The Purist of Pils

 

 

Svetky Lezak from Toronto’s Godspeed Brewery is astonishingly good, probably the best Bohemian-style beer I’ve had anywhere including Czech Republic (didn’t taste them all of course).

It has a notable softness of body, deep malty quality, and deep spicy/flowery hop flavour of true Saaz that just goes on and on. The hops leave a pleasing “medicinal” note that adds yet further complexity.

A Victorian beer observer (1875), Henry Vizetelly, used that very term, medicinal, to describe the Saaz effect, I now recall.

The current brewing of Svetly Lezak is particularly good as well, the brewery seems to have refined it to perfection. One hopes it will stay like this.

Certainly Godspeed makes some good beers – and some I don’t favour – but Svetly stands above them all, imo. See the website for descriptions of other beers.

The Svetly is for the purist of pils, who understands the unique Bohemian blonde lager palate. It uses double decoction, and long cold aging. The quality of the hops and the way they are added show maximum authenticity as well.

For the best all-round Ontario pils, I would elect a different beer, Amsterdam’s Pure Pilsener, but the Svetly rocks to a different beat really, more for the Czech purist.

The Pure Pilsener is a great all-rounder, combining elements of Czech, German, and craft beer. I think it would appeal to more people, as well, just an impression.

 

 

Pilsner Urquell, the great Czech avatar, speaks for itself, of course. Maybe the best way to put it is, all these represent the same tradition, but interpret it in their own way.

That is also true of this beer, from Slovakia.

 

 

Rounded and fruity/spicy from the Saaz hops, it has good body and drinkability. The brewery, Zlaty Bazant, originated in the 1960s. It has its own maltings, drawing barley from the region, and has made continual improvements to malting processes, which show in the beer.

(The website contains an outline of the malting process at the brewery).

The hops are handled though in a particularly skillful way, as for all the beers I’ve mentioned.

We get it within three months of brewing and it pours spanking fresh from the bottle.

Tasting such quality reminds me how an English pale ale could be as good, but so few are, in my experience. Even if English landrace hops and British malts are present, rarely is the palate assertive enough.

Often this results I think from insufficient hops used, an excessive attenuation limit, and too much sugar or grain adjunct.

Many craft pale ales and India Pale Ales I encounter day in day out have an intensity of malt and hop taste similar to what these pilseners attain. One need only brew an English pale ale the same way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “The Purist of Pils”

  1. Gary,
    Your photo of the Svetky Lezak looks enticing — it seems to have a deep golden (amber?) tinge. Your description of it could be a good account of my impression of the 1970’s era draft Pilsener Urquell I had in Chicago. I’m not excited about Urquell these days. Unfortunately, I’m 100 hard miles from an outlet for Golden Pheasant, and have little chance of trying the Canadian beers you mention soon. As for pilseners, I’m afraid I’m reduced to Czech Argus 12 Majestic (here in LIDL Market as “Czech Lager”) that at least is well worth the bargain price (US$2 per half liter).
    I enjoyed your recent article on Black Horse Ale. It was ambitious, trying to follow the various twists and turns of the brand ownership and brewing. It’s too bad that there are so few analyses or tasting reviews available for discontinued or changes products. Some brewers and consultants did analyses, but the records must be lost or held as confidential.

    Reply
    • Thanks Arnold. The colour is a deep gold, maybe not quite as amber as suggested in the picture, but more so than the other two.

      I recall Urquell in the ’70s too, and yes this Lezak does recall that I think. Deeper, more emphatic than the one now although I do like Urquell still when consumed fresh: still an excellent product.

      The ultimate answer regarding changes in formulation would be in brewers’ records, generally not made public, or for a very long time if at all. Even then it only gives a partial understanding, an idea of palate especially when malts or hops are used that no longer are stocked by suppliers.

      I trust a good taste review as much, or descriptions of palate and brewing in texts and other such sources. Recipes are one part of the picture certainly, where available.

