Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Bohemian Lager

New Glarus Brewing Company
New Glarus, WI

Style: Pilsener

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
• Bass
• Brats
• Cod
• Crab
• Lobster
• Oysters
• Salami
• Salmon
• Salsa
• Shrimp
I haven’t even cracked open my bottle of New Glarus’ latest Unplugged Series release, Bohemian Lager, and there’s already a glaring problem:

I can’t get that damn Queen song out of my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect Queen as a band and I loved Wayne’s World, and having “Bohemian Rhapsody” running on a continuous inner loop is far better than “Fat Bottom Girls,” but enough is enough. It’s time for Nigel to put something far less annoying on the ol’ iTunes, something with depth and meaning like Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus.

My last New Glarus review came way back in February, and I stated in that review that I couldn’t keep up with the inundation of new brews from the Careys, so I was taking a break. Note that I was referring to taking a break from reviewing New Glarus brews, not from drinking them. Since that review for Snowshoe Ale, things seem to have settled down a bit in New Glarus. The Unplugged Series continued with the absolutely phenomenal Imperial Weizen in February and the unique Berliner Weiss in July; Unplugged Apple Ale is set for a November release. The seasonal lineup settled as well, with old standbys Staghorn Octoberfest and Totally Naked being joined by Snowshoe Ale, Road Slush Oatmeal Stout, Dancing Man Wheat, and Edel Pils in the 2008 lineup (a new seasonal, Alt, will be introduced this autumn). As for year-round releases, the hugely disappointing Organic Revolution remains, joining the six senior members of the lineup that we’re all familiar with by now.

Now that we’ve caught up with New Glarus in general, let’s focus on Bohemian Lager. It’s meant to be a traditional Czech pilsener, a style that suffers from a bad reputation thanks to years of bastardization by big brewers in the United States and abroad. A traditional Bohemian pils retains the light golden brown color associated with modern versions, but has far more flavor, largely due to a nice addition of Saaz hops (an authentic Czech pils should have an IBU rating of about 30 or higher). New Glarus is one of a handful of American craft brewers that is intent on rebuilding the pilseners reputation, as evidenced by their release in the past year of Hometown Blonde, Edel Pils, and Bohemian Lager. A well-made, traditional Czech pils is truly a taste sensation, a wonderfully pleasant and refreshing brew, and has little resemblance to the mainstream mutated form that has become familiar to shit beer drinkers everywhere.

Dan Carey credits the idea for Bohemian Lager to a trip he took in 1985 to what was then Czechoslovakia and the birthplace of the pilsener, Pilsen (not sure how the style got its name …). Some 20 years later, Carey brewed Bohemian Lager based on his notes from that trip: triple decoction, 100 percent Czech Moravian malt, fermentation in unlined oak tanks, generous amounts of Saaz hops, krausening (a traditional German method of fermentation in lagers), and a three month ice cold lager. The result is likely as close to an authentic, traditional Czech pilsener as you’re ever going to find, at least in the New World.

Bohemian Lager pours a perfect lager pour. A picturesque golden brown brew reveals a nice, pillowy head of about an inch that slowly settles, leaving a creamy froth at the top throughout and some stickiness on the sides of the glass. A continuous bubbly dance from the bottom to top permeates, just as it should in any ice cold lager. The aroma is nice, and right off the bat demonstrates what is often lacking in most modern pilseners: hops, hops, and more hops. The grassy scent of Saaz hops dominates, joined by a nice, light sweetness provided by the malt. All in all it’s a pleasant aroma, though be aware that this isn’t hoppy in the way that most American craft brews are; Saaz hops provide an entirely different aroma altogether.

As for the taste, I begin with a warning: as a lager, this is meant to be served cold. Nigel drank his first Bohemian Lager at around 50 degrees trying to rush a review, and wasn’t that impressed. I later set them right under the little freezer part of my beer fridge and waited a few hours, and the ice cold version was much, much better. Initial flavors emulate the aroma, with the grassy bitterness typical of Saaz hops inundating the tongue and never letting up. European hops lack the citrusy zip and overall floral characteristics of American hops, so the flavor is far more earthy and bready. A light malt provides a touch of sweetness to the hops, giving it some characteristics of sweet breads (as in sweet bakery breads, not the other kind of sweetbread). In general terms, it’s incredibly crisp and light while maintaining a good amount of flavor, making it a true tribute to the origins of the pilsener. A smooth, creamy mouthfeel combined with ice cold refreshment makes this an ideal candidate for a session beer, but beware: I have NO idea what the ABV is on this. While you’d expect something in the 5-6 percent range given the typical parameters of the style, remember that this is the Unplugged Series, so anything is possible. A mild aftertaste lingers for a bit, though it’s not too offensive.

All in all, Bohemian Lager is a fine beer and a wonderful tribute to the authentic Czech pilsener and German lager, but when compared to the other brews in the Unplugged Series, it’s a bit lacking. Many of those brews were made to the extreme, overpowering you with hops, malt, alcohol, etc., but Bohemian Lager is a standard brew that is simply meant to reconnect modern drinkers to their roots. In that regard, it’s once again mission accomplished for the Careys.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on October 10, 2008.
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