March 2008


Here’s the trailer for what looks to be a decent attempt at encapsulating Milwaukee’s mass transit woes:

Spread it around!

A six-pack!After Zatec, Lagunitas Pils reminds me of the major difference between European beers and American craft beers: radicalism. Lagunitas is well-known for off-the-beaten-path brews with names like Hairy Eyeball, Lumpy Gravy, and Brown Shugga, and its benignly titled “Pils” does not disappoint.

The beer pours well, and maintains the necessary fluffy head required by a good Pilsner. Never mind that the word “Pils” is usually reserved for German-style pilsners: the label rightly proclaims this beer as a Czech-style Pilsner. It is much crisper and more thirst-quenching than typical German Pilsners, and has a much more complex, fruity nose.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Underneath a fluffy head is an extremely effervescent beer, almost too carbonated for my liking, and much more carbonated than most pilsners I’ve encountered. The nose is fruity and seriously yeasty, which gives the beer a really fresh smell. The taste itself betrays its origins; most Czech lagers aren’t nearly as carbonated or as complex. Lagunitas Pils is a bit over-carbonated as a first impression. its makes for a great summer beer, and would be paired well with greasy or spicy foods as a result, but on its own, the carbonation makes the complexities of the beer more difficult to discern. Underneath and behind the carbonation is a surprising hoppiness, and an even more surprising fruitness: raisins, apples, and pears particularly (though I find that the flavors beer critics often write about in beers are more of a mental game than actual flavor: a sensory placebo effect).

In conclusion, Lagunitas Pils is a great beer. However, it is better than it is authentic (if that makes any sense). Being concerned with authenticity first and foremost, I don’t rate this beer as highly as it deserves. Strangely, I find that you can tell the quality of a pilsner by your ability to forget that you’re drinking it. (If your beer is too complex or intense, how can you expect to carry on a conversation?) I recommend this beer highly, but don’t expect a traditional Czech Pilsner–expect its more intense American craft-brewed equivalent.

Na Zdravy!

Although the original aim of this quest was to find an excellent, American-made, Czech-style Pilsner, I am prone to enjoying Czech beers that I am able to find in America–especially when that beer is particularly rare. When I went to Discount Liquor to pick up yet another $100 dollars worth of assorted booze, I noticed a Czech beer that I hadn’t seen before, even when I was in Europe: Zatec. (The “Z” has a reverse “^” on top, resulting in a “zh” sound; and the czech “c” is pronounced “ts” as in “tsar”. Thus the beer is pronounced “ZHA-tets”.)

At $2.69 for a 0.5 liter bottle, the price was reasonable, but high enough to respect. The bottle is sleek, with a classic blue, red and white label. The bottle cites the beer as being “since 1004”. This is hard to believe, as the brewery itself dates to 1801, and the beer itself from 1261 according to the brewery’s website. What happened in 1004, then? I’m not sure…but perhaps it marks the incorporation of the city of Zatec?Zatec

First of all, this beer (like all good Czech pilsners) presents itself magnificently! The color is a beautiful light amber, with perfect clarity, brisk and even carbonation, and a persistent, white fluffy head. The nose itself was simple: bready, with just a trace of hops. And the taste: like a quality pilsner should. Bready, with a sturdy hop spiciness throughout. The finish is clean, with a slight cidery (perhaps?) flavor. All in all, a very drinkable Czech pilsner, much like the beers I used to enjoy at the Submarine Bar (Ponorka) in Olomouc.

That said, the beer did little to separate itself from the pack. A quality pilsner, but probably not worth nearly $5.50 per liter. While you’re drinking a fine beer, the slightly high price comes more from its rarity that from its quality (as far as I can tell). A good Czech Pilsner, but not the best I’ve had.