and should never be overbearing.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Moderate carbonation.
Comments: The Czech name of the style is světlé výčepní pivo.
History: Josef Groll initially brewed two types of beer in 1842–3, a výčepní and a ležák, with the smaller beer having twice the production; Evan Rail speculates that these were probably 10 °P and 12 °P beers, but that the výčepní could have been weaker. This is the most consumed type of beer in the Czech Republic at present.
Characteristic Ingredients: Soft water with low sulfate and carbonate content, Saazer-type hops, Czech Pilsner malt, Czech lager yeast. Low ion water provides a distinctively soft, rounded hop profile despite high hopping rates.
Style Comparison: A lighter-bodied, lower-intensity, refreshing, everyday version of Czech Premium Pale Lager.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.028 – 1.044
IBUs: 20 – 35 FG: 1.008 – 1.014
SRM: 3 – 6 ABV: 3.0 – 4.1%
Commercial Examples: Březňák Světlé výčepní pivo, Notch Session Pils, Pivovar Kout na Šumavě Koutská 10°, Únětické pivo 10°
Tags: session-strength, pale-color, bottom-fermented, lagered, central-europe, traditional-style, pale-lager-family, bitter, hoppy