Recently I've been doing a bit of work with a company that imports and distributes speciality beers in London and the South East. Alex and James, who set up Milestone Beers three years ago, are always on the lookout for interesting beers to add to the catalogue. I'd heard about a new lager brewery in the Peak District from a commenter on this website (thanks, John Clarke). Two weeks ago I left my London comfort zone and headed to Derbyshire to check it out.
A cramped train from Euston brought me into Macclesfield station, where I was met by brewer Richard Hand. He drove me up into the hills to his picturesque brewery, possibly the highest in the country (pictured right). Richard, a native of Stoke-on-Trent, used to live in the Czech Republic. He became interested and involved in the brewing industry during that time. Resolving to bring his expertise back to Britain - where there's a gap in the market for a quality, home-grown lager - he set up shop at Blackwell Hall, home of the Taddington Brewery a century ago. Sourcing exactly the right kit took time, but in 2007 he produced his first batch of Moravka.
Taddington's beers are all unpasteurised and free of preservatives - and we all know what a difference that makes. I tried both the 10 degree (4.4% abv) and 12 degree (5% abv) versions, as well as the unfiltered ("Kvasnicové") 12, straight from the lagering tanks. A trip to a pub down the road, where the Moravka font stands proudly at the bar, proved it tastes good away from the brewery too. All the beers have a moreish, creamy malt body, with just the slightest hint of caramel lurking in the background. The firm bitterness that marks a true pilsner is there, with Zatec hops used in abundance for a perfectly balanced beer. The Kvasnicové was slightly cloudy, as you'd expect, the yeast altering the aroma considerably and producing a slightly more complex palate.
I'm excited - I've written before about my love of quality lager and the difficulty of finding it in this country. Without hesitation I can say this stuff is the best British lager I've ever tasted, hands down. Indeed, I can't recall having had an appreciably better pilsner in Germany or the Czech Republic either.
At the moment Moravka is only available in a few selected pubs and bars scattered across the West Midlands and the North. Now it's coming to London. The Jerusalem Tavern - my beloved local - will be trialling it this coming Monday. I think it'll be the perfect complement to St Peter's ales. If it goes down well, it'll be replacing Bitburger (boo) as the pub's house lager. If you're able to, come along and try it out. I'll be there for most of the day. If you're good looking enough I might just buy you a pint of Britain's best lager.
The Jerusalem Tavern is at 55 Britton Street, London EC1M 5UQ (map). The pub is open all day.