Beer is undeniably a part of the lifestyle here, and locals are justifiably proud of the many brews. Yet it’s hard to deny that there is a certain uniformity among the beers. Most of them are pilsners – not surprising since the first pilsner style beer was developed in these lands. And as the saying goes, when you’re onto a good thing, stick to it.
This attitude might satisfy those people who crave some variety in both taste and presentation. Sure, there is a time and a place to grab some pints (or half-liters) with the lads while watching football or ice hockey. But occasionally, you may want something more sophisticated, a drink that suits fine dining but still has the down-to-earth quality of a good beer. Master from Plzeňský Prazdroj may well be what you are looking for.
The Master line offers three types of beers: the Master Gold 15º, Master Semi-Dark 12º and Master Dark 18º. All beers are made from three or more malts, along with the highly-regarded and locally-grown Saaz hops, so as to create three distinct brews.
Of the three, the Master Gold 15º is the closest to the traditional to Czech pilsners. It is gold in color and has the prominent hoppy taste of Pilsner Urquell. Yet this flavor is much more pronounced. There is also a slight floral note along with a hint of caramel sweetness.
Master Gold 15º works as a standalone drink, especially for people who want a fuller-tasting beer. It also goes well with Czech pub food. The caramel undertones and strong bitter aftertaste would complement a sour utopenec (pickled sausage) or hearty schnitzel. Or, you can take the advice of the brewery and have it as an aperitif.
The Master Semi-Dark 12º has an equally strong hop taste. But the bitter taste gives the beer a clean finish with only the slightest hint of the flavor of the grain. Plzeňský Prazdroj suggests this beer as an accompaniment to Czech cuisine. I’d go a step further and say that the beer can go with any rich and/or spicy meal, especially one with a hearty sauce like a goulash or a curry. The bitterness prepares the mouth for the food, so that the flavors are enhanced while the beers own aromas do not overpower the meal.
Master Dark 18º may go some way to change attitudes to Czech dark lagers. The beer has a caramel opener but quickly shifts to a pleasantly bitter finish, which lingers not unlike some bitter liqueurs. In contrast to other stronger Czech beers, Master Dark 18º has neither that cloying sugary aftertaste, nor the sticky feel. The initial sweetness is quickly won over by the crispness of a good lager.
Moreover, Master Dark 18º goes down smooth. It is not heavy like a porter, so there isn’t that full feeling, yet it is still more robust than ordinary lagers. There are hints of spice mixed in with the overall combination of bitter and sweet. For this very reason, the beer is the perfect drink after a rich meal. While it may be a bit far to suggest Mater Dark 18º as a dessert beer, its complex blend of tastes makes it the ideal end to an evening’s dining.
The presentation of Master also puts it in class of other beers. The beer, like other boutique beers, is served in a stem glass. As with white wine, holding the glass by stem means the beer is not being warmed by the hand. This is especially important with this beer as it is intended for sipping and savoring during a meal.
As a result, the stem, and the manner in which Master should be drunk, gives the beer a touch of elegance along with the evocation of the past. The style of glass is the final mark of distinction, which marries with the complexity of the flavors.
When the beer is served, it is usually poured as a normal beer, with a good amount of head. However, there is another way to pour Master, which is part gastronomy and part theatrics.
The beer is poured without a head. Then a heated M insignia, made of stainless steel, is plunged into the beer, causing the foam to rise. The makers of Master refer to this as the ‘beer’s bloom’. Apart from giving the beer its head, this process also releases the beer’s aroma.
It also lends the pouring a certain esoteric atmosphere, as though you are not just having a drink but taking part in an ancient ritual. This is sure to appeal to those who want some drama and a sense of the old world with their dining experience.
If you are curious to try any of the Master range, visit the Master website. After entering a date which shows you are over eighteen, you will be taken to the main page (in Czech).
On the left, put the cursor on ‘Kde si dát Master pivo‘ and another menu will drop down. You can either look on a map to find a pub which serves Master (vyhledat na mapě) or search by region (vyhledat podle kraje).
At each of the pubs you will find what types of Master they serve, if they serve Master on tap (točený) or in bottles (láhev), and if they perform the ritual (rituál). Be warned, some of the information is a little out of date.
Where to go
To narrow the search, Expats.cz has a few recommendations for places which serve Master:
The Pub, at Veleslavínova 3 in Old Town, serves Master Semi-Dark 12º on tap, which goes well with their spicy goulash.
The popular bar Vinárna u Suda at Vodičkova 10 has Master Dark 18º also on tap. So do Žižkovksý restaurant Olše at Táboritská 26 in Prague 3, and Hostinec u Matěje Kotrby in Křemencova 17 in Prague 1.
Pivovarský Klub at Křižíkova 17, near Florenc bus station, have all three beers (in bottles) available.
As for the ritual, Master also has an option to find which pubs do it under the headline ‘Kde si dát rituál‘. But of those called, most didn’t do it.
Master is perhaps too strong and too complex in flavors to become a beer to chug while watching sport. But as a change from regular beers, it is certainly an option. As said before, the emphasis on a variety of tastes creates a beer which goes well with Czech cuisine. The line also shows that there is potential for variety even from the big producers.
Have any of your tried Master beers? What are your thoughts?