There is a dearth of decent lagers in the UK, could probably count them on one hand. This applies even more so North of the border where (aside from one of my all time favourites, Harviestoun Schiehallion) there hasn't been anything worthy of note - until now that is.
But first a beer launch by a novel approach - a You Tube livecast. A chap called Fergus (the managing director of Inveralmond, the brewery in focus) introduces us to the concept "Inspiration" - a series of beers showcasing the best styles the world has to offer, in respect of the greats if you like. Four have so far made it through the tasting stage and tonight sees the first of those released in bottle - Sunburst Bohemian Pilsner.
Involving all levels of brewery staff from Kirsty in marketing to John the van driver, nevertheless head brewer ken's fingerprints are also all over this, its his personal homage to the traditions of the Czechs. Ken's fascination with Czech language (and more lately beer) came about when his mum convinced him to sing in a production of the Bartered Bride - learning to sing Czech about bears and beers. "Strangely enough years later this is revisited...without the bears!" Ken has visited the Czech Republic in the years since, drinking Světlý Ležák in the Golden Tiger (U zlateho tygra) in Prague and the Old Brewery (Na Spilce) in Plzen.
I first met Ken at the beer blogger's conference in Edinburgh last July and he certainly knows his stuff, which came across very well during the launch. He also knows how to spin a great yarn and enjoyed many a beer with him over the course of the weekend. These stories certainly help to build a back story for the beers which all too many breweries seem to lack.
Its an all malt beer, so it needs " a reasonable amount of bitterness to balance the sweetness" (25 IBU fact fans) and a hop aroma "like the atmosphere after a thunderstorm...lightning creates ozone and its that freshness you get from this beer's aroma. Its beautiful on the nose, soft maltiness down the throat with a gentle soft lingering finish that wants you to take another sip. An absolutely perfect balance of sweetness with bitterness". Its crisp and clean on the palate due to its 10 day fermentation with Břevnovský Pivovaryeast and 8 weeks (56 days) lagering at -1°C.
Fergus recommends oversized glasswear to allow a decent foam "I like a big head without getting my feet wet". Its about maintaining presentation and having respect for the beer. That foam also helps capture the essence of those lovely floral Saaz and Hallertauer Hersbrucker hops. Those flavours would work well with whitefish or salmon, or perhaps as Ken recommends with a salad of fresh finely sliced courgette with plenty of lemon juice and pepper.
So, enough about the genesis, how does it taste? Clean sweet malt and fresh herbal nose gives way to medium bodied floral nettle bitterness well balanced by the malt with a dry snap in the finish inviting another gulp. A 330 ml bottle certainly wasn't enough, I'd have cracked open the second if I'd chilled it. Instead I have a bottle for another day when I may do a taste test vs Pilsner Urquell, Budvar and some others. Like Pilsner Urquell I'm sure this beer would be even better in its unpasteurised, unfiltered nefiltrovany form. I'll leave you with a Ken montage and a thought for the day “my mission whens it comes to brewing beer is to improve the human condition through the medium of brewing beer...its my way of trying to make the world a better place”. I'll drink to that, na zdraví!
Disclosure: I received two free bottles of the beer, but I'll certainly buy it again if I see it.