Plzeňský Prazdroj – Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell bottle

A short history lesson is in order. Pilsner Urquell is the famous original pale lager. A “Czech Pilsner” is not actually a beer style given that the word pilsner itself is a demonym indicating the beer’s origin in Plzeň. The Czechs do not define their native brews by styles such as lager, India Pale Ale, porter/stout1, and so on but by color and degrees Plato with stronger beers of the same color not simply being the weaker beer “scaled up” but separate styles2. The Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery was founded in the 19th century to brew Bavarian-style lagers  – then mostly dark at the time – but with pale malts pioneered in England and relatively highly-hopped compared to the common Dunkel. Pale lager became the type of beer that was copied around the world, was cost-reduced with adjuncts, and eventually made into the mixed beer and carbonated water soft drink that is Miller Lite with its “Great Pilsner Taste”. Unlike most beers, Pilsner Urquell continued being fermented and lagered in giant wooden vats and barrels into the 1990s when it was privatized and sold to conglamerate SABMiller. The international piss brewers “modernized” the brewery, replaced the wooden vessels with stainless steel tanks, slashed the lagering time to a third, and replaced most of the whole cone hops with hop oils. This review is of the filtered and pasteurized export variety which is a pale imitation of the rare unfiltered and cask versions usually unavailable in the US.

Pilsner Urquell pours a dark shade of gold with a frothy head. Not uric gold but a rich, vaguely ambery shade of gold. The beer smells vaguely of fresh bread and slightly floral, grassy hops. The taste is biscuits and bread interspersed with hints of butterscotch, caramel, and a mildly spicy hop bitterness. Pilsner Urquell is balanced, unlike many of the hop bomb, onions and cat piss craft IPAs best suited to keep teenagers away from drinking in the same way that putting hot sauce on your food will keep the dog from trying to steal it. The beer may be dumbed down by accountants and many of the flavors typical but it’s well made, tastes great, isn’t sour, doesn’t resemble animal piss, and you can easily down a six pack in a couple hours like I did.

Quality: ****/*****
Purchase: ****/*****

1Porter and stout are interchangeable. Despite stout formerly indicating a stronger porter – a “stout porter” -, many breweries that brew beers called by both terms make a porter stronger than their stout.
2Read Ronald Pattinson’s excellent rundown of Czech beer styles on his Shut Up About Barclay Perkins blog. A more comprehensive detailing may be found on his European Beer Guide website.

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Abigail – The Final Damnation (2016)

Abigail - The Final Damnation - cover

Article by Johan P.

The Final Damnation could be Abigail’s most worthwhile release since their sleazy blackened speed metal debut Intercourse and Lust twenty years ago. After tons of insipid punk/speed metal releases, more vicious black metal elements have once again made their way into Abigail’s repertoire.

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Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Mahrs Bräu – Oktoberfest (2016)

sierran nevada oktoberfest 2016

Oktoberfests seem to be brewed in July so they can be shipped to every liquor store and supermarket shelf in the western world by October. Most American Oktoberfest beers are simply caramel-flavored American lagers unpleasantly bumped up in flavor and alcohol. By making everything extremely loud, nothing truly stands out and what results is usually some tomato-tasting malt flavor with either too much or too little hops and and a warming alcohol finish rather than anything resembling the traditional märzen style. Sierra Nevada avoids this by partnering with a different traditional German brewery every year to brew what is annually one of the best American examples. For 2016’s version, Sierra Nevada teamed up with Mahrs Bräu to produce a simple, well-hopped pale lager. As the beer hits the tongue, the spiciness of the Germanic hops take hold and lead into a doughy, slightly chewy body of toasted white bread that finishes with a spicy hop finish and a slight note of warming alcohol. The warming finish and palette fatigue prevent the subsequent consumption of multiple bottles but Sierra Nevada’s 2016 brew thankfully avoids the grapefruit and mango IPAs for women trend to produce a decent, inoffensive drinking beer with well-developed simple flavors that can be savored while still letting you think about whatever else it is that you’re doing without having to pander to Panera Bread “crafted” bullshit such as pineapple phenol scented specialty Okinawan hops mixed with smoked habanero peppers in a stout that tastes like the fruity candy you leave for the annoying relatives you despise in a box of chocolates.

Quality: ***/*****
Purchase: ***/*****

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Morbid Angel Promise to “Ascend Once More”

Morbid Angel logo

Morbid Angel (Trey Azagthoth and Steve Tucker) released a crazy press release on their Facebook page yesterday claiming to be “working on some super Inspired Over The Top Shit” and stating that they have signed a contract with German label UDR Music. Despite needing a drummer, the band promises to strike “a consistent chord of dark, dissonant death-metal empathy with their loyal fanbase.” Hopefully Trey and Steve’s new collaboration will be more Formulas Fatal to the Flesh than Gateways to Annihilation.

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