A while back I spoke about Budvar being one of my go-to session lagers, and I've only now realized that I've yet to dedicate a full article to it. To beef this one up, I decided to try some of the other popular Czech lagers that are so readily available in the supermarkets here, in the form of Staropramen, 1795 and Pilsner Urquell. Of course, all of these beers are pilseners.
First up is the Budějovický Budvar, also known as Budweiser Budvar and Czechvar, depending on where you happen to be in the world. It pours a crystal clear golden colour with a conservative white head. The aroma offers some sweet, light malts with slight vegetal notes and a touch of metal foil in the hops. Standard stuff. The taste improves on things, with the corn-like vegetal note being ousted and replaced by a lovely biscuit malt character that turns into a syrupy sweet finish. Tasty and just a bit creamy, this is a very satisfying lager.
Next up is Staropramen, which pours a surprisingly dark shade of amber and supports a nice big head. As expected it's all sweetness and grain on the nose, with hints of fruity, zesty hops thrown in, particularly of the citrus peel variety. Not much changes on the palate, with the light malty sweetness and syrupy finish complimenting the quiet hop profile, almost smothering the tiny hint of bitterness. After a while, you start to notice more prominent caramel and maple syrup notes on the aroma, something you don't get in the Budvar. Once again it's undeniably tasty and very refreshing. Another satisfying lager.
1795 is brewed by the Budějovický Měťanský Pivovar, as far as I can tell. Paler than the Staropramen but darker than the Budvar, it too supports a small head. The aroma isn't much different from the previous two, with a return to the metallic bite and corn-like malt sweetness as in the Budvar. However, the taste is vastly different from that particular beer. Chewy, sugary sweetness is the order of the day, and the effect is not a million miles away from the dark marzipan sweetness of a doppelbock, although it is much less welcome here. It remains drinkable and all that, but I reckon one bottle is enough. Not half as refreshing as the other two, mind.
Finally, we have the original pilsener. Pilsner Urquell pours dark again like the Staropramen and also sports a big white head. The sweetness on the aroma is similar to the 1795, although it has much more of grainy malt character to it, along with a touch of citrus. The taste is even better, with nicely balanced malt and hop profiles dipping on one end into the toffee malt regions and on the other end into bright citrus peel hoppy regions. The experience throughout, however, remains generally light and very refreshing. Again, a satisfying beer all round.
And now, to pick a favourite.
Budvar was already a staple of mine, and I was expecting a good showing form Pilsner Urquell, but I was not at all prepared for how much I enjoyed Staropramen. It's a genuinely good beer. All four are worth a try if you've never had them, with 1795 being the only one I'd be happy to leave behind for good.