Prof’s Point of Brew: Hawkers Pilsner

While Pilsner is the world’s most popular beer style, there is plenty of confusion over what one should look and taste like. Many beers labelled ‘pilsner’ – including Pilsener, Plzner, pilsner-style or even Pils – have been as close to the ‘real thing’ as ‘goon bag’ is to ‘wine’. Hawkers Beer‘s version, however, shows how well it can be done.

The beer.
Clear and crisp with an earthy, floral aroma and a pleasingly bracing bitterness, a good Pilsner is the clever construction of a lightly sweet, bready malt structure and confident-but-not-arrogant hop character. The hop aroma, flavour and bitterness sits both atop and throughout the beer, complimenting rather than dominating the malt. The original version was Czech-style while the Germans, perhaps miffed at their neighbours’ success driven by a German brewer, have arguably dominated the style with classic examples ever since.

The style.
Pilsner is a beer style born, quite literally, as the result of one of those historical ‘perfect storms’, where a confluence of seemingly unrelated events creates a long-lasting sensation whose ripples spread far and wide. In brief, the town of Plzen (in what is now the Czech Republic) was rubbish at brewing beer and the town elders fixed the problem by:
(A) gathering the townsfolk in the square to watch as the town’s beer supply was tipped into the gutters;
(B) engaging the services of Europe’s best brewery builder and;
(C) poaching Germany’s best brewer to brew the town’s beer.
At the same time, the Industrial Revolution had developed a way to kiln malt without darkening it, thus allowing for the crafting of pale golden beer. Craftsmen of glassware introduced Bohemian crystal to the world – all the better to showcase this new pale lager beer – and a locally grown hop, the Saaz, was added to give a distinctive earthy hop aroma and firm but pleasing bitterness. On October 12, 1842 (a Wednesday, as it happens), Pilsner Beer was born. It is perhaps the only beer style to have an historical birthdate.

…like the original hawkers, good parenting involves a lot of monotonous, repetitive hard work, but the long-term results make it more than worth the effort.

The brewery.
Hawkers Beer came about as the result of another series of elements coming together neatly in time and place. Mazen Hajjar, a ‘serial entrepreneur’, former war photographer, Middle East airline operator and craft brewer from Beirut, was importing his 961 brand beer into Australia when he fell in love with the wide, brown land. A few years later he built a state-of-the-art brewery in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Reservoir and immediately began winning awards, medals and fans for his honest interpretations of classic styles. Like the good Burghers of Plzen in 1842, Mazen entrusted his portfolio to Jon Seltin, a brewer with an equal measure of scientific smarts and brew-art creativity.

The name.
As the name suggests, when Mazen first hit the streets of Sydney to flog samples of his 961 beer, he was reminded of the travels of many immigrants to Australia who ‘hawked’ their wares for a century before. The name is a nice homage to the hard work and dogged determination of the early settlers.

The lesson.
For dads, it’s often difficult to see where you ‘fit’ in the pantheon of Dad Styles. While mums have plenty from which to choose, from ‘Helicopter’ (cosseting), ‘Cotton Wool’ (over protective) to ‘Tiger’ (strict and demanding) or ‘Free Range’ (allowing independence), dads are either ‘working’ (never there) or ‘delinquent’ (also never there) and, if you believe all media advertising, we are also daggy and generally ineffectual when it comes to parenting.
Dads need to be true to what makes them a ‘good’ dad. It’s all about balance. Firm when you need to be, fun when it’s warranted and a good role model for ‘style’ at all times. Remember, too, that it’s OK to admit you don’t know it all and can’t do it all. Like the Plzen town elders and Hawkers, it’s fine to get someone in to do the job properly sometimes.
And finally, like the original hawkers, good parenting involves a lot of monotonous, repetitive hard work, but the long-term results make it more than worth the effort.

(Footnote: Mazen Hajjar, at age 25, raised US$25 Million to start up the Middle East’s first low price airline. He then built his 961 Brewery in Lebanon as the Hezbollah-Israeli War began. He was pumping beer out the doors while missiles were literally buzzing overhead. Next time you think it’s a bit of a pain in the arse to collect a child from a party because the footy’s on, remember, it could be worse.)

Prof’s Point of Brew: Two Birds Pale Ale


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