TBP Presents: 3 Ways To Pour and Serve Pilsner Urquell w/ Václav Berka

After the formal interview was over Václav and I joined Pilsner Urquell Trade Quality Manager Bryan Panzica behind the bar to experience three different way to pour and service Pilsner Urquell…

Pour One: HLADINKA [SMOOTH]: A smooth, less carbonated serve, perfect for drinking on its own. The wet foam is poured first and the spout kept underneath it as the golden beer flows in to the glass. My experience: This is the way I prefer to drink most beers. For example, when I usually serve my home-brewed  beers a slightly less than average carbonation to increase drinkability. Hence, I enjoyed this pour the most.

Pour Two: NA DVAKRAT [CRISP]: A crisper, more carbonated experience which is ideal for drinking more slowly with food. The golden beer is poured first, then the wet form added on top. My experience: As its name implies this pour was indeed crisp upfront which opened up my palate and allowed me to picture pairing Pilsner Urquell with food.

Pour Three: MLIKO [MILK]: A surprisingly sweet all-foam specialty. Open the tap 10-20% and fill the glass with thick, creamy wet foam. My experience: This final pour is indeed a treat (or specialty) in that it showcases the malt backbone of the beer and introduces a sweetness that rounds out its bold hop character. If I ever invest in a nitrogen tap for my keezer I’ll definitely be putting a hop forward pilsner on it.

TBP Presents: Pilsner Urquell Wrap Up

As mentioned in my previous blog post; I’ve always had a lot of respect for Pilsner Urquell and its brewers. However, when thinking about brewmasters that I hope to interview someday, Vaclav Berka was not one that I ever expected to meet. Having done so my respect for Pilsner Urquell’s long and rich history and bold flavors has grown tremendously…In term of this experience’s effect on my home-brewing, I hope to brew an all Saaz hopped pilsner someday in order to hopefully capture the bold citrusy and floral notes of Pilsner Urquell. Though I will admit that it may take some time before I’m willing to give a triple decocted mash a try.

Special Thanks To: 

Vaclav Berka, Senior Trade Brewmaster

Danielle and Korina, Pilsner Urquell PR

Bryan Panzica  and James Zinkand,  Pilsner Urquell Trade Quality Managers

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TBP Presents: A closer look at Pilsner Urquell w/ Senior Trade Brewmaster Václav Berka

As an avid craft beer drinker and homebrewer one beer style that to me transcends the entirety of commercial beer’s history and evolution is the pilsner. A beer style that on its most basic level is defined as a crisp light gold lager from the town of Plzeň (Pilsen). However, over the past century the authentic or should I say true identity and flavor profile of a “pilsner” has been clouded by mass produced adjunct lagers that have flooded beer markets worldwide and who call themselves “pilsners.” So while homebrewers and craft brewers have begun to reintroduce authentic and good tasting pilsners to the masses; one beer and its brewery have in recent years begun a mission to spread the word about the true history of the pilsner, how their original and widely available pilsner should be served, and the dedication of its brewers to keeping their brewery’s traditions alive. This beer is Pilsner Urquell, the original pilsner, whose current Senior Trade Brewmaster Václav Berka has in recent years been traveling all over the world training bar staff how to serve and care for his beer in a way that displays its complete flavor profile and rich long history.

IMG_4486On April 28th I received an email from Danielle Nash (Pilsner Urquell PR) stating that Václav Berka would be in New York City in May and asked if I’d be interested interviewing him on the 10th. Having brewed a couple pilsners myself and enjoyed and respected Pilsner Urquell for quite some time I gladly accepted the opportunity…So after some back and forth emailing we decided to film the interview at Radegast Hall & Biergarten (Brooklyn) at 6:30PM.

As mentioned above Václav has been training bar staff about the correct and authentic ways to pour Pilsner Urquell. So for this The Brewed Palate special I’ve split my video footage into two videos, my formal interview of Václav and then him showing me three ways to pour the beer with the help of Trade Quality Manager Bryan Panzica (Part Two).

Topics Discussed:

  • Václav’s history at Pilsner Urquell and explanation of his current mission.
  • History of Pilsner Urquell, its ingredients, and unchanged brewing and fermentation processes.
  • Homebrewing Tip: Pilsner Urquell is triple decocted.
  • History of the pilsner beer style, Pilsner Urquell’s “role” in the US and worldwide beer markets.
  • How Pilsner Urquell’s brewers continue to ensure that they’re always staying true to its heritage (history) through making sure that each batch tastes the same as it has for many years both at the brewery in Plzeň and at bars (accounts) worldwide.

