I had a nice bottle of Žatec "Bright Lager Beer" tonight with our Labor Day dinner. I've been meaning to get to this sample (thanks to importer Merchant du Vin for that) for a while, but I really like the Czech lagers with rare beef, and we don't eat much of that at home any more, post-Weight Watchers. Today I grabbed some NY strips at Genuardi's (along with some cheese-garlic sausage and pork tenderloin for a mixed grill -- lots of leftovers), and the Žatec was on notice.
Worth the wait. Žatec is a light, bright beer, the kind the Czechs do so well. "Žatec" is the Czech hop-growing town that is more familiar to American beer geeks by its German name, Saaz. This beer comes from a brewery that was first established there in 1798 (there was a hiatus during the German occupation in World War II; the kettles were buried in a field outside of town). Despite a restoration in 2001 that brought a modern wort chiller, the Žatecký Pivovar, according to Merchant du Vin, still uses "a double-decoction mash, open primary fermentation, and 45 days of lagering before packaging." Old school, in other words. Oddly enough, they don't use 100% Saaz hops, using a blend of locally-grown hops: Saaz, Sladek, and Premiant.
Whatever they use, it's a light, refreshing beer that reminded me of Budvar: malty but not heavy, hoppy but not astringent, fragrant but not overwhelming, and dashedly easy to drink. Great for warm weather, and excellent with the steak and grilled fingerling spuds. Nicely done.