Upon hearing of the new Czech restaurant Hospoda, and its all-Pilsner Urquell draft-beer program, you may have been puzzled. Isn’t a beer hall nowadays supposed to dazzle with obscurity and sheer choice when it comes to what’s on tap? At Hospoda, one beer is poured four ways. Draft master Lukas Svoboda traveled to New York from Prague to implement the program. He discusses the details.
What exactly is a draft master?
A draft master, historically, always cares for the beer on tap, making sure it is fresh and properly treated through the art of brilliant tapping technique. A draft master will usually select only one type of beer, which he considers the best, and carefully match the conditions under which that beer tastes best. Each draft master has his or her own long-term beer tapping technique that affects the final taste of the product and is their own unique “personality.”
Explain the beer program at Hospoda.
We have four distinct, technical pours: Crem Urquell (Hladinka) is the classic way to enjoy this beer in the Czech Republic, with balanced, full flavor and a creamy head. Slice (Snyt) is poured from the tap with a much more substantial head, about two-thirds of the beer, and is characterized by its refined bitterness and the silky coating it leaves on the palate. A Sweet (Mliko) pour creates a beer that appears to be entirely head, with a creamy, milk-like consistency and a slightly sweet flavor. Lastly, beer is served Neat (Cochtan) with no head, and a sharp, bitter flavor that is unique to this extraordinary Czech beer.
What did winning the 2010 International Pilsner Urquell Master Bartender entail?
To win such a contest was very demanding. The contest was attended by over 4,000 bartenders from 17 countries worldwide. Winning is obviously very valuable, but it is also very obliging. And what it brought to me? Among other things, the annual consumption of beer Pilsner Urquell for free.
What are some of the trends you’re seeing in beer these days?
Small family breweries, beer pairings with food, and actually I’ve noticed that beer is becoming a larger part of high cuisine and gastronomy. Hospoda is very good evidence of that, as we pair the celebrated Czech Pilsner Urquell with the fine-dining experience and cuisine created by executive chef Oldrich Sahajdak.
What are some of the differences between bars in New York and those in Prague?
To be honest, in the USA is a much wider selection of beer styles and different beer flavors. In Prague, and throughout the Czech Republic, you find a very large population of beer drinkers — we have the largest beer consumption per capita — but do not have as many beers on tap or at a bar as you find at these beer gardens found throughout New York City.
Do you have a favorite country for beer? (OK, after the Czech Republic.)
I have been recently in Denmark and I can say that I really like their beer culture.
What are some of your favorite food and beer pairings on the menu at Hospoda?
My favorite is our beef oyster blade, served with fresh dill creamy sauce and braised potato, which goes perfectly with Crem Urquell. If you are new to Czech cuisine and it is your first time dining at Hospoda, I recommend you try this dish and pairing.
What are some of the American beers you’ve tried and liked?
I really like Landshark, Rolling Rock, and the local craft beers interest me.
What do you miss most from the bar scene at home when you’re abroad?
I have to say that I probably miss the better care of the beer most from my home country. It is something that is very important to us.
What do you recommend after a night of too much beer?
A strong beef stock with lot of noodles and Snyt of Pilsner Urquell!