Part Two: Coming later this week…


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TBP Podcast: Blind Tiger Ale House Turns 20!

unnamedOn Tuesday March 15th I once again headed to my favorite New York City craft beer bar, Blind Tiger Ale House to join its staff and my fellow regulars in celebration of the bar’s 20th anniversary. After enjoying a couple beers I asked Blind Tiger co-founder Dave Broderick to join me outside for a quick interview. Beyond discussing the history of the Tiger we discussed the steps that Dave and his staff take to maintain its constantly rotating beer selection and neighborhood bar atmosphere and how running a craft beer bar in NYC has changed over the years.



BT AnnyTowards the end of my time there that evening I asked manager Katherine Kyle about why she had waited until after the event started to post its tap list. She explained that she wanted to make sure that regulars and people who genuinely wanted to celebrate the Tiger’s anniversary to have first crack at the amazing beers being poured before craft beer geeks whose focus would be on the opportunity to try hard to find beers arrived.

For my thoughts on the beers that I personally tried at this event click here.


(L-R Katherine Kyle, Me, and Dave Broderick

(L-R Katherine Kyle, Me, and Dave Broderick

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Extra Precious Bitter (ESB): Recipe and Review

EPB postSince I began home-brewing in May 2009 I’ve brewed mostly within the parameters of the beer styles that I’ve brewed. Meaning, even when I put a slight twist on a traditional beer style I have yet to utilize ingredients that have the potential to mask the aromas and flavors of the base style. In turn, when scaling up my ESB recipe from its 1 gallon test batch state to a full 5.5 gallon batch I chose to keep the Honey Malt in its grain bill in order to accent the bready qualities of the Maris Otter base malt. I also decided to use Fuggle hops instead of Willamette in order to remain as true to the style as possible…As is the case with many home-brewers I chose this beer’s name based on how it reminds me of an interest of mine and what situation I can see myself enjoying it. I swapped out the word ‘special’  and used ‘precious’ instead in order tie together my wife and my love of The Lord of the Rings and my picturing of myself drinking a traditional ESB in an English pub.


Extra Precious Bitter

Recipe Specs:

Size: 5.5 US gallons

Brewhouse Efficiency: 75% (Set to 70%)

Attenuation: 66%

Original Gravity: 1.065 (Target 1.059)

Final Gravity: 1.021

SRM: 10.4

Alcohol: 5.8%

Bitterness: 40.7 IBUs

Mash Temperature: 152F for 75 minutes

Grain Bill:

10.9 lbs Maris Otter (pale malt)

1.2 lbs Crystal 60L

5 oz Honey Malt 

Hops (60 minute boil):

1.5 oz US Goldings (5.8% AA) @ 60 minutes remaining

1 oz US Goldings (5.8% AA) @ 20 minutes remaining

1 oz UK Fuggles (4.2% AA) @ 15 minutes remaining

1 oz UK Fuggles (4.2% AA) @ 10 minutes remaining


Wyeast 1968 London ESB: Fermented @ 65-67F for first 3 days i.e. until fermentation slowed down and then slowly ramped up to 68-70F where I left it for another 12 days.

Tasting Notes:

Aroma (9/12): At first whiff the yeast esters came off as acetylaldehyde, but after warming up for a moment they morphed into a fruity sweetness that I perceived as the honey malt blending with the yeast and hops. The malt character dominated the aroma though. It was quite unique and definitely more rich and developed than when I first brewed this beer a year ago. Rich Maris Otter breadiness blends with a specialty malt moderate sweetness. A hint of astringency and or sharpness present.

Appearance (2/3): Attractive burnt gold color with an off white head which did not linger for so long, but left some nice looking glass-lacing behind. Cloudiness not to style, but does not detract too much from the beer’s overall attractive appearance. Note: A BJCP judge would likely take a point off for it though.

Flavor (15/20): Follows the aroma almost seamlessly. The rich bready malt remained the star of the show while the honey malt sweetness added complexity. No distinctive hop character was present, but the honey sweetness and yeast esters combined and added a hint of sweet orange peel and dried apricot in the finish. No obvious off flavors.

Mouthfeel (3/5): Despite this beer’s higher than preferred / style guideline required finishing gravity it does not come off as being too sweet. Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Despite having been served from a keg carbonation could be a touch higher. A hint of yeast ester astringency in finish.

Overall (7/10): This beer’s unique malt character is what makes this beer a success. However, the honey malt’s contributions were at times too intense. With a bit more hop character, carbonation, and a drier finish this could be an  award winning ESB.

