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Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
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Des de Moor


Budějovický Budvar tmavý ležák / Dark Lager

Beer sellers:

ABV: 4.7%
Origin: České Budějovice, Jihočeský kraj, Czech Republic

tmavý ležák / Dark Lager

Alongside Plzeňský Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell), Budvar was already a famous Czech name in international beer circles before the Velvet Revolution, thanks in part to the international currency of the term Budweiser — meaning ‘from Budweis’, the German name for České Budějovice — for a quality lager. This mixed blessing had also provided the pretext for St Louis brewer Anheuser Busch (now part of AB-InBev) to drag the South Bohemian brewery through the international courts for alleged trademark infringement. As a result Budvar is now obliged to use the ugly alias Czechvar in the USA and some other markets, despite actually being Budweiser in literal fact.

Still, Budvar’s strength rests on far greater foundations than a claim to a historic name. One of the better supported breweries during the Stalinist period, it’s flourished since 1989, yet remains for the time being state owned — it’s been permanently on the brink of privatisation for a while, but perhaps the example of what happened to fellow icon Plzeňský Prazdroj when it was absorbed by SAB-Miller has helped keep it in public hands. Its golden 12° lager, for decades its only product, remains a world classic.

In recent years Budvar has expanded its brand portfolio, including the launch of this fine dark lager in 2004. Tmavý ležák, broadly comparable to German Dunkelbier, has long been a familiar minority style in the Czech lands, a remnant of brewing practice before the mid-19th century invention of clear, pale lager in Plzeň. But Budvar hadn’t traditionally offered one, so this was a self-conscious retro move playing on respect for the country’s brewing past. The stuff of myths — now there are some in making a big deal of selling a half-and-half cocktail of dark and pale draught Budvar as if it’s a centuries-old Czech tradition.

Brewed from Moravian Pilsner, Munich, caramel and roasted barley malt and Žatec hops, this is a mahogany beer with a bubbly fawn head. The mineral malt and caramel aroma has light cola nights and a touch of fruit, setting up a soft malty caramel palate with a light roast note and tingly hops. A clean mild dark malt finish emerges from a cleansing swallow, with lightly tangy, chocolatey hints. It’s a quiet but considered dark beer, not intensely flavoured but very pleasant and well-balanced.

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