By Sam Highley
Before Czechoslovakia gave us cake, they gave us beer. The little town of Náchod in the Czech Republic has a long history of brewing beer, with the townsfolk themselves brewing beer in their homes up until 1872, when the town council founded a local brewery. The Náchod brewery — now known as Primator — produces about a dozen different beers including a weizenbier, English pale ale and a stout. It was owned by the town itself until last year when it was sold to an investment fund which also owns another couple of Czech breweries in Svijany and Rohozec. Part of the condition of sale was that the new owners had experience in beer, and that a guarantee was made to continue the brand for a period of at least five years.
Primator Polotmavy, or semidark, 13% is an amber-coloured lager described by the brewery as being a blend of light and dark beers, brewed with the addition of caramel and wheat malts. Evidently there was unmet demand from the restaurant and cafe crowd for a beer that had the qualities of both a dark and a light lager, and this beer was born. The brewery is not specific about the hops used, but it is widely considered that the classic Czech Saaz hops are used, as they are in most of the beers from Primator.
The beer pours clear with a nice, rich creamy head, and initial impressions from the aroma are of a sweet lager, something like an Oktoberfest or Marzen of old, with a strong caramel punch and no discernable hop aroma. The first tasting is more or less what you expect, with a rich caramel sweetness dominating the palate, though possibly not as much as the aroma suggests. The malt profile is pleasant and smooth, with no harsh bitterness, and leaving a nice taste on the palate at the finish. While this is no session beer, it’s extremely drinkable, but ultimately not something that i’d rush out and buy again.