Did you know it takes form 150 to 200 days to brew a Real Bohemian Lager? If you ask how long it takes to brew, say, a Heineken, you may be surprised it takes about 5 days only. There surely must be a difference and beer lovers around the world recognise Czech Beer is very pleasant and easy to drink. Indeed, once you have had a pint, you instantly want another one.
It is well known in the brewing community that authentic Czech lagers –called Real Bohemian Lagers – do have a different character to a normal European lager. This being primarily caused by the so called non fermentable extract – Fermentation and a very long maturation are definitely distinctive features of Czech beer. Read the complete story below and immerse yourself in the magic of decoction and traditional Czech brewing.
Brewing the Czech “liquid gold” starts in the malt house. Barley grains (typically Moravian) are soaked in order for budding to take place. This also releases alpha and beta –amylase that are to decompose complex starches into sugars in the course of brewing.
The grain pile is than picked up and moved to the kiln, where the process of kilning or drying according to the technological process takes place with temperatures ranging from 30 °C to 100 °C.
When it comes to dark lagers, they are usually being roasted to produce dark malt. However, the Czech Republic is also reputed for brewing top class Vienna lagers with products such as Kanec Semi Dark.
Malt is milled into a rough powder called grist.
The grist is sprayed with hot water to perform steaming, which rises the temperature of mash to 52°C (so called protein-splitting temperature). This temperature activates proteases which split proteins.
Mashing takes place in a mashing tun and malt starches are transformed to sugars at 35 °C – 37 °C with the help of alfa and beta amylase enzymes.
Real Bohemian Lagers always enjoy at least double mashing. With the first mash – approximately 1/3 of the mash – being released to the mash kettle and boiled at 63 °C – 72 °C. We boil the mash for 30 minutes and tip it back into the mash tun. We proceed the same for the second mash and the final temperature of the product after mashing reaches 72 °C – 75 °C.
The next step is straining where the solid part is separated from the liquid part, the latter being called wort. This pleasantly sweet solution is effectively the basis of beer.
7. Wort brewing / Cooking
Finally the brewing takes place in a brewing kettle. Bittering and Aroma hops are mixed in the wort in a wort or copper kettle.
Aroma hops will be poured into the kettle towards the end of the brewing session so the volatile essential oils they contain do not vaporize. Traditional Czech Pilsener beer will make use of unique SAAZ hops, grown in Western Bohemia. They feature a very pleasant and balanced earthy, floral and herbal aroma. SAAZ hops are called Noble hopes with Alfa and Betta acids being in a roughly 1:1 ratio.
8. Open vessel fermentation
Before the brew is sent off to a fermentition tank it is cooled and the spent hops and proteins from the cereal are extracted. After that, the magic begins. Yeast is added to start the transformation of sugars onto alcohol.
Fermentation usually takes 7 to 9 days or up to 14 days for special beers. The longer the fermentation process, the more alcohol is produced. However, with Czech beer, Fermentation goes to up to ¾ of sugar transformation so that yeast are not left too long in the beer to negatively affect taste.
The remaining ¼ being the so called not fermented extract. A characteristic feature of Real Bohemian Lagers is that they retain the pleasant full taste of the original malt extract which is exactly what most foreign lagers with higher alcohol content lack after complete fermentation. Another unique element is that most Real Bohemian lagers retain an open fermentation that has now disappeared from mainstream European brewing.
The young Czech real lager is thereafter moved to a lager cellar for maturation at temperatures close to zero. In this way beer matures to full taste and a perfect pronounced body.
Tap beers are left to mature for about 20 days whilst lagers typically mature up to 60 or sometimes even up to 90 days. Compare this to mass produced lagers that are conditioned for a fraction of that time.
The Real lager is than filled in kegs, cans or bottles and may sometimes be filtered in order to remove the remaining yeast.