Score: 36/50


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Homebrew Wednesday 73-77: Pint glass of updates

For the past month or so I felt that holding back from posting my Homebrew Wednesday videos on my blog was a good idea because most of my readers have preferred posts what straight-forward and useful homebrewing information. However, because I haven’t posted here in a month I’ve decided to share my recent Homebrew Wednesday videos with you in order to show you some of the things that I’ve been up to…

Homebrew Wednesday 73: Custom 4×4

Synopsis: This episode is primarily about the installation of my four custom tap handles (see previous blog post). However, before showing you how I installed them I speak about the design process of the handles, share tasting notes of my Belgian Pale Ale aka Birrat Habayit (House Beer),  and introduce my next beer (Extra Precious Bitter ESB). Note: All of my tap faucets are Perlick’s 630SS model.

HBW 74: Extra Precious Bitter Brew Day

Synopsis: Brew day footage including reflections on each part of the process and a clip showing the start of fermentation. Note: I’ll be posting a more in depth blog post about this beer in the coming days.

Homebrew Wednesday 75: Franken-beer?

Synopsis: After sharing a short update on my ESB I discuss and show footage about a “franken-beer” that I put together with some beers that have been sitting around my apartment for quite some time, some DME/table sugar starter wort, a packet of Safale US-05, and a vial of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. As shown in the video the beers that I included were Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, Firestone Walker Pivo Pils, Founders Porter, Founders Dark Penance, and Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier. I may add more start wort and brettanomyces to it in the future, but you’ll have to wait for upcoming Homebrew Wednesday videos (not included in this post) for updates on this experiment.

HBW 76: Beer Rescue 101

Synopsis: Unfortunately my ESB became infected, but luckily I was able to save it (hence the name of this episode). In the first half of this episode I describe how I saved the beer. Then I discuss my experiences at Blind Tiger Ale House’s 20th anniversary party. Note: I’ll be posting the interview that I recorded with Blind Tiger co-founder Dave Broderick as soon as possible. Lastly, I introduce my next beer, an oatmeal stout which will be my last brew before the birth of my wife and my first child.

HBW 77: Last Brew Before Baby Time

Synopsis: With the due date of my first child getting much closer I decided to brew one last time before taking a brewing hiatus…As mentioned in my previous HBW video I brewed an oatmeal stout which I’ll give some clever name once I taste the finished product. While I didn’t film as much brewing footage as I would have liked I made sure to film some clips reviewing my brewing processes. In addition, I finish off this week’s HBW with a tasting my now carbonated ESB.

Cheers and Keep brewing great beers!!!


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Homebrewing DIY: Custom Tap Handles

As a hobby that can easily turn into an obsession many homebrewers (including myself) often find themselves spending many of their free moments during their work days reading homebrewing blog articles and keeping up with the latest posts on their go-to forums. Personally my go to forum over the past two years has been the homebrewing sub-reddit aka /r/homebrewing. In time, I’ve come to notice that certain types of posts garner lots of activity (up-votes and comments no matter how often they’re posted.

One of these popular types of posts (or topics) is keezer build pictures and step by step blog posts…As a homebrewer who has put a lot of effort into the appearance of his keezer I tend to click on every keezer post that I come upon; including darthKOTOR‘s posted link of a video showing him building/making custom tap handles for a brewery named Cold Fusion. After watching the video a couple times I decided to message him and ask if he’s be willing to work on a tap handle design with me and then  create custom tap handles with the resulting design. He happily accepted the opportunity and within a month we were able to go from design to finished product.

In order to best document our process I’ll use the pictures that  darkKOTOR aka Nik Stevens of Thunderdog Tapwerks sent me along the way to explain each step…

Step One: Initial Design

Handles post.001       Upon inquiring  about the possibility of him making custom tap handles for my home-brewery aka The Holy Inn Brewing Company Nik asked me for a digital image of my design and I sent him a copy (left) of my hand drawn (pastel crayons) design that I have hanging above my keezer. A few days later sent the picture that you see on the right and asked for feedback on his initial mock up of the design that he’d be laser cutting onto the future tap handles.

Step Two: Refining and Finalizing the design (graphic):

4f8tsa6    In response to his first draft of the design I sent him the following message. “Since my design it quite detailed I see why it will be easier to make a more simplified version for the tap handles. I like the idea of putting the hop picture on the steeple (like in my design). The only thing that I’d add is a star of David on each door. Also, if you can put that star of David in a Torah scroll (like on the door of my design) that would be ideal. Thanks!” Nik then sent me the image that you see on the left with some questions. “So I am not too familiar with Torah rolls, is it okay to have them go vertical like I made them in the photo? I know its a small detail but I was just curious if someone would look at that and be like “Yeah, that’s not how scrolls are read” and be distracted by the detail.”


