Monday, 5 May 2008

Czech Beer Styles

Here's a handy cut-out-and-keep guide Czech beer styles. Avoid embarrassing incorrect style classifications. My list is ever-so-slightly more extensive than the BJCP's (must go and wash my brain out now).

8º pale - Lehký (Light). 3% ABV. Light, low-alcohol, easy-drinking beers. Bottled only.

10º pale - Světlé Výčepní (Draught). 3.5-4% ABV. Everyday cooking lager. The most popular style in the Czech Republic.

10º amber - Polotmavé Vycepni (Draught). 3.5-4% ABV. A not that common cooking version of amber lager. A style that is pretty much only seen in the Czech Republic.

10º dark - Tmavé Vycepni (Draught). 3.5-4% ABV. Quite common - usually quite sweet and a bit malty. The lager equivalent of ordinary Mild.

11-12º pale - Světlý Ležák (Lagerbier). 4.5-5% ABV. What foreigners think of as the typical Czech beer. It has a considerably wider gammut of flavours than the incorrect designation "Bohemian Pilsner" would have you believe. Though all have prominent Saaz hop character, they vary from bone dry to quite sweet.

11-12º amber - Polotmavý Ležák (Lagerbier). 4.5-5% ABV. Somewhere between dark and light 12º in both colour and flavour. Sweetish to dry, with quite prominent malt and some hops. Sometimes it really is a mix of pale and dark 12º.

11-12º dark - Tmavý Ležák (Lagerbier). 4.5-5% ABV. Vary quite widely in flavour from very sweet beers similar to Austrian Doppelmalz to dry, roasty beers more akin to a Schwarzbier. Mostly only have a quite subdued hop character.

13-14º pale - Speziál (Special). 5.5-6% ABV. Sometimes like a German Spezial - malty, but with quite prominent hops. Other times more like a German Märzen, with malt dominating.

13-14º amber - Speziál (Special). 5.5-6% ABV. Currently very much in vogue in the Czech Republic. SImilar to an amber Märzen.

13-14º dark - Speziál (Special). 5.5-6% ABV. A style only found in Franconia and the Czech Republic - a Dunkles Märzen. Malty, full-bodied and sometimes with a surprising degree of hoppiness.

16-17º pale - Strong. 6.5-7% ABV. Similar to a pale Bock. Very full-bodied, malty but with a good amount of balancing bitterness.

16-17º pale - Strong. 6.5-7% ABV. Amber Bock - like the pale version, but maltier.

16-17º amber - Strong. 6.5-7% ABV. Dark Bock. Sweeter and maltier than the paler versions.

18-20º dark - Very Strong. 7.5-8% ABV. Pale Doppelbock.

18-20º amber - Very Strong. 7.5-8% ABV. Amber Doppelbock.

18-24º dark - Very Strong. 7.5-10% ABV. Dark Doppelbock.

I make that 16 styles. Just one or two more than the "Bohemian Pilsner" listed by the BJCP. In a way, I'm surprised they haven't added more lager styles. Their main objective (and the Brewers Association, too) seems to be to give out as many medals as possible.

You also see Kvasnicové versions of at least 12º and 16º pale lagers. Such beers are reseeded with yeast after lagering and are usually (but not necessarily) slightly cloudy.

You can read much, much more about lager styles and their history in this article.


Kristen England said...


I agree with what you are saying. I completely do. Now, I have to ask you a question. How many of these beer styles can you get in Amsterdam, let alone the UK or here in the States?

Ron Pattinson said...

Several. But that's not the point. Beer styles don't exist purely because they are available in Amsterdam or the USA.

Kristen England said...


You are correct. Beer styles have absolutely NO correlation to my being able to get them. I agree completely.

However, the BJCP guidelines are not meant to be the end all of world styles. Whats the point of teaching a judge about a style they will encounter in a competition if there are no readily available examples to try!? Why not add SuΒbier to the guidelines. We have a decent idea what they were like, right? Does it really matter if we don't know what they actually taste like?

The point is is that there is no way I can teach someone how to brew or judge a beer without having tasted one. Sure, I could be close but not accurate.

In your advanced age :) and having lived in Czechlandia eons ago, the beers have changed since you were there correct? It makes it bloody hard when the same damn beer changes.

Ron Pattinson said...

"The point is is that there is no way I can teach someone how to brew or judge a beer without having tasted one. Sure, I could be close but not accurate."

Scottish 60/- - how many of those have you tried?

Anonymous said...

