WEEKS ago, Tesco started selling four-packs of the Czech import, Staropramen. And that made me curious to know if it was better or worse than other Czech beers, Ostravar, Praga or Budvar. Not that it would need to be far above average to beat its competitors. I held out for a few weeks hoping that I would find it being sold as single bottles. But before that could happen, curiosity got the better of me, and £3.69 pence later, here I am with four bottles of what could be yet another average Czech beer.
On the outside, everything looks very good. The four-pack cardboard packaging looks interesting and expensive. As does the bottle.
The green glass matches the green and red of the labels very well indeed. This is shaping up to be more sophisticated that it’s hurriedly imported competitors.
The neck label has a smaller version of the tasteful “Staropramen” logo. Plus a very important word. “Imported” is always a welcome sight on a beer. Unless you’re in Belgium.
The main front label continues with much the same theme. There’s a detailed background picture that, going by the big red name “Prague”, is indeed the capital city of said country. The “Staropramen” logo is there, looking like the name of an American baseball team. There are the helpfully vague words “Premium Beer” underneath that. Also in the middle of the label is the Staropramen crest, made up of barley and hops no less. It also proudly displays the year 1869. Surprisingly, a year that makes it one of the youngest Czech beers that I’ve tried. Apparently age has no bearing on flavour with these bottles.
This is a front label with a busy border. Nowhere more so than around the bottom edge. The big red stamp declares Staropramen as the pride of Prague since 1869. And that this 330 millilitre bottle has the ubiquitous 5% alcoholic volume.
The back label is rather less busy. Almost empty is comparison.
This emptiness comes from only having three languages on there. Which makes a change from some export beer bottles that try to squeeze in so many languages that it makes the Lisbon Treaty seem readable in comparison.
All this space means that we get something unusual: a full ingredients list. Take a look on any other beer bottle, and chances are that all they will say is “malted barley and hops”. Not here. Staropramen was made with “water, barley malt, barley, maltose syrup, hops, hop extract”. No big surprises. Just good to have all the details for once.
There are some other interesting details in there too. It was imported and distributed by “The Pioneer Brewing Co.” of Luton, with their full address and telephone number. There is the full address of the brewer too. And yes, Staropramen does come from Pivovary Staropramen a.s. from Prague in the Czech Republic.
Lastly, there is a web address. The http://www.staropramen.com/ website, like those of other brewers, is Flash heavy. It’s also a good way to tempt yourself with more beers that they don’t sell where you live. Unfortunately, if rather predictably, on the website they describe this bottle as “Premium Lager”. Better get a head start on the opening of this bottle by feeling bored now.
Once poured, Staropramen Premium Lager comes with a surprisingly thick head. If you can pour it that is. The head overwhelmed my little half-pint glass. It stays around too. Even minutes after pouring, it’s still a thick layer of froth. No patchy bubbles here.
It looks better than I expected it too, as well. It could easily have been a cheap pale yellow colour. But instead, it’s a slightly darker amber hue. A small difference, I’ll grant you, but welcome nonetheless.
It has a richer smell than lots of the big-name lagers too. I’d say it smells mostly of barley. And for a lager, that’s an unusual blend. How would you describe the smell?
At this point, I normally try the drink and report that the look and smell were all just a disguise for an atrocious and bland taste. Not so here. Remarkably, I quite like it.
It still tastes lagery, but this take on the flavour is one of the better ones. A light tasting barley and hops are what you notice first. Gently followed by a light, lingering bitterness. The whole thing is tastes rounded and well balanced. All without the aid of rice to the blend.
I didn’t expect to have much praise to heap on Staropramen Premium Beer/Lager. Boy, have I been proved wrong with my preconceptions about this one. It looks, smells and tastes of quality lager. When the website described it as having a bite, I expected another Bavaria Holland Beer. That had a lagery bite. I hated it. But lots of you left comments saying that you loved it. With Staropramen, there is no real bite as far as I can taste. Instead, it’s an easy to drink, relatively tasty and well balanced lager.
Being a lager, it inevitably has down sides. It may be one of the most accessible lagers on the market, but if you positively hate that lagery blend of flavours, you won’t be a fan of this. Other downsides? Well, its one of the gassier lagers I’ve tried. The head can get in the way if all you want is a quick drink. And if you truly want interesting beer flavours, why not try a real beer or ale instead of a lager?
To sum up, Staropramen Premium Beer/Lager is so much better than I was expecting. I’m not a fan of the lagery “bite”, so I was delighted to find it almost absent from this bottle. With it’s well balanced taste, it’s not only my favourite Czech bottle, but one of my favourite bottles lagers, full-stop. That said, it is still a lager. If you like lager, by all means enjoy this one. As for me, I’ll be enjoying something with real flavour, probably with the word “ale” written somewhere on the bottle.
Have you tried Staropramen Premium Beer/Lager? What did you think of it?
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