|Source: Prague Beer Garden|
The Únětický Pivovar is housed in a building where monks from Prague started brewing beer in 1710. Brewing activities eventually stopped, but in 2010, local businessmen in the town of Únětice decided to turn it back into a brewery. The first beers were brewed in 2011, and were instantly popular. When I visited Prague back in 2012, Max Bahnson took me out to the brewery where we had lunch and a quick tour. I was incredibly sick and nursing a sore head from the previous day's tour with Max, and sort of shuffled through the brewery tour. But then we emerged into the restaurant to have lunch, and I sat down and drank a glass of the stuff. (In the classic Czech meal, you get a meaty entree drenched in gravy and a row of thick, doughy disks which are called, curiously, dumplings. They're unlike dumplings as we imagine them, but they're spectacular for soaking up beer and gravy. And, it turns out, battling the flu. I instantly put them to work that day.)
|Production is small enough that they were still at the |
grain-sack stage in 2012.
What followed was one of those clouds-parting-and-sunbeam-shining-down moments of transcendence that beer drinkers experience only on very rare occasions. I think I was actually drinking the 10° that day, though I've since had more of the twelve. It's difficult to describe exactly why this half-liter had ascended into that rare upper atmosphere of specialness. There wasn't anything particularly unique at play: it had the same homey, fresh-bread malt base and tangy Czech-malt zing that the best světlý ležáks have. It was just better.
I've come to recognize Únětická 12° by a rusticity that has something in common--at least in spirit--with saisons. When the brewery first made the beer, they only let it lager about three weeks in order to get product out to people. It was unfiltered and had a shimmering haziness. Through Max's translation, they told me “We realized that if the 12º lagers for longer than a month, it will get too clear and in the pubs they will complain that it is too clear. They want more yeast.” As a consequence, they now lager it only three weeks. Perhaps one of the things going on is that the elements are not quite as smooth as they are in beer lagered over a month--the malts are a bit grainier, the hops a bit more vivid. The beer is very dry and there's a hard-water mineral note that sharpens those hops. The best beers have an ineffable (and indescribable) character of harmony, and that's the final element of Únětická 12°. For my money, it's the best beer in the Czech Republic.
Look for it if you go to Prague.
"Beer Sherpa Recommends" is an irregular feature. In this fallen world, when the number of beers outnumber your woeful stomach capacity by several orders of magnitude, you risk exposing yourself to substandard beer. Worse, you risk selecting substandard beer when there are tasty alternatives at hand. In this terrible jungle of overabundance, wouldn't it be nice to have a neon sign pointing to the few beers among the crowd that really stand out? A beer sherpa, if you will, to guide you to the beery mountaintop. I don't profess to drink all the beers out there, but from time to time I stumble across a winner and when I do, I'll pass it along to you.