So after the future comes the past.
|You wouldn’t believe what’s inside this cave entrance…|
Inside is a vast labyrinth of caves hewn from granite over a period of six centuries. Now there’s a restaurant at the heart of it, busy on a Friday lunchtime with families, couples, goths, and gangs of sweet little old ladies, all drinking pints of Chodovar beer.
|OK it might just look like an empty room. But this is a traditional floor maltings! In a brewery!|
After this first beer we get a tour of the brewery. It malts its own barley in an impressive maltings, with three female maltsters. The traditional back-breaking work of turning the grain is made substantially easier with the help of little sit-on lawnmower-type machines that turn the malt.
The brewhouse itself is lovely, like all Czech brewhouses, all gleaming copper and long, fat, shiny pipes.
|They do know how to build a lovely brewhouse in the Czech Republic|
But it’s those granite cellars where the magic happens. In the week that A-B Inbev shamefully refused to tell journalists how long the new “premium” Stella Black is matured for – despite having the audacity to launch it on a positioning that it is ‘matured for longer’ – Chodovar gave us a powerful reminder of the magic and integrity of true lagering, and a demonstration of how keen a brewer is to talk about lagering times when they have nothing to be ashamed of on that score.
The main lagers are aged for four to six weeks. That’s because a true lager has to be aged for that long to give it its unique, delicate character. A real lager is not less flavourful than a good ale; it’s just flavoured differently, and it’s as beautiful as any ale, and a lot more drinkable. Taste this stuff and I defy you to not start sounding like the worst kind of CAMRA loon. It defies belief that most of the beer we drink exists on a scale of tasteless to offensive, when it’s supposed to be like this. This stuff is not more challenging or complex than mainstream British standard lager, it’s not more difficult to get into, it’s no less refreshing or crisp or any other things we want form standard lager. It’s just better. And that’s because it’s been made with love and care – and time. This beer is lagered for four to six weeks. If rumours are correct, certain leading british lager brands are lagered for one day – or even less.
|Deep in the granite caves, this man is about to make Tierney-Jones quite tearful|
If that’s me getting a bit emotional about lager, you should have seen Tierney-Jones when we were given a tour of the lagering tanks, bricked into narrow granite passages with wet floors, and Jiri poured off some of his ‘Spezial’ beer, a Marzen style brew that will be ready at the end of September. It’s been i the tanks for one and a half months so far. It’s absolutely divine. Jiri thinks it’s getting there.
In the brewery yard is a fountain that springs from the brewery’s well. A statue to St Joseph presides over the fountain. Behind his back, there’s a second tap from the wellspring, out of which comes beer. You pray to St Joseph for great beer, and he delivers.
Not much has changed here for 600 years. Obviously lager styles have (they call it lager here, not Pilsner – they don’t believe Plzen brews the best beer) and technology has, but the soul of the beer, the love for it, the sheer bloody loveliness of it, is as eternal as the granite.
Chodovar’s slogan is “Your beer wellness land”. This is largely because it is the home of the beer spa, which we visited. But that deserves a post all of its own – coming soon…