Vignette 20: Bohuslav Hlavsa

The brewer at Kout na Šumavě spoke not a word of English--that I heard. Back in 2014, we visited the brewery and Evan Rail translated what Mr. Hlavsa said. Rather, he summarized for us. Hlavsa would speak for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then Evan would give us the nut of the translation. Nevertheless, what started to emerge was one of the oddest processes I've encountered for making světlé pivo (what we call pilsner). Here are Evan's precise words:

“The 10-degree has two decoctions, 12-degree three. 120 minute boil. Every 45 minutes they add a third of the hops. “It is old-fashioned. Rare. But it’s proper.” Do you use open flame?  “Steam. It was a steam brewery and it is a steam brewery.” They use only Saaz hops? “Yes. Žatecký Žatecký” (Saaz variety from the Saaz region.) 

Later, I came back to the question of the color of the beer, which surprised me because of the deep color. Hlavsa divulged his secret: they add caramel malt for color--something I found remarkable. “This is perfectly legitimate in terms of Czech brewing. The grist contains 3% in the 10 degree, 5% in the 12. This is the way they used to brew in Prazdroj. [Urquell]”

It is old-fashioned. Rare. But it’s proper.

They age their beer absurdly long by all except Budvar standards. Just a month for the 10°, but three months for the 12°, six months for the (dark) 14°, and nine months for the (also dark) 14°. “It is expensive, but it’s worth it. No one does it like this.”

VignetteJeff Alworth