The Czech Republic leads the world in per capita beer consumption, and it’s easy to see why — the traditional “pivo” is a deliciously drinkable, soft, moderate-strength golden nectar, and the perfect session brew. The delicate and subtle interplay of superb Czech hops and barley serves to distinguish the country’s lagers from similar offerings elsewhere on the planet, but we believe the local water — many Czech brewers utilize their own secret springs — gives the beer a softness and roundness which can’t be matched anywhere. The Czechs are blessed with the very finest H2O for brewing, and they don’t waste it — the average citizen actually consumes more beer than bottled water! Yes, that’s our kind of country.
The historic region of Bohemia, which now makes up the western part of the country, is often whimsically described as the homeland of brewing, and in fact the introduction of bottom-fermented pale beer in the mid-19th century (perhaps the most significant development in zymurgical history) is generally considered to have been centered in the old Bohemian city of Plzeň. From there the new style, “Pilsener,” spread like wildfire across Europe and far beyond.
By the end of the 20th century, in every corner of the globe, inferior versions of the trendy Czech style had all but replaced traditional local products, mostly top-fermented dark ales. The craft beer movement was and is essentially a reaction to this homogeneity, and in the purge, the reputation of lager beer in general has suffered.
The Czechs, insular and patriotic as ever about their local pivo, blissfully ignored this global revolution until very recently, when international mergers resulted in widespread small-brewery closures, and cost-cutting measures seriously affected quality at surviving breweries. Characterful, traditional local beer was being gradually replaced by generic “international” lager, and — in an echo of the pattern set in England, the U.S., and beyond — beer lovers and brewers alike began to fight back in different ways.
As of very recently, one can find evidence in Czech Republic of the international “craft” trends — the IPAs, fruit beers, and extra-strong ales — but the brews we find most interesting at Shelton Brothers so far are the 3-5% ABV revivalist classics: quaffable, smooth, perfectly balanced lagers, sometimes open-fermented and unpasteurized, always among the most drinkable beers on earth. We’re excited to bring real, traditional lager to the U.S., and to support two regional breweries — Vratislavice (Konrad) and Kout — that had been forcibly shut down by larger competitors and abandoned, only to reappear and thrive thanks to the dedication, local pride, and hard work of their former employees. Meanwhile, the brand-new Two Tales brewery strives to revive proud Czech tradition while giving new twists to old styles.
Koutska 14º represents a Bohemian style that could be described by non-Czechs as an Amber or Märzen, but the brewery refers to it simply as their “Tmavý” (“Dark”). Actually a deep reddish-brown, this specialty lager offers up plenty of malt, caramel, and fruit flavors, balanced,…