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Layering flavors

Sandwich is one of the simplest dishes and yet it can make for a mouthwatering experience. A sandwich has many layers. Between two slices of bread, we will most often find some combination of mayo, lettuce, tomato, cheese and (maybe) ham. Each of these layers plays a certain role in the overall taste of the sandwich.


The bread provides the body and holds the whole thing together. Cheese, depending on the variety, gives the sandwich a nice creamy note. Lettuce and tomato provide the freshness and crispiness, while mayo enhances the overall flavor on many levels.


Deconstructing a sandwich is easy because more or less all parts are visible and well known. Doing the same for beer calls for a level of imagination and some ingredient knowledge.


We’ll take a classic Czech lager as an example. The usual starting point is the water which must be as soft as possible. Then we go with the malt which provides the body and color. Czech lagers usually use one or two kinds of malt, a base malt and a specialty one. Pilsner malt is the most common base malt, providing a smooth grainy flavor. To give this type of beer some more complexity, brewers tend to add some specialty malt as well, like CaraPils. It helps enhance the body, mouthfeel, a sense of fullness and also plays an important role in foam stability.


To contrast the malt character, it is best to use both bittering and aroma hops. Bittering hops, added at the start of the boil are responsible for, well, bitterness. Given the style of beer, we do not want to put too much of these, the goal is to get a nice crisp aroma but still keep the entire beer in balance. Aroma hops are added at the end of the boil.


For a classic Czech pilsner lager beer, Saaz is the most common hop variety, but some other Žatec region favorites can work here just fine. If we go with Saaz it will provide a spicy and earthy aroma that works great in contrast to the Pilsner and CaraPils malt duo. At the end a healthy dose of bohemian lager yeast is added to help brew the beer. This type of yeast helpshighlight a distinct malty profile that is characteristic for the style, with some ester character and a crisp finish.


Of course, the overall flavor of the beer is impacted not only by ingredients but also by brewing techniques. But let’s leave that one for another time. Until then enjoy your multiple-layered beer.