Thursday, 10 July 2014

Pouring the Perfect Pilsner in Dublin

Yours truly with the Head Brewmaster

After our Friday night party, courtesy of legendary Czech brewers Pilsner Urquell, we had a further opportunity to sample some un-filtered pilsner, the following day. Not content with plying us with beer and food the night before, the Czechs exceeded their generosity by hosting the Saturday lunchtime barbecue.

This took place in the beer garden behind The Church conference centre, and not only was there more Pilsner Urquell drawn straight from the wood, there was also the opportunity to sample the three different styles of “pour” favoured by Czech drinkers. After being a bit grouchy about the slightly warm beer at Friday’s party, the casks seemed to have been chilled down overnight, and the beer we were treated to was served at just the right temperature, and tasted superb. I even had my photo taken in front of one of the casks with Vaclav Berka, Head Brewmaster at Pilsner Urquell

As well as excellent draught pilsner, there was some really tasty food to help soak it up. The Church’s kitchen staff had pulled out all the stops to serve up some superb fare, with a fine selection of  barbecued meat (burgers, chicken breast, fillet steak, pork & leek sausages and ribs), together with fresh whole prawns cooked on the barbecue. The above were served with some fine artisan bread from the local Dublin-based Breztel Bakers, plus a selection of summer salads. The catering staff certainly did us proud, and I promised head chef Simon, that I’d give him a shout out on this blog; so a big thank-you Simon and to all of your team.
Breztel Bakers

To go back to the beer for a moment, I mentioned earlier the three different types of pours, and these were demonstrated to us by a Czech barman, using a traditional fount. Pilsner Urquell had brought over a mobile bar, complete with integral cooling unit, plus glass rinser in order to demonstrate this, and offer anyone interested the chance to sample, and taste the difference between these three ways of serving. Basically, it’s all about controlling the amount of gas in the finished beer, and this not only affects the size of the head, but also alters the mouth-feel of the beer.

The three traditional Czech "Pours"
A picture says a thousand words, so looking at the three glasses in the photo we have the two extremes on the left (Mliko and Na Dvakrat), and then the ideal Czech pint (Hladinka) on the far right. Note the size of the head in each case, as this is the key to pouring the perfect glass of Pilsner Urquell. With the Mliko, most of the gas has been allowed to form the head, leading to a smooth, velvety beer. The Na Dvakrat has a much smaller head, meaning here is much more CO2 gas in the beer, “making one burp” as the barman told us. This type of pour is the norm in much of Europe, and certainly here in the UK, where a gassy pint of lager is what drinkers normally end up with.

The Hladinka is the ideal compromise, and the way of serving most appreciated by Czech beer drinkers. Czechs love a thick foamy head on their beer, and prefer their pint not to be too gassy. By controlling the angle of the glass, the speed of dispense and the amount of gas (determined by clever use of the fount handle), a Czech barman (or barmaid for that matter), can deliver the perfect pint according to the customers’ wishes.

I was explaining this to the two girls from the “Let There Be Beer” campaign, who were at the conference to pick up ideas, and to find out what’s going on in the world of beer; especially at the craft end of the spectrum. They were looking for ways of increasing beer’s appeal to the general public, so what better way than a demonstration like the one we had just witnessed? I equated it to Guinness’s famous “Theatre of the Pour”, where it’s all about building a sense of anticipation (and thirst) for the drinker patiently waiting for his or her pint to be poured, with the rising fine bubbles as they come out of solution, forming the head as they do so. I really think much more could be made of this, although perhaps not in a busy pub on a Friday or Saturday night!

Retro-styled Pilsner Urquell cans
Finally as if traditionally poured Pilsner Urquell, and Pilsner Urquell direct from a wooden cask were not enough, there was a big stack of Pilsner Urquell cans for us to take away. One of the sessions that morning at the conference, had been about the advantages of the humble can over more traditional bottles. I was aiming to cover this in a later post, so I won’t go into details now, but here in front of us were some examples of canned Pilsner Urquell to take away and try at our leisure. What’s more the cans were decorated with some old designs taken from the brewery’s archives, giving them a real retro look. Again, badging like this is something the girls from “Let There Be Beer” campaign should be looking at.
Local artisan bread

All in all it was a fantastic lunch, made even better by being outside in the Dublin sunshine. Thanks to all the people at Pilsner Urquell who, not only gave us the opportunity to sample their classic pilsner at its best, but also demonstrated how this is achieved. Thanks also to the staff and management of  The Church for looking after us so well, and for their skills in presenting us with a lunchtime menu to remember for a long time.

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