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Bernard Pilsener

I met the brewmaster for a new Czech Pilsener that's about to enter the market. It's called Bernard, and it sounds good on paper. Brown glass bottles, thank god, and the brewmaster says they cut no corners and opt for totally traditional methods (unlike Urquell, Budveiser, et al). The brewery was founded in 1597.

And, most interesting of all, it's bottle conditioned! It seems a bizarre method for a Pilsener, which, after all, is all about clarity and a flinty clean palate. But I'm willing to keep an open mind. Strangely, while the brewmaster described it as a Pilsener, as does their brochure (see image, below), the term doesn't seem to appear on the bottle.

Anyone tried it yet? Dorsch...?

 
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    1. re: Jim Dorsch

      Jim, I got nothin' else. Read the brochure, that's as much as I know. They're distributed here by the muscly Manhattan Beer Distributors, fwiw. I'll pick up a bottle as soon as it's out.

      Bottle conditioned Pilsener.....have you ever imagined such a thing?

      Can't be bad if they take the pain (and the marketing hit) to bottle in brown glass.

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Oh, shoot, I see my scan of the brochure was shrunk on the upload. I've put it on my own server, and you can see it at http://jimleff.info/pils.jpg

        1. re: Jim Leff

          It's bottled exactly like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- sterile filtered, and then given a dosage to condition in the bottle. If they are as good at it as SN is, you'd probably never notice any sediment.

          This process is different than what an unfiltered bottle-conditioned beer would have, like some Belgian ales or even what are being called 'keller-pils' locally, probably due to the scale of their operation. Still, at least it's unpasteurized and naturally carbonated.

          It could be a winner, depending on the price. We don't have many great Czech Pils available to us around here these days.

          1. re: Jim Leff

            It looks interesting. I like how they say 'no aftertaste!' Makes US drinkers happy, I suppose.

            They bottle-condition and also employ filtration. I wonder when they do the filtering.

            Remember Christoffel from the Netherlands? That was unfiltered, although probably not b/c.

            1. re: Jim Dorsch

              Jim, you NAILED it. Yup, Christoffel was the beer I was straining to recall. I think it actually was bottle conditioned. Another weirdo lager! Is it still available here? Haven't thought about it in over ten years, I don't think....

              I found a couple more links:
              http://www.europeanbeerguide.net/czec... (scroll down
              )and
              http://www.bernard.cz/en/beer/how-is-...

              As for "no aftertaste", I'll give benefit of doubt to language gap. I bet they mean no sticky aftertaste, clean-finishing, etc, rather than some sort of antiseptic denatured thing....

        2. I've never heard of secondary fermentation for a pilsner. I'm still wary of pilsners from Europe, though, they often don't travel very well.

          6 Replies
          1. re: chuckl

            Well, but if reasonably fresh and brown bottled and they don't keep them under display lights, it can be fine. It's not the traveling, per se; it's more those things (and pilseners, being light and hoppy, are extra vulnerable....though the dose of yeast in the bottle may make it a tad more hardy).

            1. re: Jim Leff

              It's not enough to avoid light, oxidation is a potential problem with any bottled beer. Seems to me if they were serious about making a Czech pils that would travel well they'd skip the bottle conditioning and sell it in cans.

              1. re: Josh

                It's a real shame that Pilsner Urquell in the 500ml cans is apparently so rare in most US markets. I see it only occasionally in NJ and it's usually broken up into singles (supposedly SABMiller and it's distributors encourage retailers to use the can as a replacement for the now-defunct 22 oz. bottles) rather than sold by the case or 4 pack. It would be a constant on my summer beer list if I could get it regularly and fresh (both cans and 4-pack wrap are clearly dated, with a [too generous] 9 month "shelf life").

                I see that Budweiser Budvar is also exporting Czechvar in 500ml. cans- to Canada, but I've yet to see it in the US. Don't know if that's a decision of Budvar or A-B-InBev's import division Import Brands Alliance but it seems to me that Import drinkers and importers are still too tied to the marketing concept that "green bottles = quality imported beer".