Kristen wrote: "The point is is that there is no way I can teach someone how to brew or judge a beer without having tasted one."

If this is how you feel, why then do make up imaginery styles?

Kristen wrote: "It makes it bloody hard when the same damn beer changes."

Yes, hard for you perhaps, because it demonstrates what Ron has been writing about for a long time: styles change. This is yet another problem with the BJCP -- styles seem to be frozen in time.

In the time that you have been posting here, several of us have pointed out errors in the BJCP style guides. How many have you corrected so far?

Kristen England said...


Ive tried quite a few 60's actually. Rather they are historically correct or not is another point all together.


Try and piece an argument together for yourself and stop hanging on Ron's coat tails. Ron does great research, you just go along with everything he says. Stop taking the piss mate and try turning your flame bot down a touch. The bandwagon is getting a little full.

As for the guidelines, they do change. They are not static nor are meant to be. They also can not just be changed on a whim. Each released is announced and must not be done to frequently. Exams must be given and graded. Beers must be judged. Small changes are easy to make right away. Large style changes additions/deletions must be done infrequently for the above reasons. Ive started a large laundry list of things that need to be done, corrections, deletions, etc. For one, the scottish need revamping. As do the lagers. UK brown ales need a hatcheting. Etc etc. There are many changes that will be made. So get off the current guidelines for a bit.

Back to you Ron and the question I had. Very seriously. What Czech lager styles do you find most common? Or most drank by the Czechs not tourists. Maybe most misunderstood also.

In a perfect world I'd like to represent all styles but its just not going to happen. So what about it? I'd like to add the most common 'pils', amber and dark. Although when I was there, there were very few amber lagers that I found. Lots of the lighter and dark lagers though.

Anonymous said...

Kristen, thanks, "mate", for the personal reply. I do not need to "ride on Ron's coat tails" because anyone who knows Belgian beers knows that your "style guide" is a load of bollocks.

You've been here for two months now, every now and again screaming at Ron for home brewing information, but meanwhile the bjcp online "style guide" is full of imaginary beer styles despite your claim that you can only teach people beers if you taste them!

Seeing substantial changes in the online style guide would go a long way to shutting me up.

Ron Pattinson said...

The most-drunk style in the Czech Republic in Svetle Vycepni. Around 60% of beer sold is Vycepni.

Here you can see my analysis of beers produced in the Czech Republic by OG/colour:

Amber beers of 13-14º are the current fashion in the Czech Republic. Stronger dark lagers, too. Pilsner Urquell have recently introduced a 13º and an 18º dark.

Anonymous said...

Pšeničné? Or do you count that as a German style?

Interesting that you list so many styles but don't differentiate between Tmavé and Černý.

Kristen England said...


The belgians where just revamped by Stan Heironymus. Knows more about Belgian beers than anyone I've met. Based on his 'Brew like a monk book'.


Thanks brother. Ill go over it. Do find that the different gravities of the same 'color' beer are drank different over C.R.? Meaning, do some places like a 10deg vs 12deg beer?

Ron Pattinson said...

Lachlan, Tmavý means dark and Černý means black. The two are used interchangeably for dark beers. I didn't mention Pšeničné because I was only listing bottom-fermented beers. Or Porter, for that matter, which is bottom-fermented.

Kristen, I have no breakdown by region, unfortunately, for beer sales. My guess would be than more12º is sold in Prague than elsewhere, just because of the tourist trade. 10º is very much the drink of the working class.

Anonymous said...

My (admittedly limited) experience is that beers labelled Černý taste a bit more 'black' than those labelled Tmavý. Kinda like Czech dunkel and schwarzbier.

I was thinking of beers like Herold and Klasterni Pivovar Strahov (which I see is labelled Tmavý anyway - I'm sure it was called Černý when I had it!).

Personally I wouldn't bother to differentiate between the two, but I've seen people claim they were different styles. And you have so many styles already... :)

Anyway, the process of typing this reply has convinced me they're the same thing. One example does not a style make.

Anonymous said...


When will Stan's corrections be visible on the bjcp site?

Also, I hope you will be cooperative if I (or someone else) points out errors in these corrections.

Finally, I hope it is clear to you that, for myself, I have absolutely no other goal here than to see the bjcp improve its information.

John Clarke said...

As an outsider in all of this argument about beer styles (and being in the UK where the BJCP (or whatever these people are called) guidelines are utterly irrelevant, I hesitate to comment.

However...given that many of the guidelines are apparently being rewritten or revised surely points to the fact that as they stand they are riddled with inaccuracies and so must be pretty much useless.