…My response to his questions/concerns led to the final iteration of the design which he laser cut onto a piece of cherry wood. Due to some glitches in his computer’s design software the hop leaf didn’t show up when he tested the design on actual wood, but he assured me that he’d try his best to make sure that all the details of the design would make it onto the finished tap handles.



Step Three: Designing the Tap Handles Themselves

2apaiXW        After finalizing the image/graphic that would appear on the tap handles it was time to decide which type/s of wood would be used, the shape and dimensions of the tap handles, and whether any portions of the design would  be painted with acrylic paint. Before arriving on the shape that you see on the left we considered using barrel staves, different wood stains to differentiate between the tap handles, and eventually decided to use different types of hard wood whose color would be matched up to the color of each beer on tap. In terms of dimensions we went with 3in wide by 4in tall because my tap faucets are between 3 and 3.5 inches apart.

TKRtF9nWithout much knowledge about hard woods I first asked that the tap handles be mades using walnut, cherry, hickory, and red oak. However, after further discussion we ended up going with mahogany, walnut, maple, and cherry

OcbJW6B…Before laser cutting the cherry wood tap handle Nik realized that we was out of cherry wood and would have to go get more.

As with each step he asked me to confirm whether I definitely wanted to go with cherry wood or go with a barrel stave or different hard wood. After I confirmed my decision he cut the cherry wood tap handle and sent me a picture of the tap handles with a coat of wood oil to bring out the differences in color and wood grain.


Step Four: Finishing Touches

Before applying the finishing touches Nikolas sanded and did some edging on each handle and painted the stars of David blue. ..The finishing touches included installing a threaded insert into each tap handle and adding a coat of lacquer. As you may have seen in his video (linked above) he applied the lacquer by screwing each tap handle onto a long bolt/post to ensure even coating.

12748123_1032945200061858_7742059522978028240_oOnce the finishing touches were completed and the tap handles ready for shipping Nik sent me a picture of the tap handles.



Step Five: Installing the tap handles

HandlesInst1 HandlesInst2A week after being shipped I received the tap handles and installed them immediately upon arriving home from work. Overall, they were easy to install however I did encounter the following two minor obstacles. Due to their flat shape I had to have my keezer lid open during the installation process. Secondly, upon reaching the point wear each tap handle was screwed on tight it/they weren’t facing forward. Therefore, after some tinkering with one of the faucets (Perlick 630SS) I figured out the I had to turn back the handle until it was facing forward and then loosen the compression bonnet until it was tightened up against the tap handle. As a side note, one obstacle that I thankfully did not encounter was there not being enough space in between each handle. At 3 inches wide I was left with 1/4 to 1/2 an inch in between each handle i.e. I do not have to worry about accidentally pulling two handles at ounce.

Step 6: Enjoying the experience of having custom tap handles

Shortly after installing the tap handles I filmed this week’s episode of Homebrew Wednesday which includes an intro clip of me pouring a bit of each beer into a snifter to show how I matched up each tap handle with the color of the beer pouring from its faucet and a clip of me installing the cherry wood tap handle…Then while editing the video clips I enjoyed the beers that I had just poured.

As I adjust to having custom tap handles in the coming days I’m sure I’ll pause for a moment to admire them each time I enter my kitchen. However, because home-brewing is both an individual and a communal experience I’m sure that most of the enjoyment that I’ll gain from the new tap handles will come from my pouring beers for my family members and friends… Lastly, I’d like to thank Nik Stevens for being so easy to work with and for being patient with me when my excitement led to extra Reddit messages and emails asking for updates on the progress and whereabouts of the my tap handles.

Cheers and Keep on brewing great beers!



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Homebrew Wednesday 72: No More Plugs

NfaucetsWhen I first built my keezer I used picnic taps to dispense my beers and plugged up the 4 tap holes that I drilled with a pieces of a  1 inch (diameter) wood dowel that I cut up. A few months later I purchased and installed two Perlick 630SS faucets which I purchased a faucet/stank combo kit on beveragefactory.com. For the next year or so I used a picnic tap whenever I had more than 2 beers on tap, but I never lost sight of my goal of having four faucets. So after returning my vacation at the end of January I went back to beveragefactory.com and purchased 2 more of the same model faucet as part of the same combo kit, which was again on sale…In turn, this episode of Homebrew Wednesday includes a quick update on my Belgian Pale Ale and  dark sour, plans for additional keezer upgrades, and footage of me install the two new faucets.

Upcoming posts: Holy Inn Brewing Company custom tap handles: From Design to Install, Homebrew Wednesday 73, Extra Precious Bitter (ESB) brew day.

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