I had a post pop up on the Czech Beer Fan Club the other day saying there was a limited edition unfiltered Staropramen available online through Revl. Being a huge fan of Czech beer myself, I had to get in there before it sold out.
The first time I visited Prague I was simply blown away by the beer quality available. This led to another 5 trips back to the city to take advantage of some of the best beer I have ever tasted in my life (for half the price of a stale Foster in the UK). Since then, I would constantly look for Czech beer like Staropramen in the UK wherever I could, trying to relive that bold malty taste which originally won me over. It had a smooth buttery flavour which made it almost creamy, with a hint of biscuit…the stuff is incredible!
Now, I will be fair. Staropramen will still knock the socks off a lot of rival beers in the supermarket like Camden Hells, Carling, and Stella but it has fundamentally lost the essence of what made it special in order to cater for the mass market.
The limited edition unfiltered Staropramen’s are produced in the Czech Republic which was the main appeal for me, so I thought it was a good opportunity to compare what Staropramen was and what it is today – with the only differences between them being the filtering process, wheat, and the country of production.
My delivery by Revl cost £6 but was incredibly prompt with good communication about the delivery time. It was £16 for the eight 500ml beers themselves, making total price coming to just under £22. This came to £2.75 a bottle or £5.50 per litre delivered to your door.
Drinking the UK produced Staropramen, you will get an immediate chemical taste and smell, familiarly associated with other mass produced beers from the UK. Personally, this is not the quality I expect from Staropramen but something I expected with the likes of Coors, Carlsberg and other beer made for the mass market. There is a depth of flavour to it which I have always associated with Staropramen, though it is not complex enough to be able to distinguish any specific characteristic. It also lacks that smooth, almost creamy aftertaste which I used to love about Staropramen.
Tasting the Unfiltered Czech beer, you would be forgiven for thinking its a completely different drink all together. The wheat completely turns it on its head making it a lighter colour and the unfiltering giving it a cloudiness. The chemically taste is long gone too, which has been replaced by an incredibly smooth and light tasting beer which has a slight hint of spice, possibly coriander.
It is certainly more subtle than its UK equivalent but is missing that depth and boldness which I have come to expect from typical Czech beers. I must admit, while drinking it I thought to myself how I actually missed that element from the UK produced beer, even if it was nothing at all like what I had remembered from Prague. The UK beer actually felt like the Czech beer I knew, even if it was a cheap copy. For me, the wheat does not do the Czech beer any favours.
The production quality is worlds apart between the two beers. Drinking a beer produced in the Czech Republic is always going to out perform anything made by Carlsberg for mass in the UK market. The very fact that I was able to taste something I was able to identify in the Czech beer other than a general chemically beer aroma says it all. Though I would be wrong in saying that it was all one sided. The unfiltered beer was a little anaemic and too light to really stand out. I enjoy Czech beers because they are bold with deep flavour which, I feel, was closer to the classic UK made Staropramen. Even if, it was poorly executed.
Personally, it is a no brainer between the two of them, with any self respecting Czech beer enthusiast preferring the unfiltered beer on a matter of principal. The unfiltered Staropramen is a far superior beer from the outside but it really depends on what you want as an individual.
The Staropramen UK stays truer to the classic Czech beer I know but is a bastardised version which replaces a bold hoppy aroma and a smooth buttery aftertaste with an equally bold hoppy chemically tang . The Staropramen unfiltered may not be what a lot of Czech beer lovers will want but is a smooth and visually stunning drink in its own right, which has flavours you can taste on the pallet.
Frankly, I can’t see myself buying either of them again. With Pilsner Urquell and Budvar still staying true to what I remember a Czech beer being and even Co-Op’s own brand of Czech beer still being made in Czech, I think I am going to explore these further. I whole heartedly respect the Staropramen unfiltered but it is simply not me.