Collaborations have become an established feature of the beer industry in recent years but the latest tie-up is particularly special as it brings together the national brewery of the Czech Republic with an award winning Derbyshire-based operator to create Czech Mates lager.
When Budvar was looking for a partner for its first of a planned series of European collaborations it approached Thornbridge because of the shared values, independence and focus on quality. This is the first time the company has brewed a collaboration outside its home country.
For Adam Brož, brewmaster at Budvar, his affection for the brewery’s traditional bitter Lord Marples also helped bring the two together. “The philosophy is the same and I’ve tried their beers including the excellent Lord Marples, which is a classic bitter and of course Jaipur. They were an obvious brewery partner,” he says.
Rob Lovatt, head brewer at Thornbridge, adds: “We like collabs and this involves one of the best breweries you could work with. Budvar has a similar ethos to Thornbridge. They’re brewers of integrity, they don’t compromise and they use the very best ingredients.”
For this creation – and the rest in the programme – local ingredients have been used, along with the Budvar yeast strain that made the journey from Budweis to Bakewell. The traditional Czech brewing method of decoction and long, slow maturation of a minimum of five weeks in tanks, has complemented the British-grown Maris Otter malt and East Kent Goldings hops. The famously soft water of the Peak District, just like that found in České Budějovice (Budweis), also added its own character to the lager.
Lovatt says he avoided “going off piste” with the recipe, which he admits would have been easy to do, but instead stuck to brewing a traditional lager. The end result, Czech Mates, is an aromatic, crisp and balanced 4.8% beer.
It is available in cans and kegs and if it proves popular then it will continue to be brewed at Thornbridge where it will join the brewery’s roster of brews including the best-selling Jaipur, Lukas and Green Mountain that make up 50% of the total annual output of 45,000-50,000 hectolitres.
Brož made three visits to Bakewell during the brewing process to ensure the beer met the required standards of both Budvar and Thornbridge and his next port of call will be Berlin where Budvar will be brewing its second collaboration, with BRLO brewery. This will be followed by a beer with Mikkeller of Copenhagen and preparations are also underway for a potential collaboration with a US-based brewer.
Glynn Davis, editor, Beer Insider