Light, refreshing and the perfect companion to MTSU football games, the lager style beer appeals to nearly every American taste bud. The classic golden-hued light lager of American fame descends from a long tradition of European beer making. Lager beers derive their name from German, meaning “to store.” The bottom-fermenting yeasts used to produce lager beer require a long period at relatively low temperatures for a brew of desired quality and were originally stored in caves.
Many American macro brews depart from the European, full-flavored style for a lighter bodied beer that’s easy to drink in quantity. In order to obtain lighter flavor American beers, such as Budweiser, are brewed using corn and rice along with hops and barley.
The grandfather of Budweiser, the Pilsener style lager, native to the town of Plzen in the Czech Republic, was first brewed by Josef Groll in 1842. Groll’s brew was the first clear Pilsener beer the world had ever seen. The brewing technique spread almost as fast as the desire to try this newfound beer. Annually the average Czech consumes 157 liters of beer, (ranking first in world per capita), compared to a paltry 82 liters per year by Americans (ranked 13th in the world).
What then makes Czech beer so much more appetizing than American beer? Hops. Hops are flowers used solely for the purpose of beer making. Like wine grapes, hops are valued for characteristics derived from their environment. The hops grown in one region will enrich a beer with different flavors than hops grown in another region. Czech beer uses a variety of noble hop (hops valued for their flavor), the saaz hop.0
Pilsner Urquell This beer, brewed in Pilzen, Czech Republic, pours from a green bottle filling my glass with deep gold colors and a one inch layer of foam. This brew appeals to the nose with aromas of vibrant hops, citrus and spice. Packing full-force flavor, Pilsner Urquell is the bully that steals Budweiser’s lunch money. Up front, tastes of spice and sweet malts are quickly replaced with a lasting, delightful bitterness.
Totally refreshing, although maybe a bit too heavy for a palate weaned on Budweiser, this is a great example of Czech style Pilsner and can be found at Beer Depot ($8.99/6-pack). Radegast Premium Czech Lager Making use of a well known folk figure, Radegast Premium Czech Lager derives its name from the pagan Slavic hospitality god. Clear and golden, Radegast fills the nose with smells of saaz spice, coriander and a slight skunky aroma?like Heineken. The flavors of citrus, grains, bread, bitter hops and roasted malts create a wonderful combination. Smooth and round, if a bit heavy on the carbonation, this is a really nice beer that’s worth a taste ($2.29/550ml bottle at Beer Depot).