Brave New Brews

A bolder generation of Czech brewers is crafting more potent beers

Aaron Johns

Written by Aaron Johns Published on 26.06.2013 10:40:40 (updated on 26.06.2013) Reading time: 3 minutes

For the last 150 years, Czech beer drinkers have been awash in 4-5% alcohol lager, lost in a sea of session beers (hardly the worst place to be). The past several years have seen a number of small brewers depart from the norm to brew stronger domestic beers that have typically been issued as holiday specials. This new wave of brewers can now be commended for bringing a wider range of styles to the Czech market year-round.

The Czech Republic has two legal markers for strong beer: “special beer” which is any beer made primarily from barley malt and is 13º Plato or higher, and “porter dark beer”, made primarily from barley malt with 18º Plato or higher. I will focus here on beers that fall into these categories.

Most high-alcohol beers tend to be ales; warm, top-fermenting beers. They can certainly be lagers as well. Take, for example, the Břevnovský Benedict Imperial Pilsner, a strong pale lager with an alcohol percentage of 8.5, that is dangerously drinkable.

What’s out there?

Brave New Brews

Pivovar Falkon’s line-up contains mostly strong beers (above 13º), and at the rate they are going will have the most of any Czech brewer within the year. I recommend all of them. From their 6.0% Dubbel to their 7.5% Black Ale to everything in between, including a wonderful 6.5% oatmeal stout and the very popular 6.9% Stalker IPA.

Brave New Brews

Pivovar Matuška also has an impressive amount of high alcohol beers with their top-notch selections of IPA’s, the strongest being the well-made 7% alcohol Zlatá Raketa. Matuška is one of the more expensive brewers, but is always of high quality and consistant.

Brave New Brews

Pivovar Nomád is another brewer that continues to add to their selection with some higher octane brews. Their 7.6% alc. Karel IPA is, in a word, awesome. A new batch of their 8% alcohol black IPA, Black Hawk is sure to be a hit. If that’s not enough, Nomád also has the second run of Pelikán IPA on shelves now. At 7.1% alcohol, this 99 IBU (international bittering units) could well be the most bitter beer in the Czech Republic. The first round of Pelikán IPA was brewed with the brewer from Pelican Brewery out of Pacific City, OR.

Brave New Brews

Pivovar Kocour has a few of their own strong beers on offer. One being 2012’s winner of the first annual audience award at Slunce ve skle, Gypsy Porter. Pivovar Kocour along with Gazza Prescott of Steel City and Max Bahnson from Pivní Filosof brewed this great 7.1% alcohol, bottom-fermented winter warmer special. Kocour also produces one of the few Czech-made barley wines, the K31 extra strong has an alcohol percentage of 12.3.

Břevnovský klášterní pivovar just started serving their beers in 2012 and has already made a great name for themselves. They brew an 8.1% alcohol Russian Imperial Stout and an 8.5% alcohol Imperial Pilsner that goes down a little too easy sometimes. Mark your calendar for their new Klášterní 15º due to hit the tap on July 16th.

Pivovar Třebonice has an expansive list of brews—a few of which belong in the category of strong beers. The award winning 17° Eržika delivers with 7.4% alcohol.

Brave New Brews

Pivovar Náchod Primátor’s Double 24º is extremely strong for a commercial brewery in the Czech Republic, the 10.5% alcohol lifts this beer to one of the strongest in the country, and their 21º Rytířský is its hard-hitting little cousin at 9% alcohol. I find these Primátor beers excessively sweet.

Brave New Brews

Pivovar Vyškov’s 7% alcohol Jubiler special strong beer has a beautiful malty aroma and drinks very well. They also do a 7.2% Sv. Martinský Porter with their Cross the World series which is brewed in cooperation with a Slovak brewer and is the first cooperation of this kind since the split of Czechoslovakia.

Brave New Brews

Possibly the best-known high alcohol beer—and the strongest lager in the Czech Republic—is X-Beer 33 from Prague’s U Medvídků. This Polotmavý Speciál (semi-dark special) is aged for 200 days in oak barrels and touts a whopping 12.6% alcohol. Not a daily drinker, but a great occasional beer. Share one with a friend.

And of course there is the quintessential 19º Pardubický Porter, the Czech Republic’s 8% alcohol, roasty, tangy, and sweet Baltic Porter since 1891.

Even Pilsner Urquell is in the strong beer game: the tmavý (dark) from their Master series is cranked up to 7% alcohol.

After you have tasted your way through the Czech-made strong beers, dig into some of the imports from brewers such as; De Molen, Mikkeller, Nøgne Ø, and Brew Dog.

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