      Black Horse Beer as made by Bennett/Carling O’Keefe, was reviewed by Jim Robertson in his 1978 The Great American Beer Book,

      I didn’t think of checking, so thanks for the prompt. So the lager, not the original ale. He gave it a poor rating stating “repellant”, “bitter flavour”, “very unlikeable”. He speculated it was “mishandled”. So unfortunately not much a guide, in this case.

      He did not review the Canadian Black Horse Ale, if still made then outside Newfoundland, perhaps it was all Black Horse Beer by then.

      However he did review an American Black Horse Ale, one of two as you may recall brewed in the U.S. then, which he suggests was descended from the Canadian one. And he liked it, stating:

      “Cloudy deep yellow-brown color, robust English style, excellent burnt caramel flavour, excellent balance, long pleasing finish. Best domestic ale tasted”.

      This description sounds very credible for the Dawes/Dow Black Horse Ale.

      But then too as we saw from the 1940 ad in Sherbrooke, Quebec, they said the beer was different 25 years earlier, and different again 50 years earlier.

      I think I know why, and from a connoisseur’s standpoint, the changes could be viewed as retrograde. I wrote a while back how Col. Molson wrote an article in the 1920s saying the same thing as Dawes in 1940, that beer was continually improved. He said the strong old stock ale, which all these ales originally were, became filtered and bright and more moderate in alcohol. Surely too they used less hops since a long stocking period was not needed.

      It depends how you look at it I guess. But that Roberston review did sound a genuine note to me how that Black Horse Ale was when the brewery turned it into a lager. That only would have lightened and blandified it further.

      India Beer and India Pale Ale were marketed by Newfoundland Brewing until the late 1960s, some ads show both side by side. Finally the IPA was dropped. So it’s an old story, in Newfoundland as elsewhere.

      Only craft brought back the genuine older stock ale tradition, in its way of course, eg. often using cylindro-conical fermenters, with good refrigeration control, etc., and finally using hops – IPA today – that did not exist before craft.

      Gary

      Reply
  2. Hi Gary, thanks for the kind words about Mountain Lager. I think it would not be fair to compare it with those styles of beer that you’ve mentioned in this entry because it is not of the same style. Furthermore it is not even intended to be a German Pilsner but more of the Helles style which this would mean it would be more malt driven and have a much lower hopping rate than most Czech and Czech style Pilsners.
    I am glad you were able to get a sample of the Mountain at Beertown, I assume the new one in downtown Toronto. The Beertown group have been great supporters of that beer.

    Reply
    • Thanks Michael, good points about being Helles, to some extent I conflate them but there are limits, of course.

      Yes the new Toronto Beertown, I just reviewed it if you look back a post or two. Excellent place, and I liked the interview I linked with Palubiski, his group is very together.

      Was impressed too they came out of regional Ontario, not Metro Toronto.

      Gary

      Reply
  3. Absolutely agree with you about Godspeed and the Czech style Pilsner.
    Luc Lafontaine and I travelled with a group of Brewers to the Czech Republic in 2018… it was a great trip.
    He is a Brewing perfectionist…he immersed himself in Czech beer techniques upon his return, developed relationships with Czech malt and hop suppliers.
    He has been making great Czech styles ever since.

    Reply
    • Thanks Michael Hancock, and coming from you, a pioneering craft brewer of expert skills, that says a lot.

      I know you are no longer associated with Side Launch Brewery, but I’ve always admired your/its Mountain Lager. I wanted to include it in this group, but apart from a small glass in a flight at Beertown the other day, I hadn’t had it in almost two years.

      It didn’t seem fair to rate the current version based just on a few ounces. I’ll go back for a proper glass and will judge then.

      Certainly when you made it, it was great. The yeast background always reminded me of Michelob back in the 70s, that creamy-like taste (hard to describe).

      I hope you are keeping well, and we can meet again before long.

      Gary

      Reply

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