Or have I missed something?

Tandleman said...

Well I'm off to Prague on Thursday for 4 days. I find Ron's style guide useful, but what actual beers should I drink to find some hops Ron?

Anonymous said...

John Clarke, unfortunately the BJCP style guides DO influence people in the UK, for example I strongly suspect that Camra's published style definitions for porter and stout, with their cobblers about "the darkness [in porter] comes from the use of dark malts unlike stouts which use roasted malted barley" - utter gibberish from beginning to end - are heavily influenced by the BJCP definitions. I don't want any brewer thinking he/she has to put roasted malted barley in the beer for it to be considered a stout, that would be nonsense.

Kristen England said...


I think its most probably opposite that. CAMRA most probably influenced the writing of the BJCP porter and stout stuff. Most probably from the 'porter and stout' book.

I do agree. Roasted barley does not need to go into every stout to make it a stout. There are very blurry lines between a lot of porters and stouts and it seems brewers call them either based on marketing.

Stonch said...

Kristen, every time you try and engage in discussion on this site you end up coming over as defensive, chippy and condascending!

Choosing to call Ron "Ronald" is bad enough, but then adopting the tone you did against Mike just seals it for me. You aren't worth conversing with.

For the record, I enjoy seeing Ron on a wind-up about these American homebrewing guidelines, but I don't see any point in trying to improve them. They're irrelevant to the rest of the world.

Kristen England said...


How am I supposed to defend something without being defensive. As for Ronald, it wasn't meant to mean anything other than his name. Mike was jumping on the bandwagon as do many of Rons tag-a-longs. Ron does really good research which is why I like to ask questions and converse with him. Most of the others shoot loaded comments at me expecting me not to say anything. I 'defend' the guidelines as I am one of the people to update the latest edition. I did not originally write them. Nor do I accept everything that is written on them. Im doing my damnedest to try and make them as good as I possibly can. Most 'experts' on the interweb want nothing to do with making things better only to say how crappy things are and how great they are personally. Ive always accepted help from anywhere I could get it.

The styles will get a revamp and Im doing my best to learn about historical and more eclectic styles. Do note that I will not sit idly by and let pot shots be taken at me by people with an agenda.

An important style note while we are on it is that 'Bohemian pilsner' is 100% not a 'style'. However, the term was supposed to encompass a lot of the hoppy light (color) lagers of that area. I've never argued it is.

Stonch you said that 'I don't see any point in trying to improve them. They're irrelevant to the rest of the world.' Brother, how can you possibly say this drivel!? You think that the guidelines are only for Americans, fine. So there is no point in educating people that know less than you do? Thats your stance is it? Then why have your blog at all.

Stonch said...

How am I supposed to defend something without being defensive.

Interesting. You're here to "defend something". Good of you to be so honest, I suppose.

So there is no point in educating people that know less than you do? Thats your stance is it? Then why have your blog at all.

That speaks volumes about you, not me. I don't write a blog to discuss American homebrewing competition categories, believe it or not. Indeed, I don't write it to "educate" people - at least not in the way you mean.

And why are you calling me "brother"? Again, drop the condascending and passive aggressive tone.

The only time in my life I have been one of Ron's tag alongs was in Bamberg where against my better judgement I allowed him to lead me off the beaten track to some random boozer. We ended up in a particularly lovely courtyard drinking a nice little beer.

Anonymous said...


You would help your case a lot more by not making this personal. I'm not your "mate" and Stonch is not your "brother". Have we made comments about you personally? Please stop.

Secondly, you say you are defending (the bjcp style guide), yet as has been pointed out to you over and over, this thing you are defending is profoundly flawed. You even admit as much ("I did not originally write them. Nor do I accept everything that is written on them. Im doing my damnedest to try and make them as good as I possibly can.")

Well, instead of personally attacking the critics, why not just say that you agree it can be improved and ask for our help? I would be more than happy to tell you what is wrong with the Belgian styles (the area of beer I am most knowledgable about). But, instead of asking for my help, you attack me.

And, I am sorry to say that I am quite disappointed that you say a home brewing expert (Stan Hieronymous) knows more about Belgian beer than anyone you've met. Have you never heard of Tim Webb?

The problem many of us have with your style guide is not only that style descriptions are often incorrect, the bigger problem is that you create fictional "styles" - mostly for non-American beers.

I'm sorry to inform you, but what Stonch wrote ("They're irrelevant to the rest of the world.") is not "drivel", as you called it, but quite correct.

