Liquid Diet: The Rebirth of Notch’s Polotmavý
When Notch brewmaster Chris Loring came out with his Polotmavý in 2012, he says the obscure Czech-style beer “was way ahead of its time.” Now, after putting the lager on a brief hiatus, he’s pulling it out of retirement and reintroducing it to a public better versed in the subtleties of the session beer category.
“Two things were going against it when we first started,” Loring says. “Even though it was only a couple of years ago, session beer wasn’t where it is today in terms of awareness. Then to come out with a fairly arcane Czech-style lager, with a hard-to-pronounce name, was just one more obstacle to overcome. It was well received, people really liked it, but I decided to put it on the shelf until people might be able to understand it a little bit better.”
Polotmavý, which roughly translates to “half-dark,” is an unfiltered amber that ranges from four to eight percent alcohol by volume (ABV). It’s a style that Loring sees as a more refreshing alternative to sweeter Octoberfest Märzenbiers. Brewed with Vienna and Carabohemian malts, and just the slightest dosage of Saaz hops, the beer flies in the face of most American craft brewing, which typically focuses on aromatic hop content. But Loring admits that even in its homeland, the Polotmavý beer style was neglected to the point of near extinction.
“Even though they were still being brewed, they weren’t that popular in the Czech Republic,” Loring says. “Then about ten years ago there was this slow resurgence, mostly because of some smaller brewers, but even a couple larger ones like Pilsner Urquell.”
Since brewing his first Polotmavý in 2012, other American brewers have tried their hand at the style including Harpoon, which released its Polskie Mastne last November as part of its 100 Barrel series. Oregon’s Full Sail Brewery also produces a higher octane version (6.2% ABV) as part of its influential “Session” line of beers.
“To me, Polotmavý is just another step in session beer education,” Loring says. “When I started the company four years ago everyone thought session beer was British bitter, but the reality is that there’s far more session beer consumed in the Czech Republic in the lager style. Also, when I started everyone thought session beer was this gimmick, and what I’ve tried to convey to people is that it’s one of the most traditional things a brewery can do. I wanted to give some attention to beers that hadn’t been paid attention to in centuries. This is a perfect example. We just ignored it.”
This year, Loring’s Polotmavý will only be available on draft. He’s officially releasing the beer on September 17 at Bronwyn in Somerville. For the event, chef Tim Wiechmann will be preparing a traditional Czech bar snack, Utopenci, made with sliced, pickled Špekáčky (a sausage made of beef, pork, smoked fat, and nutmeg), grilled bauernbrot, and smoked paprika oil, to pair with the beer. Guests will also receive a complimentary half-liter Notch mug to take home with them.
Sept. 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m., 255 Washington St., Somerville; 617-776-9900 or bronwynrestaurant.com.