As Westvleteren 12 mania grips the populace, my attention has been diverted toward the noble brewing heritage of Central Europe, and the manner by which a newer generation of brewers are reclaiming it. Perhaps my choice of reading lately, Joseph Roth's "The Radetzky March," has something to do with it.
Appropriately, three rare kegs have been delivered to NABC's Pizzeria & Public House. They are imported from Czech Republic by Shelton Brothers, via Starlight Distribution, and are from the Kout na Sumavě brewery: Pale 10º, Pale 12º and Dark 18º lagers.
Without the ability to produce steaming platters of roasted pork and knedlicky (dumplings), we're trying to devise a plan for dispensing these much anticipated beers. Here's the official press release from Shelton Brothers; stay tuned for our plan of action. Don't worry; we'll be quick about it.
Kout na Sumavě
The once-proud Czech beer culture has taken some massive hits since the fall of communism. The largest national breweries have been swallowed up by mega-conglomerates and countless regional pivovars have been shut down, never to return. The traditional and distinctive Czech pivo -unpasteurized, earthy, soft, and complex- has been replaced with fizzy and bland "international lager"-beer devoid of local character meant to appeal to the mass market.
Thankfully there has been a revolt. Czech beer enthusiasts have let it be known they they want their national drink back. In a trend mirrored around the globe, new microbreweries and brewpubs are springing up all over the country. The entrepreneurial enthusiasts starting up these companies are having little trouble locating eager master-brewers who'd lost their jobs in the corporate purge -brewers who know how real Czech beer should be made.
Kout na Sumavé, a small town in the Bohemian Forest near the German border, was a prosperous center for beer production until it's local pivovar was shut down by Pilsner Urquell in 1969. Years later, Jan Skala, who as a young man had worked in the brewery, hatched a plan to revive beer-making in the town. Skala bought the brewery building in 2003, took two years to clean and renovate it, and in 2006 brought in Bohuslav Hlavsa, a master-brewer in the former Pivovar Domazlice (which had also been also shut down by Pilsner Urquell), to create a new line of traditional Czech beers. It was a huge investment, and the company struggled to survive. The undeniable integrity and quality of it's products has gradually earned Kout followers, and awards, in it's home country and abroad. Kout has won Best Beer medals four times in it's native Czech Republic, and has also received honors in France and Italy. Meanwhile, though not available domestically, the beers have attained a cult following in the US, where afficianados have rated 3 of them as being among the top 10 from the Czech Republic.
Shelton Brothers is extremely excited to announce the arrival, for the first time, of Kout in America. In early November we will be offering a very limited number of 20L kegs-just 40 each- of the Koutska 10º ( 4% ABV, the golden flagship beer, named the best Czech beer in summer 2012), the Koutska 12º ( 5%, the somewhat weightier and hoppier version of the 10º, named Lager of the Year in 2010), and the Koutska 18º ( 8 %, the brewery's rich, dark specialty lager, requiring over six months maturation, which won best Czech beer awards in 2007 and 2008). This is traditional Czech beer, made the old way-according to 200-year-old recipes-with it's own well water and all-local barley and hops, using either double or triple decoction mash. It's also open-fermented and unpasteurized-subsequently it has had to be shipped in cold containers, door-to-door, from Kout na Sumavé to Shelton Brothers, to preserve it's unique quality as a "real lager". We are now taking pre-orders, and hoping to ship all the beer out to accounts immediately following it's arrival in our warehouse.
See photos from Kout and some of the other Czech breweries we visited on our Flickr page.