Kristen England said...


Let me step back for a sec. Im being a little overzealous as I usually do. Let me apologize. I very much do want help and am here to learn.

If you guys could take a few minutes and email directly about your BJCP concerns, I can address them directly. I very much do want American brewers/judges to be more open-minded than their fellow tourist counterparts.

Ron Pattinson said...

Tandleman, I would try Bernard Kvasnicové, if you like hops. Wonderful stuff. Not stupidly bitter, but beautifully hoppy. Maybe unfiltered Budvar, too. They have that in the Budvar Bar in Medvidku (not the main beerhall on the ground floor - there it's the filtered version).

Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

Gents, gents gents,

Lots of theory.
Why don't you all just get your bags packed and get on one of our tours. All of you together!

The main aim of tours is for YOU to drink the beer and make up your own minds about what you're drinking.
Its not exactly rocket science!

The you can come back and if you still disagree with Ronald (McDonald) then at least it will be from expereince!

You know what I think about styles?
As in Black Hawk Down scene 16, 'dont matter what I think'!!

Why don't I get involved in heated online debates about styles?
We let the tours do the talking, you'll get my opinion on the tours, after you have drank the beer! But not before, its your opinion.

Easy eh?


Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

Why not get a group together (6 maximum for longer tours) and get yourselves over here?

Others form USA have, in fact most guests were American homebrewers, they learnt a lot. I was also at the AHA Conference last year in Denver, I do know where you guys are coming from with your style guidelines.
In fact Ron and myself have had conversations about it, and I have put the USA case across.

Boils down to exactly what our tours highlight, CULTURE!
Belgians do it their way, Germans theirs and of course over in the States, as a country of immigrants you do it your way. Simple for me to see.
The way I see it, the States by its nature (unless there is a Red Indian brewing style!) doesn't have an original, therefore it copies. It does it the USA way.
Take the hamburger and the hotdog, classic examples.

See you in Colorado in July on our first USA tour. Maybe Ron will come over as well!


Mark Andersen said...

Actually Andy there is an original American style. Steam beer.

Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

Hello Mark,
Wow, what good timing!

Damn, I have been looking at the origins of that beer since before the last tour to Bavarian Forest, Bohemia etc (the tour Ron was on).
I don't agree with you neither do I disagree with you as our visit to the Baravarian Forest last month was inconclusive in the historical aspects of this illusive beer.

We actually went to Zwiesel brewery in (yes!) Zwiesel in the Bavarian Forest. Interesting. The original Zweisel is a top-fermented beer, a cross between Alt and Kölsch (Alsh?-just a joke!). Supposedly the original Dampfbier comes from there, however, I am still unsure of the real story.

There are still 2 theories, one is that it comes from Bavarian Forest and was called Dampfbier on account that the beer looked like steam when it fermented (get an imagination!) and the other is that it was produced by steam breweries! Still unsure.

When we were at Maisels/Bayreuth who also do a Dampfbier (top fermented), I did ask but got a pretty crap/no explanation!

Anyway, I will find out. One way or the other. In fact, when I am next in Zwiesel. Most that has been written about it is second hand.


Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

Hello Mark,
Just found it.
On Ron's blog.
We were there. We did it. We are heroes.


Mark Andersen said...


Yeah I read about that visit to the Bavarian Forest as I've been following along Ron's blog. Awesome trip! I've really enjoyed reading about it.

I'm not sure but I think that the California Steam Beer (or California Common Beer as I guess they call it now) and the Dampfbier that you're talking about may be two different things that happen to have the same name. Although I've read that there is speculation that it may have been German immigrants that showed them how to do it.

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the main difference that the California Steam Beer used a lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures whereas the Dampfbier is top fermented?


Kristen England said...

I don't have a lot of experience dampfbier but Ive done lots of research on the US 'steam beer'. Ive done so b/c the nonce that owns Anchor Brewing, Fritz Maytag, actually trademarked the name 'steam beer'. He trademarked a bloody 'style' that was around ages before he was even born. How does one have the Jacobs to even think of such a thing. Anyway...the US version of 'steam beer' is thought to have been called so b/c of the great secondary fermentation in the cask. When it was released (opened), it sounded like a steam locomotive pulling into station.

Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

I reckon all versions have an element of truth in them!
Still think it would have been immigrants taking the name from Germany.

Next time I will talk to the head honcho.
No time this week, have a beer festival to sort for next week in London, and no, I didn't buy any Dampfbier in the end!