                The website for Bernard shows they also use green bottles, save for the "swing top" bottles and some non-alcoholic beverages, the former probably being a case of availability rather than a quality decision of the brewery's.

                1. re: JessKidden

                  My understanding is that we're only getting swing tops (ie brown)

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    There are TTB label approvals, both dated 10/07/10, for 11.2 oz and 16.9 oz. bottles.

                2. re: Josh

                  Oxidation happens over time. That's why I mentioned freshness as well as light.

            2. That brand seems familiar, and it looks like they're on their 3rd US importer in less than a decade, having previously been brought in by Duvel Moortgate and a "DAE Consulting" of Kansas (never heard of the latter, looks to be also a wine importer).

              I usually ignore most smaller breweries' Euro pils because they often just look old on the shelves or *are* old if they have an easily decipherable date on them (even the SABMiller's Pislner Urquell and the AB-InBev imported Czechvar suffer from the latter). Their suggested shelf life of 8 months is just too long for a pilsner, even a bottle conditioned one.

              Also, isn't that the shoulder of a green bottle above the tap handle in the brochure? Looks like it may only be the 500ml "swing top" that's brown glass.

              Priced right, dated right I'd pick up a case, tho'. It's getting "pilsner season" and I went shopping last week and couldn't find anything very fresh -even my standard local US pils- Prima or Pikeland - and no Sunshine on the shelf here yet (tho' it supposedly out).

              1 Reply
              1. re: JessKidden

                To me the fact that Moortgate was associating with it boosts its credibility. They wouldn't have picked up a lousy beer. The relationship likely ended over money, in one form or another. It's not that they decided it wasn't delicious, after all....

                Prima's great. I just ask when new stock's coming in and jump on it!

                Best American pils of all is made by a plumber/homebrewer in CT who's like the Mozart of beer brewing. Not commercially available, alas....

              2. A few observations from home:
                Bernard is a smallish brewery with a very good name. I don't know about the conditions of travelling, but it seems to be one of those beers that keep relatively well in a bottle back here in Czech Republic. They are launching a big advertisement campaign here at home too.

                It's traditional for the Czech beers to have a green bottle. The Czechs mistrust the brown ones for some reason.

                As for the word Pilsner not being on the label, pils is a standard beer brand here and it would be even misleading to print it on their home label (for us, there is only one pils, and that's Pilsner Urquell). Maybe that's why they did not think of printing it on the export label.

                Cans are also very un-traditional here and they are used for the export market mainly. Also, Bernard tries to advertise as an upmarket brand and cans don't go with that image, at least definitely not here. Also, beer from can tastes very differently from the bottle, so if they try to make a certain taste, it might not translate in the can.

                Lastly, if it's not pasteurised, you probably would not want to drink it longer than a month after it's been bottled. I'm not even sure if they can export to the US if it's unpasteurised.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sasicka

                  Cans, when lined, do not impact the flavor of the beer. Here in the US, many craft breweries are investing in canning equipment because cans preserve the flavors of the beer better over time, and are impervious to light and oxidation, not to mention lighter in weight and easier to pack and ship.

                2. I just returned from Prague. Bernard is the best beer my son, wife and I have ever had! It makes Pilsner Urquel, with all due respect, taste like Bud. I can't wait for it to be available in the USA...is it by now?

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: Alan Henderson

                      restaurant or purchased in a store?
                      how'd you like it?

                      1. re: Johnray

                        Restaurant, I like it very much especially on draft, but the bottle was fine as well. My local recently had a couple of cases of Konrad, both 12 and 14 that were very good if you see it.

                        Best of all the Czech lagers I've seen around here was Kout na Sumave which was really great on draft for the couple of kegs that were around.

                  1. a bottle conditioned pilsner?? so is it like a hoppy Kellerbier?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Insidious Rex

                      not sure about the kellerbier, but i can tell you it is a perfectly harmonious beer...coffee vibe, smooth, not bitter, not sweet, amazing texture...

                    2. This would be a perfect menu addition to the Bernard Buffet, an AYCE restaurant that resides in my imagination.